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

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Laugh It Up

Because Freedom

(From a long-ago March in a time before Trump and Disease, and a diseased Trump. Actually, this has nothing to do with Freedom. It is in fact my favorite joke, containing a willfully stupid grocer, a passive-aggressive waterfowl, and the tantalizing promise of nourishment.

(It's also a good general example of how The Universe treats us. It has a has a habit of returning, with the same questions, until we solve them -- and then hits us with a change-up at the end: Wow! Didn't see that coming!).

A LITTLE DUCK walks into a grocery store. He waddles up to the grocier and says, "Hey -- got any duck food?"

The grocier thinks. "Um, no," he says finally.

The Little Duck looks up at him. " 'kay," he says, and goes away.

The next day, the Little Duck was back. He waddles in, looks up at the grocier and says, "Hey -- got any duck food?"   The grocier looks down at him; is this duck nuts? He was just in here!

"No!" the grocier says.  " 'kay," says the Little Duck, and he goes away.

The next day, the Little Duck was back. He waddles in, looks up at the grocier and says, "Hey -- got any duck food?"   The grocier spins around, looks down at him and says, "NO! I told ya -- I gots NO DUCK FOOD ! You come back in here askin' about duck food again and I'm gonna nail your little webbed feet to the floor!"

" 'kay," says the Little Duck, and he goes away.

The next day -- the Little Duck was back. He waddles in, looks up at the grocier and says, "Hey -- got any nails?"   The grocier thinks. "Um, no," he says.

The Little Duck shakes a little. "Ooo!  Okay ! Got any duck food?"
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Monday, May 25, 2020

When In These Coarse Current Events

Oh The Humanity
(From August of 2015. Human nature has not greatly improved since; trust me.)


I assumed that one idea behind Hitchbot (the solar-powered robot who could interact with humans on a limited basis, its travels tracked by a GPS chip) wasn't only a potential teaching moment around how we relate to technology.  The little robot was an electronic version of the kidnapped Lawn Gnome. It was impossible not to look at it and anthropomorphize.

The Canadian artists who created it knew that Hitchbot's progress required the good will and active assistance of humans who would (anthropomorphizing, again) treat it like a stranger or (given its size) a child who needed help.


The Bot was a visible extension of our better sensibilities towards each other. You could treat a fun-looking inanimate object with kindness -- the way you would hope to be treated if you had set out on a journey; On Your Own, With No Direction Home; needing a ride and shelter.


The Hitchbot turned into an event that people could photograph, Facebook about, Twitter about it.  Clearly, the Bot got taken to parties, and into people's homes; things occasionally got a little loose -- but the little guy was treated well. He was passed, hand to hand, through the world -- shared, in a way.  Proof the human community still functioned and small kindnesses were still offered, illusory as though all that may be.


None of this solved the sectarian religious struggles of the Middle East, or solved World Hunger™. It had nothing to do with politics, social inequality or the vanishing of the Megafauna. The Hitchbot was a symbol of good feelings; it went Trans-Canada without incident. It went all over Germany and the Netherlands, and returned home.

Then, its Canadian creators decided to send the little Hitchbot across America -- down the Northeast Corridor, and bound for California -- the label around its can-shaped head said, "San Francisco Or Bust!".  It got as far as Philadelphia before some lowlife wannabe gangsta punk kiddie stomped it into the gutter.

Pathetic Excuse For Sentient Life (Philly.com; Click To Enlarge)
The person who found what was left of the robot, and posted what appears to be security camera video (above) showing it being kicked to bits by its suck-ass nihilistic whorespawn assailant, did not say how they came by the footage. Some people floated the idea that the attack on the Hitchbot was "a prank", and the security cam video a fake.
It doesn't matter. Whatever the motivation, someone in fact deliberately smashed the Bot, and shit all over what it had come to symbolize in the process. It was a useless, pathetic gesture.

