100-Proof Blogging by Randle Aubrey

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

REALPOLITIK COMES HOME TO ROOST

"Uncle" Charlie Pierce wrote a post on his blog the other day about Trump's giving a finger to the emoluments clause that illuminates something really important about how this whole Russiagate affair might play out. Emphasis mine:
"Once again, we have an example of how the biggest problem may not be that we are ruled by a cabal of grifters, but how shameless and bad they are at it. NBC News got ahold of a Trump Organization document concerning how the Organization is handling payments from various foreign entities. One way that it's handing these is by not handling them. […]
 At first, I thought complaints about the president* and the emoluments clause was too arcane a constitutional quibble to go anywhere. But if it's part of a general business plan, a business plan that has been imported wholesale into how this bunch presumes to run the government, then that's a whole 'nother thing. Looked at, whole and complete, the entire operation now looks like a coherent and lawless enterprise. And the people running it are either too arrogant or too oblivious to even be cute about it."
What struck me the most about this is not so much that Trump would violate the emoluments clause; given his character and the circumstances, it would be weird if he didn't do it. But this “coherent and lawless enterprise” is no accident. It’s what happens when realpolitik comes home to roost.

“Useful Idiots” Of The Proxy War
Just about every tyrant or dictator of the post-Hitlerian world has been, by and large, a buffoon. After World War II, it would seem that the nations of the world collectively decided that one supervillain was enough for the next century or two, and struggled mightily to ensure that the incubators for such malevolent brilliance were destroyed.

Most of them, anyway. The power vacuum created by the destruction of the Third Reich, when coupled with the spectre of nuclear aggression in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, created the conditions for history’s first global proxy war, wherein any number of subordinate nations to the twin superpowers of Russia and these United States were used as pawns to either spread or halt the expansion of communism or democracy. As you might imagine, there was little room in this equation for anything resembling the “consent of the governed” of course, a fact which has not substantially changed in over half a century. Getting populations on board with doing their part to spread or contain intellectual contagion required the sort of “managed democracy” that only comes at the end of billy clubs and rifle barrels, giving birth to the neoliberalism we know today, yet in a much more overt, muscular style that many contemporary autocrats clearly yearn for a return to.

Hence the “useful idiot” nature of authoritarianism that rises in the wake of the cold war, wherein petty tyrants and dictators are valuable as long as they remain fungible. One easy way to keep them that way is by turning a blind eye to the pursuit of vast personal enrichment at their nation’s expense. I don’t think there’s a single knucklehead that’s declared himself Dear Leader on behalf of a foreign interloper that hasn’t absconded with large portions of his nation’s treasury, or used their position to secure juicy contracts or revenue streams for themselves or their co-conspirators, or executed private grievances by using the tools of the state. Such things are not the fringe benefits of state power; they are the prime reasons for billionaire thugs like Donald Trump to seek state power in the first place.

Incredulity in the face of such behavior belies a gullibility at the heart of American exceptionalism. As a stratified conglomerate of regional powers, authoritarian strongmen (and women, because what description of petty tyranny would be complete without ball-cutters like Joni Ernst?) have dominated American “electoral” politics for as long as anyone can remember, and longer. The Republican Party is chock-full thuggish miscreants who brook zero fucks about putting a boot to the throat of the (particularly black and brown) masses in order to pursue their aims, and it’s over the backs of this bigoted cohort that Donald Trump scuttled his way into the presidency, having been offered many of the same promises our own deep state might promise a Saddam Hussein, or an Augusto Pinochet.

There’s nothing surprising or shocking about any of this, other than the fact that we’re not used to seeing such blatant, obvious corruption in its full, brutal glory. Those who would ignore or deny such systemic malfeasance are either on the receiving end of its largess, or are content with people they’ve judged as wanting suffering as much or more than they are. The question looms, however: what happens when Donald Trump is no longer fungible?

To The Mattresses!
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been following Russiagate with nearly the obsession of many of my colleagues. This sort of political theater, no matter how salient, has always left a bad taste in my mouth. But it doesn’t take a Louise Mensch to realize that the Cheetocracy collapsing under the weight of its own bullshit is rapidly approaching a foregone conclusion. Even if Trump didn’t directly collude with Russia to swing the election, the White House appears to be riddled with more than enough Russian confidantes to sink the whole administration, which couldn’t be leaking faster if you unloaded a few Kalishnikovs in the West Wing.

What matters, then, is how Trump’s eventual deposition will unfold; what form it will come in, how long it will take to get there, how much damage his administration can and will do along the way, and how many people can and will be held accountable for that damage once the smoke clears.

The options for deposing Trump have been well documented, as visions of Watergate loom large in the public imagination. Impeachment? Doubtful. It’s up to Paul Ryan to green light impeachment proceedings, and given how absurdly high the skeletons are stacked in his closet along with a great many other Republicans, greed and fear of exposure will surely stay his hand far beyond reason.

Resignation, then? Don’t make me laugh. Donald Trump is the penultimate manifestation of Dunning-Kreuer leadership at its most depraved; with such tiny hands, small wonder that is head is so big. When it comes to either Ryan or Trump, getting someone to do the right thing when their entire career has been dedicated to doing the wrong one promises to be an exercise in futility.

