Wednesday, September 30, 2015

We're Being Trumped

When I got home from work last night Libby had saved a chunk of a documentary for me to watch, "You've Been Trumped." She ran into it in progress, so we didn't see the beginning. Netflix to the rescue. I may add something to this after it arrives. But the main story was there. Donald Trump decides to build a golf course on the coast of Scotland. He sells the idea to the local politicians and to the government of Scotland as an economic engine. (Reminded me of our fetish, here in Chatham County, NC, for building "mega-sites" in the hopes of attracting industry, and the hell with the property owners who are affected.)

When Trump's engineers and equipment arrive they start nudging the folks who live in the vicinity, farmers and such, to move. The nudges involve subtle events such as crushing the water line to a man's house, removing another man's shed and fence, and fooling with the electricity. When these "hints" don't prevail, larger measures are enlisted. A huge berm is built around one man's home so that he finds himself in a bowl with no view, just huge earthen walls, surrounding his home. There was once a plain, sand dunes, a distance beach. The film is about these details, and the ultimately failing efforts of ordinary folks to manage to stop Mr. Trump.

But what struck me in this campaign season was this. In this film we see in something of a microcosm exactly what Mr. Trump's political policies would be like should he gain the power of the Presidency, and particularly should he have the support of the neo-fascists who now control the Congressional Republican Party behind him. Mr. Trump believes in power. He's just fine with bullying and strong-arming and probably much worse. He really is fine with rounding up 12 million people who live and work here and putting them on trains and buses and military transport vehicles and hauling them off to... somewhere. He believes in the carrot and the stick, but he believes in the stick. The carrot is charm and bluster, the pleasure of at least telling off phonies like Jeb Bush and Rand Paul. Mr. Trump doesn't show the stick on the campaign trail.

And the worst part of "You've Been Trumped" is the way some Scots intellectuals accept his ruthless arguments. The little farms surrounding Mr. Trump's mega-site are "untidy." They'll look bad to the rich American tourists flying in to Aberdeen to golf weekends. Therefore, they must be bulldozed. This is what an economics professor at a local college (which has awarded Trump an honorary degree) says to the camera. Meanwhile, the local police arrest the camera-man for filming them early in the film. This is how fascism works. This is what Mr. Trump is selling, with the fresh paint still sticky, of "American greatness." Too many Americans seem to think that being great means knocking all opposition down. Smash mouth offense, to borrow a popular NFL term. He apologized to the world, these people whine about Mr. Obama's efforts to repair our relations with the world. America, they think, should never admit mistakes, should never apologize.

We'd do well to look at the final chapters of our last smash-mouth foreign policy efforts, now unfolding across the other half of the world. Iraq is in tatters. Syria becomes more jumbled with every day, and hundreds of thousands of refugees walk across Europe, with winter now on their heels. And in Afganistan, a significant city, Kunduz, has now fallen to the Taliban.

As someone on the teevee said the other day, Trump's method is always the same. Win, and then if necessary, declare bankruptcy and walk away. What does it mean, this comfortable solution, when he's President? It's not like he can pull a Sarah Palin and recoup with another book tour. The roads may not be working so well after he blows up the US government.

One of the sad and strange features of "You've Been Trumped" is the resonance of the little opposition. Around these parts we're mostly of the Scots-Irish descent. These bitter faces look familiar, and they even fly a Confederate flag once or twice, as a symbol of defiance. Yet here white Southerners are flocking to the Trump bandwagon. As ever, they like a winner, or a seeming winner, and don't want to even think about the possibility that they might be, themselves, standing across the line from some Trumpean bulldozer. But that's the real deal with Trump and his fascist methods. "I don't like losers," he says.

Someone should call him on that. If nothing else, the old Confederacy is certainly a band of losers.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Wedding, A Separation

I ran into this video this morning on a website called "Why Evolution is True."

