Sunday, March 24, 2019

Centenary Ferlinghetti

Happy Birthday, Larry: An Anecdotal
City Of Paris Sign In The Conversation (1974)

Almost half my life ago, a friend took me to an event in support of saving the Eiffel Tower-shaped sign which had graced the roof of the old City of Paris department store on Union Square. CofP had been there for generations -- since the Gold Rush; before and after The 1906 Earthquake and fire -- but business setbacks forced it to close.

The property had been purchased by Neiman-Marcus; they intended to build what still looks like a featureless beige box around the old CofP's oval, central core, topped by a stained glass skylight (you can see the old City of Paris building, and its trademark sign, in Coppola's film, The Conversation).

Replacing CofP with Texas-based Neiman's struck many San Franciscans as a cultural loss (dear god; Texas???) . Trying to save a landmark sign from a landmark local business was a way of saying No. A meeting was held to raise funds to purchase the sign, before finding a suitable location for it: and there would be poetry! Gary Snyder would read. So would Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

I went, I listened.  Snyder had been a particular lodestone favorite of mine for a long time; I'd only heard him read once before in Berkeley, and Ferlinghetti not in person at all.

When he did, he set "In Fascist America " in front of us like a dish well-cooked but spicy enough to be a challenge to eat, like reading The Fire Next Time all in one sitting -- dig in if you've got the spittle for it, baby. And he read it in the Beat cadence you can see, fortunately, in film and video clips.

The applause at the end was genuine. Everyone knew Ferlinghetti as a national treasure, a cultural icon, someone who had gravitas and knew it and used it. He was on the side of Right and it appeared in his work like a sword on fire. We applauded for all that as much as the reading.

They never were able to buy the City of Paris sign. I went on to dinners over the years with friends and occasionally did (or was asked to do) my impression of Ferlinghetti, reading -- I'm gifted as a mimic; people laughed, which was the point (particularly about the repeating line in that poem, with a specific pause in his cadence when he would say, "In Fascist / America"). One person I knew in particular, who loved Ferlinghetti's poetry and had heard him read multiple times, always dissolved in laughter when she heard that.

Fast-forward a number of years: My acquaintance was taking lessons in a foreign language in the City through a cultural exchange group; Lawrence Ferlinghetti was in the class. The last, penultimate assignment for each student was to take a short piece of literature or poetry, translate it into the Language Other Than English, then read it to the rest of the class. Ferlinghetti chose, "In Fascist America".

My acquaintance said later she was able to hold it in "almost until the end", before exploding with laughter. Apparently she slipped and fell trying to exit the room but made it outside, leaving Ferlinghetti and the rest of the class somewhat mystified.

I lived in North Beach for over a decade. In (for me) the old days, before heading to Vesuvio's or Spec's or Tosca's -- the real Bermuda Triangle -- I might stop off in City Lights Books; occasionally, you might see Ferlinghetti on the ground floor, talking with someone at a table in one of the alcoves. More rarely at night, coming out of Pearl's jazz club across the street, you might catch a glimpse of him, working late, through a window in City Lights' second-floor offices.

Most long-time residents in North Beach knew his house; it was roughly a block from my flat, and we passed each other at least twice a week for years, he walking up Stockton street towards Columbus, me walking down: two guys who wore fedoras. We made eye contact; I smiled, and sometimes said hello (it would have been odd if, after years of occurrence, I hadn't) but it was only a short time before I left the neighborhood that he began responding back.

The last time I saw Ferlinghetti was during a sentimental walk back, over a decade after I left North Beach -- walking across the grass of Washington Square on a warm, sunny afternoon, and there he was, wearing one of the trademark hats, lying on the grass with his head propped up by a day pack, a faint smile on his face as he tilted it up toward the sun.

At some point today I'll walk over to the old neighborhood and past his house, and put a good thought out for him. A century is a long time for a person, but it's not even a blink in the universe. Very few of us get to impact the Geist of the culture, live in people's hearts, and so sail on into time. But he will.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Reprint Heaven: Crimes And Misdemeanors

Post-Mueller Coherence
(From May, 2017)

Last week, I waited in line at O-Dark-Thirty for coffee at a [Redacted] near the Embarcadero Bart station. A half-dozen of us, corporate Sheeple, mildly sleepy, stood to the right of an open-fronted display case holding yogurt, hard-boiled eggs; sandwiches and bottled drinks.

As we waited, one of San Francisco's homeless pushed his way through the line to the cooler. With a badly shaved head and dressed in a long cloth jacket that had once been blue, he reminded me of the escaped convict, Magwitch, in Dicken's Great Expectations. The man bent down towards the display case, reached into it and began stuffing the pockets of his jacket with bottles and packages of food.

Alerted by some of the patrons ("Hey, this guy's stealing stuff"), the early shift manager -- a nice guy, in his late 20's whom I see almost every weekday morning -- came out from behind the counter. The homeless man -- his pantslegs rolled up to reveal badly swollen lower legs and ankles  -- had already hobbled out of the shop.

The manager caught up with him, but wasn't confrontational. "You can't just take stuff, man," the manager said quietly. "That's completely uncool."  With a wild, intense expression on his face, the homeless man took one wavering step backwards, spread his arms, and bellowed something spectacularly incoherent before hobbling away up Market Street into the dark. The manager watched him go, looked over at me, and shrugged.

Talking with the manager about the incident as he rang up my coffee, we agreed: The Man was a figure of pathos, straight out of Hugo: Jean Valjean and the loaf of bread. The man was ill, and hungry, and to make a larger issue out of the theft would be sanctimonious assholery of a particularly low order. Neither of us felt like Inspector Joubert that morning.

We spoke about other things. "Wish that had been Trump," the fellow laughed. "I would have called the cops on his ass."

I laughed back, and mentioned the early-days investigations by the FBI of Trump and his campaign's connections to the Russians. "We could get lucky," I said.

Then, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and, pushed along by a series of Tweets both pathetic and bullying by turns, the antics of his Clown Car government went into screaming, vibrating overdrive.

Down here in the trenches, everyone likes to try and read the Tea Leaves and divine the future. How does this all play out? There are a few broad categories, and all this is just one Dog's opinion.

1.) Impeachment

We all went through this less than twenty years ago, with Saintly Bill-O's lying about Monica and his What-Is-Is.  But getting there in 2017 would be difficult (this graphic may help explain why).

A Special Prosecutor conducts an investigation. It takes as long as it takes. Apparently, Robert Mueller will have broad investigative powers and independence from his putative boss, Assistant Attorney General Robert Rosenstein, author of That Memo.  Mueller will deliver a report to Rosenstein, and will have the ability to recommend criminal charges be filed.

Having a Special Prosecutor gives the appearance of a no-dog-in-this-fight neutrality necessary to "ensure Americans may have confidence the investigation is fair and complete". However, the efforts of Mueller's team will automatically take precedence over (one might say, trump) the congressional inquiries already in motion through the House and Senate intelligence committees, investigating the Trump campaign's Russian connections.

Let's say Mueller's team can't tie Trump to any High Crimes and Misdemeanors. Some lower-level apparatchiks would be found to take the fall (with promises they and their families will be 'taken care of' if they stick to their stories), while Trump remains in command of the nation, bloated and raving, Tweeting nonstop from the Bunker.

But, if someone breaks ranks (for example, if Michael Flynn were granted immunity and had a real story to tell), or other evidence surfaces which implicates Trump in a conspiracy or obstruction of justice -- then a Bill of Impeachment would have to be passed by the House. The Senate would have to agree to put Trump on trial. This spectacle goes on for months.

Senators may vote to impeach, or a vote could fail. They may, or may not, demand the President be removed from office. In Clinton's case, the political Right wanted to leave a wounded, sitting Democratic President, publicly soaking in his shame, ahead of the 2000 elections.

You can already see how high the bar has been set.  First, serious, unequivical proofs of Herr Trump's crimes must be found which meet evidentiary standards. Second, will Little Bobby Rosenstein (and in the background, crazy ol' Jeff Sessions) agree with Mueller and allow a criminal indictment, sending the matter to Congress? This could play out in a number of different directions. Then what?

