Friday, November 9, 2018

Just Repeat Things With Fierce Conviction

And The Future Will Be Fun For You

What will that future we hear so much about look like?  The Usual Suspects conduct Business As Usual: Nancy Pelosi is recaulked, mainbraces spliced and buffed to a high shine, and redelivered to the House as Speaker-To-Animals*. Chuck Schumer remains Democratic leader in the Senate. Together, they are the leaders of the Democratic party. While they talk inclusion to the 40-or-under crowd of "New Democrats" entering the House, Chuck 'n Nancy do represent (Left) entrenched interests, and will make sure those interests (not necessarily the People) are represented.

Chuck 'n Nancy will say The Same Things Over And Over Again With Fierce Conviction ("This [fill in blank] is a new low for the Republicans"  "Americans will not stand by while [fill in blank] takes away [fill in blank] and puts [fill in blank] at risk" "The President needs to [buh buh buh] because the American people are sick and tired of [buh buh buh]").

These responses are inoffensive, and the legislation they will pursue is bipartisan and centrist. They are the Kind and The Good. And the Republicans know they will do this and be this because that's the Democrats' side of the legislative dance.

However, the Republicans -- They are the Vicious, Vengeful, Unpredictable, with the Avarice of a Child, like The Leader. They know their side of the Dance is to kick Dems to the curb every chance they get, to be greedy and rapacious. The Leader wants war -- and until he can force the Iranians to attack U.S. naval units in the Gulf, the Democrats will have to do.

Republican leaders, like Senate Majority Yertle the Turtle (such an Especial Turtle) and the newly-appointed House Minority Leader, Sean Hannity, will continue to spout whatever little things come into their heads ("Speaker Pelosi is a syphilitic mulatto"  "Those different from us are Demons"  "The Democrat party will make multiracial dating compulsory" "Republicans have reduced the deficit by 60% since Leader took office" ). These things will be repeated, over and over, on 'Fox 'n Friends'. 40.2% of Americans will say they believe them.

The Leader signs a Prestidential Order making it compulsory to begin every sentence with a reference to Him ("Our Leader, who is wise and good, loves us, and yes I do have the data on progress in the new regional project").  42% of Americans say they welcome the new requirements, which will "teach a lesson about loyalty" to others (undefined).

CNN would report on this with comment, but Missy Sarah sends them to the Principal's office and gives their chair away to a representative of the Neues Völkischer Stoltz Jungen Daily, and its editor, Horst Whitemale. "Stop lookin' at my chins," scowls Missy Sarah, as she slyly opens her second box of crullers that morning.

Only the American Infrastructure Act will have support from both political parties --  and to celebrate its passage, Schumer, Pelosi, Turtle, and Hannity hold a joint press conference to trumpet a "new spirit of bipartisan cooperation for the American people." Chuck 'n Nancy smile for the cameras.

Leader will sign the bill at a ceremony in the Rose Garden. Leader speaks for one hundred and one minutes about His brilliance, His sagacity, His many gifts to the world: promises kept. "I made a good deal," says Leader. "We'll be handing out contracts soon; lot of people I know will do good work for the American people. Jobs. Lots of businesses making money. I know a lot of them." Sean Hannity takes the opportunity to call the Democratic party "the party of predation". He also smiles his winning smile.

The Leader began his campaign for reelection on November 7th, 2018. At a rally in Watertown, South Dakota, Leader will hint slyly that liberals should be taught 'a lesson', and when the Stoltz Jungen attack a forum held by the Soros Foundation, The Leader -- appearing at another daily rally in Murrkopf, Indiana -- will shrug, stretching out his arms and Big Hands™ and say, "Maybe the Soros people shouldn't have been there? Ya know?" to the raucous laughter and delight of the adoring crowd.

Later, He refers to reporters covering the event as "predators" -- "Don't people hunt predators out here?" asks Leader. "I dunno! Just thought they did!" In the following weeks, random shots are taken at 278 news vehicles, nationwide; thankfully, no one is injured.

Chambers Whittaker Pumpkin, baldo stand-in Attorney General, receives The Special Counsel's report on Russian election influence in 2016, and involvement of The Leader's campaign and The Leader. Pumpkin reads the report and fires Mueller in a tweet to the Völkischer Stoltz Jungen Daily.

Pumpkin puts the report in a drawer and spends the rest of the day playing golf with the CEO of a corporate defendant in a Justice Department civil action. The following week, the government announces it will not pursue the case; Pumpkin will later be seen driving around Georgetown a new Ferrari GTC4 LussoT.

It takes 36 hours for the report to be leaked. It shows that The Leader and others conspired to Want and to Take, Because They Could. It recommends the indictment of 158 Russians, Roger Stone, and a few others. Leader Jr., and Kushy, are shown to have solicited or allowed Foreign Powers to affect the election.

In an oft-repeated quote, The Leader will be reported to have said, "I don't give a [redacted] -- I want it. That's all that matters and [redacted] the [redacted] People." Melania Trump, attending a 'spa day' with Louise Hinton, appears in a custom-made Alexi Queen coat with "Scott Free" printed on its back.

Release of Mueller's report will trigger obligatory hours and hours of shouting and keening and media. Many people will stop to watch the Shiny Object on teevee for hours. Advertising time will be sold for very high prices. Much money will be made.

In the end, the Republican majority in the Senate rejects the House's Bill of Impeachment. Yertle The Turtle (such an Especial Turtle), standing next to Mikey Pence, Inquisitor In Chief, will tell the media, "Don't care what they want. They should go back where they came from." Yertle makes comments to a Fox anchor, but will refuse to answer questions from the "predator press". Another round of random shootings of news vans occurs across the country.


We are so unquestionably scrood scrood scrood.

