Showing posts with label We Are So Completely Scrood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label We Are So Completely Scrood. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Quo Vadis?

What Digby and Elie Said


"Depravity, Inc."Digsby's Hullabaloo, June 2, 2020 )

"[Trump] and his Republican enablers have shown us for decades neither the spirit nor the letter of the law is an impediment their designs. This is how the extremist Republican Party rolls:

"1. Find the line
 2. Step over it
 3. Dare anyone to push you back
 4. If no one does, that’s the new line
 5. Repeat

"Trump has repeatedly suggested violence against opponents. He may be a coward, but by instincts a violent one. The man who swore an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States to the best of his ability has demonstrated none. His oath is as much an inconvenience as the laws for which his entire life he’s flaunted his contempt, save for those he can use to flog opponents.

"Republican 'invertebrates' such as the 'bottomlessly loathsome Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida' are abetting Trump’s efforts to turn the world’s oldest democracy into a dictatorship. They will not stop him. Indeed, from Watergate to Iran-Contra to state-sponsored torture to targeting “African Americans with almost surgical precision,” they have proven their disdain for democratic processes for decades.

" 'History is written by the winners,' Trump’s attorney general declared recently. Principles be damned. Might makes right. Trump and his enablers have no interest in governing. They mean to rule. They mean to dominate.

"The unanswered question now is whether the country will survive until November, much less next January. A party that has demonstrated by its unwavering support for Donald Trump it will say anything, do anything, to maintain power by any means necessary. 

"Trump means to win [by] keeping fooled the faction he can fool all the time into thinking this is still a democratic republic. His enablers at Fox News and in conservative media are content to remain fooled. Their paychecks depend on it. Their audience will wave flags and Bibles all the way to fascism if need be."
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( "The Question Isn’t Whether Trump Will Go Full Authoritarian—It’s How We’ll Respond" );

"There is only one truth left to wrestle with: It does not matter if what Trump is doing is legal. It does not matter if what he’s doing is constitutional. It doesn’t matter, because nobody is going to stop him.

"We had our chance to prosecute him, but Robert Mueller decided that the Office of Legal Counsel’s suggestion that the president could not be prosecuted while in office was an ironclad principle... We had our chance to remove Trump from office, but 52 Republican senators refused to convict him or even call witnesses during their “trial.” ...

"Trump has been told that he can’t be prosecuted and won’t be removed... And nobody has stopped him. Nobody is even really trying to stop him anymore. Those who want him stopped are just kind of waiting and hoping he goes away. Maybe on January 20, 2021, he’ll just leave, and we can get back to having a society.

"He won’t just leave. He won’t leave unless the men with guns—the armed agents of the federal government—make him leave. And this upcoming week of protests is going to tell us if there is any hope of those men doing the right thing.
...

"Trump is beyond the rule of law now. Republicans have placed him there, and armed men keep him there. People have to think through what that means, about how to stop a man who is above the law...

"If history is any guide, there’s no simple option. The only way to stop a brutish demagogue like Trump, the only way men like that have ever been stopped, is by people who are willing to lay down their lives to do so. 

"Who is going to be our Hero of Tiananmen, our Unknown Rebel who stands in front of the tanks when they come rolling through Times Square? Who is going to be our John Lewis and get their skull fractured as Trump Troopers hurl projectiles at peace? Who wants to be Thich Quang Duc? Lots of people are willing to fight this administration; how many are willing to sacrifice their lives opposing it?
...

"Nobody has stopped Trump. I don’t think any single person can. But the question is no longer whether Trump “can” do something; the only relevant question is what we are prepared to do when he does it. How much of ourselves are we willing to give?

"It’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s the one authoritarians always get around to asking. It is the question Trump keeps asking the country..."
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Sunday, May 10, 2020

Climb To Humanity's Summit By Remaining Human

Free-Falling Elevator Edition Sunday

Let Me Tell You How It Will Be

Test-Trace-Quarantine. Countries that follow TTQ have lower death counts from Covid-19 – and their societies and economies have stayed open. For a number of reasons – none of them good, and some of them malevolent – neither the United States nor Great Britain have followed this proven method of tackling the pandemic. 
As a result, thousands upon thousands of their people are needlessly dying while their economies have cratered, leaving millions of people in dire straits even as their respective governments, especially the US, disgorge vast mountains of public money to protect the private fortunes of elites and corporations.  Lockdown without mass testing will not quell the virus; “re-opening” without mass testing will lead swiftly to further disaster, to second and third waves that, absent a vaccine, could be equal to or worse than this initial tsunami...
Every American should realize: the heavily armed groups – funded and organized by rightwing oligarchs – whom the president is now praising for protesting the lockdowns – WILL be out on the streets, threatening and very possibly killing people if Trump, despite all the GOP vote rigging, loses in November... that is absolutely where we are now. That's WHY these groups have been funded by the rich, that's why they're being mobilized ...

