Half-Assing the Presidency (2018Jul16)


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Monday, July 16, 2018                                             11:02 AM

Half-Assing the Presidency   (2018Jul16)

When Trump’s cheerleaders say he does things differently, I cannot argue—however, that seems to put an unwarranted shine upon doing things poorly, incompletely, and without any sense of responsibility. Today’s New York Times Arts-Section reports that Trump’s administration has failed to award Presidential Medals for the Arts (or Sciences) thus far, creating yet another gap in the traditions of the White House. This is the same First Family that would have spaced out on the Easter Egg Roll last year, if the Easter Egg manufacturer hadn’t chivied them about their missing pre-order for the special wooden eggs.

The same article points out that Trump has an ‘awkward relationship with the arts’. He can hardly be called a patron (though, if you’re talking over-sized portraits of himself, his fraudulent charity might be interested). Collectible art has become its own investment-sector among the wealthy, but even so, Trump’s base precludes any public support of culture on his part, even if he had the wit to appreciate it. Culture, like science, is way off-brand for this administration.

Trump has no use for diplomacy or, for that matter, any function of the State Department. Even after replacing the top brass, Trump still has no use for the FBI. He gets uncomfortable with all the intelligence services, because they have this theory about the election. Also, they expect him to read this special morning briefing, every morning—and Trump doesn’t like to read—so he doesn’t read it.

Let me preface my next comment with some personal history—when I was little, my dad was fresh from serving as a Marine in Korea. He and my mom had five children, little money, and few prospects. But they sure knew how to work—my parents worked so hard, they worked nearly as hard as their parents had to, during the Great Depression. My parents were good parents—some of my friends’ parents’ behavior made that quite clear (other people’s families are like other planets—and some of them are cold and deadly).

Having said that: when we were very young, my father had the draconian and megalomaniac tendencies of the man who would become a self-made millionaire. He mellowed with time, but back then he could be strict, unreasonable, quick to take offense, and even quicker to lose his temper—a violent prima donna.

Having come this far, I still hesitate to say that Trump reminds me of my dad—it’s not fair to my dad, who was capable of both feeling shame, and seeing reason (eventually). All I’m really saying is: I’m familiar with the psychosis that inhabits the Oval today—I’m familiar with those shell-shocked, bug-eyed kids of his, too. I know when a man is substituting bluster for confidence—and when a man is more comfortable lying than allowing for imperfection.

But I hate to suggest an equivalence—my dad was no coward, no spoiled brat, and several-times-less of a bigot—and he worked his ass off, not just bossing people, but real working. His early parenting style, poverty-stricken and straight from boot camp, traumatized me more than my siblings—and he got better as time went on, slowly but surely. Still, this left me with a horror of people who insist on Authority taking precedence, even over Reason.

Which brings us back to Trump. At first, I felt fortunate—if he was without the slightest experience or in-depth knowledge of government, Trump would definitely do less damage than a real politician could, to forward his fascist deformation of America. Sadly, it turns out, the real politicians won’t behave so outrageously—but they’ll be outrageously silent in the face of Trump doing it. It’s tragic to learn just how shallow their lip-service to public service really is.

Trump’s agenda is two-fold: spoil anything Obama, and pander to the rich, especially himself. He doesn’t know from President—he just wanted to win a contest and purge his racist temper-tantrum. The greatest danger we face now is his growing awareness of and addiction to the immense destructive power of his office. Most people would be embarrassed to be torturing thousands of children and babies—and admitting that they started those internments without any plans to undo their violence. That would give most people pause. Not this clown.

Finally, to anyone who might suggest that Trump’s recent meetings with Kim and Putin are his ‘diplomacy’, let’s make a list of all the things those ill-advised coffee-klatches accomplished:

 

 

 

 

Ask Me Why (2018Jul13)


LINCOLN BY GARDNER

Abraham Lincoln, is shown November 8, 1863. Lincoln sat for 33 photographers and 127 portraits, 37 of them by Gardner – “Mr. Lincoln’s Cameraman”. (AP Photo/Alexander Gardner)

Friday, July 13, 2018                                                12:30 PM

Ask Me Why   (2018Jul13)

We never dwell on the root of the issue. Why did Putin want Trump to win and Hillary to lose? For the same reason I wanted the opposite: because Hillary would have been a strong, competent leader—and Trump would threaten our values and, ultimately, our way of life. Hillary would have been a strong adversary of Putin’s, whereas Trump makes a ‘useful idiot’.