* The "Speaker-To-Animals" reference will be instantly recognizable to readers of Larry Niven's 'Ringworld' series of science-fiction novels. For those unfamiliar with it, the term will will mystify, confuse, and possibly enrage.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

What's Goin' On

Today Everyone Votes

Today's election will not result in peace at home or abroad. There will be no immediate universal, empathetic connection with our human kin. Poverty will not be erased. Hatred and fear of The Other will not go away. Our Fabled Wealthy will not suddenly find themselves Regular Joes and Janes, living in rented digs, expected to do a day's work for a day's pay and treated fairly so long as they don't act like jackasses. The climate of the Great Planet will not suddenly calm itself and give us temperate skies and balanced seasons; the vanished animals will not appear again. Our beloved dead will not rise, whole and smiling. The sicknesses of body and spirit will not dwindle and vanish, never to return. There will not be Enough For All, and the children of the world will not all go to warm beds feeling safe, and loved, and excited about what will come on the morrow. 

Today's election will not result in any of this. But all the same -- show up and exercise the franchise, while we can.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Trick Or Traif

Surprise, October

What you will experience at my house. It's the one with all the lights off.


Saturday, October 27, 2018



In another mass shooting incident at the Pittsburgh, PA, Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, there are multiple fatalities. The suspect, wounded and taken into custody by police, is a WM, Robert D. Bowers, age 46. The local CBS affiliate reported (per TPM) that the shooter walked into the synagogue, shouting "anti-semitic slogans/slurs (“All Jews must die”) as he opened fire on worshipers."

Rush Transcript: Trump's Remarks At Andrews Air Force Base,
October 27, 2018 (via Vox):
TRUMP:  We’ll be making a major statement. It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country frankly and all over the world. And something has to be done. Something has to be done.
It looks like results are coming in, they’re more devastating than anybody thought in the morning. In the morning they thought it was the shooter but they had the shooter, they soon would, but the results are very devastating. You’re seeing the numbers come in. 
So we’ll be speaking to you at the conference, the future farmers of America, conference, and it’s just a shame to watch this, to see this. For so many years, so much of it, absolutely a shame.  Have any questions?
Reporter:  Mr. President, do you think you need to revisit gun laws?
TRUMP:   Please?
Reporter:  Gun laws, Mr. President. Gun laws.
TRUMP:   Well, again, this has little to do with it if you take a look. If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better. This is a dispute that will always exist I suspect. If they had some kind of protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation. They didn’t. And he was able to do things that unfortunately he shouldn’t have been able to do.
I hear the police were outstanding. I hear the police did an incredible job. As you know, numerous police were badly injured. But, again, law enforcement did a fantastic job. We’re going to have a very complete statement for you. Results are coming in of what took place, how it took place. Again, law enforcement was outstanding. As always. I mean, as usual, and as always, law enforcement was really outstanding. They stepped up to the plate.
But Pittsburgh, great community, incredible people. I spoke to the governor. I spoke to the mayor. To see this happening again and again and again is just a shame.
Reporter: Mr. President -- [inaudible] Instead of seeing it happen again and again, end this kind of violence?
TRUMP:   Well, it’s a violence -- you look at the violence all over the world. I mean, the world has violence. The world is a violent world. And you think when you’re over it, it just sort of goes away, but then it comes back in the form of a mad man, a wacko.
I think one thing we should do is stiffen up laws in terms of the death penalty. When people do this, they should get the death penalty and shouldn’t have to wait years and years. Now the laws lawyers will get involved and everybody’s going to get involved and we’ll be ten years down the line.
I think they should stiffen up laws and I think they should very much bring the death penalty into vogue. Anybody who does a thing like this to innocent people in temple, in church. We had so many incidents with churches. They should be -- they should really suffer the ultimate price. They should pay the ultimate price. I felt that way for a long time. Some people disagree with me. I can’t imagine why. This has to stop. We’re going to have a statement at our stop with the young farmers.
Reporter:  Towards the beginning of your presidency, you met with the NRA. You said maybe you were the president who can help solve this. Do you see that now as a possibility?
TRUMP:  It’s a case where -- again, nobody knows exactly what took place yet. It’s too soon. This is a case where they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately. This had been a case where if there were an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop them. Maybe there would have been nobody killed except for him frankly. So it’s a very, very -- very difficult situation. When you look at it, we can look at it two ways. Again, if he had somebody to protect people. Now, isn’t it a shame you even have to speak that way? That we even have to think of that inside a temple or inside of a church? But certainly the results might have been far better.
Reporter:  Do you think all churches and synagogues should have armed guards?
TRUMP:  I hate to think of it that way. I will say that. So we’ll see you with the future farmers.
Reporter: Is that what you’re suggesting?
TRUMP:  I mean, in this world, this is a world with a lot of problems. And it has been a world with a lot of problems for many years. Many, many years. You could say, frankly, for many centuries. You’re looking at what goes on, but certainly you want protection. They didn’t have any protection. They had a maniac walk in. They didn’t have any protection. That is just so sad to see. So sad to see. Results could have been much better. It is a very, very difficult thing. 
For me, as president, to watch any of this go, you know, before I ran for office, I’d watch incidents like this with churches and other things and think, what a shame, what a shame. But it’s even tougher when you’re the president of the United States and you have to watch this kind of a thing happen. It is so sad to see. So we’ll see you at the -- with the young farmers. 



Friday, October 26, 2018

Random Barking Friday

This Will Not Contain Leavening Humor

April 30, 1945, in the Reichschancellery's Führerbunker: the Red Army was closing in quickly and less than a quarter-mile away. Hitler and Eva said goodbye to a line of their old retainers and True Believers, and were on their way into Hitler's study to kill themselves.