Trump is now giving up all pretense of fighting the virus or even trying to slow it; he actually seems to take a perverse delight in presiding over a world-historical disaster in which his own herd-culling policies have led to tens of thousands of needless deaths across the shattered land. 

The entire GOP faction of the power structure has lined up with goose-stepping servitude behind this murderous assault on the American people, while the Democratic faction dithers, cowers and chills on vacation, bestirring itself only to vote for “relief” bills that give literally trillions of dollars to the super-rich and corporations while leaving ordinary people with almost nothing — not even protection for their voting rights in a pandemic, not even that one small, pathetic say in determining their fate.

The pandemic has stripped away all facades. We can see the system and its leaders clearly now. After killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people in foreign lands during the last two decades of aggressive war and ceaseless “interventions” (most of which are not even noticed or reported on anymore), they have now turned on their own people. They sit and watch thousands of them die unnecessary deaths, happy to “cull the herd” of the “useless eaters”: the sick, the old, the vulnerable, the poor and the non-white minorities who are dying in vastly disproportionate numbers. 

And Then Something Else Will Happen

I’m starting to look at the current situation as ... not entirely unlike that of Western Europe and the Soviet Union during the Nazi occupation.  After the initial shock of conquest and the imposition of New Rulers and Rules, things settled into a routine struggle, primarily to get by as best one could under the circumstances. 

Oh sure, there were the daily round ups, deportations and executions, restrictions on movement, the lack of essential foods and supplies, lack of money to buy supplies with if they existed, the constant sense of dread of what was to come. The not-knowing what was next was perhaps the worst part for many, but for many others, life went on, not much changed — until it did. And when it did, things got worse, and they just kept getting worse until the bitter end.

So far, we’ve seen no vision of a better future when we come out of this. No vision of a future at all for most of us. We will struggle through as best we can — until we can’t.

The existential threats are piling one atop the other — for most people, it means that nothing is likely to return to “normal” in their lifetimes. They may or may not survive the pandemic and subsequent economic collapse and whatever consequences come from them, they may even live to see the transition into a much warmer climate, but the pre-2020 reality is never coming back for them or anyone. We’re in uncharted waters without a captain and without a vision of where we are or should be headed.

We should be past the point of blaming anyone; we never got to the point of actually doing anything about the existential crises we knew we would face. And so we drift along.

And Too, Also

the pandemic has compounded the legitimacy crisis in which the U.S. (but not only the U.S. — the Eurozone is not looking too good) is enveloped already with its clueless political class.

the politically-aware populi are still preoccupied with their “tribal” narcissistic narratives...  (will any historian be able to fathom “the war on Christmas” or “Russia,Russia,Russia” let alone Stormy Daniels or Tara Reade?)

the eruption of this volcano is building below the noise of the twitterverse and CNN and the foppish readers and writers of the New York Times or the Jeff Bezos blog.

We are descending Seneca’s cliff now. There will be plateaus where the remnants of disintegrating civilization may pause for as much as a decade’s respite, but descent is the future, every shock preparing the way for the next step down. It might take a hundred years or two to play out fully.

In the short-term, it is hard to see how the U.S. does not experience political upheaval. I do not know if we are likely to begin blaming anyone at actual fault. With the Dems pretending that 27 year old claims of sexual something matter, but dementia and corruption do not, it would require travelling a great distance in a short time to blame anyone in or near power for the consequences of policy choice.

the epidemic hit densely populated urban areas hard first — so blue states. But it is spreading out and there is nothing to stop it and no effective treatment to limit fatality rates or long-term damage to survivors of severe cases. everyone who is susceptible is likely to become infected at some point in the next two to three years. the economic damage so far has been more acute in red states. the effect on meat processing might mean early signals of collapse in supermarkets. A lot of the newly hungry and homeless are going to be young in a country near the peak of one of its historic cycles of increasing violence.