Flashes of JFK’s brain pan spread crimson across the back of a Lincoln Continental Flashes of Saint Ronnie’s vanishing into the fog of Alzheimer’s intersperse seamlessly with flashes of Trump’s increasingly bizarre and erratic speechifying. Twenty-fifth Amendment it is, then. It’s the most palatable solution, the perfect escape pod the whole Republican Party and all of the mouth-breathers comprising their base can fit into, launching themselves into the rarified air of plausible deniability where the whole thing was just one big misunderstanding, and not a single collaborator sees a day in court for aiding, abetting, or committing treason.

How the Cheetocracy responds as their backs continue to flatten against the wall, on the other hand, is a different story. Will they go gently into that good night? Don’t bet on it.
“The proposed war room, Axios reported, will be filled with "experienced veterans from the campaign trail who recognize the gravity of the situation." In an apparent acknowledgment of the seriousness of the situation, Trump staffers have reportedly begun using the phrase, "Go to the mattresses," a line from "The Godfather," meaning to go to or prepare for war. The White House could turn to figures like former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former deputy campaign manager David Bossie, for help in the "war room," the Post noted. Lewandowski was fired last year after a series of campaign trail blunders, and Bossie is known for his 20-year-long investigation into Bill and Hillary Clinton. White House chief strategist and former Breitbart leader Steve Bannon is reportedly spearheading the "war room" effort.”
Circling the wagons around Dear Leader is usually one of the last acts of a dying administration. But what will they do? What can they do?

When The Gloves Come Off 
Ultimately, there is a chance that, whether he’s impeached or forced to resign, Trump will refuse to leave office. Now, we’re not in Chile, and Trump is no Pinochet; if anything, the generals seem to adore him much less than he adores them. Granted, Trump’s private security forces should give anyone pause, as they form a layer between him and the Secret Service that is heretofore unprecedented. But unless Betsy DeVos has already convinced her kid brother to keep a few mercenary squads on standby to back up The Don up if/when things go tits up, the odds of a coup don’t seem high.

All the same, Trump doesn’t strike me as the kind of person that would consent to the inevitable arrest/perp walk media fiasco that would happen if he failed to cooperate. The only real support Trump has is political and financial, both of which are melting away faster than a Hershey bar under the July sun as the Republicans continue to whittle down their bucket list. Without them, he is nothing; deflated, weak, at the end of his rope, Trump would not be able to tolerate such humiliation. Better to spin his deposition with the same sense of perpetual aggrievement that put him in the White House in the first place, and keep that Trump TV dream alive…

He does have the nuclear launch codes, however, along with access to a fuckton of state secrets. These two things alone make him very dangerous. According to Bloomberg, it takes roughly five minutes to launch a land-based nuclear strike, long enough for such a catastrophic event to be interrupted, but not by much…

Be that as it may, something tells me he wouldn’t become so belligerent as to throw a tantrum in the form of a nuclear strike, but that’s reading him as of today, not after Lord-only-knows-how-much-more relentless scrutiny into his administration’s thoroughly corrupt practices. But we already know that the Don can’t keep his trap shut when it comes to keeping classified information, and that’s only when trying to impress foreign dignitaries. Bringing hatchetmen like Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie back into the fold indicates that once the kid gloves are off, the Trump Train will likely use whatever information they have at their disposal to throw as many of their own people as possible under the bus, up to (and maybe even including) members of Trump’s own family. The administration is leaking like sieve as it is; why let such a good crisis go to waste?

No matter what happens, we still end up with Mike Pence as president, one of America’s top theocrats and a very unpleasant human being. Say what you will about the guy – and believe me, I could say plenty – but it’s difficult to picture him not respecting the constraints of the office were he to inherit it. As relieving as such a thing might be for preserving our global reputation, the Republican PR machine will undoubtedly strive with utmost endeavor to use Pence as a beard against their party’s corruption, claiming a “crisis of conscience” forced them to step back from the ledge rather than admitting that the whole party jumped off of it some thirty-plus years ago. But don’t you worry: they have more than enough media outlets ready, willing, and able to catch their fall, if only for long enough that they can scramble back up Bullshit Mountain and jump off again.

At Face Value
Masha Gessen’s number one rule in “Autocracy: Rules For Survival” is to believe the autocrat...
“He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization… He has no political establishment into which to fold himself following the campaign, and therefore no reason to shed his campaign rhetoric. On the contrary: it is now the establishment that is rushing to accommodate him…discarding their long-held scruples to embrace his radical positions.”
...despite whether he keeps any of his promises or not. If Trump’s dumb rhetoric starts to turn increasingly vengeful as Russiagate marches inexorably on – which for a guy like him, would really be something – we’ll want to start paying closer attention.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

PAPER TIGER POLITICS

I can only imagine that in the eyes of America's largest paper tiger political outfit - the National Rifle Association - gun blogger and lifelong enthusiast Mike Weisser consenting to an interview for a slick liberal doucherag like The New Yorker is tantamount to whatever fresh Hell lies beyond the depravities of treason, heresy, and apostasy. Thankfully, Mike Weisser does not seem to give a fuck.