More to the point -- will a Congress dominated by a Republican party (Rightist factions at war with each other, really) agree to a process that will drag out for over a year, and certain to damage the Republican 'brand' during midterm elections?

2.)  Resignation

Trump has revealed to us all, on an almost daily basis, the paranoid alt-Right universe which he lives in -- where Trump, like 'forgotten' Americans who voted for him, is an innocent victim of a vast conspiracy. Its tentacles are everywhere. Everyone knows it.

And he must fight that conspiracy, because he is a fighting fighter, who fights, and doesn't give up. He is the only one who can fight it, because he is Trump. Now he is in the White House, sometimes, surrounded by barely competent advisors who constantly disappoint him and must always be watched, Trump fights on and on and on. He does it all for you. He doesn't rest, except when he is in Florida. But he doesn't give up -- because he is Donald Trump.

That said: were Trump faced with incontrovertible evidence of criminal wrongdoing, Speaker-To-Animals Paulie Ryan, Sen. Yertle The Turtle, 'Bomb Bomb Bombin' John McCain and a few other GOP stalwarts would approach Trump at his More-Lego palace in Florida in the dead of night. They would tell him he should spare the country a wrenching Impeachment spectacle (read: please leave us our Republican party), and strongly recommend he resign.

Donny waffles; he shouts, he cries like a child. They wait. Then they offer him a one-time deal:  He will stay out of jail; his immediate family will be spared, but they all must go. Now. And like any leader of a Banana Republic where the mob is at the gates of the palace, it will take Trump five seconds to understand: He'll get to keep whatever he's looted from the nation during his time in office.  

In a Kleptocracy, it's still a Win if you are forced away from the table, but get to keep the offshore accounts. You can always claim in your ghosted biography that your downfall was someone else's fault; a forced error. In Trump's mind, Aber Natürlich, his numbers would still be all-time highs.

So, he accepts the offer. After a last, GBCW speech that rivals Nixon's blubbering farewell in its bitterness and surreality, Trump is whisked away to his anti-environment compound in Florida, faithful Melania at his side in a tasteful Victoria Secrets day dress.  Mike Pence is sworn in as the 46th President, and as his first Executive Order declares Jesus is his Co-President.

To bring this scenario to fruition, however, the traditional conservative, Old Money leaders of the GOP will have to win their bloody civil war with the alt-Right (the Tea Partei, their radical Billionaire financiers; and the Evangelical Brownshirts).  This has been a slow-motion hostile takeover over twenty years in the making: to borrow a term from The Soul Of America, it's one bunch of rich, asshole Triskellions against another. The prize is control of a corporation called "The Republican Party", and all the marketing associations with that brand. 

It is in no way clear who will win that battle. My guess is it will continue playing out for the next five or ten years, and that if Trump and his Familia Criminale have to be removed, some truce will be declared between the factions of the Right. A majority will support his being told to resign.  The longer he remains in office, the more the Republican brand suffers, and the more the alt-Right becomes the 21st century political equivalent of the Whigs, or the Monster Raving Looney Party.

3.)  Distraction, Manufactured Or Otherwise

As the Mueller investigation proceeds, some event in the world causes Trump to increase the Defcon level, start moving aircraft carriers and battle groups, and a manufactured military crisis begins -- North Korea is the most likely candidate, but any situation that would allow Trump to distract everyone's attention in a Wag The Dog effort could serve.

The world is volatile enough that it's also possible an actual crisis, one not engineered, may occur -- but which Trump & Co. will seize upon as a heaven-sent distraction: a regional conflict (India and Pakistan; Russia and Ukraine / The Baltics; China and Japan / Taiwan), or a pandemic disease outbreak (Ebola, H5N1) or Zombie Apocalypse, for example.

4.)  Very Bad Things

This is something that can't be spelled out because it might be misinterpreted. In his first speech from the Oval Office, President Pence will use the word 'God' 147 times, 'punish' 238 times, and 'Satan' 61 times.

Sidebar: Bob and Jimmy's Excellent Adventure

A story worth remembering: Robert Mueller and James Comey have known each other a long time, and both have spent their careers in 'official' Washington.  Both served in the Department Of Justice and both ended their careers as Directors of the FBI -- Mueller passing the baton to Comey under President Obama.

You may recall that in 2001, the Patriot Act was signed into law by George "Lil' Boots" Bush, after the September 11th attacks, giving intelligence agencies new powers to Hoover up all emails and telephone or digital communications conduct surveillance of everyone in America suspected terrorists. The Act effectively allowed warrantless wiretaps by the NSA.

The fact of domestic wiretapping had been leaked; members of Congress complained; Bush and others squeaked in protest that the surveillance was 'limited'. It was agreed the surveillance program would be 'reauthorized' on a regular basis over the signature of the Attorney General,  then John Ashcroft.  At the time, James Comey was Deputy Attorney General.

Ashcroft was deeply conservative but also very disturbed at the legal implications of a vast, warrantless wiretapping operation, and in the spring of 2004 made it known he would not sign off on reauthorization of those activities. Lil' Boots wasn't happy.

As he later testified to a Senate committee, in March, 2004, Comey received a telephone call from Ashcroft's wife, who was with her husband at a Washington, D.C. hospital after Ashcroft had gall bladder surgery -- which made Comey the acting Attorney General of the United States.

She was badly distraught: at Bush's direction, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, and Bush's Chief Of Staff, Andrew Card, had shown up at Ashcroft's hospital room to pressure the AG into signing the reauthorization document for the domestic surveillance program. Ashcroft refused and told them to leave, but they wouldn't. She pleaded with Comey to help.

Comey's first telephone call was to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller. They met at the hospital and sent Gonzales and Card, two despicable little men on an errand from another despicable little man, away. It was the position of the Department of Justice that the domestic wiretapping program was questionable if not illegal. Ashcroft had already made his position clear; Comey agreed.

This event started a battle between the Justice Department and Lil' Boots. In his Senate testimony, Comey noted that the domestic surveillance program was reauthorized at Bush's order the next day, without his approval as acting Attorney General.

Since Bush had shown he was willing to run roughshod over the Justice Department to achieve a legally questionable end, Comey, Mueller and several other officials planned to resign. Lil' Boots, petulant and mulish as always when his wishes were thwarted, reluctantly agreed to meet Comey and Mueller; after the meeting, Bush agreed the surveillance program should be restructured to make it more legally defensible. As a result Mueller, Comey and others dropped their plans to resign

The takeaway here is not that Mueller or Comey were necessarily such heroes by standing up to power in 2004 -- they didn't object to mass warrantless searches per se; but in order to allow violations of the Second and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution they wanted band-aids in place to provide the surveillance of the U.S. population with a legal fig leaf. And it would all still be secret, anyway.

Sidebar: The Fourth Estate

While there are journalists out there who want to uncover and report the truth of events, America's media (and in other countries) have been played like a harp when it suits people who wish it. The CIA has routinely planted information with 'friendly' reporters, under the guise of providing them an inside scoop, to discredit enemies, pass false information, or influence a debate.

The media has also been used for recent political payback: remember the stories about Saddam Hussein's Yellowcake Uranium, based on 'sheep-dipped' intelligence given to a reporter for Italian newspaper La Stampa, used by 'Dick' Cheney to justify invading Iraq but then shown to be false (rumor was, the intel had been manufactured by CIA officers opposed to an unnecessary war)?

(And, not only intelligence agencies get to have their fun: Rumor was that, through a cut-out, Karl Rove provided CBS' Dan Rather with forged documents about "Lil' Boots" Bush's weak point in the 2004 Presidential election: his ducking out of service in Vietnam by joining the Air National Guard. Lil' Boots was facing John Kerry -- both a decorated Vietnam Vet and one who had returned home to vocally and eloquently protest that war. 

(The worst of the Right went after Kerry's military service, head-on, suggesting he was a liar who never deserved a Silver Star or three Purple Hearts -- but, then in 2002 that fat ol' nightcrawler, Saxby Chambliss, had suggested Max Cleland, triple-amputee Vietnam Vet, was a traitor. So no one should be surprised.

