Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Addictive Joy of Shallow Pleasures: Twitter

My son warned me not to get into Twitter. Too addictive. 
Oh, I thought, that's a bit overwrought.

But then I saw its effects firsthand, in the person of my good friend, Obadiah Youngblood, who has recently started up a Twitter account and he now staggers around, face drained, pallid, unable to attend to the necessities of life. 

It's much like that Mark Twain story, "A Literary Nightmare: Punch Brothers Punch," in which the narrator learns a little ditty and cannot get it out of his mind until he passes it on to another person, who is then ensnared.

So it is with Twitter. Once you get the bug, apparently,  it's hard to get rid of it, to get off the site. The Tweet has consumed his days, and wrecked his nights. 

Poor Obadiah is a wreck. He's stopped painting, stopped eating, just sits in front of his computer all day firing off 140 characters at his favorite people. He has become obadiah youngblood@obadiahyoungbl and he is contained in that universe, unable to break free, trapped in a tar pit. 

He follows Donald Trump, who provides him with a steady stream of things to react to.
He likes David Simon, the creator of "The Wire" but has been disappointed at how Simon rants and sputters and curses Fox News and Trump in a surprisingly profane and unimaginative way.
Obadiah's work, when he was still able to work

Mostly, he responds to Trump, having no illusion that Trump will actually read his Tweets, but he is thrilled when others, people he has no connection with in any other way, press a button and a little red heart appears to indicate they liked his Tweet. 

He has found a community of Trump belittlers. 
He could have found the same thing on Redditt Progressive, a throng of ranting folks expostulating about the Constitutional crisis, expressing fear for the republic, decrying narcissism, nativism, racism, misogyny, boorishness, bloviating, all sorts of things contained in Trump. 

There is something salutary, however, about being able to respond to the verbal incontinence of the Chief Executive, more or less in real time, with others listening. What other President has allowed for so much more or less direct contact with the White House? 
Well, not really direct contact. It's a one way conversation, really. You feel you are replying, but he does not hear you. It's like talking to a TV screen.

It does consume the energy of the opposition, and it gives people a sense they are having an effect, a delusion, of course.

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders Tweet, but somehow, they seem impersonal, more rote.  Trump has the immediacy of the village fool. You can't take him seriously, but you know he believes whatever it is he is trying to say. His eruptions, "Fake News" and "Lying Democrats" are so empty of content, you have to believe they are at least, heart felt. 

Obadiah seems to think if he can just craft the absolute perfect response to a Trump Tweet, it will so puncture and deflate him, he will simply pop and collapse and vanish  from the scene, like the Judge in Roger Rabbit, who is consumed by the Dip. 

But, of course, you cannot deflate or shame or defeat the Pink Puffer. You are talking to someone who cannot hear you.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Taking a Knee vs Sieg Heil!

When Colin Kapernick took a knee at the playing of the national anthem at an NFL football game, he probably did not know that he was entering a Twilight Zone of principled resistance which dated back to early anti Nazi protests in American past.

There were two Supreme Court cases which addressed the symbolic actions of citizens to protest a prevailing rule seeking to enforce patriotism on the citizens of this nation.

The first case was the 1943 case West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette, in which children were expelled from public school for refusing to pledge allegiance to the flag. These children were Jevovah's witnesses and they had been taught such a pledge spoken, or rather recited, before a flag was tantamount to violating the Biblical proscription from God against worshiping graven images.  Their father supported them right up to the Supreme Court.  

Justice Robert Jackson, who later served as the American lead prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials wrote a stinging opinion, reversing early decisions and rejecting Felix Frankfuter's dissent. Nobody in this country should be made to speak. The first amendment ensures not just the freedom to speak; it preserves the freedom to remain silent. 
"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us."
Justice Robert Jackson
Remember 1943: America was in the midst of fighting a war against Nazi Germany, and for many across the land the practice which had been widely introduced of instructing school children to recite the pledge--and in those days, they not only recited the pledge but they stretched out one arm toward the flag--looked way too much like the Nazi practice of Seig Heil!  
American children: Seig Heil!

There followed a case in 1971, when the state of New Hampshire, in the midst of the way in Vietnam, decided to change it's state license plates to replace "Scenic New Hampshire" with "Live Free or Die," which prompted another Jehovah's witness to tape over the "Or Die" objecting this violated his religion. Others taped over the whole sentence, saying it was a subterfuge to force New Hampshire citizens to support the War, which supposedly, and arguably was being fought for "freedom."

