Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 19th, 2016

Expendable America

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Charles Simic writes in the NY Review of Books:

Donald Trump “may not be good for America, but he’s damn good for CBS.”
—Les Moonves, President and Chief Executive Officer of CBS

The Ship of State is sinking and a rooster is chasing a hen in a neighbor’s yard. How can that be? A woman is hanging her husband’s underwear on the laundry line and singing to herself. The dead leaves are dancing on the ground while a few jump high in the air as if trying to get back on a branch they fell from. A strange dog in my driveway is looking off into the distance and wagging his tail. Don’t any of them have patriotic feelings? The Ship of State, festooned with Trump/Pence election signs, is sinking. Shouldn’t we all fall silent in awe? The bare trees look spooked though it’s past Halloween. The president-elect with a spyglass and his orange pompadour shouts from the crow’s nest that he can see thousands of Muslims on rooftops in New Jersey still celebrating the collapse of the Twin Towers—unless I’m hallucinating, but who nowadays can be sure their eyes and ears work? If he is bonkers, as he surely is, many of us are too, like that woman hanging laundry to dry on a day cold enough to snow.

All of us who are familiar with rural areas and former industrial towns in this country know the impoverishment and hopelessness of many men and women who live there. Barely surviving by holding part-time jobs, since businesses now rarely hire full-time workers in order to avoid paying benefits, they are not just underpaid and constantly in debt, but know in their hearts that they and their children are expendable. Understandably, they are angry. When Democrats proclaimed that the economy was doing well and that we were still the greatest country in the world, they started listening to Trump, who told them what they could already plainly see, that we are in decline. These unfortunates, who’ve been cheated and swindled by bosses, mortgage banks, loan sharks, health insurance companies, and both political parties, have put all their hopes in a billionaire who has a long record of not paying taxes, cheating his workers and contractors out of their pay, and seemingly using his own “charitable” foundation as a slush fund. They voted for a buffoon who doesn’t care whether they live or die.

They got plenty of help in making that decision. Having a candidate as uninspiring as Hillary Clinton, whose weaknesses ought to have been obvious to the party that nominated her and even more so after she lost the white working classes and the young people to Bernie Sanders in the primaries, as it was to many other Americans, including those like me who voted for her, turned out to be a catastrophic error. Not that it is easy to run a national campaign in a country so polarized as ours, split between liberal and conservative voters, urban and rural, educated and uneducated, religious and secular, rich and poor, with the predictable class animosities between them; and with the Internet and social media as our main source of information, a medium ideal for spreading lies and brainwashing the gullible. Without it ISIS could not have gotten all those tens of thousands of recruits and an outright huckster could not have become president of the United States.

It took years of deliberate effort by vested interests to create this “proudly ignorant populism,” as someone called it, know-nothing voters who are easily led by the nose, incapable of distinguishing lies from truth, or an honest person from a crook. Easily duped, they can be depended on to act against their own self-interest again and again. Throw into the mix racism, misogyny, hatred of immigrants, gays, and other minorities, the dumbing down of the population by inadequate education, suspicion of learning, rejection of science and history, and dozens of other things like guns and violence, and you have the kind of environment in which people chose their next president.

“Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident they are acting on their own free will,” Goebbels said. Everywhere one turns one hears people parroting lies as if they were their own carefully considered personal opinions. The upshot is that an alternate reality has been constructed for millions in this country over the last couple of decades thanks to TV, talk radio, and the Internet. Spreading falsehoods, of course, is very profitable, as con artists of every type from mealy-mouthed preachers addressing their mega churches to those touting loans that require no background check can tell you. Lies sell everything from fattening foods to “your computer is damaged and we’ll help you fix it” scams. The basic requirement for democratic governance—that the majority of the population agrees on the parameters of what is true and what is false—has been deliberately obfuscated in this country. The absence of accountability for repeated fraud by those in power, both in government and in the private sector, the proliferation of fake grass-root organizations, think tanks, and lobbyist firms funded by the wealthy to deceive their fellow citizens and turn them against one another, has become the most characteristic feature of our political life. A genuinely functioning democracy endangers powerful interests and those working so hard and making so much money to destroy it, since they may sooner or later end up in jail.

