Friday, November 11, 2022

Absent Friends

 You Know Who They Are

"We have done so much with so little for so long that we could do anything with nothing forever".

Mozart: Concerto For Clarinet and Orchestra; 2nd Movement, Adiago

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Across The River And Into The Trees

Don't Say You Didn't See This Coming
Another Long Howl

Depending on which media 'outlets' or polls you follow, the Democratic party will either win, and the American form of democracy will be preserved -- or, the political and cultural Right will win, and that will be the end of The American Experiment.

The Democratic party is the best we've got. Some in the party don't believe its stated policies go far enough to realize a more equitable future; to prepare for the challenges of climate deterioration, and competition with an authoritarian China and Russia. They favor restructuring national priorities, continuing the spirit of The New Deal.

The Republican party claims to be the same GOP that's existed for over 160 years: The party of Lincoln; of fiscal sobriety and small government. That's a lie. It belongs to Trump. 

The GOP is dressed in a Sturmabteilung brownshirt; it struts and marches. The Party says When (not If) it takes back what was rightfully stolen from it, it will impeach Biden, throw out the January 6th Committee and replace it with another to "investigate the radical Democrats". It will Own The Libs, codify law making abortion illegal in all states, and end the farce of Social Security and Medicare.

The Ukrainians will have to get used to being part of Putinland. NATO will just have to get along without us. And at home there will be more god, and less godlessness, in society -- oh, the Party will see to that.

And above it all -- various investigations against him stymied or quashed -- there will be the triumphant return of The Leader in 2024, as he waddles back into the White House, before starting his Revenge Tour of America, basking in the adulation of thousands at his rallies -- as if they were tent-revival meetings for the Cult of Trump.

Michael Moore says he believes there will be a Blue Tsunami on election day, one that hasn't been detected by the pollsters, just as his prediction of Trump's apotheosis was ignored by the professional pollsters in 2016.  Meanwhile, he complains, Democratic campaigning is tepid, uninspiring, encouraging Democrats "to believe liberals are losers."
It’s very disheartening ... Democratic party consultants are feeding lines that are so lame and weak. They don’t go for the jugular like a Republican would. It doesn’t inspire people... We stand here on the precipice of a very important election and our greatest enemy could be the Democratic party itself.
And, meanwhile, Bill Maher (whose libertarianism I don't particularly like) says correctly that Democracy is on the ballot, and predicts "it's going to lose"
Ben Franklin said our country was a "Republic, if you can keep it." Well, we can’t, and unless a miracle happens on Tuesday, we didn’t. Democracy is on the ballot, and unfortunately, it’s going to lose. And once it’s gone, it’s gone.

So here's what's going to happen: Republicans are going to take control of Congress, and ... begin impeaching Biden and never stop... it won't matter and it won't make sense -- but Biden will be a crippled duck in 2024 when he goes up against the Trump - Kari Lake ticket.

And even if Trump loses -- it doesn't matter: On Inauguration Day 2025, he's going to show up... and this time he's going to have the army of election deniers behind him that's being elected in... days. 

This really is the crossing-the-Rubicon moment... it's how countries slide into authoritarianism --not with tanks in the streets, but by electing the people who have no intention of giving [up power]...  Hitler was elected. So was Mussolini; Putin; Erdogan; Orban. This is the, 'it can't happen to us" moment that's happening to us, right now.


A deranged man broke into the home of Nancy Pelosi and attacked her husband with a hammer, demanding, "Where's Nancy?" The man had two hammers, zip-ties, and told police he had committed the break-in and assault because he was "fighting against tyranny".
[He stated his] intention was to find Speaker Pelosi at the home and take her hostage. He planned to have a conversation with her, claiming that if she told him "the truth" he would let her go. If she "lied," in his eyes, he planned to break her kneecaps. He also indicated that he did not expect her to tell the "truth," further suggesting his hope to commit violence during the incident.
Less than an hour after the attack was reported, Rethugs were broadcasting that the man was a male prostitute Paul Pelosi had picked up.  It was a "tryst" gone wrong.  Elon Musk ("world's richest man", bloated Owner of a shiny, newly-acquired toy, Twitter) helped broadcast it under the guise of "free speech", then deleted the post -- but, too late. 

No matter that it was a lie -- the Rethugs amplified and regurgitated it. The Murdochs broadcast it -- and when Fox says something, 40% of American adults automatically snap-to and believe. Marjorie Taylor-Green and Lauren Boebert claimed Pelosi brought the attack on himself. It was his fault -- but the real victims in all this were ... America's patriots; the Trumpist Right.

A few in the GOP condemned "the violence in our culture", then blamed Dems for being "pro-crime" -- again: Pelosi brought that head trauma upon himself.  Some claimed the assailant was part of Antifa. But among most of the Rethug members of Congress, there was silence. No one said a word.

The Thugs couldn't quite bring themselves to say any politically-motivated violence was unacceptable. That there were red lines in American society about politics that couldn't be crossed. They might have, fifteen or twenty years ago. But not in 2022. 

We're going into this election with the Right giving its cult members a clear signal -- political intimidation through violence, even assassination, is the spirit of the future. Attempting to kill the Libs isn't fully permissible, yet -- but the fact that the attack happened, and most Republicans said nothing, should be a massive wake-up call. But it doesn't appear to be. 

Within three days, we'll find out whether America's democratic experiment is on its deathbed; whether the country is being delivered further into the hands of narcissistic monsters and child molesters who will make a mockery out of American government. We'll think we've been fucked by a train.

I don't know whether that will happen. But I know History -- particularly the inter-war years in Europe: the rise of Italian fascism; nazism; end of the Weimar Republic and everything that followed. 

The stakes are exactly as described by Maher and others. I am looking at the cards on the table and feeling a cold sense of anticipatory dread: We go this way, we die. Period. It is as clear as anything I've ever felt. Beyond voting, I am helpless to do anything to affect the outcome.

This is how history works at the level of a citizen in a participatory democracy whose future is uncertain.

Imagine a world without America. We have so many crimes and shortcomings to answer for as a society that many might say, yeah, right; bring it on. Whatever comes must be better than the lies, the greed, the inequality of this faux Democracy we live under. 

But would it really? The vacuum produced by our withdrawing from the world stage would mean other countries will assert their authoritarian leadership. I know some Marxists who say, good; a dose of what the CCP is doing would be a step toward a better world for the greatest number of people.

I disagree, for one reason: Under the CCP or Russian Federation (and theocratic governments, like Iran, or Afghanistan), artists can't create certain images. Writers can't express certain thoughts. Nor can Filmmakers, Playwrights, Musicians.  Any system which says You Cannot is inherently despotic -- and despotic systems are always maintained by the threat of death. 

That threat sits in the shadows of every demand for obedience such systems make on their citizens -- Obey, Or Else. Governments imprisoning and murdering persons for what is in their minds and hearts, for having the ability to express it creatively, is one of the great crimes of this or any other period in history. 

You can argue that a citizen of America is complicit in great crimes; that the 'Obey' is implicit in our system; I won't argue. But it's ironic that such a truth goes hand-in-hand with (even our level of) individual rights and liberties in the United States of America, today, November 6, 2022. 

I'd like to be positive. Maybe America will vote for sanity -- that we'll collectively dodge a bullet, be delivered from the repercussions of slavery, genocide; racism; greed, and lies.

But maybe not.  No one can say we didn't see it coming.


Thursday, November 3, 2022

Kleiner Mann, Was Nun

 Misery Does Not Require Acts, Only Conditions

(Originally from November, 2019. As true today as it was in the Olden Days)

Vanished World: Ours Will Also Seem As Remote
While from a Proud Tower in the town / Death looked gigantically down
-- Edgar Allan Poe, "City In The Sea" (1845)
The ... great age of European civilization was an edifice of grandeur and passion, of riches and beauty and dark reliance... The Old World had much that has since been lost, whatever may have been gained. Looking back on it from 1915, Emile Verhaeren, the Belgian Socialist poet, dedicated his pages, “With emotion, to the man I used to be.” 
-- Barbara Tuchman (1966)

In The Proud Tower, popular historian Barbara Tuchman focused on describing Western culture in the decades leading up to the Great War -- a huge, red line of demarcation that finally separated the generations of the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries.

Her story is a chronicle of human folly (one of Tuchman's favorite themes), and because we know how the story will end, a leitmotif of nostalgia we sense in the background is really the collective despair of survivors who had lost everything familiar, an entire frame of reference for living.

