Our bloodthirsty, military-worshiping news media declares the president's swipe at his predecessors and dead soldiers as "rock bottom." Not pussy grabbing. Not "both sides." Not the white nationalists had "permits." No, rock bottom has to be his swipe at dead soldiers. That's bad. I get it. But this is not rock bottom Trump. This is not the worst he can get. This is the US news media showing its military-worshiping ideology.
Splendidly, I see. When a minority party member delivers that much burn, you see just how outdated and terrible the DUP is. If anyone believes that Northern Ireland, in 2017, is "Britain," then he's really living in the past.
When the Conservative Party won the flash general election this past June, it was obvious that it will be difficult to form a stable government. The Tories, desperate to remain in power, had no choice but to let the Unionist tail wag the UK's dog. This deal with the backward Irish Orangemen promised to produce a hideous government in Westminster.
But as you might have seen today, the chances of that government holding together became more difficult. How a party looks can be just as important as how a party performs. That rule used to be true in the US, but it holds in the UK.
As you probably recall, back in the 1990's, peace was impossible in Northern Ireland because the British Tories were absolutely dependent on Ian Paisley's Unionist Party for their parliamentary majority. It was only when Labour won in 1997 that the Good Friday agreement became possible. Because Blair's government was not in need of Unionist votes, he could use Clinton's good offices to broker a deal in Belfast.
Memo to celebrities: don't die during the Trump administration. There's so much chaos, you won't get a proper send-off. It's like the weeks after 9/11, except life doesn't settle down. It has been unsettled since March.
The majority of people who enlist in the US armed forces come from poor families. And after a few wars, what has emerged is a warrior caste. You ever hear how just a handful of families have ruled the Philippines for the last 600 years? Well some tens of thousands of US families have done virtually all our fighting since the Vietnam war.
Vietnam poisoned the idea of a large military draft, feeding an endless and stupid ground war, for millions of Americans. The citizens of this country are unlikely, any time soon if ever again, to tolerate the existence of a conveyor of healthy young men, fed into a war machine. The draft enabled Johnson and Nixon to pour young lives into an unwinnable and unjustifiable conflict in Southeast Asia. The lesson the political class learned from this was to establish an all volunteer force, largely removed from the great majority of the population. Now, when these wars are fought, justifying the immense defense budgets which enrich an entire industry and securing the professional opportunities of our military elite, the mass of voters hardly notice. The wars go on and on, the money and the promotions flow, and the politicians don't even have to explain to the taxpayers. Genius!!
It's nothing personal. I don't mean fuck you, personally. I mean it in general terms. Fuck you. You know who you are, even though I don't know you personally.
I will not stand up for you. I will not salute you. I will not call you a hero. I will not call you a first responder. I will not thank you for your service. I won't fantasize of being anything like you. I repeat, I will not use the word hero.
It's not your fault. I have been told to worship you. I strongly reject that. Politicians have told me. Movies, going back to Backdraft have told me to idolize and honor you. But I'm 44 now. And I think I know better. And I think I see through all the bullshit that has been sold to me in the last 16 years.
I will not stand for the Star Spangled Banner. I will not face or salute the flag. I am not down with your program. I am not down with the USA's program. It's a broken and cruel republic. The only thing it has left is its empire. And I'm supposed to say "thank you for your service," to the men and women who maintain that empire? Bullshit. Fuck you.
To the police. I will not thank you. I will not call you when I need one. I will not respect you. I will not ask you to pose in a photo with me. Fuck you. You do not protect and serve me. You exist to police black people and make me and other white civilians feel safer. And for that politicians put you on a pedestal, and direct me to honor you. Fuck that. And fuck your evil unions, too. They are the worst.
To the firefighters. Fuck you too, although I admit I hate you less. We do need firefighters. What we don't need are fire departments full of white supremacists. But because politicians tell me that you need to be worshiped and idolized, I have to lump you with the soldiers and cops. It's nothing personal. Fuck you.
I'm not quite sure how nationalism became intertwined with worship of "first responders," in addition to our soldiers, but here we are. And here I am. Fuck you.
Fuck nationalism. Fuck hero making, hero narratives, and hero worship. Fuck flag lapel pins. Fuck hero making, hero narratives, and hero worship. Fuck the flag. Fuck the president (all of them since Carter). Fuck this.
