Category Archives: Uncategorized
I was looking on the web for an entry point into the subject of American gun violence in schools. I typed into The Google “school shootings”, and trusty Wikipedia curates a list of them going all the way back to the 1840s, sorted by decade. I thought the breadth of the information was curious enough. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how much longer the entries became as I scrolled the decades. Once you get to the 1980s, the frequency jumps. And it spikes upward yet again at the turn of the century. This decade’s list is almost as long as the one preceding it and we still have nearly a year to go.
Anybody looking at the progression will no doubt ask: what the hell is going on here?
I have a sociology degree, but I have not studied this topic. I did study it peripherally in a class about murder-I can’t say I took much from it, I think it was one of those eight week summer quickies-but we were all treated to alarming numbers about how much murder and what type was going down in America. I think I remember that in 2015, there were approximately 14,000 gun deaths. I remember this particularly because we spent a day at the college putting approximately 14,000 chalk tally marks on the sidewalk running from our classroom to the main campus building to show other students and ourselves what that number of people gunned down looked like represented physically. It’s a lot more trenchant when you have to take it all in at once.
Bottom line, it’s plain to anybody that there’s a problem in America regarding lethal weapons going back further than some of us have been alive. But the death epidemic has become supercharged in recent decades. Why?
I could take a stab or two. Obviously, being armed at one point was something of a commandment, enshrined in our Constitution. But we are worlds away from the exigency of needing to own a rifle, having completed our manifest destiny by killing or driving out the competition. Our direst existential threats are far across the ocean now, where we have a standing army to fight over there so we don’t have to fight here, as they always say. Our dicksmack “president” even wants to wall off our southern flank, and the Canucks are cool because they are white. So really, the list of the reasons for needing firearms is rather short and getting shorter. You will not be called up to the militia because of Indians or redcoats, or mounties. Oh, sure, someday there might be a need for you to go to war because of Selective Service, but even that is unlikely due to the large aforementioned standing force-and I assure you will be given a quick tutorial on how to shoot straight and be well regulated before they make cannon fodder out of you. And how likely is another Hitler? What world are we living in where we have to be on guard for that shit again? We won World War Two for the right to end the next Hitler with a button on a joystick, there won’t be any storming of the beach type shit. To put a fine point on it, today’s battlefields could not have been imagined by the founders no matter what the case. Marching in formation with arms is ceremony, not doctrine. Everything is asymmetric these days, the battle manuals are being either thrown out or rewritten as we learn how to do successful counterterrorism with irregular enemies.
To wit: you don’t need a gun. Chances are, you just want one because you like them, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But the Second Amendment’s practical use is quaint, much like the one proceeding it regarding the quartering of soldiers with citizens. And the one about twenty dollar common law suits. And don’t get me started on the parts of it that we don’t observe any more because of the creeping evolution of a police state here like the loss of habeas corpus, right to assemble, cruel and unusual punishment, the permanence of constant surveillance, and excessive bail. I didn’t see any of you Stratalounger-bound ‘Muricans with a safe full of carbines going all Daniel Shays while that stuff was happening. A lot of the Constitution, like it or not, is optional.
If you think for a minute that you need that gun to stop the government from taking your rights, you are late to the party. If you think you need it to shoot “antifa” or protect the babies from the abortion providers, you ought to be on a list of people who can’t have a gun because you are not civil. You can typically summon police in minutes if you are the victim of a bandit, one who likely got his or her weapon due to lax gun control, so that argument is mostly out the window. The fact is, “freedom” and being armed are of course not the same thing, but we somehow conflate these concepts, even when we have no evidence that we are freer because we have stopping power handy. I think people feel independent by owning a firearm (and boy howdy, do we love our Independence!), but that doesn’t mean they are. It’s the illusion of security-after all, any given situation has a higher chance of becoming ipso facto more lethal if someone brings a lethal weapon to a situation, So technically, you are less safe if you pack.
None of this logic ever finds its way into the minds of our lawmakers, especially those of a right-wing bent. That’s largely because of the way we fund our lawmakers’ campaigns. Now that just about anything can donate anything to anybody thanks to the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision on the limits of campaign finance law, candidates are desperately vying for the necessary donations to fund what are almost always multimillion dollar campaigns. And in today’s America, where so much wealth is concentrated upwards, it’s much easier to take a fat check from a corporation or a PAC or a lobby group like the NRA or what have you than to hope for thousands of small donations from serfs like you and I. This is the primary reason that our representatives don’t often represent us anymore; we can’t afford pay to play. I don’t know how or when that is going to get any better because we are in something of a peculiarly fascistic downspiral in the United States, both economically and socially and I don’t know exactly how the next bars of this song go even though someone somewhere has written the tune several times. All I know is that I am glad that it’s a classless, clueless dolt like Donald Trump setting fire to everything than a clandestine, calculated thug like a Vladimir Putin.
So what I’m really on about is what the hell is happening in fucking Indiana where teachers are getting “executed” with pellets during school shooting “drills” , something I imagine their M.A. did not cover.
Listen up, folks. I went into the Army not once, but twice. Basic training is interesting, but survivable hell. It’s quite the psychological (and physical) gauntlet. Yes, I did have live rounds going over my head while I low-crawled under barbed wire. I got choked out in a CS gas chamber. Hell, I had to do that a lot of times in my nine year stint. I threw a live grenade. But at no time was I ever “shot” with anything except laser beams in training, and if I was to “die”, it was at the hands of someone who got the jump on me by saying something like “powpowpowpow you’re dead”, just like kids horsing around. Sometimes you would discharge a blank but never, ever at close range. No pellets or BBs. Know why? It’s fucking dangerous and your math teacher shouldn’t have to be scared shitless or come home marked up.
Think about it. Somewhere, educators are probably getting more bruises, both physically and psychologically than I did in basic military training. And my benefits were and remain top shelf. In today’s climate of worker contempt, I doubt the same is true of whoever is teaching my/your kids right now. Unions are being decimated and at the same time teachers are being taught to take a bullet or kill someone, likely without the requisite pay bump for the extra work. There is something deeply amiss within the soul of this country where our killers warrant more respect than our teachers. Doubtless each respective job deserves a doff of the cap by the rest of the smart patrol. But the disciplines should remain separate. Defending is a full time job, and so is education. It’s irresponsible to mix the two at the very least, and seriously unlikely that scads of future teachers are going to carry both skill sets. And let’s not forget about the accidental discharges from bumbling armed educators.
