Category Archives: Presidental Election

Film Ground Level Conditions Presidental Election

“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.

Ground Level Conditions Political Graphics Presidental Election

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.

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

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.

Ground Level Conditions Health Care Presidental Election

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?


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?


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.

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.

Censorship Ground Level Conditions Poetry Presidental Election

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

Sunday, January 22, 2017


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.

Presidental Election

On the Necessity of Resistance to Submissive Grief

January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day: On the Necessity of Resistance to Submissive Grief

Part One

On the Martin Luther King’s holiday weekend, I reflected once again on how much his assassination changed the course of American history. First, though, consider that if Bobby Kennedy had not also been assassinated, he would most likely have defeated Richard Nixon in 1968; the Vietnam War would then have found its way to a cease-fire of some sorts that allowed American troops to withdraw and for the tragedy of that civil war to resolve itself without dragging Cambodia into its vortex. After Bobby Kennedy’s terms as president, the next obvious candidate to succeed him would have been Martin Luther King, Jr.; Jimmy Carter would have made a great vice-president.

It’s possible, and even likely, that this nation would have experienced a conservative backlash against twelve years of Kennedy and King, but I doubt that trail would have led to the debacle of two terms of George W. Bush as President and Donald J. Trump’s inauguration today as the current President. Let us never forget how much the liberal side of American politics suffered as a result of the targeted executions of some of our most inspiring public figures.

As for the new president, I intent to “honor” his official embrace of power in my first day of classes for the Spring semester (on Monday, January 23) with a reading of Robert Lowell’s poem, “Inauguration Day, 1953” as a reminder of how this nation has been through similar disheartening moments. Whether we will survive Trump’s presidency as well as the nation managed to emerge from Ike’s eight years is a strenuously doubtful conjecture.

“He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot.” – Groucho Marx

Part Two

I want to thank the poets and fiction writers who showed up at Beyond Baroque on Sunday afternoon, January 15, to participate in a public reading of protest against the oncoming disaster of Trump’s reign. These individuals included William Archila, Aimee Bender, Ron Carlson, Geoff Dyer, Amy Gerstler, Doug Kearney, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Alicia Partnoy, Mona Simpson, Lynne Thompson, David Ulin, Vanessa Villarreal, and Amy Wilentz. (source: )

No doubt these individuals represent the same kind of “professional protesters, incited by the media” as those who denounced the “victory” of a candidate who lost the popular vote by more than two million, seven hundred and fifty thousand votes. The margin of Trump’s “defeat” and his self-satisfied presumption of his right to power remain one of the most profound contradictions in recent American history.

In case you are wondering what a margin of almost 3,000,000 votes means, imagine, if you will, a tie vote between Clinton and Trump, but with the votes from one state still completely uncounted. Dressed as formally as if it were Academy Awards night, two people come out and stand in front of a podium. They are going to reveal the results of the final state, one that is as large as Colorado, Indiana, or Arizona. A man hands a woman an envelope that contains the results of that one state’s vote. EVERY VOTE IN THAT STATE WAS FOR HILLARY CLINTON. The margin of “defeat” for Hillary Clinton is the equivalent of an entire state the size of Colorado or Indiana or Arizona giving every one of its votes to her. It’s still hard to believe that such a significant margin could not result in a triumphant election to the Presidency.

The 2016 general election for the presidency was decided by professional spies and espionage agents. Unpaid protesters are unfortunately no match for the arsenal at their disposal; the fate of the planet has never been more tenuous.

Ground Level Conditions Presidental Election

Shoe vs. Slipper Salute to Trump’s Inauguration

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Towards the end of George W. Bush’s second term of office, I recollect that he visited Iraq, and during a press conference suddenly found himself ducking a pair of shoes that were hurled his way by a man justifiably outraged at the havoc that Cheney and he had unleashed on his nation. “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” we were told, and and millions of us in the United States knew it was a lie, but we could not stop the war. As a final protest, this brave man offered Bush an insult better understood in the Arab world than here.

Such a gesture would seem appropriate for what is about to happen tomorrow, though of course the shoes should not be aimed at him as such, but only close enough to his entourage of wealthy cockroaches that he gets the hint. Given the weather, though, and the protective moat built around his accomplices, I’m sorry to say that throwing one’s shoes at the compass point of his filched election would only be a pathetic, futile gesture, even if 10,000 people were to do it.