Given the subject matter, it's nice to hear someone with inside knowledge of the industry (in addition to being an NRA member since the age of eleven, he owned a gun shop for years, and has written something like six books on guns) be so refreshingly candid about not only the subject of gun control itself, but also about the propaganda fueling the paranoia and xenophobia that has taken over gun culture.

This interview was done as part of an article for an issue of The New Yorker last summer, which will probably fuck you up when you read it but you should read it anyway because it's really important. The gun lobby has kept its powder dry writ large for a very long time, and they are itchy as fuck to prove that they're packing at least three-fifths the cojones they claim.

If nothing else, the interview is worth listening to just to hear the guy have a good belly laugh at the sheer dumbfuckery that is Charlie Daniels' desperate attempts to stay relevant by suturing himself to the Y'all Qaeda zeitgeist. Seriously, it's one for the ages.

RACE "RELATIONS"

"I have colored folks in my family so I totally CAN'T be a bigot!" remains the dumbest defense of whiteness ever.


It's not like they can help being related to you. More's the pity.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

NOLA'S "CULT OF THE LOST CAUSE" COMES CRASHING DOWN

Talk about strange fruit...
Despite the massive and frequent doses of ever-more-spectacular incompetence tumbling down from the great, blustering heights of Bullshit Mountain as of late – or, perhaps, because of it – there’s a real satisfaction to be had in The Big Easy finally getting its act together re: the removal of monuments to America’s Greatest Confederate Losers.

They seem nice and TOTALLY NOT RACIST.
Schadenfreude is an important part of a balanced breakfast, so guzzle as many of Uncle Liberty’s angry white tears as often as you can, as fast as you can. They seem to be growing more scarce as of late.

Credit where credit is due to NOLA Mayor Mitch Landrieu for squaring this particular circle with only one Klan vigil and no cross burnings or lynchings of which to speak of; given the circumstances, I reckon that was no small feat. Who knew that the Stormfront set had such an affinity for sculpture?

Landrieu gave a wonderful speech in the moments before the statue of Robert E. Lee got the Firdaus Square treatment where he broke down exactly what the point of erecting these monuments to perfidy was, and why the idea of preserving them in the public square is utter codshit:
“The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This 'cult' had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.

First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy.

It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.

These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone's lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city. [...]

History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.

And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans — or anyone else — to drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person's humanity seems perverse and absurd.

Centuries-old wounds are still raw because they never healed right in the first place.”
The sore losers in the debate over hate versus “heritage” will forgive me, I hope, for giggling as this particular pustule is de-scabbed in efforts to sanitize our nation of bigotry’s deleterious effects.

But Landrieu’s right: history can’t be changed. It can, however, be rewritten to suit the needs of a mass of blood-and-soil insurrectionists who by and large still prefer black people in cages over cafe counters, as it has been practically from the moment the Civil War ended through the present day. However, there are still a great number of historians out there who are attempting to keep the record straight that yes, the Civil War actually was all about slavery, and that circling the wagons with arguments over “state’s rights” and “popular sovereignty” or whatever other half-cocked excuses Southern bigots use to justify monuments to their sore loserdom may buy time against an eventual reckoning, but will never wash the stain of black blood from the land beneath the Mason-Dixon line. Here’s a sampling:


(Please note that the three videos above are only trailers, not full episodes of these programs, which I couldn't find good embed code for. Links to the full episodes are available through each video's respective YouTube page.)
America’s ahistorical self-knowledge, if not corrected or at least de-fanged in terms of its influence on public policy, will be its eventual undoing, and for many of the same reasons that nearly tore the nation apart the last time ‘round. Tearing down monuments to ignorance like the ones in New Orleans is an important step in contending with such monumental ignorance, but it’s only one of many. The long arc of history only bends toward justice if we force it to.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

DIRE PREDICTIONS, CON'T.

Brooke Gladstone of On The Media has a new book out and I'm totally gonna have to read it because she's a genius and OH MY GOD I LOVE THIS SHOW SO DAMNED MUCH

*breathes*

Okay, with that out of the way, even if you don't want to read the book you should really listen to this interview she did the other day with the host of WNYC's morning show, Brian Lehrer.

"We're living in an era of smoke and mirrors as never before. Do you find yourself wondering how we reached this pass, where basic facts have no impact and fundamental norms are violated at will? Or, at the very least, would you like to follow Brooke down a rabbit hole as she searches for an explanation? Because after the election, in what amounted to a two-week fever dream, she wrote "The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time," and came to a kind of answer. As this week's podcast extra, we have for you a conversation Brooke had about her book with our colleague, WNYC morning show host Brian Lehrer."
One of the biggest takeaways I got from this interview is how white supremacy in practice is enforced more through narcissism and the rhetoric of defensiveness rather that simply through violence against nonwhites, even though such violence is becoming increasingly rampant...again. The violence is and has always been byproduct of that rhetoric, that narcissism, designed to enforce white supremacy, not promote it; as such, the recent uptick in violence against nonwhites is a collective response to white supremacy coming under increased threat.