Outside the study stood Heinz Linge, Hitler's principal valet. The two shook hands. Hitler told Linge that the situation in Berlin was lost, and that he should try to leave the city and escape to the West.

Linge later said he had asked, "For whom shall we fight on?" Hitler replied, "For the coming man."

What makes my skin crawl about what's occasionally described as living through the Assholeocene isn't the daily, drop-by-drop absorption of new outrages Trump and his minions commit. 

Weird how predictably that happens, now. Mornings, Trump watches Fox 'n Friends, and tweets. Sarah fantasizes and lies to a room full of adults. Afternoons, we learn about more corruption, more sociopathic abuse of immigrant children; another right-wing judge appointed for life; the awesome lives of our fabled Business Leaders and Owners, and Celebrities; more peasant-fucking.

In the evening, Trump flies to some rural district which voted overwhelmingly for him in 2016, and spews about his greatness, the threat of the liberal and the Other, before an ecstatic crowd. He preens and complains that he is unfairly attacked, victimized -- that, just like them, he is "under threat". They wear hats, and chant. Their identification with Trump provides them with an almost carnal frenzy and release.

Faultlines of race, class, gender and inequality in America have always been there; Trump's appearance puts them under serious stress. Other factors (extreme climate events [see below and follow the link]; unstable financial markets; mass shootings) increase the noise of uncertainty and fear, always in the background.

A large number of people appear to be on short fuses, the Crazy looking for a way out; "everybody angry (peculiarly angry ... [as] normal is changing color, tenor)"; meanwhile, a bloated, raving old man is a role model for the boundaries of permitted speech and behavior.

Trump is giving permission to cross boundaries -- not in and of itself a bad thing; it all depends on who's doing it, with what intent. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering a speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial is one way of crossing a boundary. Trump's public speeches are another. The difference in intent is clear.

What makes me uneasy is not the experience of the present, so much. What Trump and his slavish GOP supporters have done in just 21 months makes increased social disintegration more likely (it certainly makes a society where Our Fabled Wealthy will be comfortable, while the rest of us are not). That can lead to a rising tempo of political violence -- and a more authoritarian state would seem attractive by comparison.

Trump might be that one-party dictator of an "illiberal democracy", an Orban or Erdogan, but I don't believe he's the personification of the end state I'm worried about. It's someone who would capitalize on Trump's shattering of political norms, take it to a new level: the "coming man"

What Chris Hedges Said:
While it is true that the United States under Trump is not Hitler’s Germany, Trump has tapped into America’s worst impulses... his ultra-nationalism, white supremacist views, and racist diatribes coupled with his attack on immigrants, the media, African-Americans, and Muslims are indicative of a politics right out the fascist playbook. If the public and media keep denying this reality, the endpoint is too horrible to imagine... 
Trump has emboldened and legitimated the dire anti-democratic threats that have been expanding under an economic system stripped of any political, social, and ethical responsibility. This is a form of neoliberal fascism that has redrawn and expanded the parameters of the genocidal practices and hate filled politics of the 1930s and 40s in Europe in which it was once thought impossible to happen again. ...
What Margaret Sullivan Said (via Digby)
... At a raucous rally in Montana last week, a Trump supporter — juiced up by the president’s crude praise of a congressman who body-slammed a reporter — looked directly at CNN reporter Jim Acosta. Then he ran his thumb across his throat. And laughed. 
Later, Acosta described “the Trump effect.” “It has normalized and sanitized nastiness and cruelty in a way that I just never thought I would see,” he said, shortly after that Montana rally. 
The Trump effect is a straight line from years of his hateful rhetoric to real-world danger. It’s a line that goes directly from disrespect to pipe bomb. And — almost inevitably — it will eventually go from failed attempt to spilled blood... 
Ann Coulter tweeted that bombs have been... "a liberal tactic.” And radio behemoth Rush Limbaugh... [said] that Republicans don’t do this sort of thing, and a Democratic operative was the more likely culprit. 
But let’s get real. Everyone targeted by the pipe bombs had been the subject of endless hours of Fox News commentary. The list of targets read like Sean Hannity’s pre-broadcast crib notes: Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and former CIA chief John Brennan — and, as the representative of evil mainstream media — CNN. 
As usual, Trump himself projected blame everywhere but where it belongs...  he combined swipes at the news media and Democrats with a call to “come together in peace and harmony.”

What Ian Welsh Said ("...IPCC Report Version"):
... There are quite a number of scenarios where this stuff happens faster... What will actually happen is that we’ll get some feedback loop like arctic or permafrost methane release and that will lead to parabolic increases. When it breaks, it will break hard. 
At that point a lot of other problems could also blow up, the most serious of which would be the Oceans losing their ability produce oxygen. If that happens, well, we’re dead. 
Even if it doesn’t, things like the thermohaline currents flipping or shutting off are possible. Europe could, in the middle of everyone else getting hot, have a mini-ice age. 
... And it isn’t that we are decelerating. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, who will likely win election, has essentially promised to chop down what remains of the Amazon jungle as fast as possible (and also, to commit genocide on the remaining indigenous tribes. No, don’t pretend, that’s what he means.)


A suspect is in custody in Florida, charged with being the individual who mailed explosive devices to prominent Democrats and liberals.

Cesar Sayoc, Jr., was described by the New York Times as a Republican who had been active on a variety of right-wing social media sites, with several prior arrests for fraud, robbery, and charges associated with explosives.

Police had seized Sayoc's van in connection with the arrest, and removed it from Sayoc's home under a blue tarp. Later, they removed the tarp -- and Mark Lancia, a local freelance journalist, took a number of pictures which are, as they say, worth a thousand words:

(©Mark Lancia; via TruthDig)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Reprint Heaven: Civ 103; The Seldon Theories

We Were Where We Have Always Been
(This, originally posted in August, 2010.)

