Friday, November 10, 2017

Galatically Stupid Is Our Buddy

One Year

Before we begin, here's a perspective you might consider : The physical remains of a Bronze-Age human were found on a glacier in 1991. He was dubbed 'Ötzi The Iceman'. He had died in the mountain pass where his body was found (between current-day Italy and Austria) roughly 5,300 years ago. 

Use the link; go look at this man's reconstructed face. Let me repeat: He Died Five Thousand, Three Hundred Years Ago. He died at least 3,000 years before there was Greek civilization, or a Roman empire. 2,000 years before the Pyramids of Egypt were built.  

He lived and died four thousand years before the Buddha was supposed to be alive, and at least 2,300 years before either Jesus or Mohammed were supposedly doing their community service. Consider that.

Also consider: he was discovered because the glacier, which held and moved his body, was melting.
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Where we were, before November 10, 2016. Compare in your own minds with where we are now.
  • Climate Breakdown:  The effect of human life on the planet's ecosystem continued. There was no way to know if the Paris Accords, if put into action, would have a measurable effect on dampening trends in global temperature, precipitation and extreme weather. Some critics complained the accords did not go far enough; others that it was too late to reverse climate effects, no matter what we do. However, the planet's political representatives (including the United States) had committed themselves to an agreement, and that was no small feat. But, it's just a few paragraphs of language, unless and until legislated into action.
  • The upward flow of wealth, to Those Who Have from Those Who Don't, continued in 2016. Important people being paid large salaries released reports detailing what a bad thing this is, which were tut-tutted by many (Inequality; must do something about that). Anyone born in the United States in 1980 -- the generation which should be in its prime, income-producing years -- has a 50/50 chance of making less than their parents. The top eight wealthiest persons in the world have more collective net worth than 50% of the human race (See "Panama Papers" below). That's a ratio of  1 : 437,500,000,  if you're curious. Or, not.
  • North Korea and the Kim-Jong Un regime continued development of nuclear weapons, and an ICBM delivery system capable of hitting the United States. The North claimed to have successfully launched a submarine-based IRBM in August, 2016; two test launches of surface-based IRBMs/ICBMs in mid-October apparently failed.  North Korea had also conducted three underground nuclear weapons tests -- one in January, and twice in September, 2016.
  • China continued to spread its influence. Chinese companies made large acquisitions. Foreign currency reserve money (i.e., USD) flowed out of the country.  Development of the "one Belt, One Road" initiative begun in 2014 continued as a strategic direction. Tensions continued in the South China Sea with Japan and the United States over islands China had 'enhanced', expanding China's definition of territorial waters into what the U.S. sees as open shipping lanes. Encounters between naval vessels and aircraft were tense, and the possibility of an 'incident' seemed likely.
  • War in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen continued. Russian military support for the Al-Assad regime had allowed Syrian government forces to retake territory from rebel forces in the north of the country (in particular, the brutal retaking of the city of Aleppo), and from the so-called Islamic State. In Iraq, the IS still controlled large areas, but counteroffensives by U.S.-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces had begun in 2015, and by the fall of 2016 the Islamists were in retreat
  • In Turkey, a military coup in July 2016 against its increasingly authoritarian leader, Racep ("Kiki") Erdogan, failed, resulting in curbing of civil liberties, censorship, closing of any media critical of the Erdogan government; mass firings of civil service employees suspected of being sympathetic to the coup, and summary arrests. 
  • Saudi Arabia executed a Shia cleric who had long been critical of that country's Sunni majority in January 2016. One result were violent protests held at the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Iran (where the Shia are in the majority). The Saudis closed the embassy and severed diplomatic relations with Iran -- all this is related to the ongoing war in Yemen -- where since 2015, rebels backed by Iran have tried to overthrow a government supported by Saudi Arabia. 42,000 people have died. In August, 2016, talks to end the conflict collapsed, and Saudi airstrikes -- which have terrified local populations -- continued.
  • Great Britain's citizens voted for 'Brexit', 52% to 48% in June 2016. The Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron (who called the vote to silence critics, believing it would result in a victory to 'remain' in the Union) resigned. Implications for the rest of the EU weren't immediately clear, but weren't positive. Conservative Theresa May (a diehard 'Remain' supporter), was chosen as new PM and barely able to maintain a right-wing coalition in Parliament against tremendous pressure from the Labor Party and its leader, MP Jeremy Corbin.
  • France elected Emmanuel Macron, a Centrist, in a May 2016 election which pitted him against the far-Right Nationalist Marie LePen, 66.1% to 33.9%. This was seen as a bellwether of nationalist, anti-EU and fascist-leaning politics in mainstream Europe, and LePen's failure was seen as a defeat for those extremist viewpoints. What Macron as a 'centrist' would do with French internal and economic policy? well, that's a different matter, c'est non?
  • Roderigo Duerte was elected President of the Philippines in May, 2016. A populist candidate, Duerte instituted a ruthless campaign against drug dealing in the country, utilizing vigilantes and police, leading to reported thousands of murders. Duerte also hinted the Philippines' would be ending its long-standing relationship with the United States, and its troops would have to leave the country by 2018.  He made clear overtures to the government of China as a new ally, and made headlines by referring to then-president Obama in a public speech as a "son of a bitch".
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) had been in negotiation since 2009. It was an American-led vehicle, providing leverage for the U.S., and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, to determine how trade in the Rim would be conducted, and was clearly aimed at containing Chinese economic influence (that it would also become part of a network of prior, similar trade agreements which provide, uh, 'rewards' to the usual large financial interests was obvious but ignored). The TPP was not popular among many politicians in the U.S., Right or Left; even so, then-president Obama hoped it would be ratified by the Congress in lame-duck session before the end of 2016. Good luck with that.
  • In April 2016, the "Panama Papers" were released in the media,  over 11 million documents dating from the 1970's forward which detailed how a long list of wealthy clients of a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, used offshore shell corporations to move and protect income from taxation. The documents were copied by an anonymous whistleblowing employee of the firm, who initially provided them to a German newspaper. Almost no one was surprised, including the governments which had been potentially defrauded of tax payments.
Left out here are mass shooting episodes in America (the Orlando, Florida nightclub attack) and continued police shootings of unarmed people in urban cities. There were the July Bastille Day terror attacks in Nice, France, and also in Germany by lone attackers. There was resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. Anton Scalia died in his sleep ("Whales weep not").

The existence of gravitational waves, created by the collision of two black holes trillions of miles from Earth, was confirmed. Hundreds of the oldest footprints of our ancestors (in fossilized mud, some 19,000 years old) were found in Africa. People found Ube on their doughnuts, Poke holding their veggies and fish, Raclette scraped on their eggs, and "fairy bread", in the year since November 9, 2016. 
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After the 2016 election: I'm going to agree with Ian Welsh on this one. It is no bed of roses, but
... I say that we are moving out of an era where problems could only be solved if they made someone a billionaire and are moving to an era where we will be able to start actually fixing problems that matter. This is a high-risk period ... But unlike in 2009... we now have some real reasons to hope along with all the baked-in catastrophes we’ve had handed to us. 
Oh, yes, Trump. Yeah, he’s bad, and he’ll be bad for a lot of people, but I am not worried when it comes to the big picture because he’s ... far too incompetent.... Someone competent, running on actual right-wing populism, say, Bannon with charisma, could well have turned America into a fascist state for two generations... [Trump's] failure provides a clear warning of the danger and may discredit those policies.
Trump's behavior, which we can count on to be consistently erratic and polarizing, is an important factor in how near-term events (say, three to seven years) could play out. Put simply, Trump is his own worst enemy.  He's already proven it.

