Category Archives: Politics Schmolitics

Mao Zedonald

These days, there’s no shortage of people casting dire warnings about Donald Trump. Each time the president makes another statement, millions of people point out the eerie similarities between his latest “tactic” and those employed by brutal dictators of old.

The dictator to whom Trump is most often compared is Hitler, an extreme comparison that would be totally unfair if not for the fact  that many of his closest advisers are full-blown white nationalists. At the risk of splitting hairs while the world burns, Trump’s style of governing (such as it is) does not remind me so much of Der Fuhrer, whose horror was at least meticulously planned. His first chaotic days in office remind me more of a completely different despot: Mao Zedong. Specifically, they call to mind Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

I’ve long been fascinated by hermetically-sealed cults of personality, like North Korea, and regimes that attempted to halt history in its tracks, like Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.  But the place and period that fascinates me the most is China under the Cultural Revolution (which ran roughly from 1966 until Mao’s death 10 years later), which combined a cult of personality with an insane push to erase history into one horrifying amalgam.

During the Cultural Revolution, everyone in China—all 1 billion of them—was taught to worship Chairman Mao as if he were a god. Mao had always been officially revered, but this period elevated him to an insane, untouchable level. Mao made sure he remained at this level by fomenting a climate of “permanent revolution” in which any vestige of the past was questioned, then destroyed. The result was a roiling chaos that left everyone too confused, terrified, and exhausted to question anything Mao had done.

Even if you know nothing about Mao or the Cultural Revolution, this has an obvious, superficial resemblance to Trump. His election was an attempt to destroy all political norms that preceded it—both the Clintonite neoliberal consensus and the staid fiscal/intellectual conservative wing of the GOP. In the place of both of these, Trump has created a new political reality that revolves exclusively around his own whims.

But how are the two men specifically similar?  Allow me to demonstrate.

Continue reading Mao Zedonald

What’s Cookin

With the sheer amount of insanity that has transpired in the last week or so of the presidential campaigns (never mind the accumulated insanity to this point), you easily could have missed a special sliver of crazy that emerged down the home stretch. It’s difficult for anything or anyone to appear particularly bonkers in an election season that has legitimized the voices of anime-loving Nazis. That feat was managed late last week when the topic of Spirit Cooking lit social media aflame.

The budget version (and fair warning, even this condensed explanation could lower your IQ several points) proceeds thusly: the fire-and-brimstone segment of the electorate pored over the recent Wikileaks emails and found one in which Hillary Clinton operative John Podesta talked about attending a show by performance artist Marina Abramovic called Spirit Cooking. Said show purports to involve various bodily fluids, pig’s blood, self-cutting, etc., in a tortured bohemian tableau familiar to anyone who’s ever been dragged to a freshman art show. Through the fevered interpretation of the Alex Jones crowd, however, Abramovic’s work was not a high-school-goth level metaphor but an act of actual witchcraft.

Continue reading What’s Cookin

Trump, Bush, and the Curse of Memory

The worst thing about Donald Trump is that he’ll get to come back.

There are many terrible things about Donald Trump The Presidential Candidate, to be sure, more than I care enumerate in this space. But the worst thing of all about him is that he won’t have to pay for any of these sins. He won’t be punished for empowering an army of nazis (online and off), or stoking revenge fantasies among a sizable portion of the electorate that will be impossible for the next president to douse, or even for being a goddamn creep of the highest order. This is all next-level awful, and bodes ill for the presidential elections of 2020 and beyond, when another fascist with sharper political skills and a modicum of impulse control could play the Nixon to Trump’s George Wallace.

But even if we wind up with an actual race-baiting Putin-worshiping monster in the White House 4 or 8 or 12 years from now—someone who will have marched there on a road Trump paved—Trump himself will not receive the slightest blame for it, and he will not only be unrepentant, but will not be forced to answer any hard questions about the horror he has unleashed.

This won’t happen because Trump is a psychopath who can compartmentalize the segments of his consciousness like a serial killer, or because he’s a self-proclaimed multibillionaire who can spend his way out of trouble, although these factors certainly help. This will happen because no one will call him to account. On the face of it, this seems impossible; surely Trump will have to answer for something he’s done during this election. But American political history—particularly that of the last 20 years or so—provides ample evidence to prove this, and the hyper-accelerated pace of media and life in general guarantees it.

Continue reading Trump, Bush, and the Curse of Memory

They Fought the Math, and the Math Won

I wrote this about Nate Silver four years ago, shortly after Barack Obama was elected president for the first time. Four years have dimmed a lot of the optimism and starry-eyed hope on display within it, as I think it has for many people. Still, I stand by every word of that post, especially where it pertains to Silver.

