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.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Dead Heat: After Midnight with Bill and Hillary

It’s past midnight. The go-fers, minders and advisors -- including Henry Kissinger -- have left the suite at the Waldorf, and Bill and Hillary Clinton are alone.

Suddenly, Hillary begins to weep uncontrollably. She grabs a crystal vase from an end table and makes like she’s going to heave it through the window.  

“Whoa now, baby,” Bill says, though he backs up a couple of steps in case Hillary decides to chuck the vase at him. “Hil, let’s talk this out. What’s the matter, honey?”

“What’s the matter? What’s the matter? Are you serious? We’re dead even in the polls, that’s what’s the matter. I’m dead even with DONALD-FUCKING-TRUMP, the biggest buffoon in the history of American politics.”

“Look, these are early polls, Hil, very early, and for the most part meaningless.”

Hillary walks to the window and stares down at the street below. A siren wails in the distance. “I should be leading by 20 points. How can I be dead even with that meathead? It makes no sense whatsoever. He’s an idiot. He makes shit up as he goes along. He lies.”

“Hil, you know as well as I do that polls aren’t always accurate. Election day is what, nine weeks from now?”

Hillary says nothing.

“You don’t think Trump’s still going to be standing by Election day, do you? He’s going to implode, honey, split wide open like ol’ Humpty Dumpty.”

“The electorate is full of morons,” Hillary spits. “Fucking morons! I’m Hillary Rodham Clinton! This can’t be happening.”

“Don’t worry about the voters,” says Bill, glad that the window Hillary is standing next to doesn’t open. “When this is all said and done you’re going to be President of the United States. Our friends over on Wall Street love you, the Saudis love you, the generals and defense industry CEO’s can’t throw enough money at you…”

“But the PEOPLE hate me!” Hillary screams, throwing herself on the sofa; her body convulses. Bill hasn’t seen his wife this distraught since the Lewinsky scandal; the memory makes him shudder. He knows he’s lucky that his testicles are still attached.

Hillary pounds the sofa with her fists. “I want to be loved by the people,” she croaks between sobs. “ Is that too much to ask? After all I’ve given to this country, is it too much to ask?”

Before Bill can answer Hillary stands up and wipes the tears from her face. “I beat that old Jew fair and square, didn’t I? I won the nomination because I’m the best candidate and I’m going to make history as the first female president of this great country. The people will learn to love me, won’t they?”

“Yes,” Bill says, “I’m positive they will. C’mon, baby, why don’t you get some sleep.”

Bill drapes his arm across Hillary’s shoulders and leads her to the bedroom, helps her undress and get into bed. He pulls the covers up to her chin and kisses her on the forehead. “Good night, Madam President.”

Bill sits in the chair beside the bed until his wife is asleep, then goes into the other room and stands by the window. He takes his phone from his pocket and taps in a number. “Hey, baby, how ya’ doing? Do me a favor and unwrap that cigar I gave you last week.”

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Still Life With Beer Bottle

“Tenure is short in the fast lane. Julius Caesar was dead after five years at the top, and the hideous pervert Caligula was gone just short of four, like a one-term U.S. president.” Hunter S. Thompson, from Generation of Swine

In early September my daughter will turn 15 and my son 20. My Virgo children, markers of my years. How did we get here? Plenty of twists and turns in this road, more than a few potholes to knock our alignment out of whack, an off-ramp or two that led to an unfinished bridge over a dry riverbed. I can’t help but look back and wonder what I’ve done, what I’m doing, and what it all means.

If you have to ask yourself if you are happy, are you?

I think of all the books I will never read and the places I will never see; both are numerous. I want to travel to Italy and Spain and France, the Czech Republic and Istanbul, but travel requires money and time and I’m a working stiff, dependent on the monthly paycheck, like so many in this nickel and dime USA, where peasants are on the hook for outrageous costs for our kids’ education and the pills we need to remain healthy. I’ve stood witness to the death of the American Dream and the deliberate strangling of the Middle Class, lived through Nixon and Carter and Reagan and Bush I and his demented offspring and the frenzied corporate giveaway of the Clinton years.

And Obama, friend of the oligarchs, the world’s biggest arms merchant. President Drone. Evidence? I don’t need no damn evidence, reasonable suspicion is all I need. Bang, you’re dead. Sorry about your wife and son and nephew and mother-in-law. The science of murder is unfortunately inexact.

A long downward slide toward the abyss where a smiling Hillary Clinton waits with a hand-lettered sign that says, “Join Me.” No way sister, I’d rather cannonball down than stand on the rim with you. Go swindle someone else with your BS tales.