And, know what? I wasn't surprised. This is the US of A, the Land of Jo Benet and O.J. Simpson; "Lil' Boots" Bush and Crazy Moose Lady and Grand Turtlebear Bachmann; of Hillary! and Herr President Obama, and Larry Summers laughing with Kenneth Lay, and millions of people losing their jobs and their homes. It's obesity and Goldman-Sachs and on-demand porno -- and some stupid asshole wearing his baseball cap backwards (you can see it in the actual video) as he stomps on an electronic ambassador of good feelings, tears off its arms and its head. That's a lot of effort and violence; yeah; the whole world gets to see that.

Thanks, kiddie. That's your America; thanks for sharing.  And while it isn't an image of people being barrel-bombed in Syria, or having their homes destroyed by wildfires or tornadoes, it was the functional equivalent of beating a child or stomping a puppy to death -- just because you're living The Faux Thug Life and you're All That and want lots of hits on UTub.

Give Him The Keys. Now.

Tell you what -- if it's an avatar of chaos and thuggery that you want in America, let's resurrect Ed209. Make him the symbol of "community", but in a way that really represents the Good Ol' Boy USA, the Kiss-Up-Kick-Down USA.  That's the kind of country the pudgy little-dick in the video lives in.

And, since we live in a country where making others fear us is as axiomatic in foreign policy as it is on the street, Ed's reappearance wouldn't be given much notice. You know where we live: Drones. 400 channel digital teevee. Gigantor trucks. Email, Internet and Cellphone surveillance. Southern Megachurches and President Boner and Tubby Ol' Mr. Sessions; The Very Wealthy Koch Brothers  and The Very Serious People and the manufactured excitement of  Hillary!  Jebby!  

The Hitchbot was a small reminder that we can live in a different world; but this is one of those moments when I'm reminded that it's just as likely we're on our way down La Chute, where all Empires travel on their way to the bottom; where we'll get everything we deserve (and an extra helping, Because Freedom).

So let's put Ed209 back in action. Let him hitchhike across America. I'll bet he'd make it in record time.
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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Reprint Heaven: Twilight At Noon

Misery Does Not Require Acts, Only Conditions
(From November, 2019. As true today as it was in the Olden Days)

Vanished World: Ours Will Also Seem As Remote
While from a Proud Tower in the town / Death looked gigantically down
-- Edgar Allan Poe, "City In The Sea" (1845)
The ... great age of European civilization was an edifice of grandeur and passion, of riches and beauty and dark reliance... The Old World had much that has since been lost, whatever may have been gained. Looking back on it from 1915, Emile Verhaeren, the Belgian Socialist poet, dedicated his pages, “With emotion, to the man I used to be.” 
-- Barbara Tuchman (1966)
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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."
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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.
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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.
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Monday, April 27, 2020

Reprint Heaven: This Way, America

No, Over Here.  What The Hell Is Wrong with You?
(From October, 2016)

 Joseph Beuys / 1974 Performance Art, I Like America; America Likes Me (aka, "Coyote")

The Why Of Dog
It was a typisch day here in Downtown America.  Over at the Soul Of America, I was directed to a story about David Bowie, which contained a photo of what appeared to be a Dog dragging a leper / vagrant / symbolically-wrapped human around. We worked it through Skynet the Googlegerät. One thing led to another. And here we are in the Future, as always happens in America.
Beuys flew to New York, picked up by an ambulance, and swathed in felt, was transported to a room in the Rene Block Gallery. The room was also occupied by a wild coyote, and for a period of 8 hours a day for the next three days, Beuys spent his time with the coyote in the small room, with little more than a felt blanket and a pile of straw. While in the room, the artist engaged in symbolist gestures, such as striking a triangle and tossing his gloves to the coyote. At the end of the three days, the coyote, who had become quite tolerant of Beuys, allowed a hug from the artist, who was transported back to the airport via ambulance. He never set foot on outside American soil nor saw anything of America other than the coyote and the inside of the gallery.
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Coherence
Gentlemen, the people at home cannot understand either of you...
-- Elaine Quijano, CBS News, to Kaine and Pence

