Editorial Cartoon: The Swamp

November 30, 2016

, like so many others, did not foresee Mr. Trump’s election.  Of course, as the nominee of one of our nation’s two major parties, I understood Mr. Trump’s chances to fall within a mathematical realm of possibility, but I admit that such clinical assessments were outweighed by a fundamental faith in the basic decency and good sense of my fellow Americans.  And while it may be viewed as undemocratic, or worse yet, condescending to say so, that faith has been strained to the point of breaking by the events of the past two weeks.

After two weeks of reflection, commiseration, and at times outright despondency, I am no closer to understanding how nearly half of my fellow citizens saw fit to entrust the Presidency to a man so uniquely unqualified by dent of temperament or experience for that office.  This is a man, as we must continually remind ourselves, who cruelly mimicked a disabled reporter and insulted a Gold Star family.  This is a man who maligned immigrants from a neighboring country as “murderers” and “rapists,” instead of the latest to seek a better future in a land our forefathers came to with similar hopes.

In so doing, he denied our shared history and appealed to our basest instincts.  This is a man who said he prefers war heroes who did not suffer the misfortune of falling into enemy hands.  This is a man who speaks of women not as equals but as objects of domination and sexual violence.  He has stated that Muslim-Americans should be forced to enter some sort of registry – ignorant or uncaring of the historical precedents that make such a proposition horrifying.
This is a man whose narcissism and insecurity impel him to respond to the slightest provocation or criticism, and coo at the most disingenuous and transparently manipulative flattery.  This is a man whose election was aided by the nefarious acts of a foreign leader who jails and murders dissidents.We all know this. How could we not? And yet roughly half of the American people saw fit to entrust him with our nation’s highest office – one once held by Jefferson and Lincoln and Roosevelt.

In the wake of this stunning choice, the remainder (or should I say majority) of us are forced to ask why.  There, we are given a menu of unsatisfying options from which to choose.  For example, we are told that Trump won because he spoke to the social and economic dislocation of the white working class.  He donned a red hat and adopted an empty slogan upon which voters could hang a wide assortment of grievances.  Never mind that Trump offered no concrete solutions to address these grievances.  Never mind that so many of these grievances were the misguided imaginings of Macedonian teenagers peddling social media fiction that would make the Editorial Board of the National Enquirer blush.

Others argue that Trump won because the Democratic Party nominated a person too beholden to special interests, too wooden, too secretive.  Should Hillary Clinton have used a private server?  Of course not.  Is the avarice of her and her husband off-putting? Yes.  But she was also imminently qualified, hard working, thoughtful, and intelligent.  And her policy prescriptions were based on inclusion, progress, and hope rather than separation, regression, and anger.  There is also the added bonus that she spoke in complete sentences.  To my mind, elections are about weighing the experience, temperament, and ideas of two imperfect candidates and choosing the person best suited to the job.  Perfection is not on offer.  A democracy should be viewed as a set of obligations discharged by its citizenry and not a form of spectacle or entertainment.

In the end, however, I think it best to draw our own conclusions, focused less on the past and more on the immediate future.  I offer my own.  The first is that we must not normalize Mr. Trump.  There is nothing normal about his personality, his actions, or his temperament. If this election had been a debate about the proper role of government or marginal tax rates, I would have expressed my views, cast my vote, and given the eventual winner my best wishes – Republican or Democrat.  After all, in America, we are taught that after an election, we must respect the will of the people and unify behind our leaders.  But since Trump has seen fit to violate nearly every norm of our democratic process, I feel liberated to take a different tact. I do not respect this man. I do not wish him or his administration well. I will use whatever power and privilege I possess to oppose him and his policies. And I will work to ensure that history’s verdict is both unkind and unequivocal.

Second, I commit to each day take at least one small step to affirm democracy and our place in it. I will join advocacy organizations like the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  I will sign petitions, even if unsure of their efficacy.  I will share my views and not be silent, even if my views make others uncomfortable or make me uncomfortable.  I will fight, in whatever way I can, for the country I love.

Finally, I will do my best to act in the absence of leadership.  I think many progressives, myself included, became a bit complacent over the past eight years.  I felt myself blessed to have a President whose values, intellect, and character allowed me to shirk some of my obligations of citizenship. Let this be a reminder that no one man or woman, however great, can carry the full load.  That load belongs to all people of good will, and I commit to carry my part from this day forward, even if I am presently unsure of what that carrying might entail.