Edward VII's Sendoff: Royal Procession Of Mourners, 1910

She opened her book with a spectacle: the funeral of King Edward VII of England, who had been on the throne for less than a decade after the death of his mother, Victoria. Tuchman described the brilliant funeral cortege, royal houses and empires in uniform. As Edward's coffin rolled along London streets, "The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock ... but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again." One of the last displays of presence and power of the Elite of the Gilded Age.

Tuchman closed the book with another funeral: this one for Jean Jaures, Socialist member of the French Chamber of Deputies, and a  principal, seminal Left political agitator of the age. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary had been assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, and with the interwoven alliances in that era, major European powers began slow-walking into war.

Jaures Speaking At A Socialist Rally, Paris; 1914

A general war had been building for the better part of a decade, and the Socialists in Europe knew working people in all countries would be the disposable cannon-fodder for nationalist politicians and industrial plutocrats. Jaures believed only a pan-European worker's strike, united under the banner of each country's Socialist party, could prevent the continent from being dragged into a catastrophe.

Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia, whose assassin had killed the Archduke, then mobilized to invade. On July 30, Russia declared a general mobilization; Jaures was pushing to organize the strike action with other Socialist leaders. While eating at a Paris cafe on the night of July 31, he was assassinated by a right-wing nationalist who had been stalking him. Jaures died at roughly the same time Germany's ambassadors were delivering messages in European capitals, advising it had declared war on Russia.

The Great War had just begun as Jaures' funeral took place in Paris on August 4, 1914. As the funeral cortege moved through Paris streets, Tuchman described a muffled bell of Notre Dame tolling, thinking of a poem by Schiller: "I summon the living / I mourn the dead."

Four years, three months, and the deaths of ~10,000,000 soldiers and civilians later, the war ended.

We know we're living in a time of extremity. Everyone is figuratively holding their breath, waiting for ... something.  Tuchman's story led to a streetcorner in Sarajevo, and a few weeks in the high summer of 1914 -- and we read it with dread because we know where it ends. No one knows where our American story is leading.

Tuchman's story closed in 1914, 105 years ago. In 2019, there's no one reason to assume bad things are coming, in America -- because there seem to be an overwhelming preponderance of reasons. No one can be blamed for feeling the present moment is portentous, that we're approaching something, a Sarajevo moment, that will trigger a cataclysm. It's a continuous, negative feedback loop, difficult to shake off.

America has ignored critical, obvious things for generations: contributing to climate disintegration; the inequality in wealth. We've ignored our real history of class, race and gender. We became an Empire, and behaved like one. We became a center to develop technology out of desire for novelty and profit, while reducing personal privacy and allowing our opinions, desires, habits to be harvested and exploited.

We ignored the rise of weapons availability and gun violence. We ignored evangelical christian religious extremism. We ignored right-wing domestic terrorists and white supremacists. We ignored a malignant right-wing media -- whose lies and distortion have created a separate, alternate reality, tailored for a specific segment of America's population.

Our great national weaknesses have been chronicled and discussed for decades. Then, we had 9/11, and the Forever War; the 2008 financial crisis; an internal struggle in the GOP (won by the Alt-Right); and a loss of focus or purpose by our political Left (ostensibly, the Democratic Party).

In the new Millennium, America became progressively more tribal, split along every fault line you can imagine -- Left vs. Right; Rich vs. Poor; Young vs. Old; Urban vs. Rural; christian vs. non-christian; White vs. Anybody Else; LGTBQ vs. homophobe; Men vs. Women. Into the mix, throw gun ownership, militias, private armies and private intelligence groups, and the daily drumbeat of lies, conspiracies, taunts and threats pouring out of the great echo chamber of the Right.

Never before have the 'deplorables', the Base, felt so empowered, so justified, so ready to take back what they have been told is theirs from a rag-tag crowd of liberals, hippies, immigrants, minorities, and devil-worshiping pagans.

And, I can't shake the feeling that there are too many 'responsible' conservatives who want some final, showdown battle with everything they hate in life, personified by liberals, women, and anyone different from them.

Sad Vlad's Pal.

Against that background, Trump was almost inevitable -- "I can drain the swamp"; the allegedly rich mogul with the blow-up doll trophy wife; America's Silvio Berlusconi. He is the personification of everything we've collectively ignored, the would-be Clown Emperor. Everything about his presidency is a symptom of the rot at the heart of America, and on constant display -- selfishness, arrogance; narcissism and misogyny; nationalism; religious extremism; racism and sexism.

If you were trying to find a political leader who, if elected, would blow America apart along those developed fault-lines -- someone who would subordinate the needs of a democratic nation-state to feed a bottomless, life-sucking pathological need -- Trump is precisely who you would pick.

I don't have any great expectations for the impeachment process. The hearings are important, historic. There will be moments everyone will recall with relish or anger. Generations will remember them, as  Watergate is remembered. From a legal perspective,  and for the historical record, they're essential.

Whether a majority of Americans understand this impeachment is about limits of Executive authority is an open question. The GOP will continue to push a conspiracy-fueled, barely coherent defense of Trump, designed to confuse and obfuscate, because that's what liars do.

Another part of that defense is the yet-to-be-released Barr report, which will attack America's intelligence agencies and federal law enforcement, claiming to document a titanic conspiracy by The Deep State to thwart a victorious, glorious Trump presidency. It's a lie, of course; a projection of Trump's distorted interior landscape, tailored by Barr and others to please and curry favor with The Leader -- and on that basis alone, it'll be astounding.

Barr intends people will go to jail because of The Leader's whims; that one cannot act against The Leader, lest they suffer. And Republicans in Congress, the huge megaphone of right-wing media, are eager to dominate any impeachment coverage with a constant smoke screen of lies.

The GOP will not walk away from Trump. He is their chance to roll back generations of Liberal political change, social programs, and legal precedents. That great work, blessed by evangelical pastors, is more important than anything. But they've gone all-in.

Last night on Amanpour & Co., journalists Jeff Greenfield of Politico and Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame were asked about the current impeachment hearings, compared with those 46 years ago. Greenfield noted Americans seemed to be more involved and informed about the issues at stake, during Watergate -- and that they seemed to understand readily how Nixon had abused his office. More of an effort will be needed to 'sell' impeachment to Americans in 2019, Greenfield thought.

I'm certain the hearings will lead to Articles of Impeachment in the Democratically-controlled House, but (my opinion) they will die in the Senate -- probably after an abbreviated trial; McConnell has already indicated what the result will be. After, there will be protests and civil disobedience (watch carefully how Trump and the government he owns will respond, as a preview of what may happen after the 2020 election).

Then, we'll head to the election. If the Republican attempts to confuse and obfuscate are successful; if the Democrats can't coalesce, and field a strong candidate; if our voting isn't secure against tampering; if voter suppression in key districts is successful... short of an act of god, America could end up with another 1,640 Days Of Trump.

There won't be a second attempt at Impeachment; the majority of Americans will be stunned, dispirited, and "sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science." (Winston Churchill; June, 1940)

I'm also reminded of a quote by lawyer and philosopher, Joseph De Maistre, in 1811: "In a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve."

Let's put on our tinfoil hats... Trump loses, and refuses to concede, saying the results are "fake news". He asks "very good people" to bring their guns and come to Washington DC to "protect your president". The result would look very much like the confusion in a banana, or central African, republic as the government disintegrates.

Another possibility: if Trump loses the 2020 election and is replaced by a Democrat, the current "Cold Civil War" in America could turn hot:  asymmetrical warfare by rightist, white supremacist militias demanding -- something -- would likewise end in a state of emergency, a quasi-guerrilla war, endless paranoia and heightened surveillance.

If these circumstances become dire enough, other actors may step in. The military is one possibility, but more likely is a cabal of 'christians', backed by elements of a private corporate militia, might decide that god has called them to take control of America, end the sin, and bring the nation to His judgement and the path of righteousness. These actors are the best organized, best resourced group to commit treason on the scale necessary to succeed -- and, they believe they answer only to god.

There are scenarios, of course, where the Good Guys win, and America appears to have been 'saved'. Unfortunately, Fox and the rest of the Rightist echo chamber will continue pumping sewage; a Trump loss will make 'The Base' apoplectic, and right-wing violence will increase.

Any Left political leader elected to the Presidency will find it hard to govern in as fractured a nation as America is in the second decade of the 21st century.

Before you completely laugh off the possibility of a Republic of Gilead option for America's future, please consider these two news items:

1.)  The Ohio State Legislature has passed House Bill 164, the “Student Religious Liberties Act.” Under this law, students can’t be penalized if their work is scientifically inaccurate, as long as their reasoning is based on their religious beliefs.

