Friday, June 14, 2019

Reprint Heaven: I Gots Me Dem Pre-War Blues

From My Head Down To My Shoes

Life in Kiddietown continues, though there might be an Economic Downturn on the way which could put a crimp in some of that fun. Meanwhile, we have lots of shiny new millionaires here -- and The Rest Of Us better be ready to make them feel special!

But don't worry -- there might be a shiny new war coming, which will make everyone stop thinking about all that tiresome nonsense from the Left -- you know, climate disintegration (oooh! Scary!) and inequality (ah; please) and Socialism (Bernie sure is old, isn't he?).  And all that crazy crazy about Russia; that's so 2016.  You won't be thinkin' about that Impeachment after the first big cyberattack!

And do we really need an election, anyway? Having that war would sure be a good reason not to spend all that money and time on something that just makes people feel bad and angry. With a new War, we all have to be united. Be a "Do Rag", not a "Don't Rag"!  You'll need to stand behind our troops -- which should be easy, because many of them may be deployed in our towns and cities. They'll be right there, on our streetcorners! USA !!  USA !!

Yes, a war would sure make all those hateful girlz just shut right up. And after our Leaders execute that State O' Emergency they've been dreaming about, they'll have some fancy new red dresses and white bonnets for those uppity girlz; boy Howdy, will they ever.

Meanwhile -- it's Par-Tay Time! Lots of fun! There's always a Big Game on teevee!! Enjoy these hateful and mean-spirited graphics from that awful Dog, living on Left Coast America in the place that is One Big Campus, and One Big Dorm.

Click on pictures to enlarge -- Easy! Fun! And enjoy them, while you can. All Praise To The Leader!




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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Random Barking: News On The March


Despicable

Robert Mueller hadn't even stepped from the podium before The Murdoch manure machine began doing all it ever can do (via Media Matters):
STUART VARNEY (HOST): My judgment is it was a neutral statement. What do you say?  
PETE HEGSETH (FOX NEWS HOST): I think you're right. I mean, we saw the definitive end of the Mueller report. If you're looking for more, you're looking in the wrong place. And he made that very clear. But I think both sides are going to take what they want from this statement. You're going to have the president rightfully saying no collusion, no obstruction, I'm exonerated, let's move on. The coded language in the second part though, I think is what Democrats are going to seize on, which is department policy is such that we're not able to charge a sitting president with obstruction, therefore, we didn't. He didn't say he didn't obstruct. He said we're not -- it would be unfair to bring charges against a sitting president where there's no place to adjudicate it. So I think that's what you'll see on late night television, on the other networks obsessing over the fact Bob Mueller's hands were tied by the Trump Justice Department and therefore, he didn't bring obstruction charges. But I think the bigger narrative will be the president can go to the voters, which will be the ultimate decision on this in 2020, and say they dragged me through the mud for two and a half years, I was exonerated, let's do something big with the next four years.
ELIZABETH MACDONALD (FOX BUSINESS HOST): Not full exonerated, just not enough evidence --- 
HEGSETH: That's what he'll say.
MACDONALD: Not enough evidence to prosecute a crime. That's what Mueller is just now saying.
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Division

Digby reprinted an article by Ronald Brownstein of CNN:
Even amid record-low unemployment, robust economic growth and a roaring stock market, President Donald Trump has shown no signs of expanding his support beyond the roughly 46% of the vote that he carried in 2016.
National surveys now routinely find a huge falloff between ... Americans satisfied with the economy and the percentage that approve of Trump's performance as President… attitudes about the economy were much less powerful in driving voters' decisions in 2016 and 2018 than their views about fundamental cultural and social changes, particularly race relations and shifting gender roles.
Each of these dynamics underscores how the economy's role in politics may be shifting as the basis of each party's political coalition has evolved.  Increasingly, the parties are bound together less by class than by culture.
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Dysfunction

A Guardian column by Aditya Chakrabortty notes the basic crises which triggered a vote for Brexit in Britain haven't even been admitted to, let alone addressed, by politicians who 'split the difference' in compromises that benefit the Owner Class, and continue to erode public trust in the ability of traditional political parties to represent the interests of The People.