(The charge that Lil' Boots' military service was a sham, an arrangement for his powerful Daddy, was true -- but the documents supporting it given to Rather were not. CBS broke the story, and was then forced to publicly recant when assailed by Little Rupert and Fat Roger, Lard Boy, and a chorus of Republican politicos. The story was no longer about Bush's military non-service; Rove had neutralized the entire topic for that 2004 presidential election, destroying Dan Rather's career and CBS News' credibility in the process. I'll bet Karl bought himself an extra dozen doughnuts that day.)

If you're a major American political figure, perhaps even a president, you do not want to make enemies out of the CIA and FBI (remember what happened to JFK). Trump knows this, but doesn't seem to care. By disrespecting the CIA and firing a highly respected FBI Director, apparently to save his own ass -- if there is evidence of Trump or his campaign's wrongdoing regarding the Russians, he should expect it to appear in the media, drop by drop. And, not just in America -- it could easily be a breaking story in the UK Guardian or Die Welt.

In fact, it's already begun: Tuesday, with reports of the Comey memos; and Thursday, a story of 18 separate contacts (all electronic intercepts) between Russians and the Trump campaign during 2016 has surfaced as an 'exclusive to Reuters'.

Somewhere, journalists may dream of being the next Woodward and Bernstein -- but they had their Deep Throat; and Mark Felt may or may not have been just an angry, principled FBI agent motivated to become a whistleblower.

Where this ends is anyone's guess.  It will either be a long string of embarrassing leaks which don't lead to prosecution, but wound Trump and his cabal for a time. It might allow the DNC to grab seats in Congress ... or, that string of embarrassments leads, like Watergate, to the Oval Office.

It's also possible that the media's revelations will cause Trump to finally pop -- a Macaca Moment, a full-on meltdown in front of the cameras, leaving no doubt he is unfit to hold office.  Invoking the 25th Amendment, Mike Pence becomes the 46th President and demands prayer be made mandatory in our nation's schools.


And they came unto him saying, Lord, we are confused greatly in our minds and hearts and there is the sounds of keening and the gnashing of mandibles in the land. And the LORD spaketh saying, I am reminded that Kayfabe is Kayfabe -- and the individual user's inability to discern fake Kayfabe from true-true Kayfabe is like he who stood waiting for that Uber ride which never came, for he was drunk and knew not. Go now, and do not buy into that crap, sayeth the LORD. Or, words to that effect.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Random Barking Friday: This Is Where

We Don't Want Your Kind
"A Furious Tampa Crowd Screams At The Press, Just As Trump Intended",
Quartz, August 1, 2018 (Stillframe from CNN video)

If it's a bloodbath they want, let's get it over with. No more appeasement.
-- Attributed To Ronald Reagan, Governor of California, 1969;
    in reference to antiwar demonstrators at Berkeley

The Oldest Friend is having difficult times, some of them involving a house they own in rural Washington state; Klickitat County, pop. 21,889; median household income, $49,580.

>>  In 2008, Klickitat voted for Obama / Biden over McCain / Palin (4,965 to 4,944)
           [ Constitution = 48  /  Libertarian = 45  /  Green = 16  /  Ralph Nader = 139 ]
>>  In 2012, the county voted for Romney / Ryan over Obama / Biden (5,316 to 4,598)
           [ Constitution = 53 /  Libertarian = 147  /  Green = 121  /  SWP, Other Socialist = 12 ]
>>  In 2016, Klickitat voted for Trump / Pence over Clinton / Kane (5,798 to 4,194)
           [ Constitution = 75 /  Libertarian = 463  /  Green = 217  /  SWP, Other Socialist = 31 ]

When people think of Washington, other parts of the state come to mind. But Klickitat is not Seattle, just as all of America is not it's urban centers, as the last Presidential election made clear to everyone.

The home my friend owns is at the ass end of nowhere. It sits on a relatively flat table of land, remnant of massive flooding when a glacial ice dam broke 12,000 years ago, far to the north. The closest neighbor is almost ten miles away; roads are not necessarily the highest priority of the County administration and occasionally wash out with heavy rain or be buried under snow, as they have been this winter.

The house has been rented for several years by a married couple in their thirties who, to all outward appearances, are Hippies right out of the Sixties playbook -- long hair; beard; kick-length paisley skirts, and Home-Grown in a patch beside the house (marijuana for recreational use and cultivation -- with limits -- has been decriminalized in Washington state). The couple is Liberal / Progressive in their politics, voted Green Party in the last general election.

Two weeks ago the couple abruptly advised my friend that they were vacating the property and leaving the area. There were two reasons for this -- one was private, but the other more immediate.

Over the past year and a half, the couple realized that something had changed. While shopping, in a movie theatre, or simply on the street, they occasionally noticed that other people were staring at them.

It didn't happen every day, but the people staring all had something in common: They wore red baseball caps with a particular motto stitched in white, serif capital block letters on the front. And their stares were disapproving, hostile; what d'ya think you're doin' here?

Then, the couple began hearing anecdotal reports of other people experiencing the same general disdain and hostility from total strangers -- apparently for no other reason than they appeared to be 'Hippie types'. Some of these total strangers had even made insulting remarks -- in essence, We don't like your kind so why don't you get outta here?

The couple wasn't interested in confrontation, so when they encountered fellow citizens who had a need to express carefully-nourished anger or free-floating rage, they did their best to ignore it. Then they began hearing from people -- who lived quietly in rented homes, as they did, on remote pieces of land -- that men, actually wearing those Red Baseball Caps, had shown up on their doorsteps and said things which amounted to Y'all might want to go somewhere else before somethin' bad happens.

My friend talks with her own family and friends who still live in that same general area of southern Washington / northern Oregon state. "But since 2016, I'm hearing you just can't talk politics there anymore," she related. "In the past, people disagreed, even got passionate in political discussions -- but it was clear that the person you disagreed with was a person. That they deserved respect.

"But Trump gives people permission to act like complete assholes, with guns," she said. "He does it to be popular with his base; he feeds off that hatred. It's more than scary. This is what totalitarianism does."

Then, my friend related that during this past winter, the renter couple had been at home when a man appeared on the property. He was driving an ATV, and he was armed. When they approached him, he aimed his firearm at them and delivered that same message: Git out.

But it wasn't just a message; it was a threat. It was the functional equivalent of burning a cross in front of their home. So they're getting out.

I wanted to say more about this, but there's nothing more to add. Let those able to hear, hear, and those able to see, to look.

Fuck The Leader, and all who ride in him. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

In Pursuit Of Normalcy

Never Take Your Eye Off The Ball

The Recall Of Actual Memory = Normal
So we don't believe that life is beautiful because we don't recall it; but if we get a whiff of a long-forgotten smell, we are suddenly intoxicated, and similarly we think we no longer love the dead because we don't remember them -- but if by chance we come across an old glove we burst into tears.
-- Marcel Proust
The Leader Is Clinically Insane With Poor Impulse Control = Not Normal
Brian Klass, a political scientist at UCL [said]: "We have a seriously dangerous normalcy bias, where we move on because we desperately want to pretend it's okay. Trump's Twitter meltdown today -- which shows a deranged and unhinged person -- will just be forgotten by Monday afternoon. But the deranged man will still control the nukes."
(Chris Cillizza, "Trump's Craziest Day Ever On Twitter", CNN)

The Leader Is A Liar = Not Normal
And then, Friday afternoon, it got worse. Responding to a question by an ABC reporter about whether he believed there was a growing threat of white nationalism worldwide, Trump responded, “I don’t really,” adding, “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”  Our own ears and eyes (as well as statistics) tells us that’s a lie.  Again, this reaction is because Trump gets his base better than anyone.
(Dean Obeidallah, "Trump Still Won't Name White Supremacist Terrorism And His Base Loves It", Daily Beast)

Delusional Cray-Cray = Not Normal
Donald Trump’s suggestion that Britain invented Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election has been branded “completely false” by the UK government.  The US president shared a tweet by William Craddick, the founder of right-wing conspiracy theory news outlet Disobedience Media, on Sunday evening. “Russiagate was designed in part to help the UK counter Russian influence by baiting the United States into taking a hard line against them,” Mr Craddick wrote. ...

