Bob Schwartz

John Lewis clarifies comments on Bernie Sanders

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 11: Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., behind him, arrive for a news conference at the DNC where members of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, February 11, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

John Lewis is the latest elder statesperson to have experienced some difficulties in speaking on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

First it was former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who apologized for seeming to suggest that young women who didn’t support Hillary were going to “a special place in hell.”

Then it was feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem, who apologized for saying that young women were flocking to Bernie Sanders because that is where the boys are.

Now it is the turn of civil rights era leader and legend John Lewis. On Thursday he suggested that he knew the Clintons from way back in the movement days, but he had never seen nor heard from this Bernie Sanders guy.

Today he apologized for misspeaking.

”If you take a look at a transcript of my statement, you will find I did not say that I met Hillary and Bill Clinton when I was chairman of SNCC in the 1960s. My point was that when I was doing the work of civil rights, led the Voter Education Project and organized voter registration in the South in the 1970s, I did cross paths with Hillary and Bill Clinton in the field. They were working in politics, and Bill Clinton became attorney general of Arkansas in the 1970s as well. That began a relationship with them that has lasted until today.”

As for Bernie Sanders:

“I was responding to a reporter’s question who asked me to assess Sen. Sanders’ civil rights record. I said that when I was leading and was at the center of pivotal actions within the Civil Rights Movement, I did not meet Sen. Bernie Sanders at any time. The fact that I did not meet him in the movement does not mean I doubted that Sen. Sanders participated in the Civil Rights Movement, neither was I attempting to disparage his activism. Thousands sacrificed in the 1960s whose names we will never know, and I have always given honor to their contribution.”

In fact, Bernie Sanders had been involved in the movement almost as early as John Lewis was. Sanders’ sacrifice included going to jail for trying to desegregate the University of Chicago dorms.

Everyone is entitled to zealously support preferred candidates, and zeal sometimes crosses over into exaggeration. But when icons like Albright, Steinem and Lewis get caught overreaching so far that they are forced to furiously backpedal, especially all in one week, you have to wonder what exactly is going on.

New Hampshire Primary Aftermath: Battle of the Billionaire Front Pages

The New York Daily News and the New York Post have been tabloid newspaper rivals forever. And that battle is most deliciously seen on their front pages.

These papers are currently owned by very different billionaires: The Daily News by Mort Zuckerman (leans liberal), the Post by Rubert Murdoch (Fox News, enough said).

In the U.S., the Daily News and Post are the champions of creative, clever, crass or crude. Here is what they came up with the morning after a very momentous night in politics.

New York Daily News

NY_NYP

Match

Match

A bit of paper
A sliver of wood
Tipped in red.
A flick of a wrist
Against a strip of grit.
A stick of incense.
A candle
Lighting the dark
Sparking romance
Marking a birth
Calling to heaven.
Fire igniting
The bed
The room
The house
The world
The next world.
What miracle
Do you have
To match it?

New Hampshire Primary: Chinese New Year Quiz Edition

Pig Snake

It is the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey. Time to guess what the Chinese lunar calendar tells us about the two Democratic candidates.

Following are descriptions of the two astrological animals representing the dates on which Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were born. The game is to guess which is which.

For those not obsessively interested in the often ridiculous and disheartening zoo/farm of this silly season, good for you.

Note: It is good fortune to wear red for the Chinese New Year, especially red underwear. You likely don’t know me well enough to know it, but I have no red underwear. I do have red ties and am wearing one today. If you are someone who does have red underwear, wear it and good luck.

And now the quiz. Which is Hillary and which is Bernie?

Democratic Candidate 1:

Born in the Year of the Pig

Elemental type of Pig based on a 60-year cycle: Fire Pig
Ambitious, persevering, but impatient.

Pigs are diligent, compassionate, and generous. They have great concentration: once they set a goal, they will devote all their energy to achieving it. Though Pigs rarely seek help from others, they will not refuse to give others a hand. Pigs never suspect trickery, so they are easily fooled.

General speaking, Pigs are relatively calm when facing trouble. No matter how difficult the problems are Pigs encounter, they can handle things properly and carefully. They have a great sense of responsibility to finish what they are engaged in.