Donald Trump is toxic to the Republic. The Republic has been dying for decades now. Americans had progressive improvements to their standard of living taken away from them beginning in 1973. Bush v. Gore (2000) dealt an enormous blow to our electoral system, and manipulated the course of US history.
But Trump seems to have taken the United States on an accellerated path to ruin.
Here's some quick bar napkin math. In 9 months we have lost an FBI director, the White House Chief of Staff, a cabinet member, and we've reached a point where the Senate is not going to let any bills reach the president's desk. Add to that a disastrous travel ban, a threat of a military transgender ban (that we'll probably never hear about again), repeated threats of a nuclear strike on North Korea, and a promise to build a wall that will never be funded.
An aside about the Republicans in Congress. The GOP is not a normal political party. Apparently they care about their own power and the transfer of as much wealth as possible to their political contributors. I find among them precious little interest in the welfare of this nation. In its current incarnation, that party is entirely unfit to govern the United States.
On July 15, chaos began to manifest in plain view. Trump gave an incredible speech at the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree. In any other administration, it would be a shocking turning point. The Secretary of State allegedly mulled his resignation over that speech. In Trump's administration, it was just another bad day at the office before things really got chaotic the following week, with the unexplained, dramatic ouster of Sean Spicer and Reince Preibus.
Then, the last 8 weeks, we had the white nationalist invasion of Charlottesville (and the laying of blame on those who tried to defend the city), the disbandment of two presidential councils, word that the Department of State is in shambles, and a dramatic, historic 15 minutes on August 15 which will likely lead to European leaders asking Trump to never visit their nations as president again (Merkel and May are on the verge of just that). That unhinged press conference should have destroyed him. But no. He wasn't done.
Then came the end of summer. Hurricane Irma ripped through the US Virgin Islands and put the Florida Keys in a pool of sewage. And then, barely two weeks later, Hurricane Maria tore through Vieques, Culebra, and Puerto Rico. But Trump paid no attention to that storm in its first four days. He instead attacked black professional athletes in the NBA and NFL. He didn't make rescue and recovery in Puerto Rico a priority until he saw the situation on television. That's another thing that historians will have to track, if there's a nation left after he and Pence are gone. Trump gets most of his information from US cable news. And when the news about him becomes sour, he holds a campaign rally. One time he told an adoring crowd of white people that he would be good to black Americans. That went down well.
The lost weekend while Puerto Ricans died should have destroyed Trump. But no. His administration cannot be killed. It just limps along. Donald Trump has done something that no president has done since Nixon. He was worn down national morale. But he has also done something Nixon and Reagan wouldn't dream of doing. He has energized the white nationalist fringe, who now march unmasked -at least for a little while. He is ruining the classic, optimistic American mood that has kept us going despite so many aspects of American life worsening since 1973. The first 9 months have brought a white house in turmoil. In 9 more months, we could have a flaming constitutional crisis. This is not sustainable.
Tomorrow, Donald Trump goes to Puerto Rico to view recovery efforts. I hope the boos are constant and loud. He might not hear them. But the news media will. As we have seen, Trump has very poor communication skills to say the least. When he ad libs, disaster strikes.
Trump has his supporters. A solid 35% of American adults fully support him. He is their racial antidote for 8 years of Obama. Millions of Americans are perfectly content to accept a dictatorial right winger, who'll promise them safety and a healthy economy in a white supremacist, nationalist context. As for Congress, and especially the House of Representatives, I wouldn't want to put much faith in their saving us from Beloved Leader Trump. That leaves a free press and and an aroused citizenry. Maybe that'll be enough.
Uncle Tim contributed to this post.
The United States, one of the richest and most powerful nations in the world, is letting one of its colonies suffer without power, gasoline, and communications for weeks, perhaps months. Our president gave them a hashtag. I just came from a nation's colony that has state of the art sea tunnels and mobile communications on every square meter of land. And you can be damn sure that if disaster struck the Faroe Islands, Denmark would have regular life restored within days. Where is the fucking outrage?