Looking back on it, what I find most amazing is how you could apply nearly everything I said about him in 2008 to this year’s election. Four years ago, Silver made electoral predictions that were mocked and downplayed by professional pundits who didn’t like the outcome they pointed to. This year, with Silver’s profile much higher, the attacks were more pronounced, but the results were the same: When you fight math, you lose.

I supported Obama with reservations. I wish he’d close Gitmo, like he promised. I wish he’d stop sending drones out to kill people–both for basic human reasons and because it creates more terrorists than it eliminates. I wish he’d do more to end our reliance on fossil fuels, and to stop a pointless and destructive “war against drugs.”

However, none of these issues would have been improved by Obama’s only viable alternative. If anything, they would have worsened, and nearly all of the tangible good Obama has done (marriage rights, affordable health care) would have been reversed. For me, it came down to this: The party that opposed Obama spent much of the campaign season trying to rationalize rape, and their presidential candidate did absolutely nothing to distance himself from fellow Republicans who did so. As the father of a daughter, as a husband, and as a human being, I do not want that party making laws, let alone appointing Supreme Court justices.

Another reason why I couldn’t bear the thought of Mitt Romney becoming president was Nate Silver, the man who spelled out Mitt Romney’s demise months in advance. Or rather, how Silver was treated by people who perceived him as The Enemy.

Continue reading They Fought the Math, and the Math Won


Of the remaining GOP presidential hopefuls, Newt Gingrich has the ugliest soul.

Rick Santorum possesses some vile views on gay rights and abortion (like thinking rape victims who get pregnant should just accept this “gift from god”), but he seems like such a brutally strange and damaged person that I’d pity him if he weren’t in such a position of power. Ron Paul seems sincere and I don’t disagree with his anti-war and anti-war-on-drugs stances, even if some his other positions bug me (not to mention his ugly newsletters, the racist content of which he’s never explained satisfatorily). Mitt Romney has the nonplussed cheesiness of a local news anchor.

All members of this trio possess varying degrees of harmlessness, as far as I’m concerned. So with Rick Perry out of the race, Gingrich stands above all of them as, hands down, the worst human being of the bunch.

Among them, Gingrich is the most eager practitioner of Bully Politics. This has been a feature of the Republican arsenal ever since Barry Goldwater and part of the general pushback against New Deal/Great Society ideals we’ve seen since those days. However, it’s never been practiced more brutally than now, and never more gleefully than by Newt. When he talks about making kids work as janitors, there is vengeance, and almost glee, in his voice. When he sneers at Juan Williams during a debate, he all but invites the riled-up audience to attack his outnumbered questioner and seems not too concerned about the consequences. He is never happier than when he attacks those can least defend themselves.

When Gingrich called Obama a “food stamp president,” it was an obvious dog-whistle statement. (Subtext: “Remember, guys, he’s BLACK. And he’s gonna give YOUR money to OTHER BLACK PEOPLE.”) But apart from the badly disguised racism, it was also part and parcel with the delight he takes from attacking the least of us, joyfully positing that the poorest among us are the most deserving of our scorn and ridicule.

Hearing this, I had an immediate, visceral, infuriated reaction, for reasons I couldn’t quite articulate at first. Yes, it was a reprehensible attitude, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly it bothered me so much. And then it all flooded back to me, a memory I’d done my best to bury: My family was once on food stamps.

Continue reading Stamped

Kids Witness The Darnedest Political Actions

On Saturday, The Wife took The Kid into The City out for a good chunk of the day, which enabled me to get an enormous amount of work done on my various quixotic projects. I was very grateful for the chance to write uninterrupted, and I hope I can get these things that I’m working on into people’s hands before long. (/tease)

When they returned in the evening, The Kid wanted to tell me all about her adventures that day. First I was told that she had ridden on “seven boats!” over the course of her afternoon. In truth, it was the ferry to Governor’s Island and back. When it comes to a kid’s eyewitness account of something, you usually have to take whatever they say they saw and divide the stated quantity in half.

Then she told me she a “big parade for a contest!” What kind of contest? “I don’t know, but everybody was yelling and singing and waving signs and puppets!” Oh, that sounds like fun. “They were singing, ‘This is denockasee looks like!'”

I asked her to repeat this last part, and she did, but it was no clearer than the first time. She was repeating what she thought she heard–This is denockasee looks like–even if she didn’t understand it.

And then it hit me: She must have seen one of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, since the Governor’s Island ferry terminal isn’t too far from the center of the whole thing. I assume The Wife told her it was a protest, but since she had no idea what a protest is, her brain interpreted the word as contest. And what she heard people “singing” was the old standby chant This is what democracy looks like.

Sometimes I correct The Kid when she mispronounces words because I want her to the right way of doing things, and sometimes I don’t because her misinterpretation is so adorable and she’ll only be this little for so long. This clearly should have been one of the latter instances, and yet I corrected her anyway. That led to her asking me, “What’s democracy?”, a moment that would have been too precious and on the nose for a Family Circus cartoon. All I needed was little squiggles charting her course back from Manhattan with a ghost-grampa watching on.