Someone my wife knows thought it was abusive to put a teacher through this type of drill. I didn’t stop there. I think it’s terrorism.
We’ll forget soon how swiftly New Zealand acted once deadly weapons and a murderous soul found each other in Christchurch recently. We’ll keep hurting teachers until good people just don’t want the job anymore. And we won’t do bupkiss about gun control here while that list I linked above gets longer and longer except offer stale thoughts and prayers without attacking the real problem; the easy availability of a handheld weapon of mass destruction to a public whose character, long in question, has become decidedly unstable.
Should God indeed exist, I will be relieved in a sense if He tells me my life was a joke that He amused himself with and that I could come on into Paradise and live forever in a nice neighborhood having realized I was the joke, finally in on the reason for all of that silliness. Haw, haw. That’s cool- I have some practice at being a joke. Don’t we all?
I have been a good person, deserving of a little heaven, certainly more deserving of eternal contentment than some jerks I know who get dunked in some water by a pastor and are “saved”. I have had some good times, and met the most amazing people I will ever know-my family.
And it breaks my heart to the core to accept that I will not see them after I close my eyes and stop respiring. This is the part where I become angry while wiping a little moisture from my eyes with the idea of God and his adherents.
I remember when I was in my teens, desperately searching for meaning and purpose. I had stopped attending church because no one there really became a better person for knowing Jesus. I threw away the Bible and plunged into other books. There I found different ontologies. I remember being glad that there were so many philosophies, that so many great people struggled to understand why we are here and what we are doing. It made living much easier knowing that I was in good company trying to figure that out.
One of the things often missing from life is certainty. We’re all walking around doing life as it comes, often doing it poorly, or wishing we could do something else. In American capitalism, if you are lucky, you typically get four years to study up and find a meaning or an occupation that is right for you. Chances are a real job that has nothing to do with your beliefs and skills will come along once you get your paper with the pretty seal on it and take up all the time you need to think because you’ll never be done working until you are near death. When you come home every day you have to work some more, often to get ready for the next day of work. Twelve years of school has gotten you used to that idea. Small surprise that the Job that keeps you going becomes your reason. Some people are satisfied with that, that the meaning of life is what you worked on. Add a dash of everlasting salvation from the labor by being “born again”, and your meaning is hermetically sealed up, to be challenged nevermore.
I often deride these people, because I feel they are so woefully misguided. They just stopped thinking at some point because it became too painful to consider the alternative, that you are alone in American capitalism even when you are with others. God and Jesus are easy ways to explain away everything. And they derive happiness and hope from it. I am related to some of these people.
I don’t blame them one bit. In fact, I would love to be one of them. But exposure to competing ontology is like a bell that can’t be unrung. Bye, certainty. I know just enough to be dangerous to myself. We’ve been working on what this all means well before the Hebrews were in Egypt.
If you insist on being a searcher, life’s meaning becomes much like those little Russian nesting dolls. You think you’ve got it, only to find there is more to consider, a more precise set of facts that you can’t ignore. There you go, pulling at the doll’s midsections to reveal a smaller, perhaps more exquisite version of the doll. You pull over and over until you have found the tiniest one, the one you have spent so much time getting to…
And there it sits in your palm. You are done. Not much to look at, but you now know there’s no more dolls and that’s the end of the search. But the problem really is that there’s nothing inside the tiniest doll. All that thinking, and we have very little to show for it because the whole thing, the final conclusion was made of emptiness all along.
Looking at these words, it would appear that I have become something of a nihilist. And that’s cold fucking comfort to me. I don’t even think I need to go back to Sartre, for I know well what there’s a chasm between existence and essence. At 47, a medically retired soldier under house arrest and married with two teenage boys I have found myself wondering if there really is an essence at all. I feel like the entire American capitalist system is designed to make you feel that if you aren’t working your ass off, spitting out taxpayers and speaking in tongues on Sunday you are a shit American and I can love it or leave it if I don’t like it. Jesus will reward you in the next life for that bent back.
So I am stuck, looking for a philosophy that does more than commiserate with life’s punchlines…its victims. Anyone got any good suggestions? Because I’m coming down with a bad case of thanatophobia. But who the fuck am I? Just a neurotic 21st century monkey, a spudboy looking for that real tomato. How dare I look at this family and say that life is without meaning! If it weren’t for those three, I’d probably be homeless, hungry and insane somewhere. God has no time for losers who don’t work and worship.
This is all a way of saying that I just want to count on something, something huge, find the answer to the why. But perhaps I need to remember that small somethings arrive which bring happiness here, and that is the best it gets.
Some will say that an atheist like me is angry at God.
I am. Quite furious, I’ll admit.
I am angry at Him for not existing.
And I am exponentially angry with his believers because they contrived Him so they could feel better. Christianity in American capitalism is an institution, phony like any other religion but it’s generally the one that nonbelievers here have had to contrast themselves with (and I am talking about not just heathens, I’m talking about any minority belief system). It’s the cause of the emptiness I feel because it is the one I know best that came up with the idea of eternal life. I think I feel fucking miserable because you all can’t stop thinking about The End because this life has stymied your desires and scared you half to death. You and everyone else have to be Busy. Humble. Always guilty. Kneeling in pain from the weight that only God can remove.
Had we been designed to be myopic about the end, maybe things on Earth for humanity would have been more bearable. This system I am in wants nothing more than to Die. Don’t have any thoughts otherwise or you will burn eternally or be expelled from the presence of God. And you’re taking all of us with you, those of us who wonder if life is just about Life, taking death as it comes but never fretting about it because Life is everywhere right now and I want time to touch it with all my senses, hug it and kiss every bit of it. But I am exhausted from thinking about my mortality, and bitter because there is no continuance of existence as promised, bitter because we are slaves to physics and entropy. It should be logical that I want surcease from that. But I’m not going to go crying to a creator about it, least of all the Christian one. What kind of a god makes such fucked up creatures anyway, built for living but cursed with dying? I have been given so much, and the catch is that I have to relinquish it and everything that makes it good? I’m flummoxed.
God is an Indian giver, it seems.