His behavior galvanizes opposition and identifies alt-Right extremist conservatism with his own Batshit-Crazy, galatically-stupid incompetence. A more competent mendacious person might do real damage to America, and the rest of the world -- so in a way, we got lucky with Wonderboy. His inherent nature is our best friend, just now.

This isn't to say that if he were about to be indicted for -- treason, perhaps -- Trump might not do something which had maximum Shiny Object value in the media as a distraction. And his target(s) would be (like immigrants, like the Dreamers, like the women he bragged about groping) someone who couldn't really hurt him, couldn't really fight back.

It's important to remember that Trump's closest political advisors, his go-to guys, are all general officers, whether they wear a tie and a blazer or not (Rex Tillerson isn't part of that team, but they seem to get along). Someone made the observation that we've already had a military coup, and no one noticed; if we're lucky, it's only half-wrong.
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Our old-order politics in America, with the two parties serving the Usual Suspects, is no longer viable. Something will replace it -- the what, how and when, we don't know. It may be pretty and joyous, or not.  Change will continue -- and, we're only one year into the Occupation, and haven't yet seen how crazy it can get. We need to remember the past, and we need to remember the future.
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Things, in their relative way, abide: Here's my only solution, just now. Imagine standing in some specific place in the world, one you hold close to your heart. One you can close your eyes and all your senses light up at the memory; see, smell, feel, hear that place. Imagine being in that spot for one year.

The wind blows; birdcalls come and go; clouds appear, thunder and rain, and then pass; night falls; the great bridge of stars appears and twists on its axis above you, until the next sunrise -- and all of it 365 times, passed in an overarching quiet which ignored your presence, as if you were simply an element in that landscape. A rock, a tree, a lost Quarter.

Now open your eyes again and remember that during the year since last November, in all it's terrible beauty; despite everything; your place stood, full of change but rooted, exactly so. Consider that.
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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Crustal Displacement Is Not Your Buddy; Or, Weimar II

Wrong
(From November 10, 2016)

Put On A Happy Face.  Or, Not.

Clinton would win. Of course; aber natürlich she would. Because the idea of a victory by Trump was so far outside the bounds of possibility. It was laughable; worse, it was stupid, and I said exactly that here and elsewhere, over and over.

Trump was a joke. He was clownish, 'Brassy', utterly without gravitas. He was like the owner of the hardware store in a small town, outwardly successful (though there were stories about how he ran that business), a member of the country club, invited to all the right public parties -- but no one would ever suggest he had a serious chance if he ran for mayor. This asshole?  Ha ha; no.

And, the people who supported Trump had to be troglodyte, tin-foil-hat wearing, racist, misogynist Brownshirts. They lapped up propaganda paid for by the Koch Brothers, as eagerly as anything being passed in the right-wing public vomatorium. They were bitter-enders, the "twenty-four per centers'; of course they were. There couldn't be enough of them in America to elect that, that -- person.  My America was (at a minimum) progressive, fact-based, secular. There was no room for the kind of Tea Partei intolerance and lunacy which Trump's running mate (and now Vice-President) Pence tried enacting into law in Indiana.

Trump's supporters were angry that America has been moving down the wrong path, its political priorities not addressing what they saw as our critical needs -- oddly enough, I feel the same. But our ideas of 'critical needs' are diametrically opposed. And most conservatives I've met seem to have basic assumptions about How The World Works that just make me foam whenever I hear them -- and if they're evangelical conservatives, I start veering into Stroke territory. Thank god, I thought: they're only the 24%. Not enough to move the dial.

Hillary, as distasteful as her assumption of power might be to me, as autocratic as her stranglehold on the DNC was, made me feel that I had some license to be snarky and sarcastic. After all, she would win anyway, right? Of course. Of course.

And the numbers that appeared in Nate Silver's analysis of the electorate at fivethirtyeight.com supported that assumption. Silver, the Quant / pollster who defied 'conventional wisdom' in 2012 (predicting a second term for Obama when most polls and the GOP declared Romney the probable winner), consistently predicted Clinton a shoe-in:  as of Tuesday, November 8, her estimated chances of winning were 71.4%; Trump's were 24.6%.  The last message posted at the 538 site yesterday was:
Throughout the election, our forecast models have consistently come to two conclusions. First, that Hillary Clinton was more likely than not to become the next president. And second, that the range of possible Electoral College outcomes — including the chance of a Donald Trump victory, but also a Clinton landslide that could see her winning states such as Arizona — was comparatively wide.

That remains our outlook today in our final forecast of the year. Clinton is a 71 percent favorite to win the election according to our polls-only model and a 72 percent favorite according to our polls-plus model. ... This reflects a meaningful improvement for Clinton in the past 48 hours as the news cycle has taken a final half-twist in her favor. Her chances have increased from about 65 percent.

Our forecast has Clinton favored in states and congressional districts totaling 323 electoral votes ... but ... because Clinton’s leads in North Carolina and Florida especially are tenuous, the average number of electoral votes we forecast for Clinton is 302, which would be equivalent to her winning either Florida or North Carolina but not both.
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I spent yesterday in a jury assembly room, answering a summons to serve along with 200 other people. We were shown two videos which extolled jury service as a part of our system of law and justice, 'trial by ones peers', part of the rights guaranteed by our Constitution (where trial by jury is mentioned, we were told, three times).  It was interesting, even fun (possibly not for the petitioners or defendants).  We saw "Former Jurors" telling the camera that they would want someone like themselves on a jury if they were ever "in a fix".

Having to serve on a jury when I am galactically busy at my Place O' Labor™ is a drag -- but I agree with the idea that membership in a body politic means one may have to step up when asked. It was also ironic to be watching the videos while the country was casting votes about the potential future makeup of the Supreme Court.  But, Clinton would win; that would be fodder for eight years of jokes and photoshopped images. Not a problem.

Last night, I didn't even watch the returns. I sat down and wrote out a post -- a good one -- about the election, but my free blogger service ate it. Gone. I'd saved it, ready to Publish; when suddenly the screen refreshed and a much earlier draft of the same post was left. An hour of decent writing up the spout. So, I watched the last episode of Ken Burns'; documentary on America's experience of WW2, The War. I was bored; get it over with, already, and went to bed convinced I would see Hillary's face trumpeted from the skies tomorrow.

Wrong.
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This morning, members of my department at the Place O' Labor put in a half-day's work at the County Food Bank, sorting oranges, removing spoiled or damaged fruit and boxing the rest, carrying the boxes to pallets. We processed 13,000 pounds. As I was boxing the oranges (purchased in bulk from suppliers; edible, but not of very high quality), I considered that this is how some of America's most vulnerable are being fed. Obtaining even Grade-C oranges, or cast-off peanut butter, is the difference between eating, and not.

When we were finished, one of the volunteer managers stood up and gave a small presentation about what the Food Bank did and who it served -- approximately 120,000 persons in the San Francisco Bay area. "Every day, we receive about 100 calls from first-time people asking how they can receive food," he said. "These aren't people looking to receive something for free -- they ask because they can't afford to pay their rent or mortgage, their utility or phone bill, and feed themselves or their children.  Our staff says that number has been fairly consistent -- around 100 first-time callers per day.

"When did that start? I asked. They agreed -- it began after the Crash in 2008; it's been consistent ever since." He paused for a moment. "The elements that created the Crash were in motion for a decade before it happened -- and many of those same causes were never addressed afterwards. The same things could happen --" He stopped, then corrected himself -- "Will happen, again."