I sit on my rented deck with a cold bottle of Guinness, green treetops on three sides, a slight breeze; the bottle sweats. Finches and wrens titter and flit among the branches. Overhead there is blue sky streaked with wispy clouds. My daughter is at rehearsal for the Fall show at the high school, my son is working at a restaurant in the trendy Funk Zone, and my wife is on her way home from the SB Independent. I should read but am tired after a long day and it feels good to sit back and close my eyes, let my mind wander back over time and place. I have a sense of peace, but no sooner do I realize this when I wonder when it will end. Because it will, because it must, because this is the way of life.

Why is it that the longer I live the less I feel I know? I am humbled by my ignorance.

Lines blur, colors fade, certainty is dangerous; this seems significant, to me anyway, but the finches and the wrens could care less.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

August - Santa Barbara County

North of Santa Barbara a wildfire burns and a plume of smoke is visible from the city. Winds are pushing the fire east, into the dry backcountry. The fire hasn’t discouraged the tourist trade, as evidenced by the crowds sipping wine in the so-called “Funk Zone” and a jam-packed 101 southbound.  

My daughter begins 10th grade tomorrow, and she is apprehensive, not about her classes but about her wardrobe. After two days of shopping with her mother, and the expenditure of a minor fortune, the girl announces that she is ready. Tomorrow morning will be a struggle. After weeks of sleeping past 10:00 a.m., my daughter will be roused from sleep by her iPhone, and trudge droopy-eyed to the kitchen, where, without opening her eyes, she will fill a bowl with rice krispies and milk. I know better than to talk to her in the morning. She tells me that she hates school, a sentiment which cuts me, given that I have spent the last 17 years working for the local school district. My aspirations for her are modest -- that she learn to think critically and challenge what she is told to take for granted, and that she enjoy learning for the rest of her life.

I am an introvert by nature, and prefer small gatherings to large ones; I need to spend a good deal of time alone, and I do, particularly in the early morning, before the sun rises and my family wakes. I read, scribble in my notebook, sip coffee, listen to the birds. As I get older I think about mortality, how life can be so fragile, so easily upended by a single encounter or the caprice of chance. I scan the news, read, with sinking heart, about the flooding in Louisiana or the war in Syria; I imagine brown water rising to the roof line of a house; I imagine a refugee family trying to decide what to take and what to leave behind. Life can change course in the blink of an eye. I can’t protect my children from this harsh fact.

I recognize that I am getting older, crankier, more judgmental, because the young women who live across the driveway from us annoy me no end with their loud voices, vacuous conversations, off-key singing. Their names are Chloe and Tiffany and Kira, but I’m not sure which one is which. One of them drives a black Audi. People come and go over there, a parade of faces, cars, voices.

John Coltrane playing, the miracle of digital music, everything at one’s fingertips, with almost no interval between desire and fulfillment. Amazon delivers happiness, even on Sundays; but no day is sacred in a capitalist society. With the rising sun comes another opportunity to be sold, to buy, to acquire. Technology without limits is a deal with the Devil, all of us down at the crossroads on our knees, our heads bowed, ready to pay a very dear price for ephemeral happiness.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Wrong Way On A One-Way Street