I don’t want to hear your remedies. I want to grin and bear it, but it is hard, brothers and sisters. I am greedy for time here, not some afterlife where I’m supposed to be happy worshipping and adulating a god, a god with the vain sensibilities of Donald Trump or the Jong lineage from North Korea.
One of the logical conclusions you can make when contemplating the whole of existence is that our evolution is a mistake; even our national religion subtly peddles the idea from jump that knowing anything is a grave error. That’s a very tempting outlook to accept, and it thrills the capitalist when you adopt it. Knowing stuff is dual-edged in nature; it can empower; occasionally it disempowers temporarily. And so we find knowledge not to be the succor we so desperately need either. Thinking itself is prone to error like a motherfucker. Lots of bad ideas out there masquerading as truth. Then again, the falsities are paradoxically what’s real, until we disabuse ourselves of the previous nested doll. Science itself is predicated on a series of misunderstandings but it has a better track record these days than religion-we’re Right and getting righter. Or are we? Arthur Koestler, author of Darkness At Noon, postulated in 1942 that knowledge (political doctrine in Koestler’s case) was not technically a linear phenomenon, which was at odds with Hegel and even Marx who both thought there was a romanticized end state to knowing. He instead described knowledge as a river, with a series of lock chambers that can be filled to capacity so the boats on them can proceed upon a higher level. Therefore, even when one has reached a new level, he is at the same time at the lowest level of the next lock. So humanity appears to start over, and morality doesn’t look a whole lot like the morality that preceded it. It in fact may be replete with some of the things that the new morality wants to end. This explains a lot of why humanity keeps destroying itself; it’s moved on to a new lock level and the same brutality we want to eventually end manifests itself again, in service of getting to the next lock. It’s as good a way as any I’ve found lately to explain why we can’t seem to eradicate evil. It became necessary to become evil in order to someday purify enough to be Good.
Do the ends justify the means? This is not a good question for a talking monkey. I wouldn’t trust me to answer right.
I hate it. Are we doomed to do this? Well, if we are, I would like it if these flashpoints, these lock chambers actually made life any better. Politically, I am a fairly hard leftist but am aware that the river of Communism is partly mixed with tons of mega-gallons of blood. There isn’t a whole lot of daylight between capitalism and Communism as practiced if you are scoring with blood, though; Ayn Rand famously said that it was morally right to take land from people who don’t know how to work, improve and most importantly, use it for profit. Even at my Randiest long ago I had problems with this. If things were right, we would be having more fun living as the work load lessened and essential tasks were left to automation. That’s what they told us after the Second World War. But that’s not what keeps happening. We’re back to torturous hours just to stay off the street and no one is getting paid for their actual production. If we were, McDonald’s workers would go home in Lexuses considering how many people they feed in a week. And even when there is nothing to do, as can be the case with modern jobs, you still have to sit there because the clock demands it and you need the money anyway. A lot of misery is balled up in this system, a lot of exploitation to keep it all going. There’s so many jobs out there that people don’t have to go to anymore per se- we’re plenty past the need to go to a building for eight hours to tap on a keyboard much like the one you have at home. But what will Ruby Tuesday do if you aren’t there to eat salad you don’t want? Those croutons are pretty good anyway. How will Shell profit if you aren’t filling up every day to go to work that you hate, and buying all that caffeine, beer and tobacco to cope? For all of our imagination, we still seem to be working on the wrong problems. It looks to me like our quality of life sucks despite all of our toys, gadgets and machines. People are still surviving, not living. And no one is doing a thing about it. The economy is supposed to work for us, but let’s face it, we are working for the economy. If you didn’t have something to Do, it would all fall to pieces. Keeping you occupied keeps the shekels flowing upward. Most of us don’t own this life-we’re renters, serfs, believing that an endless supply of choices confer freedom. You get to choose Costco over Sam’s Club, a multiplex of movies in and out of your house, a Honda or a Hyundai. These are the markers of individuality and success.
This rant is over three weeks old, and I thought it a bit too ranty even for me. I wasn’t sure how I was going to end it or what the main idea here is. It came from a place of despair and anger that I didn’t know what to do with. I’ve spent my time with worse material of my own, and while I’m on blogging hiatus I thought I’d put forth some unfinished B-team work. That’s what the pros do.
Was anyone clamoring for another out of touch billionaire to run for President?
So what if he registers as a Democrat. It’s the same animal.
I’ve only just recently gotten more acquainted with Howard Schultz. A good friend asked me yesterday what I thought of him and I did not have an answer.
I’ve had a day to read some of what this guy says and my answer to my friend is not a whole lot.
I feel like he will get less votes than Jill Stein, first off. Because as far as I know, no one on the left was looking for someone to the right of the liberals. There is a demand for the Democrats to pull further left, Bernie Sanders’ (and even Stein’s) candidacy proved that. But there is no such demand for it to go further to the center. And that is why this Schultz dude will be lucky to get 3%. Furthermore, if he sticks this out think he stands more of a chance of chewing some votes from the GOP because of the coming anti-Trump backlash from the right.
In fact, I hope that is the reason for his candidacy. There’s much ado about the threat he is to the Democrats but he sure as fuck reminds me of a Republican.
Here’s what a Democratic Trump sounds like: “I must be doing something right to create so much interest and backlash from the Democratic Party.” Oh, brother. The “Did I hit a nerve, snowflakes?” routine. Fuck you. Another glib billionaire with a defiant streak, just what we need. You are pissing people off not with the things you are advocating or proposing. You’re pissing people off by pretending to be a liberal and threatening the left wing coalition. Try not to get confused. Because that’s what is keeping you on television right now.
Some more? Here, on Elizatbeth Warren: “I don’t believe the country should be heading to socialism… I think she believes in programs that will lead to a level of socialism in America.” Again, this is exasperating, this use of the boogeyman of the right. Liz Warren is a recovering conservative, a capitalist, just one who has heart and good sense who understands economics where fairness is a actually a force multiplier. So this guy is making up a dumb strawman- and for who? Do you know any Democrat who was just waiting to give it to Liz Warren for being too progressive? I didn’t think so. Honestly, if anything Schultz is giving the right wing ammo to deride the left. They’ll be playing up all the competition, trying to make it look like the lefty coalition is in trouble. It’s not. We just won the House and we’re gonna sweep the rest next year with a President who isn’t named Howard Schultz.