What kind of safety nets will be available for the Underclass now?  What kind of safety will there be, for any of us?
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MEHR, MIT ANDERN STUFF:  Most people in public, or the workplace, seemed to studiously avoid talking about What Happened. They talked around it; they talked past it. Their attitude was equal parts disbelief, and not wanting to create a conflict with anyone who might have voted for Trump.  

Very early in the morning, before the cubicle farm filled up, I did overhear an ancient project manager known as The Walrus (GooGoo Ka-Choob) saying to someone over the phone, "Yeah; I mean, think about it -- Presidents change, but the bureaucracy is the same. Right? The military doesn't change. That's the most important thing." That'll be a comfort to all those targeted by drones for Kill Tuesday.

I only heard the 'B' side of one conversation between two people  about the election all day -- two members of the permanent staff at the Food Bank: a woman had said something about Trump I didn't completely hear, and a man responded, "We don't know. Jus' gotta roll widdit."  That was all. 

At The Place Of Employ, even My Very Own Hillaryite Colleague was subdued and unwilling to comment. Only one person (we'll call him Harry Tuttle) said anything. Harry is a technical worker of long experience, a San Francisco native, and black; I asked for his take. "Well -- yesterday, America elected someone who's shown himself a known quantity. He's bigoted, sexist, and all kinds of fucked up. With all that, you tell me what the immediate future's gonna be like. I expect he'll take on the Fat Boy in North Korea, or someone he thinks is a soft target -- or he'll do something else that's stupid."

The Girl Who Refused To Be Mrs. Mongo sent a text: "What will we do? I think we should marry a foreigner. I'm willing to learn any language."  The Best Friend: "Whitelash! ... WTF?? Fuck You Very Much, America!"  I read through most of the comments traded by readers last night on The Great Curmudgeon's 'Eschaton' and watched the disbelief seep in as the vote-counting progressed; it was painful. 
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In Burns' documentary, The War, a photo was shown of a road sign erected by Marines on the island of Saipan in the summer of 1945, with an additional marker that reflected the apparent endlessness of  the Pacific conflict: "Golden Gate In [19]48 -- Bread Line In [19]49". On The Line, no one knows what it means when there's a significant change, like a new commander. You expect the deck is stacked against you, because you've seen the system and that's how it's arranged. You only hope you're not fucked too badly, that no one takes anything else away from you, and that whoever shows up to lead will not get you killed. That is not a joke.
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However, the comments on Eschaton and on a number of other sites make me want to add this note as a counterweight to the disbelief most seem to be feeling:  The election is over. But if our 45th President, or those who believe they own America and its people, think they're going to have free rein to drop a saddle on all of us and try to ride, I believe it's our duty to disappoint them as frequently and strongly as possible. And, all calls for 'National Unity' aside -- I believe a lot of people already have that intention.

It's going to be one hell of a ride.
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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Our Nada Which Art In Nada

Bark Bark Bark Bark

Tourist Snaps Photo At More-A-Lego, Florida; February 2017 (Reuters)

I could be wrong; I am, after all, only a Dog -- but my country is in a state of forever war, part of a world run by corporate business and finance, to benefit a relatively small number of persons. This is all happening against a (mostly unacknowledged) backdrop of existential unknowing: Most of us don't claim to understand what, or why, the world is, or why we are. All we do know is, we will die, and then something else will happen. Or, you know -- not.  No one knows. And we're scared.

In the teeth of that fierce unknowing, we're shown messages in film, on small screens, in advertisements, that the highest aspiration of humanity should be to acquire things, and the finest exemplars of humankind are our corporate or finance leaders. The shiny message: Don't Be A Loser. Get More Than Others, and Be Prepared To Fight For Limited Resources. Your children should want to be an entrepreneur; to become a Daimon, a Bezos, a Musk, a Branson. A Trump. And an Owner. When you have so much -- only then can you "Win".

And -- Dude! -- for the lucky ones, it will only get so much better with the next round of technology breaking out. There will be so much opportunity for those with technology skills, and who are young. And being able to afford the cool toys that will be coming. And you'll be able to afford the three-thousand-dollar-a-month studio apartments, the leased driverless cars, the newest i-somethings, and vacations, and you won't need much healthcare. And the stock market will go up forever. Because freedom.

For those lucky ones, the world will continue a wonderful forever place, filled with parties and treats, and trips to the gym to buff up and hook up. And it will all look and feel just like college. And as long as there's Netflix and voice-activated everything, with Uber everywhere, we Par-tay!

 Obigatory Huge Moose Photo In Middle Of Blog Thing

S'all good, man. Chill out. Have a beer. It's almost time for the Big Game -- because there's always a Big Game. It'll be fun. Forever. The climate is broken but, hey man; we can't fix it -- we have to live for Today, Dude. And those people in those other countries we see on our smartphones? Heart-breaking, man. We're pretty much fucked. Thanks, Useless Boomers -- you screwed us!

So, under the circumstances, who cares if you're being monitized, tracked, lied to and led?  Or if your role is just to buy things and funnel money up to the Owners? Can't do anything about stuff we can't do anything about, man.  Have another beer. It's Game Time!
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Dear Leader can fire Mueller when he gets too close -- and Nothing will happen. Too many people seem to be frozen, waiting, hoping for that one thing, the last straw, a final red line which, when crossed, will mean the end of Trump -- as if getting rid of him will magically change everything.

But that won't happen. The alt-Right and the Old-GOP Republicans are locked together in a furious civil war. Neither side can give the other an inch -- each wants to seize control of the GOP just when it has control of all branches of government.

And no matter what new outrages Trump may commit (as I've said, he could have sex with goats on live television and Nothing Will Happen), both sides need him. To abandon or even impeach him would mean publicly discrediting American conservatism and jeopardizing the Right's control of the government. Neither the alt-Right or Old GOP are willing to risk that.

Trump is what he is. Because he only cares about being shown slavish loyalty from moment to moment, the greasy alt-Right opportunists can stroke and cajole him, or kiss Jared and Ivanka's behinds to win his favor.

They need Trump as their entry ticket to Government, to legitimacy, in the same way that The Duce needed King Vittorio Emanuel II, and the Brownshirts needed President Hindenburg.

The Old GOP -- the Paulie Ryans and Yertle The Turtles -- live in fear of Trump's Tweeting, his viciousness and unpredictability, because they want to outmaneuver the Stevie Bannons and the Mercers, and hold on to their old power...  so, Trump can do as he likes. 

When Trump fires the Special Prosecutor -- or issues blanket pardons to his family and friends (an equally likely scenario), beyond a strongly-worded Op-Ed piece in the Paper of Record, a few days of marches and some minimal civil disobedience, Nothing Will Happen.

Think about what Trump has said and done since January 20th. Every day, people have said to each other Can you believe he did this? A President can't do that. He can't do that!  But Oh Yes. He Can.  And, just when you thought his behavior couldn't be any more incredible, he doubles down. Where do you believe that will stop?  Or better yet -- what makes you think he is a rational person, a healthy person, and believes he has any limits to what he can do?

Today, filmed before a meeting with Congressional Republicans began, Trump obviously looked down at notes as a guide when making comments about ending the so-called 'diversity lottery' of visas to the U.S.  Then, a reporter asked whether the self-professed IS terrorist who attacked pedestrians in lower Manhattan should be sent to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Again, I'm only a Dog -- but when not reading from his notes, Trump behaved as others have observed before -- forcefully repeating simple phrases, appearing to have difficulty focusing or concentrating, his voice labored and slurred, as if he were drugged or otherwise impaired -- again, something other observers have noted. And still nothing happens.

