Sunday, June 4, 2017

Disgruntled Dictators And The Assholes Who Love Them

For decades experts have explained, over and over, that the science of climate change is incontrovertible, the consequences of blindly sticking with fossil fuels is catastrophic while the costs of inaction are far higher than switching to a low-emissions economy.
But these facts have had no impact on assholes, who cling to a worldview where they find “alternative facts”, where fossil fuels are erroneously believed to be the only path to prosperity. In this fantasy, the mounting environmental and economic evidence to the contrary is merely a kind of dastardly plot.

In Australia,  former PM, Tony Abbott’s economic adviser Maurice Newman believed climate change was invented by the United Nations to hook unsuspecting nations into some 'new world order' which would end  “capitalism and freedom”.
In the US, Donald Trump claims climate science is a “hoax” propagated by the Chinese to undermine the US while the rest of the world rolls around laughing. Trump's idiotic decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord is a major victory for assholes. If anything of a positive nature can be associated with this moronic event, it may just push the politicians, scientists, business leaders and economists; who have grown weary from all these years of talking to the hand to unite and double the efforts before a point of no return is reached. It may galvanize activists and voters to respond. Let's hope so, because now it is clearer than ever that the economic interests Trump claims to defend can only be served by acting on global warming. It is way past time to speak some more loud, blunt truth to arguments this stupid.

To make the ridiculous case that abandoning Paris was good for the US economy, Trump didn’t just have to ignore science, but also the pleading of the US business community he pretends to defend – the 630 business leaders who wrote to him in January demanding that he keep Barack Obama’s climate plan and stick with the Paris deal, and the long list of businesses and business leaders who have attacked his decision, including the chief executives of Tesla, Goldman Sachs and Disney and companies including Nike, BP, IBM, Apple, Google, Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Adobe, Morgan Stanley, Unilever and Mars. The sad truth is, he has clear evidence that renewable energy jobs in the US are booming and  his ill-considered campaign promises on coal industry jobs are absurd and impossible. The contentious job figures he advanced to make his case for abandoning Paris came from one study by NERA, an economic consulting firm ranked 37th which made some highly questionable assumptions to reach its conclusions, including that it admits it did “not take into account potential benefits from avoided emissions or economic gains from green energy industies”. This is like suggesting one shouldn't get an education because it costs money, while not revealing the economic benefit of having an education.

In the real-world, evidence is very different.  In the past 3 years alone, in the U.S. the increase in employment in solar energy companies is more than double the total jobs in the coal industry, which inevitably will decline even further as demand continues to diminish. Fewer and fewer communities condone coal burning power plants regardless of what Trump says or does. He may as well promise to get people jobs as steam train drivers...there's not realistically much demand, and if you ARE going to invest in trains, (actually a great idea) why wouldn't you utilize the most efficient modern designs that are available as opposed to designs from the 1800s? Why wouldn't you use the frictionless magnetic tracks? Why opt for a 35 mph inefficient engine over one that can travel 200 mph and uses little energy? Answer: No sane person would.  With this act, Trump absolutely cemented his place in history as the absolute worst president of the US ever. No one else even comes within miles of this chicanery.

If you searched for "asshole" on Twitter, @realDonaldTrump is the first thing that popped up. In fact, Donald Trump's account was the first thing that displayed when you searched the word fascist, bigot, racist, or asshole on Twitter until recently.  Those results were driven by a search algorithm. Twitter responded to complaints from the White House by manually removing those links. But face it, one would have to be a Grade-A Jumbo asshole if even a computer algorithm can see it.
All joking aside, you only have to watch Trump for a minute or so to understand he's a master A-hole. No surprise, as all totalitarians are masters of assholery. It's in the DNA of all autocrats.

But how does such a major-league asshole like Trump actually become president? There's only one answer, and it should worry all decent people. Nearly half the voting public are assholes too.This is the problem that truly vexes me and decent people everywhere. While it's unlikely Trump will finish his term, (but even if he does, he WILL be gone), the people who voted for him will not be.
Without exception, all of Trump’s hard-core supporters are real assholes because they admire a major asshole. Die-hard Trump supporters are almost all identity Republicans, who are assholes because intransigent adherence to a "philosophy" of government based on greed, selfishness, belligerence, and winning power at any cost is certainly something only an asshole would like.
That's about 35% of voters.
Those who made up the difference that got Trump to 47% of the vote—barely enough to win the electoral college on technicality—are also assholes. There is no way they could miss the fact that Trump was a flaming asshole throughout the election process—but they voted for him anyway.
It doesn't matter what the reason was—whether it was despair, misogyny, or anarchism that drove them to make the mark near Trump's name. The point is that they were willing to put the lives of their fellow citizens, and indeed the fate of the world in the hands of an unstable, vicious, ignoramus.
That is a complete asshole move, whatever the motive.
So the vexing question is: Can America survive with so many assholes among its citizens?
The short answer is No.

Asshole-Americans tend to be selfish, arrogant, devoid of introspection, belligerent, tyrannical, grievance-filled, bullying, self-justifying, boorish, angry, incapable of self criticism , vulgar, fearful, and ultimately delusional people.
Watch any film of a Trump campaign rally and you'll see them acting out these traits.
(If you voted for Trump and don’t see yourself as having those tendencies, look in the mirror more closely. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll find at least one.)
If you were to sum up that list of attributes in one word that relates to politics, it would be anti-social. Assholes hate government because they are anti-social. They don't care about anyone but themselves.
They have no desire to work together to solve problems.
They dislike anyone who isn't like them, and that's a death-wish for any civil society.

Is there any cause for hope to exist? I wish I could tell you yes, but the truth is it's only a "maybe".
It may not be possible to reach these assholes before they remove the last means of affecting public policy. How might we turn the horrendous situation we are now facing around?
This situation in which assholes, even though they are still a minority, hold all the reins of power?
Time is running out,  they are working to remove entirely civilization's last means of controlling them—the vote. Assholes have already made great strides in preventing decent and disadvantaged people from voting. They will go even further now that there is no force to stop them from closing polling places, passing extremely restrictive voting hurdles into law, and pumping money into disinformation campaigns.

The window is closing. The last remaining chance to escape from becoming a totalitarian neo-fascist state is the 2018 midterm elections. There were about 24 million young people who didn't vote in 2016. If only half of them would come out in 2018 to vote against assholes—especially those who live in red counties that went for Trump—their votes would swamp even the most robust Asshole-American turnout. Keep in mind, these assholes only got to 47% with the help of people who are not die-hard assholes—people who, for some reason, imagined that electing a major asshole wouldn't destroy us all. If some of them realize their error of judgment and vote like the decent citizens they probably are at heart, perhaps...maybe—despite all odds—we can put a stop to Trump's assholery by removing asshole control of the House of Representatives. Having one check on Trump's powers would be enough.
This is about the only hope there is for the US as we have known it. Maybe humankind itself.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Make America Covfefe Again

Trump is a moron.
Americans managed to elect a functionally illiterate president who knows very little about anything.
Case in point, having returned from his insult tour of Europe, at 12:03 5/31/17 -  barricaded in a room with several bags of McDonalds and self-pity in hand, Trump addresses his 31 million twitter followers with this...

As of this moment it's been posted for over 4 attempt made by the nitwit in chief, or the incompetent lying boneheads he surrounds himself with to remove or change the ominous tweet.

Sean Spicer later will no doubt tell beleaguered reporters "Not only is covfefe a word, it's the greatest word ever uttered."  While the White House spokeswomen will book themselves on cable news outlets claiming "Of course is real word. It was coined during the Bowling Green Massacre!"