If a public school student turns in a class assignment stating the earth is only 10,000 years old, if it's based on their religious belief, the student cannot be given a failing grade for the question.

The Bill also requires:
  • Public schools to give students the same access to facilities as provided to secular groups, if they wish to meet for religious expression;
  • Removing a provision that allows school districts to limit religious expression to lunch periods or other non-instructional times;
  • Allowing students to engage in religious expression before, during and after school hours to the same extent as any student in secular activities or expression;
  • Prohibiting schools from restricting a student from engaging in religious expression in homework, artwork or other assignments.
2.)  Former Time and Los Angeles Times journalist Joel Stein appeared on the PBS News Hour on Thursday, November 14, to discuss his new book, "In Defense Of Elitism".

Stein spoke about visiting the town of Miami, Texas, and his observations that Americans there were not uninformed or ignorant, but very determined that their point of view was true and correct:
...They [residents of Miami, Texas] were very white, and they were very christian.... And their anger about what is going on was different from what I thought it would be. And I found out that what they're upset about is, they feel really discriminated against. These are the people that, if you asked, 'are christians discriminated against more than black people', they will say yes. 
...So what they have noticed is that white christians have less power than they did 10, 20, 30 years ago. And they're panicked about that kind of change. ...These people are voting for what they want for the country. I think it's a dangerous vision they have, in my opinion, but it's not ignorant.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Reprint Heaven, Forever: John Lennon

 John Lennon: October 9, 1940

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass; they slip away, across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
That call me on and on, across the universe;
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way,
Across the universe
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world.

Sounds of laughter shades of earth are ringing
Through my open views; inviting and inciting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me
Like a million suns; it calls me on and on
Across the universe
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world...

Across The Universe (Lennon / McCartney, 1969)

We don't care what flag you're waving,
We don't even want to know your name,
We don't care where you're from or where you're going,
All we know is that you came;

You're making all our decisions,
We have just one request of you,
That while you're thinking things over,
Here's something you just better do:

Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.

Well we were caught with our hands in the air,
Don't despair paranoia is everywhere,
We can shake it with love when we're scared,
So let's shout it aloud like a prayer:

Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now

We understand your paranoia,
But we don't want to play your game;
You think you're cool and know what you are doing,
666 is your name;
So while your jerking off each other,
You better bear this thought in mind:
Your time is up you better know it,
But maybe you don't read the signs

Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.

Well you were caught with your hands in the kill,
And you still got to swallow your pill,
As you slip and you slide down the hill,
On the blood of the people you killed

Stop the killing now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Stop the killing now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now...

The Soul Of America reminds me.

I am also reminded to remember, remember, the 8th of December.

Something About Him Was Always A Kick-Out-The-Jambs,
Saturday-Night's-All-Right-For-Fighting Liverpudlian Rebel

Speak, Memory: One of the two arrests we made that day hadn't gone well. After putting the car in the basement garage at the Federal Building, I'd walked up the underground ramp to the street, intending to buy my second pack of Marlboros of the day from the liquor store up the next block. Stepping inside, I looked down at a stack of the early edition of a paper which isn't even around any longer, lying on the counter below the cash register with a banner headline in 48-point type: JOHN LENNON SLAIN.  Fuck; I thought, and then said it out loud.  

Hard to remember the birthday without the other day.  So: Absent Friends. Happy Birthday, John.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Reprint Heaven: The Bomb In The Backyard

 Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

(Originally from December 31, 2020. Hate being right about stuff [the 'sedition' I expected on 1/6], but have been just as wrong [Trumpo, having to shuffle into a Rightist twilight world].)

Where the title of the previous post [i.e., 'previous' as of December, 2020] , 'End Of The Beginning', came from is obvious. The major events which began or rose to prominence in 2020 will, aber naturlich, continue to play out in the New Year.  We can party, but it's only the close of a Beginning. There is more shit to come.

The greatest threat, the most dangerous unexploded munition waiting to go off in America, are the 70 million persons who voted for Donald Trump. They didn't vote for him, exactly; they voted for how he made them feel. How he still makes them feel. 

Since the mid-2000's there has been a struggle between traditional, Good Ol' Boys of the GOP (McConnell the current figurehead), and 'Alt-Right' 'Tea Party' revolutionaries originally created by the Koch brothers, later taken over by evangelical 'christians' and anti-democratic opportunists  (Trump their current Leader), to control the Republican party. 

(Incidentally, the January 6th showdown over electoral college votes in the 2020 election is a contest between these two factions. Aside from being an act of sedition, this power play will show how much control over the Republican party McConnell and the traditionalists still hold -- and how much the GOP belongs to The Leader, and his howling Base.)

Trump's ability to connect with and direct his cult followers determines how much influence he has on the party. And in a larger context -- even with potential legal issues, reportedly precarious finances -- his popularity determines how useful he will be to the Bannons and Adels, the LePens and Weidels, the Hofers and Farages of the world.

These heads of more global, proto-fascist, nationalist movements will tolerate the cons which Trump runs on banks and 'investors' -- after all, as Bannon's indictment shows, they all have their own cons to run, their own sheep to fleece. In turn, Trump will make as much (or more) use of them as they of him.

But, Trump -- in his mid-Seventies, obese; addictions, unspecified health issues -- will eventually dwindle to a sideshow. He'll make incendiary remarks, appear at rallies for "Trump-True" candidates; 'write' books. Fueled by hate and his own inner demons, he will not go quietly, but go he will have to.

Meanwhile, the Murdochs, Mercers and Bannons want to find a 'Better Trump' -- charismatic, gifted; a worthy successor to the fascist energy of the 1930's -- to finish what Bannon Trump started. Someone who can speak to and mobilize the Base with A New Message for All Those Of (Dominionist christian) Faith, and American (Right-Wing Political) Strength -- All (White Heterosexual, Male) People; and those with full use of the 'physical gifts with which god has graced them'.

Which leaves us with 70 million unexploded bombs of Trumpism in America. 70 million people who believe -- one way or another -- in what Trump said and did, then voted on those beliefs.

They voted for white supremacy, for Dominionism. They voted for keeping a knee on the neck of every George Floyd, forever. That SARS-CoV2 is a hoax, and science is wrong. That America and the world is ruled by satanic pedophiles, through a bureaucratic Deep State. 

They voted for a liar and a con artist. They voted for forced separation of children from families. They voted for tax cuts to the wealthy. They voted that a sitting President could take money in exchange for favorable treatment, and to coerce the leader of another country to attack the President's political rival. That all political Liberalism equals Socialism, equals tyranny -- and so they voted for Trump as a way to "own the Libs".

Trying to comprehend how 70 million people can think this way (abandon fact-based reason; act more like superstitious Dark Age peasants than citizens in an industrial society) and follow a person like Trump, has been an enduring question in America for four years.

We've had nationalist politicians, rabid populists, in American politics before, but they've always had relatively few followers. Their ideas have never threatened to become mainstream belief. The malignant spread of Trump's hate-filled messages through the The Base -- which includes Congressional Republicans -- leaves the American Left dumbfounded. We pause and sputter, try to reason with them, find 'bipartisan consensus'. It fails, every time.

The Europeans I know are even more alarmed at Trump and 'Trumpism' than we are. They understand in their bones what fascist politics look and feel like. They've seen The Base before. And, they understand that Trump's expansion of the American Presidency into autocracy is only a symptom of a possible future even more malignant and terrifying -- and that Trumpism's followers, the Proud Boys and militias, will be waiting for the next Leader to appear and pick up where Trump left off.

If you're a Left / Progressive voter; if you're a Person of Color, LGBTQ; if you're poor, homeless, an immigrant -- and if you believe The Base are people, Americans like you, who have the capacity to be compassionate and rational... if you believe that Republicans in the House and Senate want the best for all Americans, and that their behavior is just political theatrics ... remember: A majority of  The Base's 70 million, and those Thugs in Congress, do not believe you are even human.

They believe you are agents of Satan, Socialists who want to destroy America. They believe this as fact. You are the enemy. Think about that.

In reading through Digby, I came across a Tom Sullivan piece, "What's Reason Got To Do With It?", which I recommend:
... Trying to understand Trumpism is like asking a hoarder why she/he hoards. ... The questions assume there are rational answers when rationality has nothing to do with it. For his followers, Trumpism is about how they feel... 