The most successful revolution of the past fifty years has been the "revolt of the haves". Between 1940 and 1970, taxes on the rich were very high. The marginal tax rate on incomes over $1,000,000 was at least 90%. Yet these were the years when the American economy grew steadily, and productivity gains were matched by solid increases in average wages and salaries, and a narrowing gap between the very rich and everyone else. So what happened? The Republican Party convinced millions of ordinary white Americans that black people were prospering off of them, and far too much money and effort was being diverted to the unworthy poor. By 1980, with the Pied Piper from California spinning his fantasies about out "bright, shining city on a hill", and how government was the problem, not the solution, the people were willing to buy the nonsense that massive tax cuts for the rich would translate into prosperity for all, as far as the eye could see. And here we are. The top 0.1% are taking in nearly ALL the additional GDP bring created by the economy. And Trump the simple wants MORE tax cuts, and yet less regulation! Sure, why not?
In the early days of the Trump presidency, we could joke about handshakes. Now that the handshakes are just about done, let's take a brief look back at the best one. This is the one in which Trump met his match. It was his handshake with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
I loved the way Trudeau finessed Trump's handshake at the White House door. Anticipating his grab and pull style, the canny Canadian grabbed Trump's upper arm and squeezed it hard. This not only surprised Trump, it also threw him off balance, and prevented him from dominating the greeting as he loves to do. It looked like a hockey move, and the good people of our friendly neighbor to the north must have smiled in pride.
Now if only Trudeau could never speak or meet Trump ever again. That would be nice. Maybe that's already decided. I hope so.
The above image is a hoax advertisement created by a 4Chan user. It made the Reddit and Facebook rounds the weekend of August 4.
But hey, if it riles the Trump base, go with it. Where would he and his supporters be without conspiracies? And where would they be if they couldn't whine about how they're constantly being victimized?
There's a pattern here. Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi were inspiring when they were trying to free their people. But when they took power, they didn't just disappoint. They failed. Now to be fair, 'The Lady' did not fully take power. Her nation is in turmoil and under military rule. But still, she has failed. This is sad. The lesson here is don't have heroes. Especially people who win Nobel Peace Prizes. They will break your heart.
Five days ago, this blog turned 10. I have several posts getting cold in draft status. So I will just mark 10 years similar to the way I started the blog - with a music video.
I could describe a couple of posts in-progress the way Aesop describes his unfinished paintings:
Then a week goes by and it goes untouched
Then two, then three, then a month
And the rest of your life, you beat yourself up
More posts soon. 2017 will have more than double the number of posts that 2016 had.
30 years ago today, we got The Joshua Tree. A front-heavy rock album. Not as consistently great as The Unforgettable Fire (1984). But it was the commercial peak U2 fans knew they were capable of. Suddenly, I was not alone in choosing U2 on the jukebox in my favorite pizza joints in Brockton, Massachsusetts. I was in my final weeks in junior high, surrounded by kids who loved Bon Jovi and Motley Crue, and they HATED U2. Come September, I was in a high school where if you didn't love U2, you were considered way out of touch. You could love R.E.M. You could secretly listen to New Order or Depeche Mode. Or you could be so far ahead of the curve like me and own three Pixies albums by 1989. But if you didn't express your love of U2, you were an automatic outsider.
Now the album itself does not move me like the next three U2 albums did. I still think Achtung Baby is their best masterpiece. But there are very few rock albums that open as strongly as The Joshua Tree. We're talking Led Zepplin IV or Back In Black-caliber openings. Where The Streets Have No Name is a soaring opening - peak classic U2. I Still haven't Found What I'm Looking For is this emotional gospel rock anthem. And despite its basic four bars, and resemblance to another Eno-produced four-bar classic, Once In A Lifetime, With Or Without You is still, still a great song thanks to the lyrics and Edge's galloping riffs. Then they follow that up with Bullet The Blue Sky, the leftist, violent song about Reagan's proxy wars, among other things. And then, THEN, U2 give us another anthem - the major-keyed song about heroin addiction, Running To Stand Still. Holy shit, this album. 30 years, kids.
The Democratic base flared up for a couple of weeks after Trump's inauguration. But where is the base now? Any why aren't they consistently mad? Why are the most newsworthy congressional town hall meetings occurring in heavily Republican states?
For quite a long time now, Democrats have behaved as if they didn't have a base of supporters whose views they needed to consider when casting votes in Congress. And even after Trump's first month, I sense a lack of commitment from Democrats to fire-up their base. Believe me, Republicans NEVER forget their base! The one thing they always fear is being challenged, from the right, by an ever more radical, anti-government crank. Democrats, like Obama, often take a perverse view of their political situation. Some are actually PROUD of disappointing the most loyal party members, as if that proved their bipartisan credibility. And when the Democratic base rebels, these people seem genuinely puzzled by the outrage they've provoked.
