Showing posts with label MODERN TIMES. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MODERN TIMES. Show all posts

Friday, December 13, 2019

Friday The Thirteenth Random Barking: Up On The Roof

Don't Want To Look Over The Edge

What is the cost of lies? It's not that we'll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. What can we do then? What else is left, but to abandon even the hope of truth, and content ourselves instead with stories?
  --  Gregori Legazov (Jared Harris), Chernobyl (Episode 1) 
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, 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.

I get up this morning, having watched the first episode of HBO's Chernobyl last night. I kept recalling the scene where a Soviet engineer at the nuclear plant is intimidated, by two Soviet party Administrators, into going up on the Vent Block roof of Reactor Building Four to look down over the edge, directly into the maw of a ruptured reactor core in fission burn.

That was an actual event. A couple of actual, gutless, bullying Soviet party toadies -- Viktor Bryukhanov and Nikolai Fomin -- refused to believe the reactor had exploded. They forced another actual person, Deputy Chief Engineer Anatoly Sitnikov, to go up on a roof overlooking the blown core and look down into the monster. They sent an armed soldier with him to make sure he did.

Sitnikov received a fatal dose of radiation within seconds. Even after returning and reporting what he had seen, the two suck-ass motherfuckers (products of their system, yes; but motherfuckers all the same) still said Sitnikov was mistaken, and accused him of lying.

Bryukhanov and Fomin did next to nothing. They did not alert anyone about the true state of the emergency. All they were really concerned about was being blamed for something bad, and what effect that would have on their careers as Soviet technical bureaucrats. They only thought about how best to spin things, to protect themselves.

I also got up this morning to a continuation of news already broadcast the night before -- that Britain has gotten its Little Trump. Stevie Bannon must be so very proud of one of his clients. Our American Pestident, another Bannon customer, has warmly congratulated Boris -- who has only begun to strut and preen and crow.

I don't know enough about the minutiae of British politics to fully appreciate the magnitude of the Tory win -- and the loss by Labor and the Liberals. I fully expect Britain will crash out of the EU -- Boris has said he won't, but he lies (not as much as his friend Donny, but he does), and in the process of Crashing, a lot of Boris' pals will become quite wealth-ier.

What will happen to workers, families, the sick and the elderly?  Once you strip away their lies and gaslighting, the Tory answer is "who cares?" Britain will become a more nationalist, right-wing populist, privatized 'Little England' state: an English version of Trump country.

One of the greatest problems in modern politics, for many democratic states, is that conservatives believe they're voting for the Tory, or Republican, party that's always been.  They're not. The 'new Right' is bereft of values, focused on subduing populations and subverting democracy in order to wield power in a coalition with the Rich and corporations.

In that, they don't differ much from the Democratic party in America,  except that they are more obvious in their purpose, and they put it in a big wrapping of Jesus. Our Democratic party leadership puts things in a neoliberal wrapper, the fig leaf of 'progress': A Great Big Beautiful Diverse Tomorrow. The same wealthy and corporate interests benefit, either way.

But no matter what ideological or theological crap they spew, they're all in it for the Money, a dream of bloodlines, family names, and dynasties. It's what short-sighted humans -- facing the potential end of our species -- can least afford in terms of behavior, but they're doing it.

But to realize that dream, they have to create as much chaos in the public and political sphere as possible  -- their Left opponents, meanwhile, are outmaneuvered by the sheer audacity of the New Right's play for power. That's what we're about to see in Britain, now. It's what we have been seeing in n America. It's not new, but it is Steve Bannon's playbook for a New Fascism.

I expect anti-immigrant sentiment will be emboldened, "Paki-bashing" will increase (some Twitter messages I've seen from among immigrant / persons of color communities in Britain show people are frightened and fear exactly that in the wake of a Tory landslide), and future immigration policies may begin to look like they were crafted by Steven Miller in Washington.

The Unmade Bed Of A Man, And His Captive, Go To The Polls

And the figurehead for it all will be this "colorful" Prime Minister -- a grifter, a liar, a ponce. He will create the chaotic legislative environment, the cover, for other grifters to thrive.  Boris is all about Boris, and fuck the People. And the greatest example of this "who cares" New Britain will be the dissolution of the United Kingdom.

Scotland will very probably force a new referendum on independence -- and I suspect they will vote to remain in the EU and go their own way. Of course, none of that matters to business and corporate elite -- they're only interested in how much profit they can make in a Scottish Republic, and don't give two hoots about its sovereignty or anything else.

For all his wanting to be the second Winston Churchill (who would have fought tooth and nail to keep Scotland 'in the Empire'), Boris doesn't care much about whether Scotland stays or goes. What does it matter? It doesn't pertain to Boris... so, who cares?

The argument about impeachment is this: The President is a dictator who can do almost anything he / she wants, without oversight or accountability to the Constitution, where the only role for Congress is to rubber-stamp whatever the President desires -- or, he / she is head of the Executive branch of a government with boundaries on her / his behavior set by the Constitution and functional precedents of the office of President.

Trump is a criminal President. His offenses were so egregious that -- no matter the partisan politics involved -- Democratic members of the House had no choice. It isn't hyperbole to say that history required them to act. And Trump is the most recent stop on the long, slow trajectory of the Republican party from conservative to fascist.

The Democrats gave more than lip-service to their oath of office to defend the Constitution against foreign or domestic enemies. If they didn't act, America, as defined by the Constitution, wouldn't exist. It would be another failed state, run by Oligarchs -- and, yeah; I understand there's already enough evidence to use that description, even without letting Trump get away with the abuses of his office.