Sincerely,

M. David Ruff

ear You:

Hey, what’s up? I didn’t write this a month ago or a year ago, as perhaps I should have. In part because I believed that despite its faults, the United States was filled with more good than ill.

And You? You consider yourself a good person. Indeed you are a good person; a stand-up guy or gal… and yet You voted for Mr. Trump.

With Your vote you didn’t stand up against racism, or sexism; you didn’t stand up for the rights of gay men or lesbian women, or immigrant families. You voted that, at best, “I don’t care about you people, and I approve of Mr. Trump’s message. Your continued oppression does not concern me.”

Perhaps You consider yourself a Christian, but if so, You didn’t stand for the compassion of Christ — that tenet You hold as the cornerstone of your faith. You didn’t love your neighbor as thyself.

Maybe You thought about pop culture. Like: ‘wouldn’t it be great if the guy I watched on TV was elected as president? He’s a straight-shooter. He tells it like it is.’

If pop culture influenced Your vote, perhaps a reference from pop culture will be of benefit to You. A film You have probably seen; one You can probably quote from… so there’s little chance You need a Spoiler Alert. Take this scene from the 1992 film “A Few Good Men”:

Upon professing Your views over Mr. Trump’s election, You may have been confronted by a certain faction of your Facebook friends. You may be confused. Like Private Loudon Downey in “A Few Good Men”, You may be asking:

What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong!

Lance Corporal Harold Dawson provided the answer:

Yeah we did. We were supposed to fight for the people who couldn’t fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willie.

This is The United States of America. A nation which has long held itself out as a beacon of freedom and opportunity. A country that has often fought to defend the right to live in peace; fought for those who could not fight for themselves. As an American, whether You served in the military or not, You should be fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves. This includes all the groups of people Mr. Trump has targeted; You should fight against the hate crimes that fringe slice of his supporters have perpetrated following the election.

If Your stance is now that Mr. Trump should be given a chance to implement his stated goals… that anything else would be counterproductive. I put it to You that You should disagree.

Counterproductive is exactly what You should be. Obstruct racism whenever You encounter it. Listen to people of color. Black lives matter because they are Your fellow Americans. Extend a hand and say “peace be with you” to people of other faiths, and especially to our Muslim brothers and sisters. Do not allow the rights women have fought for through all of recorded history be rewound. Stand shoulder to shoulder in defense of Your siblings in the LGTBQ community. Respect Your treaty obligations in North Dakota and the North Atlantic. Stand with Jews, when Mr. Trump appoints anti-semites as his chief advisors. Do not normalize bigotry; do not ignore hate speech. These are Civil Rights, by guaranteeing them for other Americans, they’re guaranteed for You too.

And don’t gloss-over the erosion of Your right to free speech, or to a free press. These rights are guaranteed by the Constitution, but have been targeted by Mr. Trump and are currently under threat. They are pillars of Your democracy, and without them, You will no longer have a democracy.

Turning this around isn’t just about changing how You voted — that’s done –, but changing how You see your fellow Americans. Do not vilify those with differing political views, yet also don’t forget exactly what Your vote meant — and will mean — if You stand idly by.

If You are still reading at this point, You have an open mind. You are a good person. So know that already much of the nation is trying to normalize Mr. Trump. They are roughing up his hair on the ‘Tonight Show’ in an attempt to humanize him and his stated ideology. Resist.

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark mustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

— George Orwell, ‘1984’

Resist what Orwell described in his prescient warning. Do not cry gin-scented tears. Do not win victory over yourself. You are a good person. You know Mr. Trump is wrong; do not come to love him. You must never get to the point where You love Big Brother. You cannot let this happen. You must stand up. You must resist.

You must halt this march of authoritarianism before policies of fear and hate are put in place. Don’t put Your head in the sand and say to reassure Yourself: “it does not affect me.” It does. And it will, incrementally.

To paraphrase Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Immigrants, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not an Immigrant.

Then they came for the Press, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not in the Press.

Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not a Muslim.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Remember: You are a good person. You are an American. You are supposed to fight for the people who couldn’t fight for themselves.

Sincerely,

Jason Riley

Your Fellow American

At long last, episode one of CCLaP’s latest anthology The Podcast Dreadful is ready for your listening pleasure, right here.

Enjoy.

Gentle readers take cover, “The Sharpened Spears of the Huaorani!” will be heard in stereophonic sound starting Monday, September 3, 2012, right here.