But it goes deeper than that—it’s not just Trump. We saw yesterday, at Strzok’s Congressional Circus and Sideshow, the Republicans—unwilling to give up their presidential election ‘win’, unable to admit that everyone who voted for Trump was duped, and pretending they don’t own the immortal shame of having supported a foreign agent as America’s chief executive.

In pursuit of this misguided delirium, the Republicans remain silent as Trump pulls one boner after another—flouting the law to ban Muslims and to  cancel DACA, flubbing Puerto Rican disaster relief—killing thousands, instituting ‘zero-tolerance’ (which sounds better than ‘full nazi’) as an excuse to torture thousands of children—and break their parents’ hearts (as if those poor folks don’t have enough troubles).

Being against immigration—which made our nation great. Being against science—which made our nation great. Being against free trade—which made our nation great. The Republicans are entirely in the thrall of big business and the super-wealthy—they wait upon the pleasure of the enemies of the People.

The cognitive dissonance yesterday, at that joke of a hearing, was deafening: the Republicans, censuring the FBI hero for his personal comments about what a horror-show a Trump presidency would be—as if it were a crime to see the approaching fiasco for what it was—a criminal encroachment upon the American political system. And, jeez, that mess was corrupt enough before these neo-traitors made their move.

Impeach !

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Ethics have No Promotional Budget (2018Jul11)


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Wednesday, July 11, 2018                                                5:07 PM

Ethics have No Promotional Budget   (2018Jul11)

Lies are funded—partisanship spends most of its time fund-raising—lobbyists get paid the big bucks—and sensationalism sells. If anything is coming at you from a screen right now, the odds are high that it’s trying to sell you something. The games and movies, too—but those things are their own product—they try to sell you more by showing you pieces of the whole entertainment experience, and reminding you where to go to pay the money.

The other shows include advertising– trying to sell you something—as ‘brief’ interruptions—and they try to appeal to us strongly enough that we’ll endure the interruptions. Here’s where it gets convoluted—a televised (or streamed) news-show with sponsors should be bending over backwards to convince the sponsors of the professional and journalistic ethics of their shows.

One might blithely assume that the sponsors would be afraid to be associated with a new organization that couldn’t be trusted. This, sadly, is not the case. More often, the sponsors are only concerned with the numbers of eyeballs—and, to that end, the shows tend to hunt for sensationalism, violence, and conflict.

Which reminds me: Initially, public broadcasts were required to be, at least in part, providing a community service. That’s why the first TV news broadcasts were scrupulously journalistic.

Edward R. Murrow once famously said, “The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.” In his era, TV-news reporters seemed to be taking on the mantel of the printed press—becoming champions of the people’s right to know the facts. (I identify with Murrow—he died of chain-smoking—up there in Pawling, in 1965.)

Then the nature of ‘show business’ soon brought that sort of idealism to a close. It’s lucky that journalism wasn’t named ‘the news business’, or papers would be just as worthless as the video-whores.

And, truth to tell, the papers are not the ethical ivory-towers they once purported to be, if they ever where—the printed word, having ceded the field to the digital, can no longer referee in squabbles of note. The papers, too, have shifted towards partisanship—or appeared to, where reason and common sense makes one side feel obligated to oppose the other side as an evil, rather than a difference of opinion.

My point is: greed, fear, and ignorance have limitless backing—everybody wants a piece of that pie. Fairness and justice go begging.

