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In an unexpected development, The News from Gridleyville has been named an official outlet for TrikiLeaks, the supernal hacker group. We are greatly honored by this distinction, and we promise to exercise our responsibilities responsibly.

As you may know, TrikiLeaks specializes in secret documents involving Higher Powers, in particular communications sent through s-mail, the spiritual equivalent of e-mail. The instance presented here is a recent message between foreign ministers of the eternal kingdoms: Beelzebub, the secretary of state for The Depths, writing to Archangel Michael, his counterpart in The Lofts. The two grew up together before Bubbie, as he was known in his youth, joined the Dark One in rebellion against the Universal Authority. Their long friendship presumably accounts for the chummy tone of the missive.

We publish this now, not in an attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election, but as a possible means of allaying the world’s heartburn.

To: His Lightness Arch. Michael

From: His Darkness Beelzebub

Subject: A Little Favor?

Yo, Mikey,

It’s been ages, I know, I been meaning to write, but we been awful busy down here. The crowds you send us get kind of rambunctious sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t complaining, it’s so much fun torturing these ass-monkeys it don’t hardly seem like a job, but it’s an organizational nightmare, if you get my drift. Gotta keep track of who’s been waterboarded, who’s been burned on the eyeball with the Boss’s cigars, who’s had fingernails or toenails yanked, etc. etc. We’re still using these old Power Macs that’ve never been upgraded. When I heard that Steve Jobs geek was comin’, I thought he’d bring some newer gizmos, but your boys in the Property Department musta stripped him on the way. You better check for sticky fingers up there. Just sayin’.

Anyways, geeks like Jobs ain’t the problem, they just walk around twiddling with their thumbs. It’s the other types of sinners that get bored and restless. See, the whole principle of torture—I figure you’re too high-minded to think about this stuff, so I’ll explain it to you—is you gotta give the bums a break between times. If it’s all pain all the time, they get burnt out, their minds blown, their ghostbodies wasted, so when you give ’em another, say, electric zap to the privates, they hardly notice. Which is no fun for us. So the point is, let ’em have a decent life when we aren’t working ’em over, enough that when we grab ’em up for the next session, they get the shakes and the terrors and start pissin’ their ghostpants all over again.

Now, them Lethe waters are a big help, making them forget what they been through. In fact, we’ve been mixing Lethe drops into the waterboarding, so every round’s like a fresh torture ’cause the poor suckers don’t remember what’s coming.

Still, when it’s time for their R&R, we gotta keep ’em amused. Which is hard because they ain’t allowed their former enjoyments like murder, embezzlement, fornication or political campaigns. So what do we have for their entertainment? Mostly old TV shows—and your Big Guy won’t let us have the good ones, will He? No, we gotta make do with trash like Jerry Springer, Jay Leno and Hee Haw Honeys. The ladies down here, even lots of the guys, would kill for one episode of Mary Tyler Moore. True, our audience is pretty cynical, so they get into the so-bad-it’s-hilarious shtick, but that wears thin after a while. They get mopey and grouchy, which is not the right buildup for their next turn in the Iron Maiden. As I said, they should be happy, at least content, before we work ’em over again.

So what I’m writin’ to ask, and I know you’ll wanta help me with this, pal, is maybe havin’ a top entertainer come down to us a little early. No, I don’t mean Madonna, I know the Big Guy’s got a crush on her. (Which I don’t understand. I mean, really?)

What I’m talkin’ about is that Trump dude. You know we’re gettin’ him sooner or later, and if you can make it a little sooner, I’d really appreciate it, ’cause we’ve made some great plans for him.

It’s a show called Devil’s Apprentice. He’s gonna be the host, see, along with one of my cute little acolytes—you know, the one with the honkers? He’ll love her.

Here’s the bit: Contestants will think they’re competing for a full-time job managing the Grue Crew, our pitchfork guys that stab unsuspecting people in the ass and toss ’em in the pit for their next torment. Our huge TV audience will see the apprentices run around like crazy and bust their tails to please The Donald and then get fired anyway. But then the kicker is, at the end of the show, all the ones he’s fired will get to use their pitchforks on The Donald himself.

They’ll plunk him in the pit for a special persecution—watching hours and hours of documentaries—of Hillary’s whole career!

We’ll televise that too, to show him making faces and spitting insults at the screen. Then we’ll give everybody some Lethe drops and start over with a new season.

Ain’t that genius? Talk about entertainment—our restless masses will love it!