Image.

The CCLaP Podcast Dreadful

August 22, 2012

Please pardon our absence, the editors have only recently returned from a lengthy sea voyage. As Fortune would have it, the return coincides with a publication our readers are certain to find a delight.

Every autumn, CCLaP is proud to present another themed anthology
featuring the short work of a variety of writers across the US; but
this year the center is trying something special, releasing this
compilation as a free 12-part serialized audiobook through its popular
podcast, every Monday in September, October and November. Entitled
CCLaP’s Podcast Dreadful,” the series has been designed in the
fashion of an old Victorian “penny dreadful” publication, including
cliffhangers at the end of each chapter and a dark, weird tone
throughout. Hosted by Christopher Sullivan and featuring brand-new
pieces by Kate Cullan, Jason Fisk, Kevin Haworth, Jacob Knabb, Keith
McCleary and Sophia G. Starmack, John Reed, Jason Riley, Jim Ruland,
Davis Schneiderman, Ben Tanzer and Karl Wolff, as well as new music by Ken Kase written specifically for this project, it is sure to be just
the right ticket for a cold, scary autumn night.Image

n afterthought to our most recent post: the Committee has learned of a beaver-like Canadian woodland creature whose own sobriquet is derived from the animal so called, is highly valued for the appearance if its hair, its line of cosmetics, and, who is apparently, also a budding memoirist.

Congratulations, fans of the written word! “He’s going to tell all in his very own book.” Yet what all could there be to tell for a semi-aquatic rodent not long in the tooth? For how many times can “LOL” possibly fit within a manuscript advertised at a forest-clearing 240 pages — even with open-handed pagination and font size — without becoming tedious to even the most fervent votaries? Perhaps there are 239 nice, blank pages to be filled-in at the consumer’s leisure.

Castor canadensis

The Committee has little doubt that our own ghostwritten version of the beaver tale does not stray far from the lodge.

CHAPTER 1

I was born on a Tuesday, three weeks ago; I gnawed-out repeatedly the word
‘baby,’ leaving a colony of young girls all atwitter in its echo; now, at four
weeks, I’ve been forced to launch my own colored fingernail varnish, as I’m burdened by
thoughts my meteoric vocal career has disintegrated in the mesosphere.

The End

Hardcover Price $21.99
Amazon Supersaver price $11.87

The recycling mills quake for the pulp, as the beaver quakes for aspen wood.

A Series of Flights, Fancies, and Facts

e at the Society – and certainly our readership – stood and cheered upon learning of the following commercial intercourse: a publishing contract has been extended to a certain incomparable and inimitable artist (or in the plain – nay – Seussian words of the trade publications: Snooki sells a book).  When the thick and, no doubt, illuminated tome appears on the center shelves of the ever-rarer local bookseller, we at the Society are certain to pant after the elegant and peaceful writings of her expert quill, as the heart panteth for lemon blossoms.

Her words shall fall upon our ears with a peculiar yet indescribable charm, like the gentle wave-driven sands as they grate against and polish the refuse of the previous morning’s bacchanalia into sea glass and oblong, reservoir-tipped balloons for the children to scavange; or the soft, innocent, and well-meaning kisses of a feral canine that has – immediately precedent – successfully orally expressed its posterior scent glands.

Temple at Olympia (Restored)

Learn and remember, gentle reader, the name Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi. Where once it seemed impossible to conceive of how the so-called Titans could be surpassed, equaled, even approached in the celestial literary stadion; today, the Society has every confidence that the industry’s Jovian gravitational pull toward ethereal fiction for the minor celebrity will eclipse the once decided  superiority of all previous generations. To paraphrase another Italian of transcendent mental superiority, Vizzini:

Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce? . . . Morons!

Fear not! Their heiress presumptive hath arrived.

Never has there been a more apt moment to give requiem – by parting quotation – to those that came before, for when the population collectively skims this newly-pressed Polizzi-rature, indubitably, it will – in one motion – cast aside and forget the deformed prose dwarfs of the last century:

. . . if our civilization were to sober up for a couple of days it’d die of remorse on the third.

– Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano

Yet let us speak not of talent; for it is a quality which fades as quickly as the delicate, raw sienna coating of simulated exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Indeed, talent protrudes as the hirsute, superfluous papilla on the chest of America: a thing of no utility, and one from which the eyes are invariably averted.