Better to stay home, and if you cannot resist keeping your television set turned off, then get your bedroom slippers and practice on your screen. Soft toss lobs, only. This is spring training, after all. Save your arm for when we need to hurl our hiking boots to protest the despoilment of the Republic.

Autobiography Books Ground Level Conditions Poetry Presidental Election

A New Year’s Sketch

January 1, 2017

I have only a little time this morning to jot a few quick notes, for Linda and I are heading to Ramona, California to visit her sisters and their families. We saw Anita and her grandson Brayden on the day after Christmas in Thousand Oaks, at Sharon Cleary’s home, but we haven’t seen Pam and Earl and her family in quite some time, and we are looking forward to the visit. I must admit that I feel nervous about the trip. My extended family has been involved in two serious automobile accidents in the past month, neither of which was their fault in any way. My mother handed in her driving license, at age 92, of her own volition and without any prompting whatsoever, because she said that she’d never been in any accidents during 70 years of driving and wanted to keep that perfect record. I doubt that many people in urban areas these days will be able to make the same claim at the end of this century.

I have a particularly challenging year awaiting my immediate attention: if I am up at 6:00 and writing my entry to this blog, it is because there is a long list of things to do to assist in my mother’s care. At this point, I am the one with power of attorney for a 95 year old woman. Each and every day there is some detail or a distinct errand to bear down on. Sometimes it is only a matter of luck that things get resolved. I was at my mother’s home branch of her bank in Imperial Beach this past Wednesday, and in talking with Ms. Hernandez I found out about a certain financial procedure, which two days later someone at my local branch of the bank in Long Beach said couldn’t be done. I suggested she call Ms. Hernandez, and the issue got resolved, but if I hadn’t visited my mother’s branch of the bank (over 100 miles from where I live) on Wednesday, I would have been out of luck in a very crucial matter on Friday.

I will be meeting with my brothers, Jim and John, later today to talk about my mother’s situation and what she can afford in terms of assisted care living. One other brother and two sisters are either cut off from the family or live elsewhere. There is a chance tomorrow that I will have a day without having to manage as aspect of my mother’s life. I have packed a couple of books to take with me, if that proves to be the case. One of them is James M. Cain’s Serenade, a novel about a down-and-outer in Mexico whose view of that nation and its citizens makes Donald Trump’s tweets seem diplomatically astute. I’ve long been a fan of Malcolm Lowery’s Under the Volcano; and Cain’s book in its own way is as equally well written. On a technical level, the control of tone and the rhythm of his sentence is masterful. Whether you want the narrator’s company for 200 pages is another matter. He certainly wins the Ancient Mariner award in my recent reading.

I hope to post reviews and commentary on several poets in the upcoming weeks, including Charles Harper Webb (in part three of a series on his editing and writing), Michael Hannon, and Kevin Opstedal. Opstedal’s collection of poems, Pacific Standard Time, is probably my favorite book of poems right now. I recommend that everyone get a copy of it right now and spend the first week of 2017 strengthening one’s imagination through an encounter with a poet who will enable you to alter the reality proposed by politicians and their compliant bureaucrats.

Finally, while we seek each other’s comfort in the struggles ahead, let us not forget that the divisions within this country are viewed as opportunities by nefarious individuals for their private profit. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3,000,000 votes. I had predicted a margin of almost 5,000,000 votes, so I was off considerably, but nevertheless this was not a close election, especially considering the Russian interference and complementary activism by agents within the Federal Bureau of Investigation. More people believed that Clinton was qualified to be President than Trump. That President-Elect Trump wants us to “move on with our lives” is a bit ridiculous, given his insistence on the need to investigate Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server.

Of the many concerns we should have about Trump, not least is his policy on nuclear weapons. That these weapons are intended to kill non-combatants, and in particular women and children, makes them immoral and evil beyond the reprehensible scale of ordinary war. If Trump does not care to remember what his advocacy of an increased number of these weapons means in regards to his moral well-being, then we will need to remind him in no uncertain terms that it is time for a reckoning with his conscience that cannot be tweeted away.