Articles of Impeachment will be voted on by the full House next week. So far, the process has been high political drama -- primarily due to the frat-boy bullying, little-dick antics of almost every single Republican member of the U.S. Congress. But the Senate is a theater controlled by Trump and his toadies, and it will end with him not being found Guilty. He will remain in office.

Meanwhile, William Barr is pushing the conspiracy theory that the FBI investigation of Russian - Trump campaign connections was politically motivated, that Ukraine was responsible for interfering in the 2016 election, and not Russia. But it's not only a discredited theory -- it's a criminal investigation. Barr will submit indictments and conduct show trials to provide distraction from Trump's crimes ahead of the election. People will go to jail to satisfy Trump's desire for revenge and theater -- except this is the political use of the Justice Department to attack persons Trump perceives as his enemies with fabricated evidence and made-up crimes.

Then, we come to 2020. The Left chooses a candidate who matters, or doesn't. Trump loses, or wins. Even if he loses, he may refuse to leave office, the White House surrounded with Militia (all declared 'Federal Marshals' by The Leader) to "protect the president". Some form of civil war could easily, inevitably, follow.

If certain powerful persons on the right feel Trump is in jeopardy, enough to threaten the power and grift they've been able to to amass,they may decide on some form of coup -- and we may have an actual Republic of Gilead.

(Note: And where would our military stand in all this? The traditional Army-Navy football game was held on December 14; Trump attended, wearing a red MAGA cap. At halftime, West Point Army Plebes and Annapolis Midshipmen sat behind a television reporter, making the twisted 'okay' hand sign, recognized as a white power symbol, for the camera -- and behind the back of a black West Point Cadet sitting in the front row. You tell me where, in case of a civil war, the Armed Services will stand.)

The political Right keeps raising the stakes of polarization in America, attempting to keep the GOP Base (Trump's, really) at a fever pitch -- but that can't be maintained without the promise of an end state, a victory.

For the Right, it's no longer a "fight the good fight, if we don't win there's always next season" attitude. For 35 years, rightist media has carefully nurtured the Rage of White Joe SixPack, so that "owning the libtards", completely crushing, dominating their opponents, is the only acceptable outcome.

The Left -- meaning, Leftists, immigrants, persons of color, feminists; LGBTQ persons; Muslims; it's a long list -- must somehow be taken care of, once and for all. Dominated, and crushed.

No one knows what will happen. No one wants to go up on the Vent Block roof and lean over. And, from the relative safety of Moscow, or Italy, Vlad Putin and Stevie Bannon are laughing, fit to bust.

Actor Danny Aiello passed away, age 86.  He appeared in a number of films, including one on my top ten list:  Jacob's Ladder (1990).

Set in 1975 New York, Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins), divorced Vietnam vet with a PhD in Philosophy, is working in the Postal Service, and may (or may not) be slipping in and out of a series of flashbacks connected to Vietnam in 1971, and the accidental death of one of his three children (Macaulay Culkin, in one of his first film roles). He also begins seeing inexplicable things (demons, things out of a Lovecraft novel) in broad daylight. Reality appears to be shifting and he's frightened.

Singer has lower back issues, and sees a Chiropractor, Louis Denardo, played by Aiello ("You look like an angel, Louie," Singer tells him, "Like a big cherub. Anyone ever tell you that?"  "Yeah," says Louis. "You; every time you come in here").

At one point in the story, Singer is struck by a car on a New York street. His lower back seizes up, his wallet is stolen by a vagrant Exmass Santa; he's brought to a hospital that becomes progressively more nightmarish, a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

Louis shows up at the hospital ("What is this, the Middle Ages?" he yells at a nurse when he sees how Singer is being treated) and forcibly takes him out, back to his chiropractic office. He puts Jacob on his adjustment table and begins working on his back.

Singer tells Louis about what he's been seeing, that the hospital was a vision of hell. "Ever read any Meister Eckhard?" Louis asks; Jacob says he hasn't, and Louis is surprised. "Huh. Don't know how you got a PhD in Philosophy without reading that guy.

"Eckhard saw hell, too," Louis continues. "Know what he said? He said the only part of you that burns in hell is the part that won't let go of your life. Your memories; your attachments; they burn them all away -- but they're not punishing you, he said; they're freeing your soul.

"So, the way he sees it -- if you're frightened of dying, and you're holding on -- you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace -- then the devils are really angels, freeing you, from the earth. It's just a matter of how you look at it. So, don't worry about it. Okay?"

Now he knows what we do not. It's a decent film. Aiello is good in it. Give it a whirl.

 And to come full circle, I'm reminded of a poem that someone told me long ago, which I've never been able to find -- about a circus, where the crowd was intent upon watching a clown, in the center ring, lighting matches with his toes; they were so fascinated that they didn't realize the roof of the tent had blown away, and the world had come to an end.

Larger questions of existence have little to do with the clowns in the ring.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Twilight At Noon

A Long Howl:  Misery Does Not Require Acts, Only Conditions

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 wins re-election. That would be enough to trigger mass social unrest. His response could end in a national state of emergency.

Or, before the election -- if his poll numbers indicate he's in serious jeopardy, an "event" might occur serious enough to trigger a state of emergency. The election is disrupted or delayed.

