Monday, August 15, 2016

Mañanitas After a Resuscitation

Lines Written After a Close Call

I’ve become less Orpheus than Morpheus,
Eurydice, but I don’t ever look back 
to see my my twice-born darling track
my stumbles and halts (“Who sees us?”)
upon our begrudging climb, begun
below the layered strategies of earth:

My single and your double birth
we celebrate beneath a swollen sun,
orbiting for you today in double digits
while I round out in trembling fidgets
a decade of deficits we try to shun–

evasive, duplicitous, gaily wearing black
aware the while the world must see us: 
piñatas, drubbed again before the final whack!

 An old couple celebrated their initiation into reciprocal infirmities after the caregiver's heart stopped for four minutes, and the infirm one ran through the empty midnight streets to fetch her back from the hospital.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Trump is the protagonist of Jane Austen's Novel, Donna

Shortly after the last posting to this blog, the author was drawn aside by the tribe’s elder Shaman– a person of the utmost sagacity, and of prophetic ability second only to the uncanny prescience of the extraterrestrial anthropologist who presented the world with Newcomb’s Problem. 

It turns out that there is a better way to understand the Trump melodrama. Yes, he is mad, in the sense that his personality profile fits clinical checklists for diagnosing extreme narcissism; and crazy, as only Parthian has yet perceived, in that his distorted and hysterical narcissistic character is the product of a deep-seated unconscious struggle to suppress his inner Donna. Donna will overcome Donald before November.  This prophecy will be confirmed when s/he backs away from confrontation with a superior woman in one-on-one debate, and it will be obvious to all, when s/he abandons the field altogether, just as the immortal Jane foresaw.

The Republican side of this election has a plot– a plot that will be familiar to many readers. We are approaching the denouement. The giddy Republican base is a maiden who got her wild romantic ideas from Fox News. She has eloped with a seductive and penniless scoundrel, to the scandal of her parents and siblings. She must be rescued somehow. The solution is for her rich City Uncle to cut a deal with the bounder who has run off with her. What is his price? Whatever it is, it must be paid and it will be paid– from the RNC Treasury, augmented as need be by contributions of deep-pocketed and tender-hearted relatives like Meg Whitman and Charles Koch.

Parthian objected that it wasn’t money that Donna was after, or not entirely so. Recognition and acceptance by hir financial betters was even more important. The shaman did not disagree. He outlined the final contours of the deal, which includes retirement of all outstanding Russian loans, an invitation to the annual gathering at the Bohemian Grove, an honorary degree from Stanford, and a further undisclosed sum in bitcoin, held in escrow in an offshore account to assure compliance with mutual non-disclosure agreements. A Trump Monument will also be erected on the Mall in Washington D.C. At this moment final details are being negotiated in a secret location. 

Ryan will be the GOP nominee in September, with a blitzkrieg campaign organized by Roger Ailes. Look out, Hillary!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Reflections on Watching Trump Disintegrate

The Presidential contest of 2016 is less a race with a finish line than a free-diving competition to see who can sink lowest and fastest without drowning. The competitor who manages to surface alive in November will win the keys to the White House, to be sure; but she will not enjoy a mandate commensurate with the magnitude of her margin at the polls. She will have shorter coat-tails than those worn by 20th Century presidential landslide winners. The post-debacle establishment GOP will scapegoat Trump, but this time they will discover the center-right is occupied by entrenched democratic mandarins. Republican incumbents will lose coercive power, as veto points become pointless once Clinton co-opts economic orthodoxy.

Trump is an aberration, a monster, a clown, a madman, and a fraud, as well as a national embarrassment. So what? He will go down ignominiously if he is foolish enough to continue to display his precarious and pathological personality to the moral diagnosis of the voters. More likely, when he can no longer delude himself about a long shot at victory, he will exit the political arena, claiming foul.  His monotonous pugnacity will defeat him, leaving his ardent and deeply aggrieved followers more angry, more paranoid. Their fury will be focused upon a rigged system that is indeed guilty, in Trump’s person, of exploiting them. 

“Pitchfork angry” indeed, those Trump peasants– and they were ready to make plenty of hay if their leader had not run off with the scythes. Someone else will reap a bitter harvest in 2020, after Hillary consolidates her party’s hold on the best and the brightest and accepts a pro-business ideology that comprises the soundest and safest. Meritocratic winners will regard the losers with liberal, if complacent, compassion, while they pursue the inexorable Pikettian logic of compounding personal wealth.

