Category Archives: Presidental Election

“How would you feel if your father smoked pot?” (circa 1970)

July 15, 2017

“How would you feel if your father smoked pot?” (circa 1970)
(or, “Don’t Bogart That Joint, Dad. Pass It Over to Mom.”)

Buttondown Collar PS - 2

This advertisement appeared almost a half-century ago in a student newspaper. Under the guise of stimulating thinking, its lead question asks “how would feel….” The blending of the initial rhetorical emphasis (“how would you feel…”) and the purported value of “thinking” is quite intentional. This appeal to an emotional outcome of a supposedly rational consideration of drug laws is a standard tactic of those who wish to repress the Dionysian exploration of consciousness in any form whatsoever.

One also might reflect upon the stereotyped image of the older generation: did the advertisers expect young people to imagine their fathers being so up-tight as to keep their collars buttoned down, even as they are halfway through their joints?

It is still difficult for me to believe that the cultivation of marijuana will become legal in large swaths of the United States. I would caution those who might take this shift to be a permanent alteration in the consciousness of the American electorate to remember that this country is on the verge of making abortion, once again, a felony. The individual’s right to control her body has been under relentless attack for several decades, and we see the consequences. The shift in drug regulation could also turn out to be a temporary alleviation of repressive state control, unless we are more vigilant than we were about reproductive rights. Let us remember that many people have gone to prison for the possession of marijuana in the past, and if Jess Sessions and his friends have their way, such will be the law of the land again.

In the meantime, I choose not to light up. Or to light up when you least expect it.

I would also call for a Democratic member of Congress to introduce an amendment to the current Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare that would make a doctor’s prescription for marijuana a mandatory part of any health insurance policy sold in the United States. Just so we can do a head count to remind ourselves of how temporary this respite might be.

I am curious if anyone can guess the name of the sponsor of the ad. Trust me that there’s more than a touch of irony involved. Feel free to send me your guesses at William.BillMohr@gmail.com.

High Bid/Low Bid: Donald Trump, Jr.’s Implausible Naivete

Thursday, July 13, 2017 (updated on Friday, July 14, 2017; updated again, Sunday, July 16, 2017)

“I” and “Them”: Donald Trump, Jr.’s Roll-Call of Retail Politics in the Glowering Tower

In his interview on Fox News with Sean Hannity, Donald Trump, Jr. claimed that his meeting with a person acting on behalf of the Russian government was nothing more than an exploratory encounter. “I wanted to hear them out and play it out.”

The pronouns in this assertion are crucial: “I” and “them.” The former is deceptive, while the latter turns out to be accurate. Let us note that Sean Hannity did not correct Mr. Trump, Jr.’s use of the singular pronoun in the subject of that assertion. At least two other American citizens, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, were known to have been at the meeting in addition to Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer, and Rinat Akhmetshin, who has been identified as a Russian lobbyist whose background might include training as an intelligence officer. Mr. Hannity should have corrected Mr. DT, Jr. immediately: “You mean, ‘We wanted to hear them out and play it out,’ don’t you?”

The most important question for Donald Trump, Jr. is “What exactly were the three of you planning on giving them in return for the information about Hillary Clinton that was purportedly going to be dangled in front of you? ‘Play(ing) it out,’ after all, means only one thing in this context: payment of some kind for services rendered. So what was your high bid going to be, beyond which you were not willing to cough up? What was the low bid you hoped they would accept?”

Surely, Mr. Donald Trump, Jr., you don’t expect me to believe that Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and you showed up at this meeting without ever discussing or considering what would be asked for in return? Paul Manafort is a man who knows about getting paid for services rendered, and Jared Kushner is hardly a man who believes in selfless devotion to non-profit NGOs. Each of you perfectly understands that in politics, in which “money is the mother milk,” nothing on a scale of international importance is going to handed over in service to the ideals of the public good.

Surely, Mr. DT, Jr., you were not expecting to be given this information for free? “Opposition Research” is expensive, and the more valuable and damaging it is, the more expensive it will be. So what was your budget, and how is it you arrived at that budget? How could you not have calculated the bottom line in advance of the meeting? Surely you understood that the amount of money and effort already expended by the providers of this information would be a sum that would need exponential repayment in order to compensate them for the risks they took in engaging in dubious practices themselves, for as you well know — all espionage ultimately involves blackmail and bribes. Or did you honestly believe that this information had been turned up by someone in Russia who merely typed the words “dirt on Hillary Clinton” into her computer’s browser, and presto! It all popped up without having a pay a single ruble to a hacker.

