Sunday, October 15, 2017

In Plain Sight

Mr. Trump is conducting an experiment in advertising and power. It is beyond cynical, because the premise is patently contradictory. His presumption is the same as when he suggested, during his campaign, that he could actually shoot someone and be forgiven. (This is more or less what the nice folks grinning and chortling around the lynched in the many keepsake postcards from that era are also presuming.) His experiment is also entirely devoid of any empathy, which is one of his weird personality traits. See, e.g., the towel toss in Puerto Rico. If Trump remains in power he will be tossing paper towels to the ravaged in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, and no doubt his supporters in the throng will catch them with joy as the mineral wealth of those places they live will be even more quickly transferred to the billionaires who support Trump's policies. By then Puerto Rico will be losing its able-bodied population even more quickly, and valuable beach front real estate will pass into the hands of the main land monied.

Here is the contradiction embedded in Trump's experiment. He calls on every one, as a patriotic duty, to perform a particular ritual to "honor" the anthem and the flag. There will be no exceptions, and he suggests that any who make such efforts should be fired from their jobs. While he's referring explicitly to the NFL, he is presenting a universal policy at least in theory. Anyone who has a job should lose it, or be in some way punished, should they be "caught" failing this test of patriotism. This is the new "where's his flag pin?" The experiment is having remarkable success, although Trump is trying to leverage his own oligarch "class," and most of these folks are quite aware that their football money comes from the labor of highly skilled, mostly black athletes who are acutely aware of the problem of police racial attitudes in their own communities and who want to do something to change these attitudes. Nonetheless, when Aaron Rodgers suggested that his fans in Green Bay all link arms in the stadium during the National Anthem to express solidarity with the underlying problem of government racism, the fans (many of them) booed Rodgers during the Anthem.

As Rodgers noted in later comments, booing him during the Anthem was as "disrespectful" to the Anthem as anything he'd done. But Trump's experiment was to some degree proved. Cognitive dissonance was not an impediment to his exercise of power. And presumably the dissonance already embedded in the whole idea of being coerced into a patriotic gesture was similarly disarmed. Any number of veterans, of any number of wars, will tell you that they weren't fighting for a scrap of cloth, or a song, but for the freedom America stands for. If you want to think about this for a brief moment, consider the apparently most patriotic country in the world, North Korea. There is universal fealty in North Korea for the government and its leader. Mr. Kim Jong Un has made it clear that there are existential and immediate consequences to any apparent lack of support. He has shown that he will have you shot, or sent to the salt mine.

This is what Mr. Trump is also suggesting. Whether you lose your job, or get shot, is merely a matter of degree. And I'll posit another thought experiment here. If Libby and I go up to Martinsville for the NASCAR race in a couple of weeks (as we've done for nearly a decade, spring and fall), and if we were to wear Kaepernick jerseys and sit for the national anthem, and the race track prayer, and the flyover, my prediction would be that we'd be likely hit in the head by a full beer can or several flung from well above and behind us. That, of course, could even be a death sentence. Thus is American patriotism currently enforced in the land of NASCAR, which supported Trump's campaign almost 100%. But in truth, of course, patriotism cannot be ordered or enforced or bought and paid for. Patriotism is like love that way. It comes from within. The football players who were kneeling during the Anthem were expressing the same patriotism and respect as most of the fans who were standing with their hands over their hearts.

I saw an interview with a participant in the so-called "Values Summit" that Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon addressed last Friday and Saturday:

Mandeville, Louisiana-resident Denise Hopkins called it “absolute nonsense” that Bannon gave a platform to white nationalists.

“You know what’s emboldened neo-Nazis?” she countered. “Eight years of the previous regime saying ‘all white people are terrible and you have to pay back for what someone did 200 years ago’ and stir up racial stuff.”

Funny. I never heard Mr. Obama or his supporters or representatives say, not even one time, that "all white people are terrible." I guess you have your cognitive dissonance, and you have your projection, which might be a kind of psychological defense against the experience of such dissonance. How does one deal with the plain fact of Tamir Rice if any acknowledgement of collective grief is psychologically impossible.

