Saturday, December 10, 2016

Trump's Royal Scam

“But some of us are not content to have a gap in opportunity and income that drives a wedge between rich and poor, causing the rich to become ever more callous and complacent and the poor to become ever more wretched…” Alice Walker

With every Trump Cabinet or advisory appointment I become more convinced that we are in for an orgy of crony capitalism. As if the oligarchs needed more power than they have already, corporations, hedge fund managers, the finance, insurance and real estate industry, and resource extractors, will wade into the public sphere up to their chests, and squeeze even more private gain from public assets.

Trump is loading his Cabinet with millionaires and billionaires, characters like Trump himself, who believe the rich are better and more deserving that the rest of us. Because of this belief, the Trump Gang will hardly bother to disguise their intentions -- they will simply pillage our nation, impoverish our future, and exacerbate human caused climate disruption. Of this I have no doubt. We are in for at least two years of staggering rip-offs and ethical malfeasance.  

Nomi Prins, a writer who knows a few things about Wall Street, calls Trump’s Cabinet picks one of the great bait-and-switch jobs in US history. Like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama -- and Hillary if she had prevailed in the undemocratic electoral college -- Trump says one thing and does the exact opposite. For instance, he talked a lot about bringing jobs back to America, and then nominates for Secretary of Labor a corporatist hostile to workers in general and what’s left of organized labor in particular. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were masters of this bait and switch, gifted orators who made you think they understood your problems, pain, anguish and hopes, so much so that you hardly felt it when they plunged the dagger in your back.

Trump is more direct, less polished and urbane. Trump embodies the worst traits of the capitalist system -- an insatiable hunger for money and power, a hunger that recognizes no boundaries or limits, a hunger incapable of regulating itself.

Someone, I think it was Chris Hedges, said that regardless of who sits in the Oval Office our corporate system functions quite independently, pursues similar neoliberal policies designed to either protect the wealthy from taxes and regulations or transfer money to the wealthy. The challenge for the rest of us -- if we are to mount a credible resistance -- is to critique the system of power and wealth concentration, not the personalities the system vomits up. This will not be easy because the corporate media rarely -- very rarely -- allows any critique of American-style capitalism. Instead, capitalism is deemed to be the only possible system, as sacrosanct and unassailable as the notion of American exceptionalism.

The concentration of wealth into few hands over the past 40 years has strangled our democracy and rendered millions of people disposable. The Trump Gang will deepen our class and racial problems and immiserate even more of our citizens in misery.

Hold on, it’s going to be ugly and mean.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Restocking the Swamp

“When we look back on this sad, pathetic period in American history we will ask the questions all who have slid into despotism ask. Why were we asleep? How did we allow this to happen? Why didn’t we see it coming? Why didn’t we resist?” Chris Hedges

You knew, didn’t you, that Trump would surround himself with odious characters, hacks, and ciphers hostile to the very idea of government, privatizers who see government as a cash register? Trump campaigned on a vague promise to drain the DC swamp -- and now he is busy restocking it.

For what it’s worth, Trump lost the popular vote by a wide margin, so the carnival barker can’t claim a popular mandate -- not that he isn’t doing just that -- the fool went on an ill-fated “victory” tour, after all, the kind of empty spectacle he excels at, but if it wasn’t for our undemocratic, 18th century system, Trump wouldn’t be president-elect.

I mused on this blog a few months ago that maybe America deserved Donald Trump, that Trump was the logical result of our corrupt democracy and our equally corrupt institutions. Accountability is dead. Our leaders can invade other nations on false pretenses, torture prisoners, murder people, even American citizens, without charging them with crimes or affording them a shred of due process. We wage war on the poor and vulnerable. We try to do the impossible and make oligarchy and democracy work. We falsely believe that the hurt we put on others will never come back to haunt us. But is has, or will.

The oligarchs live in a parallel universe and play by a different set of rules. Laws that apply to you and me don’t apply to them. The man that rips-off taxpayers to the tune of millions walks away while the poor person who steals a loaf of bread experiences the full weight and power of the State.

Hard not to despair, harder still to accept that the highest office in our land, an office held by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, will very soon be occupied by Donald Trump. How we have declined.

I heard Chris Hedges say the other day in an interview that the last US president to fear the people was Richard Nixon; perhaps this is why some of Nixon’s policy positions sit to the left of Barack Obama. How far we have moved to the right.

Remember this about the American system: no matter who occupies the White House, Goldman Sachs always wins. Always.

Individually, we are toast; it is only when we act together that we have any agency.