Yesterday Libby and I went to a perfect wedding. It was held out in the country near Saxapahaw, NC, on an organic farm. The farmers catered the wedding, serving delicious barbeque and baked beans. There were puffy white clouds in the brilliant blue September sky. In North Carolina we get two different Septembers, the ones with hurricanes, and the ones like this present one, fairly dry, not overly hot, a gentle procession into the coming fall. Most of the leaves are still green, but a few early plants, at the edge of the woods, have changed to scarlet. I meant to take a photo of one of these little bushes with sharp, narrow leaves last time I mowed. They look spray painted. I used to love September without resevation, having experienced Hurricane Hazel long ago, as a child, where it was mostly an adventure that passed and caused no personal damage. But then came the hurricanes of the '90s, and we were living on Ocracoke Island, where one takes notice and must decide, over and over again, what to do, whether to leave. There were many opportunities. Two notables: Hurricane Fran, in '96, and Hurricane Floyd, in '99. Floyd was particularly devastating to North Carolina as it caused wide-spread flooding which nearly isolated the coastal plain from the rest of the state, and killed over 50 people, mostly folks who drove across flooded roadways and were swept away.

Behind the stage where Libby and I played music as the celebrants chatted and sipped, there was a field of yellow flowers. Amongst the flowers were probably 12 or so Guinea hens, industriously hunting for food. When I walked up to the stage they all popped their heads up and buzzed with alarm. After I stood there a while they went back to their grazing. In these parts it's said that Gunieas will get rid of ticks. We didn't get bit. It might be a plan!

September, after Fran and Floyd, became a month I didn't look forward to much. But at the moment, meaning this year, it seems that hurricanes are not threatening us here on the eastern seaboard. Out in the Pacific it's a different story. Anyways, yesterday was a perfect day for an outdoor wedding. The bride was beautiful, her family was really terrific, and Libby and I got to play some music and visit with some old friends and generally have a very nice day. Today seems a repeat, and we're doing a nice cookout today up in Greensboro celebrating the various family birthdays that occur in September, the month with the most birthdays according to someone in the office. It's certainly got the most birhdays in our family.

We got home after dark, unpacked the music gear. Then we watched the Iranian film, A Separation. This is what films used to be like, that is, it has some depth and seriousness and is interested in a story about real life inhabited by real people. It might be called The Turn of the Screw, but that title is pretty much taken. It is a story about earnest, good people who despite their efforts grow more and more entangled in tragedy and despair. They are all caught in a web. The web is their principles and good intentions. No one has magic powers or an automatic pistol. The film should be viewed by anyone who blathers on about incinerating Iran if it doesn't kow-tow to the desires of the West. If he could find within himself some ability to sit still and think, it would benefit Mr. Trump to watch this film. It's an unlikely thought experiment I know.

Mr. Trump has decided to run as George Wallace. There's no way around this conclusion. Back in '68, Wallace would have loved to have been running as the candidate of one of the two major parties. Instead, both parties rejected him, and he was forced to mount a third-party effort, arguing like Trump today that "there's not a dime's worth of difference" between the two major parties and their candidates. This is a new experiment for us, or perhaps an old one that we thought was relegated to the ash heap. Trump is running on straight-up racism and prejudice. He has nothing but a great stack of lies concerning people who are in various ways "different" from the white people in the country who think it their right as white Christians to have the final say in governance, and who think anytime they don't get that final say, something undemocratic has happened. Trump wants to see if that cohort of bitterness is big enough and engaged enough to win a Presidential election. He's saying now, straight up, vote Trump, vote your hate.

There is such a vast distance from that little field we played fiddle tunes in yesterday, full of happy people immersed in the "golden hour," and the bitterness of Trump's campaign. It's surely at least as far as the distance from the sun to Neptune. Out there, in the bitter black, there is nothing else but ice, even if gravity still works its magic, and the center "holds." As the twilight advances, Libby and I chatted with two old friends we hadn't seen in several years. This is how it is at weddings. It was very heartening to discover that they saw these realities as we did. If one just watched "the news," which is pretty much what all of us do now, one might eventually begin to believe in the terrors that animate the typical Trump supporter.

Mr. Reagan set this loose back in the '80s, when he got rid of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine." That little vandalism, almost unnoticed in the glare of Iran-Contra and the destruction of the Air Traffic Controller union, and grounded in the idea that the blind marketplace will sort out truth from fiction, has opened the door to a media of lies. Now millions believe that a small, rural community of Muslims who live together to practice their faith is in fact some terrorist training camp. Yesterday, Mr. Trump promised to end the war on Christmas. Libby reported this Trump news after I'd gone up to bed. She said Trump's promise was actually the war on Christmas. This is as strange as a guy named Les Izmore running for State Comptroller.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

PS--Donald Trump is Running for President

SEK at Lawyers Guns and Money posted the following yesterday:

Many people are posting versions of “never forget.”