... Late last week, [Trump] launched an extraordinary attack against Theresa May over her Brexit negotiation strategy, claiming she “didn’t listen” to his advice over the issue.  Sir Nicholas Soames, Conservative MP and privy councillor, told The Independent that Mr Trump’s peddling of the conspiracy theory was “foolish” and “ludicrous"...  "The trouble is he allows himself to be subject to these great flights of fancy, which unfortunately there are too many people who take seriously,” said Mr Soames, who is the grandson of Winston Churchill.
("UK Government Hits Out At 'Completely False' Allegation", UK Independent)

Republicans Cleave To Insane Leader = Not Normal But Predictable
I think the connection between scientology and Elizabeth Holmes is the “prison of belief”. Look at what happens to [Theranos board member] George Shultz – the grandfather of [eventual whistleblower] Tyler Shultz... Even when his grandson comes to him and says, “You know Grandpa, there’s rampant fraud at Theranos”, he can’t undo or retract or unwind the belief that he has. He’s in a prison of belief of Elizabeth Holmes. He’s committed to her, and for him to say, “Oh wow, that’s terrible”, would mean that he has to go back to the beginning and admit that he was duped and fooled.
(Julia Wong, Interviewing Alex Gibney; "Americans Have A Fascination With Fraudsters"; UK Guardian, March 17, 2019)

We Are Powerless To Resist ZuckCo (And Those Like It) = Not Normal 
Perhaps what the scandal has really revealed is a situation that is too embarrassing, too disastrous to acknowledge. We know that Facebook has been used to undermine elections all across the world, including our own. But we’re in this strange historical moment where we’ve realized it, but we don’t have the power, currently, to do anything about it.
(Carole Cadwalladr, "Cambridge Analytica, A Year On"; UK Guardian, March 17, 2019)

International Mass Shootings = Not Normal
The horror of the New Zealand massacre should be a wake-up call for Big Tech and an occasion to interrogate the architecture of social networks that incentivize and reward the creation of extremist communities and content ...

... Part of what’s so unsettling about the New Zealand shooting suspect’s online persona is how it lays bare how [social media and extremism can] come together for violent ends. [The killer's] supposed digital footprint isn’t just upsetting because of its content, but because of how much of it appears designed to delight fellow extremists.

The decision to call the attack a “real life effort post” reflects an eerie merging of conspiratorial hate from the pages of online forums and into the real world -- a grim reminder of how online communities may be emboldening and nudging their most violent and unstable individuals.
(Charlie Warzel, "We're Asking The Wrong Questions Of YouTube And Facebook After New Zealand"; New York Times, March 19, 2019)

Domestic Mass Shootings = Not Normal 
“Obviously there’s some type of situation that caused the husband to be extremely upset,” Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said in a press conference. “We’re trying to find the connection. Obviously these are not random shootings... Six people lost their lives in a very short amount of time. This is the new normal.”
(German Lopez, Vox, September 12, 2018; "... Shooter In Bakersfield Kills 5 Persons, Self")

The latest nightmare began on May 18 with the news: there had been another school shooting. This time, it unfolded at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, a town of about 12,000 people ... Paige Curry, a student at the school... [said it] didn’t feel unreal at all. “It’s been happening everywhere,” she said. “I’ve always kind of felt eventually it would happen here too.”
(Haley Edwards, Time, May 22, 2018; "School Shootings Are Becoming The New Normal")

Whiteman Daddy Strongman Oligarch As Leader = Not Normal
... there are the inherent structural failings in modern democratic politics. In the United States, unrestricted campaign financing continues to undermine democracy. The spectacular corruption of the electoral redistricting system -- gerrymandering -- only compounds the problem. On top of this, the polarization of traditional news media by Fox News and others is poisoning the capacity of the democratic system to build a sustainable consensus around what is left of the political center, as shown by the debacle of the American gun-control debate.

As Western democracies look increasingly sick, other systems of governance are now on offer. Russian nationalism represents a departure from Western political, economic and diplomatic norms. China has become increasingly confident in its own model, described as authoritarian or state capitalism. And its “Beijing consensus” is held up to the non-Western world as an example of a more effective form of national, and even international, governance.
(Kevin Rudd, "The Rise Of Authoritarian Capitalism", New York Times, September 16, 2018)

Monday, March 4, 2019

Reprint Heaven: When In These Coarse Current Events

Nothing To See Here
(From February, 2017)
(Original Foto, Courtesy Danny Dutch, That Guy)
Sad Vlad, The Putin (called 'Pooti-Poot' by George "Lil' Boots" Bush, in that bizarre, Mitfordian slang his Familia di Criminale use to describe other people), is like that guy who claims not to have a dinosaur.

Vlad does, in fact, have a dinosaur. He has Ted the T-Rex in his barn -- I mean, we can hear Ted bellowing all the way down to County Road 47; hell, we can hear him down to the Interstate. Some nights, Ted spots cars full of joyriding teenagers, out cruising the Rural Routes between the farms, and chases them all over the place. He doesn't ever catch them -- probably, he just likes running after them -- and there are big three-toed footprints, afterwards, everywhere. Plenty of kids have had big dents put in the roofs of their cars, by something, out on those dark roads -- but the two auto-body places we've got don't mind the business.

Cattle are missing in eight counties, and plenty of people haven't seen their pets for a while -- and piles of shit, seven feet tall, appear here and there almost every day. What Vlad doesn't plow under, he sells as fertilizer -- and he's been selling that shit to just about the whole damn state for a long time, now. Some people from Monsanto were sniffing around Vlad's farm, trying to figure out where that manure was coming from, but they just kind of -- disappeared.

Vlad and his family are constantly getting people stopping by the house, asking about that damn dinosaur. He explains, patiently, with that flat-fish expression of his that no, they do not have a dinosaur. Vlad claims to be so tired of this, all the folks from Des Moines and Ystaad and Tunbridge Wells and Saskatoon with their kids, piling out of overloaded station wagons and asking to use the restroom -- that finally, he made himself a sign on the hood of an old 1949 Vonyets tractor: We Do Not Have A Dinosaur.

If you continue to insist he does, Vlad will take a step back and look at you. Dinosaur? You been out in the sun a while? Ridiculous. Those things've been extinct for a good, long time ("Just like my old buddy, Alex," Vlad says with a sly grin). If you can hold it, there's a Tastee-Freeze a couple miles up the road with a bathroom, Vlad says. We got a farm to run, here; you all have a nice day.

Except, this is where he gets his cake and sells you dinosaur shit, too: There Is A Fucking T-Rex In Vlad's Barn. You know it. He knows it. You can't really prove it -- I mean, no one has actually seen Ted -- but when you put together that noise coming out of Vlad's barn, all those footprints, lebenty-billion pounds of crap all over the place and a whole bunch of missing cattle ... remember Ossie's Tazer, or whatever they call that: When all's said and done, the simplest explanation is pretty much gonna be right.

And the folks at the County Seat claim to know nothing about it. Vlad's been a good friend to the County folks -- lot of that fertilizer money went to see them get elected last fall. And there were those big piles of shit that appeared every morning on the front lawns of their opponents' homes.  Vlad had some problems with that previous administration -- some back taxes; not addressing his land rights issues, questions about how he runs his fertilizer trade. But now the election's done, word is that all may disappear. And, the County Commissioner has a new John Deere Combine, with all the bells 'n whistles. He claims it's a lease. Others aren't so sure.

There are plenty of people out there who will tell you that Vlad's a good guy. He means well, runs a tight farm and, up front, always treats you with respect. But there's no denying that his neighbors -- the ones who bring their cattle into the barns every night, the barns they spent a biggly amount of cash reinforcing with steel -- well, they're a little nervous about Vlad.

Some of them say he has funny ideas about expanding his farm. That he has some kind of Plan, and Ted The T-Rex is a big part of it. Others say he likes doing crazy-ass things just out of pure, human fuckery.

All I know is, Vlad has that sign, We Do Not Have A Dinosaur, and almost every night I hear that big lizard, bellowing to beat the band as he chases some car full of teenagers, having a helluva good time. You can complain, but the County Commissioner will just tell you -- probably on Twitter -- what a silly goose you are and you best shut up now. Sad!