Your statements make it sound as if you showed up just to find out what information was available, and if so, then and only then would you inquire about the price. Once again, I find that incredibly implausible. If a piece of real estate you are very interested in becomes available, something you explicitly say “you love,” you know down to the penny what it might be worth in the long run, and you have a fairly solid idea of how you would assemble and package the funds that would pay for it. “Opposition research” on Clinton was prime political real estate, and as always it’s location, location, location. In this case, the location is Moscow, and going into this meeting, you knew perfectly well who the escrow company was.

Or did you think you would play the role of naïve amateurs? Were you planning to say, “Oh, did you want something in return for this information?” If so, what you expecting them to ask for? Please don’t tell me, under oath, that you weren’t expecting them to ask for anything in return.

With high stakes negotiations foremost in your anticipation of a positive outcome, how can you characterize your participation in this meeting as anything other than scandalous? To get to the bottom of your apprenticeship in espionage, how much money was available in a slush fund drawer at the Trump Tower to serve as a down payment on this information? Or was it already in an attaché case next to one of you? It’s hard not to imagine well experienced entrepreneurs showing up for a potential game-changing appointment not prepared to do business. It’s always possible, of course, but since your good friend and colleague Jared Kushner failed to list this meeting on his list of contacts with foreign nationals when he applied for his security clearance, you’ll forgive me for suspecting behavior that you would not wanted recorded and broadcast, unedited, on a reality TV show.

And now for the “them” part of DT, Jr.’s statement: “I wanted to hear them out…” If Mr. Hannity had noticed the plural, he would have expressed curiosity as to why Mr. Trump did not say, “I wanted to hear her out.” If he had done so, perhaps his stature as a journalist might improve slightly, for Mr. Trump’s response that someone else representing the interests of Vladamir Putin was in the room in addition to Ms. Veselnitskaya would have been a notable scoop. In point of fact, another person accompanied her, and Mr. Rinat Akhmetshin was not present simply to be a quality control monitor of the refreshments that were served. Was Mr. Akhmetshin on the phone, too, to the same extent that Paul Manafort was alleged to be? If so, his phone as well as Mr. Manafort’s, should have their activities at the time of this meeting made a matter of public record.

These are questions that I would like one of the Senators from California to ask Mr. Donald Trump, Jr. when he shows up to testify in Congress about the meeting of Manafort, Kushner and himself with Natalia Veselnitskaya and the person assisting her in these negotiations.

Finally, I find to my amazement that Charles Krauthammer and I agree on something, and I would urge all readers to read what a profoundly conservative voice has to say about this matter:
“What Donald Jr. — and Kushner and Manafort — did may not be criminal. But it is not merely stupid. It is also deeply wrong, a fundamental violation of any code of civic honor. I leave it to the lawyers to adjudicate the legalities of unconsummated collusion. But you don’t need a lawyer to see that the Trump defense — collusion as a desperate Democratic fiction designed to explain away a lost election — is now officially dead.” — Charles Krauthammer

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/bungled-collusion-is-still-collusion/2017/07/13/68c7f72a-67f3-11e7-8eb5-cbccc2e7bfbf_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-e%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.31143767e1e9

FOOTNOTE: In my fourth paragraph, I wrote: “Paul Manafort is a man who knows about getting paid for services rendered…” For more details about the employment history of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and how he was compensated for his lobbying efforts on behalf of the former President of Ukraine, Viktor F. Yanukovych, and his Party of Regions, see the following article:

It has been alleged that Mr. Yanukovych absconded with at least one billion dollars during his political career, before he was forced out of office. One possible indication of the presence of an “off-the-books” political economy is that the Party of Regions reported less money being spent for its operations than Mr. Manafort reported receiving as income. There is no proof whatsoever at this point Mr. Manafort was aware of this discrepancy or that he knowingly took money that might in some way be tainted. Mr. Manafort, however, is manifestly alert to the correlation of work done and compensation paid upon demand.