While this administration may be a gift from the gods to comedy, it is testing the bounds of any reasonable human being's ability to survive with any semblance of functional cerebral cortex intact.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Understanding The Internal Cancer Of The Politics Of Cowardice

 The lamentable politics of cowardice have a stranglehold on western civilization and we must recognize that the end result is that not only do we destroy who we are, what we value, and what we aspire to become; but we promote terrorism by making it's acts absolutely successful. A small group of extremists can literally destroy a nation, or nations; by flying a hijacked plane into a building.
They can observe that nation literally self destruct in reactionary actions that ultimately strip it of it's identity, it's character, and it's freedoms. The knee jerk reactions may seem to be "prudent" or in the interest of security...but they are cowardly and "reptile brained" in the end. Security is always an illusion, and it's an illusion that can not be bought with the currency of  tyranny, authoritarianism, or submission to being dominated. The world needs to understand that it's tragic turn towards nativism, the relinquishing of hard won freedoms and rights, nor the embracing of  despotic anti-democratic autocracy will not make the world "safe. It is quite the contrary. The transformation of free & just societies into supremacist police states is literally a reward rather than a deterrent for extremists. It teaches them terrorism works very effectively. One brainwashed zealot randomly shooting up a public place can transform entire nations from bastions of fairness and freedom into hegemonic falangists and principled egalitarians into chaotic reactionaries willing to trash everything they claim to hold dear and value. This is the point of acts of terror. And largely people seem inclined to give them exactly what they want. The destruction of western democracy.

    It isn't just America, the rise of reactionary fascism is every bit as present in the Netherlands (once the most liberal open society on the planet), France, England, and many other places that were once beacons of social democracy. France's Marine Le Pen expelled her own dad from the National Front, a far right wing party whose policy is against immigration. Add to this Italy's recent embrace of  Beppe Grillo, a comedian turned far right politician.  They are on their own, mini versions of Trump.  AfG, (Alternative for Germany) is an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim far right wing fascist party led by Frauke Petry. Their stand is to be able to shoot migrants within German borders. They are gaining in influence, the direction in which France and Italy move could well influence the vote in Germany in that curious phenomenon which can be called competitive nationalism. The last time that happened in the Western Europe was in the 1930s. I won't say know what happened. These are fringe movements... but so was Hitler in 1928. Speaking of 1928, the last time the US went GOP for the White House, Senate and the House of Reps was 1928. They met with the Great Depression in 1929 and of course the rise of fascism.  Fast forward to 2016 and again the US has gone Republican in the White House, Senate and the House. Oops. If Trump bungles awfully, which is frankly very likely and US heads into a deep recession, it could impact world economics and it is here that the weakness of centrist parties would  crumble in Western Europe.
Even in Greece, Neofascism is on the rise.
What can we do? Nothing. Really... nothing would be a far better policy than knee jerk reactions. Look at what happened when for whatever purpose the US and some of it's allies invaded the wrong country...Iraq. As a result, aside from lives lost and treasury looted; the entire region was destabilized, extremists had a boom in recruiting, refugees flooding other nations led directly to Isis and the stressing of Europe's social safety nets. The flood of immigration led directly to the rise of radical right wing autocrats selling native supremacy. Not only did hucksters of long rejected bronze age ideas become "viable" candidates, but they were actually elected.  All these things happened because of the ill considered asinine reactionary response to a terror attack initiated by 20-100 people.  Looking at this with objectivity, if you want to change the world, what is the most effective way to do it? I for one do not like the answer. And neither should you.

We very well could see every influential EU member tilt far right depending on how Italy and France tilt. The Netherlands, Turkey, and India are already skewed on the right. Blaming all of this on racism/Islamophbia doesn’t make sense (though it is one part). In the U.S., the Rust Belt voted for Barrack Hussein Obama in 2008 and 2012. A black man with a Muslim name. It’s gone to Trump now. Perhaps you can attribute it to sexism. That doesn’t however explain it fully.
The Rust Belt’s economics was at play. 
In what was once the Manufacturing Hub of  the USA recession corroded jobs
and standards of living plummeted
. Detroit is quite literally in a state of decay.
Look at the wage ratio of CEOs to workers in USA. It’s $475,000 to $1.
Trump went to Hillary’s left in economics, said no to TPP and NAFTA.
While going ape shit right socially.
  He openly courted all racists/bigots/Islamophobes/misogynists/homophobes.
And he won.

It is largely because the Democrats failed to stand up for the working class.
And that is the trend across the globe.
The centrists who are supposed to be center of left; Democrats, Labour Party, Indian National Congress, etc. are all sold out to the corporates.
The middle class worker’s extended middle finger is what they voted with.
And this is the trend globally.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

America's Mango Mussolini

The similarities between the rise of fascism in the 1930s and the political wasteland of the US have much in common. Mussolini originally coined the term "fascism" (some say his speechwriter did, but that has no bearing here) and he defined it as the combination of state and corporate powers. Today, on the White House's official government website there is a plug for the current Mrs. Trump's brand of perfume. Need I say more?
He’s just a funny and quirky man who’s not afraid to speak his mind.  Nobody even took him serious as first.”  That’s what people have been saying about Donald Trump — but that’s also what people once said about Adolf Hitler. The similarities are and should be frightening.
America’s increasingly sick abnormal politics have surrendered to complete dystopia.
Donald Trump, a proven serial liar, utter narcissist, failed businessman turned reality show clown, con artist, adulterer, a braggart about being a grabber of women’s genitals without their permission, a man who does not read, a proud ignoramus, admirer and fan of despots and dictators, a cheerleader for vigilante violence against innocent people, actor in a porn video, person who stiffs his employees, member of the Vladimir Putin fan club, racist landlord, the preferred candidate of neo-Nazis and other fringe racists, professional wrestling villain, and candidate who incites violence against his political opponents, is now the 45th president of the United States of America. 
Donald Trump is also a fascist authoritarian controlling the world’s most powerful and influential “democracy.” No this isn't fake news and it isn't satire.
Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, the American news media desperately avoided using such language to describe the Mango Mussolini. They did this largely because the advertising revenues, as well as an inability to accept how Trump had gamed obsolete journalistic norms of “fairness,” “balance” and “objectivity.”
In doing so, the American news media facilitated Trump’s rise to power. They labeled Trump as a “populist” who was “unconventional.” The American news media kept suggesting that Trump would “pivot” for the general election in order to win more “mainstream” and “centrist” voters. There were some bold voices who said that Trump had “authoritarian tendencies.” But very few commentators had the courage to plainly state that Donald Trump was a fascist — even though the evidence was readily available, and now undeniable.
  • Donald Trump does not believe in or accept freedom of the press.
  • Donald Trump threatened his political enemies with violence and/or prison.
  • Donald Trump used ethnocentrism, bigotry, nativism and racism to mobilize his voters.
  • Donald Trump does not believe he should be held to the long standing norms of democratic governance or tradition.
  • Donald Trump is a misogynist.
  • Donald Trump is obsessed with “strength” and his own “virility.” Promising massive military buildup in an age where a 200 dollar drone can take out a military base...when a 200 million dollar stealth plane is absolutely useless against some asshole setting a shoe on fire in a plane.
  • Donald Trump promises to bring“law and order.”
  • Donald Trump is a militant nationalist.
  • Donald Trump traffics only in conspiracy theories and lies.
  • Donald Trump admires and praises authoritarians and political strongmen.
  • Donald Trump’s press conferences are conducted exactly like Putin's.
  • Donald Trump has surrounded himself with a cabal that consists of family members and self-interested Cabinet appointees, who — like him — stand to enrich themselves through the agencies they are supposed to administer in the public interest.
Ultimately, the American news media were and are like the troglodytes in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” comforted by the dark because their eyes would be hurt by the light of the truth. Or, to borrow from a more contemporary example, the media did not want to face the situation Morpheus explains to Neo in “The Matrix”: “Standing there, facing the pure horrifying precision, I came to realize the obviousness of the truth.”
Political liberals and progressives belong to a centuries-long tradition with origins in the Enlightenment, they are unprepared to deal with the primitive thinking and irrationality that drives Donald Trump’s political movement and contemporary conservatism more generally. In reality, the Republican Party abandoned any semblance of normal politics beginning with their assaults on Bill Clinton in the 1990s. There has been a long decline which culminated with the absurdity of Republican reaction to Barack Obama and now the rise of Trump. Americans have become numb to the extremism and lack of truthfulness in politics due to constant bombardment with it..there are generations that know nothing else.
In New York magazine, Jonathan Chait  offers a classic example of how dangerous liberal reasoning has become to itself:
"It is impossible to know what course American democracy will take under Trump’s presidency. The fears of authoritarianism may prove overblown, and Trump may govern like a normal Republican."
This assumes there is a “normal Republican,” and that Trump is something else. Yet Trump won more votes than any Republican presidential candidate in history. Research shows that authoritarian attitudes have increased among the American public over the last 20 years, especially among Republicans. The Republican Party is the country’s largest white identity organization: It mobilizes anti-black and anti-brown animus for political gain. Since the 1960s at minimum, conservatism and racism have been functionally identical in this country. Trump leveraged those forces to maximum effect in order to defeat Hillary Clinton and win the White House.
In short, Donald Trump is a normal Republican. Pretending otherwise is what led the chattering classes to underestimate Trump’s appeal to angry, authoritarian-minded voters willing to pretend fascism is acceptable or even desirable.