2016 Election Forecast:  Clinton 75.3%,  Trump 24.7%
-- fivethirtyeightdotcom

My friend; clear your mind of Cant.
-- Samuel Johnson

 I AM PART OF YOUUU !!!! (rabbitandmouse, 2006)
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The First Whorehouse In Space Will Be Built By The Bold
During his hour-long announcement of the SpaceX Mars colonization plan, CEO Elon Musk didn’t say where exactly Martian colonists will live once they arrive on the planet — and how exactly they’ll survive given the harsh environment. Musk seemed particularly unconcerned about solar radiation. “The radiation thing is often brought up, but it’s not too big of a deal,” he says...

SpaceX’s goal is to build [its] transport system [to Mars], like building the Union Pacific Railroad. “Once that transport system is built,” Musk says, “there’s a tremendous opportunity for anyone who wants to go to Mars and create something new or build the foundations of a new planet.” People will be able to go to the planet and build “anything from iron refineries to the first pizza joint.”
--  Alessandra Potenza and Loren Grush, The Verge, September 27, 2016

Ironically, this is also International Space Week.
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Not With A Bang But A Food Fight
As most everyone knows, the ending to Stanley Kubrick's 1964 anti-war black comedy, Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb has Strangelove (Peter Sellers) emerging from his wheelchair and taking a few steps, then a montage of atomic bombs going off.

However, that wasn't the original ending. Kubrick initially envisioned 'Strangelove' as a drama, based on a British novel, "Two Hours To Doom", about an accidental nuclear war.  He was introduced (oddly enough, by by Peter Sellers) to Terry Southern, an American expat writer living in London; Southern saw Kubrick's project as a vehicle for dark comedy about the end of the world, and the two co-authored the script ("I intended to make a dark comedy", Kubrick later said of his film). Sellers, a friend of both Southern and Kubrick, was cast to play three separate, believable characters (originally, four -- spraining an ankle kept Sellers from playing Major "King" Kong, and Slim Pickens was offered the role). 

In the original ending of the film, Dr. Strangelove stood up from his wheelchair, only to fall flat on his face. Meanwhile, General 'Buck' Turgidson (George C. Scott) noticed Russian Ambassador de Sadesky (Peter Bull) taking pictures of "the big board", and tackled him -- only to have the Ambassador throw a cream pie at him from a nearby buffet table.

Turgidson ducked; the pie hits President Muffley (also played by Peter Sellers) instead -- and the entire War Room erupted in a gigantic food fight. Finally, as nuclear war engulfs the world, Muffley and the Russian Ambassador, having lost their reason, end up sitting on the floor and playing with the litter of thrown food like children.

Ironically, Strangelove was being edited around November 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was assassinated. In the scene as filmed, President Muffley is struck with a pie and Turgidson announced, "Our President has been struck down in his prime!" Because Kubrick considered the action too close to actual events (and the actors appeared to be enjoying themselves a bit too obviously), that ending had to change, and Kubrick was in a bit of a fix. As the legend goes, Spike Milligan (He of the UK's famous Goon Show) was talking at the same time with former fellow Goonie Peter Sellers and learned about Stanley's dilemma. 

Milligan is supposed to have suggested the ending we're all familiar with: Strangelove standing up from his wheelchair ("Mein Führer -- I can walk !!"), followed by footage of one nuclear weapons test after another, accompanied by a soundtrack of British singer Vera Lynn singing the WW2 ballad well-known in the UK, "We'll Meet Again." Kubrick's film editor, Anthony Harvey, put the footage of the original food-fight ending with other cut scenes, which were afterwards misplaced and lost to history.

George C. Scott In The Lost Ending To Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (1964)

( One of my favorite things about Strangelove is Peter Sellers' ability (as Strangelove) to crack up Peter Bull, who played the Russian ambassador. The next time you see this classic, during scenes with a medium or long shot of Strangelove declaiming from his wheelchair, keep your eye on Bull.