Everyone Sees The Spreading Stain On His Pants But Say Nothing

I have a daughter in her late twenties, I work with hundreds of college students between 18 and 25, I have friends with children between 15 and 40, and a significant percentage of that generation with fucks still to spend on damns they still have, ripe for faith and action, are SIDEWAYS NOW: they laugh at but fear crackers, despise GOP cracker-whispererism, and thoroughly loathe, loathe, loathe motherfucking Democrats, know that Democrats will not save them, know that Democrats see no profit in saving them, know Democrats (that is, our shitlords who own Democrats) offer only weaponized crackers as incentive to vote Democrat

Who Cares About That Art Crap Anyway

There is nothing inevitable to the way societies choose to respond to a crisis such as this pandemic. What we do however learn in our response is precisely what is valued in a society and what is less so. While there has been a managed politics at work between the dominant forces of power and the fading liberal left, behind the scenes there is a notable decimation of the arts and culture taking place outside of the corporate cultural institutions. 

If radical and independent presses are fighting for their lives, so it is also the case that critical cultural producers, who already occupied the margins, are being pushed into the abyss...

Speaking truth to power through their own grammatical interventions, they encourage more compassion, empathy and dignity in human affairs. We know the history of modern societies has resulted in the triumph of technical forms of thinking over the more poetic understanding of life. But do we really want to live in a world where art and culture are reduced to a virtual gallery visit...  our aesthetic preferences ...  stripped of any political claim and given over to the power of technocratic reason?

The Pyre Next Time

The implied terms of the racial contract are visible everywhere for those willing to see them. A 12-year-old with a toy gun is a dangerous threat who must be met with lethal force; armed militias drawing beads on federal agents are heroes of liberty. Struggling white farmers in Iowa taking billions in federal assistance are hardworking Americans down on their luck; struggling single parents in cities using food stamps are welfare queens. 

Black Americans struggling in the cocaine epidemic are a “bio-underclass” created by a pathological culture; white Americans struggling with opioid addiction are a national tragedy. Poor European immigrants who flocked to an America with virtually no immigration restrictions came “the right way”; poor Central American immigrants evading a baroque and unforgiving system are gang members and terrorists.

Look Over There As You Struggle For Air

Conservative media figures who spent months insisting on Michael Flynn’s innocence, after he twice pleaded guilty to lying to investigators, are taking a gleeful victory lap in response to the Justice Department moving to drop its criminal case against the retired lieutenant general and former Trump national security adviser. 

But the reversal is not enough to placate the right-wing media rabble, as they are now calling for Attorney General William Barr to prosecute members of the Barack Obama administration and its judicial allies for their roles in the case.

...right-wing radio host Mark Levin appeared on Fox News to boast, and to accuse Obama of conducting a vast shadow operation against the Trump administration. “You know what this is? This is Barack Obama’s blue dress. That’s what that is without the DNA on it,” he told Sean Hannity, referencing Monica Lewinsky’s infamous garment. “[The Flynn case documents] tells us that Obama knew…. Obama was working with the FBI and the intelligence agencies.” 

Levin also tweeted that “the perps responsible for trying to destroy” Flynn should be prosecuted, a talking point Hannity is now pushing too. “All this does is exonerate General Flynn,” the Fox News host declared on his Thursday radio program. “Now, it’s time to investigate Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s Department of Justice…and what they did here is they targeted an innocent man, and they—this is prosecutorial abuse.”

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Forty-Five Days In The Hole

A Long Rant

Everyone's Favorite Moment In The Action-Packed Rallies Briefings

Healthcare resource allocation is the easiest way to describe what I do, when I'm not speaking through the persona of a smart-assed white dog online. It involves Physical Space and infrastructure capabilities; Resources (human beings), Durable and Disposable Medical Equipment (beds; ventilators; swabs; masks; PPE gowns and gloves), medications -- requirements versus availability. It's logistics and negotiation. The past few months have been busy, preparing additional overflow sites for the kind of New York City-level surge of CoVID-19 cases in the Bay Area.

That hasn't developed. It's a relief. But, with the demands of the bloated Child-Leader, we could see another spike in cases as America is forced back to work, the Leader determined to have his moment of fantasy validation though many may die. Well... we could get lucky. I hope so, but it's a hope that only extends through the Summer. Then comes Fall and Winter.

I sit in multiple videoconferences; we talk about the Winter of this year. We use words like 'anticipated'  'likely probability', and when we look at potential effects to healthcare system capacity, the numbers are frightening. If the CoVID-19 virus is seasonal (and no one knows if it is), the end of 2020 could be bad. Wuhan-bad; Northern Italy-bad; New York City bad.