While Chakrabortty doesn't say it, that discontent with "business as usual" politics (reflected in the UK's 2016 Brexit vote and last weekend's victory of Nigel Farage's one-trick-pony Brexit Party in the EU parliamentary elections) is mirrored in other European countries, and in the U.S.  
[The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michael Barnier, noted] "The UK is in ...a very serious crisis [which] isn’t linked to ... Brexit ... It’s a much deeper crisis. An existential crisis"...
...[Current conditions in Britain which led to Brexit were the result of] Thatcherism, in all its cold, stiff, failed ugliness. And the problem there is that the Thatcher experiment has pretty much failed. Four decades after she took power, 38% of working-age households now take more from the state in benefits, health and education than they pay back in taxes. Wealth in Britain is so concentrated that the head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies believes “inheritance is probably the most crucial factor in determining a person’s overall wealth since Victorian times”…
[Brazillian philosopher and Harvard professor Roberto Unger observes] “If you leave the EU, you do so to become something else. But you don’t appear to know what you want to become... European politicians, whether centre-left or centre-right, are so used to the politics of splitting the difference. They are incapable of facing up to fundamental problems... and that leaves a vast vacuum to be filled by any passing nationalist populism."
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Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Thing

Determinism

Via the Soul of America, a review of four books about That Thing Called Democracy which our political system serves us, really is the end of the American Dream -- the myth of consumer riches and The Good Life, or 'Why We Fought WWII and The Cold War": 
... Trump is “not an anomalous departure but rather a return to the historical norm.” Trump exposes starkly what the civility of Obama and his administration obscured -- the subordination of American democracy to capitalism, patriarchy, and the iniquitous racial order descended from slavery...
...democracy is threatened by two types of deterministic worldview ... “inevitability” and “eternity.” The first is the determinism of the “end of history” and modernization theory, which declares that “there is no alternative” to liberal democracy. This, broadly speaking, is the worldview of the liberal elite in the West ... 
The disappointments and resistance that their top-down programs of modernization engender give rise... not to a genuine popular reaction, but to a second type of elite mythmaking, in the form of “eternity politics,” or mythic nationalism.
Whereas modernizers promise a better future for everyone as long as we all follow the one best path, mythic nationalism “places one nation at the center of a cyclical story of victimhood.” Against the dark backdrop of a world of threats, the governing elite promises not progress but protection.
Our current situation... has been shaped by the wild oscillation between the determinism of modernization theory, and the determinism of nationalism. Both foreclose any real debate and all practical alternatives. They are both inimical to genuine democracy. One licenses domineering technocracy; the other, cruder forms of authoritarianism.
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Disproportion

A Mandos Post at IanWelsh dot net; what he's saying is don't underestimate the effect of large numbers of liberal voters who just want Everything To Go Back To What It Was:
Take a look at Joe Biden—he appears to have, for now at least, considerable staying power in the Democratic primary opinion polls ... If your model of political psychology can predict a strong core of popular support for Trump without also predicting a strong core of party grassroots support for Biden, you should really rethink it from the ground up.  For a core of US voters, the presence of Trump in the White House is an unprecedented emergency and an enormous support of anxiety and real, day-to-day stress.
You can call it Trump Derangement Syndrome or whatever, but the feeling is there, and implicit in this feeling is that Trump is an anomaly, a hiatus in the proper march of American institutions [emphasis added; see 'Determinism', above], that should by rights have gone to Clinton, and if not, to one of Trump’s Republican primary competitors.
 And the advantage of Biden, from this perspective, is precisely that Biden presents an opportunity to force the recalcitrant portions of the Democratic party and, yes, the American left insofar as it plays electoral politics, to choose explicitly once again whether it will acknowledge and ratify that feeling, or whether it will die on a hill of particular material policies to the neglect of vital institutional decorum.
But for many left-wingers, it seems that even to admit that this is the dynamic is too much to bear. It requires admitting that the Neera Tandens of the world do not merely represent a type of think tank class traitors in cahoots with the rich, but they are actually the genuine grassroots representatives of a large portion of American society, large enough to make a big difference as to who will win the primary and the presidency.
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Disintegration 