Friday, February 22, 2019

What We Leave Behind


Charlie Chaplin, 1914

Some spiritual traditions believe in additional dimensions of existence; that the world most of us see as the only reality is one place where thought can be transformed into physicality.

Everywhere we look, there's an idea translated into concrete form, and associated with positive or negative energy -- speeches, laws and regulations; social agreements around money, sexuality, role and status; value. And most obviously, images, novels, poetry; music. Even the simplest transaction between strangers, a word or a look or a tone of voice, carries some form of energy.

Following that perspective, the world might be viewed as the collective energy in all ideas, actions and objects in it at any given moment. In that view, reality is defined by what we as individuals and as a species put into it.

When a playlist of music you're listening to on Soundcloud runs out, an algorithm in the service continues providing a shuffle of tunes with similar themes or instrumentation. In that way, I found myself listening to a melody composed by Charlie Chaplin for his film, A King In New York (if you use Soundcloud, search on "Charlie Chaplin Filmmusic - Mandolin Serenade").

That brought up a stream of images of Chaplin that I carry around in long-term memory -- mostly, his iconic 'Little Tramp' character. His acting and films were so influential that for generations almost any adult, nearly anywhere in the world, might see a drawing of a figure with a postage-stamp moustache, wearing a bowler hat, and say, "Oh, that's Chaplin!" and smile.

Early Little Tramp: Mack Sennett's Caught In The Rain, 1914

Chaplin started as a 24-year-old immigrant from Britain, a contract actor for Mack Sennett's film company in 1914 (the photo at the top of the post; he looked like almost any Dude you might pass on the street today). His Little Tramp routine caught Sennett's eye -- initially a burlesque on an "affable drunkard", a bit loutish and inconsiderate and sloppily boozed. Chaplin's humor was physical, perfect for the trademark slapstick of Sennett's short films, and his comic timing was amazing.

Within four years, Chaplin had refined the Tramp into a more sober, sharper, plucky 'Everyman'. The Tramp became one of Sennett's most popular short-film characters -- and whenever a new Chaplin 'flick appeared in local movie-houses, people paid to see him. Lots of people: Chaplin 'packed them in'.

Kid Auto Races, Venice, California (1914); Chaplin's First Film Appearance
As The Tramp, Then Still The Affable Drunk

Like any artist, Chaplin was all about having as much creative control as possible; eventually, he convinced Sennett he could create better films (with the Tramp, of course) for Sennett's company. When a better financial and creative deal became available with another studio, Chaplin jumped at the chance -- and within four years of landing in America, by 1918, Chaplin was one of the most popular 'stars' in moving pictures, and possibly the most highly paid.

In the years immediately after the First World War, he became a founding partner of United Artists, a film company founded to allow film 'artists' more freedom to experiment with the medium, in contrast to what was becoming a Hollywood studio system. UA allowed Chaplin the control he wanted over his work, and in less than a decade he had created some of the best  American silent films (arguably, some of the best motion pictures) ever made: The Kid, "The Gold Rush"; "The Circus"; "A Dog's Life", and Pay Day, to name a few.

Arguing With The Boss: Pay Day (1922)

Sound motion pictures appeared in 1927. Four years later, Chaplin released City Lights, a film without dialog, only a music soundtrack he had composed, after Talkies had all but buried silent films. He continued in 1936 with another classic, Modern Times, again accompanied only by a soundtrack of Chaplin's music. As an art form, it wouldn't be used again for forty years, until Mel Brooks' Silent Movie.

The western press mocked Hitler in his early days as dictator by referring to him as "the politician with the Chaplin moustache". True to form, Charlie used the humor in that comparison to create a parody of Adolf and his Reich in The Great Dictator (released in 1940) not long after the Second World War began. After 1945, Chaplin made only four other films: "Monsieur Verdoux" (1947), Limelight (1952); "A King In New York" (1957), and A Countess From Hong Kong (1967).

Chaplin's work showcased poor and working people in the early Twentieth century, easily shoved about by authority and manipulated by wealth. His films made clear he was no fan of unbridled capitalism, industrialism or the dehumanizing, assembly-line exploitation of labor. In 1947, when  anti-communist hysteria spawned House Un-American Activities Committee investigations of Red influence in Hollywood, Chaplin was tailor-made to become a target. It didn't help that he had unwittingly made an enemy out of J.Edgar Hoover, whom Chaplin had met in the mid 1920's.

Gossip about Chaplin as a wealthy actor and director involved him and young women under the age of consent -- of his four wives, two were sixteen, and another eighteen, when they married. His Leftist, anti-authoritarian political views were clear. Hoover's Bureau collected gossip (and any information in an FBI file must be legitimate) on thousands of Americans, which Hoover was happy to use for personal and political ends during his 70-year reign.

To Hoover, Chaplin was just another foreign national -- and a Jew, Hoover believed -- with loose morals and radical political sympathies, forcing radical propaganda down the throats of innocent Americans through his films. His interest in Chaplin nearly amounted to obsession: the actor / director was a target of FBI surveillance from the mid-1920's until his death in 1977, and his FBI file may be the largest publicly known (over 2,000 pages) of any prominent public figure in the agency's archives.

As Chaplin left the U.S. in 1952 to attend the London premiere of his film, Limelight, the Justice Department revoked the re-entry permit on his resident alien visa. To be allowed to return, he would have to "submit to an interview concerning his political views and moral behavior". Hoover was behind the move; he had asked England's own Bureau, MI-5, to provide confirmation of Chaplin's communist connections, and for proof that his real name was 'Israel Thornstein'. MI-5 found no proof that Chaplin was a Red, and didn't respond to Hoover's antisemitism.

The FBI's files on Chaplin, released under Freedom Of Information Act requests, show the U.S. government had no serious evidence to prevent his return to America if he had applied for re-entry. While Limelight received praise and success in Europe, Chaplin was smeared as a communist sympathizer in the U.S., and the film boycotted. Frightened and disgusted, after living and working in America for thirty years Chaplin decided not to go back.

... and he didn't, until in 1972 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (which had done little to stand up to Hoover, McCarthy or the HUAC) tried to make amends by voting to award a Lifetime Achievement Oscar to Chaplin "for the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of [the 20th] century."

At 83, having had a series of small strokes and other health issues, unsure how he would be received in a country he believed had rejected and then forgotten him and his work, Chaplin came to Hollywood and was visibly moved when the attending crowd gave him a twelve-minute standing ovation -- the longest tribute of that kind by the Academy in its history.

Easy Street, 1917

Chaplin's Tramp, and other main characters in his films, were ordinary 'folks' -- mostly poor, or at the mercy of Fate and Chance. The world of his films was familiar to the people who could find a nickle to see them, and populated by easily-recognizable archetypes: regular, working-class Joes and Janes; office workers; the bullies and bosses; streetwise kids, shopkeepers and beat cops.

The Tramp -- at the bottom of the social ladder -- had to make a tremendous effort to overcome his circumstances, just to achieve some happiness or justice. He hoped for something better than what he had. And, the stories in Chaplin's movies were transformational, where that Good Ending comes about by helping an Other -- the Girl; the Child; the Friend.

The Kid, 1921

In The Kid, the Tramp finds and raises a little orphaned boy -- whom he had initially wanted nothing to do with -- then rescues him from the clutches of a brutal County Orphan Commissioner, using the Tramp's poverty as the excuse to take the child away. You know when he embraces the boy that the Tramp loves him, will protect and care for the Kid as if he were his own. They're still dirt poor, but the little boy is safe -- and in a world where anything can happen, that's the point. It's everything.

City Lights (1931)

In City Lights, possibly Chaplin's best film (it was his favorite work), the Tramp is poor and homeless, ignored by most people, teased by a pair of wiseass newsboys -- but meets, becomes friends with (and almost immediately falls for) a beautiful blind girl, reduced to selling flowers on the street to help support herself and her grandmother. Whenever they meet, she gives him a small, white rose.

When he speaks, she mistakes his voice for that of a wealthy millionaire she's heard in the neighborhood where she sells her flowers, and (more out of embarrassment than some attempt to impress her) the Tramp allows her to believe it's true.