Grand Jury Indictment Time for the Trumpsville Express

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Next Stop for the Trumpsville Express: Grand Jury

Mr. Trump’s supporters no doubt believe that those who object to his agenda are simply “sore losers.” To lose an election is indeed no fun, for the consequences are real. One might very well, for instance, also lose one’s health insurance. I most certainly expect my spouse’s premium to increase significantly by 2018.

Let us remember, though, that Clinton won the popular vote. She lost the electoral college, but that outcome merely reaffirms the racist, misogynistic legacy of the so-called Founding Fathers. The election polls were not completely inaccurate: they predicted that a much larger number of people wanted Clinton to be President. The margin of Trump’s defeat in the accumulated total of enfranchised citizens was almost 3,000,000 votes.

Trump knew from the start of his candidacy that Hillary Clinton was going to be more successful in winning the popular vote. Trump also knew that the effects of the popular vote can be manipulated, since it is diluted by the tilted playing field of the electoral college. Unlike George W. Bush, however, Trump did not have a friend in Florida who might help him squeak out a victory on the state level and thereby secure the White House.

But he did have a “friend” in Russia. Maybe not a Facebook friend, but a friend nevertheless who understood the peculiar allocation of political power in the United States even better than Hillary Clinton. Vladimir Putin was quite cognizant that Clinton would win the popular vote, but he also calculated that all he needed to do was to help Trump tilt just enough states to win the Electoral College, and his puppet would be in the Oval Office.

Contrary to repeated public denials of any collusion with Russia, the e-mail exchange involving Donald Trump, Jr. and his extended circle of contacts in Russia reveal an individual intent on making use of the intelligence gathering services of a foreign power run by people who authorize the murder of their political opponents.

Mr. Donald Trump, the winner of the Electoral College vote, does not seem to understand that a vast number of middle-class taxpayers in the United States do not trust Vladimir Putin, and that anyone who demonstrates an eagerness to engage in “quid pro quo” arrangements with him is ethically suspect. The Magnitsky Act must remain in effect until Mr. Putin and all of his associates are brought to account for their actions in the World Court.

It is time for a prosecuting attorney to begin to make plans for a presentation to a grand jury and for indictments to be handed down. Given how anyone mentioned in these e-mails is likely to be called as a witness, those attorneys who are “ambulance chasers” cannot help but hear the sirens. Sad!

I doubt those of us who oppose Trump’s regime will be able to remove him from office, either by impeachment or by shaming him into resignation. There is no reason, however, why his son should be exempt from the maximum term in prison, should he be found guilty of breaking the law. While members of Congress probably yearn for a moment in the spotlight, such cross-examination should not be used to stall the momentum of a judicial proceeding.

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/desktop/latimes/default.aspx?pubid=50435180-e58e-48b5-8e0c-236bf740270e

An Affirmative Fourth of July, 2017

July 4, 2017

July 4, 2016

Donald Trump is in a state of severe psychological distress. He seems to be occupying a hall of mirrors in which Baudrillard’s theory of the simulacrum conflates with Freud’s musings about the return of the repressed. The most recent Delirium Tremens installment involves the dissemination of a video from an old wrestling show in which he lampoons himself as a Don Quixote vanquishing “fake news.” He may have taken a public oath of office administered by a Supreme Court Justice that grants him residency in the White House, but that speech act did nothing to change his personality, which is that of a narcissistic bully.

A year ago, Linda and I went to Rod Bradley’s house and enjoyed a lovely evening with his friends and family. As dusk began to summon distant glimmers of fireworks at the perimeters of Los Angeles County, we took in the spectacle with little expectation that a malign transmogrification was about to launch itself into public power over social policy. Despite this grim turn in our national self-governance, I choose to celebrate this holiday as an affirmation of the virtues required to stand up to bullies and to punish them for their bad behavior.

Even as we admit how discouraging this travesty of an administration truly is, let us remember how persistent the resistance has been. As we take in this evening’s panoply of lingering bursts of color, let this ritual reinforce the dexterity of our citizenship; let our pledge of allegiance be to a nation that still embraces those who live and work with us out of no other choice of tolerable refuge. Let the despair that drives them here be a reminder of the effusive hope we must sustain amongst ourselves to preserve the viability of this experiment in democracy.