Appearing on The Little Rupert Network today, Mike Pence, the possible heir apparent, said gleefully, "I tell you; there's very little resemblance between [the Trump White House] and the previous administration!"
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There's A Star Man / Waiting In The Sky:  SETI Recommends Not Landing Here

This is how fascism works. The Leader is the focus of praise and rage, the center of all things; the Anus Mundi.  Whatever he does is right, correct, and explainable; and every new outrage results in -- Nothing.

The collective behavior of Our Leader, which would provoke mass demonstrations and even riots in other parts of the world, results in -- Nothing. Each new proclamation or law or restriction by Trump, and as alt-Right crazies dismantle regulations protecting Americans and our environment, passes without any real response from the majority of Americans. They still can't fully accept, even after nearly ten months, that this is happening.

And, these changes will continue to come, each day, incrementally -- until we will find ourselves standing at the edge of another red line which we know we can cross only at our mortal peril. To Do Nothing, then, will not be a choice we can make. Inaction, acceptance; even full-throated support of The Leader will be required. Because Freedom.

And doing Something, then, may not even be an option.
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MEHR, MIT MILITÄRISMUS:  Well, it may be too late already.  Have a gander, and please be sure to read the comments. Be advised: if it's a consideration, Moon is an equal-opportunity call 'em like they see 'em space and the political perceptions of some commenters may not be your own. 
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[Peter] Schwartz submits that government incompetence might not be enough to trigger America's implosion. After all, we could always just vote out the bozos who let us down. What we need to destroy the country, he argues, is Zimbabwe-sized corruption: a succession of executives who pilfer the national treasury and refuse to hold free elections. In that case, the country could fall apart as our national creeds of freedom, democracy, and openness are gradually abandoned.
-- Josh Levin, "How Is America Going To End?"; Slate, August 2009
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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Redeemed

Lost, But Now He Is Found


It isn't a question whether any individual person is eligible for redemption (a very Western, Judeo-Christian concept) -- it's whether, first, they've made any acknowledgement of what they've done, and shown how they will attempt to atone for the harm they've caused.

When there is no recognition of that harm, it simply continues -- deforming everyone involved (including the perpetrators), handed down like a dark heirloom to later generations (remember that the trauma of the camps reached down into the very DNA of survivors, their children born with genetic predispositions for anxiety and fear). Bombing, torture, secret prisons; the maimed and the blind.

And where the perpetrators are allowed to grow old in comfort, it presents particular challenges when talking about justice, or equality, or rule of law.


"Lil' Boots" Bush is a weak, stupid, unindicted war criminal, now being treated as a respected cultural figure -- only because he is the son of an old, one-tenth-of-one-per-cent, blue-blood American family in the Great Calvinist tradition. And of course our Owners deserve comfortable lives and treats. Because freedom. And take that cap off. Show some respect. Don't be disagreeable.
FREDERICK:  I watched TV.  You missed a very dull show on Auschwitz. More gruesome film clips, and more puzzled intellectuals declaring their mystification over the systematic murder of millions. The reason they can never answer the question, "How could it possibly happen?" is that it's the wrong question. Given what people are, the question is, "Why doesn't it happen more often?"  Of course, it does; in subtler forms.
But you see the whole culture -- nazis, deodorant salesmen; wrestlers, beauty contests; a talk show -- can you imagine the level of a mind that watches wrestling? But the worst are the fundamentalist preachers. Third grade con men, telling the poor suckers that watch them that they speak for Jesus. And to please send money. Money, money, money! If Jesus came back, and saw what's being done in his name -- he'd never stop throwing up.
-- Max von Sydow / Frederick, The Artist / Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
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Monday, October 16, 2017

America: Toad Away

Yet Another Long Howl:  Obligatory Voluntary Assembly To Follow

DONNA: ... he's resting after an attempted murder. I don't want people going over there and getting him all Fertushed.
TOBY: 'Fertushed'? You know -- don't bring the Yiddish if you don't know what you're doing.
-- Donna Moss (Janel Moloney) and Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), The West Wing
Events continue to happen, as we knew they would. And hearing about them is almost like eating a chocolate Eclair, rubbed down with Vaseline, while watching the news.

Enjoy it while you can: after The Incident, or when The War begins, whichever comes first, ingesting them will be mandatory, and watching the Compulsory News will be -- well, compulsory.
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The Fire, This Time
Wonderboy says climate breakdown is "fake". Meanwhile, in Kiddietown, I overheard two women complaining over lattes that unhealthy air quality, due to the still-uncontained fires in Napa and Yuba counties, had disrupted their running schedules.

"I mean, like, I just feel it when I don't run; you know?" One said. "For sure, it's all tragic? But I so don't like it. I feel fat." "Yah; yah; totally," replied her friend. "They should, like, take care of that."

The fires are still burning. So far, at least 30 people are dead, 5,000 homes and businesses destroyed, and tens of thousands of persons forced to evacuate. The devastation is incredible.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of the population of Puerto Rico, heading for one month after Hurricane Irma, still do not have power or potable water sources.

Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The War
In an interview with Forbes (as quoted by the UK Guardian), Wonderboy said he is not "stupid, like people say -- I'm SMART !!"  So smart, in fact, that when asked about reports that Secretary of Oil State Rex Tillerson had become unhappy enough to consider resigning this past summer, and referred to him as "a moron", Donny replied, "I think it’s fake news. But if [Tillerson] did [say] that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win." Donny repeated this again later, adding, "I don't undercut anybody."

Dear Leader, And Weasel  (David Becker / Reuters)

This was backed up by the Whitehouse Media Wrangler, Missy Sarah, who has gained a few more pounds. Missy said jesus was the lord really, and Wonderboy was just joking; and the reporters just want to make up things to write about, and were all poopy-heads who would 'learn a thing or two' after 'The Incident', praise somebody's god.

In his sly way, Donny also said he had “just about the most legislation passed of any president, in a nine-month period, that’s ever served. We had over 50 bills passed. I’m not talking about executive orders only, which are very important. I’m talking about bills.”

Donny has said this before, and was shown to be a liar. When some people tried to wash his mouth out with soap afterwards, Donny ran away, shouting ("I'll show you!") that he would send everyone to a FEMA camp after The Incident, or The War; whichever comes first.


"Where Do You Go / When You're Toad Away?"

(Donny paused to show the interviewer some "great, totally great" drawings he had made -- each showing himself, ordering airstrikes, signing large documents, and cheeseburgers. His own signatures on the drawings were large and spiky, almost dominating the drawings themselves. Donny said the drawings were "the best drawings ever by anybody," and because he is The Leader, he is right.)

Donny also showed his motor skills, Tweeting that he would replace the Affordable Care Act all by himself. “Since Congress can’t get its act together on HealthCare, I will be using the power of the pen to give great HealthCare to many people – FAST.”

All America (especially the old, poor, infirm and sick) felt safe and happy in the knowledge that Wonderboy, just like god, knows what is best for each and every one of us -- except non-white persons, about whom Wonderboy doesn't give two hoots.

Donny continued to say things -- silly things, just to get any grown-up to watch him. But the Grups were busy doing grown-up things. Donny thought it might be time for The Incident, or The War -- which would legally allow him Bonk Bonk On The Head any bad Grup who would not stop everything they were doing and watch him, watch him, watch him.

Mock, Pseudo-, Crypto-, Quasi- Newsy / Truthy
And, people continue to say how bad Donny is; how disruptive to the rest of the class. They say it over and over. And, guess what?  Nothing happens.

