Thursday, October 20, 2016

It's Finally Over and We Lost

I watched it.

I shouldn’t have.

When it was mercifully over I felt sick to my stomach.

I understand that most of what I was taught to believe about the United States is myth. When the fables of American exceptionalism are stripped away, what remains reveals that this is a nation built on racism and genocide, imperial conquest, double-dealing and hypocrisy. This is harsh but inescapable. Recognizing the truth about one’s country doesn’t imply or prove hatred of one’s country.

Not a single direct question in any of the “debates” about climate change, the most urgent issue facing the world. This is inexcusably irresponsible.

Deemed more important is a false question about the national debt and entitlement programs. First of all, Americans pay into Social Security and Medicare paycheck by paycheck, with the promise that when the time arrives, as it will for all of us, these programs will be there to insure that no person that has worked his or her entire life is forced to live in poverty. Conservatives have railed against Social Security and Medicare for decades, and now they are routinely joined by corporate Democrats like Hillary Clinton, all shouting in unison for austerity measures.

It’s total bullshit, of course. If this country stopped pouring trillions of dollars into the Pentagon, we would have more than enough to fund Medicare for all and to insure that Social Security lives up to its implicit promise. Year after year polls show that the majority of Americans want to expand these programs, and year after year the political class ignores the will of the majority.

Was I surprised that Donald Trump is completely ignorant about abortion?

No more than to hear Hillary Clinton blame Russia for trying to tip the election in favor of Trump. Hillary declared that Russia -- the highest levels of the Kremlin, mind you, harkening back to the Cold War -- is behind the cyber attacks that led to the latest WikiLeaks disclosures. Clinton stated that all 17 of America’s intelligence agencies have confirmed that Russia is behind the leaks. My first question is: do we really need 17 intelligence agencies? And these are, I suppose, the same crack agencies that spent more than a decade searching the globe for Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man? Couldn’t find him anywhere...

And speaking of that great bogeyman bin Laden, Clinton twice said that bin Laden had been brought to justice. Strange, I don’t remember bin Laden being charged and tried in an American court or any court for that matter. Didn’t America’s brave operatives assassinate bin Laden and dump his body into the sea? In an age when the American president decides who shall live and who shall die by remote controlled drone, I suppose you can say that bin Laden was brought to justice.  

If Russia is behind the cyber attacks and attempting to subvert our election all I can ask my country is: how does it feel to have the tables turned, to be on the receiving end for a change?

Some of the exchanges were merely amusing, ample proof, as if any were needed, of the utter debasement of our democratic process, like when Trump insisted that nobody respects women more than he does. Or when Clinton defended the money laundering operation that is the Clinton Foundation.

It was a sad night for America. I shouldn’t have watched, but I did.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Breathing Life into a Corpse

“Explicitly rejecting capitalism is essential for movement-builders today – capitalism has no answers to the crises we face, and zombie capitalism, casino capitalism, Wizard-of-Oz capitalism is in fact the root of the problem.” Bill Ayers, Demand the Impossible: A Radical Manifesto

I had no intention of watching the second Trump-Clinton “debate,” but after the recording of Trump’s Access Hollywood performance hit the media, and Wikileaks dumped e-mails related to Clinton’s speeches to bankers and others she was trying to court for future campaign contributions, my wife wanted to see how The Donald and Hillary would comport themselves, and I admit that once the show began, I was morbidly fascinated.

The first thing I noticed was that Clinton was not attired in one of her Kim Jong-Un pantsuits.  
So much for the highlight of the evening. 

Trump was his usual creepy and arrogant self and did his best to jab at Clinton over trade and the economy and her e-mails and the misdeeds of her husband, but he was ineffective for the most part, and -- if by stalking around the stage like a caged wolverine Trump thought he could rattle Clinton and knock her off balance -- he failed as well. Clinton may be one of the most dishonest political figures of recent times, but she’s never unprepared and she fabricates with elan. That’s a lawyer for you.

I want this cursed election to be over. I want Donald Trump to fade away and never be heard from again; I don’t want to see his offspring or his mail-order bride, and I don’t want to hear the Access Hollywood recording again. Trump was a pig from the jump, but the American media conglomerates quickly learned that covering The Donald’s every bigoted utterance, gaffe, falsehood and outrage was pure bank. So Trump got coverage and people alienated by politics-as-usual tuned in, and the risible field of GOP candidates fell by the wayside, one by one, until only Trump was left. The media played a critical role in creating Trump, and when it looked last week like his campaign would implode, they were all over him like white on rice. 