The Two Peters: Peter Bull (Left) As Ambassador de Sadesky,
and Peter Sellers As Herr Dr. Unwirklichlieber, In The War Room

Do Hold It Together, Old Man.

(Sellers was a genius at creating characters, and Bull can't help but be affected. He tries, but at some point just can't hold it in any longer -- again, the film's editor, Anthony Harvey, managed to save the take and splice in the next shot just as Bull is about to lose it.  According to film lore, Sellers was even able to get the redoubtable Sterling Hayden to crack up.)
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Ain't We Got Fun
Global debt has hit a record high of $152 trillion, weighing down economic growth and adding to risks that recovery could turn into stagnation or even recession, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

In a worst-case scenario the IMF also fears that a wave of populist politics across the US and Europe could send globalisation into reverse with protectionist policies hitting international trade, investment and migration, sending the world plunging into a prolonged period of stagnation...

“At 225% of world GDP, the global debt …is currently at an all-time high. Two-thirds, amounting to about $100 trillion, consists of liabilities of the private sector which can carry great risks when they reach excessive levels,” the IMF said in its fiscal monitor.
--  Tim Wallace, Business Writer; UK Telegraph Online October 5, 2016

"Among 'developed' nations, the United States has one of the highest rates of child poverty on the planet...  Only Romania has a higher rate than the U.S. ...  More children live in poverty -- grinding, soul-destroying poverty -- in America than in Latvia or Bulgaria, two nations few Americans can even find on a map."
--  Motivational Screensaver

Wealthiest ZIP Codes In America (Clicky For Ubernormous Graphic! Spass! Nett!)
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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Reprint Heaven: After You've Gone

America, Again: A Long Rant
(From July, 2016)

Cleaning Up After Cleveland (Andreas Kudacki, July 22, 2016; nymag.com)

The Republicans have left Cleveland. There's little doubt that can-do Managers, the Owners and Choosers and Deciders, and the Belivers, were in control at the RNC, as they seem to be in control in so many places in our culture. Because Life is for The Strong, and the Tough, and the Competitive.  And those with The Faith.

You Worker Bees, you "individual contributors" will just have to pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps. We will be Great again, and have Law and Order -- here in Merica -- or, you know, not. Thank everyone for coming!
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Two Tales Of The City

Yesterday, I exited a subway car heading home from work at rush hour, turned right, and walked up a crowded concourse. There was a wall to my immediate left and knots of other exiting passengers to my right. Suddenly, I was face to face with a Caucasian male in his mid-20's, tall -- I'm well over six feet; this guy was at least three inches taller -- thin, hair cut close on the sides and in the middle puffed up in a modified Mohawk strip (as if he had, uh, a Weasel On His Head).

What followed was textbook; each movement was an escalation. First, we looked -- no, we stared --at each other. Neither of us gave way. Even though by then there was plenty of room around us, we each moved forward and slid past each other, equally determined not to make it simple and as if daring the other party to ratchet things up. Our arms inevitably brushed against each other, and we both pulled them away like yanking off a band-aid.

I had walked a step or two, and turned; he was already walking back. I stood where I was; he stopped inches from me. "You want some?" he said. I was surprised, but not that much; I was aware that ratcheting up the confrontation was my fault as well as his: They fought so fiercely because the stakes were so small. So, here we were and Quo Vadis?

Over the next second or so, I had two trains of thought. The first was something from another job life -- when an altercation turns into a confrontation, and the next step is physical violence, that's not optimal. Keeping public order means, even if you have a disregard for your own well-being, other people, innocent people, can get hurt. Your Macho takes a back seat.

The other consideration was -- this Guy. It was clear he was willing to make a physical threat to a complete stranger, standing on a public transport platform during rush hour and In These Times, when there are transit system police around -- I'd seen a K-9 patrol up ahead a few seconds before. I looked at the Guy, careful not to lean forward or move my hands, and made an Are you fucking kidding me? face. "Really?" I asked him.