Two hundred years of democracy, peace, and artistic freedom – limited only by voracious mercantilism – and what did it produce? The Untold Delights of Sodom and Gomorrah Revisited.

(The Society is acutely aware that much of its own writing is not immediately ready for the great wide world, and so we continue the difficult work of honing that skill to a keen edge.)

Thus Time brings all things, one by one, to sight

And Skill evolves them into perfect light

Lucretius

And thus too the Society proposes a toast: To this Pyrrhic victory for brick-and-mortar publishing! Whose integrity of purpose is yet more transparent and respected the higher it ascends the ladder scaled by the likes of those visionary generators of the summer reality television.

For money will make the pot boil, though the devil piss on the fire!

A Special Editorial Comment

f the many items holding great import for us at the Society, none is greater than the health of our readership. The subject is exciting a great deal of interest, especially with the editors. For no country in the world consumes so much sweetness as our own, in proportion to its population. It has, furthermore, come to the attention of the Committee that the legal persons who have force-fed the United States high fructose corn syrup for the last forty years would like to giggle their way into an adorable new namecorn sugar.

How suaviloquenti. How plush, cuddly, and harmless. He he, ha ha: that is the sound of HFCS-55‘s viscous tittering as it coats your gulliver, dissolved in your favorite bi-carbonated soda en route to its final destination.

While its proprietors and paid spokespersons may insist that high fructose corn syrup is ‘natural,’ and that ‘it’s made from corn,‘ do not be misled, gentle reader. The word natural is used most often used to mislead potential consumers, as it is virtually meaningless. Corn – or maize, for our British cousins – does however, have many useful applications. In addition to Fritos and the efficient production of human belly fat, plastics and gasoline can also be manipulated from corn.

Here is a simple test: squeeze a piece of sugar cane (squeeze really, really hard), and the resulting cane juice is sweet, and when evaporated, is sugar with a little bit of molasses; squeeze a piece of genetically altered corn (squeeze as hard as you like), and the resulting corn juice is starchy, for corn is merely the starting point for corn syrup, requiring several chemical industrial steps to turn it into your favorite sweetener. (The editors are aware they did not mention the enzyme conversion treatment process, nor the other steps. Nor do the editors mention that we know exactly what you are up to, crystalline fructose).

There is no doubt that corn syrup is plentiful, and is available at minimal cost because of massive farm subsidies — $73.8 billion from 1995 – 2009 — held in place by corn lobbyists. Yet this has resulted in an entire generation of once fit and sporty Americans becoming thickly infused with corn syrup. Our fine, fleshy race loads up on enough in beverage alone to meet an entire day’s energy needs — then piles on the rest of the valued meal.

High fructose corn syrup converts to fat more willingly than cane sugar, and increases the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol. Our collective fondness for hamburgers and sodas makes enjoying a well-balanced meal very nearly unheard of in corn-fed America. Certainly corn on the cob is delicious, yet HCFC gives the reader an accumulation of fat under the integuments or in the abdomen, or in both situations, to such an amount as to embarrass the several voluntary functions.

Our cows eat corn, to their antibioticized detriment. The same corn that factory farmers feed to fatten their cows is heaped – unseen – upon the people. It is no surprise we slump in our swivel chairs so abundantly.

This next comment may provoke ire, but it should be stated, nonetheless. These are grand and interwoven issues, so far as the experience of the editors is concerned, so please indulge the following: The obesity problem in the United States is an indirect result of the Cuban Embargo. (Now calm down or we’ll never get through this.)

Prior to the Embargo, the U.S. purchased a good deal of sugar from Cuba. Indeed, the United States imported the bulk of the Cuban sugar crop. And so their economy became almost  entirely based around sugar. Though economically speaking, one does not want all one’s eggs in one basket. The precarious predicament prompted Jean-Paul Sartre to question: ‘eez eet better to build on sugar than on sand?

President Eisenhower stopped importing Cuban sugar, and – because of this – Cuba’s annual production of several million pounds soon piled up at the docks. Out of necessity, our estranged Cuban brothers turned to the Soviets — the only nation large enough to take on the whole lot, and about the only country not beholden to the United States at the time. As retaliation, Eisenhower threw up the Embargo.

Morro Castle. Entrance to the Port of Havana.

Missile crisis and whatnot aside, in the meantime, the United States continued the Embargo, and shifted its reliance from cane sugar to sugar beets and corn syrups — products producible within the non-Caribbean homeland.