Or, 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.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Deepness Of The Sea Washes Up To Your Door

Random Barking In Multiple-Atmospheric Pressures

Last Week, In The Roundy Room Of Trump House
(Presidential Finland Guy Looks On: Whuz Up Wit' You, Man?)
Trump’s Defiance of Oversight Challenges Congress’s Ability To Rein In The Executive Branch: Experts and lawmakers worry the president’s hostile stance toward congressional oversight and Democrats’ flailing response are undermining the separation of powers and could have long-term implications for the democracy.
-- Washington Post, October 7, 2019; Headline and Sub-
It's fair to say America has never experienced the particular combination of political circumstances we're in now. It's a Constitutional crisis. It's the ugliest contest of power between the Executive and Legislative branches -- fueled on the Right by a witless, corrosive, ideological hatred. On the Left, Democrats can't seem to remember that they once were allegedly the party of People, and not of Corporations As People.

Meanwhile -- in case you forgot -- the Office of President* is held by a person who will sacrifice anything: lives (of immigrants, of Americans drinking tap water or breathing our air; of Yemeni civilians, or Kurdish troops), or fortunes (yours, or mine), or honor (manipulating others with lies) -- to feed his apparently bottomless appetite for satiety, validation, stimulation and revenge.

This is a defining moment in the future of our country. Are we (nominally) a nation of laws, a representative government that has some power, some checks and balances? Or are we more clearly an authoritarian political state where the only obvious use of a Legislative body is to rubber-stamp the will of The Leader?

After two weeks of whistleblowers and Rudy and threats and "BULLSHIT!" -- Impeachment is apparently the next stop on this Funhouse Highway. I'm not repeating details of the previous few weeks; things change, get worse; some new astounding revelation appears, almost by the day. One thing is constant -- the situation between Trump and his Base, and everyone else, will get almost inconceivably uglier.

I've already said: Articles of Impeachment will undoubtedly pass in the House. The votes are there. It will be referred to the Senate -- where the votes are not. A two-thirds majority is required to convict a President, but it doesn't appear likely the Senate will even vote on any Article from the House.

Republicans are so focused on beating the hated Liberals that they will continue to overlook whatever The Leader does. There may be a breaking point -- but after everything Trump has already done, what does that even mean?  Beating the Left, just to kick someone else into the dirt, has become more important to these persons than life, fortune, or the honor of all of us as citizens.  Nothing new there.

Yertle The Turtle has already saturated Kentucky with commercials, stating flatly that a Senate under his leadership and Republican control will protect the president*.  It's exciting to live in a country where you not only know the fix is in -- but where the Goons in charge actually crow about it, openly, in advance. That's a breathtaking example of exactly how broken, politically, things are.

Perversely, Trump will continue feeding on a 24-by-7 news cycle focused almost exclusively on him. He will bellow, preen, strut, and when his Toadies in the Senate quash the Impeachment, he'll celebrate with an all-night party at More-Lego, where he will be filmed having sex with goats and kitchen appliances -- and mention in the State Of The Union that real Americans should buy an exclusive boxed DVD set of the spectacle, through Trump Enterprises, at an 800 number.

Then, we will have an election.

Some believe representative government was created so that larger, poorer masses, with great effort over hundreds of years, might force the smaller number of Owners and their institutions to give concessions in their control of -- well, everything.

If you're one of them, then the 2020 election is less about overthrowing a tyrant, and more about casting your vote for a government which won't further erode what rights and protections we've fought for -- an erosion every president since LBJ seems to have contributed to.  The choices seem drawn in relief -- a path forward is about more collectivism, mutual dependence and regard. The reverse ends in demands for loyalty at the point of a gun, poverty, states of emergency; mass graves.

It seems strange to hope the result of elections in 2020 is only for less erosion, rather than progress. That, too, tells you how broken politically things are. But it isn't a surprise. And please, don't make any mistake about it: Impeachment is not the most important thing on the table.

This election, and any other we participate in for at least the next few generations, is about ensuring that bloated clowns and demagogues do not have any lasting place in our culture or politics. We can't afford them any longer.

The most important thing on the table is survival of our species -- and understanding that how we do that is as critical to our future as survival itself.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Smash The Past With Savage Blows


Britain's Prime Minister; The New Model Of Leadership:  'Mercurial'  'Individual'  =  Wanker

At the end of Terry Gilliam's "Time Bandits" (1981), a boy has escaped through time in the company of some mutinous employees of the Supreme Being, ultimately defeating The Evil One by carbonizing him, then blowing him into a bunch of carbonized chunks.

The boy wakes up, at home in bed (all a dream?) to find his parents' house on fire. The Fire Brigade brings out a toaster-oven, advising it was the cause. The parents open it -- and inside is what the boy recognizes as a chunk of The Evil One.  "Mum! Dad!" the boy shouts. "It's evil! Don't touch it!!"

The parents look dumbly at their son (I'm not gettin' ya, boy) -- then, look at the Chunk in the toaster-oven; at each other -- and then both of them reach into the oven and touch it. There is a fiery explosion, whereupon Mum and Dad 'splode into Chunks themselves.

Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and the rest of the Wankers are pushing a No-Deal Brexit -- not because there is no other alternative. But Boris and his Brexiteers appear to be using the threat of a no-deal as a gigantic game of Chicken with the EU. But, Oops -- the Union called their bluff.