People born in a Year of the Pig will encounter so many disruptions in their career that they will work under great pressure. It will not be suitable for them to carry out new plans or new measures.

Democratic Candidate 2:

Born in the Year of the Snake

Elemental sign based on a 60-year cycle: Gold Snake
Determined, courageous, confident, and able. A born leader.

In Chinese culture, the Snake is the most enigmatic animal among the twelve zodiac animals. People born in a year of the Snake are supposed to be the most intuitive.

Snakes tend to act according to their own judgments, even while remaining the most private and reticent. They are determined to accomplish their goals and hate to fail.

Snakes represent the symbol of wisdom. They are intelligent and wise. They are good at communication but say little. Snakes are usually regarded as great thinkers.

Snakes are materialistic and love keeping up with the Joneses. They love to possess the best of everything, but they have no patience for shopping.

Snake people prefer to work alone, therefore they are easily stressed. If they seem unusually stressed, it is best to allow them their own space and time to return to normal.

Snakes will have a smooth career after overcoming hardships in 2016. They will be hampered by unscrupulous people at the beginning of the year, but the situation will change in the middle of the year, and it will turn out smoothly at the end of the year. They will not achieve anything if they give up halfway; therefore, they must be confident about their future.

Saturday Night Political Comedy and Science Fiction

Manchurian Candidate

There were two moments of comedy from Saturday night politics, one spontaneous, one planned. And a weird science fiction scene in between.

Comedy. The chaotic opening of the Republican debate was described by Politico as a “train wreck.” But a really funny train wreck:

As Gov. Chris Christie walked out on stage, moderators David Muir and Martha Raddatz called out Dr. Ben Carson. A camera backstage showed Carson starting to walk out, but he stopped himself once he heard the moderators announce the next candidate, Ted Cruz.

Cruz walked out, and Carson stayed put as a stage manager tried to wave Carson on stage. He didn’t move. Donald Trump then walked up next to Carson as his name was called, but also stopped next to Carson.

Marco Rubio was called up next, walking past both Trump and Carson onto the stage, as did Jeb Bush. John Kasich initially didn’t make it out onto the stage at all.

The moderators thought they were done. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican candidates.”

But they weren’t. “Dr. Ben Carson, please come out on the stage. He’s standing there, as well. Dr. Carson.

“And Donald Trump,” they added.

Then Carson chimed in. “I can introduce Kasich?”

“Yes, yes, we’re going to introduce Ohio governor John Kasich,” the moderators said.

All that was missing from the botched introductions was the candidates colliding with each other and falling all over the stage. Keystone Cops style (that’s for you, Mitt Romney). This hilarious mess didn’t quite make the endless hours of blah blah that followed tolerable.

Then there was this bit of absolute weirdness at the debate:

Science fiction. Chris Christie attacked Marco Rubio for giving the same canned speech every time, no matter what the question. Rubio responded by giving the exact same speech he had just given. Later in the debate, Rubio did it again, word for word. And then again.

It was like a sci-fi movie where a robot is running for President and the mission is to push him to the point of meltdown. The only way we did know that Rubio was not a robot is that later on he began to sweat. Aha!

Or maybe it was like The Manchurian Candidate, where Christie would show Rubio the Queen of Diamonds from a deck of cards, and Rubio would walk off stage in a hypnotic trance.

Comedy. Bernie Sanders went on Saturday Night Live with his doppelganger Larry David. SNL concocted a bit in which Larry David was the captain of a Titanic-type ship that was sinking. The captain was trying to jump ahead of the women and children getting into the lifeboats. Bernie appeared on deck as a radical immigrant who had had “Enough! Enough!” of the privileged one-percent pushing ordinary people around. The happy ending is that the ship has hit not an iceberg but the Statue of Liberty. Bernie did a charming and self-effacing job of delivering his lines with comic gusto.

Best Cartoon Ever

Two Guys on an Elephant

Following is the best cartoon I have ever seen. Excuse the low quality, because it is a scan of an old and precious magazine clipping.