But, there are news items in the press that don't seem to find mention, or are lost in the fog, in our great U.S. media.  A few examples:
  • "Trump ramped up his war with the news media on Wednesday morning, suggesting that it might be appropriate to challenge the license of NBC News in response to what he claimed was its “fake news”(UK Guardian).
  • "The hack into the accountancy giant Deloitte compromised a server that contained the emails of an estimated 350 clients, including ... US government departments [State, Energy, Homeland security and Defense; US Postal Service, NIH, Freddie Mae and Mac], the United Nations and some of the world’s biggest multinationals, the Guardian has been told" (UK Guardian).
  • Little Stevie Bannon, six years old, did his best John Adams impersonation -- with all his grumpy imperiousness, the everyone's-a-fool-but-me attitude, that big paunch and everything -- appearing at the annual "Value Voters" convention in Washington, D.C.  Stevie said that he, and those like him, were 'at war' with the GOP leadership, and that he would like to put a pillow over Yertle The Turtle's face. And run 'Alt-Right' candidates to replace establishment Republicans with Parteigenossen who believe in Little Stevie's wonderful world vision of Sugar Mountain, for white persons (USA Today).
  • Wonderboy, when shown a graph of the reduction over time of all U.S. nuclear warheads (down from ~30,000 in 1965, to <3,000 today), did not like that. Like five-year-old Richie Rich, he wants lots of everything -- and so demanded a "tenfold increase" in U.S. nuclear weapons. He also asked his briefers, three times: "Why haven't we used them? What good are nuclear weapons if you don't use them?" Three times, leading Secretary Of Oil State Tillerson to refer to Donny as "a fucking moron".  Given North Korea, given China; given that Donny can order a nuclear strike if he wants -- there are reportedly hushed conversations among White House senior staff about what to do if Wonderboy "lunges for the nuclear football" (Washington Post).
  • "There’s endless debate about what impeachment is for and what it is. At the end of the day, it’s really not about criminal infractions or which misdeeds might be impeachable... the architects of the constitution wanted a path to avoid what we would now call a coup....You need a constitutional framework ... by which a President who is clearly dangerous to the Republic or not capable of filling the job can be removed. The odds of this happening any time soon or any time during Trump’s term seem close to nil. But this is the kind of President it was designed for." -- Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo)
Our Dear Leader appeared before the 'Value Voters' on Friday the 13th, stuffed into a khaki uniform and shouting about historical union with Vienna or something; I don't know. That loon rants and raves so often we just tune him out, now, hoping he'll go away; thank god for President Hindenburg.  But no matter what Wonderboy does, strutting and preening and capering, nothing happens. Guess we'll be invading Poland next.

Springtime For FP
Recent elections in Austria have made Sebastian Kurz Austria's newest Chancellor. A 'center-right' politician of the Oesterreiches Volks Partei (Austrian People's Party), Kurz at age 31 will be the youngest leader of the country in its history. The OVP has dominated Austrian politics for decades, generally making a coalition with the country's Socialist party in its Parliament -- but that is about to change.

This time, Kurz will make a partnership with the far-right 'Freedom Party', founded in the 50's by alleged ex-nazis, and which had a rebirth in the early 2000's. The FP never received more than a fractional percentage of the vote -- until now. Elections earlier in the year brought the FP within shouting distance of leading the entire country. They've pulled in nearly 27% of the national vote -- while at the same time in Germany, the far-right 'Alternative For Germany' party recently won over ninety seats in the Bundestag. Apparently, fascism isn't just for jokes, anymore.

A coalition between Austria's centrist conservatives and proto-fascists would result in more political credibility for the far right -- which doesn't surprise, really: despite its history after the 1938 Anschluss, when WW2 ended the Allies considered Austria a nation which had been 'occupied' by Germany. So, even though many Austrians had cheerfully, gleefully supported the nazis, the entire population of the country was given victim status.

There was no effort to denazify the country after May of 1945, as was done in Germany. That Austria later gained a reputation as an unreconstructed hotbed of nazi sympathizers was no surprise, either.

Sad Vlad: Winnah And Champeen
Reports continue in the New York Times and elsewhere showing the extent to which giant (ostensibly) American Tech companies were used to manipulate the voting population in 2016.

 Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Getty / UK Guardian

None of this should surprise anyone. Cyber warfare is an extension of signals and cryptography intelligence developed during WW2, resulting in Britain's Blechtley Park (now GCHQ), America's Arlington Hall (now the NSA), and in Russia, what became FAPSI. The difference is, hacking a foreign government (or business competitor)'s computer system is no longer just about stealing secrets or reading communications traffic. So much critical public and private infrastructure is digitally connected that (as with the Stuxnet worm attack on Iran) it's vulnerable to outright sabotage.

It's ironic that the products of a Marxist-Stalinist-Oligarch society used the highest expressions of capitalism and personal enrichment of a tiny technocratic elite (Facebook, Google, Twitter) to affect the course of a critical national election -- and this, after the U.S. allegedly 'won' the Cold War. This was probably not lost on Sad Vlad, the Putin, who may have herniated himself laughing over it.

Harvey Weinstein: Unrepentant Bag Of Redacted
Tubby Harvey, who has apparently used his position as a Hollywood deal- and star-maker ("I'm a famous guy," he said to one of the women he'd abused, who was wearing an NYPD wire) into a bullying, sociopathic domination of everyone and everything around him for nearly three decades, is [redacted] [redacted].

Within a week, he's been fired from a company which had his own name on it, one of the preeminent media talent and production agencies in 'the Biz', his own brother on its board of directors saying what a [redacted] he is; he's been kicked out of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; his wife has left him because [redacted]; and he is facing multiple legal actions, and criminal investigations for alleged rapes in the UK, where there is no statute of limitations on such a crime.

His fall was so swift. It was as if, suddenly given an opening, the entertainment industry went after him for what he had done -- in part, revenge for being bullied all those years, and out of self-preservation. It appeared obvious many in the biz, men and women, knew Harvey was a [redacted] [redacted] [redacted], and that he [redacted], but remained silent. The women abetted his acts out of fear -- because he was such a power in the industry; one phone call from Harvey Weinstein could make or break a career.

The men abetted Harvey's behavior, both out of fear he would Go Tubby on them, and because so many men dominating the film industry treat the women in it as chattel, just as Tubby Harvey had.

Auf nicht wiedersehen, Harvey, you Momzer.
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MEHR, Mit Eine Erklärung:  I toyed with the idea of apologizing for the forgoing, but I won't. 

As it is, I'm frustrated by the utter senselessness of many aspects of our culture -- how things have come to be as they are -- as well as the continuing harm to people, to animals, to things. We know (hell; even children understand) that if you do certain things, or act in certain ways, the outcome isn't good. I don't bring the Yiddish for just any set of circumstances. And I don't just mean fat Harvey.

That we are, collectively, where we are is confounding, saddening and disorienting. I'm surprised that I haven't just created a post which repeats a single epithet, over and over, three thousand times.