Since Boris buffaloed his way into Number 10, girlfriend in tow, enough evidence has surfaced that he and Nigel and the Wankers intend to crash out of the EU -- because they have no other plan. There isn't one. And when October 31st arrives, and a Crash-out occurs, the government's own report predicts a Britain headed for disaster: chaos at ports of entry, shortages of critical goods, medicines, petrol; businesses closing; layoffs; even riots.

Britain's cross-governmental civil preparedness plan for a no-deal Brexit even has a code name: Operation Yellowhammer.

A common economic framework has been the chief reason for the EU's existence in the first place. Crashing out of the Union with no 'deal' means (among other things) no trade and employment agreement between Britain and the EU. Highly-paid employees from across the EU, living and working in England, will become 'foreigners' on November 1st. So will British citizens working abroad, and British retirees in Portugal, Spain, Italy or southern France.

Advantages British businesses have had within the EU will disappear, kicking them smartly in the balls just at the point when a delicately interconnected global economy is slowing. And a Brexit crash-out may be the thing which adds to collective financial pressures and turns a global slowdown into something deeper and more serious.

It's less clear whether Yellowhammer and Nigel's demolition derby will mean the end of the United Kingdom, or not. A majority in Scotland (62%) and Northern Ireland (56%) voted to remain in the EU (Wales voted to leave, 53% - 47%). There are clear economic benefits for them to do so -- and there's enough regionalist sentiment, in Scotland at least, to use a crash-out as an opportunity to push for independence. Boris Johnson doesn't remember Culloden and doesn't care; Nicola Sturgeon certainly does.

After the 2016 Brexit referendum, some pundits were quick to note that 'Leave' won because its supporters were the English equivalent of Trumper populists -- nationalist, nativist, anti-immigrant conservatives, the National Front's "Britain For the British!" types seen in the late 1970's.

Others saw in the vote a rejection of the policies of neoliberalism and the forced austerity created by organizations like the IMF, ECB and WTO, which the EU voted to uphold and Britain agreed to. Those 'Leave' voters were more concerned about economics which benefited a wealthy elite, than nationalist or anti-immigrant sentiments.

But for Boris, Nigel and the Brexiteers, leaving the EU has never been about immigration, or any one issue. Brexit was only a lever through which they could take control of Britain's Conservative party, in the same way Trump now controls the Republican party in the United States.

They cultivated a right-wing populism, all about kicking a liberal Britain to the curb -- a nationalistic, anti-immigrant, privatized nation, full of proud 'Little Englanders' who saw each other through their traditional pecking order of wealth and class. An authoritarian model, where it's organizers -- like Trump and friends in the U.S. -- will benefit greatly.

Trump's Secretary of the Treasury and Spouse Enjoy Their Lifestyle
(Time Magazine Online)

In America, Trump cloaks his greed and racism (with the help of the Murdochs) in a manufactured popularity and traditional American imagery. He lies about himself constantly, shamelessly. Being President is just another way to siphon money out of a world of Worker-Bee Losers, and he's filled his cabinet with people who believe exactly the same -- for these people, "public service" means the public serving them. Trump has bought their loyalty with access to streams of cash, and their snouts are buried in the feeding trough.

Boris, Nigel and the Wankers want the same: a Trump-like political agenda that gives them power to line their pockets and distribute largess to other rightist Wankers. They've dressed up their swinish greed with more sonorous and adult-sounding phrases (typical with a people who use language like poetry, even when it's for a utilitarian purpose) -- but it's a power grab for personal gain, pure and simple.

So, if everyone understands that crashing out of the EU is like touching the piece of pure evil in the convection oven, and you will explode and die... why? Why do it?

My perception is that Boris, and Nigel, and opportunistic British Conservatives want a Britain disrupted and disorganized. It's easier to loot when it's prostrate. It's like corporate raiders, leverage-buying a behemoth company fallen on hard times, then butchering it and selling it off piecemeal for their own enrichment and that of their friends.

They're not using a new model for seizing power -- but it's being pursued around the world, at the same time, by too many people to appear completely coincidental:  Bolsonaro in Brazil, Salvini in Italy, Orban in Hungary, Duarte in the Philippines, The Great Leader in the U.S. -- and now Boris, Nigel and the Wankers.  It's Steve Bannon's populismcreate the chaos; repeatedly blame liberals and the central government as the cause; then take advantage of it. Control the conservative party by forcing it into more radical positions. Once in power, do whatever the hell you want.

What's being torn apart isn't a corporate entity, it's a national government -- and the political and personal benefits at that scale are enormous. This kind of takeover isn't democracy; it isn't about creating a government to best to serve its citizens. It's about power  -- rewarding one's friends; punishing one's enemies; and holding on to power for as long as possible, usually measured in election cycles. Then, having drained everything out of the country you can, walk away. Who the fuck cares what happens to the Little People? You got yours, Jacky Boy: #Winning!

The potential chaos created by a no-deal Brexit is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity -- for Boris, Nigel and the Wankers, for Stevie -- but the tricky bit is, they will have to try and put this massive economic and social disruption over on the British people. The only way they can do this is to lie and obfuscate, say that they're "doing everything they can" to go out with a deal. But, lying is something easy for Boris, he's already done it to become Prime Minister.

After the no-deal Brexit on October 31st, Boris will blame the misery he and the Wankers have created on the EU, or immigrants, or liberals. He'll have the Murdoch press to help him sell whatever lies they want to push. There could even be a war with Iran by then, which might distract people, for a while.