I don't say this to raise anyone's already elevated fears. My way of dealing with things is Whole Sight: straight on, for the most realistic appreciation of whatever comes. We need to do everything in our power, now, to prepare the System for a New York-level of shock, for months on end. As individuals, we need to plan how best to cooperate, for our collective sakes, and for the future.

There is some (relative) good news. In a presentation I saw yesterday, the data seems clear that all the effort to ramp up for a surge which never came helped develop slack capacity that will be essential going forward. Time has been made, but we need to increase capacity to continue preparing for Winter, and after. Eventually, there will be a vaccine; we just need to get through the next eleven months and be waiting in line when it's distributed.

We could be better prepared -- but the lack of coordination from the federal government is astounding (It's been detailed in the press; I don't have to repeat it here). And the politicization of whatever efforts that government does make is staggering: a CDC alert I saw just this morning started with the phrase, "The Trump administration is taking aggressive actions..." As if He were guiding, watching everything, the master of all phraseology and human destiny; the Good Daddy.

But when he is the Angry Daddy, the Bad Daddy -- He must be appeased in the smallest ways by the sycophants he gathers around him. There is an obvious requirement that medical professionals at the national level kiss Trump's ass just to stay in the room, and be allowed to offer informed opinions they hope can counter the ignorance, the bias against 'know-everything types'.

The disconnection from reality that we all brush aside with Trump, just to keep from having our heads explode; the hours-long 'briefings' replacing Trump's 'rallies'; the lying and vicious small-minded pursuit of More by himself, his family, his satraps and toadies, while people are dying -- all of it is magnified, now.

Hopefully, it will be a stain he can't wash. The portrait of Dorian Grey, failing to contain the rotten core of this person and so revealing him, failure and bully, as he does his drunkard's weaving while standing behind the podium.

Every day we waste on this sociopath's spewings, on the ranting and insane bullshit of conservative politicians and social leaders, when we could be preparing for the coming Fall, is time we will not get back. Time literally means lives, now.
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Every three days, I go into different medical centers operated by the Behemoth corporation which employs me and do things there I cannot do via Skype. I've always considered that, as jobs go, at least I could say I did things with a social benefit; now, they are one set of actions in a chain of events that matter, tangibly, to specific people.

Every time I go into a facility, the risk of contracting a disease (referred to by the younger set on Twitter as "Boomer Remover") that could kill me -- an Old with an underlying health condition -- increases by approximately 40%.

I'm in no way a hero -- my job is administrative, logistics; the real heroes are floors below, wearing full PPE garb, trying to adhere to protocols in biologically hot environments, for hours. Rarely, I see them in common spaces, outdoors, and we're well-separated. They're the kind of exhausted you get when you push your adrenaline levels to meet calls to action over and over for long periods.

I've been in situations in bad places in my long-ago; real life-and-death situations. You do things in those situations, and only in the silences afterwards does it become clear exactly how dangerous it was; that's what PTSD is about. I will tell you: it takes a special level of consciousness to go into situations with high risk -- and then do it again, and again, daily, having had moments in the times between to understand exactly what you're getting into.

This is what thousands of physicians, nurses, and support personnel are doing around the world, right now, over and over, and have been. For months.

They do the most critical caregiving tasks, and the most humble. They are there for others when they are dying, alone and isolated from everything familiar and loved, drifting away. They watch this and they perform that last connection with light and earth and all that we know, over and over and over. My respect for them is clear and unambiguous. There are few times in life when I could say I felt that, unreservedly, towards other human beings.
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Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Thing

When I come home to my small apartment on a hill in The City, I leave my Outside Shoes by the door, remove and bag clothing for separate laundering; I shower, and I scrub. The other five days in the week, I only leave my building a few times to walk at dusk, to stand on the steps of Grace Cathedral with the sun going down, surrounded by the condominiums and co-ops of the Wealthy, the huge landmark hotels, the brownstone Beaux Arts Pacific-Union Club.

In the handful of times I walk every week, I'm in the street, facing oncoming traffic, but there is very little. SFMTA buses whine past with only a few riders, as they have for weeks now: no one wants to risk public transit. Other people are out, runners and walkers, none of them masked; couples in their twenties amble slowly on the sidewalks, laughing. Knowing what I know about CoVID, I stay well clear. I walk in the street.
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On my every-two-week walk to a neighborhood market, there are people lined up, waiting to enter. It isn't a tiny business: in mid-March it was packed with panic-buying, unmasked people in thick lines waiting for checkout. Since March 19, the owners instituted a policy of allowing fifteen people inside at a time -- one person leaves, one allowed in -- but until they painted lines six feet apart on the sidewalk, few people seemed in a hurry to keep social distance. For weeks, I was nearly the only person in line wearing a mask.