Instead, I keep returning to a single pair of phrases: It can't go on like this, and, This cannot end well.
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UND JETZT NOCH IMMER MEHR:  Via Soul Of America, this from Dave Zirin at The Nation [paragraphing added for emphasis]:
"Coach Pop [Gregg Popovich, Head Coach, San Antonion Spurs] called me up after hearing the president’s remarks explaining why he hadn’t mentioned the four US soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger. Trump said, 'President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.'
Maybe it was the bald-faced nature of this lie, maybe it was Pop’s own history in the military, but the coach clearly had to vent...
'I want to say something, and please just let me talk, and please make sure this is on the record... I’ve been amazed and disappointed by so much of what this president had said, and his approach to running this country, which seems to be one of just a never ending divisiveness. 
'But his comments [on Monday, October 16] about those who have lost loved ones in times of war and his lies that previous presidents Obama and Bush never contacted their families are so beyond the pale, I almost don’t have the words.
'This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner—and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers—is as low as it gets. 
'We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this president should be ashamed, because they know better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.' ..."
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Thursday, October 5, 2017

And Now For Something Completely Differen

A Prime        r Wit     sing  ow ls

Slogan Behind Prime Minister Theresa May Sheds Letters 
As She Delivers Keynote Speech; October 4, 2017

It was touted as among the most consequential speeches delivered by a sitting British Prime Minister: Theresa May, PM and head of the UK's Conservative (i.e., Tory) party, giving the keynote address yesterday in the industrial Midlands city of Manchester at that party's annual conference. It was intended to reestablish May in the public's mind as an effective, strong leader, and the Conservatives as the rational leaders of a nation facing a serious fiscal and political crisis.

May's speech had been hyped by the party's media arm as A Very Important Address (she is the Prime Minister, after all). Photos released to the media showed May at her desk at 10 Downing Street, hard at work, writing The Speech out in longhand.

More accurately, the speech was a make-it-or-not affair for May, whose stiff, scripted responses to questions have had the British tabloid press dub her 'The Maybot', and whose political career is in serious doubt.
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The June, 2016 Brexit vote forced the previous Conservative PM, David Cameron, to resign -- he had bet his political career on the Brexit vote failing, and lost.  Theresa May was elected Conservative party leader and (as they still held a majority in Parliament) replaced Cameron. She would have to begin the process of separating the UK from the European Union.


The Brexit vote had showed a slim majority (but still a significant percentage) of British voters were fed up with involvement in the EU. Plus, it raised the ghost of dissolution: Scottish voters supported remaining in the EU. Having barely voted to remain in the UK a few years ago; would the Brexit vote eventually cause Scotland to separate from Great Britain?

Conservatives had been champions of Austerity for All (except, of course, the Rich), cutting social programs, which -- surprise! -- had done nothing but harm people and were very unpopular. The Conservatives supported remaining in the EU -- losing the Brexit vote made them suddenly, publicly, vulnerable.

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party saw their advantage, and stated that the Brexit vote proved the Conservatives, heirs of Maggie Thatcher and champions of Austerity, had lost the confidence of The People. Labour could make a working coalition in Parliament; Theresa May should step down for the good of the country, and Corbyn should be asked by the Queen to form a government.

To scrape a coalition together and survive, May held her nose and made an alliance with Northern Ireland's ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party (who believe, among other things, that abortion and homosexuality should be re-criminalized in Britain). It gave her the slim majority in the Commons she needed, but was a desperation play and looked it.

After the 2016 vote, reports on the impact of leaving the EU were a daily feature in the UK press. Business leaders were reported preparing to move their companies elsewhere, and experts estimated that thousands of jobs would be lost. A number of Conservative leaders believed the Fear Factor had caused enough voters to change their minds about Brexit, and cause a political shift in their favor.

Obligatory Photo Of Small Animal Changing Their Mind About Brexit

Theresa May made a decision, calling for a snap general election almost a year after the Brexit vote, on June, 8, 2017.  May believed it would be a landslide victory, reestablishing her party's political dominance. And, it would help fend off internal challenges to her leadership.

Wrong. The Conservatives lost twelve seats in Parliament (ominously, the DUP gained ten more). The Labour party made even more impressive gains. It was a humiliating defeat that left May and her Conservatives even more vulnerable than before, and making it an even more obvious question whether she could remain as head of her own party, and PM -- or, if her own people might chuck her out.

On June 14, the Grenfell Tower fire occurred in London; Jeremy Corbyn appeared at the site and spent time talking with survivors and neighborhood residents. May appeared the next day, surrounded by fire and police officials; she did not meet with survivors or relatives of those who had died. As she left the area in her official car, there were shouts from a nearby public crowd for the government to resign; May was criticized for not meeting with residents, and for showing a "lack of humanity".

The current Foreign Secretary in her own cabinet, Boris Johnson, has been open about wanting May's job. Other insiders favor replacing her with Doug and Dinsdale, the Piranha Brothers.
_________________________________

I make that Monty Python reference for a reason: Yesterday afternoon, May walked up to the podium, standing before a royal blue curtain with an image of a slogan, spelled out in white letters: BUILDING A COUNTRY THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE.

She began speaking -- and almost immediately suffered a series of coughing spasms. She stopped, and was given water; the Chancellor of the Exchequer handed her a cough drop (she's going to suck on that during her speech? Really?). In a show of party solidarity, many of May's pauses were filled by applause from the rank-and-file in the conference hall until she had gotten her bearings.

Starting again, her voice began failing. More delay; more water was produced, more applause provided, but things were becoming a little strained -- this wasn't normal. It almost seemed fated.

Finally, May was back on track. As reported in the New York Times, she "promised that more affordable homes would be built to address the country’s housing crisis". She promised to cap energy prices, and to create a "British version of the American dream". She also apologized to members of her party for having led the June general election campaign in “too scripted, too presidential” a manner.  She made a brief reference to Brexit, but otherwise stayed away from the topic.

Suddenly, May was interrupted by a man, sitting directly in front of the podium, who handed her a printed form with the label 'P45' in an upper corner, easily seen by cameras (apparently, a P45 is the official form any employer in Britain is required to submit when an employee is fired; they receive a copy as part of the termination process), saying, "Boris [Johnson] asked me to give you this".

P45: Terribly Sorry, But You're 'Leaving Work'

(The man was a comedian, Simon Brodkin, and no stranger to pranks -- he once attended a news conference for FIFA soccer league president, Sepp Blatter [at the time being disgraced by a corruption scandal], and threw paper money at him. According to the Times, he was accredited to attend May's speech, and after handing her the form spent a long minute crouched down, talking with press photographers and [or so it seemed] Boris Johnson, who had been sitting behind him. A number of people shouted to have Brodkin removed, and he was escorted from the hall.)

May took the form Brodkin was holding up and tucked it out of sight, carrying on, as those who sleep in Winnie's old room must do. As she spoke, letters in the slogan attached to the blue curtain behind her began dropping off. By the time she was finished, to applause (it is Britain, after all), the slogan finally read  BUI DING A C NTRY THA ORKS OR RYON.

Predictably, the British media fell over itself in the rush to go to press. Reactions ran the gamut, but seemed weighted towards a decision of Golden Duck / Diamond Duck; not a good thing in Cricket, or politics. May, beyond her speech, had no comment.

If you were to make stuff like this up and put it in a novel, some readers would say Hold on a minute -- this could never happen in real life. It's enough to make you a believer in the law of averages; or, if there is in fact a Prime Mover in the Universe, it's nice to know they have a sense of humor.  Tha  orks  or me.
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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Instructions Pour Populations Dans La Zone Occupée

Random Barking
Now is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
--  Winston Churchill, November 1942

Hey-- I know you, man; you're famous.
-- Tom Petty (1950 - 2017) Cameo Appearance; 'The Postman', 1997
(I began this post before the most recent mass shooting episode [link via Digby], and though much of its focus is on our Dear Leader, what follows should also be read with recent events in mind. And the Tom Petty quote, because another Mensch, et al.; and as is said at the Soul Of America, the Fuck, Man?)
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Obligatory Tubby Animal Photo At Beginning Of Blog Thing

It's hard going in These Days. The quote from Churchill is occasionally used to sound a positive note in the midst of a struggle -- a way of saying, as Gandhi did, that the upward progress of Humankind continues. That Truth will triumph and Justice, eventually, will be done.