Atomized Fireworks

As the soundtrack anthem for today, here’s a link to my favorite for this occasion:

Hey Baby, It’s the 4th of July (Dave Alvin & X)

For those who wonder about the technology of fireworks, here is a link from one of my favorite websites:

How fireworks get their colors

Shelter from the Storm

Rupert - 2017

When one rents, one never knows how long the landlord will retain the property and let the lease in place ride out its month to month contingency. We have lived in the same house for the past eight years, and I am grateful for the continuity. We live at a minor intersection, which is to say that it can be noisy on occasion, though at least two of the families on the other corners are friendly and kind, and there is a sense of a neighborhood. Most of the people in the most adjacent houses have lived here even longer than we have, so if a major emergency occurred, we would at least have some sense of this vicinity being our joint responsibility. We are its caretakers, if not uniformly its owners. The neighborhood is a plural self-possessed.

It’s final exams week at CSULB. Back at the very beginning of this semester, there was a knock on our front door. Brookes, who lives in an apartment behind us, and Jill, who lives across the street, had just happened to hear a cat meowing on the corner of Geoff and Dana’s house, and it was the meow of a lost and hungry cat. “Would you be able to keep the cat for just one night?” Jill asked. “I’ll take it to the vet tomorrow morning and see if it has a chip.” It had already been a very wet winter, and more rain was due soon. Ever if a storm was not due that night, it was very cold out. A strong wind from off the Pacific Ocean a half-mile away was definitely bringing more clouds by the next afternoon. The cat was big, probably a male, and its orange fur glowed in the porch light. “OK, one night.” Famous last words.

The chip turned out to have an initial registration date from eleven years ago. The registration had long expired. A rambunctious beast, it turned out, who must have perfected his act of drumming on windows until he’s let out at several other residences during the past decade. The first few nights were on the sleepless side. “Dogs have owners; cats have staff” is the old saying, and this cat regarded us as staff that needed to be properly trained.

He is still here, though I fear his habit of crossing the street to visit Jill’s house, without looking for traffic, is going to lead fatal consequences some day. It’s been hard to accept that a new cat lives where I once cared for my beloved Cordelia, but Rupert has a raffish charm and he certainly knows how to campaign. More than a few neighbors have reported that he spends time on their porches, wooing the attention of their small children. “Rupert” still feels like a temporary name, like an alias for someone trying to make up for someone else’s mistake. We have yet to take him to the vet, though a visit can’t be put off too much longer.

In the meantime, the chastening of an incompetent President continues to be the main order of business in Washington, D.C. Power ill-gotten can never lose its dubious legitimacy, and the process of indirect elections is hardly serving as an exemplary means of staffing the public sphere by a large-scale human relations department. In contrasting the very local and the national scenes, Rupert probably has a better chance of being ensconced in this house four years from now than Trump has of being re-elected and occupying the Oval Office in the spring of 2020. My bet: even if he’s removed from office, Trump will run for election again in 2019. Extraction from office will only exacerbate his lust for the illusion of political dignity. That man has grown too fond of the panoply of public rallies to settle for being a re-run on the History Channel. Unlike Nixon, Trump will demand our attention again. You heard it here first.

Sandy Flees Jackson, Michigan (Trump Territory)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sandy Flees Jackson, Michigan

Last summer, I happened to find myself in Jackson, Michigan, and ended up using the public library in order to write my friends Larry and Nancy Goldstein in Ann Arbor about the possibility of visiting them before I headed back to Long Beach. Although I was willing to take the train, they very kindly saved me the trouble and made a round-trip to pick me up, where I spent what proved to be a very delightful time with them. After writing from a computer in Jackson’s library, I went to a local version of an enormous grocery outlet, at the front area of which, near the cash registers, was one of those children’s mechanical rides that I remember along with gumball machines as being ever-present, if infrequently used, in my childhood. The price tag on the ride seemed to be less of a “loss leader” than a comment on the disparity between what jobs paid and what things cost. If “Sandy” could have voted, she would have shown some horse sense and cast her lot with Bernie Sanders. At that point in the election, though, she had little choice but to get the hell out of Jackson.