“I think Trump will be a neofascist catastrophe and Clinton will be a neoliberal disaster.” Dr. Cornel West
Fiesta time again on the Platinum Coast. Later tonight, when the festivities officially kick off, the streets will be crowded with tourists; white people who know little about Spanish colonialism will holler Viva la Fiesta! at the top of their lungs. Tourists in search of the Old Mission, the County Courthouse, and De La Guerra plaza will become lost and drive their rental cars the wrong way on one-way streets. Locals will say they have seen it all before.
The Solstice parade, 4th of July fireworks, and Fiesta make up the holy trinity of Santa Barbara’s summer. Many locals are indifferent to these spectacles and hunker down as far away from them as possible, happy to let the city preen, revel in its unique beauty, and emerge only when the last drunk has stumbled home.
For a local boy like me Fiesta is a nuisance but this year it will help distract me from the circus that is our presidential election. Trump or Clinton – the choice that isn’t a choice at all. The political duopoly, Democrats and Republicans, still rule the roost, make the rules, and keep third parties marginalized.
Tweedledee and Tweedledum, same as always. Democracy as farce.
The clips of the Democratic Convention that I saw were depressing, not because Hillary spoke from both sides of her mouth – I expected that – but because Democrats have enthusiastically embraced War and Imperialism and blind Patriotism. Hillary said the US has the most powerful military force in the world, which is true, and we should, given that over half of the federal budget is devoted to our military. No other nation is as devoted to its military as the United States. We fawn over retired generals and pay constant lip service to our brave men and women in uniform. But if we are so powerful why are we still in Afghanistan after 15 years of military operations? Why are we once again bombing Libya? These questions are lost in the chants of USA! USA! USA!
We wage war on a tactic and wonder why we can’t win. Or perhaps the truth is that we know we can’t win, ever, nor can we stand down, so we keep doing the same things and getting the same results. That’s the definition of insanity, right?
So neither party represents the interests of working stiffs, environmentalists, or folks who want the US to stop bombing other countries. Trump and Pence will most likely implode between now and Election Day, leaving us with neoliberal Hillary and her puppet, Tim Kaine. What a pathetic state of affairs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see a woman earn the nomination, it’s high time that barrier be broken, but Clinton is the wrong woman; she’s not nearly as competent as corporate media make her out to be, and I don’t see her doing much beyond maintaining the status quo, which is great for Wall Street banks, defense and intelligence contractors, resource extractors, polluters, and income inequality.
And I’m almost positive that Hillary will get us into an ugly confrontation with Russia.
Hillary’s only appeal, beyond her gender, is that she’s not Donald Trump. Many voters will cast a vote for Clinton for this reason alone, a vote against rather than a vote for.
But hey, America is still the greatest country on earth, isn’t it? Generous, kind, fair, just, trustworthy, resolute, and steadfast. We believe our own BS. When we bomb you it’s because we are righteous.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tone Deaf

“The prevailing quality of life in America -- by any accepted methods of measuring -- was inarguably freer and more politically open under Nixon than it is today…” Hunter S. Thompson, 2002.

Where to begin? Like the scene in Chicago, the area around the site of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia is awash in temporary fencing, barricades, and police, all dedicated to keeping thousands of protesters from injecting a dose of reality into this week of political fantasy. How Orwellian when peaceful protesters are penned in blocks away from the convention hall in what are called “ free speech zones.” Free speech that the powerful do not have to hear or see or respond to.

Looks like Bernie Sanders was right all along -- the Democratic National Committee was actively sabotaging his upstart campaign from the get-go, using the sort of tricks that are normally reserved for the opposition party. The revelations (thank you Wikileaks) show a few things. First, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a hack who would do anything for her pal Hillary Clinton. Second, the big-shots in the DNC obviously knew that Hillary would not win a contest played on a level field; cheating and foul play were necessary to push Hillary over the top, because her campaign sure as hell failed to generate much organic enthusiasm.

But even with all the DNC’s shenanigans on Clinton’s behalf, the Sanders campaign made Clinton work. What does this tell us? That there is a reason Donald Trump is today leading in the polls. Now, Clinton will get the usual jump coming out of the Convention, but even so, voters east, west, north and south will still view her unfavorably, as a prevaricator and liar, and one who, like the fictional Mafioso Don Corleone, rewards loyalty. Instead of kicking Wasserman Schultz to the curb, Clinton makes Wasserman Schultz the honorary chair of her campaign.  

Talk about tone deaf and oblivious to voter perceptions. But we knew that when Clinton tapped Tim Kaine to be her sidekick; that was like flipping the bird to Bernie supporters with one of those oversized foam fingers. Clinton chose a nice, safe corporate clone who believes in the fairy tale of “free” trade and “clean” coal. Talk about one step up and two back. Clinton is so insulated in her DC/NYC bubble among the political and financial elites that she really has no clue what her actions look like to those of us out here in the real world.

Clinton’s arrogance is breathtaking, and it’s that total disdain for ordinary citizens that is giving Trump buoyancy. As filmmaker Michael Moore recently wrote, a lot of people in this country are fed up with politicians of both parties, fed up with the influence of bankers and hedge fund managers and resource extractors, fed up with the way the middle class is being ground to dust. Now, rich, white, demagogic Donald Trump is a strange champion for the downtrodden middle class -- but when Trump hammers bankers and free traders and pols, he’s speaking a language struggling people relate to; all the promises of the Bush’s, the Obama’s and the Clinton’s haven’t amounted to shit, so why not take a ride on the Trump express and lob a Molotov cocktail at the elites?

Hillary Clinton is damn lucky the election isn’t tomorrow. You can bet she will not receive the same reception on Thursday night that Bernie got on Monday. When the camera panned to where Bill Clinton was sitting you could see that he understood this, too. Hillary doesn’t engender the love that Bernie does -- she wants it, terribly, but it’s not who she is.