I have conversations about The State Of Things. One thing I hear continually repeated is, This Can't Continue. Some think a Deep State will remove Trump. Or Robert Mueller and 'The Russia Thing' will uncover enough to force him from office. And, it's always possible that [mention of extremely bad thing redacted].

But it isn't even about this bloated peacock of a man; he's just a symptom, it's deeper than that. Our politics are an illusion of choice. Everyone I talk with at some point will shake their heads: the America we see isn't sustainable and has not been for some time now. Surely this can't go on.

But what if it can? What if, like the citizens of occupied Europe seventy-seven years ago, we come awake to the sounds of loudspeakers, broadcasting instructions of the new authorities? That like the Danes, Belgians, Norwegians, the Dutch and the French, we're at the beginning of over fifteen hundred days of being at the mercy of persons who are simple as children in their greed, and a desire that all America satisfy their every whim?
YOSSARIAN: We're never gonna see those replacements. We're never gonna see those coconuts. They're just gonna keep making us fly until we're all dead.
DOBBS:  Aw; Cathcart wouldn't dare raise the number of missions again!
YOSSARIAN: Who's gonna stop him?
DOBBS: [Pauses] Somebody will.
-- Alan Arkin (Yossarian) and Martin Sheen (Dobbs) / Catch-22 (1970)
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The executive branch of the American government is bent to the ego and whimsy of a seventy-year-old child. All that occasionally blunts his narcissistic tantrums are three former U.S. Generals (until he decides to fire them). Their influence is limited by Trump's character, but it's worth noting that their military perspective will be a serious factor in how the Executive functions: When every problem they see is a nail, the only solution they'll offer is a hammer. 

As Trump has done things since January 20th, journalists and commentators have reacted with expressions of social opprobrium -- the nerve; the unspeakable rudeness! A President can't do that! --  as if collective social disapproval will force Trump to behave differently, even leave office.

Additional Obligatory Tubby Animal Photo

I've joked that Trump could have sex with a goat on live television, and no one would be surprised: nothing would happen. Now, I actually wonder if that might be true.

Trump and the creatures which slouched into government behind him are dismantling the political structure of the United States in ways the Right has dreamed of doing for generations. Pundits report it; neutral analysts detail their budgeting plans for education, healthcare, taxation, human rights. All are disastrous, everyone can see it coming -- and nothing happens.

Read Charles Blow's outrage at Trump's racism. Read Paul Krugman's outrage at Trump's fiscal incoherence. Read the reports in Jeff Bezos' Washington Post about mendacity and malfeasance in Trump's cabinet, and about Robert Mueller's investigations. There have been a tidal surge of reports, invective, observations and opinion about him since the inauguration. His popularity is the worst of any president in America's history -- and still, nothing happens.

But what if all the outrage no longer matters? After just eight months, the country appears to be getting used to the idea of Trump; what if he's the 'new normal'? The collective disapproval of the majority of America's adult population doesn't appear to matter.

I read or hear news commentary about Trump that now seems to carry an almost an apologetic note, as if saying Ah; whadya gonna do, huh? Even with the sheer volume of evidence showing Trump a witless sociopath, unfit to hold office, having no empathy for others, even when Puerto Rico almost literally writhes at his feet -- nothing happens.

Some people say, Just wait until the midterms -- but in key states, nearly twenty years of gerrymandering (Karl Rove's blueprint for a Forever GOP majority) has ensured that even if we had a third party in the country, nothing will happen.

No matter how many rallies Bernie holds to push single-payer healthcare, how many interviews Hillary gives, no matter how much gets said about changing the demographics of America's allegedly Left party -- it's plain the Republicans and Democrats are whores of the Rich. 'Bipartisan cooperation' is just a code for maintenance of the status quo, in service to Our Owners.

It's true that the worst Democratic politician doesn't sink to the level of the worst Republican, but their whoring is no less true. It's the reason the Democrats can't effectively combat fascism -- they are morally impotent because their core values have already been compromised. There is no organized, viable political alternative to the Racist, -phobic, lovin'-our-guns Nationalism of the American Right, or the Neoliberal Globalism of what passes for the American Left.

Unless (and perhaps, even if) future events take a different turn, the collective American Right will continue to throw their feces into our faces and revel in our sputtering responses. Trump will remain The Leader; the outrages will continue, and the dismantling of society. And, with the assistance of Democrats, our politics will continue to reflect an engineered inequality, the obvious rule of Wealth.

Borrowing an image from Orwell -- imagine a $38,000 pair of A.Testoni monk-strap loafers, stomping on a human face, forever.
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But, things are happening -- all on the political right. The apotheosis of Trump is occurring against a backdrop of what amounts to two groups of Klansmen, fighting over who gets to paint a huge Starz-n-Barz flag on the White House.


The Left and Center of our politics don't control any branch of government. Because they're in the minority, they seem even more fragmented than the Right, which is saying something -- because America's government is dominated by a GOP in the middle of a civil war between old-school Crazy Right, and the Crazier Alt-Right. 

The old-school Right wants privatization of everything, including education; an end to 'coddling of welfare queens'; an end to regulation of business and the financial markets; larger Pentagon budgets (a bigger stick, because China); more Austerity for everyone (except the Fabled Rich), and more of the Surveillance State. It's a Chamber Of Commerce, Country-Club America.

The Crazier Alt-Right wants all that, too -- but they want a Breitbart America, where you can't tell fact from fiction. The Alt-Right wants Muslims to leave, and all other non-white people will only be seen occasionally (in a hotel corridor, or a vegetable field) and not heard. Get uppity with the Po-lice and see what happens. Women? Well of course they will be "seen", but they'd better submit to Men in all ways, as the bible teaches. There will be no gay people, ever, anywhere; get in the right bathroom and get right with god. Remember so-called 'rights' can be changed by friendly Justices.  And, the Alt-Right must have Guns, and their Jesus. More Jesus. And more Guns. Amen.

 Perfect Teeth: All The Better To Chew You Up With

Actually, the Crazier Alt-Right is what the Kochbrudern, and other aging, Bundist billionaires, want. The old-school GOP was not conservative enough, not responsive to The Bundist's desires (and you piss off Oligarchs like them at your peril), so the Oligarchs paid to create the Tea Party, fund the Alternate Right, and conduct a hostile takeover of the Republican party and American conservatism. Expect to see more right-wing politicians of the stripe of Texas' Ted Cruz or Alabama's Roy Moore at an election near you.

They've paid billions into this effort since the early 2000's, and people with teeth that perfect want a return on their investment: setting fire to the GOP, replacing it with Bannon and Breitbart and the Tea Partei or all manner of smoke and mirrors. This isn't about Trump, some rust-belt 'forgotten Americans', or any Americans; The Brothers don't care about you. This is all about the Great Game -- manipulating an entire nation's politics, just because they can. Because they wish it.
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MEHR: This Just In:
After seeing yet another deranged gorilla just burst into a public place and start killing people, I decided I need to make sure something like that never happens to me... It just gives me peace of mind knowing that if I’m ever in that situation, I won’t have to just watch helplessly as my torso is ripped in half and my face is chewed off. I’ll be able to use my gorilla to defend myself. Law enforcement and animal control can only get there so quickly, and you never know when you’ll need to use a gorilla to save your life.
--  "Gorilla Sales Skyrocket After Latest Gorilla Attack", The Onion, 1/10/13
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MEHR, Mit Blutwurst:  Just go here and give this your attention. It's easy and fun! 