To mislead one’s fellow citizens on such a vast scale is evil. We’ve seen it before. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2016 at 5:30 pm

Neoliberalism’s epic fail: The reaction to Hillary Clinton’s loss exposed the impotent elitism of liberalism

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Conor Lynch has a very interesting column in Salon:

By the time last week’s presidential election was finally called for Donald Trump during the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the initial disbelief felt by the millions of Americans who had been assured of a Clinton victory by the media had turned into shock and panic — if not yet full-blown despair. As pollsters collectively changed their predictions and news pundits started to resemble confused and dejected children, the fight-or-flight response kicked in for countless viewers. Hearts pounded, stomachs turned and some of the more privileged liberals started seriously considering whether to flee the country in the face of a national nightmare that had just become a reality (privileged, because the average American doesn’t have the resources to just pack up and run at will).

The surreal night concluded with Canada’s immigration website crashing from too much traffic, as if every alt-right Twitter troll’s fantasy had come true.

Although the instinct to flee from a Trump presidency is understandable, it reveals a great deal about the impotence of modern liberalism and its monumental failure to stop an unhinged and thoroughly unqualified demagogue like Trump.

Elite liberals who vowed to leave America if Trump was elected, which includes a slew of celebrities, are those who would be most insulated from the impact of a Trump presidency — unlike working people and seniors who stand to lose their healthcare, children of immigrants who may soon see their families torn apart, or poor people of color who could face heightened persecution under the already racist criminal justice system. Sadly, fleeing is not an option for the most vulnerable Americans. Their only option is to keep fighting; yet the first impulse that many of their professed allies felt was to do the exact opposite: to escape.

Of course, most of the “limousine liberals” who promised to leave America before the election didn’t actually believe that Trump could win. It was an impossibility. Not in their wildest dreams could the racist, sexist, misogynistic and xenophobic buffoon defeat the most qualified and deserving presidential candidate in history — no less the first women candidate. He had denigrated women, scapegoated minorities and immigrants, offended veterans and mocked the disabled. Not only that, but it was her turn! “It was supposed to be her job. She worked her whole life for the job. It’s her job,” wrote Clinton surrogate Lena Dunham (who had said she would move to Canada if Trump won) in a recent article recounting her grief-stricken reaction to the election, in which she admitted she “never truly believed” that Trump could win.

Besides all this, Clinton had received all the coveted endorsements — the editorial pages of every major newspaper, the biggest celebrities, the neoconservative intellectuals, the former presidents and statespersons. The Washington establishment was clearly with her. And then there was the Democratic Party’s supposed secret weapon: demographics. How could a candidate running on white-identity politics possibly win in an increasingly diverse country that had elected Barack Obama just four years before?

These liberals were borderline delusional — a delusion evinced by Chuck Schumer, the establishment senator from New York who was hoping to become majority leader, but has had to settle for minority leadership. “We’re going to have a Democratic generation. [President Obama] helped create it. But it’s just where America’s moving demographically, ideologically and in every way,” said the senator in an interview with Politico Magazine during the Democratic National Convention last summer. In July, Schumer made another rosy prediction at a forum hosted by the Washington Post: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”

Turns out it was blue-collar voters who made all the difference. Trump won white voters without a college degree by a whopping 39 points, compared to Mitt Romney’s 26-point win in 2012. And in the industrial North (Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa), where the blue-collar vote went to Obama in 2012, Trump made huge gains and won decisively.

Demographic optimism proved to be the Democratic Party’s undoing. And it wasn’t just because of the white working class; according to exit polls, Clinton received six points less of the Hispanic vote than President Obama did in 2012, while the black and 18- to 29-year-old votes both both dropped by 5 percent.

Trump’s victory was a rude awakening for Democrats who have become all too complacent within the Washington power structure, and who mistakenly assumed that changing demographics, identity politics and sheer celebrity would be enough to stop the right-wing populism of Trump. Trump didn’t win the election because of a Republican insurgency; he won because of a Democratic collapse. He won because neoliberalism failed.