Glenn Greenwald posted an article at Salon ("What Collapsing Empire Looks Like"), illuminating the slow-motion of deterioration wrought by the Crash.

>> Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further -- it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation. [Where we are in 2018: Hawaii's schools were famous for 'furlough Fridays' with their teachers placed on unpaid leave. The state almost immediately returned to a full, 5-day weekly schedule -- but the costs of public education and the effective freezing of already small teacher's salaries have forced teacher's unions in a number of states to organize and push back.]

>> Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders.  [Where we are in 2018: Clayton Co.'s public bus system did not return until spring, 2015, when it was absorbed into the Greater Atlanta transit system.]

>> Even public safety has not been immune to the budget ax. In Colorado Springs, Co., the downturn will be remembered, quite literally, as a dark age: the city switched off a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters. [Where we are in 2018:  Colorado Springs' municipal government took a hard-right turn in response to the Crash, and originally slashed it's police force and turned off streetlights in 2010 rather than raise property taxes to pay for public services. Thieves stole the copper wiring in the abandoned streetlights, and there weren't enough police to stop them. It later cost over $5 million to fix the lights, which are back on. It's municipal government is still conservative, but not insane.]

>> It's probably also worth noting this Wall St. Journal article from last month -- with a subheadline warning: "Back to Stone Age" -- which describes how "paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue." [Where we are in 2018:  Plowing paved roads back to gravel, instead of paying maintenance costs to keep them, has only accelerated since 2010. In an era of dismal infrastructure spending, transportation agencies in at least 27 states now have unpaved roads, or are considering gravel roads as options.]

>> Utah is seriously considering eliminating the 12th grade, or making it optional. [Where we are in 2018:  While Utah's school board didn't follow through on this idea, a proposal was successfully floated in 2016 to make Middle School classes in art, health, Phys Ed, and careers 'optional'.]

>> And it was announced this week that "Camden [New Jersey] is preparing to permanently shut its library system by the end of the year, potentially leaving residents of the impoverished city among the few in the United States unable to borrow a library book free." [Where we are in 2018:  The city of Camden's municipal libraries were nearly shut down -- but in 2011, they were absorbed by the Camden county library system.]

The nation didn't stop falling after the Crash of 2008. Only the pace has slowed, enough to make us believe that, somehow, we avoided real trouble. And as we continue to fall, the descent is accompanied by commercials and television, iPads and SmartPhones; anything to keep people from realizing what's happening to the society they've lived in all their lives, and to the promises that society has held out to them as the American Dream.

It's human to not want to see the water rising, to focus on the familiar and the comforting, not to hear the sound of the steady drummer, "drumming like a noise in dreams".

... It's different to live through times which -- with the added crisis of climate change -- we're just on the cusp of. The fun hasn't even started in earnest yet...

Natley (Art Garfunkle) And The Old Man: Catch-22 (1970)
OLD MAN: ...Italy is a poor, weak country. And that is why we will survive, long after your country has been destroyed.
NATLEY: What are you talking about? America's not going to be destroyed.
OLD MAN: Never?
NATLEY: Well...
OLD MAN: Egypt was destroyed; Greece was destroyed; Rome was destroyed; Persia was destroyed -- Spain was destroyed. All great countries are destroyed. Why not yours?
NATLEY: ...What you don't understand is that it's better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.
OLD MAN: You have it backwards. It's better to live on your feet than to die on your knees. I know.
NATLEY: How do you know?
OLD MAN: Because I am a hundred and seven years old. How old are you?
NATLEY: I'll be twenty in January.
OLD MAN: If you live.
          -- Buck Henry / Screenplay to Mike Nichols' Film of Catch-22 (1970)
Will America dissolve into a State run by 'Pastors', conservative Oligarchs? Will most of us queue up for water, clothing; living space? Will we become like Britain, with CCTVs on every light pole and an electronic dossier on every citizen's email, personal buying and travel habits? Will someone in the Nuclear Club finally decide to uncork the Genie again?

People don't believe these things are possible; not here, in America. This is a land of opportunity, almost a meritocracy -- we don't have a class structure here based on family lineage or money; and we are the guardians of truth, justice, and the Rule Of Law™. You can rise as high as you can reach through hard work and the Free Enterprise system.

We say that we don't murder our leaders. We don't single out people for imprisonment or harassment because they espouse unpopular opinions. We are free to speak or write or create as we like. We are the strongest military and economic power on the face of the earth. We're not dictators. We don't quit, we don't surrender; we treat our enemies fairly and with compassion because that's the American Way.


As I've mentioned before, a Romanian acquaintance once said, while Ceausescu was still in power, "In the Eastern Bloc, if you are enough of a problem for the authorities, they take you out into the woods and shoot you in the back of the head. In America, if you are enough of a problem, they restrict your ability to make money."

And, today, what passes for common wisdom among the political elite, pundits and media is that in order to prevent higher deficits and more National Debt, the government should enact policies that reduce it -- to privatize Social Security, reduce Medicare to a voucher system, freeze the pay of the military... and slash every Federal program possible. To cut, and not stimulate.

At the same time, these same Austerians say that raising income taxes is regrettable, but must be done. Only -- they mean raising taxes for everyone except the top two per cent or so, who will receive a tax cut. Because the wealthy are the ones who,through their purchases of Bulgari jewelry, Bentleys and designer clothing, will raise the rest of us up from poverty... a millimeter at a time.

This isn't a joke. It's policyAs Paul Krugman notes, "We must place priority on reducing the deficit, say Republicans and “centrist” Democrats. And then, virtually in the next breath, they declare that we must preserve tax cuts for the very affluent, at a budget cost of $700 billion over the next decade."