UC Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild tells The Atlantic‘s Derek Thompson that Trumpism “exists beyond the logic of policy“... Hochschild wrote in her 2016 book, “Strangers in Their Own Land” that there is a “deep story” playing out with a large faction of Americans:
The deep story went like this: You are an older white man without a college degree standing in the middle of a line with hundreds of millions of Americans. The queue leads up a hill, toward a haven just over the ridge, which is the American dream. Behind you in line, you can see a train of woeful souls—many poor, mostly nonwhite, born in America and abroad, young and old. “It’s scary to look back,” Hochschild writes. “There are so many behind you, and in principle you wish them well. Still, you’ve waited a long time.” 
Now you’re stuck in line, because the economy isn’t working. And worse than stuck, you’re stigmatized; liberals in the media say every traditional thing you believe is racist and sexist. And what’s this? People are cutting in line in front of you! Something is wrong. The old line wasn’t perfect, but at least it was a promise. There is order in the fact of a line. And if that order is coming apart, then so is America.
Hochschild tested this allegory with her Republican sources and heard that it struck a chord. Yes, they said, this captures how I feel. In the past few years, she’s kept in touch with several of her connections from the Deep South and keenly tracked their philosophical evolution. 

She’s watched the locus of their anxiety move from budgets the entrenched and “swampy” political class. She also witnessed the Trumpification of everything. “There used to be a Tea Party,” she said. “Now it’s all Trumpism.”

The logic of policy has nothing to do with it. Trump is a kind of dancing orange dinosaur who has captured the imaginations of his base. He gave shape to their feelings. He gave voice to them.

Hochschild explains, “From his first rallies, Trump’s basic message has always been ‘I love you, and you love me, and we all hate the same people.’”

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Reprint Heaven: Black Swans Abounding


A near-annual posting -- originally From 2016, before the Trump-Time.

Given a time machine, if there is any single event in modern history I would travel back to and attempt to prevent, it would be the killing of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary in the Balkan city of Sarajevo at approximately Noon on June 28, 1914. It triggered the First World War -- and the Second, and the First Cold War - now, the Second - a fractured, tribal Middle East, and a rising, hungry China.

Think about how this one historical event unfolded. If it was part of the plot in a novel or film, you might say Oh that's not possible, that couldn't happen. But it did. And its echo is still resonating. 

The Archduke and his wife's assassination was a 'Black Swan', rara avis moment which pulled out multiple threads that led to a collapse of the Old World of the nineteenth century -- though what the event triggered had been boiling for some time. It's how history works. 

After five years of Trump, a worldwide pandemic still in motion, and the American Experiment in danger of being snuffed out by an imbecilic 'christian' mob, we're still feeling the impact of what was set in motion that late June day, 108 years ago.

Cousin Ignatz, Asleep At Princip's Post: Sarajevo, 2014 (Matthew Fisher / Postmedia News)

108 years ago, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the Grand Duchess Sophie, were shot by Gavrillo Princip, a member of an assassination team sent to the Bosnian city by the government of Serbia.

Collectively, the team was the gang which couldn't shoot straight: armed with crude grenades, a few pistols, and carrying some form of suicide pill, they waited along the route Franz Ferdinand's car would take as it drove beside the Miljacka river, which cuts through Sarajevo (local Austro-Hungarian authorities had helpfully published the Archduke's route beforehand).

Most of the team either was poorly positioned, or chickened out at the last moment.  One conspirator did throw a bomb at the Archduke's car, which bounced off its folded-back fabric top and exploded near a second car traveling just behind. Several people in the car had minor injuries and it continued on to a local hospital.

The Archduke's driver, Leopold Lojka, continued to Sarajevo city hall. When Franz Ferdinand arrived, he effectively unloaded on the hapless administrators about the state of their local security ("I come to your city and am greeted with bombs!"). Meanwhile, back at the river, the would-be bomber had jumped into the Miljacka and swallowed his suicide pill -- which he promptly threw up. The police arrested him, barely managing to keep him from being lynched a mob of pro-Austro-Hungarian citizens, and so save him for later trial and execution.

At approximately 12:30 PM, having finally accepted the thanks of the Sarajevo city fathers, Franz Ferdinand and his wife got back into their car, planning to go to the local hospital to see those wounded in the bomb attack that morning. They used the same route, in reverse, that they had taken into the city, driving along the river. But when the Chauffeur, Lojka, came to a particular intersection -- to his left, a street; to the right, a bridge over the Miljacka river -- he was confused.

 The Royal Couple (Seated, At Rear) Leaving City Hall: Fifteen Minutes Left

Believing it to be the route he needed to take to drive to the hospital, Lojka slowed and turned left into the street.  Almost immediately, he realized he'd made a mistake and stepped on the brakes. The car came to a stop a few yards into the street, and Lojka moved to put it in reverse gear.

 The Intersection of Kaiser Franz Josefstrasse and Appel Quay Road, 2014: 
The Archduke's Car Turned Left, Up This Street;
The Restaurant Where Princip Bought Lunch, Now A Museum (Photo: CNN)

At that same intersection was a small restaurant. Gavrillo Princip, last member of the Serbian assassination squad, had gone inside to buy a sandwich, angry and dejected after the team's failure that morning. Standing on the sidewalk outside the cafe, he saw a large, dark-green automobile turn out of the boulevard and come to a stop directly in front of him. In the very rear seat were the Archduke and his wife. 

The heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne had been delivered, less than ten feet away, from an armed assassin who had come to the city specifically to kill him. If you were writing a novel or screenplay, anything that coincidental would be branded as implausible. Impossible. No one's gonna believe that.

Princip didn't hesitate. He dropped his sandwich, pulled a pistol out of his jacket and stepped towards the car, firing several shots, managing to mortally wound both the Archduke and his wife. Lojka, the driver, was ordered to rushed the royal couple to the local military governor's residence. Sophie died on the way. A military officer in the car, checking on the Archduke's condition, asked the wounded man how he was; Ferdinand said, "Nichts (It's nothing)", and died.

Just over a month later, Europe was at war. Over the next four-plus years, the entire social fabric of the continent and much of the world changed irrevocably. Monarchies ended; millions died; the map of the world changed as the victors annexed territory from Germany and Austria Hungary, and new countries were created. New technology was developed -- and, in the Versailles Treaty, the groundwork was laid for a second, even more horrible war to begin by 1939.

(And, in 1918-19, the Spanish Influenza infected 500 million people, killing 40 million, worldwide. It was the largest number of fatalities due to pandemic disease since the 'Black Death': the coming of  Bubonic Plague to Europe in the 14th century [which killed an estimated 200 million].  In the U.S., millions were made sick, and 675,000 died [0.6-plus per cent of America's population at the time, 103 million]. It's often referred to as the "forgotten epidemic" -- just one more terrible event in an ocean of violence and atrocity.)

 Cousin Ignatz, Worn Out By All The History

Why the history lesson? We're living through history. When we read about events in Europe during the Interwar Years (1918 - 1933 or so), there's a feeling of being slowly pulled down into a drain of inevitability -- revolving-door failures of parliamentary governments in France; Britian's declining empire; the manic Totentanz of global capital leading to 1929; the rise and fall of Weimar; Italian, German and Japanese fascism. Regional war and civil war. 

Like the story of the Titanic or the Hindenburg, you know where the story is going. You know it will end in Nanking, Kristalnacht, Dunkirk; Auschwitz; Stalingrad; the Warsaw Ghetto; D-Day; the Führerbunker; Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But you read about the years leading up to all that with a mounting sense of horror, because we all know how it ends.

While the Brexit may be not have been a "shot heard 'round the world", the Tories are hanging on by their fingernails in the UK; the Scots still wonder about independence; the Greek, French and Italian economies are still at risk. Putinland, the Great Bear, still pushes the envelope here and there -- Ukraine and Syria. As IS loses on battlefields in the continuing slow-motion atrocity that is the Middle East, suddenly they appear in a Philippine city, on a London street. Disproportionate numbers of Black people are shot in major American cities on a routine basis. Climate change is not fake news.

America, ruled by Babbitry, greed and illusion, retreats from the world stage; its leader is Bloated, Sick, and Raving, surrounded by car-wash dilettantes. Other nation-state players, great and small, are happy to rush into the vacuum we leave behind, and any of them could easily start a larger conflict -- India, Pakistan; Kim Jong Fat Boy's Fun People's Republic Of Chuckles, and South Korea; Iran and Saudi Arabia.  

And no matter how you want to characterize it, there's a confrontation -- between those who want a globalist, centralized world (unfortunately, organized around the goals of international finance and business principals, together with the most powerful nation-state actors), and those who don't. The balances in the old alliances created after WWII have all but unraveled.  Kleiner Mann; Was Nun?

Hope you're not looking for an answer. I am, after all, only a Dog, and no one listens to me.