So think about it, will you Mikey? I mean, Trump’s already old and fat, it’s not like I’m askin’ for a major speedup. Just a little before his time, so to speak.

If you need to clear this with the Big Guy, give him my best, wouldya? Him and my Boss really oughta get together sometime, clear the air, y’know, discuss new ways to cooperate in this business of processing souls.

Okay, Mikey, gotta sign off now and go sharpen my pitchfork, heh-heh.

Keep that flaming sword of yours polished, boyo.

Yours 4ever & ever & ever,

Your pal,

Bubbie

Lesser and Greater Evils

August 10, 2016

Image from O’Hehir’s article in SALON

A short post to offer some informative links (the phrases in red) about Trumpageddon:

Back in June I surmised that Americans might have, in essence, a national death wish, a desire to just blow up the system out of spite, frustration and boredom. Now Andrew O’Hehir has offered a similar, though more complicated, argument in Salon. “As I see it,” he writes, “Trump is on a suicide mission, acting out a deep-seated national desire for self-destruction that runs alongside America’s more optimistic self-image and interacts with it in unpredictable ways” (my boldface). Definitely worth reading.

To that I’ll add a link to an On the Media radio show/podcast in which host Bob Garfield interviews Nathan Robinson, editor of Current Affairs. (The linked page contains a transcript as well as the audio clip.) For those who refuse to vote for either Trump or Clinton, Robinson provides a strong argument for choosing one or the other to avoid a repeat of the 2000 election, when progressives’ votes for Ralph Nader led to the victory of George W. Bush (who, to this point, may be the worst president in U.S. history—a record Trump would have no difficulty in toppling).

“The basic premise” of Robinson’s argument “is that we should think about voting differently. The way I think of voting is that you should think about the potential consequences of your vote. That’s the most important thing. Voting isn’t necessarily a way to say who you are and what you care about. It’s something that has consequences” (my boldface).

Robinson continues, “If 500 Nader voters in Florida had changed their minds we probably wouldn’t have had the Iraq war, so I think those consequences are the most important thing. You know, people are critical of the term ‘lesser evil’—well, you just want us to vote for the lesser evil. Of course we do, because you want less evil in the world.”

My take on the issue is simple: If you’re a grownup, and not suicidal, you should face the fact that the election is not about you or your ideological or moral purity. It’s about who will run the United States and possibly, or not, blow up the whole effing planet.

American public, pay attention! The media have misled you about the Trump-Putin Partnership (#therealTPP).

The reason for Donald Trump’s peculiar affinity for Vladimir Putin is not:
(a) his admiration for bullies like himself;
(b) his dependence on Putin’s oligarch pals as investors;
(c) his prurient craving for Hillary’s emails; or
(d) his belief that minor countries, such as Ukraine and Estonia, do not deserve to exist.

No, Mr. Trump’s rapport with the Russian leader stems from their shared devotion to the Art of the Deal.

As a Gridleyville exclusive, we can now report that the two leaders have negotiated a remarkable bargain to profit both the United States and Russia. This dispatch relies on numerous sources, including our trusty underground informant in Moscow, Deepska Throatsky.

The groundbreaking agreement, dubbed the Stolichnaya Accord after the four bottles of vodka consumed during the talks, is based on the irrefutable fact that Putin has already snatched large portions of Ukraine, is likely to take more, and will not be deterred by the United States, NATO, the EU, or the weird spellings of Ukrainian place names. Why not, reasoned Mr. Trump, give Putin our blessing to proceed in that region, but extract an equally valuable commodity as a quid pro quo? Isn’t that what the Art of the Deal is about?

Thus the terms of this historic covenant:

  • The United States agrees to make only faint grumbling noises as Russian “aid workers” overrun Kiev in unmarked trucks.
  • In return, Russia agrees to make only faint sniffing noises while the United States annexes Mexico.

The net result: Russia gains 233,000 square miles and a few good basketball players. The United States gains 760,000 square miles and the beautiful blood sport of bullfighting.

No doubt you are STUNNED by the audacity of the pact! Your first reaction may be: “But Trump hates Mexicans. Why would he want to seize their country?”

As The Donald himself has told us, his policy statements—in fact, his innermost beliefs and values—are mere negotiating positions. He does not, in reality, hate Mexico or its citizens. His only true problem with Mexicans is that they come here to mow lawns and wash dishes without the permission of affluent white men.