Democracy, I said, was the kind of government we have, where we elect people to represent us, like senators, or the president.

If this were a TV show or a movie, she would have had some follow-up question that would expose the hypocrisy and helplessness that all of us feel when we resign ourselves to the harsh realities of adult life. Instead, she said, “Oh,” and asked to watch a Harry Potter movie.

The President’s Orders

Hello, this is Capitol Hill Pizza Hut, home of the endless buffalo buffet. May I take your order?

I want to be clear about this. I want a two large pies, one Meat Lovers, one with peppers, mushrooms, and extra garlic. The American people deserve no less.

Okay, that’ll be $24.50.

The Meat Lovers pie is off the table. Never let it be said that this president can not compromise.

You don’t have to compromise. You’re the president; you can order whatever you want.

No, no, just the large pie with peppers, mushrooms, and extra garlic. In the spirit of compromise, however, I might be persuaded to ditch the extra garlic.

If you want extra garlic, you should get extra garlic.

Fine, no extra garlic. You drive a hard bargain, but I think bipartisanship at all costs in all of our best interests.

Okay, so one large pie with peppers and mushrooms.

Make it a medium. With just the mushrooms.

You sure about that? You seem less and less hungry each time…

I will order one breadstick, and that’s my final offer.

If that’s what you want. With one breadstick, your total is 89 cents.

This breadstick will ensure the prosperity of our great nation for years to come.

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, John Boehner

You want to know why I’m willing to risk sending America into the economic abyss? It’s because I made a promise to Grover Norquist I would never vote to raise taxes or the debt limit. I know I’ve done both those things before, like, a lot of times. Seriously, so many times, you would not believe. But I think I’ve matured since then, and I want to show Grover that I can change for him. Things are gonna be different from now on, baby!

But there’s another reason why I’m doing this. I’ve always been fascinated with Weimar Republic Germany. Oh, such decadence and scandal! Such artistic blossoming! Every since I was a young man, I’ve dreamed we could have such a time in our country. Now we have that chance! All we need to do is send the economy careening off into the horizon on a flaming Viking ship, and voila! Instant creative boom! People will be able to create freely once they’re not preoccupied with paying jobs.

What a time this will be! There will be scandalous burlesques and wild jazz music and riotous paintings and mad, passionate love-making in the streets! And also, you’ll need a wheelbarrow to bring all your money to the store to buy a loaf of bread, because inflation will make the dollar worth a quintillionth of what it’s worth now. But you can also spend that wheelbarrow of money at a wondrous cabaret where all your most debauched fantasies come true! Particularly if those fantasies include being beaten to death by roving murder-gangs who want your precious wheelbarrow.

I have plans drawn up for a fantastic nightclub I plan to open once our nation’s financial health flatlines. There will be beautiful girls in bowler hats and garters! Whiskey flowing freely! And I shall MC, prancing across the stage, grapevining with a cane under my arm, and making sardonic comments on how our lousy president got us into this mess! But unlike Joel Gray or Alan Cummings, I won’t put on any weird makeup. Can you imagine coloring your skin in such an unnatural way? Yuck, imagine that!

I shall attract artists, musicians, researchers from the Heritage Foundation…oh, it shall be a naughty good time! Until those jackbooted liberals shut us down AND THEY WILL, YOU MARK MY WORDS! Then I’ll write a novel on a train about how great it all is.

Then I’ll probably move to the Bahamas or something, ’cause this place is gonna be super-fucked. But if any of you guys wanna buy a wheelbarrow, I can give you a good price. Trust me, you’re gonna wish you had one in a month or so.

Your New President: Sultan’s Feast

I’m almost tempted to dump this Trump feature already, since I feel that Obama’s trifecta of releasing his birth certificate, roasting The Donald at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and KILLING OSAMA BIN LADEN has destroyed whatever momentum the cancerous little troll once had.

Then again, Election Day 2012 is still a long way away, and anything can happen between now and then. So assuming Trump does not go away any time soon, here’s another item from the man who wants to be our next Commander-in-Chief: the Yelp page for the Sultan’s Feast buffet at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, which came to my attention thanks to the latest Celebrity Apprentice recap by Tom Scharpling at New York Magazine.

Granted, casino buffets are not the places to go for fine cuisine, and it may be a little unfair to fault Trump for one small piece of his empire. But then again, is it so unfair? Shouldn’t someone who wants to be the most powerful man in the free world have a grip on all the details of his business? I’m inclined to say yes. Plus, these reviews are hilarious.

Keep in mind, eating at this dump will set you back $25, which ain’t cheap where I come from. Sure, it’s all you can eat, but does that matter when the offerings are inedible?

