Robert Crumb and the Powers That Be

crumb-suiI tend to read weird, avant-garde post on the Internet so my readers don’t have to. And admittedly, weirdness gets me going. Maybe it’s because I suffer from the malady hyper-boredom that I seek out the strange and bizarre to remind myself that there’s more to life than that dictated by the alarm clock.

Anywho…

I was reading a post on artist Robert Crumb’s website called “Crumb On Others” where he gives his opinions on famous people. Naturally, fans of Crumb and his alternative comics want to know what he thinks about everyone from Marilyn Monroe to J.D. Salinger to Mao. What caught my attention was his take on Jimmy Carter that, of course, veered into other presidents like our Dear Leader, Barack Obama. His take on the Big O provides many lessons (all emphasis, mine):

I think Obama is basically a fairly decent guy also, but he just can’t come up against the powers that be and Carter couldn’t either. Carter really tried, he talked about limits to growth and pulling back and making ecological concerns stronger, you know, and all that stuff. But nobody wanted to hear that in the ’70s except for a tiny minority of people. Carter was relatively decent for that office, relatively decent. You know if you think about the Republican presidents and the Democratic presidents, we had Kennedy, then we had Johnson, who was questionable — I don’t know about Johnson –; then you had Nixon the Republican who was just awful. And then Nixon resigned from his office. And then you had Carter — well, before him we had Gerald Ford, who was probably not that bad of a guy but not very effective. And then we had Carter. And Carter really tried to do the right thing when he was president, but he couldn’t do much. And then you had fucking Reagan. Ugh. I think Reagan was really bad for the United States, really bad. And then you had Bush the First, who was not very good either. And then you had Clinton who had his points. Hilary and Bill, they tried, but he was too much of an operator, too much of a player. And then you had Bush the Second, ugh. Another horrible regime, probably one of the worst administrations ever, that brought America down in the eyes of the world so drastically. They fucked up everything so badly. They really set America back. And now you’ve got Obama, who just can’t do that much. It’s too far gone. I don’t know about Obama. But I think when he got in there he wasn’t a total sell-out like Bush was. Bush was a complete sell-out to the powers that be.

Most amusing. No matter who is president, there’s always this group, the “powers that be,” and that’s true to some extent, but Crumb wants to veer into them being some sort of Illuminati while more realistically the “powers that be” contain people from all across the spectrum, not just on the right. Still, these Democrats, they “try so hard,” and are “decent” fellows, but their hands are tied, while the Republicans “sell-out” to the powers that be. I’m certainly not going to defend the Republicans in toto, especially when you see what the likes of Haley Barbour has done to Mississippi, but Crumb’s take on politics is a great amalgam on the uninformed voter that clings to long outdated cliches about the left and right wings. People actually believe that Obama wants to change things for the better but he’s powerless to do so. Both conclusions are wrong if you have eyes. Same with the Clintons, Carter, LBJ, et al. It was and has always been about power. The only presidents you can really say weren’t about power are Ford and Reagan. Ford was a loyal back-bencher, while Reagan, it can be argued, was the most radical of Presidents since FDR, but for very different reasons. Reagan knew where we were headed toward an authoritarian government and he did what he could to stop it. But, as Crumb likes to say, they can only do so much.

Alas, it comes down to the old cliches revolving around that one sacrosanct group known as “the poor.” Today, we might hedge our bets and call them the “disenfranchised” since it’s becoming harder and harder to call people with cars, televisions and iPhones “poor.” Nevertheless, thanks to help from the media, Hollywood and pop culture in general, the Democrat Party has a monopoly on caring for the “poor” while at the same time making sure the poor can never rise above their standing. And any that do, well…they are the true “sell-outs.”

It’s the same in the Middle East, believe it or not. Why do some many “liberals” support the terrorists of Hamas and the Palestinians over the democratic, civil-society of Israel? It’s simple. The Palestinians are poor (no quotes for that one) and thusly according to the liberal/progressive religion, that makes them morally superior to anyone else, especially the economically thriving state of Israel. Certainly, there are other aspects to it, like that old chestnut antisemitism, but moral superiority is the tip of the spear.

It’s maddening, but it’s the reality of the situation. If Ted Cruz or Scott Walker, to name two, want to create another Reagan Revolution, they have to break through this wall of ignorance with the general public that wants to feel good about themselves. Remember, people voted for the first black president in 2008 not for him, but for themselves. They wanted to feel good, feel morally superior that they voted for a black man…the rest of it was inconsequential in their minds, but far from inconsequential for the rest of us.

They Are Sheep

We seem to be living in a world where the bad guys are flaunting their badness.

It’s obvious that Obama is using the border crisis to blackmail Republicans into immigration reform that could create a permanent majority for the Democrat Party. Yet, we convince ourselves is about humanitarianism.