Later, when the Girl falls ill, the Tramp learns she might recover her sight -- but only through an expensive medical procedure. He works to save the money; after more plot twists, the operation is paid for and a success. Her vision restored, the Girl is able to open a flower shop with her grandma -- where she hopes the 'wealthy millionaire' who helped her will appear one day and sweep her off her feet.

Meanwhile, The Tramp, having been tossed in jail after the usual comic misunderstandings, is now even shabbier than when we first met him -- 1930-31 was the worst year of the Great Depression in the U.S. He shuffles along the street, mocked and teased by the same pair of newsboys. Suddenly, the Tramp sees a small white rose in the gutter and picks it up -- the same flower the blind Girl used to give him. He turns, and is standing in front of the Girl's flower shop; she's sitting inside, and has been watching the antics of the newsboys with -- this street person; she and her grandmother think it's funny.

When he sees her, The Tramp is overjoyed; she's whole and healthy, but suddenly he's ashamed: she's now a respectable shop owner, and he's not.

The Last Scene Of City Lights; Critic James Agee Described It As
"The greatest piece of acting ever committed to celluloid"

The flower he'd picked up in the gutter is losing its petals; the Girl comes out of the shop to offer him a new rose, and a half-dollar. When he carefully accepts the flower, she takes his hand to give him the money -- and from the feel of his hand, the texture of his coat, all familiar to her when she was blind -- suddenly she realizes who he is. "You?" she asks; the Tramp nods. "You can see now?" he asks; she replies, "I can see now" -- but means: it wasn't a wealthy man she had been waiting for, but the one with a heart, who helped her.

As he looks back at The Girl, the Tramp smiles. In his expression is every person who ever hoped for good luck in a hard world, a chance to care deeply about someone and have them care about you -- and barely able to believe, after everything, that it's come true. The screen fades to black.

We can't know the sum of the actions of Chaplin, the man. We do know more about the effect of his artistic output on the world -- and it's much greater than "making motion pictures the art form of the [Twentieth] century".

From the perspective of the world being the sum of what is put into it -- even though they drew on earlier forms of storytelling, Chaplin's movies helped define what the motion picture medium could be. His films were moral, in the same way as Dickens' serialized novels: they showcased human folly and the absurd nature of life; they reminded us how we ought to treat each other. How our societies should reflect that, not just to serve as vehicles for commerce and acquisition, avarice, and domination.

Chaplin's films weren't meant to portray a perfect world, no matter that some of their plot resolutions might seem like fairy-tale-magic. They presented hopes human beings have for how life might be, how things might turn out if the Fates were kind -- and that on occasion, our hopes can be made concrete and real, in this world. His movies affected people, first; he made us laugh. He still does.

In These Times, it might seem that Chaplin's work is outdated, less recognizable, but something tells me that's not the case: Chaplin is still iconic. And if we have an opportunity to add to the world even a fraction of what he left behind in his art, we'll have done something important -- if only because we need so much more of that now.

MEHR, Mit einer offensichtlichen Sache, die ich vermisst habe:  I was adding this 'Mehr', when something happened, and the entire post was deleted. No hope of recovery. Just - gone. It was like hiking for miles to get to the truck to take you home, and it just pulls away; you're eating dust, screaming at the top of your lungs, and know nothing can help. 

JEDOCH, Es Ist So: The post was open in the browser on my smarter-than-me phone -- and if I wanted to Man Up and transcribe retype it, from scratch, it would be remade.  

UND So Wurde Es Gemacht War: But Dear Fucking God Jesus and the Yeti, I never want to go through that again.

UND SO WEITER: The Girl Who Refused To Be Mrs Mongo said, "You write about Chaplin and his politics, and you miss the final speech from The Great Dictator? Shame!"


Thursday, February 14, 2019

The 51st State Of Emergency

Follows Your 19th Nervous Breakdown

(BREAKING - Washington DC / Cheese Star):  Large numbers of Polar Bears have spontaneously appeared in and around the grounds of the famed Whitey Haus somewhere in Washington D.C., acting grumpy, and herding groups of foreign tourists into unsightly clumps to relieve them of their dignity and power bars.

American Leader has declared a State of Emergency now exists in all of the United States to combat the threat, corporeal and existential, made "against all Americans by these -- vicious creatures. No, not Nancy Pelosi; not Nancy. But bad, vicious -- nasty bears. And I would say -- nasty."

"Amrica needs a beautiful wall," said The Leader. "to protect us from being pushed around by these big bears. Democrats don't care about the bears. They won't pay to make people safe from bears. So I say, Emergency! And I say, what I'm saying -- no bears. That's what this is; safe -- no bears."
  • The Emergency provides The Leader with extraordinary and plenipotentiary powers, which include kung-fu, Right-Wing Chicken Filet, " That Lovin' Feelin' ", and huge swathes of uncured triathlon cotton candy -- all while wearing a long, black cashmere-wool blend topcoat. The Leader will be swaddled and clear as he directs military forces to stem tides, engage in floral displays before the astonished and helpless (who are of course easily impressed), and receive outpourings of love and adulation and attention, and more attention, and spontaneous avalanches of unending applause.
  • Dusk-To-Dawn Curfews are expected in every American city and town. No one will be allowed after the preset times.
  • Mandatory rationing will be enforced; supermarkets will be closed for 48 hours so that Our Betters may remove whatever food they want. Any which is left over (primarily cocktail olives and products past their expiration dates) will be distributed by pastors to flocks, safely grazed by rubber bullets, on the basis of their ability to reflect holy goodness. 
  • Banks will also be closed, in order to allow Your Civic Leaders to "count, touch and cavort" with available currency. Money after the closure is expected to smell funny, and give its users an unhealable rash, but will be perfectly legal and tender when served.
Leader has gone away from the Whitey Haus and is Down In The South, relaxing at his vast estate, More Lego. Because the Leader cares, and works very hard, for you; it's all for you.

To get Straight Poop about this vicious emergency, listen to COLONEL RAD by tuning to 640 on your AM dial, or 1260 on your FM dial. You will also be responsible for hearing the Mandatory News, as read by Deputy Leader Pence and His Tower Of Power, 60-Voice Gospeltime Truth Light Goldfish Choir.

Here in an easy-to-read format you will learn many useful tips about saving vegetables, auto sealants, and which sides of the street are Color-Safe for persons of your class to cross or walk upon in these designated Times.

Coming Soon: New Identity Passes which will name you. All Power To The Leader!

The Leader, In His True Visage, Hunts Prey By Tempting It With Treats-On-A-Stick
While Vacationing After Emergency Creation Of Emergency

MEHR, MIT IMMER MEHR:  In his EMERGENCY! speech, The Leader said, "Obama put more debt on this country than every president in the history of our country combined." 

Leader was telling a little fib when he said this. But he's a Big Fibber, and will soon be shamed by the Chicken on national teevee. 

But, it's all okay, because everything about Amrica just keeps getting bigger and bigger! Yay!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Reprint Heaven: The Collect Call Of Chtulu

When Your Border Wall's Lost In The Rain In Juarez

(And as more Democrantic candydates appear, it's helpful to use the Wayback Machine to gain perspective -- and so there's this, from July 2016.)

One of the unspoken Intertube traditions (which we recognize, as we do All Intertube Traditions) is, Never Blog After An, uh, 'Social Call'.  In other words, Don't Drink and Blog.

Blogs (so it is said) should be for sober reflection and analysis, if you want people (for example, the three persons and the Superintelligent Parakeet who read this blog) to take you seriously. Well; fuck that; let's push on.

When the Brexit was a Day One news item, the English-language European and American mainstream media characterized 'Leave' voters as resembling the 'National Front' types I once encountered in London in the late 70's -- racist, nationalistic troglodytes -- as if the only motivation for wanting to leave the EU could be the potential for a sudden influx of Middle Eastern refugees.

Even today, pundits on some very nice soapboxes are still saying the Brexit is the last gasp of White Britain, the Last Hurrah of a Failed Empire, brought about by political Neanderthals, doomed to extinction by the forward march of Progress.