Monday, June 6, 2022


The Normalization Of The Night World

Ken McElroy's Chevy Pickup, Elm street; Skidmore, Missouri; July 10, 1981

My favorite opening in a short story is T. Coraghessen Boyle's 1984 "The Hat": They sent a hit squad after the bear. It's really a story about people caught in a cul-de-sac of life, marginal at best, and not a large Ursine animal just doing its Bear Thing -- but I dare you to pass on reading a story with a hook like that, just to find out where it would lead.

This doesn't have much to do with the little screed which follows. Oh, maybe a little -- I'm in my own corporate / retirement merry-go-round cul-de-sac at the moment, wondering when They will send a hit squad after America; how long the current precarious balance of all things will last. Who knows.

The population of Skidmore, in Nodaway County, Missouri, as captured in the 1980 National Census, was 437 people.  One of them was Kenneth Rex McElroy, born 1934; according to Wikipedia, the next to last of 16 children, born to a dirt-poor, migrant tenant-farming couple. At age 15, still in 8th grade, he dropped out of school "and quickly established a local reputation as a cattle rustler, small-time thief, and womanizer."

McElroy worked on occasion, stealing and selling to fences when he wasn't; barely drifting along at the edge, smack in the middle of flyover country. He had a reputation in Skidmore as a rough customer, someone you shouldn't cross. 

Reportedly, while working on a local construction site, an iron girder fell and grazed him on its way down; he suffered skull fractures and other injuries. He healed -- but some in Skidmore believed the injuries, particularly to the head, changed him. 

The Grendel Of Nodaway County; His Grave Marker Says, "Fearless... Compassionate"

McElroy was already a town tough, but then he went further: he became proactively vicious and cruel -- someone who went after people, because he could. Because he wanted to. Because it seemed to give him pleasure to do so.

For the next twenty-plus years, McElroy was the the monster in the Corn of Nodaway County.  He was suspected of stealing "grain, gasoline, alcohol, antiques, and livestock", and was charged 21 times with various offenses. But, witnesses suddenly had bad memories, or withdrew charges, or juries hung when some members claimed they couldn't reach a decision.

McElroy was helped by a clever, not very principled defense attorney, Richard Gene McFadin, reputed to have connections to organized crime in Kansas City. McFadin did the legal work; McElroy terrorized witnesses against him, or members of juries; several times, he put rattlesnakes in the Rural Route mailboxes of his targets.

Rape, theft; extreme physical violence -- McElroy did more or less whatever he wanted. There is plenty of reporting on McElroy's reign of terror in Skidmore. He was a living Id, untethered and loose.  Some stories leave you shaking your head, wondering just how this violent, narcissistic sociopath was allowed to get away with it all for over 20 years.

Example: McElroy was married to his second wife when he met Trena McCloud, a twelve-year-old girl. He raped her repeatedly. The McClouds told him they wanted his 'attentions' to end. McElroy didn't like that, and so burned the McCloud family home to the ground and shot their dog.

Trena moved into McElroy's house, living there with him and his then-wife, Alice. According to Wikipedia, "McElroy divorced Alice and married Trena in order to escape charges of statutory rape, to which she was the only witness. Sixteen days after Trena gave birth, both she and Alice fled... McElroy tracked them down and brought them back. He then returned to Trena's parents' home when they were away and, once again, shot the family dog and burned the[ir] house down."

In 1980, McElroy shot the 70-year-old owner of Skidmore's only grocery store, for accusing one of McElroy's daughters of shoplifting. Just --  bang -- shot him. The man survived. 

McElroy was finally convicted of a crime... second-degree assault. The jury specified the maximum sentence: two years in State prison. His attorney, McFadin, had McElroy released, pending appeal -- unbelievable, given McElroy's history of witness and juror intimidation. Predictably, he began harassing the grocer at his home, and any Skidmore citizens he encountered.

None of McElroy's previous legal issues had gotten this far. Possibly, he sensed whatever magic charm of invincibility was dissolving. On July 9, 1981, he walked into Skidmore's local bar, carrying a Garand M1 with a bayonet, and threatened to kill the old grocer. Sheriffs were called; McElroy was taken into custody, his weapon impounded -- but again he was released.

Parked In Front Of The Bar; July 10, 1981-
A Reenactment, In Skidmore, For Television Documentary

On July 10, McElroy drove into Skidmore with his wife, Trena, in his maroon-and-white Chevy pickup truck and parked on Elm street, the town's main drag, directly in front of the bar. He went into the town grocery store -- where he had shot its owner -- while his wife waited in the truck.

While McElroy was in the store, a group of Skidmore's men held a quick, impromptu meeting inside the bar. Other residents in the immediate downtown area had seen or were told of McElroy's arrival, and began to gather on the street. There was a sense something was about to go down.

McElroy walked out of the grocery, unwrapping the pack of cigarettes he'd purchased, and got into the driver's seat of his truck. The men came out of the bar and confronted McElroy. Several, apparently, were armed. McElroy, still sitting behind the wheel of his truck, casually lit a cigarette, appearing completely unconcerned.

Suddenly, and for the next twenty seconds -- which I can tell you is an eternity when discharging firearms is concerned -- several armed individuals shot McElroy. He was struck multiple times by .22 rifle rounds (a poor man's gun, for hunting small game, Foxes, Coyotes or other predators) from at least two different weapons. 

Apparently, McElroy took some time to die. He bled out, slumped in his truck. No one made any attempt to help, or call for emergency medical assistance. When the shooting began, Trena had jumped out of the truck in a panic; she was unharmed.

As investigators worked the crime scene, canvassed, identified and interviewed, every witness to the shooting said the same thing: They didn't see who fired any weapon, had no idea -- as if, collectively, everyone present had suffered a crucial erasure of memory at the same time.

McElroy's wife, Trena, claimed to have recognized one of the shooters -- but they denied it, there were no other witnesses; Trena's testimony alone was not a strong enough case for prosecution. 

The same witnesses told the same story to County Sherriff's detectives, State investigators, and eventually the FBI.  Richard McFadin, the attorney who had helped McElroy to walk free on so many prior charges, said "the town got away with murder". 

Skidmore's population as of 2020 had fallen to 247.  To date, no one has been charged in connection with McElroy's death. The original DA and chief investigator in the case have retired. McElroy's wife,  his attorney McFadin, and a number of witnesses have passed away. The case is still open. And for almost 42 years, no one who was on Elm street in Skidmore that July afternoon has said a single thing.


In America we are witnessing the blowback of a culture awash in guns, in hatred, in insane and illogical ideas about nearly everything, broadcast eagerly 24 hours a day by the political Right's private propaganda stream, its special opinion-makers.

We're watching a country where the political Left is marked by indecision and learned helplessness, by complicity with the same corporate interests and wealthy Oligarchs.

And, the political Right's rhetoric continues to become more shrill, more apocalyptic, by the day -- talk about "taking back" the country, before guns are taken away, before the liberals / gays / unchristian / colored persons and immigrants / socialists destroy America. 

They attempted to overthrow the government of the United States in January, 2021. They want to try again. It isn't guns that someone is coming for; the Right wants your soul.  This isn't hyperbole and it isn't exaggeration.

At the same time, Rightist-dominated state governments and their Rightist governors pass laws they know will be appealed to their Supreme Court, secure in the knowledge that whatever challenge to existing Lib-Socialist law will be taken up, and affirmed by a slate of second-rate, rightist legal hacks appointed for life.  With the fervor of the 'christian' zealots they are, they can't wait for their day, their chance to do god's work.

America and its citizens are being cowed, and bullied. The Right has decided if it wants to burn down your home and shoot your dog, they will. And no one is coming to your aid.

A nation's government which can't govern, a society which can't maintain basic public safety and human rights, is five minutes from being overthrown. Ask the Royal French bureaucracy in 1789. Ask the Duma. Ask the Cambodian government in 1975. Ask the Weimar Republic's Reichstag. 

In the larger world, Western democracies were more concerned with making money -- making a world safe for the corporate interests, globally: a neoliberal New World Order, wonderful for business and the rising Oligarch class. Not so much for the little people. But, who cared.

The sages of the West believed the assumed stability of a post-WW2, post-Soviet world would be forever. Hitler and Stalin were dead; so was Mao. No one wanted to go back to the world on September 1, 1939. War was a thing we had tamed. Dictators could be dealt with through sanctions, economic coercion. 

NATO was just one method of maintaining the nation-state structure to support corporate business -- but the day of military force had passed, unless something happened in one of the shithole countries: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia; North and Central Africa; Afghanistan. 

And if it did, said the businessmen gathering at Davos, we don't care. No one is crazy enough to mount a major military conflict to grab territory and resources. This isn't 1938 or 1939, after all.


