The Joy of Twitter

joy of twitter

You hear this all the time: social media is harmful because it deprives us of authentic flesh-and-blood contact with fellow human beings. For example, yesterday I caught a piece on NPR’s “Morning Edition” about an on-line project to bring Trump and Hillary voters together for face-to-face meetings in hopes of humanizing and creating empathy.

Well, I happen to know several Trump voters and don’t need to be in their physical presence to recognize our shared humanity. Of course, they’re not Russian-Bots; of course, they’re generally decent people; of course, we agree to disagree amicably. The secret is to avoid politics in conversation, which, I concede, is more difficult nowadays given the hour-by-hour reality-television-like drama generated by the current administration. But hey, it’s baseball season, celebrities are dying daily, weekly new movies are being released, the ospreys have returned to build their nest atop the cell phone tower on Hudson Avenue. There are plenty of things other than Crooked Hillary and Deceitful Donald to bandy about.

That said, sometimes I prefer the company of the avatars I follow on Twitter to that of flesh-and-blood human beings, whether they voted for Hillary or for Trump or Stein or Johnson or Prohibition Party candidate James “Jim” Hedges. On Twitter, [name drop warning] I have traded witticisms with James Wolcott, received thanks from Frank Rich, been winkingly chided by Emily Nussbaum, and had Josh Marshall privately expand a public point for clarification’s sake.

It’s not that these fewer-than-140-character exchanges I mention are all that meaningful, but I have had one-on-one communications with Pulitzer winners, i.e., brilliant journalists with ever-so-arid senses of humor. If you follow someone on Twitter, you get to know that persona (the way you don’t on Facebook). You choose to follow personae because they are informative, interesting, witty, and compatible.

Take Matthew Yglesias, the Vox correspondent, for example. If I’m sitting at the bar at Chico Feo or the Jack of Cups Saloon taking a break from grading essays,[1] chances are I’d much rather be checking out what Matty has to say in cyberspace than shoot the shit with the man-bun sporting fellow sitting to my right, who might very well bludgeon me with tales of last night’s barhopping or descriptions of the numerous micro-breweries he’s visited in the last two years.[2]

Matty, on the other hand, will be wittily commenting on a subtweet about Potemkin villages, providing a link to one of his clearly written explanations of macroeconomics, or dropping a line from Alanis Morrisette’s “Ironic” – “like rain on your wedding day” – to troll some obtuse tweeter’s mistaking coincidence with irony. I’ve never laid eyes on Yglesias, but I feel as if I know him better than I do some of the Facebook folk I’ve conversed with in the flesh.

If cultivating shallow ego-boosting connections with minor celebrities “ain’t [your] cup of meat” (to quote the Mighty Quinn), Twitter offers a less egocentric service: it provides up-to-date information on breaking news stories. I follow almost exclusively journalists, so when important news breaks, I can get lightning fast updates instead of watching the same looping video on CNN or MSNBC. In fact, I followed the election on Twitter instead of cable and was in bed by ten knowing that I would awaken the next morning in Oceania.

So Donald Trump and I do share one characteristic. We like to hang out on Twitter. Maybe we should meet in person to try to better understand each other’s viewpoints.


[1] I grade my essays in bars. I can grade six in an hour-and-a-half in the time it takes me to nurse two delicious craft IPAs.

[2] To be fair, I could also bore him comatose if I started in on how English’s being a hybrid language means it has an enormous vocabulary that provides its speakers with the ability to express innumerable shades of meaning. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

A Review of Punditry re. the Republican Debate

Jimmy Carter, one of the Right’s favorite punching bags, commented recently that the United States was no longer a democracy but an oligarchy. Although perhaps hyperbolic, Carter’s comments do highlight some uncomfortable facts. For example, according to the New York Times, “fewer than four hundred families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign, a concentration of political donors that is unprecedented in the modern era.”

Not surprisingly, one of the most pressing issues for these donor families is the abolition of estate taxes.   How many family estates pay taxes, you might wonder? In 2015, 1.2% of the population paid “death taxes” as the Koch brothers call them, or the “Paris Hilton tax” as EJ Dionne of the Washington Post labels them.

Of course, loopholes large enough for not only camels, but also elephants and asteroids to pass through are there for the exploitation, so when you get down to it, the effective tax rate for the estates of this 1.2% of the population boils down to a paltry 16.6% on average. And get this, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, only “20 [that’s 4 x 5 = 20] small business and farm estates nationwide owed any estate taxes in 2013.”

So does repealing the estate tax make any sense for a government that spends in excess of 600 billion dollars a year on defense alone?

You betcha, if you’re one the Koch brothers or the other 400 families who have raised half of the money flowing into these so-called super PACs.

Next question. How many of the Republican presidential candidates are for the abolishment of estate taxes?

[cue sarcastic laughter]

Which brings me to last Thursday’s presidential debate, which I sort of watched while checking out tweets. (Given my delicate sensibility, my enduring such a grotesque circus is tantamount to drinking that rancid pre-colonoscopy concoction).

More to my taste is reading the pundits’ “takeaways.” Who were the winners and losers?

Well, here’s Hoodoo’s run-down of the conventional wisdom.