At this point, every product formerly containing cane sugar switched gradually over to a sweetener entirely made from corn syrup. Practically everything: the great majority of your canned fruits, condiments, sodas, breads, ice creams, and other processed foods — whether that food needed sweetening or not. The populace was not meant to notice. Eat fresh, indeed, Subway.

A frog, when thrown into boiling water, leaps out. Yet if the heat is turned up slowly, in regular intervals, soon one has made frog soup.

With its Embargo, the United States forced the Cubans to move their main export to the Soviet Union, made them no more than a Soviet dependent, and unknowingly doomed the United States to a future of corpulence and heart disease. Even Castro has discredited the Communist system as an economic ideology, yet the United States has continued its obtuse embargo and its obese revolution.

Have a little faith in the capitalist system: rather than isolating Cuba, the inhibitions should have been worn down with a little Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. Look how capitalism took down the U.S.S.R., changed China, and brought the HFCS-eating world to the brink of financial collapse. Greed, in any form, is unfortunate.

Mayan maize god

Fat equals happy — the lotus for the masses. And the happy are far less likely to exercise their First Amendment and whatnot when proudly carrying to term our collective cheeseburger-baby bellies, fed in situ by anything labeled “ultimate.” Such an epithet is a plain and sly warning from the caring souls at Applebee’s: this is the last in a progression of morbidly unhealthy meals you will eat, for tomorrow you’ll die.

Perhaps not all this chest pain resulted from the small act of switching the United States from Cuban cane sugar to high fructose corn syrup. This is simply a hypothesis on its way to theory — tested and proven on our population for the last forty years. If you like, call it corn sugar. Better still, call it Castro’s Revenge — just as Montezuma has taken credit for traveler’s diarrhea, Fidel can take pride in making your Gap trousers so uncomfortable that what was once a size 36 now measures out at 39 inches. No one noticed that one either.

Frog, water, soup.



. . . Et quasi musaeo dulci contingere melle

Mistakes of a Night

September 2, 2010

tragic tale has come to our attention in recent days: that of one who shall be generically known as “artist,” and those editors of a certain medium we shall refer to as “publishers.”  The artist submitted his art to the publishers, and though it was prettily inscribed, the publishers timely rebuffed it. The artist, rather than shrugging the pain of this (no doubt) crushing rejection from his narrow shoulders, took to arms against said publisher, crashing their gate, and falsely imprisoning the lot. As one would imagine, the fruit produced of this ill-conceived violence was as bitter as the inedible Curaçaoan laraha. The local constabulary came upon the scene and, using a form of stinging leaden music, subdued the savage artist. Thus the publishers, though filled with dismay, lived to reject another day.

Cloaca Maxima. (In its present condition, 1879.)

We at the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge have had many a manuscript, spat upon, torn to tiny bits, and cast into Cloaca Maxima with such sweet-penned form letter excerpts as: We are sorry to report that we won’t be able to use any of your work at this time but hope you keep in touch with us in the future — as a reader as well as a writer; Thanks for sending us your work, but it’s not right for [our publication]; and We regret that we are unable to use the enclosed material.  Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider it.

Out of context, the words are innocuous. To press them against one’s precious work is bound to evoke the poet’s ire, momentarily. Yet rejection of art should never lead to actual violence; rather, a new audience ought to be sought.

Figure 405, Peel of the Laraha, quartered, cross-section, and dried

And even after all the audiences in all the great wide world seem to have been exhausted, there is hope, gentle artist: recall the stunted citrus of the Curaçaoan laraha. While its fruit is pungently aromatic, the dirty green peel of the laraha – when dried and its essential oils extracted – can be turned to a cordial which is highly esteemed and quite palatable.
.
So too can your rejected art be foreshortened to produce a publishable work.

Please allow our good friend Æsop to add his timeless wisdom, as
translated by George Fyler Townsend.

The Oak and the Reeds, Giovanni Maria Verdizotti, 1577

The Oak and the Reeds

A very large oak was uprooted by the wind and thrown across a stream. It fell among some Reeds, which it thus addressed: “I wonder how you, who are so light and weak, are not entirely crushed by these strong winds.”

They replied, “You fight and contend with the wind, and consequently you are destroyed; while we on the contrary bend before the least breath of air, and therefore remain unbroken, and escape.”

Moral: Stoop to conquer.