It’s obvious that Hamas wants to destroy Israel and is willing to use children as weapons. Yet, we convince ourselves that Israel is like Nazi Germany and the Palestinians are victims.

It’s obvious that the U.N. is an anti-Semitic, anti-American organization with the latest example being the discovery of Hamas weapons at one of the UN schools. When discovered, they gave the weapons back to Hamas. Yet, we convince ourselves that the UN is the last best hope for world peace.

 

My Dinner With Groucho

groucho_marx_by_sixelaotama-d4ndhbnI find the research into written correspondence a fascinating field. Whether it’s letters by the founding fathers, famous writers or even, in this case, the greatest comedic character of all time. The New Yorker has a great writeup about the study of letters written between poet T.S. Eliot and comic legend Groucho Marx. You have to delve deep until you tap into their respective fears and desires to truly understand what is being said between the two.

A taste:

Though Eliot was considered the reigning poet of the English-speaking world, and Groucho his counterpart in the world of comedy—celebrated by the likes of Antonin Artaud—each man seemed to provoke in the other a desire to conceal an essential liability. Eliot seems to have wanted Groucho to consider him a warm, ordinary guy and not the type of stiff, repressed person who disdained from a great height “free-thinking Jews.” He can’t quite bring it off—his acquired British self-deprecation stumbles into an American boorishness. On the eve of Groucho’s visit to London, Eliot wrote, “The picture of you in the newspapers saying that … you have come to London to see me has greatly enhanced my credit in the neighbourhood, and particularly with the greengrocer across the street. Obviously I am now someone of importance.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman Dies

Probably the greatest actor of his generation. Hoffman did what he had to do to get paid (Mission Impossible III and the like) but he concentrated on making really great films in an age of shlock. Working with people like Director Paul Thomas Anderson (the greatest director in the game right now), he appeared in great films like The Master, Capote, Hard Eight and others. He even convinced PTA to take The Master’s focus off of his character and onto Joaquin Phoenix’s character…so devoted to the art-form, he was.

But alas, he apparently needed some sort of escape and stupidly became a heroin addict. Take the drug early in his adult life, he kicked the habit for years but fell off in the last couple…only to die with a needle in his arm. It’s a disgusting end to good life. I’ve always flirted with the idea of drug legalization and the issue has been at the forefront in the past year with marijuana legalization sprouting out all over. You can debate the finer points: While MJ can lead to trouble, it’s the baby-aspirin of recreational drugs. Heroin, on the other hand, is the be-all-end-all. Granted, it’s easy to say let it be legal and let people, like Hoffman, make their mistakes…it’s his life…he can throw it away if he wants. It’s also easy to say, ban it, prosecute users and sellers, no excuses! As I said, people take drugs for escape…and G-d knows I’ve been tempted, but I’ve never succumbed to the temptation as I have a little part of my brain that holds veto power over life-destroying decisions. Not everyone can be saved. Some people can’t be helped when they have a pain they’re trying to sedate, no matter what you may try and do.

Rough stuff.

Vietnam Vets Disrespected Again

It was bad enough when they first came home, but now about 40 years later, Vietnam veterans are taking it on the chin again:

Via William Jacobson, NBC’s affiliate in Washington, D.C. reports that police ordered tourists and Vietnam war veterans who were visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to leave the memorial at one point on Friday.

After one group of veterans went around the barricade, “the park ranger told them the wall was closed,” NBC’s Mark Seagraves reported. “Later another group of vets showed up and moved the barricades. At that point, the memorial filled with vets and tourists. That’s when police came and moved everyone out.”

This photoshop from Ed Driscoll needs to be on every blog in the country:

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Ted Cruz is G-d, and Other Thoughts

Sorry for the lack of blogging this month. My rage at our current political situation has built to a point that goes beyond the English language, but it’s good to know there are at least two people in Washington, D.C. that are giving me some representation (even though I don’t live in Texas or Utah).

I fully supported Ted Cruz’s filibuster and now that it is done, I fully support the implementation of Obamacare. I’ve got a laundry bag packed full of I Told You So’s and I’d hate for them to go to waste.

More later…until then, here’s some music:

Errol Morris and the Power of the Narrative

One of the greatest documentary film-makers since the Maysles Brothers is Errol Morris. Famous for films about oddball characters such as people who run pet cemeteries in Gates of Heaven and small town eccentrics in Vernon, FL., he’s also done political films such as a study of Robert S. McNamara in Fog of War and perhaps his most famous work The Thin Blue Line which led to the release of an alleged cop killer.