Today, inside, there are plenty of people without masks, even the cloth variety, or those wearing them only over an upper lip, nose fully exposed. They ignore social distancing to lean in front of you and peer at a half-empty shelf -- as if it were just another day before CoVID.

I wear an N95 mask because I've been issued them. When I ask people to watch themselves or please step back, they turn their heads to look up at me and frown. "Sorry," their voices say, but they don't move. They want you to move; they want that last can of kidney beans.

The market owners also set up plexiglass screens at the registers early on, and found enough N95 masks and nitrile gloves for their staff. Early on, they began refusing to accept cash -- paper money being a transmission vector; credit/debit only. They found a local manufacturer willing to make and provide hand sanitizer. I pass the small shopping cart I use to an employee, who immediately disinfects it.

I check out and walk home. The market's paper bags will stand by themselves for the next two or three days, untouched. When I noted the first reports in early January of a novel virus appearing in China, which appeared to be respiratory with a good probability of human-to-human transmission, I began slowly buying whatever I thought might be needed. I'm not a Prepper, and not a tinfoil hat person. But when panic buying began in early - mid March, it was one more aspect of the situation I didn't need to feel anxiety over.

Everything purchased is sanitized with wipes bought three months ago; hard to find them, now. I don't buy produce or fruits -- I take vitamins, which also seem in short supply. I have gallons of frozen milk, frozen gluten-free bread (likewise, hard to find) and GF-pizza (I refuse to give up my comfort foods). Rice and beans are a staple (with Pesto, or Tomato paste), and so is Norwegian Kippered Herring.

And the obligatory wine and Single Malt: yes, I find myself self-medicating more frequently in, as Bill Burr would say, "the current environment" (I can even 'drink at work'; bwa ha ha ha ha ha).

This is how we -- or, at least how I, live now. And have done, for forty-five days. Part of me is proud of being resourceful. The rest of me wants to weep and beat all conservatives with a shovel and launch their corpses into the sun. But, that's just me.

Current Coronavirus Cases, FLA: 25,576   Deaths: 976
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All that personal nonsense wasn't what I wanted to talk about.

Indeed, if [Nassim Nicholas] Taleb is chronically irritated, it is by those economists, officials, journalists, and executives—the “naïve empiricists”—who think that our tomorrows are likely to be pretty much like our yesterdays.  
(-- Bernard Avashai, "The Pandemic Isn't A Black Swan, But A Portent Of A More Fragile Global System," The New Yorker, April 21, 2020)

There is an assumption: once we just get a handle on this virus, by brute force, everything will revert to some pre-CoVID default. That electing Biden will erase four years of something unprintable and degrading. That by magic, all will be as it was.

What that assumption ignores is the massive (and that isn't enough adjective to describe what's happened) disruption to the global economy which CoVID has produced, the societal and political changes already set in motion.

Recently, the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Senator Robert Barr (R-Stock 'n Property), unanimously announced it supported the combined U.S. Intelligence Community's earlier report that the Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, had intervened in the 2016 presidential election to ensure the election of Donald J. Trump.

On Twitter, some commenters assumed this was significant -- that the Old-Boy Network had delivered a message to Trump: they had finally had enough, and the 25th Amendment was waiting to be invoked. I didn't believe this was even remotely possible, but had five minutes of fantasy enjoyment thinking about it (One, really, because we would immediately have President Pence).

At almost the same time, Fat Billy Barr announced that he might prosecute governors who went against the wishes of The Leader (whose mottled ass Barr tenderly kisses), and defy his order to Put America Back To Work! There were other assumptions, there -- about Barr's authority as Attorney General, and that threatening state Governors could make them toe the line and kiss Trump's ass, too.

But I also thought: let's play this out -- the Players in each situation acted as they did because they assumed the structure of things -- America's government, its finances, its society (as  F. Scott Fitzgerald said, a framework of "religion and years of plenty and tremendous sureties and exact relations ... between the classes") was operating exactly as it always has.

But -- what if, as Nassim Taleb noted, the structure is no longer that way? For me, the image that comes up is the old, fat Russian officer, marching new recruits to the front in Doctor Zhivago; they encounter a mob of deserters, who entreat the recruits to defect; the old officer orders them from the saddle, "Form ranks! Get back in ranks!" He assumed his authority and everything that supported it was the 'local reality'; the soldiers pulled him off his horse and beat him to death.

