Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Adoring Waste of Souls

Here’s a poem by James Joyce, just for the hell of it:

Gaunt in gloom,
The pale stars their torches,
Enshrouded, wave.
Ghostfires from heaven's far verges faint illume,
Arches on soaring arches,
Night's sindark nave.

The lost hosts awaken
To service till
In moonless gloom each lapses muted, dim,
Raised when she has and shaken
Her thurible.

And long and loud,
To night's nave upsoaring,
A starknell tolls
As the bleak incense surges, cloud on cloud,
Voidward from the adoring
Waste of souls.

Pointless Observation

Donald Trump is the only thing on planet earth that makes Hillary Clinton look good.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Idiot America

Full grown adults are wandering into traffic and getting into accidents playing Pokemon. They also pay twelve bucks to go see superhero movies and think Batman versus Superman is a worthwhile topic of conversation. Donald Trump might become president.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this how a species goes extinct. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hillary’s First Hundred Days

What can we expect during the first hundred days of a Clinton presidency? The New York Times let’s us know:
Should she win the presidency, Hillary Clinton would quickly try to find common ground with Republicans on an immigration overhaul and infrastructure spending, risking the wrath of liberals who would like nothing more than to twist the knife in a wounded opposition party.
Economic inequality is destroying the United States. It has fractured the Republicans, led to the emergence of a proto-fascist demagogue, and nearly cost Hillary the democratic nomination (to a socialist, no less). It is warping the entire character of this nation and gradually turning it into a third world country. It is the fundamental political problem of our time, and it’s causing upheavals not just in the United States but in Europe as well. Ignoring it constitutes political malfeasance of the highest order.

But our next president and her handlers, tucked away in the soundproof womb of the Beltway, don’t see or hear any of it. The tectonic plates of history are shifting and buckling beneath their feet, but when they put their big brains together all they can come up with is … bipartisan immigration reform!

This is vision on the level of a Warren Harding or a James Buchanan. At best, this is the usual bipartisan happy talk that all candidates have to use to sooth the folks and reassure the powerful. At worst, it reflects a staggering disconnectedness from the actual world.

And how will Hillary achieve this bipartisan miracle? Simple. she’s going to change the upholstery, and this is somehow going to make the car run better:
In her first 100 days, she would also tap women to make up half of her cabinet in hopes of bringing a new tone and collaborative sensibility to Washington, while also looking past Wall Street to places like Silicon Valley for talent — perhaps wooing Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook, and maybe asking Tim Cook from Apple to become the first openly gay cabinet secretary.

Women, gays and Silicon Valley CEOs are going to bring a new tone! Sounds like a brave new world to me. Why hasn’t anybody ever thought of this before?

This from a campaign that routinely derided Sander’s supporters as shallow naifs, as whiny children who believed in change fairies and unicorns and just didn’t grasp the tough nitty-gritty of politics.

She’s incapable of thinking beyond the narrow Washington group-think that has formed her entire worldview. She’s spent a lifetime inside the bowels of the establishment, which can only be done if you never rock the boat and never go below the surface politics of things. Even if she does grasp the fundamentals of our predicament, she would never have the political will to act on it. It would go against the grain of her entire life. She will tinker around the edges, like Obama and her husband before her, a nip here, a tuck there, and rainbow colored band-aids everywhere, while the great rotting barge of the country drifts ever closer to the iceberg. Putting her in the White House at this moment in history is like putting an orthodontist in charge of a major heart operation.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Name That Holiday

War movies and sports are on TV. American flags are everywhere. You smell hot dogs, and all day long you’ve been urged to give thanks and remember the troops (living or dead? You can’t remember) because they gave us our freedom. Every half-ass used car salesmen and furniture store is running ads that beat you over the head with their patriotism. There is a peculiar listlessness to it all. People’s joy seems perfunctory, or at any rate less natural than on a typical Friday night. They’re doing what they do because that’s what you do that day.

What holiday is being celebrated? Is it Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, or the Fourth of July? Does it matter?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

My Old Friends

Thanks to Facebook, I get to see which of my high school chums turned into right wing morons. There are a couple, mostly gun worshiping NRA zealots (with a smattering of climate change denial thrown in for fun. It reveals itself in smug quips that they think are debate stoppingly witty, but in fact are just witlessly, debate stoppingly stupid, like, “It just snowed here. Suck on that, Al Gore, yuk yuk).

They are walking, talking examples of the need for increased spending on education, which of course they oppose with guns at the ready, like Thomas Jefferson would have wanted (and George Washington too, or didn’t you commie libs learn American history in school?)