And then, there's Trump, riding to the rescue of Britain's economy. Boris seems to agree with making America Britain's principal trading partner to make shore up its economy in a post-Brexit world, replacing a portion of the economic framework Britain currently has with the EU. Trump, of course, mentions it as if it were a done deal.

It might provide a temporary lift to the markets, even a talking point in Trump's reelection -- the right-wing echo chamber would claim it as a victory for Free Trade under the wise stewardship of  The Leader. But ultimately it's just smoke and mirrors -- any rewards of such an agreement are highly speculative, and years in the future. It's not clear the U.S. Congress would allow or ratify such a treaty, and business with America can't replace, for England, the income they currently receive from all EU nations they trade with.

And The Great Leader isn't a dependable business partner. Boris may learn the hard way that with Trump, there is no more 'Special Relationship' -- and Boris and the Wankers need The Leader more than he needs Boris.

One of the great, momentous political questions of the 21st century is how do we minimize the effects of climate, and realize an equitable future for all, without creating a corporatized world where people become 'aphids milked by ants', through the Facebooks and Googles and Cambridge Analyticas?  Put another way -- how do you oppose neoliberalism without replacing it with nationalism or fascism? I believe the answer is clear.

However, as with our own Congress, the British Parliament is paralyzed. Leadership on all sides seems compromised. Liberals and Labor are divided; Conservatives are divided; every party in Britain seems disorganized, overwhelmed with backbiting and infighting. It's how Yellowhammer was able to bully his way to leadership of the Conservatives, and into Number 10, in the first place.

At the moment, it looks like things are disorganized enough in Britain that a no-deal Brexit, and everything to follow it, is the likely outcome; a victory of the Buffoons. Still. I like to think there's some fight in Labor yet, beset as that party seems to be with its own internal issues.

It's not that I'm kneejerk-sympathetic to Labor as the primary Left party in England; they are, however, the only one preserving some third way between the Raving Monster Looney Party of Boris and Nigel the Brexiteers, and the Neoliberal New World Order.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Your Cephalapod Monday

Jobs For Suckers

At Least Cephalapods Don't Find Excuses To Release Toxic Levels Of Societal Stress
By Assaulting Each Other At A Child's Baseball Game

Today is Cephalapod Monday. Take a Cephalapod to lunch -- and, no, having Cephalapod for lunch does not count, barbarian. The average Cuttlefish is at least as smart as your Dog -- just because it can't do the NYTimes Mini-Crossword or know who Tucker Carlson is doesn't mean it couldn't beat you at 'Jeopardy'. We recommend not trying to eat things which have the potential to be smarter than Tucker Carlson -- which is a long list of Things, beginning with kitchen appliances.

There are many jobs in Amrica -- at least, until the Crash comes. You may wish to have one of them (Note: Cephalapods And Dogs Need Not Apply!)

Acting Defensive Secretary: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His wise stewardship of Amrica. If you know what the front and back of a boat is called it is a plus. Also missiles! Some experience suggested, but if you're a friend of the Mercers, Ralph Reed or 'lil Stevie Bannon; well, allowances can be made. There will be some travel in this position. You will wear Blue. They will play Die Präsentiermarsch whenever you get up to go to the restroom. And, do not worry about That I-ran -- you're just an Acting Secretary! You're only acting, and don't have to be a real secretary, and take dictation or make coffee, very often. Learn to change color to blend in with your surroundings. Don't ask questions about those UFOs and you should not fuck up and be okay.

Acting Department Of Homeyland Insecurity Secretary: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His Big Hands, grabbing Amrica by the genitalia, like he had tentacles. You must have a home on the land, somewhere, and be ready to sweep all those who are bad in The Leader's eyes from within our Borders, except for the ones He wishes to clean His toilets and trim things on His golf courses. You must be hard, and do the hard things so that The Leader will not fire you. Mostly, you will be in the Bunker. Wear black, and they will play The Bonny Blue Flag for you whenever you scratch yourself. And, do not worry -- you're an only an Acting Secretary! Which limits your potential culpability at the International Court at the Hague for crimes against humanity, maybe. Just acting! Still, you are prohibited from fucking up in all time zones. A real secretary would quit, or ask for a raise, or work from home.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo
In Middle Of Blog Rant

Acting United Nations Ambassador: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His Amrica, the bestest country -- not like those scheisshole countries like France and Sweden. As with Nick Haley before, you may defecate on the floor in front of foreign dignitaries, like a goat.  And you must go to that UN building and repudiate every alliance and destroy as much Good Will as we may have had with all other countries, and isolate Amrica from the community of nations for no explainable reason, except that The Leader wishes it. You will be graded on this! You will wear Plaid and they will play Pop! Goes The Weasel for you whenever you fart into the seat cushion. And, do not worry -- you're only an Acting Secretary,  A real secretary would wear a Vicky's Secret brassiere, and eat Calimari, see. So, don't fuck up!

Acting Chef of Staff: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and the shrewd way He takes things, here in Amrica, and hides them at More-Lego. Once the job of Wash-n-Rince "Nancy" Preibus and General Kelly, holding this position with both hands will make you responsible for everything, including purchasing many Treats for Leader, and being Ivankagalonka's PB (Personal Bitch). It is a thankless job, and as long as you have it you will never thank anyone, for anything. You will wear Gray, be required to Hold Your Squid, and the Murine Band will play the 'Love Theme' from All The President's Men for you, on the hour. Do not fuck up.