What can be done?
What do good people who believe in fairness do now?
Protest marches are great. They are a cathartic release.
And they can, if sustained make a difference.
Run for office on the local and state level.
Practice political consumerism: Refuse to spend money at stores, banks, and other businesses that work with Trump, his administration or his enterprises.
Target Republican officials with phone calls and emails. Let them know that if they support Trump's fascist agenda there will be negative consequences at the ballot box.
Borrow from the obstructionist strategy that Republicans used against Barack Obama.
Turn the metaphorical map upside down and practice political Aikido.
Especially we must learn from those groups and individuals who have been actively fighting fascism.

Donald Trump and his movement are not normal. Do not make the mistake of treating them like they are. There is no room for negotiation or compromise. Nor burying your head in the sand if you didn't like Clinton either. That's over. All that matters if you want to see any sort of reasonable future is to band together with any and all anti-fascists. Whatever other squabbles one may have, and maybe one person's issues are not yours or vice versa; it doesn't matter. FDR & Churchill certainly weren't in agreement with Stalin on many matters...but I'm glad they opposed Hitler together.
I'd be writing this in German if they hadn't.

America is your country. Donald Trump and his supporters represent the tyranny of minority opinion. They are the worst example of  the "ugly American". And this movement is a real threat to the world.
Don't care about the world? History teaches us that it's a real threat to you personally.
Not a woman? Not on the list of people Trump hates?
You will be.
Want to equate all this with the usual left v right bickering over taxes?
It's not. There is absolutely nothing "usual" about this.
Want to write opposition to Trump's fascism off as partisan chicanery?
It's way beyond that.
America, quite likely the world actually; as you have known it... will not survive a full frontal fascist regime like this.

Now is the time to reclaim the United States’ fundamental character.
The will, spirit and character of this nation is NOT to be found in fascism.
 Shouting “Not in my name!” is a fine beginning, but not an ending. Resistance to Donald Trump and everything he represents must be the new normal.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 - A Shit Year...Or The Shittiest Ever?

2016  definitely sucked
      As we bid a contemptible good riddance to 2016 with it's numerous absurd Terror attacks, Zikas, Brexits, police shootings, Syria, Trump, record-hot temperatures, the losses of  our musical heroes, cultural icons, artists, friends, and family...well this has been one unrelenting godawful turn around the sun hasn't it?  I see a fair amount of hoopla suggesting 2016 is actually the worst year ever.  As  terrifying events truly piled up on each other in 2016, is it in a way they have not done any other year in human history? Is it possible to judge the awfulness of a year while it’s still unfolding or very fresh in memory? Is it possible that we just notice negative happenings more these days because of  high levels of connectivity? And what does “worst year” even mean—“worst year” for New Yorkers, Americans, for humanity, for the planet? As a way of actually finding some sort perspective on these matters, lets look at some other godawful years that have occurred.

     72,000 B.C. -  there was a volcanic super-eruption on the island of Sumatra in present-day Indonesia. The explosion was massive. Where once there was once a mountain, there is now a lake.
It exploded with the force of 1.5 million Hiroshima-size bombs. Rock and magma were hurled continental distances. A layer of volcanic ash approximately 15 centimeters (about six inches) thick settled over the entire continent of Asia.  The skies darkened and global temperatures fell.
Yes, this was a pretty shitty year too. A“long night” descended, and something analogous to a nuclear winter began that year and lasted for many years afterward. The food sources died off, and the recent mapping of human genome indicates that the population of  human beings was reduced to between merely 3,000 and 10,000 people. From this tiny group of survivors,  all 7 billion people on Earth today are descended, making us one of the most numerous but genetically close species in nature.
This genetic "closeness" may account for the bad decisions and behaviors of 2016.

1348 - We talk about 2016 being a particularly disastrous year, but historically there’s nothing new about vicious detestable assholes fighting for power. Nothing new about  dreadful useless leaders with incorrigible bad ideas gathering widespread support. Consider for a moment 1348, when the Black Death took hold. Dogs tore at the bodies of the dead that lay about unburied in the streets.
The disease spread quickly all along the Silk Roads and then across the trade routes crisscrossing the Mediterranean. In the space of  a mere 18 months, it killed at least a third of the population of Europe.
Francesco Petrarch
“Our hopes for the future have been buried alongside our friends,”
wrote the great Italian scholar and poet Franseco Petrarch. It seemed like the end of the world was coming. Some advised avoiding “every fleshly lust with women,” others that marching barefoot while self-flagellating would help. One writer in Damascus recorded that plague “sat like a king on a throne and swayed with power,” killing thousands every day. Yes, on the bright side here in 2017, at least for the moment; dogs are not tearing at the bodies of the dead that lie unburied in the streets.
However there was a positive consequence of the Black Plague,  a consolation prize...a parting gift. The Black Death spurred one of the most golden of golden ages in history. Plague led to sharply reduced inequality, a spending boom, and a flowering of the arts. Storms do sometimes give way to sunshine. Maybe...maybe...

     So how does one measure the “worst year in human history”?
By some calculus of human suffering? By sheer number of deaths? By the geographical extent of misery? While any of these metrics provide ample and ready candidates, I suggest, however, that the worst year ought to be the beginning of a world-historical process that once started, offered no chance for reversal.
was such a year.
That year, the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella completed their conquest of Moorish Granada. Within a few years, the roughly half-million Muslim inhabitants of the territory would be killed, enslaved, or expelled. The kingdom also expelled its Jewish population, resident since Roman times, which provided the blueprint for similar persecutions and expulsions in the years to follow. Spanish actions helped create the idea of a geographically distinct “Christian Europe,” replacing the more than two millennia of political and religious identities that had connected different Mediterranean shores. The most significant event of that year, however, was the first American voyage of Christopher Columbus. Columbus wasn’t the first European to reach the western continents, but his voyages were the first to become widely known. As a result, Spain and its rival powers accelerated their overseas contest for trade and territory. Old World diseases made their inevitable drift to the Americas and by the early 16th century, a series of plagues ultimately caused the demographic collapse of  90 percent of the indigenous population.  And by the mid-19th century,  for many groups, the utter obliteration of their society itself. Worse still, as the indigenous labor force disintegrated, Europeans turned to Africa for new sources of enslaved labor.
Few years in human history are so freighted with catastrophic consequences.
Will the events of 2016 have such reverberations in history? Well maybe so...maybe not.
At any rate, the abominable events that unfolded have yet to enslave anyone...but don't hold your breath. The death of truth or the "post truth" era has yet to find a bottom.