Even after Sunday’s debate some of our most renowned blabbers on corporate TV cling to the fantasy that Trump remains viable and the great American horserace has another month to run. Talk about trying to breathe life into a corpse. I doubt Trump will do the honorable thing and withdraw; slim chance of an egomaniacal narcissist doing that. No, I assume Trump will flail around for another three weeks, spouting gibberish and bizarre threats, anything to keep his diehard supporters interested.  You can bet that the corporate media will insist to the bitter end that the election is too close to call, and that Trump might still have a path to victory.

Better faux drama than no drama.

The System is the only clear winner in this terrible political year. By that I mean the two-party duopoly, the corporate media, the pollsters and campaign strategists, the PR flacks, and the rest of the parasites who profit from the disgraceful sham that is American democracy. The issues that threaten our very survival go unaddressed, and regardless of who wins the White House, property and profit will remain our nation’s primary organizing principles. The commons will continue to be sold to the most politically-connected bidder; the rich will become richer; our imperial wars will stumble on and may even intensify; the planet will send us even stronger warning signs that our time is running out. A President Trump would be a disaster, but let’s not kid ourselves – Clinton II will not be a stroll down the lane. Trump is dangerous because he’s clueless and reckless; Clinton is dangerous because she’s wedded to Wall Street banks, fossil fuel extractors, and the military-industrial complex.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

POEM: The Pentagon's Rabbit Hole

“Since 9/11 the United States has entered new territory, for we are in our fifteenth year of a government-proclaimed state of permanent war, an absolute war against ‘terrorism or evil.’” Bill Ayers, Demand the Impossible: A Radical Manifesto

Why aren’t Americans outraged by
15 years of continuous warfare?

Trillions of dollars, thousands of human lives
The standing professional army of the United States
Never sleeps.

Boots on the ground, drones in the air.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan.

The Establishment (with no skin in the fight)
Claims we are safer from the hordes
Who besiege us, threaten our freedom
And the American Way of Life.

No proof offered except more of the same,
And billions more of our national treasure sucked down
The Pentagon’s rabbit hole.

War undeclared and without end, what we used to call
A quagmire
Is now
Accepted as inevitable and necessary.

Human needs like healthcare, education, food, clean water,
Meaningful jobs, mass transit, bridges, roads, and breathable
Go begging.
We are told we can’t afford these things,
And to propose an end to our imperial madness
Is to be labeled unpatriotic, utopian or naive.
Just ask Dr. Jill Stein.
That’s my point.

Another world isn’t possible says the Establishment.
The indispensable nation must remain on the march,
Left, right, left, left, right, left
Hup, two, three, four

Armed to the teeth
We always come in peace
But leave behind
Mangled bodies
smoking ruins

And new enemies.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

No Savior

I read that during the first presidential debate Donald Trump declared himself fit for the Oval Office because he has always been a “winner.” A man could easily spend a month or more, even years, investigating Trump’s history as a businessman. I don’t have that kind of time or inclination. All along I’ve not taken Trump seriously, which is a mistake, I admit, because many political figures who appeared ridiculous in their respective nations were able to seize power. I still believe that Trump doesn’t want to be president -- he just wants to win the election.

Which I don’t think likely to happen. Yes, Hillary Clinton is a serial failure and queen of mendacity, but she is going to win the election, if only by a slim margin.

But getting back to the Donald...I think he is utterly emblematic of the neoliberal age that took off in earnest when Ronnie Reagan blamed all the nation’s woes on government bureaucrats and pointy-headed intellectuals and lazy welfare queens. Remember how Businessmen were glorified back in the 80’s, looked upon as intrepid pioneers who would deliver prosperity to all if only they could shrug off the government’s shackles. Profit became the Holy Grail and the “free market” the only route to get there. The Great American Sell-Off began, and Trump was in the front row, ready to capitalize. A new crop of robber barons extolled the free market while their lobbyists and lawyers and compliant politicians did everything in their power to serve up monopolies: defense, telecommunications, media, pharmaceuticals, insurance, finance. As time passed, the lexicon of the market crept into every aspect of American life. Privatize everything not tied down, went the mantra, bust unions, and ship jobs where labor is dirt cheap and workers disposable. This formula, and a constant litany of calls and legislation for lower taxes on the “producers” and “job creators” worked, transferring wealth upwards at a clip unseen since the Gilded Age, and crazier yet, despite decades of evidence that this system was a one-way street, the people continued to believe that capitalism was the only way American life could be organized.