The Great Curmudgeon quotes Greg Sargent in the WaPo:
And Democrats should be aware of the risks that dithering poses to public understanding. One side’s willingness to engage in full-saturation propaganda casting the investigation itself as the real crime -- disinformation designed to blot out shared agreement on the most basic facts about what just happened before all of our very eyes -- now has an attorney general who may be willing to help carry that out. 
Given this deep imbalance, without a coherent narrative from the other side that makes Trump’s corruption and epic misconduct unequivocally central to this national moment -- one riveted around whether Trump committed the high crimes and misdemeanors that render his removal imperative -- is there not a great risk of deepened public confusion, just as Democrats prepare to ask the voters to do the hard work for them?
The Dems said wait for Mueller (totally reasonable). Then they... had no plan for what to do if Mueller didn't send the Marshall of the Supreme Court to arrest Trump or the Republicans didn't respond with "Oh my God it turns out the president is bad!" Neither of which was going to happen. Now we have an AG who is about to turn the Justice Department into a fully partisan operation to investigate Trump's enemies, and being investigated, even if it leads to nothing, is a nightmare in itself, especially for the secondary characters who can't necessarily afford $600/hr lawyers.
The beautiful thing is this will provide the symmetry that our press loves. On one hand, we have Republicans investigating Democrats. On the other hand, we have Democrats investigating Trump/Republicans.
Both sides. It's all partisan. Washington is broken. Vote Schultz!
They had to run with it right away. They didn't.
yassss.

Vote Schultz!
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Dissolution 

As I've said elsewhere: This cannot continue, and This cannot end well.

Robert Evans' podcast, "It Can Happen Here".

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MEHR, AUF DER GROSSER GREISGRAMISMUSS MUSS SEIN:


The Big Guy Votes In Favor Of A Quick Radioactive Barbecue
I think Dem voters did hear the "wait for Mueller"message - Dem voters also like the impartial GOP Daddy referees deciding issues - and then came Mueller day. And when Mueller day arrived the Dems had some shiny new gavels in their possession. So, now, they want the Dems to follow the course set out by impartial GOP Daddy referee Mueller, as they were told they should. And Mueller says impeach the motherfucker.
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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

I Want Fires With That Fresh Crisis, Thanks

No Ordinary Times

German-American Bund Rally, Buffalo, NY, 1936

There is a conspiracy theory -- pushed most visibly on Fox, or audibly by Alex Jones -- that a Deep State fabricated information about a connection between Trump and his campaign with Russia's government; that the FBI and American intelligence agencies, during the election, placed Trump and his associates under surveillance and -- with the hated Obama in the White House --  provided political information to the Democrats.

After Trump's great victory, the same conspirators ensured that the Democrats would use this false information created about Trump to force appointment of a Special Counsel, and the investigation into the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia around the Presidential election. And that all this happened in a coordinated attempt to first subvert Trump's candidacy, then undermine his authority as President, and even force him from office.
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Weeks ago, Trump's hand-picked Attorney General announced that he believed there had been "spying" by the FBI on Trump's campaign in 2016 (alarmed by information they had about Russian attempts to work with the Trump campaign, the FBI had maintained a level of surveillance). He told senators that he was conducting his own investigation, uh, of the investigation.

Now, the President of the United States has just handed Attorney General Barr the authority to access, review, and declassify any information held by any of the national intelligence or law enforcement agencies.

This is an unprecedented, big fucking deal. It means that Barr will provide Trump with whatever information Trump wants to know. On the President's authority, Barr will have access to all FBI counterintelligence and CIA or NSA material which he deems relevant to his inquiry. The only person Barr has to answer to is Trump. And Barr has previously asked to be advised of all intelligence assets (read: spies) the United States has in Russia.
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This is the same President who said yesterday during a press event that persons who had conducted investigations of him -- his political enemies -- were treasonous. A reporter at the event told Trump that in America, treason is punishable by death, and asked, "You've accused your adversaries of treason. Who specifically are you accusing of treason?"

 “Well, I think a number of people, and I think ... that they have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person," Trump said. "If you look at [James] Comey, if you look at [Andrew] McCabe, if you look at probably people higher than that. If you look at [Peter] Strzok, if you look at his lover, Lisa Page, his wonderful lover."
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"Take down the wrong person": Trump believes he is the target of an ongoing attempt to remove him from office. He sees that as treason and the people involved as treasonous. Used as a strategy, Trump could take on the world -- the Democrats, out to impeach him; the Deep State, the Media; all his perceived enemies -- by using a toadie like Barr to push a Justice Department investigation of a treasonous conspiracy against the President. Barr has been given a green light to conduct a real witch hunt -- a real, McCarthy-style political pogrom worthy of any tinpot dictator in history.

It doesn't matter that it would be created out of whole cloth. It won't matter that it will be nothing but a taxpayer-financed Disneyland ride for Trump's base, an endless fantasy where Fox News could sell advertising time at even higher rates.