In other words: the more those who resist white supremacy gain ground, the more violently the counter-revolution will begin to manifest itself. Being that said counter-revolution is essentially state-sponsored, and therefore monolithic in dimension if not in its particulars, dismantling white supremacy for good will, in time, most likely require action equally cataclysmic to that which sponsored its creation: violent, bloody insurrection, and revolution.

We're not there yet, but given the trajectory of present and recent historical events, the odds of witnessing such a thing in my lifetime seem to crawl inexorably higher with every passing day.

PUT YOUR BODIES ON THE GEARS



"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"
 
 Mario Savio, "Operation of the Machine"
I don't know enough about jury nullification to make a claim to its virtue, but I do know that I find the subject to be fascinating, and that, as one of the last avenues of direct action available to the citizenry through the legal system, an increase in the practice is likely inevitability. 

The question remains: are we ready for it?
“Would the Protestant Reformation have happened without the printing press? Would the American Revolution have happened without pamphlets? Probably not. But neither printing presses nor pamphlets were the heroes of reform and revolution.”

Rebecca MacKinnon
And neither will they be here. Bodies on the gears are required. Where you throw yours is up to you. Just throw it, for Chrissake.

WHAT A MORNING


The Lord giveth...
Roger Ailes, Former Fox News CEO, Dead at 77
Rolling Stone, 05/18/2017


Roger Ailes, the former CEO of Fox News, who built the network into a conservative media juggernaut but resigned last summer over allegations of sexual harassment, has died, Fox News reports. He was 77.

"I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning," Ailes' wife Elizabeth said in a statement. "Roger was a loving husband to me, to his son Zachary, and a loyal friend to many. He was also a patriot, profoundly grateful to live in a country that gave him so much opportunity to work hard, to rise – and to give back."

A cause of death has yet to be reported. However, New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman – who has long covered Ailes and Fox – tweeted, "Latest on what we know, per family friend: 'Last week Ailes had some kind of blood clot in Palm Beach. Suffered complications.'" Sherman also noted that Ailes suffered from hemophilia and had undergone multiple surgeries and joint replacements. In another tweet, Sherman said, "Per 2nd family friend on cause of death: Ailes fell in Palm Beach (did he trip over his golden parachute? – ed.) and had a blood clot from the fall. He suffered complications."
…and the Lord taketh away.
Chris Cornell, Soundgarden and Audioslave Frontman, Dies at 52
The New York Times, 05/18/2017


Chris Cornell, the powerful, dynamic singer whose band Soundgarden was one of the architects of grunge music, has died at 52.

Mr. Cornell died Wednesday night in Detroit, his representative, Brian Bumbery, said in a statement that called the death “sudden and unexpected” and that said the singer’s family would be “working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause.” […]

Mr. Cornell was born in 1964 in Seattle and helped form Soundgarden 20 years later. Sub Pop, then a fledgling record label, released the group’s first single, “Hunted Down,” in 1987, as well as two subsequent EPs. The group’s debut album, “Ultramega OK,” came a year later.

“Badmotorfinger,” released in 1991, benefited from the swell of attention that was beginning to surround the Seattle scene, where Soundgarden, along with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, were playing a high-octane, high-angst brand of rock ’n’ roll. Soundgarden’s musical journeys tended toward the knotty and dark, plunging into off-kilter meters and punctuated by Mr. Cornell’s voice, which could quickly shift from a soulful howl to a gritty growl.
I’m kind of at a loss for words in all of this, except to say that I’m sick and tired of finding out about dead cultural icons at 6:30 in the morning while I’m takin’ my morning shit constitutional. It upsets the bowels, y’know?

Rather, I think I’ll let Mr. Cornell see them both out:



Staring at the loss
Looking for a cause
And never really sure
Nothing but a hole
To live without a soul
And nothing to be learned…

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

THE TRUMPAWAY 5000 ARE GO!

In today's edition of the Grey Lady, conservative gasbag and badly-engineered Vince Vaughn body  double Ross Douthat just gave Donald Trump and every single Republican toadie who ever shilled a shill for his orange ass a "get out of jail free" card.

WITNESS THE  DODGEBALLSINESS!!!
"It is a child who blurts out classified information in order to impress distinguished visitors. It is a child who asks the head of the F.B.I. why the rules cannot be suspended for his friend and ally. It is a child who does not understand the obvious consequences of his more vindictive actions — like firing the very same man whom you had asked to potentially obstruct justice on your say-so.

A child cannot be president. I love my children; they cannot have the nuclear codes.

But a child also cannot really commit “high crimes and misdemeanors” in any usual meaning of the term. There will be more talk of impeachment now, more talk of a special prosecutor for the Russia business; well and good. But ultimately I do not believe that our president sufficiently understands the nature of the office that he holds, the nature of the legal constraints that are supposed to bind him, perhaps even the nature of normal human interactions, to be guilty of obstruction of justice in the Nixonian or even Clintonian sense of the phrase. I do not believe he is really capable of the behind-the-scenes conspiring that the darker Russia theories envision. And it is hard to betray an oath of office whose obligations you evince no sign of really understanding or respecting. [...]