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War On Our Enemies (2018Jul10)


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Tuesday, July 10, 2018                                             12:40 AM

War On Our Enemies   (2018Jul10)

There are armies of highly-paid lobbyists swarming all over Washington, D.C.—their only object: to subvert the will of the people in any way that will profit the industry that sent them there, be they Monsanto, Mobil, NRA, Pfizer, et. al. That makes them, QED, enemies of Democracy. We must fight these people—for they threaten our livelihoods and our Constitutional freedoms.

There are a plethora of media outlets, radio, TV, in print, and online, which propagate misinformation in the guise of journalism or political opinion—these greedy rumor-mongers aren’t really ‘Big Evil’, they’re miserable grubs who see an easy buck—bilking the gullible. The Big Evil that results from their greasy scam is collateral damage, the toxic scum that this industry dumps into our clear water of discourse—the parasites that engage in it are only amoral pigs, not masterminds. In most cases, their ‘sponsors’ aren’t buying airtime for ads—they’re simply using these traitors as useful idiots. We must fight these enemies of Democracy: Limbaugh, Hannity, the entire Fox media, that asshat on InfoWars —for they threaten our livelihoods and our Constitutional freedoms.

There are entitled, self-obsessed billionaires who bypass the lobbies (or more likely supplement them) by dumping money on some craven pol who thinks he or she is ‘swimming with the sharks’ on the road to power and position. The pols must overlook the quasi-criminal nature of such as Charles and David Koch, Sheldon Adelson, and Foster Friess, before they can accept the backing of people who think money equals wisdom (what is it about being rich that makes people so stupid?). We must fight these people—for they threaten our livelihoods and our Constitutional freedoms.

There are check-cashing businesses and loan cos. and banks and investment firms—all of whom long ago grew dissatisfied with merely using our money to invest in stable businesses, and splitting the interest earned—oh, no, no, don’t be ridiculous. No, a banker is a god—don’t you know? Some even see themselves as ‘masters of the universe’. The vertiginous mania of greed, as you can see, clearly makes them numb to the fact that such a label allows no plural. These people have computers now—their incessant drive, to separate us from our money, makes them dangerous in many new ways. The recent scandals at Wells Fargo, LIBOR, and Morgan-Chase show that customer-service has morphed into predatory behavior—joining advertising as a fellow ‘industry the world could easily live without’.

Our obsession with Capitalism has made it impossible for anyone to work in the banking industry and not suffer a psychotic delusion: that handling large amounts of money makes their skin glow and their shit stop stinking. We must fight these people—for they threaten our livelihoods and our Constitutional freedoms.

We all know who are enemies are. Even controlling the media doesn’t allow them to hide the simple truth—though it allows them to pile on so much bullshit that the truth is fairly obscured—still, if you look close, there it is. One Netflix comic has a line now: “They said, ‘the immigrants and single women are taking all the jobs’—yeah, right—the people with no money and no power are taking all the money.”

There is a group in America today that agrees with statements that are manifestly false—because they are couched in hate-mongering and finger-pointing. Those people, unfortunately, comprise a good 30%-35% of voters. The con-men will always get their votes, because they don’t listen to the words—they watch for the entitlement and the wink towards propriety. “Political correctness—bah!” There‘s their policy statement.

Somehow, the conservatives have conflated being tough with being dishonest (and that sounds like the reasoning of a criminal—not for nothing). I guess they got pushed into a corner—when we told them that petroleum-burning was going to kill us all. I mean, if I was filthy rich from gasoline, I’d have an argument or two, too. But I’d have to be a special kind of dick-head to keep doing it, even after the global flooding started, decades later.

Make no mistake—our own worst enemies are our apathy and inertia. I get it—the world may be in danger, but not today. Right? Sadly, our only ammunition is political involvement—running for office is like volunteering to be a political aircraft-carrier, volunteering is like the infantry—and votes, of course, are our bullets. Without the votes, we get slaughtered—and not just politically. Shit’s getting serious, dude.