Group think, the forced conformity of behavior and angry reactions to symbolic protests against symbolic conformity have been with us throughout our lifetimes. 
The American Olympic champions who raised their fist as Black Americans and bowed their heads as the American flag was raised and the anthem played were thrown out of the 1968 Olympics because in the face of the ultimate in jingoistic expression of "patriotism" their mute gesture spoke of their dismay at the way Blacks were treated in America, where they were still being lynched, denied mortgage loans by federal government agencies, beaten by police and drafted to fight in Vietnam, when, as Mohammad Ali said, they had no argument with them Viet Cong. We are all oppressed by the white man.

So now it's Trump and the white supremacists and the super patriots who think patriotism is a gesture, but President Heel Spurs, the commander in chief, does not think patriotism includes the willingness to resist injustice.

Oh, Donnie We Hardly Knew Ye

Buried in her article on Mike Pence are snippets about Donald Trump which Mad Dog, for one, found intriguing.

Who knew, for instance, that when Pence interviewed for the VP job, Trump asked him about the outgoing governor of Indiana whose wife had an affair with another man but then reconciled and the governor took her back. Trump told Pence he could not understand how a man could ever sleep with a woman who he knew had slept with another man when they were married. 

Of all the things you might think to ask your next VP about, Trump brought up something that had to do with sex, possessiveness, the concept of the stained woman?

Trump reportedly liked Pence because to Trump, Pence had the good looks, "right out of central casting" to look like a President.

Again, what is on the surface is what Trump talks about.

And then, surprisingly, at least to Mad Dog, Trump needles Pence about Pence's antipathy toward homosexuals. Trump, apparently, has nothing much against homosexuals. Somehow, doesn't fit the profile, the Klu Klux Klan, mega macho, Incredible Hulk, super male thing.

The other thing Trump derides Pence about, behind his back is his religiosity. He asks people who visit Pence whether Mike asked them to pray with him.

You just know, "Praying Pence" is going to slip out of Trump's mouth some day.

But, as W.C. Fields once said, you can't speak too poorly of a man if he hates dogs and children, and in Trump's case, how bad could the guy be, if he derides religion and homophobia?

And, oh by the way, has it ever occurred to you how much the Donald resembles the pink puffer fish? Really, he is pink and whenever he wants to impress, he puffs himself up, and at core, he is very toxic and not good eating.

Really, why is he not "President Pink Puffer?"

Friday, October 20, 2017

Cut Taxes! Simplify!

George W. Bush famously responded to a question during a Presidential debate which asked about his plan to cut taxes: "Your plan would cut taxes most for the rich."
"Yes," he shrugged. "You cut taxes for the people who pay taxes."

What he was saying, of course, was people at the lower brackets paid relatively small numbers, so the relief they would get from cutting income taxes was small.

Of course, low wage earners pay other taxes, not income taxes, which hurt their pocketbooks more--gas taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes, real estate taxes--but those taxes are not nearly as obnoxious for some reason, as the income tax.

Rich people avoid income taxes with a variety of ploys, and as Warren Buffet said, he pays a lesser rate than his secretary--got to be something wrong with that.

But the fact remains, if the upper 10% own 83% of the nation's wealth, they or their properties are the only source of revenue and they've got to pay taxes.
In taxation as in robbing banks, you have to go where the money is. And one look at that pie graph (above) shows where the money is.

Build The Wall!

Of course, I assumed, Mr. Trump was smart enough to know that building an actual wall was absurd, that once elected, he would say he was not to be taken literally, but he was to be taken seriously; he was serious about using technology like drones and cameras to watch the Mexican border.

But, no, apparently, he wants to see something like the Berlin wall, with watchtowers and Stassi border guards with machine guns.

Say what?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

We Are Not Alone

You can watch Fox News and you can listen to Rush Limbaugh and you can read about Mike Pence and his law to bury fetuses, and you can begin to feel that you are the only sane person in these United States.

You can think of what leadership once looked like, when you were a kid.

And how it looks now.

But then you come to realize, there are people out there who are thinking the way you think, and somehow, that's a comfort.

We are not alone, entirely.

And this too, shall pass.

Assuming the Dotard does not push the button or goad Kim il Haircut into pushing his button.

The Company He Keeps

For most of us, President Dotard will never intrude on our lives, other than by Tweet or television.
Pia Guerra

But for those whose papers are not in order, he has created a dark state where the knock on the door at midnight is redolent of those tales of the Gestapo coming to take away whole families.

He may be a dithering dotard, and be unaware of the harm he has unleashed, but that does not mean the harm is any less pernicious.