The Trump situation is not exactly the sort that the amendment’s Cold War-era designers were envisioning. He has not endured an assassination attempt or suffered a stroke or fallen prey to Alzheimer’s. But his incapacity to really govern, to truly execute the serious duties that fall to him to carry out, is nevertheless testified to daily — not by his enemies or external critics, but by precisely the men and women whom the Constitution asks to stand in judgment on him, the men and women who serve around him in the White House and the cabinet.

Read the things that these people, members of his inner circle, his personally selected appointees, say daily through anonymous quotations to the press. (And I assure you they say worse off the record.) They have no respect for him, indeed they seem to palpitate with contempt for him, and to regard their mission as equivalent to being stewards for a syphilitic emperor.

It is not squishy New York Times conservatives who regard the president as a child, an intellectual void, a hopeless case, a threat to national security; it is people who are self-selected loyalists, who supported him in the campaign, who daily go to work for him. And all this,
in the fourth month of his administration."
Darth Cheeto's a cuckoo bird! He's too dumb to be a criminal! Clearly, he ate way too many Mar-A-Lago Twinkies Trump Steaks on the campaign trail, and they turned him into a wannabe mob boss right under our noses! How were we supposed to know?

Between this and Ann Coulter's recent defection from the #TrumpTrain, the Fabulous, Tea-Baggulous Bush-Off Machine has officially been upgraded to the TrumpAway 5000, and is ready to wash the sins of the ENTIRE conservative movement! 

And not a moment too soon, apparently:
"The U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday it appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate possible collusion between President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign team and Russia.

The move followed rising demands for an independent probe of alleged Russian efforts to sway the outcome of November's presidential election in favor of Trump and against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Pressure has been building on Trump over the Russia issue since his firing last week of FBI chief James Comey, who had been leading a federal probe into the matter."

NOTHING TO SEE HERE

Nervous yet?
Call it what you will, just don't call it a phase.
“Although the Trump administration is reportedly planning to restructure the Department of Homeland Security’s countering violent extremism (CVE) program to focus exclusively on radical Islam, a 2014 national survey of 175 law enforcement agencies ranked sovereign citizens, not Islamic terrorists, as the most pressing terrorist threat. The survey ranked Islamic terrorists a close second, with the following top three threats all domestic in origin and sometimes overlapping: the militia movement, racist skinheads, and the neo-Nazi movement.

[…]

[A] 2016 report by the US Government Accountability Office noted that “of the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001, far-rightwing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73%) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27%).” (The report counts the 15 Beltway sniper shootings in 2002 as radical Islamist attacks, though the perpetrators’ motives are debated.)”
While it’s unclear how many of these yahoos actually voted for Darth Cheeto, one thing is for certain: he’s actively working to give them carte blanche in making all of their darkest adolescent fantasies come to life. Maintaining plausible deniability for the violent enforcement of white supremacy never looked so, well...implausible.

ANTHEM OF THE WEEK: "FLAGPOLE SITTA" BY HARVEY DANGER



"Been around the world and found
That only stupid people are breeding,
The cretins cloning and feeding,
And I don't even own a teevee..."

...and in the intervening twenty years, they managed to take over the country.

In the words of their president (not mine): Sad!

CAMELOT IS BURNING

"What...me, worry?"
From The New York Times:
"As the maelstrom raged around the staff, reports swirled inside the White House that the president was about to embark on a major shake-up, probably starting with the dismissal or reassignment of Sean Spicer, the press secretary.

Mr. Trump’s rattled staff kept close tabs on a meeting early Monday in which the president summoned Mr. Spicer; the deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders; and the communications director, Michael Dubke, to lecture them on the need “to get on the same page,” according to a person briefed on the meeting.

By the end of the day Tuesday, it seemed that Mr. Spicer had, for the moment, survived. People close to the president said Mr. Trump was considering the firing of several lower-level staff members, including several hired by Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, while weighing a plan to hand most day-to-day briefing responsibilities to Ms. Sanders.

Even as Mr. Trump reassured advisers like Mr. Spicer that their jobs were safe on Monday, he told other advisers that he knew he needed to make big changes but did not know which direction to go, or whom to select.

In the meantime, the White House hunkered down for what staff members now realize will be an extended siege, not a one- or two-day bad news cycle.

The stress was taking its toll. Late Monday, reporters could hear senior aides shouting from behind closed doors as they discussed how to respond after Washington Post reporters informed them of an article they were writing that first reported the news about the president’s divulging of intelligence.

As they struggled to limit the fallout on Monday, Mr. Spicer and other Trump aides decided to send Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, to serve as a surrogate.

They realized that selecting such a high-ranking official would in some ways validate the story, but they wanted to establish a credible witness account exonerating the president from wrongdoing — before the barrage of Twitter posts they knew would be coming from Mr. Trump on Tuesday morning."
But wait! There's more!
"The latest crisis comes at the worst possible moment for Mr. Trump’s team. His national security and foreign policy staffs have been spending much of their time planning for his coming eight-day trip to the Middle East and Europe — his first major overseas trip as president, and an opportunity, they thought, to reset the narrative of his presidency after the lingering controversy of Mr. Comey’s sudden dismissal last week.

