Showing posts with label Reprint Heaven. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reprint Heaven. Show all posts

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Reprint Heaven: Trust Only The Children

Burning Down The House
(From 2018)

Brazil's National Museum; 200 years of priceless artifacts and historical records, burns (John Moraes / Reuters 2018)

I keep trying to read the tea leaves about the future, a foolish, stupid thing to do. Predictions are an illusion; the world has too many variables influencing what that future will become -- though some people have a frightening talent for being able to predict large-scale swings in the culture. It's also a foolish thing to do because I'm not very good at it.

Trying to predict what will happen is just what humans do -- attempt to exercise control in a chaotic mystery world. Americans are a pack of 400 million proto-Chimps who possess just enough intelligence and socialization to prevent us from acting like the Australopithecines in 2001: A Space Odyssey all at the same time. Still, we're dragged around by our genome and our hormones. Our level of consciousness allows imaginative conceptualization, including an awareness of our mortality, and that we have no idea what this chaotic mystery world is.

The leitmotiv of the human condition is not having absolute answers to the obvious questions arising from self-awareness. Every ridiculous and sublime thing we do or have ever done to define or organize or protect ourselves is a response to that. Whatever we come up with are only operating assumptions. They're not absolutes. They're not the answers. But when we insist those assumptions are The Answers, we feel less anxious and insecure.

For thousands of years, religions, cruise lines, governments, distillers, investment bankers, snack food and condom manufacturers have made good money by selling other proto-Chimps on the idea that [Fill In Blank] is The Truth / makes you feel better /lets you boss other Chimps around.  We want to be distracted -- and, as in so many things, America has been Number One in the Distraction Industry for generations.

As we convince ourselves the collective assumptions are The Answers -- at the same time we know that's a lie. When the balance between those two opposites becomes hard to maintain, the reality can come home to roost with a vengeance: Hubris. The Comeuppance. The Fire Next Time. And -- you know -- Things will happen. 
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Tea leaves, then: America is collectively being sheep-dipped in unreality. Since Trump, the negative feedback loop of cognitive dissonance has gone into overdrive. The effort to maintain a collective illusion that All Is OK In The USA has become progressively more difficult.

It's a Meatball Moment for so many people (if 2008 wasn't enough). And it's happening on so many levels at once -- political, financial; artistic; race, age, and gender (and, hovering in the background, climate deterioration, species extinction). All feed on and amplify each other, and the general dysfunction -- which loops back; 'round and 'round.

All Is Not OK.
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As a society, we've been here before. There's some Summer of '68 in the air.  Then, we had our Foreverwar, too; we had Tet, we had My Lai. We had protests; "People carryin' signs / mostly say, "Hooray For Our Side" '. Left politics and Civil Rights were quashed by assassination, by Daley's police. We had larger versions of Ferguson in Harlem, Watts, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston; Baltimore.

We had an honest-to-god World Struggle For Domination with the Soviets in that 1968, with real thermonuclear war a possibility (well, we do now, too, but everyone thinks it will never happen). It was more likely the Russians would invade somewhere, as the Czechs found out.

The DJIA slumped a bit in 1968 (but the economy hadn't taken a full-on greedhead Ooopsie!, brought to you by America's Fabled Wealthy™) and the average price of an American home was $14,000 (that's about $120K today).

There was Feminism, but no #MeToo; Gays and Lesbians, but no Stonewall (yet) and a nascent Castro. There were drugs and rock 'n roll in long-ago-68; there was Woodstock and Youthtribe! but no Burning Man -- and, there was more hopeful naivety. There seems way more cynicism, more jock-like readiness to take offense, more fuck you today than in 1968.

Might be there's a reason for that -- given what's gone down since.
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The most positive thing Wonderboy has done for America in nearly twenty months is to be precisely who he is -- a congenital liar and an abusive bully.  On a daily basis, he shows us in stark contrast the difference between our collective illusions, and the Real. As Americans, what we do with that understanding is critical.

Not OK, but we'll take what we can get.

It would be a relief, if this was the tipping point in Il Duce's rule.  If that's true, however, think about this:  It means America's population put up with an insane level of behavior by that Orange Suet Pudding-In-A-Bag for nineteen months.  It will have taken 19 months for us to collectively say hey, fuck this, you Jackass! 
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I was once shown a photograph of an older man, taken in Iowa in 1944, standing on a semi-rural neighborhood street with a small girl, possibly his granddaughter. The man appeared to be at least in his late sixties, and looked a little like the author, Kurt Vonnegut (in fact, a lot like him). That would mean he had been born at some point between 1865 and 1875. 

He had grown up in a world where the Civil War, even the First World War, weren't Ken Burns' specials on PBS; it's conceivable he could have been a child when Custer stumbled into the Little Big Horn. His expectations of how the world worked would have been rooted in the 19th century. But there are automobiles in the photo behind him; far beyond Iowa, the Second World War was playing out in all its awful technological splendor.

I don't look anything like Vonnegut, but I could be the Old in someone else's photo, having lived in that long-ago 1968, my expectations about the world based in analog television, 25-cent double-feature movies, rotary phones and slide rules -- but more important, how social behaviors and human institutions worked. 

In the present, we can feel a shift in culture and society, in consciousness, is coming. Driven by changes in climate, technology, in the (im)balance between rich and poor, and unstable global politics, the changes coming will be as radical in their effect as transitions from the 19th to the 20th centuries. 