Reading in the New Yorker about a huge city size housing project in Moscow where the forerunner of the KGB goons would arrive at night to seize families and haul them off to the Gulag or to execution, I thought of those people who were brought here by their parents at age 3 and now live with the idea of the knock at the door.

They come at night. The Ku Klux Klan came around at night. That's when people are likely to be home. Makes sense.

What does not make sense is why they are coming round at all.

The Dotard's voters want to return America to the days when White Anglo Saxon Protestants ruled.  They don't care if they are a minority in the United States, just as long as they, like the plantation owners of Mississippi can keep control of the masses whose lives they rule.  Minority status is no problem, as long as you have the power.

Board Rooms and Coal Miners

The Wyoming Star Tribune reports some surprising fun facts:
Kevin Crutchfiled, CEO alpha: Getting His

1. Coal miners make about $82,000 a year, on average. Not bad for guys who didn't finish high school.
2. When the executives and Board of Directors of Alpha Natural Resources saw net losses or no profits every year from 2011 through 2016, their response was to file for bankruptcy, to petition the court to allow them to cut paying health insurance benefits for their miners while paying themselves multi million dollar bonuses. The price of failure was paid not by the millionaire executives, who were sure to take care of themselves, but by the working stiffs in the coal mines.
From the Casper Star tribune:
But based on the average annual coal miner’s wage of $82,000, the layoffs would save the pair around $37 million in annual wages, or 84 percent of the $44 million Peabody and Arch paid their executives teams in 2014.
Alpha is seeking to cut retiree benefits for some 4,580 nonunion miners and their spouses. That move is expected to save $3 million annually, or about 14 percent of the $20.8 million Alpha paid its management in 2014.

When Bernie Sanders talks about a rigged system, the coal miners don't need an explanation of what that means. What a rigged system means is the board of directors can, legally, rape their own companies, drain away cash from the companies' accounts and into their own personal bank accounts while reneging on the promises they made to their employees, for health insurance and pensions. Oh, your security for health and retirement is gone? Never mind, we are doing just fine in the executive suite.

So when Donald Dotard talks about those swarthy Mexican illegals stealing across the border to rape white women, he is talking about small time rapists. The rare Mexican rapist is small time compared the CEO's who rape thousands of employees as they hollow out their own companies--all perfectly legally.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

November 8 Explained

Success has a thousand fathers, John F. Kennedy noted, but failure is an orphan.

Actually, in the case of Hillary Clinton's defeat a thousand reasons have been put forward by pundits and humble citizens alike.
Doesn't take many to herd

Yes, the Russians brain washing Americans with fake news, and Hillary's failure to eat enough pork in Blue Wall states, gerrymandering, the electoral college, Citizens United and on and on, yada, yada.

But the fact is, if Blacks had voted in the numbers they turned out to vote for Obama, President Hillary.

Which is not to put the whole thing on Blacks, just to say, for understandable reasons, they voted with their feet by not turning out for the white lady.

Trump asked Blacks how much worse he would be for them than Hillary and they answered silently.

Maybe some regret it now. Maybe not.
Sheep to the slaughter

But democracy's Achilles heel is the fact that a willful, united, orchestrated minority can defeat and rule a majority, simply by acting in a concerted way, while the millions scatter before them. This is the basis of all military forces--a few hundred thousand men following commands from a single leader toward a single purpose can defeat a population of millions. Numbers do not matter in conflict; organization matters.
People believe in trolls, and read them , too

For Democrats to win they need to pull Blacks, Hispanics, gays, liberals, all sorts of cats which resist herding together. All Republicans need is that vaunted base--the white supremacists, quiet racists who pull their oars at the same time.

In this country there are always a core constituency of lunatics who believe whites are facing genocide, Obama was born on Mars, the New World Order will be arriving in black helicopters to strip citizens of their guns and the global Jewish world conspiracy in cahoots with radical Islam is out to gut the Christian world. They will reliably vote Republican.

We get what we deserve.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


You know who Donald Trump rode to the White House on.

So where are the Democrats when it comes to vilification?

It's not like there aren't any good candidates out there.

John Oliver gave us the CEO of Alpha Coal, who nearly broke down sobbing, talking about the prospect of laying off coal miners in response to a question about a photo on his wall of a coal miner's. But, as Oliver pointed out, he had asked the bankruptcy court to cut the health insurance for 1200 miners while his board voted him and themselves 12 million dollar bonuses.

The coal industry is just too sweet a gift for Democrats, if they were only smart enough to use the gift they've been given.