(The wealthy, in America particularly, remind me now of the 'Owners' in Paul Theroux's 1986 novel, O-Zone, which I strongly recommend.)

So official policy is to protect the wealthy, and allow the country to pass slowly into history. Greenwald concluded his column with a quote from International Monetary Fund Chief Economist Simon Johnson, from his article last year in The Atlantic Monthly, "about what happens in under-developed and developing countries when an elite-caused financial crises ensues" -- and not targeting the rich is just par for the course:
Squeezing oligarchs, though, is seldom the strategy of choice among emerging-market governments.  Quite the contrary: at the outset of the crisis, the Oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or -- here's a classic Kremlin bailout technique -- the assumption of private debt obligations by the government.
Under duress, generosity toward old friends takes many innovative forms. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk -- at least until the riots grow too large... 
But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests —- financiers, in the case of the U.S. -— played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.
I don't know why, but I keep thinking of a poem written just before the beginning of the Great War; Barbara Tuchman used it as a section title ("The Steady Drummer") in her 1966 book, The Proud Tower -- another book I recommend; not many are being written like them any longer.
On the idle hill of summer,
Sleepy with the flow of streams,
Far I hear the steady drummer
Drumming like a noise in dreams.

Far and near and low and louder
On the roads of earth go by,
Dear to friends and food for powder,
Soldiers marching, all to die.

East and west on fields forgotten
Bleach the bones of comrades slain,
Lovely lads and dead and rotten;
None that go return again.

Far the calling bugles hollo,
High the screaming fife replies,
Gay the files of scarlet follow:
Woman bore me, I will rise.
A.E. Housman, "A Shropshire Lad" (1896)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Party Of Bone Saw Murder Apologists

Cutting Right To It

(Via The Great Curmudgeon, October 18, 2018)

It's a simple scheme, really. Whenever [Republicans] control the government they immediately pass massive tax cuts and massive increases in military spending, always promising that the wealthy and the corporations will pour all that money back into the economy and it will end up increasing revenues because of all the growth it will stimulate. But it never does.

...the real goal isn't just to give tax cuts to the rich and spend huge sums of money on the military. It's also to run up the debt so Republicans can turn around and wring their hands over the need to be "fiscally responsible" and force the government to cut spending on ... the big-ticket items of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

They have wanted to end those programs ever since they were enacted, but this debt scam was cooked up in the 1980s when all the smart young Reaganites came to Washington. They tagged the Democrats as "tax-and-spend liberals" (now it's "socialists") so that whenever the Democrats finally come back into power, anxious to be seen as responsible stewards of the economy, they are immediately on the defensive.

Republicans screech in unison that the entitlements are all going to break the bank and they must be cut or the sky will fall. Unfortunately, the political media join the chorus, beating their chests about how the people must "take their medicine" and "face up to the truth" that the country simply cannot afford to take care of the old and sick anymore.

Pundits and journalists seem to take particular pleasure in lecturing their audience about how they'll have to "sacrifice" for the greater good and tut-tut all the supposedly irresponsible liberal politicians who are unwilling to tell them the "truth."

-- Digby Parton, "Mitch and the budget scam"Salon 'Zine, via Hullabaloo, October 17, 2018

Friday, October 12, 2018

Random Barking Friday: Notes From Above Ground

Just Because We Agree That Any Day Above Ground Is A Good Day 
Doesn't Mean We Agree To Put Up With This Shit
The fascist movements ... that came to power in Italy and Germany boasted their regimes were totalitarian. The most original revelation of the current wave of authoritarians is ... overtly antidemocratic dictatorships ...[are] unnecessary for holding power. Perhaps the most apt designation ... is the insidious term “illiberal democracy.” 
...Erdoğan in Turkey, Putin in Russia, Rodrigo Duterte ... and Viktor Orbán ... have all discovered that opposition parties can be left in existence...  in order to provide a fig leaf of democratic legitimacy, while in reality elections pose scant challenge to their power. Truly dangerous opposition leaders are neutralized or eliminated one way or another. 
Total control of the press and other media is likewise unnecessary... a flood of managed and fake news so pollutes the flow of information that facts and truth become irrelevant as shapers of public opinion. Once-independent judiciaries are gradually dismantled through selective purging ... Crony capitalism opens ... a symbiosis of corruption and self-enrichment between political and business leaders... 
Xenophobic nationalism (and ...explicitly anti-immigrant white nationalism), as well as the prioritization of “law and order” over individual rights, are also crucial to these regimes in mobilizing the popular support of their bases and stigmatizing their enemies. 
-- Christopher R. Browning, "The Suffocation Of Democracy" (Article), The New York Review Of Books; October 25, 2018 Issue (Paragraphing added for emphasis)

The age demanded that we dance
And jammed us into iron pants.
And in the end the age was handed
The sort of shit that it demanded.
-- Ernest Hemingway, In "Der Querschnitt"; February, 1925

I move to work in the dark, 5:00AM on public transit in a large urban area. Passengers are dressed for maintenance or construction, administrative or 'food service industry' jobs; almost everyone is looking down at their smartphones, scrolling and texting. A third are women, dressed in expensive workout clothes, heading for the gym; few white-collar, non-managerial 'Individual Contributors' like me ride to work this early. The real flood of San Francisco's Tech workers don't begin their commutes until after 7 o'clock.

San Francisco's Municipal Transit Authority is replacing its fleet of older electric busses, one by one, with new, 'hybrid' ones. There are fewer seats in the new busses.  I get off at the usual stop downtown, walking a nearly-deserted two blocks towards BART. Crossing a street, I register  someone moving on my left, riding towards me on a bicycle, and so make assumptions: I'm a pedestrian, they see me, they'll avoid me.