It is a grossly overweight town. While I certainly need to lose more than a few pounds as I verge on my 70th birthday, I had never before been around so many young and middle-aged people whose girths reflected bad diets. Given that Jackson voted overwhelmingly for Trump, one has to wonder about the relationship between a diet lacking in sufficient vegetables and fruits and political naivete. I suspect that their allegiance to a fast food regimen hasn’t changed since the inauguration of the 45th president, so those of us who want a government that respects intelligent imagination have work ahead of us that will require us to take control of the political machinery. For too long, we have sold our votes for a penny a ride.

One Cent Sign - Jackson

“Going in Style”: The Politics of Masculine Critique

Sunday, March 26, 2017

“Going in Style”: The Politics of Masculine Critique

When Linda Fry, Laurel Ann Bogen, and I went to see “The Last Word” a week ago, the previews included the upcoming release of a remake, “Going in Style.” I was disappointed instantly. The original starred a trio of men, and the remake has recast it with three males. As much as I enjoyed the original film back in 1979. I equally remember my main problem with it. The story-line involves three old men who decide that the possible benefits of robbing banks would probably outweigh the penalties, given that none of them had much likelihood of serving even a small portion of any lengthy prison sentence. As a comic premise, it served its purpose, but let us consider that the majority of individuals who might entertain that option as a solution to their predicaments would most likely be women. Impoverished old women confined to bleak circumstances far outnumber men, and if the comic requires the unexpected, a trio of aging women would easily provide a multitude of punch-lines and gags using the same premise.

The gender shift I proposed in my critique of the first “Going in Style” did in fact show up in a middle-aged variant a year later. The success of “9 to 5,” which starred Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton, demonstrated that a comedy in which women took the law into their own hands was certainly a viable project. If one were to propose a remake, I would be more inclined to see this one in a theater rather than the upcoming release featuring Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine.

However, given the patriarchal backlash in this country right now, it is not surprising that this remake of “Going in Style” blithely presents the crisis of masculinity as the bedrock for its antics. The context for this remake has been building for years. At the end of the last century, Susan Faludi’s Stiffed, for instance, examined the challenges that working men faced within the economics of gender. Nevertheless, to have three men react to the loss of their pensions by launching careers as senescent criminals only serves to distract us from the machinations of an aging baby boomer in the recent presidential election. Trump and his inner circle are giving us a new definition of “style” and they don’t intend the aftermath to be comic.

Trump and Snoop Doggy Dog: “Bang” and the Second Amendment

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A recent video made by Snoop Doggy Dog includes an image of a gun being pointed at a figure with a Donald Trump mask: the word “Bang” comes out of the gun.

As an initial comment, there is little else to say than this video is completely unacceptable, as it currently stands, and deserves denunciation by anyone who wants to preserve a constitutional civility in this nation. Snoop Doggy Dog needs to have a serious talk with a lawyer about what is protected free speech.

On the other hand, if Snoop Doggy Dog had pointed the gun and had the words “Second Amendment” pop out of the barrel, we might have a very interesting artistic statement. For one thing, it would serve to remind us that Donald Trump himself has used a citation of the Second Amendment to indulge in a nod-and-wink comment that amounted to an assassination threat against Hillary Clinton. If Trump could toy with the Second Amendment to threaten the life of his opponent without any reprisal or public legal rebuke, why would a similar usage by Snoop Doggy Dog cause him to be treated any differently? Unfortunately, the video is already out.

Regardless of how Snoop Doggy Dog made his video, Trump’s threat remains a far more serious and permanent stain on the current discourse. Let there be no mistake about it. When Donald Trump casually dropped a suggestion, at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, in August, 2016, that the “Second Amendment people” could stop Hillary Clinton, anyone who understood the rhetoric of crude implication did not have to think very hard as to what Trump intended to underline with his body language: he meant that people could take the law into their own hands and assassinate her. Nor did his implications stop there. Was it not also implicitly a threat against the life of anyone supporting her? Why would anyone inspired by Trump’s alleged sense of humor stop with just HRC? Remember Ted Nugent’s call to action in 2012 to “chop their heads off in November”? Trump knew very well what he was saying and to whom he was speaking, and he needs to be reminded that he will continue to be held accountable for the “bang” that his words deliver.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/not-what-the-second-amendment-is-for/495191/

And while we’re on the subject, let us remember that Trump’s dictatorial disdain for those who opposed him extended to Obama, too. As I pointed out last October 30 (and I reprint that post below), the entire nation saw a widely circulated image of President Obama with a lynch rope around his neck. Trump’s silence about that image equalled approval, and his refusal to denounce in no uncertain terms his extremist followers continues to be one of his few consistent traits. This has surfaced in particular in his reticence in speaking out against the numerous bomb threats against Jewish community centers in this country.

