Lucy and Todd

Posts Tagged ‘brexit’

What Happened — Hillary Rodham Clinton

In Reviews by Lucy and Todd on September 24, 2017 at 1:37 pm

What’s a girl to do? She said she wanted to be prez, Wall Street backed her as prez, Bill and Barack said she should be prez, and the Democratic National Committee got up to all kinds of dirty tricks to make her prez. Some people even voted for her (more than voted for Trump). But she’s not the prez!

Clinton wonders why she lost the U.S. election every day. So she got together a large team to write a book about it in her name. Like the giraffe, this group-effort apologia’s all over the place. The story’s told backwards, starting with Trump’s inauguration and George W. Bush’s appraisal of his speech: ‘That was some weird shit’.

Then it’s the morning after election night and time for Clinton’s painful concession. Then come the reasons she decided to run, unconvincing even if she genuinely cares ‘about struggling working-class families in fading small towns’ (it sounds like a Bruce Springsteen music theory mnemonic). To hear her tell it, she’s a real sweetie. She seems to see herself as some kind of overgrown Shirley Temple from the Good Ship Doolally.

Most of all, she wanted ‘to make life better for children and families’. Her interest in children is sickening, given that she presided over civilian drone strikes as secretary of state. Awash in American exceptionalism, she says the lead-poisoning of children in Flint, Michigan, ‘is not something that should happen in America.’ Where should it happen?

Let’s be clear. Women undoubtedly need to take over the world – it’s our only hope. But Thatcher, May, Imelda Marcos and Hillary Clinton will never help anyone eliminate patriarchy. Hillary couldn’t even bring herself to espouse the $15 minimum wage, the least she could do for women, who are the poorest of the poor. This ‘pragmatic progressive’ is actually a corporate-entrenched, business-as-usual capitalist nursed at the nipple of Walmart. But what’s a little slave labor between friends?

The Clintons invented Blairism, a money-grubbing centrism founded on indifference. To this Hillary added her own brand of Nixonian secrecy, torpor and contempt. The few actual beliefs she has turn out to be wishy-washy: feminism lite, healthcare lite, gun control lite. It’s all about strategy with her, and polls and data and focus groups and policy teams; caution, never passion. She likes the idea of a universal basic income so much she never even mentioned it in the campaign.

She writes of ‘the problem’ of income inequality when she should be talking about the obscenity of it. She claims to want to make her country ‘freer, fairer, and stronger’. Why not just free, fair, and strong? Next she’ll want equaler pay for women.

She’s right about all the sexism and misogyny in the 2016 election, and the beauty contest aspects of being a woman in politics. Clinton had to wear contact lenses, get her hair done daily, employ a makeup expert recommended by Anna Wintour (ouch), and buy a ‘uniform’ designed by Ralph Lauren: the pantsuits. This was another missed opportunity for feminist rebellion: for the sake of other female politicians, Clinton should have worn her beloved yoga pants.

Next comes a nauseating chapter on family and friends. Chelsea, the apple of her eye. Bill, her best pal and great fun to be with. How they love their bedroom in Chappaqua, with its many windows (hints here of lifestyle porn). From her father she learned unconditional love, and she loved her tough mother too, who endured a harsh upbringing. She’s also got hundreds of male and female friends who are always there for her, including (apparently) the Obamas.

The Clintons are philistines, their house full of biographies of past presidents. Bill reads spy novels, Hillary mysteries. But after the election all she did was watch box sets of TV series and practice nostril breathing. Bill’s a night owl (that’s not all he is). They walk the dogs together, and he edits her speeches. She calls him every night and buys him presents when she’s on the road. A martyr to the snooze button and snacks, she likes Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers, hot sauce, and ice cream bars. She’s a grandma, bigly, and a Methodist: she reads a morning devotional every day, prays quite a bit, and they say grace before dinner. She seems to think having a ‘faith’ is something to be proud of! But religion has killed America. It really stinks up the joint.

One chapter deals with gun violence, which Clinton rather bravely made an issue in her presidential campaign, risking the ire of the NRA. Sanders disappointingly stalled on the subject, treating gun ownership as a civil liberties matter, and the gun industry as the source of manufacturing jobs. Meanwhile, the Sandy Hook massacre has been labelled a hoax, and the parents get death threats. Not only the American people but the police need their weaponry confiscated.

But Clinton’s commendable stance on domestic guns vies weirdly with her hawkish behaviour in foreign affairs. She voted for the Iraq War, is always up for bombing people and, chuckling on camera over the savage slaughter of Qadaffi, once boasted: “We came, we saw, he died.” On top of that, where the Clinton Foundation goes, an arms deal always seems to follow. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence.

She offers an interminable recap on the ‘damn emails’, but the most significant chapter arrives near the end. It should have come first. Here she deals with Russia’s unprecedented interference in the election, which she deems an act of war. A Russian coup d’état has occurred in America and nobody’s noticed. (She suggests Russian government interference with Brexit too, shifty operations in Holland, Germany, Denmark and Norway, and a failed attempt to insert Le Pen in France.) While Trump tweeted that he wished the Russians would hack into Clinton’s missing emails, others concluded he himself had been (perhaps) unwittingly recruited as a Russian agent. Maybe Melania’s a KGB robot. That would explain a lot.