It's crystal clear that Trump, Alt-right nationalists and Bundist billionares, can't be allowed to shape the debate in America about those social transformations. But I'm not in favor of anyone wired into the neoliberal elite determining our priorities, either. 
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The End Of Trump will play out. One way or another, he's done. It may happen within months; it may take two years. It may involve a "Constitutional Crisis", or not -- but it will be ugly; the only question is to what degree. 

If I had a wish, it would be that Trump's unbelievable, foul-mouthed repeated lying about whatever comes into his head, finally brings about the end of the Murdoch business model of selling lies as facts. That Americans might finally demand truth (or a higher standard of accuracy, at least) from our government, from politicians, political activists, the media, educators, corporations. I mean, you don't lie to people whom you respect; right? And Americans are still treated with casual contempt. 

Yes; this is either setting the bar too high, or it's laughable. Lying -- boldface, or by omission -- is baked into the institutions of human affairs, so I'm pissing into the wind, making this wish; but, still. There are much bigger questions to be answered so that any of us might avoid being forced to wipe the bottoms of America's Fabled Elite™, and provide them with many soft treats.

Will we? I told you: I'm only a Dog. I'm not very good at this.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo
In Middle Of Blog Thing About Congenitally Lying President.
Smooth! Shiny! Crazy!
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  • Lil' Brett Kavanaugh is a scum-sucking pig-dog. He is going to be the next Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The confirmation hearings are a sham -- everyone gets to preen and bellow and act outraged, for different reasons -- but he'll sit on the court. He'll overturn Roe. He'll protect Wonderboy, Because Freedom. He'll do everything Fat Tony Scalia would, were he still staining the bench. Bretty will represent power and privilege, and be feted and stroked by the Federalist Right forever; amen. And they'll say such nice things about him when he leaves, full of years and glory. Abschaum-saugen Schweinhund.
  • It doesn't matter what Bob Woodward says. 98% of the 'revelations' in his book had already been reported (though the new bits about stealing papers off the Clown King's desk are choice). Woodward reinforces the view, for those not still Führertreu, that Wonderboy is a cartoon of a man, a scrawl of needs and demands for gratification, piggish and infantile. And, no one is shocked by Bobby's book, really, because (wait for it) it was written for the Villagers! 
          The Great Curmudgeon Says: Fuck Off, The Rest Of Us Can
Many (most? who knows) even benevolent elites think that elites, in the very specific context of what that means in the United States, should run the country, and by implication, the world.  
Upper middle class (at least) background, elite universities (and elite high schools!), connections, etc. The "good" [elites] might not express this. They might not actually know that they believe this. But it doesn't take too many overheard "jokes" about who did and didn't go to Ivy equivalents, or even just understanding that this is a perfectly normal topic of conversation for people who are 20 years out of college, to get the point. 
Good liberal federal judges aren't hiring law clerks from Kabumfuck State University Law School, for example. (I am sure there are exceptions proving the rule). 
And the non-benevolent [Elites?]. Well, they truly think they should run the world. And own it. And the rest of us can fuck off.
Digby Says: A Slice From The Loaf Of Amoral And Unprincipled
It's obvious now that Trump's odious public persona is not a performance. He is even worse in private...  
On Wednesday the New York Times published an anonymous op-ed written by a "senior official" in the Trump administration that further supports Woodward's reporting. This person claims that members of the White House staff are acting as guardians of the country by keeping Trump from going off the rails. It's an astonishing essay in which this unnamed official admits that members of Trump's Cabinet actually spoke about evoking the 25th Amendment. 
This person characterizes the president as an amoral, unprincipled oaf who has no idea what he's doing, so he or she, along with others in the administration, have taken it upon themselves to save the nation, essentially patting themselves on the back and saying "You're welcome" to what is presumed to be a grateful nation.
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TPM Says: Trump Has A Friend?
Trump’s “volcanic” anger and “absolutely livid” (in the Post’s words) reaction to the op-ed sent top aides, like chief of staff John Kelly, scuttling to sniff out the renegade, according to the Times, which reported that aides have already produced a list of at least six possible culprits. Some believe the defector works in the administration, but not the actual White House, while two people familiar with the matter told the Post that Trump is convinced the turncoat is involved in national security or a member of the Justice Department. 
“It’s like the horror movies when everyone realizes the call is coming from inside the house,” one former White House official who remains in contact with ex-colleagues told the Post.  
The publication of the anonymous note of dissension has only added to Trump’s increased “sense of paranoia,” according to the Post, and has pushed the President — who was already feeling vulnerable following reports on Bob Woodward’s new book filled with anonymously sourced palace intrigue — to question his closest allies. 
Only his children remain trusted confidantes, a Trump friend told the Post. 
“He’s surrounded by strangers,” one former Trump campaign official told Politico. 
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MEHR, MIT HUHN:  I just really like this graphic.

At the Friday propaganda session, when Missy Sarah told Another Big Fib, she was immediately shamed by the Chicken. All the Boys and Girls laughed at her because she was such a Big Fibber.
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Friday, January 24, 2020

Reprint Heaven: January 29, 1933

You Want It Darker

(From December 3, 2016)

(NBC)
"Waiting For The Barbarians", Chris Hedges, Truthdig; November 27, 2016, via Mr. Fish:
... The desiccation of our liberal institutions ensured the demise of our capitalist democracy. History has amply demonstrated what was to come next. The rot and political paralysis vomited up a con artist as president along with an array of half-wits, criminals and racist ideologues. They will manufacture scapegoats as their gross ineptitude and unachievable promises are exposed. They will fan the flames of white supremacy and racial and religious bigotry. They will use all the tools of legal and physical control handed to them by our system of “inverted totalitarianism” to crush even the most tepid forms of dissent.