Progress, For Them: More Exclusive Resort Locales

Maybe. But after you pare away the Raving Loonies, those focused on keeping out 'the Darks', the "Little Englanders" -- the Vote became a rejection of the elitist-sponsored inequality being brought to you under the label of Globalism.

Before 2008 (and even for a time after), anyone claiming that the world was being structured for the benefit of the few at the expense of everyone else -- that it was an organized effort -- would have been marginalized, derided as part of the Tinfoil Hat crowd, a Loony Liberal (or, worse, Communist) and effectively ignored: Yeah; go stand over there, with the 9-11 guys and David Ickes with his nine-foot reptilian Overlords, and the anti-Semites.

The MSM have repeatedly described The 2008 Crash as an 'excess of the financial community' -- an aberration, something out of the ordinary. Like many others, I watch the monthly U.S. employment figures and CPI, and the gyrations of the global Market in an attempt to read the tea leaves... but all that is part of everyone's post-Crash focus: Are we 'getting back to normal'? 

The fix of The Crash was to bail out the institutions and individuals who caused it. After a while, no one in the MSM seemed to pay much attention to the fact that All Of Us had paid to bail out corporate banks, to underwrite their private insolvency with public loans. Because they were Too Big To Fail. Because Freedom.
"[There was] a contract that said, if you work hard, if you essentially are a good citizen, there will be a place for you, not only an economic place, you will have a secure life, your kids will have a chance to have a better life, but you will sort of be recognized as part of the national fabric."

The ... American institutions that underpinned this contract including locally-owned businesses, unions, and public schools. ... the void left by the decline of these institutions was filled by the default force in American life, organized money.
-- Wikipedia Entry (Paraphrased), "The Unwinding", George Packer (2013)
And in the eight years since Der Untergang, there has been a resulting massive shift in American society (and in global institutions) which we haven't come to terms with -- primarily because humans always seek a stable local reality, and will ignore a ton of shit if it means they're "getting by".  Meanwhile, over 90% of income increases since 2008 have gone to a fraction of our population; trillions in wealth have been transferred from the majority to that tiny, useless minority.  And it is not coming back.

Not everyone can march in the streets, but it's still relatively safe to cast an anonymous vote -- ergo, Bernie's popularity in America, and Trumpo's. And the Brexit vote. They're bellwethers of what's going on in the hearts of The People, things that can't necessarily be bought or manipulated by Kochbrudern money, or Little Rupert's 24X7 sewage operation.

Mister, Jones

Everyone I know has the sense (and has had it, since the shark-feeding-frenzy Verrüktzeit preceding The Crash) that we're rocketing towards an unknown singularity. It may crush us flat, as we travel an Einstein-Rosen Bridge of history, before being blown out into the future. 

Some kind of change is coming; the bellwethers are all around us: For decades, art and film have presented stories set after some unimaginable crash / alien incursion / pandemic / Zombie apocalypse / fascist revolution.  In real life, politics has devolved into populism on the Left and faux-populism on the altRight, while Business As Usual (personified by Herr Obama and Hillary The Inevitable !) still runs the show. The Usual Suspects still own the circus. The future is set because they wish it.

It is a sham and all of us know. So in November, just three people will come out to vote. One will cast a ballot for a glorious return of Clintonia; one will vote for the return of The Good Ole Daze. One will arrive to vote for Ralph Nader, but is nearsighted and so votes for Her Majesty in error. And so Cruella Deville will be Our Leader. Or will she?  Such a cliffhanger !
One of my Hillaryite Colleagues is nervous again, stunned by Hillary's plummeting polls since Comey justly called her a serial liar and regal jackass with neither interest in or competence for following rules mere mortals must. He's leading in Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida, HC said. O look, I said, pointing to the big screen in the Student Union, a truck plowed into a Bastille Day crowd in France. HC said, this is nuts. Students rushed through the Student Union holding cell phones in front of their faces, screaming at each other like battle bugles. It's dress rehearsal, I said.
--  Soul Of America, "And We Should Dance"
No one know what's going to happen, and no one knows the Form Of The Destructor. The only  takeaway we have is a gnawing foreboding. We sense there is an iceberg, dead ahead, a banana peel or large clump of animal feces on the sidewalk in the dark. But we can't discern it's exact shape -- Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is; do you, Mr. Jones. 

All I can do is pay attention to other observers on the Net who are much better at a broader analysis than this humble Dog correspondent. And to join the Greek chorus of those who pass along their observations so that we all too, also, might benefit.

The old world is discombobulating right in front of our eyes. Keep looking, and don't turn away.
In Britain as well as America... The triumph of Margaret Thatcher in the 1978 general election had the same role there as Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980 did over here: a new, more aggressive conservatism took up the Left’s rhetoric of class warfare with a vengeance and inverted it, ushering in an era in which the rich rebelled against the poor.

The Labour Party under Tony Blair... responded [in] the same way [as the Democratic party] did under Bill Clinton: both ... dropped their previous commitments to the working class and the poor, and focused instead on issues that appealed to affluent liberals.  They gambled that the working class and the poor would keep voting for them out of ... misplaced loyalty—and over the short term, that gamble paid off.

The result in both countries was a political climate in which the only policies up for discussion were those that favored the interests of the affluent at the expense of the working classes and the poor [Emphasis added]. That point has been muddied so often, and in so many highly imaginative ways, that it’s probably necessary to detail it here.
 Progress, For You: The Decline (The Tenderloin; San Francisco CA)
Rising real estate prices, for example, benefit those who own real estate, since their properties end up worth more, but it penalizes those who must rent their homes, since they have to pay more of their income for rent. Similarly, cutting social-welfare benefits for the disabled favors those who pay taxes at the expense of those who need those benefits to survive.
In the same way, encouraging unrestricted immigration into a country that already has millions of people permanently out of work, and encouraging the offshoring of industrial jobs so that the jobless are left to compete for an ever-shrinking pool of jobs, benefit the affluent at the expense of everyone else.
The law of supply and demand applies to labor just as it does to everything else:  increase the supply of workers and decrease the demand for their services, and wages will be driven down. The affluent benefit from this, since they pay less ... but the working poor and the jobless are harmed ... since they receive less income if they can find jobs at all.

It’s standard for this straightforward logic to be obfuscated by claims that immigration benefits the economy as a whole—but who receives the bulk of the benefits, and who carries most of the costs?  That’s not something anybody in British or American public life has been willing to discuss for the last thirty years. 
-- John Michael Greer, Archdruid Report
The Benefits Of Globalism: Obligatory Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Thing
Cameron’s risky bet to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership has backfired disastrously. The unexpected victory for the leave camp has shaken both Unions to their very core, dividing left and right on either side of the Channel ...
 Yet the unspeakable truth is that, at a deeper level, the [Brexit vote] ... has [to do] with ... the widening gulf between political elites and European citizens more generally. While racism and anti-immigrant sentiment have been central to the leave campaign from the very start, it is difficult to believe that all 52 percent of Britons who voted leave are committed fascists.

Many of these people are ordinary working class folks who are simply fed up with the erosion of their living standards, the disintegration of their communities, the lack of responsiveness of their political representatives, and the unaccountable technocracy that has “taken control” over their lives. Brexit was first and foremost a political statement by the dispossessed and disempowered.

... Ultimately, the British vote to leave the EU, whether it eventually materializes or not (and there is no guarantee that it will), is symptomatic of ... a structural crisis of democratic capitalism, that has in recent years evolved from a global financial crisis into a deepening legitimation crisis of the political establishment, which is now in turn exploding into a full-blown crisis of governability of the existing social and political order...

-- ROAR Magazine; Jerome Roos, editor: "#Brexit Confirms: The Neoliberal Center Cannot Hold"
... the Founders distrusted popular government for the simple, unassailable reason that the American people are drawn ineluctably to raving bigots and would-be totalitarians. Who are these unhinged, pitchfork-wielding yahoos, now rudely demanding their moment of reckoning at the expense of the institutions erected to discipline them?
-- "The Political Class Struggles", Chris Lehman, 'The Baffler'
For Us:  Eight Nine More Years; Business As Usual. With Occasional Botox.
Hillary really seems to believe that her victory is enough of a consolation prize to negate our miseries. Sadly, there are enough people who agree that she'll never disabuse herself or her notion. If she loses, she'll blame us. We'll have deprived ourselves of the joy of witnessing her happiness.
-- :p, Airport through the Trees

MEHR, MIT:  There is also, too, this from Something You Should Read (emphasis added):
The greatest trick the Republicans ever performed was dragging America’s political spectrum so far right of center that the Democrats caved and became center-right corporatist shills ... a horrendous compromise between anti-war, anti-poverty, anti-racist idealists who believe in building a better America, and the well-to-do status quo defending blowhards who think buying a Beyonce album on iTunes is somehow proof you believe Black Lives Matter.