Suddenly, I hear the sound of pedals being cranked; the rider speeds up and passes, inches behind me; I feel a gust of air as their weight moves through space. And as they move past, I feel the rider pat me, once, on the top of my head, like a Plains Indian counting coup. Standing in the dim street, looking -- at him, a nondescript male: scruff of beard, dark baseball cap, clothing and bike -- I shout HEY!! at his back. 

I'm not particularly surprised (and I think: it's more surprising that I accept this as normal, now); my yelling is mostly for form's sake. He's riding on, casual, slowing to make a lazy S down the street and leaning back in his seat. He starts to cycle back in my direction, maybe take things to the next level -- then turns away. I can hear him, almost conversationally, say, "Welcome to Cali-for-nia, bay-bee."

5:00AM in the Underground: increasing numbers of homeless, lying on the granite floors as if tossed there, discards, not asleep so much as comatose (I remember living rough in a stressful environment, a literal jungle, and how desperately needed and all-consuming sleep, unconsciousness, was for us).

Below the surface: The display of rock-bottom despair and crazy is manifest and confounding. Most people, myself included, just want to move down to the train platform and get where we're going -- because if we stopped for a moment to look at these people, and contemplate where we all are and where we're going, it would plunge you into tears at the same time it drives you back, within yourself, shrinking away from these Others -- as if they might infect you with lice or bad luck. That what I am could happen to you.

This morning, a man -- skin and hair blackened with dirt, torn clothing scumbled up with diesel soot and grease -- sat on the floor of the BART station, his back against a wall at the base of an Up escalator, legs splayed out, repeatedly shouting a single word, "FUCK!?" at the top of his lungs every few minutes.

He didn't use it as an obscenity. What had happened to him was the obscenity. He was asking a question -- of fate and circumstance; he was making an making an exclamation: This is what happened?? What the fuck???
As ever, Trump is the parody of the neoliberal consensus, which shows us the truth of its intellectual and political bankruptcy. And the neoliberal Democrats’ answer is not to mobilize the population in protest, not to take direct action against an obviously illegitimate political structure — but to double down on elitism and technocracy by imagining that the FBI will somehow save us. 
--  Adam Kotsko, "Lies And Neoliberalism"; An und für sich, October 6, 2018
The domestic agenda of Trump’s illiberal democracy falls considerably short of totalitarian dictatorship as exemplified by Mussolini and Hitler. But ... [n]o matter how and when the Trump presidency ends, the specter of illiberalism will continue to haunt American politics. A highly politicized judiciary will remain... racial division, cultural conflict, and political polarization [which] Trump has encouraged and intensified will be difficult to heal. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, and uncontrolled campaign spending will continue to result in elections skewed in an unrepresentative and undemocratic direction. Growing income disparity will be extremely difficult to halt, much less reverse. 
Finally, within several decades after Trump’s presidency has ended, the looming effects of ecological disaster due to human-caused climate change—which Trump not only denies but is doing so much to accelerate—will be inescapable... 
Trump is not Hitler ... but regardless of how the Trump presidency concludes, this is a story unlikely to have a happy ending. 
--  Christopher Browning, ibid.; New York Review Of Books; October 25, 2018 Issue 


If you consider the main currents in American culture and politics since the Declaration, a move towards the 'illiberalism' Browning describes in his article doesn't seem like an aberration. More like a logical procession. 

Let's be clear: It's a class war. Who wins and who loses in the current circumstances remains the same, no matter which end of the spectrum is in control.

America's political right will never, truly, upset The Owners. The neoliberal Left wants a Wonderful One World which keeps The Owners intact and in charge. In either scenario, you and I are expendable resources. 

The same tools of misdirection, propaganda, appeals to a mythic America that never was; and at the very bottom of it all, a threat of ultimate power (I kill You!) has been used in that America to sink the pitch and rig the game, since forever. 

At its most basic, Trump and his crew owns the political Right. Every kind of bottom-feeding nightcrawler and slug have attached themselves to The Trump Halftrack -- because there's money to be made, and power to be had; it is really no more complicated than that. The only notable thing is, they are right out in the open about it, now

Even though the 0.01% (that number could even be smaller; I use it only to make the point) will truly benefit from Trump, 'The Base' feel stronger and more powerful. They wave The Flag, wear The Red Hat, and allow free-floating rage to take form in love of the christian nation and racial pride. Their purpose is simply in "being Americans".  Build that wall. Piss in faces of the Iranians. Use force on the streets. Love The Leader.

Neoliberals at home and abroad are disorganized and hiding, for the moment. If Clinton had won the election, they would have been the ones flexing muscle -- but quietly, through internationalist organizations. The same 0.01% would ultimately benefit. 

We'd still be rubes and sheep, like the Red Hats -- but we'd feel better about turning over our autonomy to The Owners, because it's for the greater good. We would have a sense of purpose in building a better future world.  

I'm not advocating a specific group's point of view. But, all this is an approximation of an answer to the question of that anguished underground dweller, yelling FUCK!!?? The structures human beings have built through five thousand-plus years of history to organize living on the planet have been bent, and altered, to favor a few and eat the rest of us alive.

... and no matter how clear that becomes, there's been little direct action. No matter how crazy things have gotten. There is no shortage of analysis and commentary about what is happening -- Christopher Browning's article is a crystal-clear example. The general outlines are there for everyone to see. 

But even in responding to Trump's lies with truth, his malfeasance with exposure, and narcissistic spewing with laughter, people rarely go into the streets. Given the stakes, our passivity in America is staggering -- and that comment only shows I assume having a high standard of living means people will act to support their best values and, you know, do stuff. 

All I'm sure of is, future historians will go over whatever documentation survives us and shake their heads, or laugh until they herniate themselves.