It’s a study in disappointment, another grim life lesson learned. They were so nice and fun when we were young, and now they are just, well, not. Sometimes it’s better to lose touch.

I’m not the butter-cheeked optimist I used to be either, but I didn’t become a belligerent, gun-loving misanthrope the day I discovered the boss is an asshole. These guys did. These guys became touchy and defensive “libertarians” the minute they had to start paying child support or were fined fifty bucks by the DMV. Such are the mundane traumas that drive our hysterical right; such are the oppressions that call these patriots to arms.

If I was watching from a different planet I’d piss my pants laughing, assuming I hadn’t been bored into a coma first.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Our Hideous Prospects

Okay, I won’t bash Hillary anymore. We’re acutely aware of her flaws. We know she is distressingly hawkish and neoliberal. We know she is a dull, stale, depressingly conventional figure and her policies will reflect that. She is going to deliver four years of tepid, lackluster, gruel and tap water “leadership” that’s going to teach us all what it was like to live under Millard Fillmore. “Living History” indeed! Her atrocious sycophants — the Lanny Davis, Susan Estrich types — will invade the airwaves like a pestilence to convince us she’s the greatest thing since Roosevelt, and they will accuse the opposition of sexism at every goddamn turn because that’s all they will have.

Meanwhile, the screeching apes on the right will howl that she’s a lezzo fenminist pinko bent on destroying the Constitution. Good God, it’s enough to make us want to renounce our citizenship and become a gardener in Uruguay.

And every evening we will scratch our head and wonder how the country of our birth degenerated into such a ludicrous cartoon madhouse. Are we really this awful?

Obnoxious sound and obnoxious fury signifying absolutely fucking nothing.

But we must vote for her, and we will, because her opponent is Donald Trump, a dangerous, stunted narcissist who must never, ever, ever be allowed to wield power.

This is the best we can do.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Inside The Clinton White House, 2018

Once again, the Democrats have been shellacked in the midterms. There is stunned disbelief in the White House. Niether Hillary nor her political team saw it coming, which was surprising because they were the most diverse group of experts ever to be assembled from both Harvard and Yale. They were the brightest minds in the country, a group Thomas Friedman compared favorably to presidential brain trusts of the past. Think JFK with an iPhone, he gushed, trying to convey something of their sheer dazzling awesomeness to an unenlightened public.

They were young, hip, dynamic and cutting edge. Thinking outside the box and pushing boundaries was mother’s milk to them. Hell, they practically did it in their sleep. They watched Game of Thrones, compulsively used Twitter, and put cute little emojis in their email correspondence …

They told Hillary to resurrect TPP and fast track it through Congress. She did. They told to her cut Social Security. She did. They told her to go easy on Wall Street. She did. They told not to raise the minimum wage. She didn’t. They said strengthen ties with Israel, get tough with Putin, and when it came to Syria and ISIS, there were only four little words: boots on the ground. Done, done and done.

Then, shockingly, the Democrats got trounced, and none of Hillary’s bright young political sharpies had the faintest idea why. They frantically texted back and forth that it was, like, the Dark Side had won, and, like, Sith lords controlled America! Their emojis told the story:

Now Hillary was staring down the barrel of Republican domination and one term mediocrity. Was it possible that the most qualified candidate in the history of the universe would rank alongside like Herbert Hoover or, gasp, G.H.W. Bush? Despair grips the White House. The atmosphere is funereal.

President Clinton gazes out of the Oval Office, cradling a cup of herbal tea with both hands. It is her second cup in a row - an unseemly indulgence, to be sure, but these were extraordinary times. Surely Hugh Rodham, glowering down from his Methodist heaven, wouldn’t begrudge her this minor lapse? She had, after all, earned straight A’s at Wellesley and became America’s first female president.

Huma Abedin tip toes up as quietly as a mortician and whispers in Hillary’s ear: “Jeb Bush sends his condolences. He says he knows exactly how you feel.”

Indeed. Hillary nods and turns away. Needing no verbal instruction, Huma withdraws as silently as a ghost. A natural born servant, Huma is psychically in tune with Hillary. She anticipates Hillary’s needs with uncanny prescience, materializing like some wispy spirit at just the right moment with a cup of hot tea here, a gluten-free macaroon there, or a clean salad fork when Hillary noticed water spots on the old one — something that unfailingly incurred Her displeasure.