This is the second, adagio, movement of the American Presidential campaign. This framing-the-issues period is filled, perhaps prematurely,  with portents, omens, and questions for history.  Whither the Whigs (or what will become of ‘Establishment Republicans’ after a humiliating and deserved defeat)? Will Trump summon his loyalists to the barricades? Will he evade the debates? Can Sanders revolutionaries unite (or make common cause) with the underclass of resentful and neglected white gun-toting workers with blue collars? Or will the canny basilisk, Cruz, emerge as the next Tribune of the Righteous losers? Hillary’s triumph will leave no space for a respectable opposition wing on her right, but it will open a vast space for initiative on her left for labor, the overqualified unemployed, and the resentful undereducated rural poor to mount an egalitarian resistance– a revival of authentic populism. 

Democrats have consolidated their hold on intellectual and social respectability, despite the rear-guard efforts of well-funded academic bordellos like the Heritage Foundation. Fox-discredited Hillary faces only derisory opposition. She will win so handily that she will come to epitomize the injustice and arrogance of yet another oligarchy– another privileged minority.  The Fat Cats of Nast’s era yield at last to the grinning condescension of today’s Cheshire Cat, purring over her credentials as she fades into irrelevance, famous but ineffectual because she knows so very much about what is impossible within the constraints of our governmental system.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Lines on the Flyleaf of Wonderwoman

The blast-off devastates

The blast-off devastates the launching ramp.
Checklists that abort for any little glitch
have let your rocket go without a hitch–
a missile sent to orbit bearing half a stamp,
your indenture left behind–dark and damp
(insurance, lest there be a sudden switch:
heading or velocity, attitude or pitch)
your cargo disabled to dock and clamp.

You try again, again prevail, you hope:
your precious payload safe inside its hull
Starship Enterprise, complement now full,
mission-ready, every member fit to cope
with contingencies no one could foresee
sails to a black hole through a milky sea. 

Lines scrawled in a discarded comic book found by a dumpster diver outside a women's health clinic...

Saturday, June 25, 2016

An Uncharitable Comment on Brexit

If you’re not English, you mustn’t disparage
true Brits, who bravely stood inside
boundaries sealed by their Nigel-guide,
to Leaven their Brussel-sprouts with Farage.

More bluntly put, they quit a marriage.
How dare outsiders sneer and cavil
to see Beethoven’s brotherhood unravel
beneath Echt Briton Nigel’s fearsome barrage?

Brits need no longer cast their fates
with Swedes, Sicilians, and Scots,
Syrians and sub-Saharan polyglots
flooding through their open gates!

As an onlooking Yank, I freely admit
I wanted to shovel out the persiflage
fouling England’s stable, now a garage
flushed to make more room for shit!

All that remains is to join the chorus–
jeers and catcalls meant to damage
Johnson’s Johnson’s new menage:
Limp Albion henceforth will bore us!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Trump’s ex-Republican Future

For various reasons, political journalists have become hyper-speculative lately. They see and report the growing disenchantment of Republican politicians who must share the hustings with an ungovernable megalomaniac. Pundits wonder tediously whether the inevitable break or divorce will occur before, during, or after the GOP convenes in Cleveland next month. Who will initiate it? How low must the blowhard’s polls sink before decisive measures are taken? Will Ryan or McConnell take the lead? etc, etc, ad nauseam.

Parthian’s infallible shaman admits that the situation is confused, but one thing should be clear even to those whose view of the near future is occluded by the news cycle and its bottomless demand for gossip: the Republicans will not “dump Trump” before he recognizes that he can expect little or no support (and substantial opposition) from “his” party.  At that point, Trump will dump Priebus, Ryan & Co., and proceed with his own fund-raising and grassroots campaign, stoutly maintaining that the Trump Republicans are not the rump Republicans, but vice versa. Trump is hot-headed, hasty, and combative, as everyone knows by now. He will land the first punch. 

This electoral litigation season will not feature a replay of Bush v. Gore, but legal and PR contests over rights to the brand name Republican, probably initiated by the outcast member of the True Republican club. Our shaman suspects that the resulting internecine Republican civil war will begin with a skirmish, like Lexington. Trump will deny access to his many golf courses to the faction that refuses to take his orders to shut up, or show up where and when they are told to do so. He will mock the people he calls (at best) renegades, while the cable channels marvel at the fury of the (same) people, whom they will choose to designate as the establishment. 