Don’t go near the swamp after sundown.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

So Long, Fidel

"Citizens are encouraged to distrust their government and politicians; to concentrate upon their own interests; to begrudge their taxes; and to exchange active involvement for symbolic gratifications of patriotism, collective self-righteousness, and military prowess." Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Incorporated

For my entire life, Fidel Castro has been on the world stage. I was born the year that Fidel led the revolution that toppled the American-backed Batista regime. I remember seeing video clips of the American debacle at the Bay of Pigs, and watching file footage of Fidel, in his trademark green fatigues, haranguing large outdoor audiences; I remember believing what the American establishment told me -- that Castro was a vicious dictator, a menace to peace, justice, and freedom.

For half a century, Fidel Castro battled the Goliath that is the United States to an impasse. Overthrowing Castro was always a wet dream of the CIA and over the decades US operatives hatched many schemes against Fidel. All failed, of course, and Castro, to the consternation of the US establishment, would watch eleven presidents come and go.

As I got older, read more, learned more about US imperialism -- and witnessed US imperialism for myself -- the US position toward Cuba seemed ridiculous. Why did we maintain an economic embargo against Cuba long after the Soviet Union imploded and the Cold War ended? Why were we so terrified of this island nation and its leader? Ending this lame stance is one thing I will give Barack Obama credit for, although I fear what American-style capitalism will do to Cuba. The island nation is now ripe for conquest by the likes of McDonald’s and Taco Bell and Bank of America and Wells Fargo and AT&T and Verizon and WalMart. If anything can kill Cuba’s soul and render it bland and sterile, it will be American corporations.

Was Castro a strongman, a dictator who ruled Cuba with a heavy fist? Yes. He suppressed dissent, jailed rivals, did all those terrible things that dictators do. But, as is evident from the outpouring of emotion in Cuba, millions of Cubans loved Fidel, loved what he stood for, which was independence and sovereignty, particularly from the big bully to the north. Under Castro, the Cuban people were educated, and Cuba established a health care system that many in the world envied. For millions of people in the developing world, Castro and Cuba represented the hope that a small nation might chart its own course.

When the American corporate propaganda machine tries to downplay what Castro meant to people in Latin and South America and Africa, I remind myself that America is now a nation that has normalized torture, murder without due process, indefinite detention, massive surveillance of its own citizens, mass incarceration, and a brutal crackdown against whistleblowers and independent journalists, in short, all the despicable acts America once accused Castro of committing. Though our house is glass -- and much of it cracked -- we still throw stones.

Fidel has exited the stage; for some he will always be a dictator, for others, a liberator. History always depends on who tells the story.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Resistance and Resilience

“A year later, the white backlash had become an emotional electoral issue in California, Maryland and elsewhere. In several southern states men long regarded as political clowns had become governors or only narrowly missed election, their magic achieved with a witches’ brew of bigotry, prejudice, half-truths and whole lies.” Martin Luther King, Jr., writing a year after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act

I’m trying to ignore as much of the Donald Trump show as possible, refrain from going ballistic every time he announces another pick for a top advisor or Cabinet post; it was a foregone conclusion in my mind that Trump would surround himself with odious people -- most, if not all, of them card-carrying members of the political Establishment. Team Trump is going to look like a rogue's gallery of wing-nuts and whack-jobs.

What is to be done? How the hell should I know, I’m just one unarmed American trying to make his way in Fat City, pay the rent on time, and get the bill collectors from Cottage Hospital off our tails; I live with the fact that my children will struggle to get a foothold in the current version of America.

People of goodwill and sane leanings must resist Trump at every turn, in ways small and large; we shouldn’t normalize Trump as the corporate media does every day -- we should speak the truth, know the facts, and take whatever non-violent action we can; we should identify what we want our country to look like, how we want it to function, at home and abroad. For me it’s not complicated: justice is the centerpiece, followed by moderation. Political extremism hasn’t served us well.

Slowing climate disruption has to be a priority because we are running short of time. If we think our wars and destabilization efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere have produced a lot of refugees, just wait, there will be many more to come when the harsher effects of climate disruption hit. We need real investment in decent paying jobs and infrastructure, reasonably priced education and health care; we need to stop talking about “entitlements” as if they are a scourge -- Americans who have worked all their lives shouldn’t have to worry about Social Security and Medicare being there when needed, Paul Ryan be damned.

I want my country to be more humane, a hundred times less bellicose, and more honest with itself. Let’s admit that the War on Terror has failed and stop using it to justify every manner of abhorrent behavior; let’s get out of Afghanistan, once and for all, we’ve done enough damage in that ruined country. Let’s stop using NATO expansion to provoke Russia. Let’s shrink our military footprint around the world, pack up and get out of Japan and Germany and Italy and Turkey. Let’s stop paying insane amounts of money for armaments. Let’s drop Obama’s dumb scheme to modernize our nuclear weapons. Let’s close Guantanamo.