Hillary was Huma’s whole world, her sun and her moon, the lodestar in her firmament. Without Hillary she would be utterly lost and helpless, like Barney without Fred or Boo Boo without Yogi. Because of her link to Hillary, it wasn’t even that bad when her husband got caught putting pictures of his weenie online. There had been titters at the gym, the Whole Foods, and her favorite trattoria, but safe within Hillary’s orbit she was able to weather the storm. She recalled the amazing moment Hillary came into her life, and Shangra-La had opened its doors. It was like meeting the Dalai Llama, attending an Amway seminar, and doing Pilates all at the same time!
“You know these things that happen in your life that just stick? She walked by and she shook my hand and our eyes connected and I just remember having this moment where I thought; “Wow, this is amazing,”’ said Abedin. ‘And it just inspired me. You know, I still remember the look on her face. And it’s funny, and she would probably be so annoyed that I say this, but I remember thinking; “Oh my God, she’s so beautiful and she’s so little!”’
On the strength of this vapid epiphany a beautiful relationship was born. Now Huma waited on Hillary with Goebbels-like devotion. She believed implicitly that Hillary was always the smartest and most competent person in the room, and those who refused to acknowledge this basic fact were swiftly and deservedly removed, often under the approving glare of Huma. She was quick to smell treason in the ranks and gave Hillary frequent updates on those deemed insufficiently loyal.

Hillary has assembled an impromptu meeting with her economic team, which consists of Larry Summers, Robert Rubin, and Secretary of the Treasury Jamie Dimon, who is, however, busy playing racquetball at the moment. He sees no reason to forgo his daily workout on account of a meeting with a mere president. Alan Greenspan, who will never die or go away, ever, is on speaker phone, and friend of the administration Paul Krugman shuffles in late, harried and disheveled, papers sticking out of his briefcase.

Rahm Emmanuel and David Brock are off in the shadows, huddled together like two adolescents engaged in naughty shenanigans. As Huma passes by, she hears Rahm say to David, “That’s when I discovered frogs have more highly developed central nervous systems than insects, which makes their pain much, much more exquisite.”

“Sit down, Paul,” Hillary coldly orders. There is a hardness in her tone that makes Krugman uneasy.

“What happened, Paul?”

Krugman fidgets and stutters. “Well, uh, gee, you know, um, I’m just an academic with a beard, you know? And, um …”

“Come to the point, Paul.”

“Progressives! It’s all the fault of progressives! They just don’t vote in the midterms.”

Larry Summers speaks up. “We disagree, Paul. We have the finest political team in existence, and they assured us that we wouldn’t need progressive votes. They told us progressives are outliers.”

Krugman protests. “But, uh, even Ezra agrees with me, and we’re pretty smart guys. We look at charts and graphs!”

“Paul,” Hillary says, “we think these results are a clear mandate that the American people want us to turn right. We need to change course. The administration just can’t afford to be associated with someone as liberal as you at this juncture.”

Bob Rubin chimes in. “We feel the administration needs to become more market friendly. ”

Rahm Emmanuel and David Brock stand up and slowly walk toward Krugman. Their shadows darken his face, and Krugman physically appears to shrink.  He does most intellectuals do when faced with danger. He drops to his knees and begs: “B-b-b-but, b-b-b-b-but … ”

Emmanuel and Brock gently but firmly take Krugman by the arms and lead him toward the door. Krugman’s sense of reality evaporates. Beads of sweat materialize on his forehead. Hillary speaks sharply, relishing the chance to be play the bad-ass CEO.  “You’re out, Paul!”

Rahm Emmanuel and David Brock pull on Krugman harder. He seizes up like dog being dragged to the vet, his heels digging into the rug. “But Hill, I did everything you asked. I bashed the Bernie Bros! I said big banks didn’t cause the recession! I said inequality was shrinking! I lied for you, master!

Hillary is unmoved. Great leaders couldn”t afford to be swayed by sentiment and emotion. They had to stand pat and make tough decisions. “You just can’t help us win anymore, Paul.”

Lawrence Summers is ecstatic. His fleshy fat face pulsates with repressed joy. It is red and sweaty, like a piece of linguica about to explode in the microwave. There were insiders and outsiders. Paul was now an outsider. He couldn’t resist a parting kick: “Oh, and Paul? We fully expect you’ll be on board for the administration’s next roll out: I’m Still With Hill!

Rahm and David shove Krugman out of the White House. He gradually pulls himself together, wipes his chin, and consoles himself with the knowledge that, sooner or later, Ani Di Franco just had to be coming out with a new CD …

Saturday, June 18, 2016

An Ethical Dilemma

(This is kind of an oldie, but I decided to resurrect it for your consideration)

Scene from a library: Here am I, scanning and posting my umpteenth resume for the umpteenth freakin’ time, growing dejected, disillusioned, dismayed, demoralized, deflated, and every other bad thing that starts with “D”. My angst grows with each ruthless tick of the clock. The window is closing. My horizon is dimming. Time is running out. Nobody ever calls except Citibank. Walt Disney lied to me.