The salient question for now is whether the post-secession GOP will nominate anyone for the Presidency, and whether they can successfully frame their case as a Trump “resignation” rather than a coup, or expulsion. Currently, and weakly,  the effort is to liberate delegate “consciences”, as if those chancers had such a thing. They have already tried the allied gambit of exacting a loyalty oath, which is candy to a psychopath. Neither tactic is likely to force the impulsive break so fervently desired in the private counsels of the privileged. The remaining option is to announce a “disendorsement” du jour, together with tweets and pressers repudiating the Trompiste outrage du jour. Nor would a kind word for Senator Warren go amiss in this struggle.

In the Parthian Arrow’s magic circle the odds are 3-2 that the break will occur before the GOP convention, or during its preliminaries at latest. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Elon Musk's Reality

Citing the speed with which video games are improving, [Musk] suggested that the development of simulations “indistinguishable from reality” was inevitable. The likelihood that we are living in “base reality,” he concluded, was just “one in billions.”

What raptor stalks and feeds on digits?
Why make a robot that’s able to scream?
Why use flesh to realize your feeble scheme—
a wet computer, with worries and fidgets

floating through time’s eternal stream
to fuck and forage, ending at last in sand?
Silica codes, more reliable, albeit bland,
flash fresher, scale faster, than mortals dream.

Romance allows a misplaced ampersand
in flesh to resonate, sometimes to multiply
(although error’s normal fate must be to die)—
Happenstance bypasses all we understand;

Odds and chances baffle us. They mystify
the rules by which the game of life
plays out in ever-escalating strife:
today’s truth is trumpery, tomorrow’s lie!

Through flesh we find we’re moral midgets;
reality, a mere infinity of seem;
 turtles upon turtles backs still stand
upwards ’til they touch the sky—
beneath, an algorithm’s all that’s left of life!

Prompted by Joshua Rothman, New Yorker blog, June 9, 2016

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Parthian Shaman's Vision


The Prima Donna
The Primal Donald

After he posted his last update, the Arrow was approached by one of his tribe's eldest and most accurate prophets. The shaman had stoked his hookah with a printout of the Arrow's post, adding a transcript from a recent Bill Maher show and a copy of an armchair psychoanalyst's report. The resulting fumes brought him to see that Trump's public persona reflects a fierce struggle between his inward feminine side and his outward bullying ways. To the Arrow's surprise, the shaman reports that Trump's short-list for the Vice-Presidential nomination includes Caitlin Jenner (at the leader's insistence) as well as the expected cast of power-seeking politicians, military brass, and high-rolling speculators. 

Off the record, a disaffected former member of the Donald's campaign team has also confided that Trump's favorite escape is to don an evening gown, jump into his golden shower stall and perform sing-along karaoke to the strains of the melodious diva Florence Foster Jenkins.

Be that as it may, Parthian feels duty bound to report the conclusion reached by his infallible prophetic source:

The Trump and Sanders campaigns have been secretly negotiating the terms of a coalition ticket. The campaigns are very close to agreement. The deal retains Donald as the Presidential nominee, with Bernie as V-P. As a condition for his agreement, Bernie insisted that Donald pledge all of his worldly assets to be held in trust by Vladimir Putin until Donald performs his side of the bargain, to wit–

Item: Donald agrees to fire Reince Priebus no later than August 20, 2016, and no more than ten days thereafter, to repudiate the Republican Party and run as an independent, citing disloyalty of the Republican establishment and secret rejection of Donald's platform.

Item: Donald will announce that his constituents demand sweeping reforms which require 100% of his political attention and available time (apart from priority demands of his extensive business interests). He will therefore Preside as President, for Annual State of the Union Addresses, for state dinners, and a still-to-be-agreed quota of other ceremonial functions, leaving all other details of governing to his Vice-President. The precise timing of this announcement will depend on the vicissitudes of the campaign.

Secret item: Donald will confirm within thirty days after his inauguration that he has initiated hormone therapy and other parts of the protocol for his transition to Donna.