The last constraints will be removed by a crisis. The crisis will be used to create a climate of fear. The pretense of democracy will end.

“A fascism of the future—an emergency response to some still unimagined crisis—need not resemble classical fascism perfectly in its outward signs and symbols,” Robert Paxton writes in The Anatomy of Fascism. “Some future movement that would ‘give up free institutions’ in order to perform the same functions of mass mobilization for the reunification, purification, and regeneration of some troubled group would undoubtedly call itself something else and draw on fresh symbols. That would not make it any less dangerous.” ...

... There will be rebels. They will live in the shadows. They will be the renegade painters, sculptors, poets, writers, journalists, musicians, actors, dancers, organizers, activists, mystics, intellectuals and other outcasts who are willing to accept personal sacrifice. They will not surrender their integrity, creativity, independence and finally their  souls. They will speak the truth.
Read this. Read it allAnd by everything I hold dear and sacred, I hope he's wrong; that what will develop in our future will be an aberrant episode in the American Experiment and not the end of it. And, everything I was raised to believe says It Can't Happen Here.

(And it has to be pointed out: My perspective on the American Experiment is rooted in the 'High School Civics Class' definition of America, which has status quo spray-painted all over it. And we all know what the Status Quo is about, who benefits from it, and who suffers in order to keep it going. I can't be blamed for wanting the stuff We Learned In School to be true -- but it isn't true for All, and that's the problem.)

At The Place Of Witless Labor yesterday, I had another conversation with Archibald "Harry" Tuttle. Unlike other people at the POWL, Harry goes right at Recent Events -- a 60-ish black man, he has no illusions about what's 'permissible' in our culture. I had mentioned the Chris Hedges article to Harry, who listened as I described it, and said, "And? Your point?" (Harry, incidentally, is an actual person, not a fictive alter ego for my own opinions, and the conversation was for-real.)

"You think a police state, in America, isn't possible?" Harry said. "Curfews, checkpoints, 'illegal' searches and seizures? Being singled out because you 'meet the profile'? Just because the Constitution this and the Bill Of Rights that? Or just because it's never happened to you?" Harry laughed. "It's been happening to us forever. Fuck the Constitution -- it doesn't mean shit, if they don't want it to. That ain't news to me. This guy [he meant Hedges] sounds like he's just catching up."

"Sometimes I wonder -- movies and television have been showing us for decades all kinds of bad events happening," Harry said. "Terrorists get the bomb, use it in some big city; another nine-eleven. Or a virus gets loose. Or space aliens -- and monsters are just symbols for real shit we're afraid of anyway.  

(Machine)
"But there's always a state of emergency, a lockdown. Army in the streets. What those movies don't ever show you is how long all that lasts -- everyone watching makes the assumption, 'When the monsters are gone, everything will go back to normal.'  They'll go to work and go to the mall and take their kids to school, or whatever.

"What if it doesn't?" Harry said. "After nine-eleven, we ended up with 'Snowden' and a war in the fucking Middle East, and drones, and the economy went to hell so the Usual Suspects could get even richer. The prisons are full and they are still shooting unarmed people in the back. None of that has changed. It didn't go away. It's the new normal. 

"When something big goes down here, some people are gonna have a rude awakening when they find out what a whole lot of people already know about power, and rights, and how far your arguing about the Constitution's gonna get you. And, with the fuckin' clowns about to go into office, it wouldn't take a flying saucer landing in Washington to give them the excuse."
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MEHR, VON DIE VERGANGENHEIT:  All this reminds me that a week before the election, I rode a Cable Car up the hill to my stop, near the border of a Very Wealthy Person's District. I sat beside one of these Persons, a white woman of indeterminate age -- honey-blonde hair done with just enough grey; excellent plastic surgery gave her the facial features of someone vaguely fortyish, but her hands were spotted, bony claws of the fairly elderly. I'd seen her riding the line in the past, but we'd never spoken.

She was dressed in a classic blouse/wool skirt/camel's hair topcoat/print scarf ensemble, as much a signal of class as School and Club ties for men once were. I don't remember how we began talking about the election -- in a city like Kiddietown, the assumption was that everyone was voting for Clinton, anyway. She wasn't direct about saying she was a Republican, but her assumption was that I (white-haired, white man in a suit and tie, topcoat, grey Fedora) might be One Of Us -- if not in Net Worth, then in spirit. 

"I know she'll win," the Person said, quietly. "But it would be so nice if it were -- you know; if he would win. All these unpleasant things would stop, then," she said, and her smile was shy, conspiratorial, like a wink. As if we had been on the S-Bahn in Berlin, long ago, and she had flipped back the lapel of her very expensive tan coat, just for a moment, so I would see the Parteiabzeichen pinned on it's hidden side.

Assumptions. All the unpleasant things, stopping. One of Us.
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Fuck that, man.

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MEHR, MIT EIN ANDENKEN:  And, a reminder of a deeper focus that needs to underlie our everyday attention, courtesy of The Soul Of America.  Woof !