In the immediate future we will need wisdom as well as courage, and my humble suggestion to my countrymen and women is that we look to our African American brothers and sisters, living and dead, for inspiration. Who understands resistance and resilience more completely than African Americans? So, let’s look to WEB Dubois, Richard Wright, Ida B. Wells, Dr. King, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Isabel Wilkerson, Michelle Alexander, Cornel West, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, to name just a few African American thinkers, artists, and activists that can help us move ahead.

This isn’t a time to sound retreat and flee; this is a time to fight -- in whatever way each of us can -- for justice. The stakes are sky high.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Moon Over Trumpland

“A society in terminal decline often retreats into magical thinking.” Chris Hedges

I’m still trying to sort out what the election of Donald Trump means, how it happened, and what might lie ahead for the “indispensable nation.” I’ve been reading articles, opinion pieces, analysis of the returns -- how Clinton did with this group or that group (seems she sucked when it came to white females and didn’t do all that well with Hispanics, either).

I still feel slightly off balance as if suffering from vertigo, and my thoughts pingpong from despair to resignation to resistance; my email in-box is full of messages asking for money or issuing dire warnings. I’m glad people are in the streets, protesting Trump’s election, because if Hillary had won the electoral college (that quirky anti-democratic feature of our democracy) but lost the popular vote, Trump supporters would be out in the streets, possibly armed.

And I’m also amused by the talking heads and so-called liberal commentators who are contorting themselves to explain Hillary’s loss: it was the Russians, Jill Stein, James Comey, racist whites, white men, and so on, everybody but the corrupt Democratic Party apparatus, which shoved Hillary down our throats, offering nothing more exciting than maintenance of the failed status quo.

I’m also recalling the aftermath of Barack Obama’s election in 2008, and how Republicans behaved. Today Trump calls for unity, and Obama and Hillary counsel us to give the president-elect a chance, but no such pass was given to our first black president. Remember those Tea Party rallies where Obama was burned in effigy, and Donald Trump himself crowing that Obama wasn’t born in the Unites States, and fanning that flame for years? And Mitch McConnell vowing to do everything in his power to make Obama a single term president?

During the campaign, Obama and Clinton told us that Trump was dangerously unhinged -- now they ask us to give him a chance. So, basically, all the racist, obnoxious, abhorrent and outrageous statements Trump made on his path to the Oval Office are hereby wiped from the slate?

I guess words are not going to matter in Trumpland.

Something else just occurred to me: during the primaries when it looked more and more likely that Trump would win the GOP nomination, the press was full of stories about the disintegration of the GOP, how it was finished as a party. Let’s see. The GOP now controls the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, plus a majority of governorships. So much for decline. Seems to me that the Democrats are the party in decline, a logical result of decades of slavish adherence to neoliberal economic policies that have battered the poor and the middle class. And who were the main proponents of those neoliberal, corporate-friendly policies? Bill and Hillary Clinton, of course.

I think this thought from Jeffrey St. Clair of Counterpunch is on target: “I think Hillary lost because she was on the wrong side of the class war. From the beginning of their political careers, the Clintons have been on the side of the one-percent against the rest of us, regardless of gender or skin color. Her allegiance to Wall Street finally blew up in her face.”

Here’s a question that has been bouncing around inside my head. If Donald Trump succeeds in making America great again, what will America look like?”

Friday, November 11, 2016


“Congratulations are not in order. Donald Trump's bigotry, his heinous treatment of women, his authoritarian posturing, his hatred of free speech, and his stupendous ignorance are more than sufficient to make him a figure worthy of unqualified contempt — and now he is president of the United States.” Jake Johnson

Trump won. The postmortems are still going on. How did it happen, why? The DNC will never admit that they got it all wrong; the Clinton gang will also never admit their culpability in one of the greatest debacles in US history.

The only objective for the Clinton gang now is to erase this defeat from memory.

How ironic that Donald Trump, no friend of labor, is now the beacon of hope for America’s working class – at least those with pale skins.

In a year of change, the Democrats backed the Paragon of the Status Quo.

For the record: Clinton did narrowly win the popular vote.

For the record: Trump won more states, all of the south, and more electoral votes, but he doesn’t have a mandate.

Watch who Trump selects for his Cabinet and key advisory positions because it’s likely to be a horror show.

Need to do something? Donate what money you can spare  to independent media outlets like Democracy Now, Truthdig and Truthout, CounterPunch, or Common Dreams. We need honest, curious, fierce journalism now more than ever.

I got it as wrong as many of the professional pundits and pollsters. I thought that, come Election Day, people would hold their noses and vote for Clinton. I didn’t give Trump a chance because in my mind his election was unthinkable. I forgot that elections are driven by emotion, not intellect or reason; Trump’s message appealed on an emotional level to people who have been hammered by neoliberal economic policies, and that Hillary Clinton, more than any other person except her husband, is the living embodiment of those policies.

