A Pause, of Sorts

Put in some time over the past day or so listening to an interview of Ta-Nehisi Coates by Ezra Klein of VOX and it was too much to absorb in one go. But before I go back for a second run-through I encourage anyone stumbling over this post to give it a listen. To me it is a frank and honest exchange about how even supporters and admirers of Barack Obama can have serious reservations about him. And that is OK. There are many deeper elements to the discussion. Very essential if you have been looking for something other than name-calling and fear baiting. I also found some of the best ideas “in the spaces” around the discussion. The connections I was making outside of their dialogue were very deep and very personal. Who can ask for more than that.

This blog is very much a stream of consciousness outlet for me. I am often doing more opinioneering than real research, and rarely does it approach any kind of long-form result. I found myself reflecting on that during the piece, and maybe the second listen will cement some of those reflections, or maybe obliterate them.

 

Get Smart (FAST, please)

This week brought us something superficially hilarious, but also very instructive and somewhat terrifying.

Trump Adviser Questions Climate Change, Cites ‘5,500 Year History’ of Earth

While it is easy to do a spit-take when you have a presidential advisor and senior transition team member who gauges the age of our planet at 5,500 years, don’t laugh.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo has this exchange:

SCARAMUCCI: Chris, there was an overwhelming science that the Earth was flat. And there was an overwhelming science that —

CUOMO: It’s called ignorance. You learn over time.

SCARAMUCCI:  We were the center of the world. A hundred percent, you know, we get a lot of things wrong in the scientific community. You and I both know that. I’m not suggesting that we’re not affecting the change. I honestly don’t know, I’m not a scientist. If you’re asking me for my opinion, it’s probably a blend of people

NO. The neither the concept of a flat earth or geocentrism was scientific consensus in this context. It was the view of the Church, and via the church, the State. As a religious devotee (5,500 years is like Alpha-science-denial territory) of his degree he knows this. Cuomo can’t seem to summon up a middle-school history lesson to refute him. This isn’t a small detail. This is brutal, and Cuomo should be held accountable. The climate deniers are the flat-earthers. They are the ones looking to squelch scientific consensus in an effort to preserve their ancient world view. The petrostate olicarchy will take whatever allies they can find, and they have found them in religious zealots who seek a parasitic relationship with the State.

Scientists who espoused heliocentrism were silenced because their data showed a reality that presented a challenge to the moneyed elites. If the Church and the King were wrong about geocentricism it was a large crack in the Church’s facade, and power. Copernicus and Galileo are the best known examples, but we know implicitly that many many more were bullied into not following their research, or beginning it, out of fear of reprisals from the State and the Church. If we can’t hold up to a mirror to anti-factual propaganda at the most elementary level, we are well and truly deserving of the fucking we are about to get.

This same test was failed earlier in the week, when Chief Presidential Apologist and Obfuscator Kellyanne Conway threw out, casually, regarding the CIA/DNI “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” Again, NO. She must have it confused with THE WHITE HOUSE, FFS. The WMD question was used as a pretext for the post-9/11 invasion of Iraq.  The propaganda regarding WMD in Iraq was primarily a partisan agenda driven by George W. Bush, Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney, and Chevron Oil darling Condoleezza Rice who decided that the intel community would be ignored. It was widely known that no evidence of WMD was found, and the US famously recalled the weapons inspectors before they could finish their inspections and verify the lack of WMD. As an aside, the 9/11 attacks also resulted in the Patriot Act and the largest expansion of government since the depression, The Department of Homeland Security. [p.s. Dick Cheney is out of his undisclosed location and now being touted as a close advisor to Trump. #jussayin]

It feels like this current round of gaslighting is worse because the Trump team is riding on the Obama administration’s coattails. We have not been aggressively challenging Obama’s statements because they have either been highly factual, or backed by respected scientists and experts. We have to snap out of it because we are being lied to with easily debunked bunk. The more accustomed we get to this level of gaslighting, the harder it will be once the Trump team is installed and exerting more direct control over the propaganda process.