Columbus burning natives in Hispaniola
1919 - This was a shitty year too. The allies had won the First World War but effectively lost the peace. An isolationist U.S. Senate refused to ratify the League of Nations treaty while President Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke. Meanwhile, as the government ended wartime spending and regulations, inflation skyrocketed and unemployment shot up to 20 percent. An influenza epidemic, one of the worst in history, killed a half-million Americans. The 18th Amendment introduced Prohibition and a decade of lawless dog eat dog power struggles. More immediately, the infamous “bloody summer of 1919” saw race riots in cities across the country: Chicago erupted in five days of brutal violence that left 500 wounded and 38 dead. Meanwhile, lynchings continued to rise, with 76 black Americans killed, including 10 war veterans.
The fall of 1919 featured massive labor strikes: 350,000 steelworkers in Indiana, 425,000 miners in coal country, most of the Boston police force, etc. America was poised for a revolution. Fear turned to panic with mail bombs sent to prominent Americans like Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and John D. Rockefeller. In November, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, himself the target of a bomb, launched the first Red Scare, a massive series of arrest raids against suspected radicals, anarchists, and communists that turned into the biggest violation of civil liberties in modern times. All told, 1919 was a year of political chaos, social unrest, economic disasters, deadly epidemics, bloody race riots, giant labor strikes, and brutal government overreach.
Definitely a shit year.
World War I

2003 - a prime candidate as measured by long-term consequences for democracy.
In February of that year, as the Bush administration and its allies geared up for war.
Protesters eager to speak out against the mobilizations swamped cities around the world in the largest global demonstration for peace in world history. In Manhattan, more than 100,000 protestors from all walks of life swamped the city, stopping traffic in the middle of the street, and assembling in a vast throng near the U.N. building. European cities saw even larger protests.
"So we create the conditions that lead directly to the rise of Isis, flood the European liberal nations with refugees collapsing their social programs, rob from the poor and give to the rich,...basically shoot humanity in the face and torture them for shits and giggles...and some black guy gets blamed...ha ha ha. What a plan!"
The U.S media, still dominated by major networks owned by only a handful of corporate overlords, barely covered the event. In New York, the nightly news showed images, instead, of a sympathy protest in Baghdad—a damning substitution. The failure of the occupied media to cover these protests (which set a precedent, followed ever since)—and, more broadly, to aggressively question the Bush administration on the absurd lies and half-truths used to rationalize the war—was catastrophic for the entire world.  The quiescence of political parties when confronted with the even-then very dubious link between 9/11 and the war in Iraq revealed the power of macho patriotism to sweep away partisan dissent and intelligent thinking, and to cow the news into submission, a power that has proved durable and dangerous. A power that has apparently turned most of the western world's brains into sand. The war went on as planned. And the terrible world we live in now, —jingoistic, bomb-scarred, drone-addled, armor-clad, morally bankrupt, spied on, and over-flooded with refugees creating the rise of nativism—is the consequence. Yes...I think 2003 in a historical sense was complete shit. Maybe the worst ever.   Alas my friends,  there is sadly no shortage of candidates.

I failed to point out 1876, A true toilet clogging stinker. There was a split presidential election which set the stage for the bargain that ended Reconstruction. While we might be tempted to nominate the highest casualty year of the Civil War as the worst, the failure to defend racial equality in the South after so many lives were sacrificed seems far more tragic since it continues to cause death and misery 130 years down the road . Also, in ’76 you have the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the inexplicable cruelty of bison-hunting equestrianism on the Great Plains. The fall of Reconstruction and the rise of Plains reservations are enough for a really bad year, and then you add race riots in South Carolina, and Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia...well let's say a courtesy flush was in order.
I neglected the years of the rise of fascism, the Holocaust, the age of the robber barons, the rise of the dark corporate overlords, etc. Well there's veritable feast of bad years we wish could be forgotten quickly.
With past years we have the vision afforded by historical perspective, which is something we lack in evaluating 2016.
One thing leads to another.
See you on the bottom.
Coming soon!  - How to get the most out of your bottomless pit.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Without Shoes inevitable Year End List

Year-end lists may seem tedious.They are easily perceived as the privilege of self proclaimed authorities & taste purveyors. Though this may be entirely wrong as humans of every age seem to have a passion for organizing things. In a sense, the end-of-year list-maker is adult version of the toddler who lines up his toy cars into neatly arranged rows for no reason other than that it is satisfying to make order out of chaos.  End-of-year lists illustrate our human tendency to order time by arbitrarily marking December 31st as the end of the year, and in doing so we like to order experience by forming a compendium of events we associate with this time frame. Ultimately, year-end lists are a manifestation of our deep urge to impose order on experience. And it's something of a mirror as well.
  The sorting out movies or albums does more than impose order on material goods; it also imposes order on the social world. By proclaiming which items are the year’s best or worst, we ultimately are categorizing ourselves. What do we value? Who are we? What concepts do we embrace and which ones do we reject? It reflects us both personally and as a society.
 Our world is an ever hastening fragmented place. At every turn, we are inundated with options: Television, movies and music crop up just long enough to be supplanted by new options only moments later. How do you make sense of the year when it’s always receding in the shadow of the next great thing? It's even harder when the most artistic or important bits can easily be subsumed by artless absurdity or populist claptrap. The junk food of human endeavor, while perhaps serving some function; creates very unhealthy conditions if consumed instead of actual nutrition.
  The New Year evokes visceral feelings, both positive and negative about time passing.
Year-end lists are if nothing else, a way to manage the psychology of the experience. Make your own list, it can be anything that merits your attention. Your list fills in the gap, completes the experience, expands horizons or organize pleasures. The listmaker offers a positive sense of control (real or perceived). And viewing the recommendations of others we respect facilitates a quick catch-up, an on-track feeling of moving forward with a sense of “done” and “will do!”

  List-making actually has a calming effect on the mind. The inner swirl of desires, goals, choices and concerns is an overwhelming experience. If nothing else list making evokes a sense of containment of the past and joyful anticipation of whatever comes next.  Also, when we read others lists, the recommendations allow us to feel protected with a bit of assurance that our time or money will not be ill-spent on unsatisfying goods or art. When someone does some thinking for you, you feel cared for somehow.
 Selection can be hard for people who are very open-minded, indecisive or too consumed by other obligations to stay abreast of culture. I would argue this is how we ended up with a demagogue overgrown toddler in the white house, there was no curator of any merit to actually evaluate political realities and signal got drowned out by the noise....but that's an entirely different post.  As human beings, we need art and culture to protect health. Studies indicate that personal self-expression or identification with an artist’s work boosts mood, decreases stress and seeds hopefulness.  Creativity has been defined as a combination of divergent and convergent thinking and list-makers employ this thought process. Your year end list is an offering of sorts and in a sense it can save  time and money and minimize disappointing experience. Also it is sort of a ritual, all cultures have rituals to deal with turning points. While New Year may be a cause for celebration, the somber awareness that we cannot turn back exists. Fear of regrets, letting go, loss or change can be unsettling. Year-end lists allow us to take stock, accept, evaluate, or  alter what we can do in what is forthcoming.
Here then is my list of musical journeys that I found fulfilling this year.
Maybe you've missed one of these.

Best Albums Of  2016 -

1.)  Blackstar, David Bowie
A wonderful parting gift, but much more than that. I listened to this astonishing 25th studio album on the Friday in January it was released, which also happened to be his 69th birthday. I spent that weekend working through the album's somber horns and avant-jazz experimentalism, the mystical, indecipherable allusions on tunes like "'Tis a Pity She's a Whore" and those multipart, Tony Visconti-aided arrangements such as the mind-blowing, challenging title track. Two days later, Bowie suddenly died and we were all were forced to re-examine/re-think the album's most curious, WTF lyrical moments like, "Look up here, I'm in heaven" (on "Lazarus") and "Where the f*** did Monday go?" (on "Girl Loves Me"). Re-hearing eccentric songs like "I Can't Give Everything Away" as existential commentary turned Blackstar into more than the final bit of punctuation on Bowie's multi-decade career.  This is a jazz-backed rock album with a melancholy ruminations on death, on identity boundaries, on fame, on the universe and astrology, on love, religion and on the limits of the popular culture. Blackstar also happens to be a richly musical offering, more sonically generous and full of boundary-exploding ideas than one might ever expect to hear from any terminally ill musician. The most endearing feature of Blackstar to me is that it refuses closure: It becomes something new every time you deeply listen. It's the most powerful parting gift a great artist could have ever given us. Whatever else one may say of Bowie's work, he was a creative genius, one of the most significant artistic forces in our lifetime. And this is an easy choice for best album of the year.