And, finally: “I don’t affiliate myself with a Democratic Party who’s so far left, who basically wants the government to take over health care, which we cannot afford, the government to give free college to everybody, and the government to give everyone a job.”
Then go join the GOP, because there’s not much daylight between you and conservatives with this nonsense garbletalk that means nothing.
We do not need a whole lot of bluedogs to win in 2020, any more than we need the destructive, self-wounding wing of the progressives. Clinton won the popular vote partially cloaked as a progressive. So we have an enthusiasm gap for the right of the left. Schultz becomes unnecessary and surperfluous in that analysis.
For the record, I do indeed hope that some things are moving in the direction of socialism. But there will be no capital S socialism and perhaps that’s just fine. Mixing it brings the best of both-purebreds have a habit of dying early and painfully. Frontier psychology is so ingrained in our history-mind that we reflexively do things solely for ourselves instead of for each other. I would like that to change, and to that end I am willing to vote for some mandated fairness; the only other hope is a revolution. And that will probably only end up in cracked skulls, dictators, zip ties and tear gas from sea to shining sea.
There will be no evening out of serious inequalities any time soon. The rich will stay filthy rich and there will always be poor people.
You didn’t hear it from me, but that’s part of the secret sauce to make a middle class.
By now, you’ve read people opine glibly that President Trump is only president of half the country.
It’s a clever line, but it’s not really off the mark anymore. That shiteating motherfucker is thinking about turning the State Of The Union into a goddamned rally full of his idiot supporters who will gleefully agree that the country has never been greater or some other demented non sequitur word salad nonsense. Never mind that the United States Government is slowly flipping agencies’ open signs to closed and people are going to work without pay. It’s an atrocious situation. But that’s a feature, not a bug for Trump as Republicans generally want government closed permanently anyway. So in their estimation, he’s doing great, couldn’t be doing better. For the rest of us, we are realizing that our social compact is in jeopardy while Trump tries to get his increasingly pointless wall. It simply isn’t worth it and it’s all become particularly ironic, given that the people tasked to interdict drugs and prevent hazards by sea and air are finding themselves the people whose jobs Trump is holding hostage as the cornerstones of that wall. If he really cared or listened to anyone with more than a 5th grade vocabulary level familiar with a subject he’d realize that this is not an effective way to solve the problems he claims a wall would solve. If built, it’d just be some giant, racist reverse-Statue Of Liberty monument to Trump’s ego when the crime and the drugs and the migrants and the asylum seekers continue unabated at the border. It’s funny, Trump has broken tons of promises to his faithful. But of all the promises he has broken, this one is particularly important for him not to break- and I don’t want to be the bearer of more bad news, but it’s because the wall bit is one of Trump’s best lines at his Two Hours Hate rallies that makes it imperative for him that it be built. That’s it. Trump needs adulation like a lizard needs a hot fucking rock. He got a taste of crowd hysteria and he’s hooked. It pumps him the fuck up. And it’s going to cost us $5 billion smackers to get him to give back the government so he can crow to the redhats that he won something (for a change).
Speaker Pelosi’s refusal to open the House to the SOTU looks on its face to be a jab simply to rankle Trump, but if you think about it, having the entire American government in the same place without adequately paid professionals ensuring its safety is probably not the smartest idea ever conceived. But everything is always about Trump. It all reduces to him. And like the infantile jagoff he is, he decided to use his position as commander in chief of the armed forces to deny Pelosi a few diplomatic flights overseas which is probably the norm for the new leader of the legislative arm of the American government. I really hope when all the criminals who aided and abetted Trump’s systematic destruction of the American government are put away, we work on curtailing the potential for excess within the executive branch. NO president should have as much power as it has right now. This is absurd. Trump has been such a spectacular abuser of power that political science can’t seem to catch up to him. And when it does, maybe we need to have a conversation about whether what we are doing as a country, as a political entity- is appropriate for Americans. No one should have the power to do what Trump has done (or Mitch McConnell, but that’s another coconut entirely). Trump doled out institutional positions to people whose sole mission was to disable the agency they would lead. He’s frustrated a generation of experts with his thoughtlessness. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of Trump appointees who don’t have “acting” next to their position. And all the planet-busting deregulation for his corporate donors is shocking and offensive.
The Constitution is too vague and skeletal. Judges “interpret” it, which is alarming and bizarrely metaphysical for something rather important. We ignored Thomas Jefferson when he spoke of not updating our document to fit the times: “We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.” The Federalist Papers, while of course interesting for historical reasons, cannot guide us as it attempted to answer questions about the challenges of government in 1787, not 2019. And the founders rarely spoke in unison back then. Hell, arms needed to be twisted about the inclusion of the Bill Of Rights and we look at some of those amendments as so fundamental today that you’d have to be insane not to include them in drawing up a government. But anyway, I suspect if we set those same great minds to the task of creating a new republic today, they would come up with something radically different. Why? Because times fucking change. People change. And the old ways are not preventing the new ills. The old ills barely exist anymore. There were exceptions. George Mason, perhaps traveling through time, refused to sign the Constitution, saying it would “produce a monarchy or a corrupt oppressive aristocracy: it will most probably vibrate some years between the two, and then terminate in the one or the other.”
Is there anything that makes sense today as much as this does? Shit, we have an oppressive aristocrat AND a pretender to monarchy on our hands. How do you deliver a State Of The Union in the state the union has been in anyway?
Am I asking for a revolution?
Me? Nope. I’m a crazy person with too much time on my hands. You all know that.
But I am willing to hear one out.
This will not be a post about how much trouble the president is in.
Let’s instead remember that a bling pig finds a truffle now and then, even when that pig is named Donald Trump. And that motherfucker is never right, so I’m gonna post about it when he is, in spite of himself.
It feels weird, not wanting to pounce on something dumb Orange Caligula does. His track record is so bad that I think we’ve all gotten a little used to reflexively criticizing the harebrained decisions he makes. If you were a bettor, and Trump was a racehorse and being wrong was the finish line, you would be leaving the track with your pockets overflowing every day that ends in Y if you plunked down something on him.
I am not working my way up to complimenting him. But he has stumbled into the right choice on Syria, Putin stooge or no Putin stooge.