And big pharma--who could have dreamed up an icon like Martin Shkreli if they'd tried?  Raises the price a drug upon which lives depend by 1000%, "Because I could. There's nothing illegal about it."

Or Robert Murray of Murray Energy who is the latest incarnation of those old tobacco industry executives who testified before Congress that smoking is good for your health and nobody should believe those scientists who said it caused lung cancer because they were all in the pockets of the liberal establishment and were like pinko Commies. Mr. Murray says we shouldn't believe the scientists who say burning fossil fuels (like the coal he just happens to own) contributes to climate change but we should trust his "four thousand scientists" who say just the opposite.  And all he cares about is his coal miners, well, except for that mining disaster which the government said was his fault but he claims was just a natural disaster an earthquake only he knows occurred.

The problem with the CEO's and the board members and the billionaires is most of them avoid fame like the plague. They are happy enough to just be super rich.

The Koch brothers occasionally make public appearances when they are being honored at Lincoln Center for giving money to the opera or ballet. But they keep a low profile and other than books like "Dark Money" they are not much examined, and who reads books anyway?

The shame is that no CEO went to jail for the 2008 financial collapse which, as anyone who saw "The Big Short" movie knows, had many fathers, but some at least were working at the agencies which sold stock and bond AAA ratings to the very companies whose stocks they were rating. 

These Wall Street, Wichita, Kansas,  Bentonville, Arkansas mogols pull the strings which control the lives of coal miners, factory workers, servers all over the country but they are never the bad guys. The bad guys are the imaginary Mexican rapists storming across our Southern Border. 
We need somebody to give us new villains.
Bernie Sanders took a few steps in the direction of stirring up embers of resentment. If only a few younger whippersnappers could follow his lead.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Robert Murray, Coal Miners' Dotard

Another stimulating PBS News Hour in which a right wing fanatic was able to bend truth to his own purposes with nary a peep of objection from Judy Woodruff or John Yang. 

Robert Murray, of Murray Energy, claimed:
1/ Global warming is a hoax meant to enrich liberal elites
2/ CO2 is not a pollutant, as President Obama claimed
3/ The Earth has actually cooled, not warmed over the past 19 years
4/ The Antarctic ice shelf is at an all time high, proving global warming is a hoax
5/ 4,000 scientists say so.

Consulting Professor Google, which apparently neither  Ms. Woodruff nor Mr. Yang had time to do, it turns out:

1/ The Antarctic ice shelf is at a high level, but that is beside the point--the Arctic is where the action is--and it is melting in prodigious fashion. The Antarctic is an ocean of ice but the Arctic is where the polar melting is occurring, where the polar bears are drowning and where the evidence of global warming is most evident.
Apparently, Mr. Murray does not understand the Antarctic is the South Pole with those cute, stoic penguins and the North Pole is polar bears, Santa Claus and melting glaciers.

2/ The Earth has not cooled over the past 19 years, but there have been measurements at various places in Greenland which have shown cooling;  none of those measurements, which were misunderstood by the Daily Mail which picked up the chant, mean the earth is cooling. Some parts of Greenland are still cold.
3/ CO2 is a greenhouse gas not a "pollutant" in the sense of lead or mercury. Mr. Obama never characterized CO2 as a pollutant--it is after all the gas we all exhale. Mr. Obama did not say we are all polluting the atmosphere every time we breathe, much as Mr. Murray would like us to believe. This is the "distraction" technique and Donald Trump is better at it.
4/ The Alt Right can round up 4,000 graduates of Liberty College to say the Earth was made in 7 days just a few thousand years ago. Scientists one and all.
5/ Yes, as coal goes the way of the dodo, windmills and solar will likely make a lot of people money who are not coal mine owners, but the coal miners might get better jobs in clean energy than the coal miners every gave them.

Really, if ever there was a naked example of that old observation:  It is difficult to bring a man to understanding if his salary depends on not understanding, than Robert Murray, I'd like to hear about it.

But nobody said anything about this on the News Hour. They had bigger stories, like the Harvey Weinstein affair.

For a more trenchant analysis of the argument for coal, look at John Oliver, below:


Here's Oliver on Mr. Murray:


Monday, October 9, 2017

Reading the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page

Remember Peggy Noonan?  She wrote that famous speech Ronald Reagan gave after the Challenger space shuttle blew, up seconds after leaving the launch pad.