Additional Obligatory Small Animal Photo
(Image: Screenshot, Foxtel Network [Australia], 1997)

Acting Federal Emerging Meringue Agency (FEMA) Director: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His huge intellect and His immense hands and his knowing that in Amrica, climate science is just Hooey. This is a really big job, getting ready to make Amrica the Greatest Disaster Movie of all time -- and you get to be the Director! How cool is that? Not very, given the global heating. There will be plenty of travel for you, and the food in those all-expenses-paid trips to meet Coal and Plutonium and Fozzilfool executives is supposed to be "really something". You will get to say, "We will look to the science" and "There is some question how much humans have affected our flexible climate." You will wear Poly-esther and be photographed eating some form of Crisps made from reef-dwelling aminal species. The 'Gutzholtz Rangers Band' of Preeborgen, Minnesota, will play a medely of tunes from Richard Rodgers' Victory At Sea on Alpenhorns, made from the tusks of African Elephants, every time you check into an exclusive hotel, courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Taxpayer. And, don't fuck up!

Acting Icky Combustible Enfoodment (ICE) Director:  You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His deep knowing of Amrica and its desire to be the whitest of all cold, icy whiteness. No milk or snow or never-worn, briefs-style underwear is as white and cold as the Amrica that you must create for The Leader. He campaigned for and made promises to The Gasket Of Unmentionables that all the bad people from 'somewhere else' would be made to go away. By Soon! So get right on that. You will wear sky-blue and will be Shot From Guns, as the 72-voice Aquarium Church Choir (now with 50% more Cephalapod!) sings Marching, Marching To Shibboleth. Good luck! Didya fuck up yet? No? Keep trying.

Acting Federal Aging Airplanes (FAA) Administrator: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His terrifying desire to fly, crapping on all Amrica, like a diseased seagull. You will be responsible for so little to so few that this job is a cakewalk. You will be required to eat cake, also, and that's as tough as it gets. You may have to appear on TV after large-scale air disasters, oh, maybe eight or ten times a year, but those poor people had to know the risks when they put themselves on the planes. Right? Oh, ah-yuh. And remember the useful phrase, "pilot error"; it's not like you built the damn planes yourself or anything.  It's not like you're a bloody octopus, multitasking genius that you may be! No blame! No collusion! You will wear Red, and every time the FaLaLa Orchestra plays the "Up In The Air, Junior Birdman!" song, you will do a Tequila shooter. The only way you can fuck up is to miss out on that cake!

Acting Sturgeon General: You must be willing to smile and say good things about The Leader and His wonderful form, his manly arteries in the Big Hands; like a twenty-year-old, he's is so healthful, and that you have never seen a man-child so trim and fit in all ways. Be prepared to say that. You will be provided with guidance so that any decisions about public health will not discomfit large drug companies, or the Persons who hold with their suckers blocks of Pharma stocks in Off-The-Shore accounts. And remember -- you're not really a doctor; you just play one in the governament. A real doctor would wear scrubs all day. You will wear Teal, and the Hester Street Rentgirls Band will play "Like A Sturgeon" for you. Often. If you fuck up, no one really notices.

Extra Random Barking Questions Monday:

1.)  Is it a definition of madness, when parents of children who were murdered by assault weapons in Amrica are threatened by those who believe the children's murder never took place?

2.)  Might it be disingenuous when, having become wealthy from decades of peddling spurious information and divisive monologues in Amrica which made the Triumph Of The Leader possible, that media demagogues conclude The Leader may have many flaws?

3.)  True Amrican Missy Sarah, shamed by the Chicken, has gone away, when many believed she would stay in the Bunker to the end. Will being an obvious and shameless liar stand in the way of becoming governor of a Trumptrue™ state? Aber nicht natürlich.

MEHR, MIT TINTENFISCH:  I was just thinking, in my artless Dog way: Check out this Cephalapod!

UND MIT IMMER MEHR:  Deep-sea Cephalapod for real!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

What's Goin' On

Today Everyone Votes

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

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

I Am A Marxist

Though Harpoism Works For Me Too

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

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

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


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

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

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

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo
In Middle Of Blog Thing

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, October 4, 2018

In The Epistemic World

Wherein We Are Shewn How The Sausage Is Made

Politics: So Many Choices.

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Simulacrum Of A Pretense Of Caring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democracy Means Someday You Can Do It Too

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

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

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

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

Golden Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is She Big Is She Moving Is She Hellbound

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


But, It Mimics Nature

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Them From Noticing The Fire As Long As Possible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 24, 2018

Begin Again In The Off-World Colonies

Depressive Weimar Monday Ranting
Well, you were warned.

All Elected Officials Began Their Careers In This Way.

America -- soft 'n fluffy but with drones, Lil' Tay, fattish Archbishops, pasty Whiteboy judicial nominees and scumbag catfights -- made it through another week without collectively quitting our jobs and moving in a mass exodus to Canada. I don't know how, but we succeeded! USA! USA! Have an entire cheesecake as a reward for whatever it is you did. Or a few Big Macs. G'head.

You wanted the cheesecake. You wanted the Big Macs; you know that -- just like you wanted that neck tattoo (And that worked out, didn't it? Sure it did). Each bite helped pass the time on the weekend. Didn't it? Yeah, pal.

Creepy Cute Toy Used To Instruct Dental Assistants
In Dealing With Child Patients. Okay; Maybe Not.