But, Putin was crazy enough. He nursed a set of historical grievances which sound as delusional as the disinformation pouring out of the Murdochs' media. After more than a decade of coordinated manipulation and misinformation aimed at the West, Putin pushed the envelope in Georgia, in the Crimea. NATO and the West did little, or nothing. 

Europe was fractured, distracted by Brexit and the fumblings of the UK's Clown-Prime Minister. America was consumed with the predations of its own Clown-leader, then an attempted coup -- and above it all, a pandemic. Putin felt he could take Ukraine. The West could do nothing; the Ukrainians had elected a fucking comedian as their President! And like a bully in central Missouri long ago, Putin did what he wanted.

The stability in the world everyone has taken for granted is over. That of itself is a huge challenge to the neoliberal New World Order.  It isn't clear what will replace it. That it's coming at the same time as effects of climate deterioration are beginning to make themselves felt is rancid whipped cream on the proverbial Shit Pie.

The bullies have always been with us. They've just made it impossible to ignore them any longer. They aren't going away. Like it or not, we are going to have to deal with them individually, and collectively. One way or another.  And how that happens, or doesn't, is the story of the next months and years.

MEHR, MIT DIE FRAGE:  Hey! Did you notice how many people in this story had last names that began with "Mc"? Pretty wild, eh?

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Ten Dead In Buffalo

Chickens, Roosting

Oh, Andy loved geology. I imagine it appealed to his meticulous nature. An ice age here, million years of mountain building there. Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes really -- pressure, and time.
     -- Ellis Boyd Redding (Morgan Freeman); Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Racism is part of the fabric of American society. Our system was built to automatically, unconsciously, reserve and protect power for Caucasian males at almost any level of society. Cultural assumptions are like that. If you're White, you're soaking in it, breathing it, benefiting from it. 

Class is also part of the fabric of America. Even a poor, Cletus Red-Cap who knows he's poor also understands The System has been arranged and maintained to his benefit. Because he understands that -- like America's wealthy, the Owners -- he's White, and male, too.

But among a White majority, The System is built to reserve and protect power for a small percentage: the Owners. Every poor Cletus Red-Cap knows that, also: It's Chinatown, Jake.


Story-telling and Imagination are part of the human experience. Some stories draw on tropes that are DNA-deep -- monsters in the dark (devils, vampires, aliens), magical powers; glimpses of the sacred and the profane; fear and hope. 

Stories are shared now, globally, instantly, through social media and mass entertainment. Fox, Google, Facebook, Twitter; all harvest information about their users to manipulate them, sell advertising -- and influence public consciousness on a societal level. Look at Cambridge Analytica, at the UK and Brexit. Look at the 2016 and 2020 U.S. elections.

And, when imagination is mixed with politics, and boundaries between Stories and experienced, verifiable reality are blurred -- you end up with millions of people believing that stories of monsters and conspiracies they see on social media are objectively real.

Obligatory Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Rant

They believe a national election was stolen by Ballot Mules. That Sandy Hook was a hoax. That JFK, Jr., will bring Trump back to rule us all. That America is being stolen from its rightful White population by Non-Whites, supported by demon-possessed creatures: Liberals; Soros and the Clintons; LGBTQ+, Antifa. That Whites are being "cancelled". 

They believe that "we are at war with our government" (as Limbaugh used to say). They believe in themselves as the real victims. 'Hillbilly Elegy' said so. The Murdochs' media implies it, daily.

They believe acts of brutality and gun violence have no cause beyond Operator Error -- "just some crazy guy" -- because guns don't kill people; only other people do.


Points of pressure and division in America, created over 400 years, have been cracking for decades and the tempo of the fracturing is increasing. Some points of division are kdue to legitimate, long-standing demands for historic, social and economic justice. Others result from attempts to destabilize American society and government.

All of it is happening against a background of global climate change -- rising temperature, sea levels, food shortages, pandemic disease. Authoritarian and fascist political movements are also rising -- Russia's government among them. Russia has brutally invaded Ukraine, and the mystic vision of its dictator-leader boils down to Make Russia Great Again.

The 'stable' Post-WW2 world my generation grew up in is gone. But what could we expect, after almost 70 years of CIA-fueled regime changes in Africa, West Asia, South and Central America; actual war in Southeast Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan; and twenty years' massive surveillance of American citizens?


With every new massacre by a white-supremacist, ideologically-motivated shooter, I put my face in my hands. In my view, the Murdochs and their paid talking heads; the white supremacist militias; the braying and screeching Rightist politicians want this to happen. They want a civil war.

And the more persons -- like the Buffalo shooter -- are incited by the Right's rhetoric, convinced that planned, brutal acts are self-defense against a world controlled by a conspiracy of liberals and non-white monsters ... then the closer we get to the war America's political Right dreams of.

My country has sown the wind, and here are our Chickens, time coming 'round at last: slouching home to roost, to be born. 


Right-wing pastor Perry Stone declares that Democrats in D.C. who oppose Trump "...are not normal people... [they] have demons in them." (Newsweek, October 28, 2019)


By imagining [actual] demons behind social welfare, economic and environmental regulations, or legal protections for marginalized groups, spiritual warriors frame the dismantling of these systems as ridding the US of demons. More than this, they frame the people and groups they see as benefiting from those systems as agents of evil incarnate. Only after such people are removed can there be a national rebirth. ("Demons of the Deep State"; The Conversation, September 19, 2020)


"Think of what the enemies of America have done over the last 14 months [Ted Nugent told the audience at Trump’s May 14th rally in Austin, TX]. They didn't sneak into the White House -- they lied, they cheated, they scammed; and every day the Democrats violate their sacred oath to the Constitution. And if you can't impress your friends on that, they shouldn't be your friends.

“I love you, but I would love you more,  if you went out and just went berserk on the skulls of the Democrats and the Marxists and the communists," Nugent said. "Evil [must be] stamped out.” (via Daily Kos May 15, 2022)


It's All Funny To Herr Carlson: But, Then, He's Getting Wealthier

Night after night, hour by hour, Mr. Carlson warns his viewers that they inhabit a civilization under siege -- by violent Black Lives Matter protesters in American cities, by diseased migrants from south of the border, by refugees importing alien cultures, and by tech companies and cultural elites who will silence them, or label them racist, if they complain.

(Nicholas Confessori, "How Tucker Carlson Stoked White Fear to Conquer Cable"; New York Times, April 30, 2022)


[In mid-December, 2018] Mr. Carlson had set off an uproar, claiming on air that mass immigration made America “poor and dirtier.” Blue-chip advertisers were fleeing.

Within Fox... [m]any wondered what price he might pay. The answer became clear that night ... absolutely none. When “Tucker Carlson Tonight” aired, Mr. Carlson doubled down ... citing a report from an Arizona government agency that said each illegal border crossing left up to eight pounds of litter in the desert. 

Afterward ...Mr. Carlson spoke directly with [Rupert] Murdoch, who praised his counterattack, according to a former Fox employee...

(Nicholas Confessori, "How Tucker Carlson Reshaped Fox News And Became Trump's Heir"; New York Times, May, 2022)


MEHR, MIT 'DER IST SCHULD':  The Best Friend reports that here in San Francisco on May 14th, the Women's March was not that well attended. The most disturbing aspect were the counter-protestors -- all of them evangelical 'christians', who almost outnumbered the marchers, standing on the sidewalks as the contingent made its way down a nearly deserted Market Street, "shaking their fists at us and shouting that we were going to hell. It was really creepy; we felt alone out there."

And that was in San Francisco.


Saturday, May 7, 2022

This Is Your Steerage Saturday Update For 3rd Class Passengers

 Another Very Long Howl

When things happen, they come in a waterfall, a cascade, a torrent. If you haven't been paying attention, they will seem to appear as if by magic, out of nowhere.  But they never do.


On January 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Weimar Germany. On February 27, the Reichstag was gutted in a fire, set by the nazis* themselves, who claimed it an act by German Communists.

On February 28, Hitler used emergency powers to suspend every part of Weimar's Constitution which ensured personal freedoms, and legalized the arrest of Communists and other political opponents. Many elected members of the Reichstag were arrested, or went on the run, or simply disappeared.

The nazi party was suddenly the majority in parliament. It could rubber-stamp any legislation Hitler and his crew might want.

On March 13, Hitler established the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Joseph Goebbels immediately began to exert control over every form of public expression, all of which would be used to push the nazis' message, demonize anyone the nazis considered enemies -- and to ceaselessly praise Hitler, The Leader, personally.