2.) - In Movement,  Jack DeJohnette / Matthew Garrison / Ravi ColtraneThis record is just enjoyable. Even without knowing any of the tunes, or the players, or their history it's solid on it's own merits. It's full of spacious slow numbers that eventually reveal gorgeous melodies. At other moments the energy is turned up, sometimes with raw abstraction, other times with dark funk grooves. Texturally and intellectually there's a little bit of an elusive and mysterious quality to the proceedings, a lot of coloring outside the beat. Ravi Coltrane (saxes) and Matthew Garrison (bass) are the sons of John Coltrane (saxes) and Jimmy Garrison (bass), and drummer Jack DeJohnette has known them since they were kids because he played with John Coltrane and Jimmy Garrison. Some of these tunes salute DeJohnette's heroes like Jimi Hendrix ("Two Jimmys"), Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire ("Serpentine Fire"), and bandmate Rashied Ali ("Rashied"); others were famously performed by John Coltrane ("Alabama," "Blue In Green"). The roots run deep, and you can read whatever interpretive intentions you wish from that. Or you could just enjoy the music.
Fantastic album.

3.) Stranger To Stranger, Paul Simon
Paul Simon may be our greatest living songwriter. His songs are portraits, thoughtful snapshots on the human condition and, more often than not, Skillful observations on Americans and American culture. His consistency as an artist is unparalleled, going back fifty solid years to those early Simon and Garfunkel records. From its opening track, his masterful 2016 album Stranger to Stranger explores our fears as a culture...fears of the future, of the unknown. Every instrument, every sound effect, every vocal is finely detailed and crafted to serve the song. And those songs are more often created not from the usual three chord acoustic guitar repertoire but from the feet of flamenco dancers and electronic beats, found sounds, etc. then sculpted and changed and polished beyond recognition into these memorable musical jewels, each one gem in it's own right. He mentions having been inspired by attending a Harry Partch recital in the liner notes. While I could not detect any of the micro-tonal sonority Partch pursued in this record, I do hear the willingness to use unexpected sounds as musical instruments in the texture. It's a great album. Paul says it's his last...and he certainly owes us nothing. But we'll see. I hope he enjoys a break, but comes to be inspired again.

4.) "let me tell you" - Barbara Hannigan/Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons
There is a synergy between music, words and performers that rarely rises to the extraordinary level as we find here in Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen's 35-minute song cycle, let me tell you, which features soprano Barbara Hannigan with Andris Nelsons conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. The text, by Paul Griffiths, adopts all the words (about 480 of them) Shakespeare allotted to Ophelia in Hamlet, shuffled about to create a fresh, confident character with cracks of fragility. Sung by the fearless Hannigan, Ophelia divides her story into past, present and future, speaking of a time without music, the inadequacy of language and a transformative love. When she sings "you have sun-blasted me," the orchestra shatters into twinkling shards of sound. The final scene finds Ophelia calmly walking out into the falling snow. Hannigan's high C, plucked direct from the frigid air, might be the most beautiful note you'll hear all year. Fantastic album.

5.) Beautiful Lies, Birdy
Beautiful Lies, is the third album from Birdy, and it's evolved. She began as an acoustic covers singer at the young age of 14 but she's truly a confident and powerful artist now...19 when the album was recorded. On the lush opener "Growing Pains," she incorporates East Asian-influenced melody into a swelling, powerful chorus that echoes Del Rey with a little Kate Bush sprinkled on top. That refreshing quirkiness is also present on the wistful "Silhouette," which includes a surprising flourish that wouldn't be out of place on a Joanna Newsom or Regina Spektor track. Beautiful Lies' there are powerful uplifting moments in "Keeping Your Head Up" and the urgent "Wild Horses". There are nods to her origins on the piano ballads "Lost It All," the soothing "Unbroken," and the closing title track, a sparse beauty that ends Beautiful Lies with a kiss goodbye. "Turn out the light, there are no more surprises to come," she sings, as the album drifts off into silence. This is a work full of life and texture. Arrangements are great and her singing is top notch. The entire album exudes an inspiring attitude. Beautiful Lies is Birdy's declaration that she is more than able to make her mark in the big leagues and join the ranks of the alternative pop pantheon.
There is something wonderful going on here.

6.) Still Come The Summer Rains,  Ben New
Ambitious wide and ranging collection of songs brilliantly executed and expertly arranged.
This is a rare amalgam of thoughtful lyricism, inspired composition, and virtuoso performance. Deeply committed to art, expression, and quality, Ben's music encompasses diverse influences and he dissects them to their irreducible minimum;  then reassembles them into new metaphysical entities.
This is an an LP in the classic sense, a weighty serious thing made by someone who transcends jingles and singles yet brings the finer elements of that world to the arty party. This is the real deal, music that can act as a key to doorways. Part wild-eyed Romanticism, part pragmatic observation. Compassionate at times and aloof at others, this is a reading of the historical moment into disconcertingly ambivalent songs, most of which grow on you... and like Bowie's last album, these pieces always seem to have something fresh to offer with each new listening. Still Come the Summer Rains is the right album at the right time. From the hope of "Calling Out" to the stark brooding of "House Of Fear" this album never disappoints! One of the year's very finest. You need this.

7.) A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead

While it's obvious this album doesn't have the brooding guitar noise of Radiohead's earlier records, or the vast conceptual scope and studio alchemy of the band's more recent work. What it does have is a tremendous amount of heartache,  It's quite a reflection on where the band finds itself after reaching middle age with 30 years of making music behind it. The songs are more restrained, more introspective and certainly among the most beautiful and deeply affecting of anything the band has ever recorded. A Moon Shaped Pool is a bit of an acquired taste I'd say but I'd also say it will likely, in time, be considered one of Radiohead's masterpieces.

8.) Good Times! The Monkees
Yes, it's miraculous enough that there even is an album released in 2016 of all new material from the Monkees. But the truly amazing thing is, it's actually one of the very best albums of the year.
The project was initiated by Rhino executives John Hughes and Mark Pinkus, who were excited about a 50th anniversary album for the band. Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne was hired to produce the album, with tracks by the three surviving Monkees, initially unreleased songs by the songwriters they used during their initial run including Neil Diamond, Carole King & Gerry Goffin, Harry Nilsson and Tommy Boyce with Bobby Hart and contemporary rock songwriters Schlesinger, Rivers Cuomo, Andy Partridge, Ben Gibbard, Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller.
The title track was written by Harry Nilsson and a surviving demo from the late 1960s was used incorporating Nilsson's vocals posthumously in a "duet" with Micky Dolenz. Davy Jones is heard on the album on one track despite being dead, he performs the Neil Diamond-penned song "Love to Love" which was actually recorded in 1967 for the Monkees' third album in a Don Kirshner-supervised session while the group was trying to gain musical independence from Kirshner.
Once Kirshner was removed, the song was discarded in favor of recording an album of songs written sung and played by the group itself. The resultant album was Headquarters. For its inclusion on Good Times!, Dolenz and Tork contributed new backing vocals.
The first single from the album was "She Makes Me Laugh". Penned by Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, it was released on April 28 along with a lyric video. The second new track to be released was "You Bring the Summer" written by Andy Partridge, which was debuted by DJ and Monkee-fan Iain Lee on his radio show on May 2, followed by it being made available by Rhino.(Personally my favorite sounds like what it is, a cross between XTC and the Monkees.)
Musicians on the album include Fountains of Wayne members Adam Schlesinger (guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, percussion), Jody Porter (guitar) and Brian Young (drums, percussion), as well as Mike Viola (guitar, bass, background vocals), and band members Micky Dolenz (vocals, drums), Michael Nesmith (vocals, guitar) and Peter Tork (vocals, keyboards, banjo).
The album brings elements that we love about music from the 1960s but it also brings the element of fresh and current sounds to the table, it's inspired and the songwriting is simply top notch.
Truly a contemporary pop music masterpiece! Kudos to all involved.