So let’s review, shall we?

1) The 9/11 hijackers were funded by rich people in Saudi Arabia, none of whom have been punished for it.

2) President Bush had ample and direct warnings that Al Queda was a threat yet failed to take them seriously.

3) One security technology could have prevented the hijackings — secure and solid cockpit doors. The airlines fought FAA proposals for them for decades.

4) Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks but more than 10 years later more than half of Republicans still believed it did.

5) For one brief moment almost the whole world was united in horror about the slaughter. Yet our government dissolved that unity within 18 months.

6) The mania that gripped the White House in the wake of 9/11 generated massive violations of US and international law, significant violations of human rights, and a squandering of the moral high ground.

7) If the Supreme Court had allowed the voters to choose the president in the 2000 election we would have had sober, moderate, law-abiding, knowledgeable adults running the country and things would be a lot better now.

8) President Bush not only failed to defend us against Al Queda before 9/11, he let Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora and ceased serious efforts to capture or kill him while he shifted U.S. resources to a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

Yeah, I am still angry.

You should be, too.

Never forget.

He credits this list to Siva Vaidhyanathan.

I would suggest that just as the past flows seamlessly back to the hysterical Bill Clinton Impeachment, which was led by one of the current Republican candidates, Lindsey Graham, so too it flows forward, to the remarkable fact that Donald Trump currently leads the Republican field, and may end up being the next United States President. Truly, something is slouching towards Golgotha, waiting to be born.


Here's a first person account.

If you go to this link you will find, first, a remarkable account of terror, from the inside out. Ms O'Malley is a terrific writer, and captures something very deep in this description of her own life on September 11, 2001, and the following days. In one way of looking at this history, the events themselves stand alone, particular, unique. Individuals all experienced the tragedy, and those very close to it, like Ms O'Malley, were literally swept away by the moments. I was particularly struck by the moment when people hid under benches in Central Park as they listened to jets overhead, before it was understood that these were "our" jets, protecting New York City at last from further assault. To understand this moment you simply had to be there. I was not. From a far distance, my experience of the event was necessarily quite different: amazement, horror yes, but not immediate fear, or a sense of group or mass fear, or the participation in that as a phenomenon. Again, the same thing later, when Sheila leaves her office because there are crowds in the street, and flows with the crowd many blocks away from her office. While it's possible that this has been described elsewhere, I'd never seen such a description. It required being in New York City. Respecting and appreciating this particularity remains important, and the many swirling feelings around this experience obviously remain as well, something I didn't realize when I commented on the piece. As I've noted in my links, Ms O'Malley unfailingly creates one of the best blogs I've ever seen.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day 2015

I read this morning somewhere that there are no longer any union mines in Harlan County, KY. I looked up the UMW on the Google and got a bunch of articles about how Obama is anti-coal. The people who run the energy extraction sector can manage two non-contradictory things at once: they can keep Obama at bay, and also destroy unions. Reminds me of a story I read once in the New Yorker, where a mom says to her friend, "well at least they can't be having sex while they're driving around the night at a high rate of speed." And then her kid, who's lying concealed on the couch as mom and her friend walk by the door to the den having this conversation, pops her head up and says, "why not?"

I have to hope that there's something more stable about reasonableness than about the frightening things that swirl around us this Labor Day. Why would ISIS blow up a 2000 year old temple? I used to wonder, back when I was looking at my dad's old set of Britanicas, who in the world would shoot holes in the Spinx, or break the arms off Venus De Milo. I'd be listening to the old Chess 45 of Chuck Berry, looking at the pictures. "Marlo Venus was a beautiful (l)ass, had the world in the palm of her hand, lost both her arms in a wrestling match, to meet a brown-eyed handsome man..." The "(l)ass" was provided by a kid down the street, who had a dirtier mind than I did, and played '45s of Hank Ballard and the Midnighters singing "Annie Had a Baby."

A month after Labor Day in '56 I was walking home from school and saw a headline in the paper rack at Cameron Village (first mall in NC), "Larsen pitches no hitter." This was in the World Series. The games then were in the afternoon. Sometimes the Principal would play them on the PA system, and then we'd walk home and see the last inning or two as the long shadows crossed Yankee Stadium (where all World Series were played). At the movies later in the week we could watch a round up of the games, brief clips of big plays, Martin and Mantle and Yogi, grizzled Casey Stengel opining about what would happen next, Whitey Ford on the mound, or Allie Reynolds, who was a Creek Indian before he was a Cleveland Indian.