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The United States of Problems (2018Jul08)


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Sunday, July 08, 2018                                              3:36 PM

The United States of Problems   (2018Jul08)

T’would seem the poisons we use to kill the bad bugs and plants are sometimes killing the good bugs and plants—the necessary bugs and plants—just as the antibiotics we use to save ourselves from bad bacteria are sometimes killing the good bacteria—the bacteria necessary for digestion. Our desperate need to fight evil—to save ourselves and our livelihoods—becomes a driving force. And that Force whispers to us, “The collateral damage is an unavoidable cost. Eat it!”

Everyone recognizes this situation—the paradoxical prison of high-tech civilization. Everyone knows that Climate Disruption is driven by humanity’s energy consumption—and everyone knows that we would suffer and die without the energy consumption.

But mere facts are only the beginning. We each choose our personal perspectives on those facts. The lowest perspective is a popular one: denial, dishonesty, ‘bargaining’ with logic—only the slack-jawed fail to see the self-destructive nature of that approach. The middling perspective is more mature, but still rather conservative: let’s compromise, let’s be bi-partisan, let’s move forward together. Problem: both perspectives dominate the social discourse—and both perspectives lead to inexorable extinction.

The most intelligent perspective on humanity’s tech/survival crisis is to examine our culture and commerce with fresh eyes—to make lots of changes that would all be non-starters in present popular opinion. It is sad that intelligence has gone so out of favor with Americans today—because intelligence is all that’s needed to transform a social-media full of trash-talk and dick-pics into a social-media that coordinates efforts to help each other.

Other nations have found out how strong the web is, when people feel oppressed. Well, America isn’t anywhere near that level of savagery—but we don’t need to riot in the streets. Uber was a bloodless revolution, as was Amazon, AirBnB, Google, EBay, and Etsy—but all these early paradigm-shifts had one limiting factor. They made money—in fact, they mostly made one guy rich. And many of us would consider their cultural disruption to take a back-seat to that one important result: rich! Americans think the Internet is only good for making people rich—but that’s only a small part of it.

Intelligent organization via the web can give super-powers to any endeavor popular enough to support crowd-involvement. Money only limits the choices, in that paradigm. And since our ‘Democracy’ seems to be slightly hacked, right now, maybe this would be a good time for community-minded folks to start uniting into more powerful forces. It’s in our country’s name, y’all.

People talk about how united we were during the Second World War—everyone pulling together to win the war. Well, Congress (such as it is) is not going to declare war—but if you think we’re not presently in a war for survival, well, you haven’t been paying attention to the nuclear arms and the hurricanes and floods and habitat-loss and mass violence and floods of refugees. And you certainly haven’t noticed the soulless, greedy bastards who make money from delaying public awareness of the dangers we face, right now.

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None Of That Matters (2018Jul06)


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Friday, July 06, 2018                                                          3:25 PM

None Of That Matters   (2018Jul06)

I’d say: here’s a list of the music I’ve been listening to, lately—and list all the composers and bands and soloists that I listen to nowadays. I’d say: here’s a list of the books I’ve been reading, lately—and list all the books and authors that I’ve recently read. I’d say: here’s a list of the videos I’ve been posting to YouTube, lately—and list all the baby pictures and baby videos and piano recordings that I’ve recently worked with. I’d say: here’s a list of the music manuscripts I’ve been sight-reading, lately—and list all the books and composers and pieces that I’ve recently played or practiced. I’d say: here’s a list of the essays I’ve been writing, lately—and list all the titles that I’ve recently posted on my blog. But all of that would take forever—and who would want to read lists, anyway?

I’d talk about my vertigo, my intentional tremors, my migraines, my fatigue and shortness of breath, my precipitous weight-loss, my chronic muscle spasms, my intestinal difficulties, my emphysema, my transplant scars, my heart arrhythmia, and my lack of focus or short-term memory. Then I’d list all the anti-depressants, anti-diuretics, stomach-acid suppressors, anti-rejection drugs, OTC analgesics, nicotine patches, and corticosteroid inhalers which I take, to try and make it all bearable each day.

I’d talk about my wonderful family: my lovely Bear, my studious Boo-Boo, my Punkin (and her Hubby and her Princess), my late parents and grandparents, my siblings, my nieces, my nephews, and my in-laws. I’d talk about how lucky I am to have so many people, and so much love, in my life.