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Reprint Heaven: The Great Hedgehog Of Post-Modern Neoliberal Capitalism

Try Me

(Originally drained from the swamp on January 20, 2018, in celebration of The Leader attending the World Echo Nomik Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Leader has attended this year also, as he is Sore and Tried In the Senate. But don't worry: The Fix Is In! Leader shall be defended and the Great Deterioration shall continue.)

Obigatory Cute Small Animal Photo At Beginning Of Surrealistic Blog Thing

Moved by the posts of others, recently, I decided to take a stab at (what can be charitably called) stream of consciousness writing, sparked by the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, attended this year by Wonderboy, Murrikan Leader.

I don't normally play with this style of fiction; so, apologies in advance. As Wonderboy's own parents once said, "Let's do this, get it over with, and never speak of it again" -- point being, this is supposed to be topical, and funny.

(For those with no knowledge of Cricket, a "Diamond Duck" is the term for a situation where [per Wikipedia] "a batsman who is dismissed without facing a ball -- most usually run out from the non-striker's end, but alternatively stumped or run out off a wide delivery -- is said to be out by a 'diamond duck'.")
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Diamond Duck In Davos

1.  Greasing The Grenze

Coming into Davos, surrounded by winds whipping the confectioner's sugar of Swiss hospitality between the crisp billboards, Halt! Grenze! (Stop! Pemmican!) and Kämpfe Für Das Karussell Des Fortschritts! (We  Struggle For Kurt Russell's Foreskins!) The searchlights are blinding, guard dogs bark with an accent (Wüf!), and sudden efficient women are opening doors of perception in your car, murmuring, "Good evening. Anything to declare?"

But you're not surprised. No, not you; never you. All this was in the briefing. They are efficient, here in Davos. The Mark O' Mammon is barcoded on their hind parts -- you've been shown photos -- and at home, skis are racked demurely beside priceless paintings bought at bargain-basement rates, in auctions at Zürich and Geneva, between 1936 and 39.

And of those pouring into the valley, no one ever says to the women, "Ah DO -- Ah say, Ah say, Well AH DO DECLARE," in a voice borrowed from Foghorn Leghorn -- although you have a secret urge to do that. The women smirk at you, without envy, because Ach, Ja; we know this about you. You wish to do That Cartoon Rooster; such a typical male. We here in Davos know -- otherwise, you would not be allowed here. A brief blonde hand mumbles through your luggage, brushing socks and briefs, lingering for a moment with the rough play of starch in a shirt -- then, waving your car on: Alles Gut; los geh'n. 

And then, you glimpse the last billboard: Im Diesen Friedenskrieg Gibt Es Keine Gefangenen! -- No Prisoners In This Peace War. The Great Carousel Of Progress gives only to take. It really is shitty, what a Town Without Pity Can Do. Ha, ha, ha; that's our Davos!

Even if you have a Safe Conduct Leaflet, dropped like pet leavings on sidewalks by the IMF and WTO (Be a DO RAG, it proclaims, Not a DON'T RAG), after surrendering, the best one can hope for in coming to Davos is a cot in that hut on the mountain. They'll be jammed in with municipal workers and novelists. There will be a crucifix hung on the damp concrete wall, and a 1970's postcard showing light at the end of a tunnel. In the dark, farting and snoring settle around you, diaphanous, studded, anxious. You dream of gristle.

The others will receive a coupon for a discount-price small soda, and a trip to observe George Soros' hair colorist, reading a copy of Forbes, through a bulletproof window. But the Surrendered had denied the primacy of the Great Carousel, so their Davos will be a short sniff of the leather seats in an otherwise unoccupied Daimler. Then, to be sent home at their own expense for long retraining in a job that will take months to find, and which is discontinued the day after they are hired.  Ho, ho,ho, ho, Cisco! Ho, ho, ho, ho, Pancho! That's our Davos!

But this is not your Davos. You are not on file, under the name you were given to use, as having denied The Carousel Of Progress. [Your Name] has been Cleared, umbrage squeezed dry and ready for productive action in service to Man's Betterment. If L.Ron were ever alive, he would be. If Tony Robbins were real, he would guide you personally across the hot coals. Parma-shahanda Yoga-nanda, Parley-voo. In your mind, a Crackerjack prize, and in your gloved hand, the feel of a bag strap made from an endangered petrochemical, all telling you this is real.

(But: The whole squeezing Man's Betterment is just fake bullshit, a double-blind ruse. You're here in Davos in a big quilt, so far under the covers that your latitude and longitude come up Zeroes. You're not who you say you are, and never were. The hopes of all humankind stain your carpeting in expectation that you would complete this mission and get an oil change. God is with you, but he steals your stuff and sells it downtown.)

You stride up to the 4-star hotel desk repeatedly, just trying it out. The clerks -- parthenogenic, muted -- take no notice. They are busy timing each other's movements and their interactions with guests. The clerk with the lowest total time receives a coupon for a discount-price small soda. The rest are allowed to live, but forced to wear old animal costumes outside the hotel, in public, so that all will know of their shame and inexactitude.

Your electronic room key is imprinted with the likeness of Klaus Schaub, wearing a bib, and pictured eating in a 'Communist Lobster' franchise restaurant. The room, fragrant with violets; your phone, seeking you; and promises of delights of the eye, tongue and intellect are hung around the wallpapered box of your room like laundry washed in the sink. It is cheesy and expensive: the highest expression of the Free Market. You have made it.