Suddenly, an obnoxiously LOUD cell phone rings, and an obese lady with a broken leg leaps up with a start to answer it. As she does so, her chair rolls out from underneath her. One of her crutches bangs into the computer, and she falls to the floor with an enormous leaden thud, like a giant bowling ball being dropped in wet cement - THWUMP. The floor vibrates as if a small earthquake just occurred, and everyone in the place is jolted from their digital stupors long enough to look around to see what the fuck caused that noise.

A man instinctively rushes over to assist her, but surprisingly she refuses his help. “No,” she insists, politely but firmly, her face beat red. “I’m fine, I’m fine.” This is odd, because the woman is obviously too fat and too wounded to get up on her own. What gives?

So the man returns to his computer, and the woman just stays o the floor, gasping and heaving like a harpooned walrus, and talks on her phone for a good minute or two.

And then, after she finishes her call, she motions for the same guy to come over and help her back into her chair and he does!

Question: Is this a positive or a negative of statement about human nature? What would have been the proper thing for her or him to do in that situation? Was it right for her to push him away order to take a phone call, and then lay claim to his compassion minutes later at her convenience? And was he right to oblige her in this way?

(And no, I didn’t get the job.)

What Would The NRA’s Ideal Country Look Like?

I’ve never had strong opinions about gun control, but I find myself utterly detesting the NRA and and its legion of brain dead gun zealots. They just drive me up the wall. I don’t really care that much about guns. If Billy Bob and Darrell want to run off into the woods in their camos and play Rambo with their rifles, that’s fine by me. In fact, I would prefer that they do that instead of engaging in activities that are more harmful to society, like, say, voting or breeding. But every time I hear some conservative asshole say that more guns equal less crime, or that it takes a “good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun,” I want to kick him in the nuts and put him on the first flight to Somalia, where there is no debate about gun control or the nanny state.

Let him see a truly libertarian paradise in action. Let him see how “more guns equal less crime.” Let him see how well his liberty is preserved in a country where open-carry is zealously practiced by armed gangs of young men. Let him see what happens when one group of “good guys with guns” tries to stop another group of “bad guys with guns.”

Anybody who tells you that putting more guns into more people’s hands makes you safer is a lying mercenary for the NRA, a moron, or a lunatic. Would you honestly feel safer if every eighteen year old male in the country went around with an AR-15? Would that make you feel secure? Would that encourage you to exercise your right to free speech?

What happens when a group of these ardent Second Amendment freedom lovers goes bad? What happens when they decide they want to rape your daughter? Are you gonna just whip out your magnum and shoot ’em up, like in the movies? You wouldn’t have time. Knowing you were armed, they would have taken your ass out right away. You’d be dead on the ground faster than you can say “well-regulated militia.”

But it’s okay, because in our NRA Utopia everyone is armed, so another citizen, let’s call him Good Guy One, pulls his gun and starts blazing away at those Bad Guys! Problem solved, right?

Except Good Guy One’s first shot misses and hits a bystander. The Bad Guys then turn and start blasting at him. Bullets are flying everywhere. There is utter chaos and pandemonium. You and your daughter are dead. Viva freedom!

Enter Good Guy Two, locked and loaded and ready for action. He draws his piece and opens fire. The trouble is, Good Guy Two doesn’t know who the good guys or the bad guys are, so he actually aims and hits Good Guy One.

At that point, another good guy, Good Guy Three, rolls up and starts shooting at Good Guy Two. The ground is littered with dead bodies, but Good Guy Three is undaunted. He knows that freedom isn’t free and that this is the price you pay for liberty. He knows that any compromise on gun rights puts you on a slippery slope to Hitler. Why didn’t liberals understand that? He concludes that liberalism is a mental disorder and continues blasting away at anything and everything that moves, winging one of the Bad Guys and killing some terrified schlub who was just walking to his part-time minimum wage job at Wal-Mart. Viva freedom!

Then the police show up, and they have no idea who the good guys and the bad guys are. They just see a bunch of lunatics shooting at each other. They open fire and kill them all.

And look at that. Even in the face of all that freedom, Big Government still wins!

The next time you hear some glib politician say that more guns equal less crime, or that more guns are the solution to mass shootings, just think about the consequences of what they are recommending, and then ask yourself what kind of human being would advocate such a thing.