There is a growing sense that Mr. Trump seems unwilling or unable to do the things necessary to keep himself out of trouble and that the presidency has done little to tame a shoot-from-the-hip-into-his-own-foot style that characterized his campaign.

Some of Mr. Trump’s senior advisers fear leaving him alone in meetings with foreign leaders out of concern he might speak out of turn. General McMaster, in particular, has tried to insert caveats or gentle corrections into conversations when he believes the president is straying off topic or onto boggy diplomatic ground.

This has, at times, chafed the president, according to two officials with knowledge of the situation. Mr. Trump, who still openly laments having to dismiss Mr. Flynn, has complained that General McMaster talks too much in meetings, and the president has referred to him as “a pain,” according to one of the officials."
So...ready to start that impeachment betting pool yet?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

#ALLHAIRMATTERS, OR SOMETHING

I know that Eleanor Roosevelt said that only "small minds talk about people," but in the interest of filling a handful of column inches, join me as I throw a bit o' shade at yet another Internet moron...

Not a single "Irish Pride" reference? Well...color me disappointed.

Two quick things, before we move on:
  1. I actually am "her people," a fact she could have discovered with less than three mouse clicks.
  2. Clearly, she's not a Run DMC fan. Sad!
"You should use your brain, but you don't have one.
And when it comes to sense, you don't have none!"
Sadly, our woefully persecuted ginger friend has since deleted the post, likely out of either shame or embarrassment or both. Even sadlier, having been one of the first responders (read: trolls) on the scene, she blocked me from her page well before the fracas could really unfold. I guess she really does believe that using all CAPS makes her more believable, especially given the handful of people I spoke to who flooded the post after me who mentioned that she seemed incapable of turning it off. Who knew asking her such a question might ruffle her feathers in such a way? Certainly not me...

Here's the thing: the problems she's describing are totally relatable for many people, especially women. Whether it's makeup or hair or clothes or whatever, there are all sorts of things that make it difficult for women to express their full physical selves in the ways that they choose. But to try and connect your difficulty in finding hair dye or foundation with the historical and ongoing oppression of America's black community as a way to seek empathy is woefully ignorant at best, and if nothing else does a grave disservice to identity politics, which are collapsing into farce both from within and without.

Now, I can’t claim to know what lies in our woefully persecuted ginger friend’s heart, nor am I sure that I care. What I do know is that she said something really, really dumb and racially insensitive that, when pushed back upon, prompted her to double down rather than reflect on how really, really dumb and racially insensitive the thing she said was. That’s what card players call a “tell,” which means you’re hiding something, either from yourself or anyone in earshot. Or, as one of my friends rather succinctly put it, “if you didn't mean something and your so defensive your a got damn liar.” (sic)

Well, at least she’ll have a comfortable home on the alt-right, provided they can overlook her vagina:
“Until recently, the phrase “white identity politics” was a trap progressives tried to set for the Right. A rhetorical flourish could understate the whole brutal history of racism in America as 400 years of “white identity politics,” in order to demonstrate that the Right was guilty of the same tactics as the Left.

The Right now acknowledges the correlation with a smirk. “So long as we avoid and deny our identities, at a time when every other people is asserting its own, we will have no chance to resist our dispossession, no chance to make our future, no chance to find another horizon,” says Richard Spencer, in an introductory video on the National Policy Institute’s website titled “Who Are We?” […]

The alt-right has an answer — one that is consistent with the long history of imperialism and white supremacy. As their adoption of the language of identity politics shows, the Right takes comfort when the Left’s answer merely inverts the one generated by this history. It allows the Right to draw the battle lines, marking the territory of their white national fantasy.”
“If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” never sounded so horrifying.

Friday, May 12, 2017

"JONAH," A POEM ABOUT RUIN


Making memes out of my poetry collecting has been a rewarding experience, to say the least...it lends new context to old works, and scratches my publisher's itch quite nicely. As images, it makes my work that much easier to distribute, as well. Thinking about turning all of my essays into JPGs; if I did, maybe people would share them more.

In my early thirties, I succumbed to the degradations of an incredibly abusive lover while attempting to process repeated flashbacks of childhood sexual abuse. She took advantage of my weakness to do all manner of shady things, like conning me into securing us an apartment I couldn't actually afford and using it for little more than cold storage while she ran around having multiple affairs behind my back, gaslighting me to no end as I discovered each and every one of them, and after I finally gathered the courage to rid her from my life for good, she literally robbed me on her way out.

I wrote this poem and many others during that period of ruin, between hefty, regular bouts of Scotch and Bukowski and Xanax and Tom Waits and an abundance of high-powered marijuana. Such conspicuous, desperate consumption, intended to curb the constant, crushing sense of anxiety that hung over me like a funeral shroud, would often leave me waking up on my kitchen or bathroom floor in a pool of my own sick wishing I were dead, as I had half-intended. 

That was nearly seven years ago, and I'm still not totally over any of it. The memories still haunt me to this day. But I'm not trying to medicate my way to an early grave any more, so I suppose this story has a bright side.