I’ll say it again because it cannot be said often enough: “Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, but every racist voted for Trump.” (Thank you, Michael Lally.) However, a video such as the one made by Snoop Doggy Dog is not going to transform the hearts and minds of those who voted for him. Of course, I doubt that what I have just written in today’s blog post will illuminate them, either.

What, then, is to be done?

* * * * *

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Darkness at the Center of Wisconsin

https://www.yahoo.com/sports/news/fan-wears-barack-obama-mask-with-a-noose-at-nebraska-wisconsin-040333264.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3887230/Football-fan-Wisconsin-Nebraska-game-asked-remove-offensive-costume-showing-President-Obama-noose-neck.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

The story is that the fan was asked to remove the “offensive components” costume.

That’s all?

Why was the fan not immediately investigated for making a death threat against the President?

This is not a “costume,” but a death threat, and the specificity of advocating the execution of the President is made all the more clear by the fact that it is not the person wearing the costume whose hand is holding up the noose, but the arm of a person standing alongside the depiction of President Obama. In the photograph, an arm wearing a red sleeve juts into the air at an angle that can only mean that the white fist jerking the noose upwards belongs to another person. It is a blunt portrayal of a racist execution.

This is not an issue of free speech, which would include the right to wear a prison outfit with a mask of Obama, just as free speech includes the right to chant “Lock her up,” as Trump’s partisans do whenever Hillary Clinton’s name in mentioned. One may not like a message, but free speech allows messengers safe passage. Provocative and outrageous speech is protected by our Constitution. However, in depicting the execution of President Obama, the individuals at a football stadium in Wisconsin flagrantly transgressed the boundary of free speech.

Death threats are not free speech, especially in an image meant invoke the heyday of the KKK. Within the context of a newspaper associated with the KKK all but giving its straightforward endorsement to Donald Trump, this so-called costume represents crude propaganda at its most harrowing level.

If there is not at least a brief detention and interrogation of the fan and his “prop assistant” for making a death threat against President Obama, then it is fair to say that this costume represents the values of a cadre within the Secret Service; in this instance, the person in charge of the Secret Service has the obligation to act in a manner that proves otherwise.

I would note that a report that Secret Service conducted an investigation in an instance that involved a far less public venue.

Playing with Fire and an Obama Effigy

Why should this incident in Wisconsin be treated with any less seriousness?

The failure of University of Wisconsin officials to understand the gravity of the image is quite remarkable. Simply asking a person to remove the “offensive parts” of the costume represents a lack of courage in standing up to a bully. In making a statement that was nothing short of a death threat against the President, the person wearing the costume and his assistant forfeited their right to remain at the game and should have been removed from the stadium.

The University was probably afraid of being accused of censorship. There is an easy answer. The people were removed from the stadium in order to have their identities firmly established by police officials so that the Secret Service could begin their investigation.

Finally, we should all take note: the desire expressed by these two people in the football stands in Wisconsin is not limited to President Obama. First him, then his supporters. If anyone is so naïve to think that the two people who concocted this outfit will be satisfied with President Obama’s death, then they need to review 20th century history. As the poet Don Gordon said, “We are only on leave from Auschwitz.”

As a postscript that occurred to me a couple hours after posting this, I think it is fair to say that those who doubted the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate would most likely be the ones inclined to defend this person’s advocacy of a Presidential death certificate as free speech. “If attacking one end of a life spectrum doesn’t work, then try the other extreme,” would seem to be their preference.

I do look forward to the conclusion of the current general election, and the chance to concentrate on books of poetry again. To neglect the havoc generated by a fascist with international ambitions would be an unforgivable omission on my part, however.

CORRECTION: The original post for this commentary mistakenly stated that the football game took place in Nebraska, whereas the University of Nebraska was playing a road game in Wisconsin.