So look at the bold logic of the arrangement: Mexicans will no longer be illegal immigrants in the United States because they will be part of us. Officially, they will become American second-class citizens, much like Puerto Ricans and coal miners.

And the famous wall that Mr. Trump has promised? It will indeed be built—along our new border with Guatemala! This boundary is much shorter and easier to defend than the nearly 2,000 miles of desert between Matamoros and Tijuana. Although the Guatemalans cannot afford to pay for such a wall, we will use our new Mexican-American citizens to do the work at $1.25 per hour.

Unfortunately, the Stolichnaya Accord cannot be officially acknowledged until after the election and inauguration, when Mr. Putin will be invited to the White House for a dinner of gourmet tacos and calabacitas con elote. In the meantime, we can have faith that all of Mr. Trump’s secret deals will live up to this very, very high standard.

To kick off the Democratic convention, Michelle Goldberg wrote a long, thoughtful piece in Slate about why so many people hate Hillary. It’s worth reading if you haven’t seen it already.

Studying polls and interviews, Goldberg finds that people’s disdain and distaste for the pantsuited whipping-girl have remained constant for decades even as the reasons for those emotions have changed. For some people, for instance, it’s policy: Hillary was too liberal in the 1990s and she’s too conservative now—and she has never, apparently, passed through a stage of being just right. For others it’s a character issue: because Hillary has changed her positions over the years, we can’t trust her, even though other politicians do the swivel-dance daily.

“In other words,” Goldberg says, “people hated Hillary for being one sort of person, and in response to that she became another sort of person, who people hated for different reasons. But this doesn’t explain why the emotional tenor of the hatred seems so consistent, even as the rationale for it has turned inside out. Perhaps that’s because anti-Hillary animus is only partly about what she does. It’s also driven by some ineffable quality of charisma, or the lack of it.”

As Goldberg goes on to point out, people who meet Hillary in person tend to like her a lot. But in public she fails to convey the warm, mischievous, funny and charming qualities that her acquaintances know and love.

Of course, she’s not the only political figure whose public persona fails to reflect her private attractiveness. But a wooden, artificial Mitt Romney attracts less vitriol (and more bored sighs), so again we’re left wondering, “Why Hillary? What makes her so abhorrent?”

Ultimately, Goldberg decides, the answer is “gendered”: “Americans tend not to like ambitious women with loud voices.” I think that’s true, and I would add the adjective smart—we especially don’t like an ambitious woman who seems to know uncomfortably more than we do on just about every topic except the state of our own toothbrushes.

Hillary at a Planned Parenthood event, Washington, DC, June 2016 (photo by Lorie Shaull from Wikimedia Commons)

Hillary at a Planned Parenthood event, Washington, DC, June 2016 (photo by Lorie Shaull from Wikimedia Commons)

My explanation, then, expands on Goldberg’s to focus on the aura of superiority Hillary manages to convey. When she ramps up her public persona, trying her best to be cool, authoritative, masterful—to stand up to the alpha politicomales she must challenge—she comes off, to me, as smug. Look at that facial expression, that little smirk. Even if you admire her, isn’t it a bit annoying? Don’t you feel slightly put down?

We Americans, famously, and stupidly, want our president to be someone we can have a beer with. I bet that, in private, Hillary can swill a brew as well as her Bubba—maybe better because her heart is stronger. But she gives the impression of sipping an expensive white wine—one of those Coche-Dury Grand Cru thingies?—whose name we can’t even pronounce.

Admittedly, it’s probably “gendered”—nay, sexist—to care about the way a woman grins. After all, George W. Bush had the stupidest grin ever, and THAT wasn’t what we denounced him for.

Armageddon, Anyone?

June 3, 2016

Armageddon“You, reader, I, writer,” said Mrs. Gaskell, “have each our great sorrow bearing down upon us.”* A telling and poetic sentiment. True, there’s a certain aura of First World comfort about it—the sorrow is singular, and it hasn’t arrived yet, unlike the multiple present agonies of so many around the globe—but it’s a good reminder that none of us is ultimately secure.

Reading Mrs. Gaskell the other day (more evidence of First Worldism: having the leisure to enjoy a 19th-century novelist), I wondered how her insight would apply to the specter of Donald Trump—because in the United States right now, it seems everything has to be measured in DTs.

Is it the lost sense of security that drives so many white working-class Americans toward The Donald’s blustering fraudulence? That’s what the standard analysis suggests.