Roughly 30,000,000 Americans are out of work. In my neighborhood, I overheard several managers of apartment buildings (not the wealthy co-ops, of course) saying half their residents or more couldn't pay April rent, and likely can't pay in May.

The $1,200, one-time "Donny Trump Fun Bucks" check with The Leader's heavy, spiky signature will probably be spent on food. Mortgages are going unpaid. Business rent. Insurance coverage. Car payments. Student loans. Credit Card debt. Wireless bills. Medical bills. Cable bills. 

Trump and his Republican toadies are making their own assumptions -- even about something as stupid, at a time like this, as insisting The Leader's signature be on each check. The right-wing thug strategists assume people will make positive associations between 'Getting Fun Bucks', and The Leader: Free political advertising. 

It's an assumption that we're still living in the world where politics as usual is the shared reality. In truth, people getting the checks will deposit them and not give Leader's EKG arrhythmia-shaped handwriting more than a moment's notice. By the time Winter comes, businesses -- who also assume we're living in a world ruled by the same ideas of obligation, debt, creditworthiness -- will expect what they're owed. So will landlords, property owners, finance companies and banks.

As someone on Twitter noted, TeeVee commercials are appearing now, showing America's big corporations as empathetic, "understanding and compassionate; they will be happy to 'discuss arrangements' for payments. There's nice piano music playing behind these images. Just don't expect soft music and compassion when they send your account for collection".

This isn't a Civ102 class, where you spend one session skimming over 1929 and its aftermath, just as a way to segue into the Second World War.  The media notes this CoVID-fueled effect to the economies of the planet will be "Worse than the Great Depression of the 1930's" -- not having the least notion what that means. No one does.

If you read the article on Taleb, his main point is, the CoVID disaster exposes all the stress points, the assumptions we've made about interconnected global finance and supply chains, our dependence on fossil fuels (not to mention the politics of oil), and just how vulnerable we are as a species.

CoVID-19 is bad enough -- but if it had been more like Ebola, we might be looking at global deaths in the millions, now, and a global heath system which could not cope with it. And, nature isn't through with us. This was just our first pandemic in 102 years. It isn't over.
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Yes, there was an immense relief bill passed, to show that the Congress "Did So Care!" about the Little People, and of course the Bundist Billionaires and Oligarchs. And, it was done to show that no one need panic: money was on the way.  Only, it was trickle-down, again; same at it ever was. As  Ian Welsh notes,
Virtually all the relief money has flowed to the top, not the bottom. Landlords and tenants are in crisis. Unemployment is going over 30% and in many places higher. A vast swathe of American small business will be destroyed, and is unlikely to recover in a generation.  
Firms which borrowed money to do stock buy-backs, or to give money to their private equity purchasers are slopping at the trough, but many of the actual businesses on the ground (like Nieman Marcus) will go under. 
PPE can’t be found for hospital workers or logistics workers. Important pieces of the logistics hubs like meat packing plants are shutting down. Warehouse workers are protesting, truckers are scared... 
America is unable to make or procure an adequate number of masks or prioritize who gets them (though, really, everyone should). The ventilators made by GM are inadequate, because Trump wanted to keep the price down. Hospitals not only don’t have enough PPE, they’re going bankrupt because they haven’t been given enough money.
All the assumptions Republican Senators, Billy Barr, Trump -- even you, and me -- are making about how things are supposed to work in America and the world doesn't address the reality of what's just happened. Its effects are so big, we can't put our arms around it and can't know how it will affect us.

We can say all our assumptions about the future will change. Not that it will be so radically different -- but just as Fitzgerald saw the old assumptions about his world before WW1 dissolve, the same will happen to us. And the domino effects of CoVID, and continuing Climate Deterioration, will drive it.

Some observers believe America is headed towards regional dissolution, food riots once transport and supply chains break down, and who knows what political structure will emerge -- maybe a semi-United States; maybe the Republic of Gilead, run by evangelical 'christians'.

But, maybe not. Maybe when the chickens finally finish coming home to roost (as they have been since Trump was granted power), our future doesn't have to be exploitation by Neoliberal politicians and rat-faced corporate leaders, or domination by christian fascists. I like to think human beings -- even Americans -- have better imaginations than that.

When we leave our assumptions behind, perhaps they'll be about fossil-fuel dependency. Or healthcare. Or ideas that lies and propaganda are just 'alternate facts'. That income inequality, and throwing children into cages at immigration stations, are just part of the fabric of our country; just one of those things. That we can't fight City Hall. Or climate change. Or even a housing crisis. Perhaps we can abandon the assumption that the fix is in, and no solutions are possible.