Pencils down. You evacuate your bowels. The toilet has a shelf for you, the curious, to view leavings before flushing, and it would be churlish to refuse anything offered for free. This act of introspection will be your best moment at Davos. They told you this would happen -- but nothing, nothing could prepare you for that moment of contact, of spurning. You wash your hand.

2.   Where You Were, Gentlemen

It's the day. There are WEF conferences and hubub scheduled, rooms, many rooms, of people murmuring peasancarrots, peasandcarrots repeatedly. But you were instructed to feign shyness until The Moment. You hang. You chill. In The Packed Elevator, you do your Robin Williams laugh -- and everyone in the Car suddenly does the same thing.

You almost flinch. It's endless, permeable, like having a colonoscopy on a train -- but you remember: Keep control. Deep breaths. Be Coolidge: You Lose. Then, the Car stops; its doors slide open and a man moves past you, still making his seal-bark laugh, pausing to wipe his eyes on a woman's hair, and pat you on the shoulder as if to say, Dude -- good one.

Here, finally; the white placard outside a door to an auditorium, with a single word in red: Stumpfegger. This is where you are to meet your contact. You accept a glance from the woman beside the door -- an intense simulacrum of Donna Reed -- who hands you a brochure entitled Complete Release. Blushing, she says this conference covers "the plot for forgiveness of all First-World debt." You smile, nodding, earnest, but keep moving. Your mission is more important than what you suspect about her thong underwear -- and will never know. You'll have to live with that.

They said, Your contact will know you. All you had to do was to find "Stumpfegger" and show up. You stand near the tasteful refreshment table and realize the man serving drinks is a frenzied doppelgänger for Joe Turkel, eternal bartender in The Shining, and decline a tequila shooter. You wave the Complete Release brochure back and forth, as instructed -- a signal, an urgent, full-bladder motion, and think about thong underwear. Really hard.

Then, you see The Contact. You see them seeing you see them, actually. Everything that happens after this is a blur; you'll be debriefed about it for weeks in extra crispy detail, a swimming up from sewage depth to where sheep graze, safely. And, fortunately for you, the story will not change. You will be allowed to go back to wherever it is you come from. You will be allowed to toil in many jobs, but not remain for long -- because Lt. Gerard will always show up, looking for money.
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What catches your attention about The Contact first is his hair, its architectural blondness -- now whitish, now caution orange, and shiny, like preternatural two-tone ice cream or a small child's flotation device. The Contact is a suet, puffed inside his black suit, behind the signature doublewide red tie. His face is a carnivore drunkard's bloat, too-small eyes, piggish; his mien oblate and spiky. His lips are a crayon line drawn by an angry pensioner across the lower third of that orange face. The French Cuffs of his whitish shirt have little numbers embroidered on them: "45",  and he is nodding, nodding, at you as he walks forward. This is your contact.


3.   Historical Briefs With A Brown Streak Of Genius

A Stonehenge of men and women in sunglasses surround The Contact. They move in formation, maintaining a Raggedly Ann circle around him, continually bumping into other guests, chairs, tables, each other, headed right towards you in a chorus of s'cuse me; par-done, pal; hey lookout; aw christ you could see me comin', right? and who keep reaching inside their jackets as if checking to ensure they still have their wallets.

You clench. The deer flips on its headlights and there you are, about to get a mouthful of antler (Hi! Remember me? You hit me with the Volkswagen! Payback's a bitch, pal!). You think of the face of your mother -- or Lady Gaga, or another suitable female substitute, just as The Contact stops directly in front of you. You are standing in his Circle Of Trust, surrounded by partially blind people who have weapons.

"Hey, you know," The Contact says, lifting his chin and tilting his head back to look down at you, Mussolini squinting at a small boat far out at sea, "You know, I was out there, goin' by, and thought, 'You know, I should stop in there'. How's it goin'?" You open your mouth to answer but the contact, like the voiceover for an industrial safety film, keeps on talking.

"There's so many things goin' on here! It's like the world's fair of banking and whatever, right? You know, they never -- never -- wanted to invite me to Davos. I mean, I'm the most sympathetic person to what they want to do, in this whole place, the whole thing, me -- and they never invited me before! Not once!"

The Contact sees a blur moving outside his Circle Of Trust and raises a hand, perfect white teeth in the ocher pudding of his face, saying, "Hey, thank you. How ya doin', yeah; thank you," before turning the oily tumblers in his eyes back on you.

The Contact's eyes widen to the size of dimes. He throws his hands out, experimentally, the breadth of a large fish. "But, n-ow -- now, they had to invite me! I'm the leader of the free world, right? Over 300 on the electoral; nobody ever mentions that, by the way. But, hey -- Swiss've been great, they really have, very gracious -- they've been very, very good to me, very respectful. Not saying they're not. I'm very much thinking I hope they stay like that."

You nod. You lean towards him slightly, and enunciate the code phrase: Hobo Oboe.  The Contact stops, squints, pushes on his chin. "Din' getcha," he says; you rinse and repeat. The Contact thinks about what an impression of remembering something might look like, then leans towards you, and speaks a countersign: "Ah, Yeah, yeah.  'My Penile Prosthesis'." He steps a little closer and, with a quick glance around the room, squeezes out a shruglet, raising his brows while the eyes remain inscrutable, swinish.

This was the moment. This was why you came to Davos: to observe your leavings, and tell this person what you were instructed to say -- a single phrase, "Stormy Weather". You ignore the sure impression you have gained that The Contact is wearing thong underwear, stand on your feet's balls, and draw a deep breath -- but before you can speak, The Contact interrupts you.