We are seeing the same approach taken to Trump’s refusal to avail himself of the President’s Daily Brief, which he characterizes as needlessly repetitive. It isn’t. He’s just lazy and looking to ensure plausible deniability. No president-elect blows off a key component of the job. GWB didn’t grasp its nature and he slept through clear warnings before 9/11. He also may have had oil-brat sympathies for the Bin Laden clan and taken a pass on the warnings out of hand. Trump is setting himself for something much worse because he is sleeping on nuclear arsenals and nations with intentions and capabilities far beyond those of ISIS.

 

 

America gets a real-time IQ test

cmb-gift

I’m going to assume that some moderate percentage of the US population could either describe an oligarchy or identify one if they saw one. I don’t think it is anywhere near 50%, but let’s say it is greater than 25%. (But read the Wiki. It’s a good primer on what tipping-point we just crossed)

Now what percentage of them could identify an emerging oligarchy? It would be like saying you can ID an oak tree, but not an oak sapling. Lots of people fall into that category.

What just happened in the US is that an oligarchy sapling just broke through the forest floor, is getting lots of nutrients and sunlight, and before you know it, son, you got yourself a mature oligarchy growing right there in the front lawn. And the bigger it gets the harder it will be to get rid of. How do we know if we have a real oligarchy, and not just a playboy-type with delusions of grandeur? The dichotomous key to political systems will get you close:

You have a billionaire as president-elect. He became a billionaire by extracting moderate sums of money from thousands of people at a time, and then doing it again, and again. What billionaires care about it not whether the Dallas Cowboys are looking good (That’s Jerry Jones’ issue, and he is “special”), or whether their bills are getting paid. They mainly care about other billionaires, their money, and how they stack up against them. So we can check that box. They play “Fantasy Billionaire” the way Joe Six Pack plays Fantasy Football. But with piles of other people’s money. No other billionaires have been elected to the presidency of the US. That is a big bragging point right there. That goes over real big when he gets on the phone with other billionaires AND with other heads-of-state. It’s a win-win. And don’t he know it? It’s Trump, Putin, and a few guys in the UAE. That, as they say, is the list of billionaire heads-of-state. Don’t go looking for their free press or their sterling record on human rights.

And in the case of our current president-elect, Donald Trump, he is demonstrating his incuriosity, thin skin, and sub-par intellect at every damn turn. We don’t have a super-genius billionaire, or even a really smart billionaire. We have a whiny douche from Queens who inherited more money from his daddy than the average American makes in a lifetime. He is accustomed to outsourcing virtually everything. He hires “the best”. (More on that, and how he only hires the best for himself and hires the worst when it comes to protecting the American citizenry, later.) How does a guy like this plan to run a country?

Glad I asked! First, you put military lifers in positions where you want chain-of-command respected, not a bunch of smart-ass sass-back. You only want to hear “how high?” when you yell “Jump”. So you stock Defense, Homeland Security, and Intel with guys who will throw their mother in front of the L-train in the name of chain-of-command. It helps if you have conspiracy theorists with itchy trigger-fingers and an axe to grind. Less motivational work and coercion to waste Trump’s time.

Next, you recruit fellow billionaires who you know will put other billionaires (like the president-elect. just sayin’) first, and pretty much fuck the little guy all day long. That is how they got there. When you find anyone who ever called Rex Tillerson “human rights champion” please let me know. Trump himself has *never* gone on the record regarding human rights (I looked, and if you find something I am all ears). It is safe to say he has never though about the concept other than as a way to tar a “loser” who put humanity over making a dollar. Go find the country that Rex Tillerson has staked out where you have a thriving middle class, lots of manufacturing jobs, cheap top-flight health care… Good luck. If that model was successful they would be like Johnny Appleseed, as opposed to Joey Goebbels.