I’m not perfect, and my views evolve as anyone’s should when he or she is off the mark (or dead fucking wrong as is sometimes the case). I have found that I have come off as something of a neocon in the not distant past, trying to think from a realpolitik perspective when it comes to our warmaking, particularly regarding Syria. I complimented Trump when he bombed Syrian assets in 2017, largely because the fledgling administration wasn’t doing anything except setting fire to anything Barack Obama signed. For four straight months I watched Trump do nothing constructive or remotely interesting; he was as much a paper tiger as he is now, just a fucking useless gum-flapper. For example, I will be genuinely surprised if he finds his balls and takes personal responsibility for turning the lights off on part of the government until he gets his stupid wall funding. Then there was the time I took Ralph Peters’ side on tangling with Russia because I needed an opportunity to call Tucker Carlson an asshole when he said we should be nice to Putin because he kills “the terrorists” in Syria-using that dumb logic of we need to fight them over there so they don’t come here. My calculation was if we don’t fill the vacuum, Russia would.
When it comes to international relations in the modern era, I have had a tendency to view it as a zero-sum game. Why?
Because it’s easy. Reality, however, is not so two-dimensional. I know I thought I was being clever, even if I had to be wrong to do so. Hey, fuck it, there’s plenty of people being paid and feted for being fucking wrong all the time.
But I ought to know better. I have seen firsthand what a just war looks like. As it happens, it is very much what an unjust war looks like. I went into Iraq in 2003 a firm believer in our mission and left a year later quite disillusioned the more I reflected and interacted with the people we were “liberating”. We drove a whole generation of American soldiers insane in the service of realpolitik and papered-over binary thinking about what we were doing there. War made us monsters, not saviors.
The bottom line is there are no real winners in war, and I ought to know that by now. Let this be the ground I shall plant myself in henceforth. And I shall start by being happy that Trump accidentally did something right by calling back the 2,000 or so Americans home from Syria, which is in an intractable civil war right now and looks to stay that way for the foreseeable future whether we are there are not-because we’re only dipping our toes in the conflict, just enough to annoy and stymie the Russians and Bashar Al-Assad. Now there is doubt that Trump will back up his mouth with some actual action, since he tweeted his decision without consultation with anyone familiar with a rifle and possessed with functioning grey matter. The pretext for Trump’s sudden exit from Syria, if you ask him, is that we have defeated ISIS. That’s hilarious, of course, if you ask the resistance. The “mission” ain’t accomplished by a long shot.
Now, I think that Trumpian nationalism is typically odious in the extreme, but honestly, leaving a warzone because we don’t need to “police” the world is by far not the worst thing ever uttered by an American politician. And it’s driving hawks apoplectic, which can only bear good fruit. Most of Trump’s detractors use the same logic I have in the past, that when the Russians win, we lose. The reality we are living in is at bottom a race for resources. We don’t give a fuck about Syria or Syrians, because absent from Donald’s declarations was a desire to settle refugees from the war. I certainly don’t think Trump is deep enough to be a tactician in the new cold war, and maybe that’s not to our detriment in regards to international conflict. A bit of naivete in the ways of violence is…OK.
I just can’t be moved to pile on Trump for this, even though there’s a lot wrong with the thinking that led him to leave Syria be. But let’s not kid ourselves. Our bombs don’t have freedom dust in them. Our reasons for staying there are not sound; the Kurds are already accustomed to everyone’s Janus tendencies towards them. Russia will still strafe and bomb and kill indiscriminately like they are doing now (just as we have done). And what for? A chit with Iran? We have Iraq. How about we take a rest from imperialism? Besides, it’s not like we are going to stop selling arms to our erstwhile allies. Point is, aligning the world in a binary fashion the way we do is exactly what causes world wars. We think we are wetting the fuse with our aggression by fighting the Russian axis wherever we go. Sorry. We’re shortening it.
Our fucktarded president is in quite a legal pickle. Several, in fact. It’s turning out he owes a lot to Vladimir Putin, and stepping out of Syria may yet be one more favor to someone who can crush him with kompromat. But I’m going to take the peace dividends where I can get them. I’m not going to call the president out for not wanting to be in a war anymore. Perhaps if you knew what it was like, you too would reluctantly agree with the basket-case-in-chief. If you don’t, use your fucking imagination.
Very near, very far
Very soft, very clear
Come today, come today
You all remember that one, right? I think that’s a perfect descriptor of where we’re at psychically in the Disunited States, just waiting for that scream of NOW! that will release us from the 690+ day hostage situation that has been the modern American experiment ever since Captain Twitterfuck The Ignorant started taking a hatchet to every form of progress this already un-progressive country had fought for, pitting citzens against each other in ways that we haven’t seen since Abraham Lincoln got elected, making a complete mockery of our image as a nation- all while selling us out to an arch-enemy on every front so he could profit on the other side of the election.
Mr. Mueller, we need to talk. Because I am exhausted by the speculation (to include my own) as to when Donald Trump will have finally tripped over his mushroom-headed dick into charges ranging from perjury to racketeering, and some would aver treason.
Am I the only one nervous that the pop when this investigation ends will be that of one of those stupid tiny string-activated confetti spitters, instead of the hearty pop from shaken, excited Cristal? Or will it be so awesome, such a total repudiation of Trump as a president and every shitty thing he stands for that celebratory automatic gunfire wouldn’t be inappropriate? I would hate to think that our revulsion from Donald Trump has gotten us excited for some consequences that simply will not come. There’s so much criminal smoke out there that we are choking and the venerable counsel need but find the legal grease fires causing it and use the right extinguisher for the job.
But bad hombres get away with murder all the time. Even really dumb ones. There is simply no reason to leave this to a karmic imbalance. Indeed, there’s a possible future where Trump triumphs over the special counsel, running like a jesus lizard across the river of charges against him without getting pinched and then it’s really gonna be a super rough ride until 2020 trying to abide THAT boasting and crowing. We need to collapse that eventuality tout suite. And I feel I will need more than hyper-redacted papers, sequential court filings and other seemingly damning evidence to keep keeping on.