The Trumpista echo chamber is ecstatic ("It's reaping time", one Right-wing pundit crowed). But, among the majority of Americans, it doesn't appear to matter what just happened. Or that Julian Assange is about to be extradited for violation of the espionage act on an indictment created in Barr's Justice Department.
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Depending upon who you read or listen to, a large percentage of Americans appear to believe Russia / Russia's government / Putin and his clique of Oligarchs influenced our last Presidential election to assist Trump -- a figure guaranteed to pour gasoline on smoldering, unresolved contradictions in America's history. Were Trump elected, it would produce a 1968-style upheaval in the U.S., and our ability as a global player -- for good, or for ill -- would be diminished. Other international actors would benefit.

An Ipsos poll from 2018 put the number at 60%. There are some heavyweight actors in American politics, government and culture among that number.

There are those who don't agree, because they see Trump's apotheosis as part of a larger context of politics and culture in America. Some observe the U.S. has been interfering in other nations' elections for decades -- so 2016 is just a matter of chickens and roosts. Others argue that the 'Russian Interference' meme is a conspiracy by neoliberals in America's Democratic party, a Deep State and the media.

It may be an optical illusion, but the events regarding Russia and Trump, before and after the 2016 election, make the story of Watergate (one of only two political scandals many alive today might remember, along with Bill Clinton's impeachment) appear simple by comparison. Nixon was our Trump, then. I came of age under LBJ, but it was Tricky's war I experienced; so, when Watergate spilled into the media and the House Select Committee televised hearings, I never missed a beat.

But Nixon confined his efforts in subverting the political process, obstructing justice, and running a criminal conspiracy from the Oval Office to a relatively small number of people. None of them included members of his immediate family. It's tough to imagine loyal Pat, delivering hush money to ex-CIA burglars, or David Eisenhower holding meetings about how to discredit political enemies. And Tricky never used the Office of the President as an obvious method of self-enrichment.

That's not the case with 'The Russia Thing'. The number of actors, the parallel subplots... it's too much to keep track of.  And to muddy the waters still further, add to it that the Trump-Russia Story is overlaid on a shakily-financed, family business 'empire' dominated by a limited, narcissistic bully, his children and paid toadies, who simply moved their base of operations into the highest echelon of government.

Clearly, this description presents how the 'Russia Thing' is viewed by at least one part of  America's Left political spectrum, and it's a fact-based perspective. The Right is generally so full of Crazy there wouldn't be enough space in all Blogostan to describe it (though Dave Neiwert comes very close).
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The Russia Thing is too much to keep track of (I tried, on a bet with myself. I lost.). The sheer volume of details is overwhelming -- if a percentage of those people on the Left, who don't accept a Russian conspiracy to hack the Presidency, were shown to feel that way because they just can't get their arms around the Thing, it would make perfect sense.

Journalist Matt Taibbi was trying to understand another mind-bending, interconnected set of circumstances -- the subprime housing market and derivatives Crash of 2008.  He spoke with a number of finance Subject Matter Experts, trying to visualize how the virtual collapse of America's investment industry could have happened, and couldn't: It was just too complex.

Finally, one person suggested his approach was mistaken. He was writing it as a business story -- "Look at it as a crime story," the person said; and for Taibbi, something clicked. Because in the end, it really was a story about a crime.
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You could say that Trump's reaction to the Special Counsel's investigation, to the Mueller Report's catalog of his obstruction, is just pique -- that he's pissed. Like any bully, he has a history of getting even, and will use all powers of the Office of the President to strike back at perceived enemies. You could say, it's just politics -- and if he's acting more like a dictator than any American President before him... well ... he's an unconventional politician, right?  If you were him, you'd be defensive, too; right?

But what continues to bother me is the amount of effort which Trump, his family members, his cronies and toadies have expended on the issue of Russia. On defending Vladimir Putin, and praising Russia and its government. It's true; Russia is a major global player -- but that is so because Putin has inserted Russian interests into every major flashpoint of international affairs.  You can't ignore them. But they aren't America's friend and ally. Europeans have been, but that seems less certain, in the second year of Trump's reign.

Trump behaves like a person with something to hide -- on the political front; with his business finances; and his connections to Russians. And the lengths, detailed in the Mueller report, he went in trying to quash any investigation into his Russian connections or those of his campaign are so clearly obstruction you'd have to be blind not to see it.

Republicans in Congress have known or suspected there was something serious about Trump's Russian connections from the beginning. But they don't give two hoots about that.  Some have noted that Trump has an overwhelming, magnetic personal influence which manifests itself in one-on-one contact.  It's how sociopaths operate, and to anyone unfamiliar with negotiation or interrogation strategies, Trump's abilities may appear like a Jedi mind trick. What else explains how Graham, McConnell,  and other GOP leaders have turned into slavish toadies for the sake of -- what, exactly?