If I were to have to pick an all-time favorite poem from my collection, it would be "Jonah." It still leaves me feeling so raw like I'm writing it for the first time. In many respects I still am, every day when I wake up. Just not with her. Something something small favors, I guess...

Please feel free to share this around, if you'd like. Exposure won't help me keep the lights on, but it'll help me keep the faith, which is about as much as this old apostate can ask for. And thanks for doing so. Appreciate it, fam. *fist bump*

Thursday, May 11, 2017

THE FOG MACHINE


"It’s a simple rig: you got an ordinary compressor sucks water out of one tank and a special oil out of another tank, and compresses them together, and from the black stem at the end of the machine blooms a white cloud of fog that can cover a whole airfield in ninety seconds. The first thing I saw when I landed in Europe was the fog those machines make. There were some interceptors close after our transport, and soon as it hit ground the fog crew started up the machines. We could look out the transport’s round, scratched windows and watch the jeeps draw the machines up close to the plane and watch the fog boil out till it rolled across the field and stuck against the windows like wet cotton.

You found your way off the plane by following a little referees’ horn the lieutenant kept blowing, sounded like a goose honking. Soon as you were out of the hatch you couldn’t see no more than maybe three feet in any direction. You felt like you were out on that airfield all by yourself. You were safe from the enemy, but you were awfully alone. Sounds died and dissolved after a few yards, and you couldn’t hear any of the rest of your crew, nothing but that little horn squeaking and honking out of a soft furry whiteness so thick that your body just faded into white below the belt; other than that brown shirt and brass buckle, you couldn’t see nothing but white, like from the waist down you were being dissolved by the fog too.


And then some guy wandering as lost as you would all of a sudden be right before your eyes, his face bigger and clearer than you ever saw a man’s face before in your life. Your eyes were working so hard to see in that fog that when something did come in sight every detail was ten times as clear as usual, so clear both of you had to look away. When a man showed up you didn’t want to look at his face and he didn’t want to look at yours, because it’s painful to see somebody so clear that it’s like looking inside him, but then neither did you want to look away and lose him completely. You had a choice: you could either strain and look at things that appeared in front of you in the fog, painful as it might be, or you could relax and lose yourself."


Don't look away. Don't lose yourself. Even if you don't say a word, just don't look away and don't forget what you're seeing here. It's the only way to be sure that you're not alone, and you're not crazy.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

WHEN IN DOUBT, WRITE ABOUT WRITING



As I scan over my list of forthcoming literary and multimedia projects, it dawns upon me that a) almost none of them have the slightest thing to do with politics, or do so in only the loosest sense of them term; b) every one of them promise to be long, painstaking endeavors, precisely the sort of thing I hate to do and precisely the opposite of what I've been doing for the last several months; c) there's a direct correlation between neglecting to pursue "a" and "b" with appropriate discipline and enthusiasm and my continued inability to sleep at night.

Makes a fantastic sleep aid
if you're brave enough.
Hyperbole is a permutation of dishonesty; as such, if repeated enough it can, on occasion, become true. I've found myself making some variation of the above remark since I first began my real journey into the creative arts, first in jest, then in hyperbole, and now as literal truth. I'm not sure when precisely it happened, only that I'm rather late in making the direct connection between the two.

For me as it is for many, the relationship between procrastinator and insomniac is and has always been that of the unstoppable force versus the immovable object. Eventually, one side always gives out, usually insomnia; whiskey's a fantastic sleep aid, if you're brave enough. A few benders and a few hangovers later, balance is more or less restored, and creativity continues to flow relatively unimpeded. But this null-period, where nothing gets done and I can't sleep and I constantly drift into daydreams of process and guilt and self-doubt...I could really fucking do without it.

It's like being stuck at a crossroad where the signs are pointing in every direction except for the well-beaten path of managed expectations and now-tepid ambitions that you wish to continue traveling down. Which is sad, except for when you realize that to stay on that path is to walk into a valley of despair and banality like the one you've just crawled out of, which really isn’t a choice at all. But as you peer down all of the other pathways, no details can be made out, no predictors of success, or even of experience. The only certainty is that there is more experience to be gained. The real reward for good work is more work.

"Standin' at the crossroad, baby, risin' sun goin' down,
I believe to my soul, now, poor Bob is sinkin' down..."


That, it seems, is the most difficult thing to accept. There is always more work to be done. There are always more stories to tell, more stories that need telling. Every tale told begets another; the picture is never complete. Not until I’ve bored through yet another layer of my psyche, pushing well past the limits of my creative endurance, can I ever even take pause to reflect on what I’ve accomplished, which almost never adds up to what feels possible.

Even then, I can never rest long, or well. Just the mandatory minimum required to collect myself and take a deep breath before diving into yet another journey of creative self-discovery, cursing my inability to do so immediately the entire time. The sad thing is, if don’t set my own boundaries, my body will set them for me one way or another, a thing which is never pretty to witness, let alone experience.