President Trump’s Twinkie Cabinet

February 19, 2017

President Trump’s Twinkie Cabinet

There are two ways to take the title of today’s post. The first is obvious. If there is anyone who can possibly vet their diet, please be vigilant: under no circumstances whatsoever should anyone serving in Trump’s cabinet be allowed to consume Twinkies. The individuals appointed to Trump’s cabinet possess rapacious impulses that are already out of control, and the slightest increase in their consumption of such confections might well result in the entire world being treated as if it were the reincarnation of George Moscone and Harvey Milk.

On a more quotidian economic level, of course, the Twinkie Cabinet is a reference to the financiers who exploited the workers of the Hostess Company. If Trump found himself the beneficiary of a miniscule margin of victory in just enough states to tip the Electoral College in his favor, it was in large part because of the displaced anger of workers at companies such as Hostess, whose executives walked away with their portfolios intact during the bankruptcy proceedings earlier this decade.

The problem confronting these workers, when they had to make a choice in the 2016 election, was that no major party offered any remedy for their plight. If you were an employee of Hostess, age 53 years old, and you faced the loss of everything you had worked for, what was your choice during the spring primaries of 2016? If you had been such a worker, the question you should have asked yourself was “What would have turned out different if any of these candidates had been president between 2011 and 2013?”

We absolutely know that nothing different would have happened if one of the GOP candidates had been President, but would there have been a different outcome if Hillary Clinton had been President? Or Bernie Sanders?

No.

It’s not that I would be sad if Clinton or Sanders had been president then, or now for that matter. But let’s be blunt about it: Would Apollo Global Management and Dean Metropoulos have operated any differently five years ago, if Bernie Sanders had been president then?

No.

The laws under which capitalism eviscerates the lives of those whose work generates wealth would have been no different under Sanders, when Hostess declared bankruptcy, than under Obama, just as they were no different under Bill Clinton than under George W. Bush.

“Betrayal without remedy” is the phrase that appears in “The Great Twinkie Caper – how U.S. Workers Get Flipped” by Lawrence J. Hanley.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-j-hanley/hostess-sale_b_6250650.html

Justifiable rage blinded workers into settling for vague promises of how America could be made “great again,” as a result of which one of the great political tragedies of this epoch is unfolding in front of our unbelieving eyes.

I wonder how many months will go by before these workers realize that they have been duped. What they deserve is a future retirement with some sense of dignity that includes decent shelter, excellent health care, and nutritious food to eat. This is the minimum that any person who has worked all of her or his life deserves. I would hope that a candidate would emerge in 2020 who will bluntly campaign on this kind of platform.

Until then, let us hope that another complete meltdown of the economy will not happen again. The risk of that kind of collapse is accelerating. Laws are being expeditiously revised right now to make the U.S. economy vulnerable to the same set of plundering usurers who drove this nation to the precipice ten years ago. The current Money Mob will make certain that the same laws invoked in the last crisis remain on the books to save them from prosecution, too.
It is indeed “betrayal without remedy.”

Well, not quite. There is one remedy, and it is radical beyond anything ever witnessed in this nation. Something much more radical than anything called for by Bernie Sanders is needed. It begins with changes in our diet, both physical and intellectual. Hard as it is to break old habits, we must do so if the pursuit of human dignity is to prove itself worthy of that ideal. And it ends with the complete abolition of the death penalty, for above all, we must confront the fact that as long as nuclear weapons exist, we have all been judged and sentenced to death. This is an unacceptable horror, and must be utterly reversed.

In between those two points, much will have to change in the hierarchies of privilege and power, and it will be an unfamiliar discomfort for those presently ensconced at the highest levels of administrative turpitude.

Let us start with a good night’s sleep, having faith that this can be accomplished.

Post-Script: I woke up to find an article in the Los Angeles Times giving an account of a speech at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 18. When I posted this blog entry, I had no idea that he was in town asking his audience to identify with the workers who have been traumatized by massive shifts in the global economy.