But now it's Monday, and it's creepy out there. I don't know about you, but America was not really ever as creepy as it is now. Why? Because comfortable illusions about our society which have been accepted without question -- Jesus saves (or He at least invested wisely); white superiority and democracy; girls just want to have fun; work hard and play by the rules; Toonces The Cat can actually drive -- have all been proven wrong.

Here goes a rant:  I may be wrong, but Rod Rosenstein, who has been the only thing between (as the Irish would say) Us and the Devil, will resign. Jeffy Sessions may or may not follow, may or may not be the next contestant in the reality-TV government to be told You're Fired. And after that, Robert Mueller.

Why not? Congressional Republicans are staring at a possible loss of the House in six weeks; why not double down? Why not do things while they still have the power? They're untouchable!

There will be a grand Kabuki theatre of Dr. Ford's testimony, and the eleven Republican men will tread very carefully to avoid the appearance of a lynching, where an uppity woman will be seen to attempt to keep Biffy from assuming his Rightful Place.

On one level, part of me thinks: This is a story of a pasty, privileged white man being accused, and defended, by a bunch of other privileged people. It's America's elite, slap-fighting with each other.

Dr. Ford did what she believed was the right thing. But at the end of the day some people will make serious money on the back of her decision, and she'll receive the Anita Hill Special on national television. And Biffy will still get his seat, will ensure that Roe dies, and that Citizens United was just the beginning. And the privileged jackasses who primly defended their good friend Biffy will still be just as privileged, and still jackasses.

Meanwhile, two in five children in America will still wake up hungry tomorrow. Our Leader wants his war with Iran. Or with Somebody. And there are so many lies he has yet to tell.

There will be a little hue 'n cry; there always is. There may even be people in the streets -- for a while. The Punditi will do their complicated dances and smirk at each other; they'll compare Rosenstein's resignation and Mueller's firing to Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre. They'll spend a week speculating on Biffy's move, and the heart-warming moment when he greets RBG with 'real humility'.

But, eventually everyone has to go to work. Right? And there's always beer, and a Big Game on TV.  Calm down. It's not worth getting in a twist over. Democrats in Congress will fume, but the Republicans still run the show. The Leader is still there, still the Teflon Don. No one is going to invoke the 25th of anything. This is what I'm afraid of.

And in November, even with the vaunted Blue Wave -- what, substantively, will have changed? Seriously; what?

Let me repeat: This is what I'm afraid of. America has progressed through time, and on one level we've only been getting progressively more strange.

The only thing which seems even stranger is that there has been enough slack in the culture, enough space created by time and wealth and military power; weak north-south neighbors; two big oceans; to allow us to go forward without destroying ourselves before now. But History takes a long time to play out.

We Heart The Deep State. Don't We?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Your Weak Under Way


As a result of his recent appearances, Paul Manafort will be crooning in the Metro D.C. area for your pleasure through the rest of this year, with an option for a series of public recitals during 2019.

His recent hit single of the old Ukrainian ballad, "Fix My Heart", has been remixed by DJ Roddy; even The Leader, taking time away from thinking about the plight of The Little People, has taken notice.

Accompanied closely by the Bob Mueller DOJ Orchestra, Paul's special brand of Family entertainment is keenly anticipated to please millions of Americans, and the Superintelligent Parakeet. Rumors are Paul may be joined by fellow singers Micky Flynn, Pinky Gates, and Michael Cohen; if true, these performances promise to be spellbinding in their warmth and cheer. Watch your local news broadcasts for dates and times!

Whither The Weather Channel

Insult to Injury: A Weather Channel on-the-spot-weatherperson in the Carolinas, seen rocking back and forth in "high winds" while delivering a live report about the impact of Hurricane Florence making landfall, unaware of the two casually-strolling Dudes in the background. This has been flogged all over the Intertubes and needs no further description here.

The Weather Channel defended its weatherperson by saying they were exhausted, under stress, and had recently been painted blue. Or remodeled. Or had a head gasket replacement. And anyway, how can viewers expect things to function under such circumstances?

The two men in the background, walking along and apparently not affected in any serious way by wind, were part of a -- different space-time continuum! Yeah, that's it, hot damn; Science To The Rescue!!

If Deepak Chopra were here, he would tell us Quantum Mechanics explains that the two Dudes exist in all states of motion, inaction, and being, at the same time. The camera, as part of the observer paradox, simply pushed The Waveform to collapse when the men were thinking about a decent, balanced breakfast. Yeah. That has to be right.

But, consider: The Weather Channel deals with -- wait for it -- The Weather. They don't discuss politics, report on the effect of Betsy DeVos forcing children to work in sweatshops, the purchase of a third chin for Mikey Pompeo, or report on the latest Tweets of The Leader. The Weather Channel reports on The Weather, a set of science-based, factual occurrences.

It's one of the few things that are reported on that can't really be lied about, unless Fox gets into the weather-reporting business. We don't expect those people reporting the weather to be 100% accurate (the joke is that they rarely are), but we don't expect them to fake the effect of the weather they do report on. Sad!

Biffy Wants His Balloon

Priviledged, pudgy Brett 'Biff' Kavanaugh has been reported as allegedly attempting to "force himself" on a girl while he was attending an exclusive, all-male Prep School in Potomactown back in the day.

Apparently, Senator Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, had been made aware of the allegation through a letter sent to her by Biffy's alleged victim. Senator Dianne held on to the letter and did not raise the issue, or question Kavanaugh about it during his hearings before the Committee, when he promised to be a team player, but would not reveal which team he was referring to. Biffy was clear that only he can fill the tiny, stretchy shoes left by the tubby, angry, maleficent "Fat Tony" Scalia.