But hey, at least it gives me something to blog about.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

WORDS ALWAYS FAIL, SOMETIMES



I'm finding politics to be exasperatingly tedious at this point. Yes, Trump is a crook and a goon and possibly deranged. Yes, the party he represents is full of lunatics and theocrats and obscenely corrupt people who would sell your grandmother for a pack of chewing gum and a 20% tax cut. Yes, the Democrats are a bunch of self-effacing bureaucrats more invested in their own reflection than the fate of the country. Yes, it all really, really, sucks, and yes, I know there are a great many people out there who have it significantly worse off than I do, for whom the next four years could result in complete catastrophe because of the meathead we've installed as head of state.

No, I haven't stopped giving a shit. I'm just tired of repeating myself.

On a recent episode of the podcast Common Sense, host Dan Carlin talked about how in years gone by, avid news consumers received the sort of contextual information that passes for daily news in the Digital Age mostly from long-form, magazine-style reporting, where it would be placed in its proper, er....context. The way we're able to receive that same information in real-time without context or analysis puts us too close to the problem, especially when the signal-to-noise ratio of your average news feed is so abysmally low. More often than not in journalism, it's the bird's eye view that matters most, not the one from the weeds.

I've never wanted to be one of the choirboys crying wolf over the "he said, she said" du jour several days a week, but I've found myself trying to do so regardless, in order to keep pace with our Internet-addled society. But I've got a couple of bigger projects that I'm working on for which daily blogging is a giant distraction. Those words are failing me, fading for a time while different ones coalesce in the fore of my consciousness. Some will make it here, some won't. I guess you'll just have to wait and see...

Monday, May 1, 2017

THE REAL AND TRUE LABOR DAY

Sadly, my ability to participate in democracy is, like for many, inversely proportionate to my necessity to participate in capitalism, so I was not able to attend any marches or demonstrations on the Real and True Labor Day: May 1st, International Worker's Day. But I would like to give a hearty shout-out to everyone who did, and despite the usual absence mainstream coverage about Movements That Matter, know that people are watching, and people are listening.

In honor of the occasion, I'd like to share with you my accounting of the last May Day March I participated in, back in 2015. My political odyssey has contained many powerfully formative moments, and this was one of them. There were over two thousand people in attendance, mostly Latin and/or Hispanic, dancing and chanting and singing our way through the streets of San Jose to the gates of City Hall, demanding recognition and expansion of worker's rights and liberties both here and abroad.

For someone who had become incredibly fatigued with politics and organizing in general, it came along at just the right time to inject new life and new purpose into my work, and continues to propel me forward when my conviction wavers. I hope my memories of that fateful day can do the same for you.
There's a feeling you get when you're marching through the streets of your hometown with several hundred people in spirit of civil disobedience. It's a feeling that swells inside you, stirring passions that so often lay dormant deep within the subconscious. For those who have never experienced it, solidarity is truly intoxicating: you start to feel like you might actually be able to change things, that the sound and the fury created by you and your comrades might actually shake people from the state of complacency that blankets your community. It's a feeling like maybe, just maybe, ordinary people can really make a difference.

On May 1st, 1886, a long series of strikes and demonstrations culminated in the Haymarket Bombing, a profound tragedy that claimed the lives of a great number of policemen and protesters alike. In the aftermath of that event, the Labor Rights Movement itself was born. Over a century later, astounding numbers of people around the world now commemorate the Haymarket Bombing in what has come to be known as International Worker's Day, or simply May Day, staging hundreds of rallies and marches to demand that the rights of the worker, no matter their race, color, or creed, be enshrined in the pantheon of human dignity.

In the shadow of their bastard corporate son – Labor Day – worldwide May Day celebrations receive very little mainstream media coverage, although this does little to diminish their potency; if anything, the lack of attention serves only to help stoke the fires of revolution for yet another year, proving that there's still much work to be done for the worker to truly gain their place at the table.

As I looked into the eyes of the men, women, children who took to the streets on May Day for San Jose's International Worker's Day March, I saw solidarity defiantly reflected in every last one. With every cry of “¡Sí Se Puede!” and “¿Que Queremos? ¡JUSTICIA!” I heard solidarity reverberate proudly through the alleyways and avenues of my city. The beat of Aztec drums drove us forward from the back of the line, as feathered dancers strapped with rattles and bells pranced and shouted barefoot and fearless on the cracked, molten streets. We held our banners high and shoved our doubts aside, waving flags and signs with feverish hope while sweat and exhilaration dripping from determined brows under a fat, broiling sun. When the ringers shouted “Whose streets?” solidarity roared back as one: “OUR STREETS!” In that moment, it was true. It was real.

We crashed upon City Hall like a breaking wave, spent and exuberant. As we gathered together there, sharing water and compassion, we realized that our passage mattered; if not to the powers that be, than to one another, as proof that we have not succumbed to the numbing despair that threatens to consume us all. That we can fight, and we will fight, for as long as it takes. Not for glory, not for fame, but for victory. For justice. For solidarity.

The photos above were taken by yours truly over the course of the event. They are unedited and unfiltered, so you might see what I saw that day. It was raw, it was rough, it was beautiful. And now, it's yours.

(Also, The Baffler put together a phenomenal May Day primer that you should totally dig into, detailing the history and the significance and the implications of International Worker's Day both hear and abroad. It'll learn ya real good!)