Stock prices of defense contractors and private prison operators are up. What does this imply? That our wars will continue under Trump, and that Trump’s authoritarian bent might be a boon for the prison industry? Maybe we can start locking up dissenters, anyone that Newt Gingrich considers a threat to America.

It feels as if a pall has descended over much of the nation. After running a divisive campaign, Trump now claims to be a uniter, the man who will heal our wounds and bring us together. Isn’t this akin to a man who beats his wife offering her an ice pack after he beats her?

Although dark clouds mass on the horizon, this might be the moment when social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, the Fight-for-$15, sensible immigration reform, and economic and climate justice join forces in a united front. Most people active in these movements know that waiting, or hoping, for the Democratic Party to do something is utterly hopeless. The party of liberal elites needs a complete overhaul -- and very soon.

The Clinton campaign braintrust made so many errors, so many incorrect assumptions, and one of the most glaring was the selection of Tim Kaine, one of the blandest corporate Democrats around; he was a big help, wasn’t he?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Day After the End of the World

OK, like many Americans today, I’m wondering what the hell happened yesterday, and what does it mean for the near future, at least four years of a Donald Trump presidency, and with a GOP House and Senate for a minimum of two of those years. The wildest wet dreams of the American right might be flung at the wall just to see what will stick. And the only defense the rest of us have is the Democratic Party -- impotent, timid, and devoid of ideas.

I watched Democracy Now for three hours last night, as one state after another went for Trump, but I was still hopeful that Trump would be defeated. Not, mind you, because I supported Hillary Clinton -- I voted for Jill Stein -- but because I held to the belief that my fellow Americans were not so stupid as to cast their votes for a buffoon. By the time I called it a night and went to bed, the election was undecided, but around 12:30 a.m., my wife woke me to tell me that Trump had won 279 electoral votes and the election.

I was awake for the next couple of hours, feeling sick to my stomach. When I woke this morning I thought perhaps that I had dreamed that Trump had won, but then I checked my iPhone and knew that it was no dream.

Obviously, I gave my fellow citizens too much credit. I have said before, many times, that the American electorate is intellectually challenged, easily duped, fooled, hoodwinked, led around by their noses -- a typical west coast liberal attitude to which I plead guilty. For months I never took Donald Trump seriously, assuming he would self-implode, which he did, but the shocking thing is that it didn’t make a damn bit of difference. Why?

That’s the question, isn’t it?

Over the past two years, ever since Trump declared his candidacy, the American corporate media has given the Great Buffoon a free pass to say whatever outrageous, obnoxious and false thing that popped into his orange head. He could threaten to deport millions, build a wall along the US-Mexican border -- a ridiculous idea -- offend women, the disabled, refuse to release his income tax returns, and the lapdog corporate media ate it up and let it roll, knowing that Trump brought eyeballs to screens, a virtual money machine for the networks.

Who cared if Trump ranted like a mental patient; he was money in the morning, money at night.

I have no sympathy for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party because they got the match-up they wanted, Hillary vs. Trump, and they got beat down. All the machinations by the Clinton crowd, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Donna Brazile, John Podesta, and all the rest of the tried and true apparatchiks, to manipulate the primary process and, first, keep Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination, and, second, make sure Hillary faced Trump, exploded in their arrogant, elite faces. The so-called most qualified presidential candidate in the history of the world lost to a fact-challenged, pussy-grabbing, Muslim-baiting dickhead.

Hillary and Bill and Chelsea and every motherfucking member of the Clinton entourage and the Clinton machine should slink out of town, take a straight razor, and do themselves in, hari-kiri style.  

If the Democratic primary had been waged on a level playing field, Bernie Sanders would have defeated Clinton handily, and gone on to thump Donald Trump. Hillary’s people knew this as sure as the sun rises and sets, which is why they had no choice but to resort to cheating to insure Hillary won.  

The Clinton coronation never came to pass, and never will; the only bright light in this otherwise nightmare landscape is that we have seen the last of the Clintons -- they are finished, kaput, bundled off the national stage, free now to devote their remaining time on earth to laundering money through the Clinton Foundation, that cesspool of corruption.

Goodbye you tone deaf neoliberal Wall Street loving whores; your crimes are too numerous to recite, but you, as much as anyone, are guilty of murdering the American middle class.  

Although it’s true and I must accept it, I cannot believe that the face of my country for the next four years will be that of Donald Trump. The empire is rotten from within, we are a banana republic with a strong army…as one unarmed white male, I apologize to the world in advance. I’m sorry my country is full of racist dolts.

Last night an acquaintance asked what the late Charles Bukowski would do in this historic moment, and I said that Buk would likely lock his front door, pour another glass of German wine, and write a couple of killer poems.

The world may be upside down, but, promise or curse, it spins on anyway.