The BIG WINNERS according to the pundits:

Carly Fiorina

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 18:  Carly Fiorina, former CEO of the Hewlett-Packard Company, speaks at the Heritage Foundation December 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. Fiorina joined a panel discussion on the topic of

As far as biography goes, Ms Fiorina, the daughter of a law school professor, dean, and federal judge father and a portrait/abstract artist mother has the advantage of growing up in relative poverty, despite the fact that her parents gave her a grand piano as a wedding gift. She touts her career arc as rising “from secretary to CEO,” and it’s no lie.

During summers while attending Stanford, she worked at Kelley services, and after dropping out of UCLA’s School of Law, she served time as a receptionist at the real estate firm Marcus and Millichap. Later, she earned an MBA from Maryland and a Masters in Management from the Sloan School of Management at MIT.

Obviously, she ain’t no dummy, and besides that, she’s articulate and quick on her feet, attributes she displayed Thursday night and a rare commodity among most of the other “contestants” on the stage of what seemed more like a gameshow than a debate.

So I agree with the CW on Fiorina. Don’t be surprised if she ends up being a vice presidential choice, despite her first ex-husband Todd Bartlem’s accusation that during their marriage she had an affair with her soon-to-be second and later ex-husband, Frank Fiorina, a senior executive at ATT. Obviously bitter, Bartlem told that paragon of journalistic excellence the Daily Mail that Fiorina “los[t] her humanity” in a “pathological” pursuit of power.

In her memoir Tough Choices, she describes the marriage’s dissolution this way: “While we were married, we weren’t peers.”

Ouch!

Marco Rubio

rubio_perplexed_master_0Like Carly Fiona, Rubio was also lucky enough not to be a beneficiary of great wealth. (Some people have all the luck; sorry, Jeb). In fact, Rubio’s father worked as a bartender, as Marco likes to boast.

CW went gaga over Rubio’s performance. He took on Hillary’s claim of “living from paycheck to paycheck” to great applause and spoke of the 100K of student loans he racked up and repaid in full, though he wisely didn’t mention the $80,000 boat he purchased while paying off his loans, his liquidating a $68,000 retirement account, nor did he mention his failure to make mortgage payments on his home for five months, nor the fact that he had a lease of $50,000 on a 2015 Audi Q7.

Now that’s what I call living from paycheck to paycheck in style!

I disagree with the CW that Rubio was a big winner because of his statement that he doesn’t believe in abortions even if the mother’s life is at stake.

Not to mention rape and incest.

I can see the Hillary commercial now. Female voiceover, pregnant mother with damaged fetus that threatens her life makes the excruciating decision to abort. Cut to subsequently born happy white children skipping towards a swing set to be pushed by surviving, smiling mother.

Or, how about a couple of shots of the baby in David Lynch’s Eraser Head?

John Kasich

pic_related_111014_SM_John-KasichOnce again Kasich is fortunate to come from modest means; his father was a mail carrier.

During the debate, I agree he was very effective. His response to why he had expanded Medicaid was superb, essentially, “duh,” who in her right mind wouldn’t?

Though the pundits universally adored it, I was less impressed with his non-answer on how he would explain to his hypothetically gay daughter why he doesn’t support marriage equality. Rather than saying, “because the Bible tells me so” or “I believe that sexual orientation is a choice,” he dodged the question and boasted that he had recently attended a gay wedding and added, “If one of my daughters were that, of course, I would love them.” (my italics)

Well, duh, who in his right mind wouldn’t?

Still, if you’re a rational Republican willing to compromise on your contempt for the poor, Kasich strikes me as eminently electable.

THE SO-SO WATER TREADERS

Jeb Bush

I actually think Jeb was a loser and agree with Frank Rich’s assessment that Bush speaks “with all the conviction of a robo-call.” He needed to create some sparks and didn’t.

Plus the poor bastard is a scion of one of the 1.2% of the families who will have to pay some estate taxes when #41 passes from, in Richard Wilbur’s words, “this rotten/Taxable world to a higher standard of living.”

Scott Walker

walker super durpThe conventional wisdom — too scripted — which maybe was a good thing. I can’t find to share the mean-spirited image flashing its way through cyberspace the night of the debate, a motion gif that makes Dukakis in that iconic attack ad featuring him in a tank look like Sean Connery’s James Bond in comparison.

So the picture above will have to do.

Mike Huckabee

An articulate spokesman for the 5th Century BCE, but will his message appeal to 21st Century voters?

Chris Christie, Rick Perry, et al

 Yawn.

BIG LOSERS

Rand Paul

Rand Paul

Though some have touted him a winner, most see Rand Paul as a loser, and I agree with the latter. To break out of this pack, you need charisma, and in Paul’s case, a new hairdresser.

And last but not least

Donald Trump.

ptbOh, where is HL Mencken when we need him?

Dead and gone to hell, according to all these men and woman of faith.

I so wish someone had asked Trump about his metaphysical beliefs. Perhaps he would have identified himself as the Messiah.

I would, though, if I were Fox News, not be so gung-ho in expelling him from Republic contention. As my favorite saint, Teresa of Avila, famously put it, “More tears have been shed over answered prayers than unanswered prayers.”

A Trump independent candidacy would doom the Republicans.

Bottom line: All these candidates seem to care about are rich folk and fetuses.

That may be enough if you have the 1.2% shoveling unlimited money your way. For as PT Barnum said and Donald Trump’s ascendency proves, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”