Most of the people I respect intellectually think there’s simply no way that someone could investigate a thing like Donald Trump and not find something that runs afoul of the law. Call it Trump Derangement Syndrome if you like, the dude flouts said law constantly, lies every time he opens his idiotic trap, does nothing of actual value, his entire cabinet is full of well-heeled reptile people who do the opposite of their job, and again, is a flat-out national embarrassment as our chief representative in the world day in and day out. And if you can’t see any of that or if none of that is important to you because you’ve got Benghazi-itis or Her Emails on the brain, it’s likely because you are even more deranged than I am ( i.e. you get your dose of confirmation bias from Fox News and The Daily Caller). There’s no amount of whataboutism that can nullify the transgressions that Donald Trump has committed against us and others, legally, morally, and ethically. The list is simply too long to collate. Well, too long for me.
Last week, Trump felt exonerated by the Cohen plea documents, primarily because he’s not much of a reader. In those filings, “Individual 1” is named as someone who was in contact with Cohen regarding “Trump Tower Moscow”. We’re kind of just becoming dimly aware that the overtures to Russia were so much more than just acquiring damaging information on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run and the DNC from people who work in for the Russian government. Nope, in this relatively new allegation, it seems that Trump sensed $$$ could be made. And this level of greediness, guilelessly allying with a dangerous enemy to line his pockets could be his undoing well before Robert Mueller gets tough with Jerome Corsi about relaying information from Julian Assange, who at the time for whatever reason felt it necessary to pass along the Podesta emails to the Trump campaign. Of all the strings, it looks like the Russian hotel is the easiest to pull at the moment, being the most easily provable. But Robert Mueller is a methodical motherfucker from all appearances. He’s a boa constrictor of an investigator clearly enjoying his work and probably could take down Trump’s whole family (and Republican enablers in Congress) with what he has right now. What needs doing is to make sure the charges stick, and that is part of why Mueller chose Manafort to lean on for unpardonable state felonies, and is letting DC and New York work on Trump for violations of the Emoluments Clause and misuse of campaign funds. And how could I have left out the paying off of Trump’s mistresses using campaign cash? That is somehow the least offensive thing Trump has done. And at every step of the way on any of these allegations, Trump has tampered and obstructed throughout it all, often just by tweeting-which may be crimes in themselves.
Trying to get a handle on all the crooked things Donald Trump is involved in right now is a bit like undoing your Christmas ornament hook collection. It’s enough to make the average person’s head spin, so much so that they may want to tune out because it’s proven to be so hard to understand, much less believe. But believe me, this guy decided to forgo his paycheck merely to keep up appearances because he knew he was going to divvy up the country’s wealth between him and his donors.
One would think after last week that the Trump saga was over and the fat lady sang. But the wheels of justice turn slowly. The law runs like molasses, especially when we may be in legal virgin snow as to how to handle what Donald does and has done. I am hoping beyond hope that it’s a matter of legal intricacies that are keeping Trump out of an orange jumpsuit. But damn, I am tired. That crook does not represent me or the promise of America no matter how fake that sounds and I want him erased like the error that he is.
So, the wife, who rubs elbows in with some of the white elite here in the Good ‘Ol Boys Belt, got us tickets last week to see Brian Wilson do Pet Sounds.
She’s in insurance and the company she works for is about 100 years old, something of a family affair. I imagine every guy in the office has *that* golf club membership.The tickets were amazing; Bell Auditorium, second row. I’d scoped out the prices on the tickets last month and they were well over a hundred apiece and nowhere near the pit; typically I won’t go when prices are that high for any artist so I forgot all about the tour. It’d have to be one hell of a near-bucket list show to get me to come off for well over a hundred.
Anyway, her Richie Rich employers who aren’t set back at all buying a $150 ticket or satisfying whatever other whims they might have, were evidently unable to attend seeing someone play track-for-track one of the greatest pop records ever made. My wife heard that the tickets were up for grabs and snapped them up because she knows better than I not to put a price on amazing. After all, if I have a “jam” that I share with her at all, it’s Pet Sounds. We both learned to adore it at the same time and we understand what makes it and Brian Wilson so special. At the time we were taking in its magic, our relationship was young and awkward but it had legs and that’s just one of the many themes in Pet Sounds.
So not only was I going to see Brian Wilson, I was going to see him do Pet Sounds, and I was nearly close enough to shake a proffered hand or exchange a gimme five from the performers! Oboy!
After emptying our pockets and getting wanded, we made for the merch table. As always, I grimaced at the prices. Yet, there was that stupid urge to advertise that we were there, so we bought two green tour shirts with a record player on the front with a likeness of a young Brian “spinning” on it. That should have told me a little something, because that ain’t Brian anymore and hasn’t been for almost a half a century. The picture was more than an image; I felt that his face was/is a symbol or an icon of a sort in this context, a placeholder for a time long gone by full of sun, sand, cars and LSD. On the shirt, Brian seemed more like a brand than a person. Seventy dollars later and speaking of brands, we went to get our booze-there were no good choices for beer. It was either Bud Light (weak), Mich Ultra (why), full strength Budweiser (America) and Yuengling. Which do I wanna boycott, Bud or Yuengling? I made a snap decision to protest Yuengling, who if I remember right, their CEO is a hardcore wingnut Trump enabler. Yes, that’s it. So fuck Yuengling for tonight even though Pennsy is like my old backyard in the North and I’m as provincial as the next guy, I guess. The wife had a double gin and tonic.
The opening act was charming, they were a little folk duo with a lot of charisma from Ireland. Beat Root Revival, if anyone is into that stuff. Ain’t my thing at all, but it didn’t cause me any existential pain or make me angry. No, that was to come later. It wasn’t long before Brian’s band took the stage, promptly at eight, followed by the legend himself who was wearing a full leg brace and needed to be assisted onto the stage by a pair of roadies. OK, whatever, guy got hurt, he’s old, no biggie. Anyway, Brian is on the tour with one and a half of the original Beach Boys. Al Jardine was there, and Blondie Chaplin as well. The band began to rattle off some oldies, and damn it if Brian did not sing until like three tunes in, on “California Girls”. This was really not a good sign. His son-in-law, who is married to Carnie Wilson, did much of the heavy lifting on vocals, trading with Al when Brian did not/could not/would not sing. The vocal presence was so seamless, as if the band knew already where Brian’s voice would drop off. I am positive that everyone’s monitor was tuned to Brian’s mike so they could be prompted to take lead.