Or, I wonder, is it just that so many don’t give a shit anymore? They don’t care if he tosses insults like a fifth grader, offends allies or even starts a new war. It’s time for revenge on the elites, folks—meaning those people who’ve been running things while the rest of us watch sit-coms and football. The elites deserve whatever mockery the Donald can dish out, the more vulgar the better.

And if this means a great sorrow is bearing down on us all, so what? We’ll go down in a blaze of glory—that is, a flaming spew of intolerance, ignorance and spite. It’ll be fun! Like Armageddon. Like The Hunger Games. Time to die, everyone!

Is it possible to have a national death wish?

I think it is.

 

*The quote is from Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, A Dark Night’s Work (1863), Chap. 4.

Nostalgia and Survival

February 18, 2016

Watching the Black Panthers documentary on PBS the other night (The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution by Stanley Nelson) made me predictably nostalgic, but I was also confused. What exactly had I thought of the Panthers, and their now-mythic confrontations with the cops, back in the day? In some cases I was just a few miles away when the events went down, but I don’t remember my attitude. Was I mostly on the Panthers’ side, somewhat on the cops’ side, or in my usual utterly muddled middle?

Jed Garoover, as immortalized in the Library of Congress

Jed Garoover, as immortalized in the Library of Congress

The documentary also brought up fond memories of San Francisco Chronicle columns by the late Art Hoppe, who turned political figures into comic characters such as Elbie Jay and Billy Boomer, Boy President. Parts of the documentary featured Washington’s arch-villain, the head of the FBI, and I was trying to recall: Did Hoppe invent the name Jed Garoover for that multi-chinned Mephistopheles? It seems to me he did, though I can’t now confirm that.

Most important, the documentary got me thinking about my faith in America—its culture, its political system, its fundamental being. Despite all the polarization and hatred in the Panther days, I didn’t feel, as I do now, the same overpowering sense that the American Soul was at stake. Maybe my youth made me optimistic. Maybe I believed that truth would win in the long run (hah!). Maybe I trusted in the innate sense of the common people who supposedly have the final say in a democracy.

Now I know that we commoners are marginalized by power brokers and fixers, and many of us don’t give a shit anyway. A friend with relatives in Jerusalem tells me that many young Jewish Israelis have given up on politics, neither believing in the long-assumed “two-state solution” nor searching for an alternative. Instead, she says, they live for the moment; they go to cafes and dance on the beach. Is that what we’ve come to now in America?

My new home? (Courtesy of Google Maps)

Though we survived the empty-pated Reagan and the crook Nixon, not to mention earlier embarrassments like Harding and Grant, can we survive the new Republican, Dred Crumpio? (For a sketch of Crumpio, see my previous post.) In the event that the White House, as well as Congress, becomes the fiefdom of demagogic frauds, I’m at least half-seriously considering a move to Canada. I’ve already picked out a neighborhood with a large dog park (green area on the map), though I haven’t yet researched the regulations for exporting dog and family.

So: Would I be wrong to give up on the US of A? Would that be (a) cowardly, (b) a sign of clinical depression, or (c) sane?

The Composite Candidate

February 5, 2016

Crumpio

Dred Crumpio

Now that the presidential campaign season is truly underway, the composite candidates have begun to emerge.

Back in 2012, the composite Republican contender, whom I named Mick Somnorich, was kind of feckless, hard to take seriously. He was, in fact, boring, and everyone’s already forgotten him.

This year’s version is truculent and malevolent, much more exciting to watch in the present and likely more memorable in the long term. For those who haven’t tuned in yet, here is his message in a poetic nutshell:

Ready for a New American Century?
Calling the enemy by its name,
I’m the conservative who Democrats
fear most. I won’t let them take away
our giveaway to the corporate patrons.
They’re rapists on the lookout!
It is our job to kill terrorists. Weakness is
provocative. I would bomb the shit out of them.
And believe me, my temperament is very good,
very calm, I’m proud to have an “A” rating
from the American Rifle Association.
We stop bad guys by using our guns!
If I become president, Americans can work
together to revive Merry Christmas
and infringe on the rights of good, law-abiding
citizens. The whole world is on fire!
Look at that face! Pathological,
there’s no cure for that.

This composite’s name is Dred Crumpio, and he believes everything he says, even if he knows it’s a lie. Because talk is just talk, after all. It’s another thing entirely to whomp the bad guys, and believe you me, Americans don’t care about the actual score as long as we can pretend we’re winning.