People do things for reasons. You can debate whether those reasons merited this or that behavior, but people don't act without motivation. And, believe me -- people don't go to jail for no reason, either; ask Paul Manafort.

There may be a more-or-less innocent explanation, for all of it -- but with what we know about how Trump has conducted his business affairs for forty years, I doubt it. There is a large amount of smoke around The Russia Thing, enough that we can't clearly define its shape. But there is smoke; it's coming from something. I don't know what it is, but all my instincts tell me it's there.
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The problem is, The Russia Thing isn't what we need to be worried about.

Trump's behavior needs to be considered against a backdrop of up-tempo for Impeachment in the House; the potential death-by-irrelevancy of the mainstream with of the Democratic party; the prospect of the Kavanaugh Court removing Roe v. Wade protections for women; the trade war with China; rise of authoritarian nationalism; the possibility of armed conflict with Iran in the Gulf; and a slow-walk towards the next international financial crisis. Through it all, Trump has been acting both more emboldened, and senile dementia-fueled batshit crazy.

...and he's been frustrated, stymied, denied a massive political victory that would show the world He Is The Great One, The Trump; No One Is Greater Than He. Someone (if not Barr) whispered to Trump that the AG and Department of Justice effectively report to the Executive Branch. That they, and a neutered FBI, can be instruments in at least helping Trump appear popular and strong, the right atmosphere for reelection: Four More Years!

As he stonewalls subpoenas and asserts Executive privilege, at the end of that legal road will be the United States Supreme Court -- now packed with Right-wing ideologues, Federalist Society members who don't give two hoots about The People -- everybody knows the fix is in; everyone expects another Bush v. Gore.

It doesn't seem like too absurd an idea that Barr's investigation could end with accusations of a conspiracy against Trump. More likely, it would become a leitmotif of his reelection campaign, hijack the focus of 2020 from the Democrats, further polarize the country, and rally the Right wing around Trump's usual themes of fear and race and conspiracy: 'they' are trying to steal your country from you.

The Democratic party's leaders seem determined to relive the 2016 election. Their most attractive candidate at the moment (in polls, anyway) is so clearly a "Person of Honor", when contrasted against against a foul-mouthed, compulsive liar. Their strategy, at the moment, seems to be a bet that America has had enough of incivility and drama, exhausted by the culture wars of the past thirty years-- enough to vote for The Very Nice Man.

I wouldn't make that bet. Trump is a master narcissist; he excels at making everything about him. Americans have shown an unbelievable capacity for cognitive dissonance in politics and to focus on the trivial. And our exalted media buys into it with gusto: Trump's tantrums are The Shiny Object of every news cycle for the Rubes.

And, the political Right is a pack of proto-nazis who don't give two hoots about Nice. Or honor. Or whales and elephants and sea levels. Or you and me.

Relative to all this, The Russia Thing is almost incidental. As usual, these days, we've moved on to a fresh new crisis.
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MEHR, MIT ICH BIN EIN HUND HUND HUND:  I meant "Fries". In the title.  I want French Fries with that fresh, new Modern World crisis, please.  Not 'Fires'.  Although, now that I think about it, Fires is a lot closer to my actual feelings about the matter than carved potato sections.  

Never Mind.

However, in trying to fix what was wrong with my F'ed up free blogging platform, I found changing the Post Title is a transgression, curable only by reposting with the changed title name, and deleting the old post -- which makes any link to the original Null u. Ungültig.  
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 MEHR, MIT THE FRIES NEXT TIME: The BBC reports "Biden team says Trump taunts 'beneath the dignity of the office'."  The civility wars begin. 
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This Is Only A Test

Grand Name Money Game
Testing. Testing; One Two. Testing:
Hot Damn, Viet Nam -- Hot Damn; Viet Nam. 
-- PA Announcer, aboard the RMS 'Magic Christian'
   From the 1969 film by the same name (Full Script Here)
For some reason known only to the great Coding Gods, my return to barking isn't being received by a larger world. Hence this test. Looking for content? Go here.  This is only a test.

If this had been an actual post, you would have been treated to the same low humor and half-considered analyses as are regularly presented here, with a leavening of equal parts egoism and self-depreciating offhand remarks. You would have been directed to tune to 640 AM or 1240 FM to receive information and instructions about, you know; things.