"Hey, I have a lot to do; so much to do, I've got -- you wouldn't believe how much I have to do in this job. I tell you, if I could go on strike, I'd do that. Leftists would love it. Chuck Schumer'd love it -- but I am the most involved president, hands-on involved, of any president. Not since Lincoln, or anyone, has there been a harder-working president than I am. So that's one.

"Two, nobody is listening to me. I mean, the people, some of the people, they listen, sure. But there's a fucking conspiracy with the New York Times and fucking PBS. Jesus; fucking Frontline. The Washington Post -- that Bezos, he's just trying to mindfuck me. But, I'll be fair, some of my own people -- don't want to name anybody, but some of them are very close to me -- use the media to talk themselves up. Take credit, make me look like some crazy, stupid person. Happened just last week."

Everyone in the Stumpfegger Room is looking at something else while they look at The Contact, and you. He has drawn himself up on a cocktail napkin, his gut pendulous within a tent of jacket; he pushes a stubby finger into the inches before your face, shouting, "I'm tellin' you: I am not stupid, like everyone says! I'm Smart!! I am fucking in charge!"

"I was elected with the largest electoral numbers in modern history -- I was, me! Not the goddamn Daily News! And I'm about ready to say to the Post, 'Hey, Jeff; you want to get shut down? You want a military censor sitting in your office with a magnifying glass up your ass? You want the IRS looking at your offshore LLCs?' And those terrible conditions in his shipping places; just terrible. We're gonna look into that. He's outta control, that guy; it's very sad how outta control.

"I'm not even getting into the Russia thing. Yeah, we're lining up for ol' Bobby; and oh, everyone's gonna be surprised when we let go, my friend!" His face is an alarmed bell of crimson. "see, it takes just one thing, just one thing, and the whole ball game can change. That's what I'm saying; I'm saying that. All right." His face relaxes like a sphincter, and he nods, lifting a hand with two fingers, faintly Benedictine. "All right. Thanks very much. Great to see you."

The theme to "Heroes Of Telemark" begins to play in the background and he's off walking, his perimeter of flesh shifting with him back through the room and out the door.  A tendril in your head saying hey man that tequila shooter be lookin' good right now. From here to eternity, everyone is turning, turning, and have come round, Right wing, at last, to be looking at you. If curious glances had their own mucus, you would be coated in slime.

You order a tequila; the Joe Turkel bartender says Your Money's No Good There, and it's all on the House. Somewhere, you realize that you did not give The Contact that message. On the way back to the hotel, your Uber driver talks about a company which has made an app -- an interactive photo-calendar of shaved animals, for other animals. It has had two billion downloads at $2.99 each.

Obligatory Dog-Faced Fruit Bat Photo: Pooch Of The Sky

At the hotel, you receive a message: Mother says the cow is sick. You must come home immediately. Tickets will be delivered today. There is also a huge, Dog-Faced Fruit Bat, in a basket, from the Davos Chamber Of Commerce. One of these messages is benign, the other ominous, and you do not know which is which.

The Fruit Bat turns on the room's television;  you both watch situation comedies in German until the Fruit Bat turns to you and says, "Are you understanding any of this?"
___________________________________

The Fruit Bat dials Room Service and orders a Martini. After a time, the Room Service waiter, a man in his mid-twenties, appears. He places the Martini, and the bill, on a side table.  The Fruit Bat sips at the Martini in silence. The waiter stands to one side, observing. The world wonders.

After a few minutes, the waiter politely clears his throat and says, "You know -- we don't get many Fruit Bats ordering Martinis here." The Fruit Bat, glancing at the bill, replies, "Yes; and at these prices, you won't see many more of us, either."
___________________________________

Monday, November 25, 2019

Reprint Heaven: You Want It Darker

January 29, 1933

(From December 3, 2016)

(NBC)
"Waiting For The Barbarians", Chris Hedges, Truthdig; November 27, 2016, via Mr. Fish:
... The desiccation of our liberal institutions ensured the demise of our capitalist democracy. History has amply demonstrated what was to come next. The rot and political paralysis vomited up a con artist as president along with an array of half-wits, criminals and racist ideologues. They will manufacture scapegoats as their gross ineptitude and unachievable promises are exposed. They will fan the flames of white supremacy and racial and religious bigotry. They will use all the tools of legal and physical control handed to them by our system of “inverted totalitarianism” to crush even the most tepid forms of dissent.

The last constraints will be removed by a crisis. The crisis will be used to create a climate of fear. The pretense of democracy will end.

“A fascism of the future—an emergency response to some still unimagined crisis—need not resemble classical fascism perfectly in its outward signs and symbols,” Robert Paxton writes in The Anatomy of Fascism. “Some future movement that would ‘give up free institutions’ in order to perform the same functions of mass mobilization for the reunification, purification, and regeneration of some troubled group would undoubtedly call itself something else and draw on fresh symbols. That would not make it any less dangerous.” ...

... There will be rebels. They will live in the shadows. They will be the renegade painters, sculptors, poets, writers, journalists, musicians, actors, dancers, organizers, activists, mystics, intellectuals and other outcasts who are willing to accept personal sacrifice. They will not surrender their integrity, creativity, independence and finally their  souls. They will speak the truth.
Read this. Read it allAnd by everything I hold dear and sacred, I hope he's wrong; that what will develop in our future will be an aberrant episode in the American Experiment and not the end of it. And, everything I was raised to believe says It Can't Happen Here.