And now, as we enter a terrifying and uncertain new period in American history, the last thing liberals should do is double down on the failed politics that allowed this tragedy to occur. The Clinton campaign tried to make this election all about Trump’s hatefulness (“Love Trumps Hate”) and his “basket of deplorables,” while offering no real vision of progressive and populist change. And when those on the left raised legitimate concerns about Clinton’s uninspiring message or her political baggage during and after the primaries, they were ridiculously labeled sexist or racist “bros” by establishment figures (even though some of Clinton’s harshest progressive critics were in fact women and people of color). In a February essay, former Salon writer Daniel Denvir described this cynical political strategy in Salon as “peak neoliberalism, where a distorted version of identity politics is used to defend an oligarchy and a national security state, celebrating diversity in the management of exploitation and warfare.” . . .

Continue reading.

Matt Stoller’s article in the Atlantic also makes the case that the failure of the Democratic party is its capture by business interests, so that Democrats are no longer interesting in busting up trusts and keeping banks small and competing.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2016 at 1:09 pm

High in Tower, Trump Reads, Tweets and Plans

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Ashley Parker and Maggie Haberman describe the President-Elect’s day-to-day life and remind us of the characteristics of the person the US has chosen as its leader:

Donald J. Trump sits high in Trump Tower in New York, spending hours on the phone with friends, television personalities and donors to ask if they know people to recommend for his cabinet.

He joins a daily morning transition meeting with his family and staff, but still maintains the routine that sustained him during the campaign: starting his day at 5 a.m. reading The New York Post and The New York Times, then switching on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” whose co-host Joe Scarborough he once publicly savaged but now often seeks out for advice.

He gets angry when members of his inner circle get too much of the spotlight, as Rudolph W. Giuliani did when headlines about his millions of dollars in speaking fees appeared as the former New York mayor was publicly promoting himself to be Mr. Trump’s secretary of state.

And Mr. Trump has happily resumed control of his Twitter feed, using it to bash targets in the news media and criticize the cast of the Broadway musical “Hamilton” for imploring Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who was in the audience Friday night, to govern on behalf of all Americans.

As a parade of job seekers, TV talking heads and statesmen like Henry Kissinger paraded through the lobby of Trump Tower this past week, Mr. Trump ran his presidential transition from his triplex on the 58th floor much the way he ran his campaign and his business before that — schmoozing, rewarding loyalty, fomenting infighting among advisers and moving confidently forward through a series of fits and starts.

President Obama, who met with Mr. Trump two days after the election, has held out hope that the gravity of the presidency will change the former reality show star. But people close to the 70-year-old president-elect say that he has such long-held habits formed by fame, wealth and the freedom to have done whatever he wanted that they remain skeptical, at least for now, that he will transform to fit the constraints of the White House.

“The presidency may change him eventually, but it’s not going to change him initially,” said Barry Bennett, a former senior adviser to the Trump campaign and a Republican strategist. “He’s a man who likes a lot of input from a lot of people, and he’s someone who has an incredible instinct for the American people.”

People close to Mr. Trump nonetheless say he is more focused now than he was in the first few days after his surprise victory. He was nervous and jolted, they said, by the 90-minute Oval Office meeting with Mr. Obama, and for the first time appeared to take in the enormousness of the job.

He is proud, they say, that he has so rapidly named people for his cabinet and senior staff, including a group of hawks and hard-line loyalists: Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama as attorney general, Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser, Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas as director of the C.I.A., and Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, as chief strategist.

“Ahead of schedule, under budget, high energy, trust and loyalty — there’s just a pattern to the whole thing,” said Richard F. Hohlt, a longtime Republican consultant in Washington. “That’s his mark of success.”

Loyalty, however, goes only so far.

There were initial reports from senior officials within Mr. Trump’s orbit that Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s most fervent supporter in the campaign’s final weeks, was the leading candidate for secretary of state. But the headlines about Mr. Giuliani’s business interests bothered Mr. Trump, who was urged by several business leaders and some media hosts to reconsider the option. Suddenly, he arranged a Saturday meeting with one of his fiercest critics, Mitt Romney, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.