The remaining negotiations concern the medical risks and political triggers that may dictate Donna's resignation if a secret panel of arbitrators agree that her health or other commitments so require. Needless to add, Bernie will have sole decision-making authority over budgets, the administration's legislative agenda, staffing of the Executive, and Presidential nominations to all offices except Ambassadorships, where the auction process essential to fund the campaign is already well under way.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Trump the Heel

The French call it Trompe l’oeil– a muralist’s illusion that fools the eye until the viewer looks at the painted surface from an angle sufficiently oblique to overcome the painter’s perspective tricks.  Trump the heel works his distracting provocations adroitly as any vagabond muralist. All attention is upon him, the performer juggling road apples, when we should be scrutinizing his audience. Their pain is noted, but not the catharsis they achieve from watching an endless revue of disparagement and parody, mocking the sober but equally delusional claims and programs of scripted professional politicians.

Never mind Trump! A remarkably broad bipartisan consensus formed early in the primary season: the Presumptive Candidate is a cad, a fraud, a demagogue, an ignoramus, a bigot, a narcissist, and a boor– and to most observers by now, also a bore. The record of his character and intellectual deficits provides abundant and constantly renewed evidence establishing beyond cavil how supremely unfit he is for the office he seeks. We also have a well-focused profile of the demographics that form Trump's ‘core’. Both his technique and his materials are simple and familiar. It is high time to clear the stage and bring on new performers to deconstruct Trump the Heel while exposing the foreign and domestic dangers of violence inherent in Trump's rhetoric. 

The issue of 2016 is this: what grounds do we have to doubt Roy Blount Jr’s claim that his pet parakeet could be elected President? The requisite resources are few:  the tedious length of the campaign; limitless funds for propaganda and focus groups; unplumbed depths of fear; frustration and insecurity rampaging through a population convinced they live in a Hobbesian world of radical and ruthless struggle– a zero-sum scramble for a shrinking pie.The incubus loaded on HRC’s back by decades of 24/7 talk radio and Faux News fables supplies additional leverage to a campaign for Change (a word of no concrete meaning beyond “anything but this”). The slogan Anyone but Hillary (the Duly Demonized Decoy du Jour) might suffice in an election about attitudes, anger, and blowback. 

Neither the defining issue of the 2016 Presidential Campaign, nor the forces that will determine its outcome are mysterious, or unknown. They follow a pattern. They conform to a cycle with a much longer period than news (regarded as the first draft of history). Nevertheless this is a time when significant political news demands our attention almost daily. The success of Trump made “news” worth at least a tenth of the attention given to it; the splintering of the Republican Party, from place to place, office to office, constituency to constituency makes a fascinating story, and an important one if we are indeed witnessing a reprise of the death of the Whigs. 

Even if we do not find contemporary partisan upheavals quite that earth-shaking, we can find edification in the tragic agonies of so many officials, incumbents, friends and colleagues whose sense of self is so interwoven with party affiliation that they must struggle to rationalize acceptance of a dangerous villain no matter how alarmed they are by his failings. 

The usual way to resolve such ethical dissonance is to hyper-demonize the Other.  Better the buffoon than the officious grandma who leads the opposing team. Hillary is not so manifestly insane that the strategy will work at a scale needed to move political needles. She is flawed. Like most politicians, she is manipulative, power-hungry, mealy-mouthed, devoid of candor, always ‘on the record’– but she is a familiar type in all of those respects. Her most flagrant disqualification in Parthian’s eye is her lack of imagination, her acceptance (as ‘natural’ and incorrigible) of our ill-fitting and unhealthy ‘ways of the world.’ 

Update: A field agent in the Parthian tribe objected to my claim that we know all we need to know about the persona, personality, and aims of Donald Trump. He had a close encounter with the Presumptive Candidate, during which he deployed his secret id-penetrating trans-cranial soul-sniffer.

He thinks I should share his key finding. If we really knew the intimate truth behind the bluster, we would extend our understanding and forgiveness to the thwarted Donna, who is really a shy, bashful, fastidious and proper maiden inside. 

She washes her dainty hands before and after meals. She uses sterile wipes after shaking with a stranger on the rope line. She even bought a pageant business so that she could socialize in the changing room with other nubile nymphets, despite her curse of being born with a male body type. She loves to mingle with the other girls, where they can freely snark and snub each other until they agree who is hottest. She remains one of the best judges of relative voluptuousness, scoring her sisters on a system derived from the Westminster Dog Show. And she beats all of her rivals, hands down, with her way of drawling “Eeeew!” in the presence of anything she finds gross or offensive, like questions from professional reporters.

Donna's shame is she has been unable to summon the self-esteem and courage she needs to come out, and to initiate her transition. Look for that to commence in the first 100 days.