Democrats have enormous decisions to make this month. They can choose to help or impede the House in raising the Federal debt ceiling. They could fight to delay the Judge Gorsuch confirmation hearings, or let them move forward.
Each week of the Trump presidency has brought bad news, often at night as major newspapers print stories on the administration. The Democrats can't fight every breaking news story. But they lack a messaging machine to tell their base what to fight against. There's no motivation or organization at the top. It's all been from the bottom. When this happens, the top gets overthrown. Time will tell.
And yet, here we are, a nation controlled by white people in landlocked states.
63% of white men voted for Trump
53% of white women voted for Trump
What was Clinton's mantra? Love Trumps hate? Well apparently not. Hate is an immensely powerful motivator. Trump didn't need a sophisticated ground game to get his supporters to vote. All the intensity, and all the enthusiasm was on the Republican side this time. And in politics, intensity matters. As for the Democrats, it's astounding that Hillary, with all her negatives, turned out to be the party's default choice. In any event, we'll all pay for it now.
And Trumps personality and pattern is well established. He will never really work at anything. He is unwilling or unable to work harder to be presidential. He doesn't have to work hard to motivate his supporters. He already has a slogan for the red hat in 2020. And he win again, so long as his presidency doesn't fall apart. His base of 40% appears to be rock solid. But his presidency is showing way too many cracks to last one year, let alone three more.
Yet another new study shows that the US has not seriously taxed its rich people since Reagan signed his tax reform into law in 1986. The great project launched in 1980 by Reagan has reached its apotheosis. We have a government of, for and by the rich. SUCCESS!!!
Record inauguration turnout. 3 Million undocumented immigrants voted. The "Bowling Green Massacre." Bad hombres. Only 109 people inconvenienced. Refugees are illegal immigrants. The Trump administration is a fountain of propaganda. The more the news media points out the lies, the most Trump supporters love the administration.
Nothing can stop that. It's a no-win situation.
When a favorite magazine of wealthy white people publishes a dark cover, you know times are BAD. It's the final chapter of the USA. Of course, this chapter started with Bush v. Gore. But we finally get it now, at the end.
Shortly before Christmas, I received another reminder from my RSS feed that I hadn't written enough posts in 2016. A story boomeranged and got recycled by lesser news outlets 11 months after it first made the rounds. Way way back in January 2016, a teenage hero named Charlotte Heffelmire rescued her dad from a house fire. How did she do it? Well, he was pinned under a car in his garage, so she found superhuman strength and lifted the car off of him. That prompted the editor at Jezebel (then still park of Gawker Media) to use this great headline, containing the F word.
I forwarded the story to my parents, who liked it, but my mom felt some reservations about the use of the word fucking in the headline. She shot an email back:
"...here's my complaint. Since when does the four letter " F " word appear everywhere?? It's a noun, verb, adjective, adverb ( just add an ly or an ing) etc. Serious stories and reviews often descend into vulgarity in the use of this word. It's lost all shock value and bite. The use of the word is supposed to be effective? Or a shock? Or describe something so harrowing that the word adds raw emotion and fierce meaning to the event? The overuse of what used to be a word, though vulgar, had a particular place in our verbal lexicon. The article that complained about the vulgar exchange between the public spectacle of Gervais and Gibson used the "F" word. Need I say more?"
Now this news story came out the same week as the Golden Globes. And in 2016, I believe Ricky was the first host to drop an F-bomb.
The word is powerful and should be used sparingly. I like the modern journalist standard of using it in a quote, but not in the copy or editorially in a headline. The late Gawker Media used the word liberally, so that's why we see it above in the headline.
The word has been with us since the 1600s. But I feel it went mainstream during the Nixon administration. The Vietnam war popped that bubble, and a Nixon official used the term "ratfucking" in the media.
I always liked Hunter S. Thompson's restraint. He used the word most often in quotes, often quoting himself. Those were his exclamations. But in describing things, he used very eloquent language. I always liked that mix. There was the character writing the story, and there was the story.
Fuck is a tool. Respect it and use it wisely. Like a cymbal crash.