Biffy vociferously denied that any such alleged thing had ever happened. He was outraged, and squidgy, and pressed his lips together firmly in a display of putting up with the politics of the peasants. He wanted his candy and his balloon and his seat on the Biggest Court In The Land, because it is owed to me.

The Leader told him so, even if The Leader is an odious little puffed-up poseur and not Biffy's sort at all. He can give Biffy what is so rightfully his -- ergo, Biffy loves The Leader.

A letter was produced, signed by sixty-five women whom Biffy went to high school with, essentially saying he was a perfect gentleman and never ever conducted himself in any way that did not involve copper wiring or optical-fiber cabling.

How these women could have attended Prep school with him at an all-male institution, or how Kavanaugh could have used optical fiber cabling before it became available, was not addressed.

Senator Dianne's late revelation of Biffy's alleged conduct was seen by some as an attempt to delay what had been Biffy's de facto appointment to the Supremes by the Committee's Giant Slug Republican majority. It might even cause Biffy to be sent home without a copy of the Home Game.

But Senator 'Chuck' Grassley (who is even older than Senator Dianne and barely able to remember what year it is), Republican Chair Man of the Judiciary Committee, is determined this will not stand.

"I have pants," Grassley said when he believed he was alone in the Lois B. Lane Senate Maintenance Trailer, "Pants no one can fill. Judge Kavanaugh fills the pants of Tony, and all America can see they are filled. And goddamn it, I'm not going anywhere until those pants encompass all America. We will breathe and think and find our way through those pants.

"Thank you, and good night. Where's my damn check? I want to get paid and go drinking."

MEHR, MIT "WER, ICH??" :  Apparently, in July of this year, both Grassley and Feinstein were contacted by an attorney who indicated that Federal employees in the United States Courts had specific information about Kavanaugh they were willing to impart, but were concerned about possible retaliation.  

The information came from an attorney who had helped to blow the whistle on Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, who resigned after accusations by several women of improper workplace conduct -- including holding pornographic material on his work hard drive and making employees in his office view it, and sending unsolicited emails to others, including employees, with contents of a sexual nature. 

The attorney, writing to Grassley and Feinstein, stressed that any claims by Kavanaugh that he was unaware of Kozinski's behavior at the time it occurred would not be credible. Testimony by the former Federal employees' would support that.

It was also in July that Feinstein alone was made aware of Kavanaugh's alleged sexual assault by the woman who advised she had experienced it.

Kavanaugh had clerked for Kozinski in the 1990's. Kozinski recommended him as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and that clerkship began Kavanaugh's career -- from the Supreme Court, to Ken Starr's investigation of the Clintons, to his appointment as  a Federal Judge.  And, when announcing his retirement earlier this year, Anthony Kennedy recommended Biffy to The Leader as his replacement.

Biffy testified to the Judiciary Committee that he was unaware of Kozinski's past behavior -- and that his old mentor's resignation was a shock, a "gut punch". However, the Federal employees mentioned to Senators Chuck and Dianne in July might have been able to refute that, if they had been contacted and allowed to give testimony. They weren't.

MEHR, MIT "ER IST DER GUTES FÜHRER":  The Leader's Twitter feed has been effectively free of whining and bile and invective since Monday, September 17. It is very very quiet.

The Leader.  (Tom Brennan / New York Times)

And, he has appeared recently, and said efforts to pack the Supreme Court with right-wing morons things with Biffy Kavanaugh's confirmation are "very sad" and that the judge is "very nice", and has a very nice wife. "It's a very unfair thing, what's going on," said Leader -- and that was all he said.

He has gone before the cameras and said that "nothing will be left undone" for North Carolina (as opposed to Puerto Rico, nicht so?), and even travelled a short ways from DeeCee to the area, and to be seen to appear and be photographed while saying nice things. Supportive things.
Trump then visited a church in New Bern, a town of 30,000 located at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers that was hit especially hard by flooding, and joined volunteers in passing out boxed meals to locals in a drive-through line. He also walked through a neighborhood lined with discarded wet furniture, hugging residents and posing for pictures.
Stormy Daniels' book will be appearing soon, but The Leader has said nothing. Even when excerpts refer to her experience of The Donny as 3.5 on a scale of 10, to his raging insecurity, that he "didn't expect to be president", and the fact that he was having carnal relations with women not his wife ... The Leader has refrained from commentary.

You see, this is the Good Leader. The Kind Leader. The one who does not Tweet incendiary things and who hands out meals to persons he will never think about again. It's true -- he did talk to The Hill and say bad things about Ol' Jeffy 'Kiss-My-Sink' Sessions ("I don't have an attorney general; it's very sad") -- but otherwise The Leader has been quiet. Very very quiet.

This is the Leader who has been told by someone that he must be Soft and Kind and Good, a Leader who "is seen to care" until after a Republican majority can shove Kavanaugh down the throats of the country. Until after the mid-terms. 

He must be seen to be the one who cares about you (unless you live in Puerto Rico, Yemen, Syria, California, or other 'shithole countries'). And must be seen as Kind. And Good. He's the reincarnation of FDR. He's your Pal.

And so shall he be -- now, and until November 7th. Unless, of course, someone close to him is indicted, or he is accused of High Crimes and Misdemeanors, before then. In which case you will see Wonderboy, A Man In Full, come roaring back ahead of schedule.  Because he is not gone away.