The ironic thing about Trump is that, for all his self-proclaimed business prowess, he has wallowed in failure time and time again: casinos, Trump Airlines, Trump University. Trump is skilled at spectacle, at being the frontman, the bombastic talking head for whom nothing is too big or grand; the reality is much different, failures outnumber wins, but this has never deterred Trump from portraying himself as infallible, or from queuing up for tax breaks, bankruptcy protection, and other forms of government aid.

Same as the big banks back in 2008. By all the laws of the Market, the banks that risked and lost should have been allowed to fail. Isn’t the Market supposed to weed out the weak, the poor performers, the companies that can’t innovate, adapt, and thrive? Neoliberalism doesn’t work that way; business calls the tune and government dances. The wealthy and connected get protection, the poor and vulnerable get the Market’s bitter medicine.

It’s a racket, all legal, and 100 times better than anything the Mafia ever dreamed up.  

So, Donald Trump crows about not paying income taxes, says that makes him smart rather than a run-of-the-mill dick, and the fool has the nuts to make this boast before the entire world. That alone should have made his most devoted followers switch off the light, but maybe they haven’t realized that the joke is on them.

Here’s the harsh truth: a savior isn’t going to rise from the political duopoly.

We’re on our own.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

In The Octagon

“The Clintons and Barack Obama built their careers mastering this duplicity. They speak in words that reflect the concerns of the citizenry, while pushing through programs and legislation that mock those concerns.” Chris Hedges

It was 100 degrees at 3:00 p.m. in Santa Barbara on Monday. Oppressive heat that smacked me in the face when I walked outside my air-conditioned office. It’s the night of the title match, the Great Debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, a spectacle that is sure to further infantilize the public -- as if that were possible. Debate? Not in the classic sense of the word. Trump will spew, lie, claim that his outrageous statements are true; Clinton will try to wow viewers -- and overwhelm Trump -- with her command of policy; I refuse to watch the circus, not because I don’t care, I do -- I have two children, for God’s sakes -- but because I know that the American political duopoly is a fraud, Democracy as bad kabuki, and that neither party gives a shit about the needs of flesh and blood people; both parties stand for endless war and predatory capitalism.  

God damn it’s hot. The table on which my laptop sits is hot to the touch, and even though I am wearing headphones, I can hear Hillary’s voice in the background; my dear spouse is watching the show...I turn up the volume on Mr. John Coltrane to drown out the blather. Even if Donald Trump falls off the stage he will claim to have “won” the debate. The morning after, when Trump and Clinton are making the rounds of the network gabfests, Trump will say something like, “People are saying I won the debate.” People? What people, Donald?

I’d rather think about Vin Scully, the legendary baseball broadcaster, voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers for what feels like an eternity, the voice of my boyhood here in California. Vin is handing over his microphone, calling it a career. Scully was the link between the Dodgers past in Brooklyn, and their reincarnation in Los Angeles, and hearing his voice in the spring and summer meant that life was on schedule, unfolding as it should. Unlike so many contemporary announcers, Scully rarely pontificated on the state of the game or the psychological motivations of individual players -- he just called the game, one minute reciting averages, the next quoting Shakespeare…

Charles Osgood is another voice leaving the scene. My wife and I have watched Osgood’s Sunday Morning program on CBS for many years, enjoying the profiles of painters and musicians and inventors, the travelogues, Osgood’s wit and urbanity. Like Vin Scully, we are unlikely to see the likes of Charles Osgood any time soon.

And, finally, so long to Arnold Palmer, the revered golfer who had his own “army.” My dad was a big Arnold Palmer fan, and I can’t think about Palmer without thinking about my dad; in my mind’s eye I see my dad on the first tee at Muni, and although this was a long time ago, the vision is fresh. Palmer and Nicklaus and Player and Trevino and Watson and Weiskopf -- names that remind me of the summers I spent playing golf and running around Muni as if I owned the joint.

My wife looks apoplectic, so I assume Trump is off on a rant. I thank the Gods for John Coltrane.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

She's Not Trump

A persistent gloom hangs over Clinton campaign headquarters, and even strategists and advisors in the inner circle stumble around with red-rimmed eyes, muttering, “We should be leading by 20 points” to themselves. Along with the gloom there is a palpable undercurrent of panic. As the clock runs and election day nears the campaign begs senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to hit the trail and stump for Clinton in critical swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Bernie heads to Youngstown, a city hammered by deindustrialization, and speaks before a large crowd jammed into a high school gymnasium. Much of the “Feel the Bern” magic has evaporated now that Sanders has capitulated to the Clinton Machine, but there is still a mood of enthusiasm in the gym and Sanders receives a rousing ovation when he’s introduced.