What happened as the night went on I’d rather not remember. But I can tell you this much; Brian is finished as a performer and he is shitting all over his legacy by continuing to appear on stage. For two hours, I watched the band do their best at what it came to do, and then there was Brian, who looked like he had no idea why he was there, because it certainly wasn’t to sing. It was a little sad, because I was up front far enough that I could see he was unhappy and uninterested. He just sat there. Occasionally he’d brush stray hairs from his gaunt face with a hand that shook like crazy. The wife and I thought he had a stroke, or was about to have one if they kept getting creative with the light show.
All in all, I’d say Wilson sang maybe 20% of the gig and that is being fucking generous. If memory serves, Brian chimed in on most of “California Girls”, “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”, and sang us a tune from his 80s solo album “Love And Mercy” at the end of the show, which was probably the only time I was touched the whole night. Everything else was tragic. He was more interested in biting his fingernails and spitting them out, or flicking boogers after exploring his nose. I cannot believe I wished I was not so close. When everyone cheered at the end of “Sloop John B”, he told everyone to be seated. It was clear that he wasn’t going to stay on that stage a second more than he had to. I wasn’t listening to Brian so much after a while, preferring to sing instead to the Pet Sounds record that is in my head. I actually went to that proverbial happy place. After Brian and Co. finished ruining my album, he was escorted again off stage and I was so relieved that it was over.
But he actually came back for an encore. Wow. I couldn’t believe the crowd wanted one, but they had a different perspective than I did being up so close to this depressing spectacle. I certainly needed no more of it. They ran through a few more oldies, and it got all the rich cougars dancing and the doughy old fanboys got out of their chair for stupid shit like “Help Me Rhonda”. The older people to my left looked confounded by Pet Sounds, but when the surf crap was on, they knew all the words to those hoary songs. I got the feeling I was here to see Brian for one reason and they another. I was changed by Pet Sounds; I think a lot of the audience just went because he’s a Beach Boy…not the Beach Boy.
As you can tell, I’m a little mad and a little sad. More mad than sad, if I reflect a little. The wife says she’s never going to be able to listen to Pet Sounds anymore. I am not sure who I should hold responsible for using Brian Wilson in such a nakedly cynical way to sell shitloads of expensive tickets and merch, but they should have a curse laid upon them. Is Brian in on this scam, using himself and his name and fame? Fuck, I hope not. I have always thought of him as a gentle and forthright soul, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a greedy materialist trying to extract as much money as possible from people who still think he can perform. My favorite parts of the evening were watching Blondie Chaplin mugging and mincing and having a blast being on stage. His countenance is similar to Keith Richards’, looks to me like he partied hard for a while. Maybe still does. But he was more entertaining than anything else I saw at the Bell that night. He was surely happiest to be up there.
In the end, I don’t even think Vegas would say yes to this hustle if they tried it again, because this was certainly no performance to speak of. A lame trifle of a tribute, perhaps. And Brian doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be there for any of it. It’s over, buddy. I don’t know what it was like to be ripped off by Elvis Presley as he too did not always do what people came to see him do at the end there, but this feels analogous. So fair warning for those of you on this tour: Brian has left the building. Sell your seats to someone you don’t know well enough to like. Here, I’ll post a few pics and videos so you know a little what to expect if you take this ride.
Al and Brian
Blondie soloing his ass off
Brian mauling “I’m Waiting For The Day”
God Only Knows why this tour exists.
Brian getting lost in the lights while the band played arguably his most brilliant song
Definitely not made for these times
This was the best part of the show, the only non-Beach Boy tune.
I’ve been watching the stock market jump generally jump up, up, up and up nearly daily since it began its latest meteoric rise in oh, about 2015. Yesterday and today ended that trend. That makes me a bit uneasy, because I have a few accounts that are completely invested in the markets, which are designed to weather short term downturn with the confidence that they will rebound and increase like they always do. We haven’t had a severe slide in about ten years, but I’d say the imaginary trend line favors increased value. Observe a 100 year curve:
So the conventional wisdom suggests that growth is here to stay over the long haul, and if there are some bumps along the way it’s cool because stocks always come back from a selloff. And that’s typically correct.
You have heard Trump call this his economy. We know it’s not, but that’s what he tells his trucker hat wearing mouthbreathing voters who aren’t sharing a dime of this prosperity. The country has been in recovery since the Obama administration. Now Trump and his party did slash taxes on the Richiest of the Richies, and that apparently has led boards of directors everywhere to start Hoovering up their own stocks, which causes an elevation in their value. I know I am oversimplifying this because I’m a simple man when it comes to economics and money in general. But the big secret that the GOP kept from everyone is that they were going to do that. Some of that money may have gone to expansion and hiring, but not in the quantities they said it would. Like usual, we were told it’d be rocket fuel for good job creation (ignoring the fact that runaway growth is actually dangerous and short-sighted because it presumes a high degree of sustainability and when you take a resource you are hastening its depletion), and that hasn’t really been the case. True, indicators are still saying that we’re at full employment (even though most people have two of those jobs to make rent) and that wages are inching up, but that’s probably in spite of the tax cut. It certainly hasn’t done the working class much good and that’s who was sold this economic voodoo. Factories and business are shuttering all over the place, in direct contradiction to what Donald Trump says.
We cannot make the mistake that rising tides lift all boats. Some of those tides are being held behind gilded locks and dams.
Anyway, since the economy didn’t expand anywhere near the amount that they predicted (an absurd 4% or more if I remember right), the higher tax revenue failed to materialize. By now, we should be laughing in the face of anyone who brandishes a Laffer Curve in defense of tax cuts. But some fall for it, because it’s logical in its own way. So anyway, what does that mean? That means Uncle Sam needs a credit limit increase.
Yup. Deficit spending.
If you are a Republican, the solution is to curtail services to the public. They never admit that their dumb tax cuts didn’t do shit except make rich people richer. How they sell making the poor poorer to the poor is indeed quite a feat, accomplished by bullshitting poor people into thinking that someone else but surely not them are the poor sucking up services and “entitlements”. This gambit tends to take a racist tinge because stratification sees color and Republicans are good with that generally, as long as they keep the blame off them and the corporations who paid for their seats in government. The idea that Republicans are the party of fiscal discipline is the biggest crock of shit going. They cause a problem, and then scapegoat “big government” and want to cut everything you need to get by.
But if you can’t cut because people are about to tell your party to go fuck itself at the polls, you will be borrowing.