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Reprint Heaven Forever (1934 - 2016)

Closing Time


Over at The Soul Of America, a reminder that today is Cohen's birthday. Originally posted last Armistice Veteran's Day in 2016, when he went off to the Bardo, or wherever the hell we go, if anywhere (and in that spirit, I'll add a link to this).

November 11 is one Day I use to consciously remember specific people, from a specific time, whom I miss. It was right after the election, and everyone still numb; the fat, raving Parasite-Elect had barely begun to push his tiny manhood into America's collective face, and everyone I knew were looking around for anyone wearing the same uniform. Cohen's bowing out just then (to take the metaphor a little further), seemed like one more Loss in the Unit. We were going single file; I turned around, and he wasn't back there there any more: Ah, fuck; aber natürlich, it would have to be now.
____________________________ 

Goddamn it. Knew the news was coming, but wasn't ready for it just now.

Ah we're lonely, we're romantic
And the cider's laced with acid
And the holy spirit's crying, where's the beef?
And the moon is swimming naked
And the summer night is fragrant
With a mighty expectation of relief


So we struggle and we stagger
Down the snakes and up the ladder
To the tower where the blessed hours chime
And I swear it happened just like this
A sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss
The gates of love they budged an inch
I can't say much has happened since
But closing time
Closing time
Closing time
Closing time 

 Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
When people talk about Leonard, they fail to mention his melodies, which to me, along with his lyrics, are his greatest genius. Even the counterpoint lines—they give a celestial character and melodic lift to every one of his songs. As far as I know, no one else comes close to this in modern music. Even the simplest song, like ‘The Law,’ which is structured on two fundamental chords, has counterpoint lines that are essential, and anybody who even thinks about doing this song and loves the lyrics would have to build around the counterpoint lines.

His gift or genius is in his connection to the music of the spheres. In the song ‘Sisters of Mercy,’ for instance, the verses are four elemental lines which change and move at predictable intervals . . . The song just comes in and states a fact. And after that anything can happen and it does, and Leonard allows it to happen...

‘Sisters of Mercy’ is verse after verse of four distinctive lines, in perfect meter, with no chorus, quivering with drama. ... This is a deceptively unusual musical theme, with or without lyrics. But it’s so subtle a listener doesn’t realize he’s been taken on a musical journey and dropped off somewhere, with or without lyrics.
I see no disenchantment in Leonard’s lyrics at all. There’s always a direct sentiment, as if he’s holding a conversation and telling you something, him doing all the talking, but the listener keeps listening. He’s very much a descendant of Irving Berlin... [whose] songs did the same thing. Berlin was also connected to some kind of celestial sphere.
And, like Leonard, he probably had no classical music training, either. Both of them just hear melodies that most of us can only strive for. Berlin’s lyrics also fell into place and consisted of half lines, full lines at surprising intervals, using simple elongated words. Both Leonard and Berlin are incredibly crafty. Leonard particularly uses chord progressions that seem classical in shape. He is a much more savvy musician than you’d think.
-- Bob Dylan 
I loved you for your beauty
But that doesn't make a fool of me
You were in it for your beauty too
And I loved you for your body
There's a voice that sounds like god to me
Declaring, (declaring) declaring, declaring that your body's really you
And I loved you when our love was blessed
And I love you now there's nothing left
But sorrow and a sense of overtime

I know there’s a spiritual aspect to everybody’s life, whether they want to cop to it or not. It’s there, you can feel it in people—there’s some recognition that there is a reality that they cannot penetrate but which influences their mood and activity. So that’s operating. That activity at certain points of your day or night insists on a certain kind of response. Sometimes it’s just like: ‘You are losing too much weight, Leonard. You’re dying, but you don’t have to cooperate enthusiastically with the process.’ Force yourself to have a sandwich.

What I mean to say is that you hear the Bat Kol (divine voice). You hear this other deep reality singing to you all the time, and much of the time you can’t decipher it... At this stage of the game, I hear it saying, ‘Leonard, just get on with the things you have to do.’ It’s very compassionate at this stage. More than at any time of my life, I no longer have that voice that says, ‘You’re fucking up.’ That’s a tremendous blessing, really.

-- Leonard Cohen / September, 2016
And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it's moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you're in trouble
Everybody knows what you've been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it's coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows
And I missed you since the place got wrecked
And I just don't care what happens next
Looks like freedom but it feels like death
It's something in between, I guess
It's closing time
closing time
closing time
closing time


___________________________

MEHR, Several Hours Later:  The last thing I wanted to do was write a post about this man that had even a hint of self-reference, but remembered a thirty-year-old conversation. 

A long time ago: someone said in a discussion of Sufis and 'The Work' that "There are a lot of people around who say they're looking for answers, want self-enlightenment, and they present a posture -- removed, serious, aesthetic. Like a parody of the Holy Man. Another is the smartass, the 'Mister Natural' who just enjoys fucking with people. And my feeling is, neither of them are 'authentic'. 

"The Sufis I've met have been raw and real, man; There's grit in their voices -- they're like Blues singers. Tom Waits, minus the alcohol. They've been around the fucking block, they've done some things, and they know what really matters. They're not saints -- 'rogue sage'; you know? -- but about the Big Things, you can trust them."

Cohen loved the Blues. He sang them, no matter what style his songs were.  He spoke simply, straight from the heart, about The Big Questions.  His music, the way he lived his life, was grappling with those questions and his human condition, and ours, unashamedly. He was no saint, but an honest and sincere seeker of Truth -- and his music was a commentary on that stumbling around in the dark. His work was illuminated by a long Rabbinical tradition; he was born with a Heart On Fire.

His songs were in the language of missed chances, relationships spoiled by ego or greed or a simple misunderstanding; ecstatic revelry and bone-crushing disappointment. When he sang politics, it was about choice and betrayal from the level of someone in the street. He told you: This is what happened to me. I don't know what all this is. I don't know what I'm doing, either; you're not alone out here. It was like the end of Moby Dick: A thing happened; buoyed up by a coffin, I came back to tell thee.

And what he sang about was a reminder that everything in this world was part of something else  -- The Big Questions, maybe. And he sang about that all the way to the end -- "You Want It Darker", his album released in October.

People sense how much truth they're being told by others, moment to moment, moving through the world. The number of people who speak in an authentic voice that we recognize, instinctively, as being true are very few. Poets can do this; Cohen was a poet, first, which is how I met him (only discovered later that the guy had albums of music, too, which made sense). From his work, he was recognizable as being as egotistical, confused, scheming, greedy; fucked up; kind, generous; lonely and longing -- as human, as I am. He had the energy and talent to share his particular vision, and it resonated with a wide audience.

When someone like that leaves the room, I grieve, because they're so few. And I'm pretty damned sad (The Best Friend texted back "Goddamned shit storm November" when I told them Cohen had died). I understand: never knew the man personally; it's the connections on so many levels to memory and hope and experience that add to the emotions. And there was Fucking Tuesday; and, today.  We're all going to have to leave the room -- if I can bow out in the same frame of mind, with the same intent as he was reported to have, that would be an act of grace.

Another Mensch leaves us. Now he knows what we do not -- but he was frankly curious, without much fear, as to whatever that is.
___________________________

Also, remembering the day, and Absent Friends. "We Have Done So Much With So Little For So Long That We Could Do Everything With Nothing Forever" (1969 - 1971)