8). Under The Sun, Not For Pussies
 From the opening strains of "Ice Queen" a tale of transformation, acceptance, and redemption to the closing track "The Code", an epitaph of sorts for the loss of empathy and the rise of inhumanity on the cusp of the new year, this album is full of thoughtful lyricism and inspired musicianship. Not For Pussies is a duo from Perth that has a remarkable catalog of quality music that never fails to engage.
There is a unique style that pervades this, as well as their past albums. It's rock, it's heir to a great progressive tradition, but it's also ethereal and otherworldly. What I like best about their music is that it's not only intelligent, and well arranged but sublime and very personal. Something about the vocals and harmonies chosen brings a bit of the great Scottish folk traditions to the table as well. And the vocals themselves are lush and superbly executed by Jan Kidd. The instrumental tracks are layered and arranged delicately and artfully. This is a work that brings together ideas about our humanity, our myths and our modernity in collectives and as individuals. A must have album.

9.) Invisible Din, ESP
Tony Lowe and Mark Brzezicki may have released the BEST new music in progressive rock in years. From the opening song  “Overture” to the closing “Almost Seen” every piece is simply superb.
 The work is sometimes specular and reflective while also sometimes just purely jubilant. the incredibly melodic aspect shines through at every turn and like all music that I personally enjoy, it bears new insights with repeated listeningObviously the work of consummate professionals who have spent many long hours perfecting their craft. This is frankly the type of music that is sorely needed and generally not found much in today's world. Make every effort to hear this. Great work!
The album is written and produced by Tony Lowe who recently co-produced the ‘Starless Starlight‘ album by David Cross and Robert Fripp. Notable contributors are violist David Cross (King Crimson), the impeccable saxophone of David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator), the bass artistry of Phil Spalding (Steve Hackett, Mike Oldfield, Simon Townsend), Acoustic guitars from Steve Gee (Landmarq), keyboards from John Young (Lifesigns), Pat Orchard, Alison Fleming, the pure and outstanding vocal work of John Beagley and electric harp from Yumi Hari. One of the best albums of 2016 and maybe of the decade.

Emily's D+ Evolution, Esperanza Spalding
"Good Lava," is the first track and it's also a mission statement. A beautifully dissonant guitar riff,   and the lurching time signature make it sound a bit like a dare to stick around. These are exuberant, confrontational songs, amplified in a sort of rock/funk/jazz informed hybrid style.
After winning a Grammy she took two years off feeling commercial pressures beginning to stunt her growth. On this outing she lets her alter ego speak to her more extroverted, creative side. Spalding sings through a muse named Emily (her middle name). Emily wants you to buck the system, to fight for peace and tranquility. She wants you to reconnect with your spiritual center, to avoid facades.  Recorded in front of a small studio audience in Los Angeles, you can almost see Spalding act out these songs as the band—comprised of guitarist and Christian Scott collaborator Matthew Stevens, producer/drummer Karriem Riggins, and others—create thick textures that provide plenty of space for her. People will likely call this art-rock or performance art, but D+Evolution advocates an almost indescribable ethos. The harmonic language remains rooted in jazz, but there are folk elements, prog, rock and funk elements... but like "Emily" herself, the music doesn’t seem to be "from" anywhere: It seems most concerned with establishing a space, and creating room for possibility. Even the more conventional songs like "One," "Noble Nobles" and "Unconditional Love" are expansive and rich.
There are traces of Bitches Brew, Captain Beefheart, and King Crimson in here. But not in an overt way. The best aesthetics have no zip code. And if there is an underlying theme here, it's one of  personal freedom.  Spalding shrugs at societal constraints, urging you to "live your life" on the chorus of "Funk the Fear" and shed preconceived notions of who you're supposed to be. On "One," she embraces emotion with bravo but uncertainty. The lyrics are a bit elusive at first, sprinting about behind fast-moving songs, delivered in impressionistic conversational bursts that have some common bonds with the delivery of Joni Mitchell. Listening to this wonderful album one senses a fearless generosity behind the proceedings, the message is loud and clear. Spalding has defined an already singular career, dictating a vision entirely on her own terms. And I for one am certainly thankful she has! This is one great album! You need this.

Honorable Mention - -

Car Seat Headrest - Teens Of DenialAn interesting punk outing that is highly ambitious work if nothing else. Not only is this album compelling in scope, it is frankly executed brilliantly. Teens Of Denial is something of a masterpiece. Epic in its vision, each track mumbles and roars with life, building monumental guitar noise and intricate, multi-layered wordplay before receding again to more ruminative shadows. It sounds at times like the ramblings of a madman others it's pure genius as a song suddenly (and repeatedly) careens in multiple directions depending on whatever thought or observation is being processed in the labyrinth of melodic seas.  Teens Of Denial is the kind of album future 20-somethings will obsess about if there is a god...or not.

Monday, November 28, 2016

To seek the quality of mercy in the post truth moonlight...

Here in the ludicrous post truth era, American Nazis and Fascists have finally gotten a place at the table, thanks to President-elect Trump.
Trump's senior advisor is a Nazi who for years has operated a white-supremacist/Nazi website.
The Klan is marching again.  Swastikas are appearing all over the country, on signs and banners and defacing public and private buildings. But, we beat these bastards once, and we'll beat them again.
American Fascism is not new. There were plenty of Nazi sympathizers in this country going back to the 1930s and they have changed tactics and masks, but have never gone away.  They plotted to overthrow president Roosevelt and install a fascist state. They murdered people and generally do what fascists do.

The fascist ideology conditions children to fear nonconformity and to blindly obey which ensures their continued obedience as adults. The challenging task of engaging in how one makes moral choices, or how to accept personal responsibility, or how to deal with the chaotic reality of human life is handed over to God-like authority figures. This process makes possible a perpetuation of childhood. It allows adults to bask in the warm glow and magic of  imagined divine protections. It hides the array of human weaknesses which include our deepest fears, our dread of irrelevance and death, our  uncertainty... our vulnerability.  Belief systems such as this make it difficult to build mature, loving relationships.  Fascism is in a sense, not a political ideology but a religion.
The believer is told it is all about them, about their needs, their desires, and above all, their protection and advancement. Relationships, even within families, splinter and fracture. Those who adopt the belief system, who find in the dictates of a fascist movement or a religion; a binary world of black and white build an exclusive and intolerant
camaraderie that shuns and condemns the “unbeliever.”

People are not valued by their intrinsic qualities. They are not judged by their actions, capacities, nor compassion. They are valued for the rigidity of their obedience. Obedience defines the good and the bad, the patriot and the traitor, the Christian and the infidel. This obedience is a blunt and effective weapon against the possibility of love that could overpower the dictates of hierarchy. In many ways it is love itself, that the leaders fear most. Love unleashes passions and bonds that defy the carefully constructed edifices that keep followers trapped and enclosed. And while both fascists and self appointed religious leaders may speak often about love, as they do about family, it is the cohesive bonds created by family and love they actually wage war against. It is only through the destruction of these bonds that humanity can be divided into these black and white, good and bad factions. It is only through the destruction of truth, logic, and compassion that fascism thrives.

America's religious right was ripe for picking by fascists. They have a lot in common actually. Both utilize teachings that friends, neighbors, colleagues and family members who do not conform to their ideology are gradually dehumanized. They are painted with the despised characteristics. This attack is waged in highly abstract terms, to negate the reality of concrete, specific and unique human characteristics, to deny the possibility of goodness in those who do not conform. Some human beings, their message goes, are no longer human beings. They are "types". The exclusive community fosters rigidity, conformity and intolerance. In this binary world, segments of the human race are disqualified from moral and ethical consideration. How else could the barbaric treatment of protesters at Standing Rock occur? How else could the news of such events be tolerated for one second? It's because fundamentalists of all stripes including fascists live in a binary universe.  Their capacity for seeing others as anything more than inverted reflections of themselves has been destroyed. If they seek to destroy nonbelievers to create a Christian America, then nonbelievers must be seeking to destroy them. If they seek to destroy democracy to prevent some abstract 'liberalism" then in their minds liberals are plotting against them to destroy it first. If they conceive of science as an enemy, then science must be evil.
If you are taught that education is your enemy, then education is evil . This type of belief system negates the very possibility of an ethical life.