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-bernie-sanders-event-20170219-story.html

Correct Crowd Count: 2,500,000 join U.S. Women’s Marches (“Super Callow Fragile Ego Trump You Are Atrocious”)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

OVER TWO MILLION MARCH IN CONTUMACIOUS CELEBRATION OF FEMINIST IDEALS

Yesterday’s marches of protest against the FBI-assisted ascendancy of Donald Trump were vigorously attended throughout the nation, in large part because enormous numbers of people were willing to give up their hard-earned personal time to affirm the feminist movement. The rallies in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Oakland attracted hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people. No one will have to stand at a press conference today and exaggerate the number of marchers in order to massage the egos of its organizers.

Once again, the ability of social media to mobilize a movement far exceeded expectations. When Teresa Shook first proposed a Women’s March on her Facebook page soon after Election Day. she certainly didn’t stretch out on a couch and immediately begin fantasizing about speaking on a stage in front of hundreds of thousands of protestors in Washington, D.C. And yet, yesterday, she found herself in a line-up of social activists and cultural workers who spoke to a crowd much larger than the one that witnessed Trump’s clamp-down taking of the presidential oath of office the day before.

In an update, over six hours after the original posting of today’s entry, I wish to correct the crowd count. The total number of marchers was over two million people in the United States alone. I am struck by how the mass media refuse to acknowledge breaking this “glass ceiling” of numerical defiance. My own original impression from media reports was that the total attendance at all of the marches exceeded one million, but that is a vast underestimate. It’s one thing to top the one million figure for any given one-day public event. Two million is exponentially more massive. The scale of this “stand your ground” message to Trump, in fact, is on the ominous side of predictions. The attendance seems closer to the number of people who might turn out for an anti-war rally. Indeed, the fear that Trump is already drawing up invasion plans in hopes that a war will “unify” the country is more than amply justified. It should be noted that it was not just the largest cities, such as Los Angeles, that featured enormous crowds proportionate to their population. Smaller urban areas such as San Jose, San Diego, Pittsburgh and Atlanta also had significantly attended rallies.

I was not impressed with the coverage of the mainstream media. I happened to watch a bit of the march on the L.A. Times link to the ABC news, and noticed Maxwell’s rendition of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” erased him from the screen. In fact, a kind of misogynistic voyeurism seemed to take over the control booth. Rather than show Maxwell singing, the camera panned across the dispersal of the crowd, as if to diminish the meaning of Bush’s lyrics. What was really disturbing was how the camera awkwardly swooped across the crowd to find signs with the word “pussy” on them. It was as if the control booth of the ABC network was being directed by young teenage boys who couldn’t get enough of seeing a “forbidden word” being bandied about. What must have attracted them even more was that one sign had a set of curves suggesting the inner and outer lips of a woman’s genitals. That the camera would linger on this sign together with a nearby one on a green board that also featured the word “pussy” in large letters seemed not to be a moment of transgressive affirmation, but rather an attempt to reduce feminist protest to an essentialist taunt.

At least Aja Monet’s performance of her poem, “My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter,” was spared this imposition of male scopic power. Monet, a performance poet who won a major slam contest at a very young age, attended Sarah Lawrence College for her B.A. and has a MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. The poem she read is the title poem of her most recent collection of poetry. That a poet would be asked to be part of this protest and perform on the main stage is hardly a surprise, though. Writers Resist, an informal collective of protest readings by writers the week before the inauguration, was one of the major preliminary groundswells of protest against the outrageous plutocracy that Trump has assembled as his administrative bureaucracy of American government.

I believe it was in a column by Steve Lopez, the L.A. Times columnist, that I saw a protest sign with the best comment of the day: “Super Callow Fragile Ego Trump You Are Atrocious.” My compliments to the Palimpsest-in-Chief.

President Trump took note of the demonstrations, but seemed to overlook their impetus. “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?” he tweeted.

Excuse me, Mr. President, but they did vote. That is why you lost the popular vote by a margin equal to the entire number of voters in Arizona. Losing the popular vote has consequences. It means that you failed to win the respect of the electorate, and the daily disrespect has just begun.

Media coverage post-script: As Larry Goldstein noted in an e-mail today, at least CNN refused to act as if it were Fox News light and roll over in accepting Sean Spicer’s outrageous exaggerations about the size of the inaugural attendance. See the following article in the NY Times for a scientific report on the crowd size of these events.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/22/us/politics/womens-march-trump-crowd-estimates.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0