Damn; knew I shouldn't have said all those crazy things about Jeffy and ZuckCo.
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Thursday, March 28, 2019

An Advance Note

Random Barking 
(From October, 2012)

I'm fond of saying that there are three people and a super-intelligent Parakeet who read this blog on any regular basis, and since the Fall of 2008 it's been a semi-regular conduit for one level of personal creativity.

Out here in The Intertubes, anyone can promote the most bizarre theories, show hardcore adult material, or the 10,000 photos of a trip to Milwaukee, share the most deeply esoteric or intolerant religious doctrines. And (what corporate America sees as the Net's true purpose) you can look at, buy and sell stuff.

Whatever you want, man; it's the Wild West out there.
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What makes all that possible is the current democratic structure of the Net.  At least in the West, it isn't yet controlled by corporate or government interests in an obvious way -- though the Net is heavily mined and monitored by those same interests, for security, intelligence and marketing. But for individuals, the 'Tubes are still fairly democratic, and I understand there are differing opinions about this. You vote with your Mouse -- utilize a search engine; surf in, look around, click away.

If your primary business is web design, pushing product, or message, or expressing an opinion, your Alexa or Klout numbers, total Facebook followers and Twits are all-important. On that level it's a popularity contest, which develops in any media dependent on Market Share.

At least outwardly, that's why Fox decided to ditch Little Glenny Beck, and why the MSM continues to pay so much attention to a vapid hack like Drudge.  If more "media consumers" believed they were nothing but gleeful pushers of right-wing lies, they might vanish (but no other network has been willing to develop an opposing business model to challenge Fox or ClearChannel).

Then, there's the opinion section of Blogtopia -- mostly personal blog sites like this one, though Opinion Street includes heavy hitters like TPM and Daily Kos and FiveThirtyEight, and specialists in Investment or Finance, Law, and Public Policy.  How it is that people like what they like in this part of the Net is a tricky question. So, this seems like a good place to quote myself:
There were a large number of blogs I used to follow when it was a new phenomenon -- Hey, you can hang out there and pretty much say whatever you want! By now, as with any industry, for those bloggers who have continued providing analysis and entertainment to the Intertubes, they've developed into tribes, circles of mutually-supporting friends, each with their own sites.

Woe betide you if you bore them, piss them off, or are identified as a Troll. Commenting at their sites is a bit like appearing, the stranger, at someone's party and if you just don't quite fit in... Well; I believe the Intertube Tradition is they don't get to sit at the cool kids' table, and for the most part, that's pretty much the level of where it's at.

I don't try to sit at the kool kid's table. I'm not a concise or original blogger when it comes to social commentary or Left politics, and even when I make jokes as a commenter it's occasionally as if I'd made a bad smell in the room.

But if acclaim as a blogger, or a name as a commenter on other blogs, is the reason why someone posts... That's the functional equivalent of going into acting just to read the reviews.
Und, Noch Eimal:
Some pundits with a large soapbox to stand on... deserve to be ignored, vilified; to have their IP addresses blocked and sent to dwell in the land of Little Rupert, East of Podhoretz...  but they won't leave. They won't perform a swan song -- a GBCW! post: Good-Bye, Cruel World!

...Sometimes, the GBCW is purely voluntary. At some level, the Blogosphere -- Left or Right -- mimics high school. Bloggers and regular commenters tend to affiliate, and like any other association of humans can be exclusionary. On occasion someone appears whose style in posting comments is grating, awkward. They insist on being right, on dominating a thread; they just don't express ideas well. They may be off-topic, [or] are thin-skinned when teased -- as they will be (humans are humans, and anonymous ones even more so).

Usually, these people have a blog of their own. They want to be one of the Kool Kidz, too, and have lots of site traffic -- to be popular.  To "be someone".
The problem is, they already are someone, and they've confused the raison d'etre of their blog, or commenting on someone else's post, with wanting to appear on something like the old Gong Show.

So, when no one reads their amazingly important, detailed, lengthy blog posts; and they're ignored when adding to threads on other sites... they may write that GBCW post, clomping off the Internet stage with a final, long soliloquy explaining ad nauseum why they are right and the rest of the world is wrong, wrong, wrong; and also, bad. 
 I'll get back with the three people and the super-intelligent Parakeet a little later.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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MEHR, MIT EIN TIEFERES VERSTÄNDIS DER PUNKT: 

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.
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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. 
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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)
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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!
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