If you're waiting for the midterms; or Mueller's report; or for a tentacle to pop out of Trump's head while he bloviates at a rally, somewhere -- and then expect that hey presto! All Will Be Just Like It Was -- then something is happening here, but you don't know what it is. 

UND NOCH IMMER MEHR:  Oh, yeah! Forgot to include the recent UN report which says we're  effectively fucked and will all die in the fire in the fire in the fire, or at least bake a lot. So maybe none of this matters. It could explain why Our Glorious Wealthy have been so openly avaricious lately. Maybe all that talk about "future historians" doesn't mean anything, either. Hey; my bad!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

I Am A Marxist

Though Harpoism Works For Me Too

I'm not having good times these days. Few people I know are very far from the oppressive weight of (Today's) New Normal, soon to be replaced by (Even More New) Normal.

To paraphrase something: I believe with a perfect faith in all the history I remember, and I've been in some truly frightening places in life. But current events we're living through frighten me in a way I didn't think was possible.

At The Place 'O Witless Labor, I stumbled across an interview with my favorite Marxist, courtesy of TPM. (I am so old I remember seeing it on TeeVee when it was broadcast new, in that long-ago 1969, before that trip to long-ago Southeast Asia). I offer it as an antidote to everything currently occurring, and a protective screen to anything I might say afterwards:


Each day, the American Right crawls further along a metamorphosis into an active Paranoid Raving Loon I Kill You! political movement.  One which could allow or sanction serious physical harm and imprisonment of not only minorities and the underclass, but anyone they declare an ideological "enemy".

Trump is an insane old man, a bully; a liar; a tormentor; one who exhorts others to do harm -- and the GOP is fully his party. Its candidates, representatives and organizers are taking his lead and saying that the Left is "evil". Just as he says the media (except Murdoch's media) is "the enemy of the people".

The political Right is saying that 'they' (meaning anyone who disagrees with or opposes Trump -- that is to say, everything perfect and right and good) are a "Mob".  The new strategy to incite 'The Base' around the midterms is to increase The Base's level of fear -- that they are personally "at war"... personally "in danger" of being attacked by a Leftist Mob.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo
In Middle Of Blog Thing

Go and sample rhetoric captured by Media Matters. Fox in particular is pushing the line that anyone who is "a Trump supporter... an average citizen" is in danger -- that "anyone who's a Trump supporter [are] all targets". America is in danger from a mob that will act like "genocidal Hutus in Rawanda". The Murdoch machine is working overtime to spew that Party Line.

It's a lowest-common-denominator appeal. It is calculated to divide the country even further towards some bad fork in the road. If it doesn't sound like inciting behavior which can only culminate in violent acts, martial law; civil war; or just incredibly high levels of road rage and in-your-face responses over the most trivial events, I don't know what does.

The only thing that's missing is a(n overt, public) statement by Good Ol' megachurch leaders that the "evil" of the Left is also "in league with satan", "in rebellion against god". But I'm sure they'll come to that, in time.

Okay; that's it, until something else happens. Fuck; I need another antidote. Enjoy.


Oh, and, yeah; I am a member of the Cohen Front also.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

In The Epistemic World

Wherein We Are Shewn How The Sausage Is Made

Politics: So Many Choices.

GOP Confident Kavanaugh Is Cleared
-- CNN Headline, October 4, 2018

...By “epistemic world”, I mean a broadly shared framework for knowing [where] emotions, moral sensibilities and reason are all informed by certain values, either consciously or unconsciously...  When our epistemic world is threatened, we feel ourselves being undone. As a philosopher, I am inclined to see [the nomination of Kavanaugh] as a war between two epistemic worlds.

In the first world, privileged white men get to do with impunity what other men at least have to think twice about, and for women who dare to speak of them, the punishment is swift and devastating. ... In the second epistemic world, the default position is to believe [the] women who make sexual assault allegations...

Much of the media spectacle around the Kavanaugh nomination has made it seem as if the epistemic battle is about the truth... Kavanaugh’s supporters want to be sure that what is at stake is not truth, but meaning. It isn’t really about who you believe, so much as which epistemic world you believe in.

Will the first epistemic world retain its power to determine the status of such happenings, to determine what they mean, how they matter? ... make no mistake -- the “old” world ... is right here, right now, and despite the remarkable gains of the #MeToo movement, it controls every branch of our government.

-- Bonnie Mann, "Trump’s New Taunt, Kavanaugh’s Defense and How Misogyny Rules"; New York Times, October 3, 2018 (Minor edits for clarity)


A Simulacrum Of A Pretense Of Caring

...A predatory society doesn’t just mean oligarchs ripping people off financially. In a truer way, it means people nodding and smiling and going about their everyday business as their neighbours, friends, and colleagues die early deaths in shallow graves.

The predator in American society isn’t just its super-rich — but an invisible and insatiable force: the normalization of what in the rest of the world would be seen as shameful, historic, generational moral failures, if not crimes, becoming mere mundane everyday affairs not to be too worried by or troubled about...

Seen accurately. American collapse is a catastrophe of human possibility without modern parallel. And because the mess that America has made of itself, then, is so especially unique, so singular, so perversely special — the treatment will have to be novel, too. The uniqueness of these social pathologies tell us that American collapse is not like a reversion to any mean, or the downswing of a trend. It is something outside the norm. Something beyond the data. Past the statistics.

It is like the meteor that hit the dinosaurs: an outlier beyond outliers, an event at the extreme of the extremes. That is why our narratives, frames, and theories cannot really capture it — much less explain it. We need a whole new language — and a new way of seeing — to even begin to make sense of it.

But that is America’s task, not the world’s. The world’s task is this. Should the world follow the American model — extreme capitalism, no public investment, cruelty as a way of life, the perversion of everyday virtue — then these new social pathologies will follow, too.