You could write a doctoral dissertation on how these four panels work their magic and represent the art and mechanics of humor. Or you could just laugh.

Black and White Prints from the British Museum

 

Round Trip to Heaven or Hell

If you had a round trip ticket
To heaven or hell,
Bliss or madness,
Sure you would return,
Would have to,
Which would you choose?
Tour over,
Now the common surroundings
Might seem shabby and disappointing or
Simple comfort and sanity a relief.
Conscripted for travel
Or volunteering,
This is what you learned
Gladly or sadly
For the next inevitable journey.

Shepard Fairey: The Art of Political Revolution

Shepard Fairey - Bernie Sanders Concert

Not many people had heard of the artist Shepard Fairey (“Manufacturing Quality Dissent Since 1989”) until he created the Obama “Hope” poster, one of the most famous pieces of art in modern American politics.

Since then, he has been spending his time creating, exhibiting and selling all sorts of provocative and eminently viewable art/propaganda on the beneficial edge of society, politics and culture.

He created the poster above for today’s Bernie Sanders benefit concert in Los Angeles. For those who haven’t looked for a while, or don’t know Shepard’s work, here is a sampling:

End Corruption

Make Art Not War

3fe6ad0d-98bd-49f4-b2d3-851ef7c7a746

 

Duck Walks Into A Drugstore

I posted one of my favorite jokes more than two years ago. Because I thought we all needed a laugh. In case you weren’t around, here it is again. Because we definitely need a laugh.

Duck walks into a drugstore, asks for some Chap Stick. Guy behind the counter says, “That’ll be fifty-nine cents.” Duck says, “Put it on my bill.”

Next day, the duck walks into the drugstore, asks for a package of condoms. Guy behind the counter says, “Would you like me to put that on your bill?” Duck says, “Hey, what kind of a duck do you think I am?”

Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals

Rules for Radicals

Saul Alinsky, author of Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (1971), is a currently infamous architect of political change, demonized but also mostly unread.

His infamy comes from the revelation that Barack Obama had used Alinsky’s work as a sourcebook for community organizing back in Chicago. That was enough for conservative Obama haters, who took this as just one more sign of Obama’s anti-Americanism. Most of them had never read Alinsky, but were sure he was some sort of scary Commie/enemy of the state type, who in the right kind of America belonged in jail—if he hadn’t already been dead.

Rules for Radicals is none of that. It is instead an articulate and sensible outline for making political change—not by rejecting or blowing up the system or the establishment, but by first accepting the way things and people are and working from there.

As an organizer I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be. That we accept the world as it is does not in any sense weaken our desire to change it into what we believe it should be — it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be. That means working in the system.

Anything else, Alinsky says, alienates people by going outside their experience. Which is why, for example, he was so opposed to the tactic of burning the American flag as a form of protest.

This failure of many of our younger activists to understand the art of communication has been disastrous. Even the most elementary grasp of the fundamental idea that one communicates within the experience of his audience — and gives full respect to the other’s values — would have ruled out attacks on the American flag. The responsible organizer would have known that it is the establishment that has betrayed the flag while the flag, itself, remains the glorious symbol of America’s hopes and aspirations, and he would have conveyed this message to his audience.

Alinsky cites many political thinkers, giving special attention to the virtues and vices of those behind the American Revolution. Sam Adams, for example, made the case for revolution against the British, but once he was part of the established new regime, opposed rebellions within the new American democracy. This, Alinsky says, is a typical pattern.

Writing in 1971, after decades as an organizer, Alinsky hoped to guide a new generation of young radicals who seemed passionate but relatively rudderless. He laid out the practical lessons of his experience, especially the distinction between the rhetorical radical and the pragmatic radical.

This is the promise and the danger of what Alinsky saw at the time, and in a certain light, might still see today:

The “silent majority,” now, are hurt, bitter, suspicious, feeling rejected and at bay. This sick condition in many ways is as explosive as the current race crisis. Their fears and frustrations at their helplessness are mounting to a point of a political paranoia which can demonize people to turn to the law of survival in the narrowest sense. These emotions can go either to the far right of totalitarianism or forward to Act II of the American Revolution.