The "believer" fails to grasp that goodness must be sought outside the self and that the best defense against evil is to seek it within. When a group of people come to believe that they are immune from evil, that there is no resemblance between themselves and those they define as their enemy, they inevitably grow to embody the very evil they believe they fight. It is only by understanding one's own capacity for evil, one's own darkness, that we hold the capacity for evil at bay. When evil is purely external, then moral purification always entails the eradication of others.
Human kindness is deeply subversive to totalitarian creeds, which seek to thwart all compassion toward those deemed unworthy of moral consideration, those branded as internal or external enemies.
To fight fascism, one thing you, yourself can do...every day is be kind.
To find compassion.
To seek the quality of mercy.

The fascist is a fundamentalist, and fundamentalists do not commit evil for evil’s sake.
They commit evil to "make a better world". To attain this they believe, some must suffer and be silenced, and eventually all those who oppose them must be destroyed.
The worst suffering in human history has been carried out by those who preach or believe this claptrap.  In a serious twist of irony, it is indeed an idealism that leads radical fundamentalists and fascist followers to strip human beings of their dignity and their sanctity and turn them into abstractions. Yet it is only by holding on to the sanctity of each individual, each human life, only by placing our faith in tiny, unheroic acts of compassion and kindness, that we survive.
Both as communities and as individual human beings.
These small acts of kindness are deeply feared and subversive to these idealists.

  On Thanksgiving I tried to find something to be thankful for.
I came up short.
 It's costing American taxpayers $1 million per day to provide security for Trump and his family in New York City.
 Ben Carson has accepted or is considering the office of Secretary of HUD. Carson has absolutely no experience in public housing or urban planning and has shown no interest whatsoever in it.
From what we've seen during the 2016 when he was running for the GOP nomination, he's pretty much an ignorant, bumbling fool.
 Betsy Devos will head up the Education department.  There couldn't be a worse choice.  She and her 
billionaire husband have devoted their lives to the destruction of public education through privatization and charter schools.  She is an ultra-right wing fanatic Christian who hates that public schools are the foundation of  democracy. She thinks education should be only for those in the upper classes who can pay for private schools, and seeks to destroy public schools by diverting their funding elsewhere...this is the tactic that will also be employed to destroy medicare and social security. Probably everything that citizens value about their citizenship.
 Trump's business entanglements make it impossible to function as president.  He has already compromised his ability to deal properly with foreign interests, owing hundreds of millions of dollars to Russian oligarchs, banks in China, and other countries.  The other day while speaking with President Erdogan of Turkey, Trump promoted his business partner in that country, a clear abrogation of his presidential responsibilities. This is a nightmare.
Trump's advisor on "Space" wants to defund NASA's climate work.
 Although Trump knows nothing about foreign affairs or even how our country works, he is blowing off the daily intelligence briefings. He's attended two such briefings in the past two weeks. But then he has been awfully busy twitting about his dislike of the cast of "Hamilton," and Saturday Night Live.
In a move to reward a supporter with a governorship, Trump appointed Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN.  Haley is an ultra-right wing "birther" politico with no experience or expertise in foreign policy, the United Nations, or anything else of importance.
 Last, but far from least, is Trump's appointment of Jeff Sessions, the Alabama crackpot, as Attorney General.  Sessions was rejected as a federal judge previously because of his blatant racism. 
He is a bigot extraordinaire and an out-and-out racist wanker.
Enjoy your holiday folks. (Try not to get indigestion!)
Remember, acts of compassion and kindness are blows against this empire.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

It CAN happen here...American Fascisim

American Nazi Rally, Madison Square Gardens. 1939
 American Fascism Isn't New
Elites in both of America's major political parties acted on behalf of corporations and carried out a savage assault on the working class. Their duplicity has succeeded for decades. These elitists spoke the language of values—civility, inclusivity, a condemnation of overt racism and bigotry, a concern for the middle class—but all the while thrusting a knife into the back of the underclass for their corporate masters.
There are tens of millions of Americans, especially lower-class whites, who are rightfully enraged at what has been done to them, their families and their communities. They have risen up to reject the neoliberal - neoconservative policies and political correctness imposed on them by elites from both political parties: These people; largely lower class whites, are quite willing to embrace an American fascism.

These particular Americans want a sort of freedom—but it's a freedom to hate. They desire the right to use vulgar words like “niggers,” “kikes,” “spics,” “chinks,” “ragheads”, “faggots" etc.
They want the freedom to idealize violence and the gun culture. They want the freedom to have enemies, to physically assault Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, homosexuals and anyone who dares criticize their cryptofascism. They want the freedom to celebrate historical movements that the college-educated elites and general decency condemn, including the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederacy. They want the freedom to ridicule and dismiss intellectuals, ideas, science and culture. They want the freedom to silence those who have been telling them how to behave decently. And they want the freedom to revel in faux hypermasculinity, racism, sexism and white patriarchy. These qualities are the core sentiments of fascism. These sentiments are engendered by the collapse of the democratic state.
While Democrats frankly blindly played a very dangerous game by anointing Hillary Clinton as their presidential candidate because she epitomizes the real or perceived double-dealing of the elites, those who spoke of "feel-your-pain" while selling out the poor and the working class to corporate power.
The Republicans, conversely became energized by America’s reality-star version of Il Duce, Donald Trump, have been pulling in voters, new voters.
Richard Rorty in his last book, “Achieving Our Country,” which was written in 1998, predicted where our postindustrial nation was headed:
"Many writers on socioeconomic policy have warned that the old industrialized democracies are heading into a Weimar-like period, one in which populist movements are likely to overturn constitutional governments. Edward Luttwak, for example, has suggested that fascism may be the American future. The point of his book The Endangered American Dream is that members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. A scenario like that of Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here may then be played out. For once a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen. In 1932, most of the predictions made about what would happen if Hindenburg named Hitler chancellor were wildly overoptimistic.
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words “nigger” and “kike” will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated and/or dis-informed Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet."
Fascist movements build their base not from the politically active but the politically inactive, the “losers” who feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment. The sociologist Émile Durkheim warned that the disenfranchisement of a class of people from the structures of society produced a state of “anomie”—a “condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals.” Those trapped in this “anomie,” he wrote, are easy prey to propaganda and emotionally driven mass movements. Hannah Arendt, echoing Durkheim, noted that “the chief characteristic of the mass man is not brutality and backwardness, but his isolation and lack of normal social relationships.”
In fascism the politically disempowered and disengaged, ignored and reviled by the establishment, discover a voice and a sense of empowerment.