Enter the Fed. The Fed sets the prime interest rates for borrowing. When we borrow, we have to try and make it an attractive investment to a creditor. The more loaded we are with debt, the less interest there will be in holding that debt because it’s assumed that we are overleveraged (we are). However, much like the stock market going up in perpetuity, the general consensus is The United States will be around to pay its bills no matter how much we rack up. Given that we are perpetually hostile and armed with thousands of nuclear weapons, the world assumes we aren’t going to be destroyed without taking everyone with us. Yet the game must be played properly until we lash out in a fit of capitalistic aggression; we need to increase the interest to maintain the interest, so to speak. So the Fed increases rates, and consequently the interest rates on our debt begin to climb to make the return look good to China, Japan, the Saudis, or anyone else that wants to pick up our tab since we screwed up and cut taxes.
The Fed has raised rates rather significantly this year, three big jumps from March to October in order to make ends meet. Jittery investors begin moving money to the higher interest bonds instead of volatile stocks.
Bust. Bye, 1300 points in 48 hours.
Enter the master chiseler, Donald Trump. As regular readers know, I think Trump is a total dumbshit. One thing he is good at though, is being a crook and not paying people what they are owed. As we all know, he has declared bankruptcy multiple times and is being sued by like 800 people demanding money for services rendered. So his first instinct is to try to do a screw job on our creditors and not pay the bills at the terms agreed to. He has done this obliquely by attacking The Fed, who is trying to manage our money crisis the only way it knows how. In unprecedented irony, he says that “The Fed has gone crazy“, and demands that rates slow down so we can pay less on all of our debts.
If you wanna talk crazy, Donald, let’s talk about the trade wars you started that have crippled several sectors of the economy, or the farmers nearly going out of business because we keep tossing ag workers out of the country. And you have the nerve to tell others their actions are crazy? Give me a fucking break, chump.
There are many other factors making possible this pickle we find ourselves in that I will never be able to fully understand, listed at the link in case anyone wants to break it down for themselves. Lord knows people have been writing about perfect economic storms for as long as I have been aware of economics and they never materialize, except when they do (looking at you, W). I’m hoping we aren’t heading for a more massive slide right now and all these worried words are pointless-but the truth is the whole world is smarting, and that means big trouble for those of us who are trying to save a pittance now (and I/we play no small role in this downturn indirectly, if you can fathom that) in order to take the place of our dwindling Social Security and healthcare benefits that have been bloodlessly slashed by politicians who simply don’t work for us anymore.
Please, if I am misgiven about causes and effects, do not hesitate to tell me. I’m learning as fast as I can.
If you are like me, you had some free time and you spent it watching the Senate Judiciary Committee SCOTUS fiasco, because you’re something of a strange being-the cow at the slaughterhouse that wants to know when the bolt is about to hit. Knowing full well the GOP was going to get away with scamming the country into a decade spanning reign of terror that will be a perpetual 5-4 conservative majority, I still needed to see it unfold.
The whole country needs a long shower, scrubbed harshly with strong-smelling pumice-based antibacterial soap after bathing in that pigslop that they passed off as “advice and consent”. I couldn’t stop using the word “gross” to describe what happened.
I’m not going to get into too much detail about what went on specifically. No doubt most of you have seen quite enough. But there are a few things we know now.
Men don’t believe women. And if we do, the timing is always suspect. That was a nice story, Dr. Ford, sure wish we had known sooner. Bye. What? There’s more of them? Bzzt. Out of time.
We are about to select an entitled, rapacious, mercurial fratboy as our next Supreme Court justice. You know, kind of like the president who nominated him.
This country is about to fracture. Both sides of the political spectrum have finally decided we have irreconcilable differences. This appointment amounts to nothing less than a declaration of political war. Pat Leahy said it plainly at least in terms of the Senate: things have permanently changed. The once august, world-class deliberative body no longer cares about justice or their due diligence in any real sense-just as long as a narrow set of ideological goals can be achieved, it’s anything goes. It’s OK to hold open Scalia’s seat for over a year but let’s rush rush rush to install Brett Kavanaugh.
If any side is using timing to their advantage, it’s Republicans, perhaps dimly aware that they are going to get their clocks cleaned in the midterms if their ratfucking strategies fail and they need only to do this one more despicable act to make sure conservatism shits everything up and turns back the clock for a couple dozen years.
A few things, if I may.
Being a liar about inappropriate sexual exploits is NOT, I repeat not, a partisan issue. Remember how long it took for Bill Clinton to stop lying about Monica Lewinsky? He lied until he couldn’t lie anymore. This is a MEN’S issue. Now granted, that…
Hold on a minute! I just got word that there’s going to be an investigation-looks like Flake and Murkowski are going to balk. It will be another week before the Senate does a full vote while the FBI does a “limited investigation”.
I will take what I can get. Hang on brothers and sisters, shit might get even bumpier. If and when Kavanaugh is exposed as a vicious, drunken sex criminal, I want you all to remember this truly lunatic performance by Lindsey Graham, who acted as the id of the majority who wanted to push this sicko through at all costs. Remember, South Carolina. Let’s all remember. Take a good look at unashamed male rage.
It’s about time someone finally got to laugh in Trump’s stupid, punchable orange face. And what better crowd to think him a fool than the entire United Nations, seeing as how one of his priorities was to get people to stop laughing at America?
Folks, we couldn’t have done worse than making Donald Trump the president if we wanted to end the global guffaws.
The truth is that the Trump administration has accomplished nothing of import. He’s generally done one of two things in the last two years; summarily undo everything positive his popular predecessor had done, and make everyone angry governing by chaos and crisis.
That looks like jack shit to the world in terms of American accomplishments. All they see is us kicking our own ass repeatedly.
I hate Trump with a passion because he’s a dick and a know-nothing. But thankfully, he usually doesn’t have the courage of his “convictions” and has the attention span of a retarded mosquito. He’s got miles to go before he has more blood on his hands than George W. Bush, for example. But the bottom line is that he’s no creator. He’s a destroyer, and his patently absurd claim that he has done more than any other president is a fucking joke and everyone on the planet knows it, everyone except for one Donald J. Trump-who did not expect his usual moronic boasting to be met with tittering and incredulity. So here’s one for posterity, gang.