Was the ‘misguided’ Comey unwittingly recruited too, along with Sessions, Kushner, Assange and Mitch McConnell? Clinton reckons that the combination of Russian espionage, Comey’s last-minute pronouncements, the Republican very successful voter suppression efforts, the reckless inanities of mainstream TV news reporting, the misogynistic witch-hunt, the outdated Electoral College system, which she deems undemocratic, and her own deplorable ‘deplorables’ moment, cost her the election.

A terrible trick was played on the American people. But it wasn’t that Clinton lost; it was that Bernie Sanders, riding a groundswell of true popularity, was denied the Democratic nomination. Bernie would have had a landslide. Clinton couldn’t beat the outright nincompoop who won with a mere 25% of the electorate.

So she’s freed women in one way: to screw up. If you ever feel you’ve really made a mess of things, just think of HRC. It takes a village idiot.




A version of this review appeared in the Herald, Sept. 23, 2017.




Infinite Ground–Martin MacInnes

In Reviews by Lucy and Todd on November 3, 2016 at 9:33 am

Infinite Ground is a very sharp novel about sick politics, corporate infiltration of society, and good old-fashioned paranoia, a cross between Kafka and The Blob. It’s about late capitalism and spooky capitalism. It provides the frisson you get from reading about the Royal Bank of Scotland or the machinations of Essential Edinburgh.

A retired Inspector of police in a Latin American country is asked to investigate the disappearance of Carlos, a young, seemingly responsible office worker, who takes to hanging upside down in his office and then vanishes from a restaurant. Looking into Carlos’s firm, the Inspector finds that some of its workers are actors, hired to make the company look good and to spur on the real employees in terms of poise and drive.

This company, like many, has duplicate office facilities at a remove, in case of disaster or war: ‘He read it as an example of corporate anxiety. Their imagination of the apocalypse was limited and picturesque, affecting a distinct, geometrically precise land segment, allowing civilization to be transported elsewhere, uninterrupted.’ The idea of duplication, a horror genre staple, grows in the novel until neither the Inspector nor the reader can be sure of what is genuine.

The Inspector is assigned an assistant, a brilliant microscopist. She hoovers out of Carlos’s computer keyboard insect wings, jungle soil, and other substances that suggest Carlos doesn’t live only for his job. The Inspector is fascinated by her and for a while they rub along in a lively, almost rom-com exchange between police thinking and scientific metaphor.

In fact, her inventive speculations on micro-organisms exacerbate the Inspector’s growing paranoia, which threatens his investigation. At one point the playful narrative gives over to a fantastic list of what might have happened to Carlos: perhaps he never existed. Perhaps there are fifty or more of him (readers of Stanislaw Lem will enjoy this). Maybe he went walkabout because of food poisoning. Or his mother (she is one of the actresses) made him up.

The Inspector begins to wonder if Carlos was mentally and physically dissolving as a result of contact with some micro-parasite. He even wonders if he himself has contracted the same from his minute examinations of the man’s office. Eventually he decides that Carlos has wandered out of the city and into the forest.

Is the Inspector deranged? Next thing we know, he’s joined a silly tourist group in order to get quickly into the interior. He pays a lot of money, only to be faked out by phony ‘contact’ with ‘tribespeople’. One of them turns out to be the lady who runs the local coffee shop.

Now, strangely, the focus shifts from contingency and conspiracy to a story solely of the Inspector, suddenly alone in the forest, for what reason it’s unclear. (Most of the unexplained elements work here, though occasionally there’s a little too much Twilight Zone.) Is the intention to show him the near impossibility of Carlos remaining alive for long in such a place?

Thoughts of the investigation are abandoned as we watch the Inspector turn into a really icky Robinson Crusoe, eating bugs and worse, trying to keep from losing his marbles as he follows the morning sun. It’s scary: ‘There was less of him and he scouted for parts of the new vegetation reminiscent of his character.’

This novel sends up all kinds of rockets. In its South American atmosphere you will be reminded of Alejo Carpentier’s The Lost Steps. The contemporary social and political unsureness is that of Javier Marias. Its really astute anatomization of employment itself will make you think of Ed Park’s Personal Days. In the biological and jungle horror there’s a lot of Sartre, Conrad and even HP Lovecraft.

Will the Inspector escape the forest? If so, in what condition, and into what world? This section of the novel is a little less satisfying – there’s a Planet of the Apes tedium to it. Earlier there were many exciting explorations of a lot of nasty micro-organisms that sound totally plausible and which are all ranged against us. One in particular takes over bugs’ brains, forces them to march to the sea, and then explodes their heads! You’re left hoping that this isn’t the one that bit this particular policeman.

What is the upshot of all this? You may well find in Infinite Ground’s meditations a sketch of things to come, post Brexit: ‘He took the conviction that this new, insubstantial world couldn’t be happening as proof in fact that it was.’


This review appeared in The Herald August 6, 2016