I think of that headline, Larsen pitches no hitter, quite a bit. I can see the green paper rack, and where it sat, under a covered sidewalk running along the top tier of shops in Cameron Village. The Village was more than a mall--it was a whole neighborhood of retail stores, just about anything you might want to buy being offered in one or the other. There was a dry cleaners, a hobby shop, a drugstore, a bank, several big department stores, a music store with little booths where you could play a cut or two of a record before buying it. I'd walk through the Village on the way from home to high school, but that was a few years off. I must have been coming from junior high that day, since Fred Olds, where I went to grammar school, was situated such that I'd be home before I ever got to the Village. Maybe I was going to get the papers for my paper route. I delivered the Raleigh Times, the paper sporting that headline, after school. It was a nice job, way better than setting pins in the bowling alley behind our house, which was what I did for a little while during this same period of time, mid-'50s, Raleigh, NC.

Copyright © 2000-2011.
All Rights Reserved by Baseball Almanac, Inc.
Baseball Almanac Box Scores

Brooklyn Dodgers 0, New York Yankees 2
Game played on Monday, October 8, 1956 at Yankee Stadium
Brooklyn Dodgers ab r h rbi
Gilliam 2b 3 0 0 0
Reese ss 3 0 0 0
Snider cf 3 0 0 0
Robinson 3b 3 0 0 0
Hodges 1b 3 0 0 0
Amoros lf 3 0 0 0
Furillo rf 3 0 0 0
Campanella c 3 0 0 0
Maglie p 2 0 0 0
Mitchell ph 1 0 0 0
Totals 27 0 0 0

New York Yankees ab r h rbi
Bauer rf 4 0 1 1
Collins 1b 4 0 1 0
Mantle cf 3 1 1 1
Berra c 3 0 0 0
Slaughter lf 2 0 0 0
Martin 2b 3 0 1 0
McDougald ss 2 0 0 0
Carey 3b 3 1 1 0
Larsen p 2 0 0 0
Totals 26 2 5 2
Brooklyn 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 0 0 0
New York 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 x – 2 5 0

E–None. DP–Brooklyn 2 Reese-Hodges, Hodges-Campanella-Robinson-Campanella-Robinson. HR–New York Mantle (3,4th inning off Maglie 0 on 2 out). Team LOB–0. SH–Larsen (1,off Maglie). Team–3. U–Babe Pinelli, Hank Soar, Dusty Boggess, Larry Napp, Tom Gorman, Ed Runge. T–2:06. A–64,519.

It was about this time, this era, that the NC Legislature passed an early version of the big lie law, the "right to work" law. Michigan now has a "right to work" law, as does Wisconsin. Amazing. I told my writing friend Boyce the other day that this great unraveling we're living in probably started with the end of the Raleigh Times. That came about the same time as the end of day baseball. (the Cubs kept it going, like AmTrak, for a few more decades. I know. I went to 5 day games in a row at Wrigley Field back in '78 or '79, while some of the other Red Clay Ramblers were making the Carter Family record, "Meeting in the Air." They were recording in Chicago and we stayed at the Flying Fish Records office, which was an old frame house next to some tracks which, if you walked them, took you straight to Wrigley Field after about a mile and a half. Now that was a magic secret passage.)

We're pretty far along in this historic disaster. Who's to say we won't end up with Trump. If we do get him, we'll find out if the basic conflict between democratic choice and rational survival has the obvious resolution. On a smaller scale we are already picking survival at every juncture. The NSA still sifts all our records (hi, fellers, happy labor day to ya!). Yesterday a former spokesman for the survivalists, General Powell, said he thought the Iran agreement made sense. That was the most hopeful piece of news I saw this weekend.

The gigantic wave of refugees was kicked off by an incompetent foreign policy disaster led by Powell's superiors, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. I'd imagine that the Army learned its lesson. Then again, military folks believe in chain of command. We see that story all the time. Maybe no one will save us from democracy. In which case, realities will eventually teach us once again all the many things we have managed to forget in only 60 years.

Reality sometimes looks something like this: