September 20th, 2013: Straw Men

"All is straw."
— St. Thomas Aquinas

I am a sportsman. Let no man doubt my credentials; I have shot doves, pheasant, cougar, grouse, grackle, corncrake, caracal, goose, gamehen, griffin, and lemur. I have tracked a 12-point buck two hundred yards through a pine thicket on Thanksgiving, to riddle its ample frame with hollowpoint bullets. In the best tradition of Theodore Roosevelt and Donald Trump's sons, I have stalked and shot animals all over the globe. I have done so proudly, legally, with pomp bearing and in a regal stride. I am the embodiment of a man upholding the Second Amendment.

So too was Aaron Alexis. He was a Navy man, one of America's heroes, and as such, was taken care of when he went to Veterans Affairs complaining of insomnia. He was kept awake, as he told police in Rhode Island, by three pursuers dispatched “to follow him and keep him awake by talking to him and sending vibrations into his body.” They tortured him with a microwave ray. They threatened him through the walls of a hotel, through a bathroom floor, through ceilings, threats he didn't dare repeat aloud. He wasn't allowed to buy a handgun last Saturday at Sharpshooters Small Arms Range in Lorton, Virginia; the clerks fulfilled their legal obligation that Alexis furnish proof he was a Virginia resident. Alexis could not do so; a young Virginian named Cho Seung Hui was able to do so, twice, in 2007.

Alexis could, however, buy a Remington 870 Express shotgun. He could carve "Better Off This Way" and "My ELF" into the gunstock sometime before he shot down six of Washington Navy Yard employee John Weaver's friends in front of him, killing a security guard and using his handgun to continue the spree, killing twelve people for no reason before a police officer shot Alexis in the head.

Aaron Alexis had just as much right as me, and probably as much right as you, or Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, whose grief seems real - Alexis has just as much of a right as any of us to own a shotgun in Virginia. He never went quail hunting with it, or showed his young son the safe way to clean it, or stood in the cold of a winter hunting blind holding it, dreaming of venison stew. He never did any of the things many sober, well-adjusted, decent people do with a Remington shotgun. He did, however, kill twelve people with it, twelve people  John Weaver called co-workers and "the nicest people in the world."

Oh well. My understanding, according to a moral clarion named Jay Carney, is that now is an "inappropriate" time to discuss these things.  Better to let the bodies cool before nothing changes.

That's okay. We'll soon have another inopportune opportunity to appropriately not discuss it. I'm dead sure.


General Gandhi

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September 6th, 2013: Balletic Grace

"The stadium stays. The game proceeds. Autumnal mists set in."

Fred Exley, "A Fan's Notes"

There is the slightest suggestion in the air of the fall. It is not cold, but it is also no longer hot. The air is cool, and when the wind blows, it is like an old lady coughing to politely signal she'd like to be wheeled out of the dining room. Yes, I see it, from my antechamber - the leaves taking on a barely perceptible yellow tinge. I strum my lute. I am disconsolate, for I despise change.

I belong naturally to either summer or winter, hot or cold, a dichotomy; I suffer on the fringes, where one bleeds into the next. But there is one fixed stratum, like a ring in a tree, which I always trace throughout the fall: football season.

It's a war game, and it's the most profitable professional sports league in America, and that is not a coincidence. Seven passing touchdowns for Eli Manning's brother, a jackhammering of the reigning Super Bowl champions, a drubbing of operatic proportion to kick off football season. It is a divine thing to see punishment so clearly defined and delineated, and to see even stupidity take on a cosmic force. In football, even the most jawdropping, shit-eating acts of stupidity take on a balletic grace.

Ah, but of course, that's only the battle on the field. What's inside is never so stark; it's always a slow, sad decay, far from any post-game klieg lights. But we don't see that. It's never the effects, always the spectacle. And it may be all well and good to watch and cheer the Battle of Lambeau, when the stakes are relatively modest, but here we go again on another round of "shock and awe," where our grifting politicians jockey to scare and cajole Americans into another all-too-real war.

I wait. I check the games that are on this week. And I do not change the channel to CNN. Just for a few weeks. Just give me a few months of this.

General Gandhi

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August 30th: Fever's Pitch

JMW Turner, detail of "Sunrise With Sea Monsters" (c. 1845)

There has been nothing august about August. The grass won't grow - it is scorched brown and hateful to my eye. The air is low and earthy and hot, like in a bakery. And I sit, a husk, on my anchor chair, surveying the grounds of my manor with a spyglass. When my chattering and cold sweats subside long enough to assay the land, I can ever so briefly remove myself from my summer troubles, my mind enraptured in the doleful chattering of the goldfinches that call my estate home.

I have made a decision, clean break, and must pay the piper: as of this summer, the laudanum shall play no part in my life. It has beggared my mastery of commerce and made a squeaking vole out of my once mighty rendition of men. Bathetic opium! This devil's tincture can never deliver the ending I seek. But then, this seems to be the illusion behind every addiction. Just ask the mandarins demanding another Mideast war.

It looks like they'll get it again, somehow. The "experts" - men who shouldn't legally be allowed near playgrounds - have spoken. And the Prince Hal we just elected to a second term is all ears. So what that even our poodle in Westminster can't go along for the ride? Our leadership doesn't even care - they've somehow become even more nakedly unilateral than the Bush war machine. The attack in the end will constitute that most courageous of military campaigns - a cruise missile attack against a sclerotic gangster regime.

There's not been a lot of consideration given to, say, what possible effect attacking Syria is supposed to provoke. No matter how many cruise missiles hit, the Alawite ruling class will still be utterly terrified of annihilation in case of a military defeat; US airstrikes won't palliate that fear. Indeed, instead, it may accelerate the conflict, as the pressurized, fearful, regime lashes out, in a desperate bid to prove its strength and viability. Don't scoff - it's happened before, in another brutal civil war, where NATO airstrikes provoked "full-scale, brutal ethnic cleansing, of killing, expulsion of people." Obama makes much of these missile strikes being "targeted" and "limited." In that case, what does Assad have to be worried about? America hits, they leave, and then the civil war resumes, as previously scheduled.

In other words - this insane military plan does not, to me, seem capable of doing anything to save any Syrian lives, now or in the future; does seem likely to worsen the conflict, in a concatenating series of aftershocks which may rattle every regional neighbor; and is another signpost on the road to American ruin, where, as with Libya and our borderless drone war, murder and treachery are executive privileges. It is borne of a sickness, an addiction, and Barack Obama is only the latest junkie.

Oh fuck it. Pass me the laudanum.

General Gandhi

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August 9th: Render Unto Caesar

"Ambition's debt is paid."

Julius Caesar

The life-cycle of the modern-day American Political Scandal™ always has a nice seasonality to it. There is the confused, red scrum of week one, that initial farrago of flurried reports, terse statements, and wolfish competition to scoop the next revelation. There is the flood tide of week two, when all the embarrassing photos have leaked, all political allies have abandoned the field, and, of course, when the candidate has stood under klieg lights to condole with his disappearing erection. There is week three - deep in the belly of Hell - when everything that can go wrong has, when press flacks implode and the fresh polling has been released, showing your man's popularity has sunk somewhere below Osama Bin Laden's.

And now we're in week four - the worst week: when nobody is even talking about you. When the wayward pol is a laugh-line who curdled days ago.Like another guilty grifter, the politician is "a man to double business bound," unable to ignore the maelstrom whirling around him, and unable to acknowledge it, either.

But Anthony Weiner is not dropping out. Not when there's a fight to be waged on behalf of the middle class. Weiner, warrior-poet of Sheepshead Bay, has selflessly devoted his energies to " those who are in the middle class and struggling to make it. " Lesser men might quit. But to " quit isn't the way we roll in New York City."

It has a nice, focus-tested ring to it, doesn't it? After all, the rich like to demur they're "middle class," while the working poor can't bear to think otherwise. And Anthony Weiner wants that mushy fleeting tax base to catapult him into Gracie Mansion. I personally see a few possible problems with this strategy.

The first is, Anthony Weiner can't stop taking pictures of his cock and sending it to strange women. He can't stop texting "Red Shoe Diary"-level porn prose to blackjack dealers and college students and gift shop cashiers. His penile penumbras seemingly stretch into every crevice of the American continent. If he could, he'd fuck the Grand Canyon, and document it with a multi-camera set-up like when that guy walked a tightrope across it.

So there's that.

The second, and greater issue, is that he is a craven disgusting person whose heart doesn't pump blood - just a rancid tincture of adrenaline, hormones, and ambition. Richard Nixon privately told his shrink that when he looked in the mirror, he did not recognize the face he saw. Weiner has the same reflection - albeit, in a full-length mirror, with his iPhone close at hand and no clothes in sight.

The tawdry rounds this horny toad makes via text message, but it's not his cardinal sin. He is a mountebank, a political animal of our time, who could only exist in America, and only in the vespertine shadows of the Democratic Party. Middle-class warrior? Disinterested defender of economic justice? Let's go to the videotape.

Weiner worshipped at the altar of Wall Street's favorite Democrat, his political godfather, Chuck Schumer. He won his first race in a repulsive show of anonymous ratfucking and race-baiting worthy of Lee Atwater. He did absolutely nothing in Congress, besides show-boat, hot-dog, steer money to donors, and sell out single-payer healthcare for a DNC speaking spot . He married a woman even worse than him, a corrupt hack who played padwan to Hillary Clinton's jedi, who cynically spoke at the latest depressing press conference to tell us the poor penitent dick-flasher won't keep doing this, so long as he promises she'll be first lady of New York.

"Quit isn't the way we roll in New York." Fine. I have some other verbs for Anthony Weiner. Go away. Disappear. Forever. Take your malignancy into a deep dark hole and never come up for air. Take your grifting wife with you. Take the hustling ambition that seems to be America's only esprit d'corps and test the conditions of a bubbling volcano. Do you hear me, Tony? I know what you think when you wake up, and what sees you off to bed. You don't need therapy; you need an enormous concrete sarcophagus, like the one they poured around Chernobyl so that no more radiation would escape into the air in a burning blue rainbow. You're America, all right, one hundred percent - but you need to find another country to be part of.

General Gandhi

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July 19th, 2013: Systematic

Francisco Goya, detail of "El Tres de Mayo" (1814)

Did you know that “the system worked”? I did. The system worked, and we can all be proud of that. The system worked, the doyens nod sagely, before returning to the shimmering plane of existence they live upon, in which any cries from below resolve themselves into dew. The system worked, exactly as it was supposed to, and your structural critiques and reasoned complaints are the ravings of the “un-serious.”

The system worked, because our justice system works. The cop, the judge, the jailer – they all work because the system works. When Texas pumps poison into someone until their lungs collapse in full view of an audience – then repeats the feat a few hundred times – that’s a promising symptom. When Georgia obscures the purpose for which they are buying these death drugs, lest it become more difficult to execute the mentally retarded, this too, is the blush of a healthy constitution. And when there are more young black men imprisoned in the country today than there were enslaved in 1850, so too, there, we can see the vigorous exercise of a working system.

The system worked because the law works. The Stand Your Ground law in Florida was passed just as any decent law should be: after a sustained lobbying effort from a shadowy corporate squid called ALEC, the love child of mutants like Paul Weyrich and Wayne LaPierre. There’s no need for libertarians and right-wingers to be modest in suggesting this “castle doctrine” wasn’t instrumental in that famous acquittal. Hogwash and poppycock! The jury instructions clearly demanded the jurors take into account the right of your neighborhood Dwight Schrute to shoot a teenager in the heart if he noticed the young ruffian was black.

The system worked, because the jury worked. The jury worked very hard. They worked hard together – bowling, eating blooming onions at Outback Steakhouse, and gawking inside Ripley’s Believe It or Not! at shrunken Asian heads or whatever. The jury worked so hard, they cost Florida taxpayers thirty-three thousand dollars. And that didn’t include the extracurriculars.

Take the busiest bee, juror B-37, who took time out of her packed schedule of eating steaks to foster a relationship with a TV producer, and then, ink a book deal a day after Zimmerman walked. When asked point-blank by Anderson Cooper why Zimmerman was not guilty of either murder or manslaughter, the grifting toad answered:

“…because of the heat of the moment and the stand your ground [Zimmerman] had a right to defend himself. If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right.”

Stand Your Ground, and the lucrative potential of a juror’s tell-all account, saved Zimmerman in the jury room. And still, that wasn’t the surest sign the system worked. Zimmerman booster Frank Taafe inexplicably but one hundred percent accurately blathered on cable news about everything the jury was doing or thinking – before the verdict was announced. I’m guessing that’s one leak prosecution the Obama Justice Department actually isn’t interested in.

The system worked because George Zimmerman is free. When I look at George, I look at the face of America. In his furtive looks of concern, I see the proud patrimony of a sputtering sexual predator who clumsily molested a cousin at family events through most of her teen years, before glumly admitting it before his family at a pizza restaurant. When he stands up, I see a fat man who thought the macho regimen of mixed martial arts training would toughen him up for when he patrolled the mean streets of his gated community, and who then had to have his trainer testify as to the decrepitude of his slovenly, soft body. In his smile, I see a dirt clod with the IQ of a bowling ball and the confidence of a Rockefeller. This streak of frozen piss thought he could be a judge someday; he could no sooner judge a shit-eating contest than find his way to a law school’s front door. In his pink hands, I see the gun that will be returned to him yet.

The system worked because Trayvon Martin is dead, and everybody important, like the President, who murders young men Trayvon’s age every day, will not say this had anything to do with race, or the twisted, syphilitic values imparted on stupid white men, or on the expectations of who it’s okay to kill. It’s okay to stalk blacks, armed with your gun, and frighten them, and make them fight for their lives, and then shoot this scared defenseless person in the heart, and become a cause célèbre of the racist right, and then, finally, cash hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks.

The system briefly didn’t work when people took to the streets and got this murderer put on trial.

But, I think we’ll be okay from here on out.

General Gandhi

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