On March 21, the nazi-dominated Reichstag voted to approve the Enabling Act, giving Chancellor Hitler powers to enact laws, and imprison anyone he declared an enemy of the state.  He issued a decree making it illegal to speak out against the government or criticize its leaders. Also on March 21, the first concentration camp, at Dachau, was opened for Communist and other political prisoners.

On April 1st, citizens in Germany woke up to find their local SA, the nazi Brownshirts, had been up before dawn, out on the streets with brushes and buckets of white paint. They painted Mogen Davids and insults on the windows of businesses owned by Jews, and stood outside on the sidewalks demanding people only shop at "Aryan" stores -- move along, nothing to see here.

Also in April, Jewish and Socialist judges, lawyers, and other court officers were removed. The Academy of German Law called for nazification of statutory law, "cleansing it of Jewish influence". Judges were directed to use a "healthy community [Volk] sentiment" to guide their legal decisions.

On May 1, 1933, all labor unions were outlawed.  On May 6, Goebbels organized the first public burning of books in Berlin, to begin a nationwide action "against the Un-German Spirit.” Libraries across Germany were purged of 'un-German' literature and textbooks in public burnings organized by nazi student organizations.

In June, the SPD was abolished -- in Weimar Germany, the Social Democrats were the nazis only real political threat. By July, all remaining political parties had also been abolished: the nazi party was the only legal political organization in Germany.

And that, friends, is How It Happens.

(* NOTE:  I don't capitalize the term or Noun, 'nazi'. The concept of providing any justification or convention to and for individual nazis or their organized state is personally abhorrent even if a violation of grammatic rules.) 


The Past Is Present Tense

An aspect of quantum theory has it that reality may be created, moment to moment, in determining one set of conditions of the great cosmic Waveform -- all possible variations in the state of all matter. The world exists in all its multitudinous forms simultaneously: snow falls (hopefully) in the Himalayas, at the same instant billions and billions of other things are happening.

This is where all of us, and novels, live -- and the debate whether Flaubert, or Hemingway, or Gaddis, Tartt or Sebald, or Attwood, or Chelsea Handler, has described Reality more closely in their works to how it's actually experienced. Terrible, beautiful; it's all going down -- whether you see it, acknowledge it, or not.

Some of this long howl and bark I've said before. Many times before. A portion of what follows was already published, last year -- before everyone seemed to think Covid was over; before Putin's gamble, before the trail of breadcrumbs left by the January 6th Committee was followed, in a disinterested ho-hum way, by the mainstream corporate media -- when it wasn't publishing story after story about the Failed Biden Presidency; and when it wasn't being denounced by the Murdochs.

After the election in November of 2000, and over the fourteen years I've been sporadically writing this blog, decline and dissolution in America have been both easier to see, but more difficult to convince people to believe that it is happening. And that bothers me more than anything -- the laconic, not-my-problem attitude. 

(Via The Soul Of America) Here is Adolph Reed ("The Whole Country Is The Reichstag";, August 23, 2021):

"The right-wing ... [has] a single concrete objective—taking absolute power in the U.S. as soon and as definitively as possible. And [they] even seemingly want, to destroy the social fabric of the country [in taking power] ...

"Discrediting government ... has been a component of the GOP game plan ..  and Democrats have reinforced [that] in their own way. ...Four decades of retrenchment and privatization ... steadily increasing economic inequality and government’s failure to address it in any meaningful way [fuels a] lack of confidence, distrust, and hostility toward government ... and eventually even the idea of the public itself.  And [Right-wing billionaires who] bankroll the ultraright have taken advantage of that, [stoking] frustration and rage into a dangerously authoritarian political force."

Through my life, I've kept track of events, but nothing I've read or watched surprised me much. I am very cynical when it comes to the behavior of individuals, and in groups our behavior is too often amazingly stupid.  However, being cynical can also be a dangerous, and stupid, position -- a lazy person's way of abandoning critical judgement.

I'd grown up in the Fifties and Sixties; saw Southeast Asia personally and, as they said about The Fugitive, "toiled at many jobs". In the Seventies I studied history, focusing on interwar Europe --  Germany in particular; Weimar, and after. 

I knew things, but coasted along believing the High School Civics Class view of America -- the long national Narrative of an America, not perfect, but on a constant upward (and of course, liberal) arc into an inevitable, enviable future. Even Vietnam could be seen as a a tragedy, but a regrettable episode, a blip, in that long view. This of course ignored the experience of lives lived by Others -- the great Internationale of White Blindness.

And during Watergate, Liberals rejoiced: America's Great Silent Majority was wrong. Their hero, Nixon, was a Crook -- but he could be explained as an aberration in the American Narrative; an exception. And the political Right was, too: they were the Fringe, on the wrong side of history. Easily dismissed. The future would be a moderate Liberal culture. Always upwards.

Sure. Of course it would be.

Do Not Skip This Part Of The Exam

Please listen to me when I say this -- and I want to be wrong, but:  50 years later, the children and grandchildren of the Silent Majority are back. 

They're bully-mean in their MAGA caps and January 6, 2021 - Civil War T-Shirts, they see the world through small, piggish eyes, and they hate you.

They hate Colored people and Foreigners, and Eggy-heads, and Libs and Gay and Trans People and Ee-lites. The weak and the soft. They love god; yes they do (somebody's god, anyway), and America. They have guns and carry them -- and you have nothing to fear, so long as you do what they and their leaders say. 

Their ultimate leaders, America's Owners, are delusional, and rich. Very, very rich (Read Wharton's Age Of Innocence, or watch "The Daughtsman's Contract" for a notion of their society). You won't see their names in the media; they don't like publicity, and have generations of experience at being nearly invisible. 

They don't like Trump, or the MAGA-caps, or anyone who isn't part of their class. The world belongs to them, naturally -- whether by birth into their old-money, blue-blood family line, by the Will of Somebody's God, and their net worth.

The Owners have useful persons, like Eugene B. Meyer and his Federalist Society, to provide some philosophic framework for the nasty and regrettable decisions they will have to make. Persons like Meyer -- or even the Murdochs, brutes in bespoke suits, arrivistes who think they're in charge-- are useful but are not, and will never be, part of the Owners' class. But they are useful.

And, each in their own way, the MAGA Base and the Owners believe it is the Purity of their Strength, it is Blood and Soil, which calls them on.  The Base don't know they're being manipulated, but they'll do what the Owners want -- which is to Keep The World In Balance. 

The Base will do the bad things, and afterwards sing 'Amazing Grace' in celebration of 'god's great victory', after they dump your battered corpse in some nameless field. 

If you think this is simplistic, or hyperbole, you have that right. But I'm not the only person connecting the dots between the heat of rhetoric, and where that leads

Top Of The List, Ma

Disease and climate deterioration are at the top of those conditions which frighten me; I suppose we have to put nuclear war back on the list, now. But what is happening in America makes me believe we are close to something horrific: Our own version of the world after Weimar, and What Comes Next. 

We've already had a taste of what that could be -- and an attempted coup. That we can have another seems to be ignored by the DOJ, and Biden's government, and far too many individual Americans who shrug and won't vote to save themselves. Whole fukin' system's corrupt, man.

 When I submit to my own fears, I see my country being dominated -- by the malignant, the vicious, the bestial -- with no cure except The Fire, Next Time; and no guarantee that where it leads will be a happy ending. 

Could America disintegrate into an even more obvious Oligarchy, like the old Soviet Union? Into Lebanon, or Syria? Could it become Atwood's Republic of Gilead? No one knows. The Waveform is always in motion. The Cat In The Box is alive and dead, until you open the lid.

But: I feel certain we can't continue down the same road we've been travelling without paying penalties we can't imagine. Chickens home to roost; and yes, the revolution will be televised.


Ten-Dimensional Chess

Last year, George Packer (author of "The Unwinding") noted in The Atlantic that America's national narrative, Our Story, is a string of crises -- and about 'how we got out of it'. How we overcame and went on to even greater triumph: Upwards, always upwards.

I understand there are others who believe the world order is played out at a higher level of Weltpolitik -- constant competition between America, Russia, and China, and the dependent allies of each. It involves manipulating economies, technology, currencies, corporate and national intelligence. 

For the Players, this is ten-dimensional chess, an 'enlightened' upper class against Nihilistic Oligarchs -- a NeoLiberal World Order against Nationalist Autocracy -- one side saying The Greatest Good For The Greatest Number, and the other saying Fuck That, What's In It For Me?

The old High School Civics Class View of America -- that Hurrah! For The Flag National Narrative -- is a bedtime story, a tool to manipulate naïve and powerless fodder for the Leaders' dreams. In other words, We The People. 