Morris, like most in the entertainment industry, is a political liberal. He supports President Obama and has directed a series of political ads for MoveOn.org. However, Morris recently has developed a new passion for journalism, looking at what it is and what it isn’t. Unable to secure funding for a documentary film on his latest idea, he instead has written a book about the convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald and the man he believes has denied MacDonald justice, journalist Joe McGinniss. Does that name ring a bell? Yes, he’s the guy that rented a house next door to Sarah Palin in Alaska while working on book about the conservative icon.

What’s interesting about Morris’s new project is the general theme as related in this review of the book by Dan Kennedy, an assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University:

Morris seeks to knock down McGinniss’s narrative by offering not a counternarrative but, rather, an antinarrative. A Wilderness of Error is not so much a book as a scrapbook—transcripts of interviews, newspaper and magazine clippings, charts, diagrams, and the like. The technique is reminiscent of The Thin Blue Line. It makes for tedious reading, but it gives Morris’s story much of its power. Through the careful and overwhelming accumulation of detail, Morris attempts to show that the narrative you think you know—that MacDonald was driven to unspeakable crimes by amphetamines and a long-suppressed hatred of women—is false: a figment of McGinniss’s imagination, concocted to explain the unexplainable.

And this is highly relevant to our modern times. Journalism is no longer about running through a brick wall to get at the truth, it’s about sculpting the facts to fit the narrative, i.e. the story line that fits the world-view of the journalist. Look at the top story of the past weeks: the fiscal cliff. How much attention is being paid to facts like raising taxes on top earners won’t lead to increased government revenue? On the blogs and Glenn Beck’s network, sure, and maybe on Fox, but for the rest of the MSM, which let’s face it, is where most people get their information, this is not part of the narrative. The narrative with the MSM is that the rich (defined as earning $250,000+) pay very little in taxes, the middle class and the poor are paying the lion’s share and Obama is the Alpha and Omega. Simple. Easy. Narrative.

Says Morris:

“What gives journalism its authenticity and vitality is the pursuit of truth. This applies to the law, as well. The real story is in our attempt to separate fact from fiction. The real story is in our attempts to find out what really happened—no matter how difficult that might be.”

Dan Kennedy continues:

This is Morris’s purest statement of why journalism matters. Because if narrative has indeed imprisoned MacDonald, it is truth that may set him free. “There is an escape from narrative,” Morris said in an interview on NPR’s On the Media. “Any investigator believes that evidence can lead us out of a narrative prison to the world out there.” The purpose of journalism is not to craft a narrative. Rather, narrative is just one tool in a journalist’s kit, to be used—or not, as in the case of Morris’s book—in order to advance the truth. For a journalist, I can think of no higher calling.

Uh huh. The problem is many “journalists” don’t believe they are crafting narrative. They believe they are presenting the “truth.” Some journalists are devious and know exactly what they’re doing and some are so delusional that they’ve brainwashed themselves into believing what they’re presenting is journalism. Were I to sit down with Errol Morris and/or Dan Kennedy, I bet we’d disagree on who belongs in those categories.

Nevertheless, half a loaf is better than none. If Morris can expose the evil that is the journalistic narrative, maybe a handful of people can see the light and reject it.

Muslim Brotherhood Assumes Dictatorship in Egypt, Morsi New Pharoh

They’ve talked about blowing up the Sphinx and the Pyramids, but the Muslim Brotherhood has no problem with ancient Egyptian vernacular, or at least, their form of government. President Mohammed Morsi decreed himself to be above the law and has assumed dictatorial powers…just until a new constitution is written. Yeah, and I’m Buck Rogers.

Anyway, as Ed Morrissey points out, this is all the result of the “smart power” currently on display in the Obama/Clinton/Rice/Abedin Administration. We had a semi-dictator in place in Hosni Mubarak who, while scum in his own right, did keep the Muslim Brotherhood at bay and kept peace with Israel for some 30 years. Yeah, but should America really be cozy with scumbags like Mubarak? Maybe we should “give peace a chance.” So when the natives got restless, Obama threw Mubarak under the bus. The Muslim Brotherhood is misunderstood, you see. After all, Alger Hi…I mean, Huma Abedin can vouch for them, so what the hell?

So let’s look forward to 2013 and see what’s in store:

  1. Dictatorship in Egypt
  2. Partial dictatorship in Libya
  3. Chemical weapons somewhere in Syria while the country fights a bloody civil war
  4. Iran with the bomb depending on whose estimates you believe
  5. Hamas (i.e. Iran) doing what it wants in Gaza and Israel
  6. Susan Rice, Huma Abedin, and John Kerry running our foreign policy

I don’t know about you, but I can’t seem to find a silver lining in this. Another point: back in the 1970s, things were pretty bad in the Middle East under the Carter Administration. I was very young then, but I seem to remember a lot (if not most) of the American people pretty pissed off about it. How much of the American public is pissed off about our foreign policy today? Twenty-percent? Maybe 15% soaking wet?

Yeesh.