(And it has to be pointed out: My perspective on the American Experiment is rooted in the 'High School Civics Class' definition of America, which has status quo spray-painted all over it. And we all know what the Status Quo is about, who benefits from it, and who suffers in order to keep it going. I can't be blamed for wanting the stuff We Learned In School to be true -- but it isn't true for All, and that's the problem.)

At The Place Of Witless Labor yesterday, I had another conversation with Archibald "Harry" Tuttle. Unlike other people at the POWL, Harry goes right at Recent Events -- a 60-ish black man, he has no illusions about what's 'permissible' in our culture. I had mentioned the Chris Hedges article to Harry, who listened as I described it, and said, "And? Your point?" (Harry, incidentally, is an actual person, not a fictive alter ego for my own opinions, and the conversation was for-real.)

"You think a police state, in America, isn't possible?" Harry said. "Curfews, checkpoints, 'illegal' searches and seizures? Being singled out because you 'meet the profile'? Just because the Constitution this and the Bill Of Rights that? Or just because it's never happened to you?" Harry laughed. "It's been happening to us forever. Fuck the Constitution -- it doesn't mean shit, if they don't want it to. That ain't news to me. This guy [he meant Hedges] sounds like he's just catching up."

"Sometimes I wonder -- movies and television have been showing us for decades all kinds of bad events happening," Harry said. "Terrorists get the bomb, use it in some big city; another nine-eleven. Or a virus gets loose. Or space aliens -- and monsters are just symbols for real shit we're afraid of anyway.  

(Machine)
"But there's always a state of emergency, a lockdown. Army in the streets. What those movies don't ever show you is how long all that lasts -- everyone watching makes the assumption, 'When the monsters are gone, everything will go back to normal.'  They'll go to work and go to the mall and take their kids to school, or whatever.

"What if it doesn't?" Harry said. "After nine-eleven, we ended up with 'Snowden' and a war in the fucking Middle East, and drones, and the economy went to hell so the Usual Suspects could get even richer. The prisons are full and they are still shooting unarmed people in the back. None of that has changed. It didn't go away. It's the new normal. 

"When something big goes down here, some people are gonna have a rude awakening when they find out what a whole lot of people already know about power, and rights, and how far your arguing about the Constitution's gonna get you. And, with the fuckin' clowns about to go into office, it wouldn't take a flying saucer landing in Washington to give them the excuse."
________________________________

MEHR, VON DIE VERGANGENHEIT:  All this reminds me that a week before the election, I rode a Cable Car up the hill to my stop, near the border of a Very Wealthy Person's District. I sat beside one of these Persons, a white woman of indeterminate age -- honey-blonde hair done with just enough grey; excellent plastic surgery gave her the facial features of someone vaguely fortyish, but her hands were spotted, bony claws of the fairly elderly. I'd seen her riding the line in the past, but we'd never spoken.

She was dressed in a classic blouse/wool skirt/camel's hair topcoat/print scarf ensemble, as much a signal of class as School and Club ties for men once were. I don't remember how we began talking about the election -- in a city like Kiddietown, the assumption was that everyone was voting for Clinton, anyway. She wasn't direct about saying she was a Republican, but her assumption was that I (white-haired, white man in a suit and tie, topcoat, grey Fedora) might be One Of Us -- if not in Net Worth, then in spirit. 

"I know she'll win," the Person said, quietly. "But it would be so nice if it were -- you know; if he would win. All these unpleasant things would stop, then," she said, and her smile was shy, conspiratorial, like a wink. As if we had been on the S-Bahn in Berlin, long ago, and she had flipped back the lapel of her very expensive tan coat, just for a moment, so I would see the Parteiabzeichen pinned on it's hidden side.

Assumptions. All the unpleasant things, stopping. One of Us.
________________________________

Fuck that, man.

________________________________
 

MEHR, MIT EIN ANDENKEN:  And, a reminder of a deeper focus that needs to underlie our everyday attention, courtesy of The Soul Of America.  Woof !

________________________________

Friday, October 25, 2019

Because The Child-Men Rule All

Random Barking Friday Reprint:

Just Because We Agree That Any Day Above Ground Is A Good Day 
Doesn't Mean We Agree To Put Up With This Shit
(From October 12, 2018)
The fascist movements ... that came to power in Italy and Germany boasted their regimes were totalitarian. The most original revelation of the current wave of authoritarians is ... overtly antidemocratic dictatorships ...[are] unnecessary for holding power. Perhaps the most apt designation ... is the insidious term “illiberal democracy.” 
...Erdoğan in Turkey, Putin in Russia, Rodrigo Duterte ... and Viktor Orbán ... have all discovered that opposition parties can be left in existence...  in order to provide a fig leaf of democratic legitimacy, while in reality elections pose scant challenge to their power. Truly dangerous opposition leaders are neutralized or eliminated one way or another. 
Total control of the press and other media is likewise unnecessary... a flood of managed and fake news so pollutes the flow of information that facts and truth become irrelevant as shapers of public opinion. Once-independent judiciaries are gradually dismantled through selective purging ... Crony capitalism opens ... a symbiosis of corruption and self-enrichment between political and business leaders... 
Xenophobic nationalism (and ...explicitly anti-immigrant white nationalism), as well as the prioritization of “law and order” over individual rights, are also crucial to these regimes in mobilizing the popular support of their bases and stigmatizing their enemies. 
-- Christopher R. Browning, "The Suffocation Of Democracy" (Article), The New York Review Of Books; October 25, 2018 Issue (Paragraphing added for emphasis)
_________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEHR, MIT "WAS SIE GEMACHT HAT":