Thank you, my friends. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be with you today, here in Youngstown, where in our storied industrial past good middle-class jobs were plentiful, and there was dignity in work. Of course, that’s all history. Now I know, and I’m sure you know, that Secretary Clinton has been an ardent fan of the kind of neoliberal policies that destroyed Youngstown, but at the end of the day the more important fact is that she’s not Trump.

Many of you here and across our great nation harbor doubts about Secretary Clinton’s honesty, which is ironic since she only lies half as much as her opponent. The Secretary may have lied through her teeth to Congress and the FBI about her use of a private, insecure e-mail server, she might have compromised sensitive information, but the Secretary is not Trump!

The corporate media that refused to cover my campaign has done its best to call Secretary Clinton’s relationship with the Clinton Foundation into question, even going so far as to suggest that there was a quid pro quo going on between Clinton’s State Department and the Foundation. I don’t know anything about that. The relationship between the Clinton Foundation and certain unsavory foreign elements looks damning, and maybe the Secretary used her position to open doors for Foundation donors, but would you rather have Donald Trump in the White House with his orange finger on the nuclear button? I don’t think so. The Secretary may have terminal ethical problems, but, now say it with me, “SHE’S NOT TRUMP!”

My friends, I know as well as you do that many political figures have come to this once proud city of Youngstown and promised to do something to alleviate the corrosive impact of deindustrialization. Standing before boarded up factories and shuttered machine shops they promised good jobs at good wages in exchange for your votes, and all they delivered was an Arby’s and a Wal-Mart. Because of the success of my campaign and our political revolution, Secretary Clinton has seen the light and amended many of her policy positions, and when she is elected president in November, I am confident she will turn her back on your hopes and dreams. But, who would you rather be betrayed by, Secretary Clinton or Donald Trump? The one thing that Hillary Clinton has going for her is, SHE’S...NOT...TRUMP.

I know this election is probably the strangest one in American history, a contest between two candidates despised by millions of voters. If I had been allowed to become the Democratic nominee this race would be over, but there’s no point in crying over spilled milk. Many of you will go to the polls in November and be hassled, forced to produce two forms of identification, a blood test, and God knows what else, but if you make it through the gauntlet, please cast your vote for Secretary Clinton. Hold your nose and close your eyes if you must, carry a plastic bag in case you need to vomit, but support the Secretary because, SHE’S NOT TRUMP. SHE’S NOT TRUMP. SHE’S NOT TRUMP.

Thank you and may God continue to bless America.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dry Rot

“Failed states—czarist Russia, the Weimar Republic, the former Yugoslavia—vomit up political monstrosities. We will be no different.” Chris Hedges

The state of North Dakota wants to arrest Amy Goodman
For doing her job;
Guess the folks up there haven’t heard about the 1st Amendment.

The Standing Rock Sioux are standing against the bulldozers,
Machines on one side, men and women on the other,
But the big media can’t be bothered to get off their lazy asses
And cover the story.

The Southside of Chicago is a war zone as hot as Beirut once was,
as dangerous as Sadr City or Aleppo,
But when violence is black-on-black,
America doesn’t care;
“Let them kill each other, then we’ll clean up the mess.”
Hopeless children armed to the teeth, fighting to the death
Over turf long since abandoned by those with the power to

Democracy in America withers on the vine by design. The more
Obedient, quiet and pacified the people are, the better the oligarchs
Like it.

Money is our God, war our narcotic.

Our politicians slash taxes on the wealthy and lob trillions
At the Pentagon
Decade after decade
Then blame the poor and the elderly for the budget deficit.

Morning in America means private opulence and public squalor.

The American Kool-Aid, brewed in the fevered imaginations of
Greedy capitalists, is that tax cuts and loopholes for the wealthy
Produce prosperity for everyone.
This is just one of the destructive lies that left
the bridge to the middle class in splinters.

Our brand of capitalism enriches the few and punishes the many,
ruins lives, makes men and women disposable, trashes the planet.

I pity you if you think Trump or Clinton is inclined to stop our slide; the
Dry rot in both parties is terminal, and more of the same means death.
The central banks
Of the world are out of options
When the next crash hits
2008 might look like a blip.