And Trump has Bannon, who jerks off to photos of Goebbels, so another base covered. This guy is a “strategist” in only the broadest way. He seems to be the worst kind of political apparatchik. The kind who will never be seen in public, or grant interviews, or take any real responsibility. He has his hand up Trump’s ass and it looks like Trump is talking, but you are really hearing Bannon throwing his voice. THAT is this dude’s “strategy”. And as usual, when “strategy” is next separated from “propaganda” it will be the first time.

Next, Lackeys. You cannot have a functioning oligarchy without lackeys. You need dopes who are so far over their skis that they will take whatever direction they get because what the fuck does Rick “Dancing with the Stars” Perry know about nuclear warheads? Nothing. And he ain’t gonna learn anytime soon. The steady stream of agency heads who are incompetent or outright hostile to the charters of the agencies they are being tapped to head is not a coincidence. You want a nice mix of incompetence and hostility. Both is nice.

Like an exterminator examining the mud casings in the footings of your democracy, I hate to tell you this, friend: you got a colony of oligarchs, military stooges and lackeys setting up shop in your house. The fix is to get at it early and maybe in short order you’ll have a problem you can fix with a can of RAID. But for now you gotta be ready to do the hard work to knock this oligarch colony down to size.

 

A observation on Close Up Magic

When Trump was mowing down the seemingly endless pool of rivals for the GOP nomination he was pulling off a very simple con: Whatever the opponent’s strength is, that is a bad strength to have.

Trump never had to back up his self-aggrandizement because he had a very public brand and he maintained a drumbeat of labeling his opponents with simple, easy to comprehend nicknames.

The youth movement of the GOP, Marco Rubio: Little Marco

The reality-challenged but politically powerful Ted Cruz: Lyin’ Ted

and so on… There was no time to be asking serious questions about Trump’s policy goals because “hey, look over there, it is a new target for my grade-school bully act.” At no point does anyone in the press (I have looked, but maybe I missed someone) call him out on this. They are falling for this “got your nose” level scam, and falling hard. And it works, and as one after another falls to this trick he wins the GOP nomination.

To the press it all seems like a lark, because, you know, he’s a hack and has burned much of his needed support base by humiliating them in a very public way. All of the living former US Presidents are telling American’s that Trump is not acceptable and a danger to the core principles of the nation. And there it is again. Got yer nose! Two-term Republican President George W. Bush?A two-term Republican President, leaving office, zero live appearances at a national convention. Well, you gonna listen to a guy who was photoshopped out of the GOP family picture for two straight GOP Conventions? What about his dad? A one-termer. Probably senile. Jimmy Carter? Bill Clinton? Who in the GOP is listening to them on anything, ever? People who have held the office were discredited out of hand.

On the other hand, people with zero experience, or negative experience, are showing up alongside Trump and getting free rides. Nigel Farage buggered off to who knows where when his Brexit ambitions were realized. He had no plan because he never thought he’d win. (maybe that makes him a perfect role model for Trump now?) He shows up alongside Trump on the campaign trail? Aside from being a major no-no in US election protocol, he was given a free pass on his cowardice. These sort of free-rides might be explained by a simple “cult of personality” effect. But the silence that greeted people with real job experience? That is a straight-up con job.

So what happens when he is facing Hillary Clinton, a very experienced, very politically savvy opponent with top-level foreign policy credentials and a AAA-rated philanthropic foundation? Experience is bad. It’s a code-word for “beltway-insider”. Experience in the US Senate, and having run the gauntlet of those elections? Generic claims of how bad she was, no supporting evidence needed. Again, experience is a negative. Service as Secretary of State? Again, that experience is turned into a negative. The GOP spent tens of millions of dollars on congressional investigations and found nothing of substance. That should be a point to Clinton. Nope. Regarding Benghazi Colin Powell says (I paraphrase) rightly that Christopher Stevens made a decision to operate with a minimal security detail and it came up snake-eyes. Again, a GWB-guy, and we don’t like him anymore. Plus Powell has always been too cozy with the Dems. Regarding the so-called email scandal, again, nothing of substance. The power of the FBI applied to a small pile of emails (ask GWB who deleted 2.2million at the height of the Iraq war, when serious questions of who knew what and when were being asked, if 30,000 emails is a lot of emails) finds nothing. Still, it is turned into a negative for Clinton. This charade is now in full-on snowball mode. And then the director of the F B fucking I piles on for no apparent reason two weeks before the election.