I'll Take 'Restrictive Nationalist Political Narratives' For A Thousand, Alex

There's much about the Neoliberal vs. Autocrat world Narrative that seems true. I also think that vision fails to make a galactically-complex system comprehensible. That may not even be possible. For the sake of this little screed, let's just focus on the National Narrative of America, told within our borders -- common assumptions about Us we've assimilated through time.

Packer said, we don't have one unified Story of America -- we have four, and the one chosen by the political Right is that of a beautiful America, stolen from its people by immigrants, noisy and uppity People of Color, women, Liberals, Socialists; girl-boys and boy-girls, and (the MAGA Base won't say so out loud) Catholics and Jews and all Them Other Religions.

The beautiful America can only return when these Demon-possessed culture-despoilers are destroyed. Then all will be good again. 

Belief in that Narrative shows why "Owning The Libs" is so visceral, so central and necessary, to the political Right. It's the logical culmination of forty years of resentment and hatred. That Narrative only leads out a one-lane gravel road to the open pit in that nameless field. 

The issues Trump had campaigned on waxed and waned ...What remained was the dark energy he unleashed... Trump’s people still talked about freedom, but they meant blood and soil. Their nationalism was like the ethno-nationalisms on the rise in Europe ... Trump abused every American institution ... and his people cheered. Nothing excited them like owning the libs.


Owning The Libs Is A Team Sport

People can write opinion pieces calling out lying and bullying by the political Right, but it makes no difference. The Left focuses on the historical record. It's important to make certain choices, and make speeches which will be quoted by historians seventy years on. But it will not matter. 

We're in 2022; American democracy is a store that's being mismanaged and looted right in front of us. It's clear we must act.  It shouldn't even be a question.

The Rightist crazies can't be criticized into better behavior by waving "the historical record" at them. McConnell's corruption; Gaetz' degeneracy; Cawthorn's delusions about orgies and flirting with threats of civil war, Boebert's intimations of physical violence; Greene's barely coherent lying; Alito's shrieking hatred in his scribblings. The end of Roe is just the beginning of Owning The Libs.

The lies and pure hatred broadcast by Limbaugh, by the Murdochs through their hand-picked talking heads, for forty years, will be in "the historical record". But for each of them, what they've done are badges of honor. They're Owning The Libs.

Anything is permitted in Owning The Libs -- including reducing human rights to a joke, sedition and treason. It is all about the naked use of power. Consider: There was no penalty for their support of a coup on January 6th. There will be no punishment for them now, or ever. 


When I first heard the phrase, 'Owning The Libs', it immediately conjured up an image of Slavery -- of another human being treated as chattel. "Owning" something implies possession, domination, the right as an Owner to use your property in whatever way you wish. What it's job is; what it is permitted, and how it will be punished. And that brought an immediate, up-from-the-gut response: Fuck this shit


"You Made Me Do This"

Last Fall, I saw a video of an anti-masker, anti-vaxxer, holding a list of names and addresses of the local Board of Supervisors in his area, shouting at a small rally. 

The Board of Supes was preparing to vote on a mask mandate. The anti-vaxxer held up a list of names, and was literally screeching (I'll paraphrase), "We know where you [Supervisors] live! We're going to be at your front door -- we're coming for you!" Asked what would happen if the Board voted for a mandate, he shouted back, "Civil war!! Civil war!! Get your guns!!"

This isn't some extremist, Fringe element, like John Birchers of the 1960's, spouting rhetoric that will never go further than a street corner. America's Right wing is pushing for confrontation.  They want a final confrontation -- bloody, retributive; like a battle on the plains of Armageddon. 

America's political Right is a madman with a gun, who keeps taking one step towards you, then another and another -- all while screaming Don't get any closer!! I'm warnin' ya!! I told ya to stop comin' at me!! 

And, when he finally shoots you, he'll say See what you did?? You Libs made me do it!! Told ya!! Told ya!!


Peter Wehner, Republican New York Times contributor who wrote on November 5, 2016 about his predictions of Trump's presidency, appeared on PBS' News Hour on the eve of Biden's 2021 inauguration, to observe:

We're in an epistemic crisis... there has been an assault on truth and on reality, that [The Leader] has led, and his party was a part of, and his Base was a part of. We now live in a world where we don't just have policy differences -- we're living in different moral universes, different epistemological universes; we don't have a common set of facts, even a common reality. And when you lose that, it's very difficult to put it back together again... 

But if you don't... a free country can't continue. Ultimately, your politics breaks down and your society breaks down... there's no ability to have dialogue. [The Leader] did this... it wasn't just the lies; it was this intentional assault on reality, which ...spreads a kind of disorientation in the public that has tremendously damaging and long-term effects.

Wehner's opinions ignore the development of the American Right since 1974 toward authoritarianism, 'christian' Dominionism and proto-fascism. It also ignores the devolution of both Republican and Democratic parties.  Because the counterpart to this long howl about the Right is the state of America's Left.


That something will happen seems inevitable. It's what the Right is being told -- by the Murdochs' talking heads, by Trump, by Rightist politicians -- that something must happen, after The Steal. 

It reminds me of a monument, erected by the nazis in the 1930's at Germany's border with Danzig, with an inscription -- "Remember, Germans, What Blind Hatred Has Stolen from Thee" -- which seems to sum up the basic attitude of America's political and cultural Right.


Ian Welsh  sees the end result of all this as a collapse. He noted last year, when Texas instituted the 'Heartbeat Act' restricting abortion, and asking citizens to inform on each other for potential financial gain: 

"[enactment of the Texas anti-abortion law] is the thin edge: what’s coming to Texas now will be coming to you very soon. Roe vs. Wade is doomed; Republican Trumpists are taking over the party apparatus to ensure the next coup attempt succeeds, and Democrats are doing nothing to stop any of this... 

"The best case scenario is probably the US splitting peacefully. That will be unfortunate for those left-behind, but it beats the entire country falling, or a civil war."

Kleiner Mann, Was Nun?

America has never been as divided a country since the last time we took up arms against each other. The Right depends on stoking their outrage. There is an actual war, in Ukraine; and after four-plus years of Rightist rule, two-plus years of Pandemic, we are in a wartime of the spirit in America, and on that ground inside ourselves is where it will be fought.

If the future holds a Supreme Court removing Constitutional guarantees to personal liberty and privacy -- if there are elections skewed by obvious fraud, orchestrated by Rightist state governments -- if the demonization of others continues from the Right... then we will have a more violent future, an almost ceaseless negativity.

The future holds events which will come for us, whether we want them or not. How we pay attention to them, how we behave towards each other and the choices we make, may be more important than before. 

I'm deeply grieved for the state of my country. I'm not a nationalist; can surely be accused of naivety -- but Immerhin -- in spite of everything, believe in the possibility of a better world, based on compassion and justice.

I once had the opportunity to ask the Dalai Lama two questions. The second one was: If the essence of the Buddha's teaching could be summed up in one idea, what would it be? He thought for just a moment, then replied, "Just, 'Do your best.' "

I took the Lama's observation to suggest that Existence is too complicated for any person to say why they are, and what the end results of our thoughts and actions will be. Be kind; act with compassion; do the best you can, moment to moment. It seems simple, but is hard. That works for me.

As a comparative comment on purpose and values, I could have asked Albert Camus a similar question.

Camus did not believe in a god, an afterlife, or a higher purpose to existence. He believed the fact of humankind was all the justification necessary for what Buddhists would call Right Action, and for making a demand for Justice -- for a better world. And that works for me, too.
I continue to believe that this world has no ultimate meaning. [That] ... it has no justification but man -- hence he must be saved if we want to save the idea we have of life.

With your scornful smile you will ask me: What do you mean by 'saving man'? And with all my being I shout to you that I mean not mutilating him, and yet giving a chance to the justice that man alone can conceive.

(Resistance, Rebellion and Death)

MEHR MIT Im Dämmerung Ich Hat Gesehen Die Hühner Fur Ein Landung Zu Kommen

Inequality and polarization have not been this high since the nineteenth century. Democrats are certain that if Donald Trump is reelected, American democracy will not survive. 

Republicans are equally certain that if Trump loses, radical socialists will seize the wealth of elites and distribute it to undeserving poor and minorities, forever destroying the economy of the United States. 

Both sides are also convinced that the other side intends to change the democratic ‘rules of the game’ in ways that will make it impossible for them to compete effectively in future elections.

-- Mathematician Peter Turchin (quoted in "Ginsburg's Passing May Worsen The Crisis Of Our Democracy"; Max Boot, WaPo September 19, 2020)