The fascist movements in Europe in the 1930s recruited their members from this mass of apparently indifferent people which other parties had abandoned as too apathetic or too stupid for their attention. The result was that the majority of their membership consisted of people who had never before appeared on the political scene. This permitted the introduction of entirely new methods of political propaganda as well as indifference to the arguments of political opponents. Fascist movements not only placed themselves outside and against the party system as a whole, they found a membership that had never been reached, never been ‘spoiled’ by the party system. Therefore they did not need to refute opposing arguments and consistently preferred methods which ended in death rather than persuasion, which spelled terror rather than conviction. They presented disagreements as invariably originating in deep natural, social, or psychological sources beyond the control of the individual and therefore beyond the control of reason. This would have been a shortcoming if they had sincerely entered into competition with opposing political movements; but it was not if they were sure of dealing with people who had reason to be equally hostile to all parties. 
Fascism is aided and advanced by the apathy of those who are tired of being conned and lied to by a bankrupt establishment, whose only reason to vote for a politician or support a political party is to elect the least worst. Fascism expresses itself in familiar and comforting national and religious symbols, which is why it comes in various varieties and forms. Italian fascism, which looked back to the glory of the Roman Empire, for example, never shared the Nazis’ love of Teutonic and Nordic myths. American fascism will reach back to it's own traditional patriotic symbols, narratives and beliefs. Hitler and Mussolini, after all, had not tried to seem exotic to their fellow citizens. No swastikas in an American fascism, but Stars and Stripes (or Stars and Bars) and Christian crosses. No fascist salute, but mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance. These symbols contain no whiff of fascism in themselves, of course, but an American fascism would transform them into obligatory litmus tests for detecting internal enemies.
Fascism is about an inspired and seemingly strong leader who promises moral renewal, glory and revenge. It is about the replacement of rational debate with sensual experience. This is why the lies, half-truths and fabrications by Trump have no impact on his followers. Fascists transform politics, as philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin pointed out, into aesthetics. And the ultimate aesthetic for the fascist, Benjamin said, is war. The amorphous ideology characteristic of all fascist movements is the leader’s mystical union with some imagined historic destiny of his people.
The fascist leader promises to bring his people into a higher realm of politics that they will experience sensually the warmth of belonging to a race now fully aware of its "identity", historic destiny, and the thrill of domination.

America is now in exactly the same place politically the Wiemar Republic was when the political hacks & oligarchs of that time installed Hitler as Chancellor....they thought he was their dupe, that they could use him, that he would be their lap dog. They were wrong.

As for the disenfranchised lower classes who came out in droves to support Mr. Trump, it's doubtful he will do anything to improve their lot. America voted to gamble on someone who promises change... we all understand that yearning. But he's surrounded himself with the worst of the usual hacks from rightwing extremism.  Despite yearning for change, America also voted nearly all the same universally despised representatives & senators back into power so it doesn't follow that it really wants change, or is it just plain stupid? Change is inevitable, but not all change is the last living memory of a world on the brink thanks to fascism fades away, as the generation that remembers WWII and the Great Depression disappears... history is poised to repeat itself.
For those Americans who so desired this freedom to hate, it's a great day...not so much for anyone else in the world.
I wish us all luck. And I'm afraid we'll need it. 

There is only one way left to blunt the yearning for fascism that coalesced around Trump. It is to build, as fast as possible, movements that declare war on corporate power, engage in sustained acts of civil disobedience and seek to reintegrate the disenfranchised—the “losers”—back into the economy.  If this movement does not come out of the Democratic Party, then a different party should be empowered for the task...(though as things stand, there is no path for a 3rd party to win a national election...if the apparatus of the Democratic Party can not be re-engaged to be the vehicle, then the difficult task of funding and creating a COMPETITIVE infrastructure, as well as removing the Electoral College must begin immediately. (The Electoral College gave us the last two Republican presidencies despite those candidates losing the popular vote...Clinton will have won the popular vote by roughly a million votes this election for instance) Not only does the electoral college give us presidents who didn't win the majority of votes, but it prevents any 3rd party from being viable due to it's winner take all construction. I've no doubt that if Clinton won the electoral college, Trump probably would have just disappeared, but the fascist sentiments he exploited would have only expanded. And another Trump, perhaps even more vile, would be vomited up from the bowels of the decayed political system. We are fighting for our political life. Tremendous damage has been done by corporate power and the political class elites to our democracy. The longer the privileged elites, who oversaw this disemboweling of the country on behalf of corporations—who believe, as does CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves, that however bad Trump would be for America he would at least be good for corporate profit—remain in charge, the worse it gets.
Is the hour too late?
It just may be.
Henry Wallace

Consider the words of Vice President Henry Wallace in 1944.
The Danger of American Fascism
By Henry A. Wallace
The New York Times
From Henry A. Wallace, Democracy Reborn (New York, 1944), edited by Russell Lord, p. 259.

Sunday 09 April 1944

On returning from my trip to the West in February, I received a request from The New York Times to write a piece answering the following questions:
What is a fascist?
How many fascists have we?
How dangerous are they?
A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.
The perfect type of fascist throughout recent centuries has been the Prussian Junker, who developed such hatred for other races and such allegiance to a military clique as to make him willing at all times to engage in any degree of deceit and violence necessary to place his culture and race astride the world. In every big nation of the world are at least a few people who have the fascist temperament. Every Jew-baiter, every Catholic hater, is a fascist at heart. The hoodlums who have been desecrating churches, cathedrals and synagogues in some of our larger cities are ripe material for fascist leadership.
The obvious types of American fascists are dealt with on the air and in the press. These demagogues and stooges are fronts for others. Dangerous as these people may be, they are not so significant as thousands of other people who have never been mentioned. The really dangerous American fascists are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.
If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.

American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.
The European brand of fascism will probably present its most serious postwar threat to us via Latin America. The effect of the war has been to raise the cost of living in most Latin American countries much faster than the wages of labor. The fascists in most Latin American countries tell the people that the reason their wages will not buy as much in the way of goods is because of Yankee imperialism. The fascists in Latin America learn to speak and act like natives. Our chemical and other manufacturing concerns are all too often ready to let the Germans have Latin American markets, provided the American companies can work out an arrangement which will enable them to charge high prices to the consumer inside the United States. Following this war, technology will have reached such a point that it will be possible for Germans, using South America as a base, to cause us much more difficulty in World War III than they did in World War II. The military and landowning cliques in many South American countries will find it attractive financially to work with German fascist concerns as well as expedient from the standpoint of temporary power politics.
Fascism is a worldwide disease. Its greatest threat to the United States will come after the war, either via Latin America or within the United States itself.
Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after “the present unpleasantness” ceases:
The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups. Likewise, many people whose patriotism is their proudest boast play Hitler’s game by retailing distrust of our Allies and by giving currency to snide suspicions without foundation in fact.
The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.
Several leaders of industry in this country who have gained a new vision of the meaning of opportunity through co-operation with government have warned the public openly that there are some selfish groups in industry who are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage. We all know the part that the cartels played in bringing Hitler to power, and the rule the giant German trusts have played in Nazi conquests. Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.
It has been claimed at times that our modern age of technology facilitates dictatorship. What we must understand is that the industries, processes, and inventions created by modern science can be used either to subjugate or liberate. The choice is up to us. The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. It was Mussolini’s vaunted claim that he “made the trains run on time.” In the end, however, he brought to the Italian people impoverishment and defeat. It was Hitler’s claim that he eliminated all unemployment in Germany. Neither is there unemployment in a prison camp.
Democracy to crush fascism internally must demonstrate its capacity to “make the trains run on time.” It must develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels. As long as scientific research and inventive ingenuity outran our ability to devise social mechanisms to raise the living standards of the people, we may expect the liberal potential of the United States to increase. If this liberal potential is properly channeled, we may expect the area of freedom of the United States to increase. The problem is to spend up our rate of social invention in the service of the welfare of all the people.
The worldwide, agelong struggle between fascism and democracy will not stop when the fighting ends in Germany and Japan. Democracy can win the peace only if it does two things:
Speeds up the rate of political and economic inventions so that both production and, especially, distribution can match in their power and practical effect on the daily life of the common man the immense and growing volume of scientific research, mechanical invention and management technique. Vivifies with the greatest intensity the spiritual processes which are both the foundation and the very essence of democracy.
The moral and spiritual aspects of both personal and international relationships have a practical bearing which so-called practical men deny. This dullness of vision regarding the importance of the general welfare to the individual is the measure of the failure of our schools and churches to teach the spiritual significance of genuine democracy. Until democracy in effective enthusiastic action fills the vacuum created by the power of modern inventions, we may expect the fascists to increase in power after the war both in the United States and in the world.
Fascism in the postwar inevitably will push steadily for Anglo-Saxon imperialism and eventually for war with Russia. Already American fascists are talking and writing about this conflict and using it as an excuse for their internal hatreds and intolerances toward certain races, creeds and classes.
It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion. It may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac. It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction. But if we put our trust in the common sense of common men and “with malice toward none and charity for all” go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail."
Apparently we have failed.