They are new diseases of the body social that have emerged from the diet of junk food — junk media, junk science, junk culture, junk punditry, junk economics, people treating one another and their society like junk — that America has fed upon for too long.

--  Umair Haque, "Why We're Underestimating American Collapse"; Eudaimonia&Co., January 25, 2018

Democracy Means Someday You Can Do It Too

Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Barstow, Craig and Buettner, "Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father", New York Times, October 2, 2018

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Ogg Ogg
The Oldest Friend Asks: "Why do you undercut your writing with humor 
that detracts from whatever your point is?"

Golden Days

America has a thriving mutual support network of family trusts and estates. The Trump administration is serving their interests well. What caught the headlines in Mr Trump’s tax bill last December was the cut in the corporate tax rate. Private wealth also had plenty to cheer. The bill doubled the floor at which people must start paying inheritance taxes.

Couples can now shelter their children from paying a cent on the first $22 million of what they inherit. The previous floor was already high, even by America’s standards. [In 2000, only] 2% of American estates paid any estate tax. That has now fallen to [ 0.01% ], according to the Joint Committee on Taxation...

...Mr. Kavanaugh boasted that he had “busted a gut” to make it to Yale, and benefited from “no connections”. In fact, he attended a Washington private school that churns out Ivy League material... Mr Kavanaugh’s grandfather studied at Yale.

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Kavanaugh offers a cracked reflection of society. America’s elites do not like what they see. It distorts their world as they like to see it: meritocratic, fair-minded, and politically correct. Each in their way presents a grotesquerie of America’s less noble side.

In Mr. Kavanaugh’s case, it is the slipped mask of a man trying to imitate Lady Justice. In Mr. Trump’s it is a president who reinforces an economic structure that sustains them.

--  Edward Luce, "Donald Trump and The Golden Age Of America’s Oligarchy," Financial Times, October 4, 2018

Is She Big Is She Moving Is She Hellbound

America makes prodigious mistakes, America has colossal faults, but one thing cannot be denied: America is always on the move. She may be going to Hell, of course, but at least she isn't standing still.
-- e. e. cummings, May, 1927; as quoted in George Firmage's A Miscellany (1958)


But, It Mimics Nature

In 2011, the Swiss Institute of Technology (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule [ETH], Zürich) released a comprehensive study of the ownership structures of ~43,000 transnational corporations.

The ETH determined that all of them were owned by just 147 corporate entities, which they referred to as a 'Super Entity' -- and 75% of them are financial corporations (Vitali, Glattfelder and Battiston, "The Network Of Corporate Global Control", ETH Zürich, 2011)

... But don't grab a pitchfork and head to the nearest Occupy protest just yet. Systems researchers say this isn't the result of an Illuminati-type global conspiracy, but rather a natural force to be expected.
"Such structures are common in nature," complex systems expert George Sudihara told NewScientist.

The researchers say that while there's nothing wrong, in and of itself, with the concentration of capital in the hands of a small number of companies, when those companies become too interconnected, they can cause chain reactions that can harm the economy.

--  Daniel Tencer, " 'Super-Entity' Of 147 Companies At Center Of World's Economy, Study Claims", Huffington Post Canada, October 24, 2011

Keep Them From Noticing The Fire As Long As Possible

What will trigger the next crash? The $13.2 trillion in unsustainable U.S. household debt? The $1.5 trillion in unsustainable student debt? The billions Wall Street has invested in a fracking industry that has spent $280 billion more than it generated from its operations? Who knows.

What is certain is that a global financial crash, one that will dwarf the meltdown of 2008, is inevitable. And this time, with interest rates near zero, the elites have no escape plan. ...

An emergency clause in the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 allows the Fed to provide liquidity to a distressed banking system. But [After the 2008 Crash] the Federal Reserve did not stop with [providing banks with] a few hundred billion dollars. It flooded the financial markets with absurd levels of fabricated money. This had the effect of making the economy appear as if it had revived. And for the oligarchs, who had access to this fabricated money while we did not, it did.

...The global financial system is a ticking time bomb. The question is not if it will explode but when it will explode. And once it does, the inability of the global speculators to use fabricated money with zero interest to paper over the debacle will trigger massive unemployment, high prices for imports and basic services, and a devaluation in which the dollar will become nearly worthless as it is abandoned as the world’s reserve currency...

...Given the staggering amount of fabricated money that has to be repaid, the banks need to build greater and greater pools of debt. This is why when you are late in paying your credit card the interest rate jumps to 28 percent. This is why if you declare bankruptcy you are still responsible for paying off your student loan, even as 1 million people a year default on student loans, with 40 percent of all borrowers expected to default on student loans by 2023.

This is why wages are stagnant or have declined while costs, from health care and pharmaceutical products to bank fees and basic utilities, are skyrocketing. The enforced debt peonage grows to feed the beast until, as with the subprime mortgage crisis, the predatory system fails because of massive defaults...

--  Chris Hedges, "Conjuring Up The Next Depression", TruthDig, September 10, 2018
     (Links Added)
WALLACE GLADSTONE: ... And now, here's a contingent of our heroic POWs, many of whom spent years in prison in Hanoi, courageously resisting the persistent efforts of their North Vietnamese captors to brainwash them into thinking that the United States is run by a tiny clique of criminals, dominated by powerful business interests; bankrolled by huge, monopolistic corporations working hand in glove with the CIA in a campaign of intrigue at home and abroad.  
BARBARA MERKIN: Jesus, why do they bother?  
GLADSTONE:  Oh; I don't know, Barbara.  
-- "Impeachment Day Parade Coverage", Chevy Chase (Gladstone), Rhonda Coulett (Merkin); National Lampoon's Missing White House Tapes (Blue Thumb Records, 1974)