There's a long road with CoVID ahead -- it won't end until treatment therapies that mitigate the worst effects of this organism are proven, or an effective vaccine is created. These are months, even years, away. When we come out the other side: what kind of culture and political realities do we want for each other? Our tomorrows do not have to look like our yesterdays.
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MEHR, MIT EIN ANDERN MEINUNG: (Repeating myself, but...)

...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. ... But we always read about the years leading up to [WW2] 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. ...  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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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.
__________________________________

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?"
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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."
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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Eat Your Pie

Every Bite


For All America: We Ordered It. Now, We Eat It.

I'd felt compelled in the past months to make a scale model -- of a random tree, one planted by the City of San Francisco, growing for at least twenty years near a streetcorner. The scale would be 1 inch = 3 Feet: roughly thirty feet of tree would be rendered in ten inches. I'm a visual artist, among other things; it was within my range of abilities.

My vision was to recreate as many fine details as that scale would allow, including at least a thousand leaves, and an uncanny crispness in the detail was the goal. I didn't really begin, but did preparatory drawings, bought supplies, took reference photos. But -- sculpture or modeling in any form isn't a normal impulse for me. So: a puzzle.

Over the past few weeks, it finally struck me: I'm part of a physical world, where every living thing in it is now threatened. I'm also living in a world of ideas, created by other humans -- a political world, now mutating away from everything familiar.

In that, the desire to recreate a familiar, primal living form, and reduce a part of the world to something, through an act of making, which I could control, suddenly made sense.
_____________________________

In 2016, like almost everyone else, I assumed the fix was in -- that Clinton would become President. Of course, there was no possibility Trump would win (though I toyed with the thought in February of 2016). Even the MAGA Bundists didn't believe it.

He was a joke. His rabid base in Flyover Country were underclass jokes, 'deplorables' who believed his anti-immigrant, White supremacist / fringe-separatist dogwhistling. His campaign was a sideshow, allowed (or, if you preferred, conspired against) by the Powers That Be.

Trump said and did things which broke political and cultural norms. And no matter how crazy things seemed? He'd never actually become President. The best pollsters didn't believe it. Pundits and insiders laughed about it. Reportedly, Trump didn't believe he had a chance, either -- but he was getting a months-long Trump, Inc. infomercial, paid for with other people's money.

Some in early 2016, like university professor and Washington Post columnist Daniel Drezner, read things differently.
Turns out those few voices had spoken up for good reasons. Now, every one of those reasons has borne fruit -- rotten, nauseatingly spoiled, rancid -- slopped as filling into a pie that 99.09% of America has been eating for over three years.

It is making us sick. It's killing us. But it's what America ordered, and we will have to eat our pie. We will eat every bite -- even if it takes ten years, or twenty. We'll eat it all. We won't have any choice.
______________________________

Like everyone else, I had grown up repeating the Pledge of Allegiance. And if you didn't get the Pledge, you did understand the power of the State it represented: One Nation, Bigger Than You; Under God, Too: Believe It, and Square Yourself Away In That Bulkhead, Marine.

The majority of our fathers had fought in WW2, for pete's sake. We'd hear the stories. America kicked Japan and Germany's ass (Italy was apparently just a place to have a war in, not an actual enemy), and by God, America won that sucker. Get on the other side of that equation, and see what happens (or, paraphrasing from Stephen King, "we'll just loose some pioneer spirit on ya'), damn Commies.

I accepted the High-School-Civics-Class-View of the United States. We were an exceptional People. History didn't apply to us; we were writing it. Even later personal experience overseas (where we did not win), and at home didn't really touch the bedrock assumptions I carried around about race, and class, and gender, and geopolitics -- or, that one could say Liberty and Justice For All and still not understand it was a slogan.
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Trump won. Everyone in Washington expected him to play by the rules of conduct and engagement between Congress and the Executive. He couldn't be who he appeared to be and function as President.  But he didn't play by their rules; if anything, he played by Stevie Bannon's rules (that is to say, Josef Goebbels', or Josef Stalin's), Rupert Murdoch's rules, Vladimir Putin's rules.


With the help of people like Pompeo, Barr, and the Republican leadership, Trump has hollowed out America's governmental institutions, muzzling the FBI in a Justice Department organized to investigate those The Leader charges with the 'crime' of not being sufficiently loyal. Thousands of children are kept in virtual concentration camps, abused and mistreated.