And speaking of strange bedfellows, Trump starts off his campaign with Paul Manafort fresh off a Ukraine PR campaign for Putin, and seemingly still running errands back to the Kremlin. Nothing. No alarm bells. One day of warm press and he is replaced. Nobody ever asks if he is still working in any capacity. The Kremlin is thought to be behind a stream of leaked emails from the DNC. Most of these are beyond vanilla. And despite playing an open wink-and-nod game with Putin during the campaign, Trump gets a free pass. Again, The Kremlin Is Openly Hacking US Assets to Support A Candidate For U. S. President. The CIA knows this. Crickets. Oh, And Manafort shows up again at the tail end of the campaign. Not a peep about how a guy who … “returned to Ukraine in September 2014 to become an advisor to Yanukovych’s former head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Serhiy Lyovochkin. In this role he was asked to assist in rebranding Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Instead, he argued to help stabilize Ukraine, Manafort was instrumental in creating a new political party called Opposition Bloc. According to Ukrainian political analyst Mikhail Pogrebinsky, “He thought to gather the largest number of people opposed to the current government, you needed to avoid anything concrete, and just become a symbol of being opposed”. Sound like a familiar strategy? You can read his Wiki if you want to see how this guy operates.

My point here is this: A very simple tactic of finding your opponent’s strengths and ridiculing them was allowed to create a wave of public apathy that Trump rode to the Oval Office. We now have four years to decide whether we are collectively willing to both hold Trump to the best of his promises and prevent him from following through on the worst. On top of that we have to depend on the same ass-clowns who obstructed Obama for eight years to reign in Trump’s worst impulses, as well as not hop on board and stoke the engine. And I do mean collectively. Gutting Medicare will not spare Trump-voting grandparents. Gutting environmental protections will not target left-leaning lungs. Trade wars will not be surgical.

The best leaders actively seek out contrary opinions, actively engage them, often hire them. It allows them to see new opportunities, identify flaws in their original plans, and build solutions that create the most benefit in both the short and long term. Trump has NONE of that. He is building a sycophantic echo chamber of politi-ghouls who will tell him whatever they have to in order to preserve the Presidential Illusion. We the People need to work together to breach that information fortress. May we find the strength.

We’re Back, and Madder Than Ever

The election is over and some large part of America has just realized that we are now trapped in a four-year-long timeshare presentation, and there is no exit door. Reality TV filtered through Kafka and directed by Louis Buñuel.

Like many Americans I am watching the emergence of a kakistoscracy, one of many words we are now using with regularity that were unknown just weeks ago. Government by the worst people. The qualifications for the Trump cabinet and high-level appointees appear to be stolen from the Oakland Raiders’ Playbook: Salvage Projects with a Criminal Record and Anger Management Issues get first crack at the starting lineup. If you are just an unrepentant sociopath hell-bent on the destruction of our social fabric, you can count on a spot on the scout team, and maybe kick returns.

But I am getting out ahead of myself. It is becoming very apparent that one opinionated blogger, one journalist, one humorist, cannot keep up with the pace of truly horrifying behavior we are witnessing. For non-pros like me, I think it is best to try to stick to what I know, and maybe take a flyer on something that catches my eye from time to time. To me, what we have been put through is a psy-ops project where objective truth, provable facts, and first-person evidence are losing out to unfounded conspiracy theories and distraction tactics (I hesitate to say tactics because that implies intelligence, but I don’t have a cool word like kakistocracy to use here). So my bag will be to root, root, root for my home team: FACTS.