Ground Level Conditions Presidental Election

Two Million Disenfranchised (aka “Illegal”) Voters: the 36th Largest State

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Two Million Nasty Voters: the 36th Largest State

The best comment I’ve read so far about the tendencies of the electorate, in November, 2016, was made by one of my favorite contemporary poets, Michael Lally: “Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, but every racist voted for Trump.” As perceptive as Lally’s chiastic analysis is, it occurred to me shortly after I read it to offer a friendly amendment: “Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, but every racist who voted voted for Trump.” I offer that amendment because not every racist voted. That’s obvious, isn’t it? After all, if every racist in this country had voted, would Donald Trump have lost the popular vote by an astonishing and unprecedented margin of 2,300,000 votes?

On the other hand, even if every racist had voted, maybe Trump still would have lost by a half-million votes. Regardless of the margin of Trump’s defeat in the popular vote, however, the fact that he lost the popular vote confirms a gap of public confidence that raises serious questions about his assumption of power. How appropriate is it to have the quality of life of tens of millions of people in this country determined by a man whose idea of political success is pandering to the wealthy? All one has to do to understand the oncoming catastrophe is look at the people Trump has nominated to serve in his cabinet.

At this point, though, we have learned the answer to one theoretical question about the outcome of the election. Should Trump have lost the electoral college vote, as well as the popular vote, and Hillary Clinton was about to become the next president, what would he be doing? The same thing he is doing now: He would be fomenting the public sphere, claiming that her victory was the outcome of millions of voters who marked ballots “illegally.” It would be non-stop fulmination, and as with many of his pronouncements in the past year and a year he would offer no evidence to back it up. That Trump won the Electoral College and feels compelled to assault the integrity of the election tell those who voted for Clinton how little he respects them. “Nasty voters are illegal voters,” seems to be his mantra.

Clinton is the second Democratic presidential candidate in the past two decades to win the popular vote and lose the electoral college. One difference between Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, however, is that the popular vote in 2000 was basically a statistical tie. There is no statistical tie in 2016’s presidential election. The gap between Clinton and Trump rounds off to two percent, which effectively means that “Disenfranchised” become the 36th largest state in the United States, larger than eight other states that voted for Trump.

I have heard a rumor that Trump is threatening the citizenship status of anyone who burns the American flag. As offensive as I find the burning of the flag, it is far more offensive to find our nation in a situation in which over 2,000,000 votes are for all intents and purposes put in an incinerator.

I predicted that Clinton would win the popular vote by 5,000,000. I was off in that estimate by over 50 percent, but she nevertheless won the popular vote. If Trump can’t bring himself to admit in a public statement that a woman candidate got millions of votes more than he did, then he is not worthy of taking the oath of office in January. Losing the popular vote is a minor crisis, relatively speaking, to the kinds of emergencies that Trump will face in the next four years. No president can ever hope to escape the crisis mode, and if he can’t handle this minor crisis, how can he ever hope to govern?

If President-Elect Catasterisk (Catastrophic Asterisk) wants to show leadership, then he should make the abolition of the Electoral College one of his immediate priorities. However, he is caught in a bind in doing so, for such leadership will only remind people of how he has benefited from a political arrangement that grew out of this nation’s racist history.

Ground Level Conditions Presidental Election

Trump’s Wall: Side One of Camp Hercules

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Trump’s Wall: Side One of Camp Hercules

News outlets have reported that a public school teacher has been suspended for comparing Trump to Hitler. While that comparison obviously struck public school bureaucrats as being a nasty rush to judgment, the teacher was hardly breaking ground within the public sphere. Given the radical tenor of Trump’s campaign, the teacher’s juxtaposition of Trump and Hitler is a reasonable mock-up that is a well-worn trope by now.

In point of fact, Trump will soon have at his immediate disposal enough weaponry to eradicate all human life on this planet, and he has not shown sufficient composure in dealing with infinitely less stressful situations to reassure me about his command of this weaponry. In an attempt to quell public panic, Trump said in a “60 Minutes” interview that his opponents “should not be afraid.”

I am not afraid.

I am terrified.