Reagan was, until President Dotard, our most recent "Teflon President."  Almost anything could go wrong under his watch and everyone, beginning with the President, would shrug it off:  Hundreds of American Marines blown up in a compound in Lebanon, having been put there for no discernible reason, apart perhaps from literally showing the flag? Well, nobody plans everything out, not even when you build a house--who finishes the basement? Yeah, well, we didn't plan for a truck bomb. You know. Things happen.
And when warnings from underlings about those O rings were ignored, Reagan went on national TV with the speech Ms. Noonan wrote and he said, among other things, in Peggy's purple prose: 
"We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth' to 'touch the face of God."

So she helped everyone rise from the dismal reality to keep their eyes planted firmly on the Heavens and dreams of glory. Or, put another way, she parlayed a steal from John Gilespee Magee into a gig on the WSJ. (For my money, if you want to read a woman who knows a thing or two about slipping the surly bonds of Earth, open up Beryl Markham's "West With The Night." There is a woman who could write.)

Well, that woman who used to be Peggy Noonan has now managed to pin the blame for the mass shooter of Las Vegas on, guess who?  
The Democrats. 
Not just the Democrats but the "elites."  It's the fault of all those people who disagree with her, who she doesn't like. 
Liberals are what gave us mass shooters. Liberals drove them to it. 
And in response to the mass shooters, everyone else is quite justified in accumulating arsenals.
Now, that's even better than a guy who can shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a vote. Shooting has never been a problem for Republicans, but mass shooter maniacs, they have not yet figured out how to market that. 
"I think a lot of Americans have guns because they're fearful--and for good reason. They fear a coming chaos...They think it's all collapsing--our society, our culture, the baseline competence of our leadership class."

Oh, we've got a leadership class now. Well, what a relief to hear that. 
But wait:

"Americans have so many guns because drug gangs roam the streets, because they have less trust in their neighbors, because they read Cormac McCarthy's "The Road."

Well, now that is reassuring. Those gun toting, gun hoarding NASCAR fans are readers! And they read Cormac McCarthy, no less.

"Because our country's real overlords are in Silicon Valley and appear to be moral Martians who operate on some new postmodern ethical wave-length. And they'll be the ones programming the robots, that'll soon take all the jobs! Maybe the robots will all look like Mark Zuckerberg."

Ah, here we are getting to it. This is sort of a cross between that South Park episode where outer space beings from the future come back through a time warp to take the jobs of all the present day earthlings, because in the future everyone loses his jobs to robots, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  I don't know about Cormac McCarthy novels, but I do watch South Park

And, by the by, did you notice the introduction of the manipulative Jew into the plot line?  The guy who is not guided by good American values but by Martian morals? (And remember Mars is where Barack Obama was born.)  Zuckerberg drinks the blood of Christian children, don't you know? He's into blood sacrifice, but first he circumcises them without anesthesia.

"Our leaders don't even think about technological revolution."

Well, nobody's ever accused Zuckerberg about that before. Peggy's on a roll. 

"They're too busy with transgender rights."

Well, there she's got me on board. Entirely too many Zuckerbergs thinking about transgender rights. And you know once they get to thinking about transgender rights, it just sucks all the air out of the room and their brains go all to mush.
Try not to think too much about this.

Personally, I'm no fan of Chelsea Manning or Bruce Jenner who is now somebody else, a woman on the cover of a magazine.  Unlike homosexuality, transgender people appear, from superficial evidence alone, to harbor a certain level of pathology.
Oh, are we disturbed yet?

But I digress--only to say I'm with Peggy about spending too much time thinking about transgenders, but I'm astonished to learn this leads directly to the guy in Las Vegas who mows down innocents with a bump stock converted automatic rifle.
Where's my gun?

"Those who create our culture feel free to lecture normal Americans."
Culture creator

And here I thought normal Americans created their own culture, for better or for worse. Silly me. It is a relief to hear there are extant, Normal Americans. I've been looking for them and just about given up hope.

"They sail on, oblivious to the legitimate anxieties of their countrymen who live near the edge."

Well, now I understand. With the coming apocalypse, we will all need guns and a home ammo depot and a bomb shelter, from which we can blast away at our neighbors--good guns make good neighbors--when the legions of transgender armies unleash their awful attack on our homes like those Orks in "Lord of the Rings" or the White Walkers in "Game of Thrones." 

Peggy is nothing else, if not literary. Did you catch the whiff of F. Scott Fitzgerald there? I'm sure it was intentional: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." And that is where Peggy lives--in some imagined past that never was.

Do you think Peggy Noonan has dinner with Rupert Murdoch every week?
If we invited them and the Dotard and maybe Mike Pence and Rush Limbaugh to Hampton for a cocktail party--or a beer fest--do you think it would be a good time?

Really, how about a bash at Smutty Nose?  I'm buying.