Transition officials say the meeting with Mr. Romney, a moderate Republican who was the party’s nominee for president in 2012, may not have been simply for show. They say that Mr. Trump believes that Mr. Romney, with his patrician bearing, looks the part of a top diplomat right out of “central casting” — the same phrase Mr. Trump used to describe Mike Pence before choosing him as his running mate.

Yet Mr. Trump loves the tension and drama of a selection process, and has sought to stoke it. A senior adviser described the meeting, in part, as Mr. Romney simply coming to pay his respects to the president-elect and “kiss his ring.”

Mr. Trump, who has been known to act precipitously against people who have not pleased him, did so again this past week when he removed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, another longtime loyalist, as the head of his transition. People close to Mr. Trump say that, among other concerns, he determined that Mr. Christie had to go after two former top aides were convicted by a federal jury on all charges stemming from a 2013 scheme to close access lanes at the George Washington Bridge to punish a New Jersey mayor who declined to endorse Mr. Christie for re-election. And Mr. Trump was angered when Mr. Christie did not defend him after 11-year-old audio emerged of the candidate boasting about committing sexual assaults.

Mr. Trump also likes to surprise, and enjoys the worldwide speculation he sets off with his Twitter posts. And after he became upset by Mr. Giuliani’s headlines, his aides leaked the news that he was considering Gov. Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina for secretary of state — speculation that has since faded as Mr. Romney’s prospects have risen.

Showmanship remains central to Mr. Trump, who on Thursday held his first meeting as president-elect with a foreign leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. The setting was Mr. Trump’s marble and gold, Louis XIV-style residence on the 58th floor, with sweeping views of New York and Central Park. Mr. Trump, with General Flynn at his side, sat next to Mr. Abe under an enormous crystal chandelier as Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, looked on. . .

Continue reading.

I think Trump was upset by the cast’s message to Pence because Pence is his VP, so it’s as if they sent the message to Trump (since everything is always about him), and was upset by the discourtesy of implication that his administration might not govern on behalf of all the people (though of course that has been the specific content, such as it was, of his entire campaign: some people are no good: journalists, immigrants (excepting, one assumes, his wife), Hillary Clinton, people with disabilities, and so on). Also, Pence got some headlines. That was discourteous, and Donald Trump is punctilious about insisting on courtesy (in-bound only) if not deference. “Kiss the ring” indeed!

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2016 at 12:57 pm

Omega S-Brush, Meißner Tremonia Himalayan Heights, and the iKon S3S

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SOTD 2016-11-19

I really like the regular-size S-Brushes. (The pro sizes are unpleasant to use, unfortunately: too stiff and springy.) With this S-10005 I got a very nice lather from Meißner Tremonia’s Himalayan Heights shaving soap:

Stearic Acid, Cocos nucifera (coconut) oil*, Aqua, Potassium Hydroxide, Orbignya Oleifera (babassu) oil*, Sodium Hydroxide, Macadamia terifolia oil, Cedrus deodora oil, Glycerin*, Citric Acid, Talc, Kaolin, Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) oil*, Himalayan salt, C. I. 77007.

*Bio – Qualität

I looked up a few of the Latin names because I was curious. The soap has a very nice fragrance—primarily the cedar—and the lather is excellent.

The iKon S3S is a razor I don’t often use, but when I do, I really enjoy it and it does a terrific job. It has a massive head, and thus requires a heavy handle. The head mass drives the blade’s cutting edge easily through the stubble, and with this razor I virtually always get a BBS result, and so it was today.

A dot of Phoenix Artisan’s Alt-Eleven aftershave balm as an aftershave, and the weekend is launched.

I had a sudden thought this morning: a very good sign that you don’t need a product is that its description begins “At last!”, a sure sign that it is designed to solve a “problem” tht doesn’t in fact exist.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2016 at 8:40 am

Posted in Shaving

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