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Showing posts from April, 2020

Warren

Berkley MI Tuesday Last week, Rachel Maddow wrapped up her interview with Elizabeth Warren with the question we all knew was coming. The question we knew she would surely duck. If, Maddow asked, she were offered the vice-presidential spot on the Democratic ticket, would she take it? Warren didn’t hem, haw, spin, or equivocate. She said, and I quote her verbatim, “Yes.” As far as I can tell, this has not gotten the media attention we might have expected — the virus does tend to dominate the discussion these days — but there it was, out in the open. Maddow was visibly gobsmacked, but no more than I was. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. First let me say that I consider Warren to be, by a wide margin, the person most qualified to be president. Her accomplishments are one thing — how many of us have designed and built a federal agency from scratch? But it’s her communication skills — her uncanny ability to explain difficult concepts so that Main Street can understand the

The Shallow State

Berkley MI Friday The Deep State was an invention of the Trump crime family. They needed someone to frame for their crimes, and government workers made a convenient scapegoat. It was a sly piece of rebranding, part of Steve Bannon’s noxious legacy. Through sheer force of rhetoric, he turned the federal bureaucracy — that staid, non-partisan synonym for boring — into a sinister, mustache-twirling villain. The people who inhabit that bureaucracy are, of course, anything but sinister. They’re career civil servants, people with granular knowledge of the inner workings of government. People more or less dedicated to their work despite meagre pay and austere workspaces. People who’ve signed on to help keep their country on an even keel, even in trying times. To Trump and his accomplices, this just makes them losers. By labeling it the Deep State, the Trumpies can shift any blame for their own criminality onto anyone who stands up and says Hey, something smells here. Or Hey, my boss

CoronaCard

Berkley MI Tuesday Introducing CoronaCard.  If you’ve got the antibodies, we’ve got the card. Immunity is about to become a marketable asset. It’s about to sort us, seemingly at random, into one of two new social strata: the “immunies” and the “cardless.” And which class you end up in might just determine much about your future. There is no CoronaCard as yet, but I should probably trademark the name. Because several countries, including ours, are thinking about requiring citizens to demonstrate their immunity before they’re allowed back to work. All you have to do to qualify is survive Covid-19. The immunies will be looking at a lot of opportunity. Restaurants will compete for their business. Merchants will shower them with deals. Airlines will upgrade them to first class on near-empty planes. They’ll be the darlings of the new economy. The cardless, on the other hand, could be the have-nots of the next few years — and the civil liberties debate is sure to be bris

Whitmer

Berkley MI Friday Gretchen Whitmer is inside their heads. She seems to be getting the Trump crowd unusually perturbed, and it seems to be affecting their judgment. Which could be important, since their judgment is suspect to begin with. It’s not just her obvious competence. Or her grace under pressure. Or that she speaks in complete sentences. All these things are, to be sure, an offense to their sense of male privilege. But it’s her looks that are tying them in knots. They simply cannot accept that any woman — but especially a woman who looks like Gretchen Whitmer — can become a governor. Or even worse, a vice president. Camera-ready, dressed to the nines, heels and red lipstick, she brings out the adolescent idiocy in men for whom adolescent idiocy is never far from the surface. At Fox News, where male fantasy is enshrined in corporate policy, they don’t know what to make of her. And they sense, correctly, that she’s a lot smarter than they are. A political thoroughbred fr

People Who Know Stuff

Berkley MI Monday I have no intention of rereading The Stand , Stephen King’s apocalyptic novel of a virus that obliterates most of the U.S. leaving a smattering of survivors to pick up the pieces. I read it twice — I was a bigger fan then than now — but only because he released a second “original” version which was longer and not subject to the editorial restrictions of his earlier career. This version (longer indeed, but not discernibly better) is now trending on Amazon. Why wouldn’t it? It was never my favorite book, but it is certainly a page-turner, and if the thought of plague fiction doesn’t make you queasy in the current circumstances, you could do a lot worse. But pieces of it have stayed with me — one mark of a good novel — particularly an idea that I’ll sum up as “People Who Know Stuff.” The survivors in the novel — all of them immune to the virus for unknown, seemingly random reasons — are faced with the dilemma of a world suddenly devoid of expertise. The people

Bye, Bye Bernie

Berkley MI Friday So Bernie’s out. Now what? The question comes from Canada again—a rational country with a seemingly capable government. Luxury items, to be sure. It’s apparent that all the traditional norms of American presidential elections—primaries, conventions, nominations, campaigns, Election Day, inauguration—are now subject to drastic improvisation and adjustment. How we handle it will pretty much define the future of our country and, quite possibly, our species. Bernie hung on too long—he always does—but he leaves at a nonetheless opportune time. Now Democrats will have plenty of time to get used to the idea that Biden is their guy. He is nobody’s first choice—including mine—but I have no doubt he’s the right choice, however flawed. He is someone we know, someone we can put forward under the current, deeply dire circumstances. Somehow, he will officially capture the nomination, whether at a convention or a Zoom conference, who knows? A word about Joe Biden, fro

Beauty

Berkley MI Wednesday If it hadn’t been for the virus, my son Justin would most likely not have decided he needed to subscribe to Disney Plus. Which means he wouldn’t have generously shared that subscription with his Dad. Which means his Dad wouldn’t have thought to fill a glaring gap in his lifelong inquiry into the American Musical. I had never seen “Beauty and the Beast.” You know the one. The Disney animated musical, 1991. Menken and Ashman. Alan Menken is a New Rochelle native, as am I. And how strange is it that New Rochelle has suddenly popped again into the national consciousness—first time since the Dick Van Dyke Show, I think. My cousin Jo-Ann told me that Alan Menken went to New Rochelle H. S. around the same time we did (I didn’t know him), and that his father was a friend of her father, my Uncle Arthur. Indeed, they were colleagues—both were dentists. Now, astute followers of the American Musical might perk up at that tidbit—that Menken’s father was a dentist.

Here Goes, Doug

Berkley MI Saturday I’ve been challenged by my friend Doug, an Ontario resident, to explain to bewildered Canadians “ why the current health crisis will/will not move the U.S.A. toward universal health care.” He provided an imaginative list of colorful words that he admonished me not to use, but he didn’t include “dumbfuck,” which has been used in these pages previously, and will no doubt continue to find apt uses. The answer to Doug’s question is, of course, it depends. It depends—more than it’s ever depended before—on what happens between now and the November election. The future of American healthcare is only one thing—and by no means the most important thing—that will hang in the balance. America as a concept has been breaking down before our eyes for some time. This virus is exacerbating all the forces contributing to that breakdown, and injecting a panicked urgency into the mix. The possibilities for the next eight months are as staggering as they are fraught with peril.