There's a dissonance in the observation of a lot of nice people just having a good time together, if you harbor a burning hatred in your soul. You want to scream, "Fuck Your Feelings." Sometimes you even end up here:

Mr. Trump's experiment is working. God bless the USA.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

There Is No Bottom

I was reading a little on Facebook this morning now that my internet has been at least for the moment healed of its afflictions. I came upon a little post by my old friend Sundae Horne, of Ocracoke Island, NC. The tourists there are being ordered to evacuate because Hurricane Maria is still serious and approaching close to the island, and overwash, flooding, and some serious winds are expected. Sundae says they'll be ok, and having sat through one hurricane on Ocracoke in the '90s, I expect she's right, and we can at the same time be glad the damn storm isn't what it was when it crossed Puerto Rico.

Anyway, Sundae posted a reference to a 1943 Supreme Court Decision called West Virginia School Board V Barnette. Here's a link to the decision, which is important enough to have achieved a wiki-page.

So every rightwing idiot now in government, plus many who aim to be, or used to be, have been entirely wrong on the facts concerning Mr. Kaepernick and his responsible and one might say even touching efforts to bring some justice to a part of America which continues to be abused by a great many government employees--police--on the basis of their race, and nothing else. Even our President can rail at this entirely constitutional protest. Richard Petty can rail at it and threaten to fire any of his employees who might dare to make some peaceful protest during the incessant nationalistic displays which decorate every NASCAR race: song, fireworks, air show, prayer.

I was born in 1943. It has been unconstitutional since 1943 for anyone to force an American to stand for the National Anthem.

Jesus Fucking Christ!

From the wiki page:

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), is a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States holding that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protected students from being forced to salute the American flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. The Court's 6–3 decision, delivered by Justice Robert H. Jackson, is remembered for its forceful defense of free speech and constitutional rights generally as being placed "beyond the reach of majorities and officials."

It was a significant court victory won by Jehovah's Witnesses, whose religion forbade them from saluting or pledging to symbols, including symbols of political institutions. However, the Court did not address the effect the compelled salutation and recital ruling had upon their particular religious beliefs but instead ruled that the state did not have the power to compel speech in that manner for anyone.

Anyone still want to argue that Mr. Trump is not an authoritarian thug? And by the way, thank you LeBron James for your wonderfully considered remarks yesterday in Cleveland, at the presser.

And meanwhile the whole NFL thing Trump ignited last Friday can actually be understood as a total and effective distraction from what could easily become the worst natural and human disaster in this century:

Why aren't there U.S. Army divisions already on Puerto Rico, and, as the poster says, an airlift. And how can Mr. Trump even mention the economic problems the island has been facing, which stem in large part from ill considered previous US policy. Puerto Ricans are Americans!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Where Are the Dixie Chicks?

I believe the tweet is pretty much not a metaphor, but a literal description. I also think parakeets have very little to tell us about winning strategies in chess, or foreign policy, or economics, even if it is true as Jackie Onassis told Daryl Hannah that criticism in print can be ignored because the next day it ends up on the floor of the bird cage. So we still have a president with the mind of a parakeet. I knew a parakeet once, when I was a kid. His owners called him Keats. He flew around their house at will and was friends with their two tiny lapdogs, and lived a very long time. His owners were my aunt and uncle, Libby and Ed. Aunt Libby played piano and gave a try at teaching me, which didn't take. Violin was "my instrument." She also introduced me to rural southern blues by giving me an LP of a guy named Pink Anderson. Later, she and I went to the Bob Dylan concert at Reynolds Coliseum on the NC State campus, where we discovered that Reynolds, so delightful for the Dixie Classic basketball tournament, was acoustically not so much.

Not long before that Dylan concert I recall the rather remarkable appearance of Nikita Khruschev at the United Nations, where he took off his shoe and beat it on the podium, and said (in our translation) "We will bury you." This was understood to be a prediction and a metaphor for the titanic clash of organizational theories we used to call Communism and Capitalism. On the field, as usual, it was simply about struggling to survive. It was also understood to be a breach of diplomatic decorum, and proof that the Soviet revolutionaries were still uncouth, just like Stalin. After all, they killed Trotsky in Mexico with an ice axe.