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 13, 2019

Reprint Heaven: Instructions Pour Populations Dans La Zone Occupée

Random Barking Friday

[From October 10, 2017]
Now is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
--  Winston Churchill, November 1942

What's next? Disneyland??
-- Bill Murray, Speaking To Ghost Of Christmas Future; "Scrooged" (1988)
(I began this post before [what at the time was] the most recent mass shooting episode [link via Digby], and though much of its focus is on our Dear Leader, what follows should also be read with recent events in mind. And the Bill Murray quote, just because; and as is said at the Soul Of Americathe Fuck, Man?)
______________________________

Obligatory Animal Photo At Beginning Of Blog Thing

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

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

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

But what if it can?

What if, like the citizens of occupied Europe seventy-seven years ago, we come awake to the sounds of loudspeakers, broadcasting instructions of the new authorities? That like the Danes, Belgians, Norwegians, the Dutch and the French, we're at the beginning of over fifteen hundred days of being at the mercy of persons who are simple as children in their greed, and a desire that all America satisfy their every whim?
YOSSARIAN:  We're never gonna see those replacements. We're never gonna see those coconuts. They're just gonna keep making us fly until we're all dead.
DOBBS:   Aw; Cathcart wouldn't dare raise the number of missions again!
YOSSARIAN:  Who's gonna stop him?
DOBBS:  [Pauses] Somebody will.
-- Alan Arkin (Yossarian) and Martin Sheen (Dobbs) / Catch-22 (1970)
______________________________

The executive branch of the American government is bent to the ego and whimsy of a seventy-year-old child. All that occasionally blunts his narcissistic tantrums are three former U.S. Generals (until he decides to fire them, or they leave in disgust ahead of being fired) [Wow -- called that one, didn't we?].

Their influence is limited by Trump's character, but it's worth noting that their military perspective will be a serious factor in how the Executive functions: When every problem they see is a nail, the only solution they'll offer is a hammer. 

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

Additional Obligatory Tubby Animal Photo

I've joked that Trump could have sex with a goat on live television, and no one would be surprised: nothing would happen. Now, I actually wonder if that might be true [No. I don't wonder any longer; I know].

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Borrowing an image from Orwell -- imagine a $38,000 pair of A.Testoni monk-strap loafers, stomping on a human face, forever.
______________________________

But, things are happening -- all on the political right. The apotheosis of Trump is occurring against a backdrop of what amounts to two groups of Klansmen, fighting over who gets to paint a huge Starz-n-Barz flag on the White House.


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

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

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

 Perfect Teeth: All The Better To Chew You Up With

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

They've paid billions into this effort since the early 2000's, and people with teeth that perfect want a return on their investment: setting fire to the GOP, replacing it with Bannon and Breitbart and the Tea Partei or all manner of smoke and mirrors.

This isn't about Trump, some rust-belt 'forgotten Americans', or any Americans; The Brothers don't care about you. This is all about the Great Game -- manipulating an entire nation's politics, just because they can. Because they wish it.

And they aren't the only rich, crabbed and malicious sociopaths at play. Consider Murdoch, and his issue. Think of the Mercers. The Mellons and Scaifes and Rockefellers. And think about the 'good', "Liberal" wealthy -- the Bezos' and the Zuckbergs and Gates' and Musks.

Give a moment to consider an entire layer of persons who, as the statistics show, own 90% of everything. Think about what that statement actually means.

Then consider: How much longer do you want to be owned by these persons?
______________________________

Friday, June 28, 2019

Reprint Heaven: Edge Of The Volcano Edition

Unraveling

(Originally From 2016)


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

Roughly twelve hours and 105 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, 2014: The Archduke's Car Turned Left, Into 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. 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 rush 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 per cent of America's 103 million population at the time]. 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
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Why the history lesson? We're living through history. When we read about events in Europe during the Interwar Years (1918 - 1939), there's a feeling of inevitability, of being slowly sucked down a drain -- the revolving-door failures of parliamentary governments in France; Britain's declining empire; the manic Totentanz of global capital leading to 1929 and the Great Depression; the rise and fall of Weimar; the apotheosis of Italian and Japanese, and finally German, fascism. Regional war and civil war. 

... and we know where the story is going. It ends in Nanking, the Anschluss; Kristalnacht, Dunkirk; Auschwitz; Stalingrad; the Warsaw Ghetto; D-Day; the Führerbunker; Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But we always read about the years leading up to all that with a mounting sense of horror precisely because we all know how it ends. 

And we have the same feeling, looking at major global currents in our own time. While Brexit may be not have been a "shot heard 'round the world", the Tories are still (unbelievably), in power 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 -- in 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, Raving, delegating the running of a government to corrupt, car-wash dilettantes. Other nation-state players are happy to rush into the vacuum we leave behind. The balances in the old alliances we created after WWII have been squandered, all but unraveled. 

A regional conflict -- between India and Pakistan; Kim Jong Fat Boy's Fun Republic Of Chuckles and South Korea; Iran and Saudi Arabia, almost seems like a sure thing -- 'of course that's where all this is going'; no one would be truly surprised if one started tomorrow. What we wouldn't be prepared for is what would happen the day after, and the day after that.

Kleiner Mann; Was Nun?
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