"Really," he said -- and leaned forward. Without moving, I said, "Excuse Me."  Leaning forward a bit more, determined to count coup, he said, "Excuse me. Have a nice day." Even without hearing his tone of voice, you can decide whether or not he meant it.
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Fast forward to this afternoon: A bus in Kiddietown; another Caucasian guy in his twenties -- this one short and slight, casually dressed, otherwise unremarkable -- drops a few papers as he enters the bus, and begins cursing -- shouting, in fact; and it's quickly clear he's inordinately upset about something which does not involve the bus, or anyone on it.

He stomps toward the back of the bus, drops into a seat, and for the next block or so periodically shouts more curses, slapping the seat beside him. Almost everyone else on the bus goes into You Are A Nutter And We Will Now Ignore You mode -- but, The Guy gets into it verbally with two Black males sitting behind him. Predictably, it escalates quickly.

"Hey!" Says the first man to The Guy, "Leave me alone. Shutthefuck up, man!"  "Fuck you man!!" shouts The Guy. "I'll kick your fuckin' ass!!" The second man, who has a voice like James Earl Jones and is happy to project it, joins in: "Hey; I ain't takin' that fuckin' bullshit off you, so just shut - the - fuck - up!!"

The Guy braces himself in his seat and, with a real sense of timing, waits for a beat and then leans forward, staring at the two men, his face distorted with rage. "Fuck you!!" he shouts, then adds, "You, you -- N_____ !!"

A hush falls over the entire bus, more felt than heard -- because He said the N-word to two Black guys and we live in post Ferguson-Cleveland-Baltimore-Chicago-Minneapolis-et al. America -- and I'm thinking: man, wasn't I just here yesterday?

Meanwhile, the James Earl Jones Soundalike both increases the volume and lowers the pitch of his voice to a growl, another textbook stop on the road to This Is Really Fucked Up. The Guy keeps shouting, a slight hesitancy in his voice now, as if understanding he'd crossed The Fabled Line when using the n-word a block or so back. The two Black guys keep raising their voices in response.

Obligatory Mongo Photo In Middle Of Blog Terror

It's clear the confrontation has reached a binary decision point, and several other passengers call out to the driver, a Latino with a wrestler's build wearing Ray-Bans, to "do something".  He doesn't, right away; I understand -- 1.) Things can happen, all of them unpleasant by degrees; 2.) His Management supervisor and Union Foreman have advised there are liability issues; and  3.) "They don't pay me enough for this shit, dude".

The driver finally comes to an official bus stop, halts the vehicle, then stands up, leans on a nearby pole and looks toward the altercation (all non-threatening, casual). "Hey -- hey; take it outside," he says to no one in particular, then appeals to reason and some generally-accepted social propriety: "Not on the bus, man."

After a few seconds, when things could have gone in any direction, The Guy stands up and exits by the side door, shouting insults at the other men all the way. The men return them -- but it's all textbook now; The Guy has been the one to retreat.

Once he's off and the doors close, the bus begins to pull away. As it does, from the relative safety of Outside, The Guy performs another textbook maneuver: he begins screaming, ratcheting up his invective ("Fuck you! N_____!! You N_____!!") and slaps the side of the bus. 

James Earl Jones-2, looking through the bus windows, grins and flips him off; The Guy seems even more enraged and escalates again ("I'll kill you, N_____ motherfucker!!") -- but it's all for show, now, and everyone knows it. JEJ-2 grins once more and shouts, "Yeah; talk on, fuckhead"-- counting coup, also textbook.

A woman in her twenties at the front of the bus, holding a Prada purse and wearing a print sun dress, a Rolex and her own Ray-Bans, looked around at the other passengers and said with a giggle, "Well, that was rully intense!" The remainder of the ride, by comparison, was uneventful.
____________________


The Brand, As If Anyone Had Forgotten
(Carolyn Kaster / AP; The Atlantic online)

Jocks And Mean Girls Rule

So why mention these things? (Dogs like stories, and are good at the details.)  Because they exemplify a miserable trend in the broader culture; because I can't remember the last time I was in a confrontation (even one I helped create), as a civilian, which had real potential to become physically violent. And some of it mirrors what was on stage in Cleveland.