Trump and the GOP charged a $3 Trillion bill to ordinary Americans in order to pay even more money to Our Fabled Wealthy; he runs a foreign policy sideshow which appears to benefit Russia far better than the United States. We, The People, have paid $118 Million to fund his weekly golf trips since taking office. The EPA exists in name only. National Weather Forecasters are muzzled when their opinion counters that of The Leader.

The new Federal judges, appointed for life by a Republican-controlled Senate, many without any qualifications whatsoever. Two (more) right-wing appointments to the Supreme Court -- in particular the nasty, entitled Frat Boy -- and the push by evangelicals to finally overturn Roe v. Wade. The list goes on and on.

But: even if Trump were removed from power, immediately; even if Mikey Pence were shown to be living with a rent-a-boy in a Motel 6 outside the Beltway; and McConnell and his wife were caught selling the North American SIOP to Russian agents, it wouldn't matter: Trump has trampled the boundaries of what is permissible in American political life -- and the Republican party, now nothing but a crowd of vicious suckasses, have enthusiastically helped him.

Even worse, Trump has given the cover of Presidential support for 'very good people' -- openly fascist, separatist, white nationalists. Fascist ideas are now something not to be fought, but given legitimacy, to be debated, to be allowed to sit at the table.

Trump has, with assistance, broken the United States of America. And if it isn't intelligently repaired -- if Trump goes on and on; if the GOP pays no electoral penalty for what they've participated in -- then after the next Crash, we're within a few short years of living in a failed Fascist State.

And Trump won't be our worst nightmare -- it'll be waking up to find there's a popular new conservative Leader, someone colder, more focused and sociopathic than Trump ever was. Someone who promises order and safety with the smile of a rapacious predator. America becomes just another authoritarian dictatorship: god help you if you're a minority, or LGTBQ, or a woman, or any stripe of Liberal.

Or, even worse, American society descends into real conflict, the "boogaloo" our fascist Right currently hopes for. Disorganization and violence rises... until some group of 'christian' leaders (perhaps 'The Family') decide that god has willed they step in and turn the nation towards the path of righteousness.

At that point we wake up to find we're living in a new country, with a new name, and with multiple, cold, focused and even more sociopathic leaders. And they won't just demand a political allegiance -- they'll want you to give them your soul.
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On Twitter this morning, I responded to a comment on an article -- that Trump's popularity had taken a slight dip in Texas, the reddest of Red States. Most people responding thought it was cause for cheer -- I replied,
What should frighten every thinking person in America is -- how popular would a right-wing candidate be in Texas if he were smoother, more cunning, more 'attractive', more evangelical? Trump isn't what we should be afraid of. It's what he's made possible.
Not long after, I scrolled down to find Newsweek columnist Seth Abramson observed very much the same thing:
The list of things now officially permissible at the highest levels of our government -- because of GOP cowardice -- is enough to permanently degrade our democracy: foreign interference in elections; pathological lying without shame; personal conflicts of interest never resolved... 
The worst part: the GOP will vainly, even grotesquely try to do a take-backsies on destroying America the second there's a Democratic president. At the first lie, they'll howl. But it'll be the boy who cried wolf... 
Part of it is that the culture in Washington -- already toxic; already chasing away most good people --is now permanently fatal to any goodness or integrity. But part of it is Trumpism generally, which is going to be with us for decades no matter what happens with Trump specifically. 
When and if Trump leaves office, he'll either start Trump TV immediately and be in your house daily pretending he's still president or, if he's indicted ... he'll go somewhere overseas he can't be touched and from *there* be in your house daily. 
There's one chance—and not even a great one—to avoid this. A historic reversal, revolution, and rebuke arising in the Senate that sends Trump reeling out of office. Would the GOP likely have to sit on the nation's political bench for a few years? Yes. But they could save America. 
Obviously, that's never going to happen. And so it's the alternative: a permanent diminishment of America that nothing can stand in the breach to avert. The Rubicon is the Senate trial, and if it's crossed -- no matter who wins in 2020 -- it's crossed, and Trumpism is made *permanent*.
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MEHR, MIT DER NEUEN KRIEG ZU KOMMEN:  Yesterday, an American drone strike killed the Iranian General in charge of that nation's Republican Guard special forces, and one of the principal architects of Iran's paramilitary strategy in the Middle East.  He was simply assassinated, without any Congressional consultation -- "on order of the President", The Leader; the child-man dictator. 

As I keep saying: This cannot continue; and, This cannot end well:  Consider this.
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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."
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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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