I’d even talked about the strange series of circumstances that led to my having more wealth and comfort than I ever dreamed of—in spite of being on disability for half my life. I’d talk about the seven colleges I enjoyed attending but never bothered to earn a degree from. If someone were foolish enough to ask, I’d even wax nostalgic about my old career as a computer coder and systems manager.

I’d talk about the history of the Universe, of our planet, of humanity, of civilization, of science, of art and music, of literature, of Europe, and especially American history—because, up until last election, I was very proud to live in what I considered the greatest country on Earth. I’d talk about the history of human rights, of freedom and democracy.

But none of that matters anymore—because I’ve turned into a sick old man who gripes about the crooks running our government and destroying our values and traditions (and our planet). That’s all I talk about any more. I’d like to change the subject—but I lie awake every night, I stew every day, obsessing over these horrendous traitors who somehow got the reins of a country they don’t deserve to live in, much less govern.

A Republican Will Look You In the Eye (2018Jul6)


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Friday, July 06, 2018                                                2:14 AM

A Republican Will Look You In the Eye   (2018Jul6)

Capitalism, commodification, monetization—all lovely stuff, and anyone that thinks up a new way to ‘package’ a need, gets to be a Baller—cool, how exciting.

Except for lobbyists, who corrupt our legislators and bedevil our laws, all in the name of profit; for extremists and hypocrites, who conflate our politics with their oh-so-profitable zealotry, and hold the line against legislation that might really enforce equality and fairness; for arms-makers, who are the richest pigs on earth (mostly because they’ve sold death for so long, they can pretend it’s a basic necessity); for investors who refuse to connect their personal profit with the ubiquitous inhumanity of banks, industries, and the overly entitled.

It’s true that changing this nation-turned-crackhouse back into a halfway-decent home is a seemingly impossible task. The only thing that stopped them before was politicians—politicians who got votes by promising to protect you from these greedy, soulless bastards. Somehow, in the eighties, people starting talking about the economy—about how everyone’s lifestyle hinged on a healthy economy, so it was bad to yell at the rich people.

I saw that for the bullshit it was, back when everyone else was talking about how cool Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas were in “Wall Street”. But I was, and am, in a tiny minority of people. For over thirty years, wages have frozen, benefits and profit-sharing are history, work hours are longer, and work environments have become ever more dehumanizing.

When big industries lie to us now, we don’t laugh in their faces anymore—we actually listen to them, as if they had no profit-motive for every word, deed, or decision. We don’t even laugh at a clown like Trump—he has a whole TV news channel dedicated to spreading his ignorance and lies. And at least 30% of us are bitter and ignorant enough to hear what we want to hear, even when it’s so false, it contradicts logic. Thank you, Fox News—and Fuck you—very much.

A Republican will look you in the eye and tell you the $15/hour is just too much money to pay some people—that making the minimum wage $15/hour would only hurt business. Poor business—it might get an owie.

Let’s ignore the fact that that’s total bullshit—let’s just consider the fact that a politician (who presumably needs votes to keep the job) is publicly stating that paying a living wage, across the country, is no concern of the government—and that if it is, the businesses are more important anyway, so go fish.

A Republican will describe their big new bill as a ‘tax cut’, instead of the embezzlement it truly represents. A Republican will tell you they oppose abortion for ethical reasons—which would be easier to believe if they didn’t scoff at the ethical considerations of any other plank on their platform. A Republican will tell you that Trump has done nothing wrong—and is doing a great job. A Republican has nothing to say, however, when thousands of children are kidnapped, and are stilled being held in ‘detention centers’, denied reunification with the parent they were torn from, weeks, sometimes months ago.

A Republican will tell you that only 46 Puerto Ricans died from last year’s disaster—and that relief was provided, and all is well. A Republican will tell you that it was right to hold up Obama’s SCOTUS nomination, but it would be wrong to hold up Trump’s.

(Oh, and they’ll also tell you Trump is Not a racist). Though, if that is the case, then I have been using that word wrong all these years.

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