Mr. Trump yesterday complained about all the bad deals the US has made. He claimed that the Iran Nuclear Agreement was the worst ever. I wondered if he'd just forgotten, or never learned of, a couple of bad deals we made in earlier times: there was the Louisiana Purchase, which Thomas Jefferson, notable slave owner and "race mixer" had pulled off, totally screwing France, and there was Seward's Folly, the purchase of Alaska just after the Civil War, which totally screwed Russia. A bad deal is a bad deal ain't it. That's just math. In Trump's zero-sum world, one party always gets the shaft. This is precisely why North Korea will hold on to its nuclear weapons. Trump lives in Deadwood.

Lawrence O'Donnell made the deepest point about the speech last night. Mr. Trump wants to somehow bring North Korea to negotiations in one paragraph, yet down the page a few moments and he wants to break a negotiated agreement with Iran, thus confirming North Korea's deepest suspicions. Their translators continue to puzzle over the Elton John reference. See Osnos's New Yorker article if you want to be more afraid.

We have, therefore, no foreign policy. Just the sad tweets of a parakeet who's flown out the window and is utterly lost.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"They" Were Happy

My high school class had a mini-reunion yesterday, fried chicken and barbeque and sweet tea, with desserts from home. I live at the far western edge of the Research Triangle, so far that just past me the area code changes, probably to the great delight of the town fathers, who dream only of the good old days when there were textile and furniture factories, and a huge dog food plant smack in the middle of town. I punched in the coordinates of the reunion into Mr. Garmin and set off, caramel cake on the front seat beside me. It was an interesting tour of the sprawl, for in fact we have become, in the "Triangle," yet another Philadelphia. The Garmin took me in a sensible transit, on the diagonal, across the whole thing, with many roads included that I'd not been near for decades. I got to the destination within minutes of the prediction Garmin made at the outset! Bravo. The visit was fun, the food was great. I left kinda early as I also had a cake for my recouperating sister. Garmin once again got me out of the labyrinth and on to sis's place, which is on yet another extremity of the great sprawl, she picked the NW quadrant some decades back, where I'd picked the SW. Driving back home in the late afternoon, I was going mostly south, through hay fields and silage and fat cattle. I didn't need the Garmn for that leg.

So I got up this morning to check all the sites I check, it's actually a strategy to turn on my brain, and there's coffee involved I must tell you. Also a modest load of dishes in the sink to do. And here I find this article, right off the bat:

There is a pattern, a long-term trend. It's happened in Michigan recently, with the assault on city government in Detroit. It's happened here in NC, with the assault on city government in Charlotte and more generally. The "locals" are not to write rules about pay floors, or about bathrooms. Republicans view Democrats these days as merely representatives of the clamoring masses, aiming in one way or another to toss spanners into the spokes of industry. Democrats will not be quiet and let the system eventually provide its bounty in "appropriate" measure. "Why not just raise the minimum wage to $50.00 an hour?" they ask.

It's Sunday. After I finish up the dishes I might watch a little football, although there is a NASCAR race, and my man Kyle Busch might well win it. So the masters entertain us all, and we are not to notice that Mr. Kaepernick does not take the field again this Sunday, and very little will be said about the Administration's studied attempt this past week to pick off one of the critics whom they at least perceived to be amongst the weakest--a young black woman in the employ of a muddled sports network that had already fired a right wing jock loudmouth for ridiculing the transgendered, a class of Americans which seems to be, by Republican doctrine, the designated scapegoats of the era.

This is how they roll. The battle for sanity and compassion is endless. There's a blog I need to read sometime called "WTF is it now?" This is why now and again somebody decides to just say "fuck it" and punch Richard Spencer in the face while he's being interviewed. No, it ain't fair. But as the fine article in the link points out, on the other side there are alleged scholars who write paeons to colonialism which omit all reference to atrocities carried out in the name of the rulers. And in the early '60s the sainted conservative writer William F.Buckley, Jr.,, who is supposed in the Myth of William F. Buckley, Jr., to have driven all the Birchers plumb out of the Movement, not to mention driving the snakes out of Eire, argued on Public Television that of course the South was right to suppress the black vote.

Marcy Wheeler makes a good point today as well.