I'm part of an American demographic that doesn't encounter much real violence or intimidation, or police activity, on a regular basis. Mentioning my experiences to my friends prompted their own stories of confrontation and escalation. The general consensus:  these altercations seem to happen more frequently, now --- and, they've increased over at least the past decade.

Most often, they happen when driving, shopping, and (bingo) commuting on mass transit. However, the most disturbing aspect to my friends is how easily things escalate: people seem more willing to push situations, which could easily be walked away from, right to the brink where real violence is possible.

Official studies show the same trends, nationally, and in the same venues. A quick check of the ubiquitous Gogglemachine will show the same observations, the same consensus by multiple observers. It doesn't have to involve complete strangers. My experiences, and those of friends, involving bullying by managers in the workplace has also increased in the past decade.

 Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Rant

A few months ago, I'd called a manager of a national group about help in a project; he spent five profanity-packed minutes accusing me of complaining about him to a vendor, crudely bullying me in any way he could.

This person has a reputation; I wasn't so surprised -- but I hadn't experienced him in that way, and I was knocked off balance. My responses -- interrupted constantly -- were factual; at some point, this person realized he was wrong in his accusations -- and like flipping a light switch, suddenly he sounded friendly, reasonable, behaving as if the previous ten minutes hadn't happened.

We both knew what he'd done -- and we both knew that even if I were to complain, because this person is labeled an "effective manager"; "he gets results"; there would be no repercussions.  I have a number of similar stories about other managers, and executives; so do my friends who work in corporate businesses, even 'cool' tech companies with "new" working cultures -- and they're all depressingly the same.

These sorts of person are narcissistic, possibly sociopaths. They're certainly bullies -- and know that they are.  They've found a niche in society which not only tolerates manipulation and mistreatment of other human beings, but rewards and promotes it. For them, it's a point of pride -- after all, they get results. And that's all that matters.

Weeks before he was assassinated, John F. Kennedy observed that one measure of a nation is through the individuals it upholds as heroes, worthy of emulation.  Over the past few decades in America, the people we are told to venerate, our Best, are the Business Leaders. They're supposed to be what we should want our children to grow up to become.

I don't think we'd want to leave our children alone with them for thirty seconds. But the promise of wealth and success through a life spent in corporate business is what our children are being told is the highest expression of our culture, and the behaviors of these 'leaders' are what they need to adopt in order to reach that wealth, success and self-fulfillment.
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A long time ago, a cartoon posed the question, "What was the result of America's experience in Vietnam, and the attendant politics at home?" The correct answer was, "A deterioration of secular and spiritual priorities!" American culture is fraying badly under the weight of too many changes -- just the last ten years include mass shootings, terrorism; The Crash; media outlets (Murdoch; Limbaugh, Wiener, Beck; O'Reilly) dumping human waste on our culture, 24-7.  Our 'entertainment' almost universally involves violence.

The real wonder is that people aren't more uncivil to each other, or that overtime parking doesn't invoke the death sentence.
_________________________

Trump: A Symptom 

This week we watched (some of) the antics at the Republican Convention, the Trump campaign's themes delivered by most of the speakers -- except Grand Turtlebear Greg Stillson, and Herr Doktor Carson, Exorcist and Fearless Vampire Killer, who seemed to have additional messages of hope and faith and eternal punishment in the fire the fire the fire for us all. And, of course, we heard The Donald.

 Additional Obligatory Animal Photo

There was nothing new in what he said Thursday night (though its delivery was less his trademark stream-of-consciousness) -- but I found myself asking How the hell did we get here? That this stupid bully became their candidate?? 