Essentially, those who understand our current politics are infested with a rot that spread misery and poverty, and “free market” neoliberals who cloak their faith in the current system with a sick and twisted perversion of “Identity Politics.” They seek nothing more than a more diverse oligarchy to rule over the poor and the disadvantaged, they think they can weaponize poverty to punish and silence white racism. 
They’ll call illegal drone strikes a “white issue,” they’ll defend an infinitely rich and powerful white woman’s vocal support of an illegal war that has murdered hundreds of thousands if not millions. They’ll support a “sit-in” to create policy around a Bush-era terrorist watchlist to strip rights from Muslims. All of this is so far detached from anything a “Left” would ever stand for. ...

Let me make it clear ... you were an outspoken supporter of a Liberal White Supremacy that infests our current political class. One that pretends a black President is somehow a victory while the wealth gap between white and black families has only grown under his reign. One that believes Silicon Valley can somehow end racism through apps. One that pretends Edward Snowden is somehow a traitor, while a Secretary of State running a private email server to hide from public accountability and FOIA requests is somehow woke feminist labor. One that pretends Hillary only voted for the Iraq War because doing otherwise would be “political suicide.” One that pretends claiming poverty while having a luxurious AirBNB in a developing nation is not grossly inappropriate. One that thinks a vote for an infinitely rich and powerful white woman whose incompetence has had grave consequences for poor Muslim women overseas is somehow a meaningful victory for feminism....

Vote for Hillary all you want. However, wrapping it up in a triumphant narrative of identity politics and social justice when the only success is more dead innocent Muslims overseas — for no fucking reason — I mean the drone assassination program Hillary Clinton oversaw as Secretary of State had a fucking 90% failure rate— is nothing short of absolute vulgarity.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Steak Of The Union

Eat Up And Leave, You Hoser
The Leader Speaks:  Sleep, America.  Sleep.

Tuesday night, The Leader delivered a rambling STFU address, written by committee (as these speeches are), only this one done more so and badly. He was pathetic; the script execrable, and it met the low expectations of nearly the entire national punditi class -- some of whom whom had said that the address would look and sound as if it had been slopped together by a Primary School.

(I'd thought of liveblogging the event [Archives are proof, I've done it before], but it would have been like channeling The Leader's twitfeed; like repeating a giant informercial for America™ Trump Timeshares. Couldn't stomach the notion; so, uh-uh.)

Everyone heard a Reagan-era speech, built around references to an illusion of America which never was. Old-line Republicans like baseless appeals to patriotism ("Why? Because Freedom!"). Reagan's description of a "shining city on a hill" was outdated when he spoke the words, and is stupefyingly illogical to use any similar metaphor 35 years later.

(Not surprisingly, the "shining city" reference Reagan's speechwriters chose was drawn from a Puritan -- John Winthrop, who lead the Massachusetts Bay colonists from England in 1630. America, and the rest of the planet, continue to suffer the echoes of the Puritans' world view [principally its justification for class stratification, misogyny, and exploitation], as it shaped the cold-blooded and self-justifying behavior of America's hereditary upper class -- and all its institutions, which it does to this day.)

The Leader's speech asked Americans to focus on an illusion that past great deeds equal what we are today. It was a ninety-minute exercise in ignoring every major challenge we're currently facing as a nation or as a species -- but the speech implied that America's worst problems seem to be the political Left, and murderous Brown People From The South.

It was a speech appropriate for the Des Moines Chamber of Commerce in 1919, but not a Joint Session of Congress in Washington D.C., and for the rest of the world, in 2019.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Rant

Ironically, a speech invoking the great deeds of America's past was being delivered by a mediocre, populist grifter -- the sort of person who always seems to show up just as Empires begin to fade. The Leader's hair appeared a darker and more uniform yellow (a few days before it had been almost whitish); otherwise, he appeared the same bloated caricature, a man who personifies every prejudiced, misogynistic and ignorant aspect of our culture. And he claims to speak for all of us.

The Leader looked and sounded conspicuously unprepared to give a milestone speech -- as if he didn't have to be. He is Trump, The Magnificent, and can Wing It anywhere if he wants; fuck that Gravitas crap.  His delivery was halting, choppy, always changing tempo, as if reading something off the teleprompter for the first time, unsure what was coming next.

His delivery, like his entire presidency to date, was substandard and extemporaneous, painfully embarrassing to watch. The only thing we could be sure of : everything in the speech was written to focus on him. It would all be about him. It's all he knows or understands.

And for once, he'd be right. Just as the mid-terms were partly a referendum on Trump the man and The Leader, this State Of The Union speech would show whether he had listened to the message those midterms delivered. Or, whether he was going to shove his tiny manhood into the collective face of America while screaming fuck youuuuuuu!! As he does so often. 

I suspect The Leader believed this speech would be a Great Political Moment for him -- but as we observed, his Personal Best was the functional equivalent of licking his crotch in public while on international live television (Hey; as a Dog, I know about this).

Additional Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photos In Middle Of Blog Thing 
Think: You Never See The Two Of Them In The Same Room.

The speech began with I Make A Mock Appeal To Bipartisanship, leading to I Am Responsible For A Wonderful Economy Which Benefits Working Americans Most. Then came My Tax Cut Benefited Working Americans Most; and then But There Is More We Together Must Do.

This was followed by We Could Accomplish More, But For Partisan Investigations.  Then, as we knew it would, came I Will Have A Wall / A Wall  / A Wall Wall Wall -- which tumbled abruptly into his introducing relatives of an elderly couple, apparently killed in Nevada literally days ago by undocumented alien Brown persons. Fear The Caravans! FEAR THEM! More Soldiers To The Border!

Well -- it was obvious we could go here, so we went.

Cynically, I had to ask myself: not to trivialize their loss -- but why would grieving relatives, whose loved ones (so said The Leader) had been killed days before, want to sit in the public gallery of the Capitol on display before international teevee? Is their love for The Leader that great? How do they feel about his Brutal Whiteman Daddy vision of the future? Or, were they chosen as representatives of The Base, to be seen as guest stars in the reality teevee show, Trump's America™ ?

Eventually, the speech wandered into I Say To You We Must End AIDS In America, and too, also We Must End The Scourge Of Child Cancer.  The Leader stumbled with the word "scourge"; but who could argue with either idea? Which was, of course, the point. The Leader is Compassionate. He feels for ordinary faceless peasant Americans like you. Really. No, really.

Finally came A Nod To Evangelicals That Soon, By My Bounty, Shall They Have A Late-Term Abortion Ban, surely the first of many Wonderful Things. And as the room erupted in Republican applause and cheers, TeeVee cameras showed Misters Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, sitting side by side, looking up intently, respectfully, at The Leader.

(That's called "Foreshadowing" -- the hallmark of quality reality teevee entertainment, like the program our planet has been forced to live in).

And sprinkled like raisins through the suet pudding of this event, The Leader directed his audience to Look! Look Up There! It's [A Grieving Family]  [A Sick Child]  [Old Soldier]  [Astronaut]  [Holocaust Survivor]  [Police Man]  [Trophy Wife]!

It went on, and on, and on. And after more and more and more, The Leader finally said Gobblezyou gobblezmurrika G'nite.

G'nite.  You can, of course, sleep on.  I suggest waking up as fast as you can.


Holy Mother Of God.  Fortunately, only a car part; but, still: Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck.

It's been almost fifty years since anyone has fired a weapon at me, and while there was context for it at the time ("Since you are here, people will try to fuck with your basic existence"), the fact of guns and that humans use them at all leaves me speechless.