Here’s a few choice reviews:

  • “Like the hotel, the Sultan’s Feast is old and in dire need of a makeover…and I wouldn’t go back….knowing what I know now, I would have rather spent $20 for 2 at McDonald’s than $45 here.  At least with my McDonald’s meal, I would have known what to expect and still would have left satisfied.” — iza p.
  • “It’s not like I expect casino buffets to be any good, but this place was just unbelievably horrible.” — Sallina Y.
  • “Easily the worst meal I had, in a sea of terrible Atlantic City food….the clams were acceptable, but I was frankly too scared to eat them and the crab legs – seemed like a food poisoning accident waiting to happen.” — MaryE M.
  • “the casino tried the old bait-and-switch on us by handing us the wrong coupons.  So we had to wait in a huge line while they straightened it out.” — Chris K.
  • “Oh man! I feel sick. Perhaps one of the more disgusting buffets I have ever had the pleasure of visiting…I was amazed by the amount of food some of these people were inhaling. I’d almost give it an additional star just for the people watching but then again, who really wants to see that?? I left the place feeling impregnated with mac and cheese, with the realization that technically I would never need or want to eat again.” — Danielle F.
  • “The decor here is stuck somewhere between the Brady Bunch and Knight Rider.  My college dorm had food that looked more appetizing and it’s unlikely that the federal government would have even subjected Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib to this fare…My pork chop didn’t look quite right and tasted equally odd.  I couldn’t place it so I had my friend try it.  ‘Dude,’ he said, ‘that’s ham steak.’ Awesome.” — Oksi B.
  • “We went to this buffet for breakfast on a Monday morning and it was TERRIBAD, yes it was so bad that I have to use a non-word to describe it.” — Edward B.
  • “Crab Legs – Samples were tried from 2 separate batches that were brought out over the 30 minutes we were in the establishment and both found that the legs were soft and not conventionally cracked. Spoke to management about the issue and we were blown off!” — Scott V.

But Mary M. sums it up perfectly: “it just don’t live up to a real feast for sultan.” No it don’t, Mary.

Should the man who runs this buffet run our nation? You decide, American voter!

America Owes Curt Schilling

If you ask me, we did not deal with Osama bin Laden’s body properly. What, nobody asked me? Whatever, never stopped me before.

From top to bottom, this operation was handled all wrong. Look, I know these were Navy SEALs, some of the deadliest, most highly trained operatives on the planet, but I used to throw baseballs, okay? So I think I know what I’m talking about.

For instance, from all the reports I’ve read so far, not one mentions any of these operatives delivering a “kicker” line before sending Osama to kingdom come. Not even a “Message from Uncle Sam” or “Special delivery courtesy of the red, white, and blue!” If anyone had consulted me, I’ve got a 300-page Word document filled with such phrases, ranging from punny to ironic to righteously indignant. I have one for any conceivable scenario. If we found him on the moon, I would’ve said “The Eagle has landed–on your motherfucking face!

Another failure of imagination: They didn’t booby trap his house, Death Wish 3 style, so when he tried to flee the scene he could be whacked in the face with a board filled with nails. At the very least, his demise could have been far more humiliating. For all their skills with the deadly arts, these Navy SEALs didn’t think to shove a hand grenade up his poop chute? Is this where our tax dollars are going?

So no, I don’t give so-called President Obama any credit for this. I agree with my good friend Rush Limbaugh; Obama acted like he was responsible for this operation just because he approved it and gave the kill order and monitored it from start to finish. It’s amazing–some people have to make everything about them, don’t they?

And don’t get me started on the Muslim burial thing. Honoring other people’s religious traditions, ugh, it makes me sick. I think we should have desecrated the body. And when I say we, I mean me. I think America owed it to me, a millionaire athlete who was nowhere near New York or Washington DC on September 11th, to exact my own personal revenge on someone who once made me nervous to fly.

Look, those are the rules. When you kill the bad guy, you get to do bad stuff to his corpse. Sure, it might not be “politically correct,” but that’s what war is like. At least it is from what I’ve gathered from Tom Clancy novels. Prime example: Mussolini, hung upside down. Now there’s a desecration you can set your watch to!

There are some who say that mutilating his body would have incited riots and endangered hundreds of thousands of American troops stationed overseas. Well, that’s a risk they’ll just have to take. What are we paying them for, anyway?

That’s why I’m leading a team of the world’s best deep sea divers to retrieve Bin Laden’s body. We’re renting a bathysphere and we’re gonna comb the ocean floor until we find that bastard’s body. Then we’re gonna bring it back to America and I’m gonna pose with it on a pier like it’s a huge marlin I just landed. Then I’m gonna hand out baseball bats so people can whack it like a piñata. Signature Curt Schilling bats, only $175 a pop.

And then I’m gonna fly a fighter jet and shoot all the other bad guys. Pew-pew! Pew-pew! Ack-ack-ack-ack! Nyow!