It was as if someone had reanimated Fr. Charles Coughlin from the 1930's, George Wallace of the 1960's, or even George Lincoln Rockwell.  Trump appeared no different or better than any of the narcissistic bullies I've worked with or for in my lifetime. One difference between his campaign and Hillary's -- Trump says that he speaks for the angry Americans, the ones who want to "take it all back".

His campaign depends on tapping the kind of inchoate rage that we see or experience on the street, or at work. If Trump were to win, it would mean a period of social and political dislocation in America which no one in memory has experienced. I could make a joke about a similarity with H.P. Lovecraft's return of Chtulu and the Old Ones, but in fact nobody knows where it would all lead.

That said, I still believe Trump can't win. If how a person uses language is a good gauge of how they conceptualize and navigate the world, then Trump is too scattered and impulsive -- my Dog's nose tells me he can't run an effective team, and won't run a good ground game.  And, there aren't enough of his brand of conservative to go to the polls for him on November 8th. He can't win by sheer weight of numbers. He'll lose.

But, this contest will be played in the media as a close race. The assumption of office by President Hillary, The Inevitable One, will seem so very close (until the numbers come in) -- and Her victory will provide the consistency of a certain narrative about our history, a return to normal.

But Hillary is about the values of Business, too. When Hillary trotted out Tim Kane as her Veep, he spoke to a crowd and said, "America has never been about fear... it's been about bravery, and imagination, and doing whatever it takes to get the job done! [applause]." Hillary described him as "a Progressive who believes in getting the job done" (Emphasis in the original delivery).


Additional Obligatory 'Stimpy Face' Photo

It's my expectation Hillary will assist in wiring America into a global system which will free business and banking from being responsible to the laws of individual nations -- environmental regulations; banking laws, trade laws. It will be an advantage capitalism has never had in history, making corporate business the single most important human activity. And it will continue the stratification of society, globally, into corporate Managers -- and everyone else, who will work for them, to earn money to buy products and services.

We'll still continue to be told a comforting narrative -- about America's uniqueness, independence and values, and it's place in the world. Frankly, Hillary's narrative is just a little softer than Trump's story of American greatness; only the wrapper is different.

But to global Business, America is just one more place with resources and a population that can be bought, one more market where things can be sold.  We can play our pretend politics, so long as we don't get in the way of the grownups, managing large-scale operations for profit.
________________________________

Without belaboring the obvious, it isn't surprising that so many people (including myself) are acting like badly-wired rats. The post-WW2 world's politics, ideologies, technologies; its commerce and wealth, all made major shifts in just one generation. 

There had been a Cold War, and the possibility of a hot one, but also stability -- many regional players and ideologies (including the religious) were kept in check by the East-versus-West balance of power. But not any more. 

It's been decades of pressure; the cycles of change happen more quickly, and the world is changing in unpredictable ways. The trends being presented by these changes indicate that the world is a Box Full Of Bad Crazy, Looking For A Way Out. And that The Fix Is In.

People are frightened about the future, and fear can easily flip into anger. Most people have some unresolved conflicts; others have years of badly-wired resentments and painful memories; still more have PTSD  (thanks for the War, Lil' Boots!). This election season will be something to watch (I'd buy the Good Popcorn, but don't fire it up just yet) but the presidency of Hillary The Inevitable will not provide America what it needs to heal itself. I don't think even Ted Cruz and Benny Carson's jesus™ could do that.

Try not to piss anyone off in public.
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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Reprint Heaven: The Deepness Of The Ocean Washes Up To Your Door

Random Barking In Multiple-Atmospheric Pressures
(From October, 2019)

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.
______________________________

MEHR, MIT EIN  SECHS-PAK VON CORONA:  Class exercise -- reread the above through the lens of the current Pandemic. Discuss.

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. 
__________________________________

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.
__________________________________

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.
_________________________________

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! 
___________________________________

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. 
_______________________________

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!
_________________________________
  • 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.
_______________________________
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. 
________________________________

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.
_______________________________________



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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