I have a few items in the hopper, and I hope to be turning them out on a regular basis. Until then, Keep Looking to the Skies! That’s where incoming ICBMs will be.

 

No, I have not been captured by pirates…

It came to my attention that not only have  not posted for a while, but I left off with a series of rum-related posts. It would not be a stretch to imagine me adrift on a raft with a case of Pyrat and some scavenged limes. But no, I have been busy with a host of issues artistic, familial, and careerist. Generally, just busy!

Artistic: Fuchsprellen is on a bit of a hiatus from live performance, but I am still working on a piece for the upcoming Cordelia Records comp. That work is taking place under the Fuchsprellen banner, so there is some life in the organization. The live performance front will come around sooner or later. As it stands I don’t know that I have the time or the focus for it, but we do always find the resolve. Want some noise at your place? Drop me a line. We can oblige.

Family: The usual commitments of house, home, spouse, and dog. Mr Wylee is hanging in there at 13 years old. For a sheepdog that is the far right end of the curve, but his “mind over matter” style means that he is still rallying day to day. The holiday season was a grind, but mainly due to the late and mild winter, and then the crazy and unpredictable spring.

Bidnezz: Approaching one year of working in he realm of waste management and solid waste policy. It has been an eye-opener of a year. The specifics are new, but the underlying concepts and themes that I have been leaning on for 30 years still serve well. Occasionally I get brain-lock as the challenge of the new material can make me forget things I actually know. As in art, so in life.

As always, I’ll have more photos to share on Flickr, more music to share on Bandcamp (or maybe Soundcloud, but that is looking less likely), and more rambling here on the mothership. Ciao.

P

Organized Labor goes Bananas…

A few points of interest for those of us who follow the trials and tribulations of organized labor…

The participants in the Republican Presidential Debates, or whatev’ they are calling that clown show these days, pulled off a major coup by engaging in a work stoppage, a mutual agreement on contract terms, and a negotiation session regarding working conditions. There is no other way to describe their actions that I can think of. These candidates now have *zero* anti-union credibility.

It brought a chuckle and a tear to my eye to see how they wilted under the brutal white-hot pressure of a televised debate and demanded that they be involved in setting terms and conditions for their working environment. As President Obama has pointed out, Putin is waiting for you in the green room, bitches.

In another shocking turn of events, football players at Mizzou organized a work stoppage in support of a hunger-striking classmate, forcing the resignation of their University President. The headline is Players Wage Power Play. They used the leverage of college football economics to enact change. I applaud them and their efforts. I hope it bears fruit in the form of real social change and not just an administrative change.

The subtext that I immediate saw was this: If NCAA athletes ever unionize, they will do so under a no-strike structure. In organized labor there are contracts that allow the workers to strike (work stoppage) and contracts that don’t (binding arbitration). The Mizzou action may have a side-effect of greasing the rails toward unionized NCAA athletics, with the caveat that they will concede the right to do what the football players at Mizzou just did.

The financial calculus has not changed. The universities and television networks reap enormous profits from big-time NCAA athletics, and the athletes see a tiny fraction of that cash-flow. The imbalance was exploited by the Mizzou athletes with a reversal of the “Right Stuff” axiom… No Buck Rogers, No Bucks. The football coach at Mizzou, Gary Pinkel, makes over $4 million per year. His support of the athlete’s actions, probably more then those actions themselves, sealed the deal for president Tim Wolfe.

I admit that the no-strike wrinkle is a bit of organized-labor wonkery, but I am sure that I am not alone. The athletes may get stipends, health care, guaranteed scholarships (no take-back in the case of injury), and so on. But they will probably have to hand over the right to strike in order to get that. And if so, it would mean that Mizzou may have been the event that won a battle but lost a larger tactical war.