I’ll grant you that Hitler’s track record will be difficult to surpass. But let’s be honest about the planet’s prospects: Hitler’s scale of evil is likely to have serious competition in the next decade or two, and Donald J. Trump has fashioned himself into a viable candidate to join the parade of potential competitors. The appointment of Steve Bannon is hardly a disqualifying move. Maybe we will be lucky, though, and Trump’s term(s) of office will only be an extraordinary disaster, such as the one that occurred at the end of George W. Bush’s terms of office.

This is to say that Trump’s administration may not end up making “The Killing Fields” look like a Sunday school picnic. What’s the value in being unduly pessimistic? Maybe I’m completely overreacting. After all, I am hardly the best prognosticator in Los Angeles. I certainly was not able to foresee, for instance, the consequences of a previous instance of a President who lost the popular vote, but won the Electoral College. I remember watching the 2000 debates between Gore and George W. Bush. The latter seemed earnest and intelligent enough to serve as governor of Texas. In closely listening to him, though, I didn’t believe that he possessed the acuity needed to be president of the United States. He didn’t strike me as profoundly incompetent, however. How wrong I was.

By the end of his second term, the overwhelming majority of my fellow citizens felt equally chagrined. Indeed, we all know how his presidency turned out: the United States invaded Iraq, without sufficient justification. That invasion was based, in part, on a lie. Furthermore, should anyone wonder whether I am exaggerating the case against Bush, the prolonged reiteration of deceitful propaganda leading up to the war was quite clearly established when Bush argued retrospectively in the 2004 Presidential debates that “They (i.e., Iraq) invaded us.”

I knew things were hopeless in this country, in 2004, when nothing in the polls budged after that particular, egregious lie. The people who supported Bush did not care that Bush distorted the war’s justification with a total fabrication. In conflating Al-Queda with Iraq, Bush engaged in a sleight of hand that was nothing short of contributing to a criminal conspiracy to generate profits for the war industry in this country.

As for the financial calamity that spun like an apocalyptic tornado into the American economy near the end of Bush’s second term, let me be blunt and say that this is not some abstraction that stirs me to righteous anger on behalf of other people. It’s much more local than that, for the Great Recession destroyed my family’s economic well-being, and while it has partially recovered, it will remain a hampered, depressed situation until I die. It is permanent damage. Economically speaking, I will never walk again.

Trump is far less qualified, in both intelligence and experience, to be President than George W. Bush. When I consider how Bush’s eight years in office led to an economic and global political catastrophe, then how can I not be terrified at the outcome of an election resulting in a president-elect far inferior in the ability to govern?

Friends, as well as the ideologically invested media businesses of this country’s infrastructure, urge me to stay calm. Our ecological crisis, however, is at the tipping point, and the planet’s ability to sustain human civilization is no longer merely struggling to breathe. An all-out asthma attack will soon begin, and will no doubt contribute to the need of the Trump administration to distract the population through starting a war with an enemy well primed to be the “bad guy.” Trump, for instance, could easily find ways to put enough pressure on North Korea that its tenterhooks leadership will launch a missile with a nuclear bomb at the U.S. mainland. If that attack vaporized an American city, Trump would not give it a second thought other than its propaganda value. Oh, he would cry crocodile tears, but it would all be a perfidious show.

Trump is as phony a patriot as any con artist politician who has ever run for office. I have seen nothing from Trump that indicates he cares about his fellow citizens as being anything other than exploitable customers. If he is offered the chance to “cash in” several million disposable chips, he will take it. Even if Trump were given advance warning from national intelligence services, he would first consider the advantages of not lifting a finger to prevent it. From Trump’s point of view, the death of a couple million Americans in a sneak attack would just be the cost of doing business and giving America a chance to be “great” again.

I am terrified, and to pretend otherwise requires an act of unparalleled self-control. If you should meet me in person, do not mistake my mien for my inner state of equilibrium. The late poet Don Gordon was correct: “We are only on leave from Auschwitz.”

I have no doubt that James Comey is already assembling a list of names to be in the first round of citizens shipped off to a camp currently on the drawing boards at FBI headquarters. My guess is that the first part of the camp is being built to take advantage of another construction project proposed by Trump. This is to say that the first part of this camp is being built under the guise of a “wall” designed to close the Southwestern border between the United States and Mexico. Let no one imagine that walls cannot have two uses. Side one of the four sides needed to construct a concentration camp: soon in place. Only three sides needed to complete the job.
It will be named Camp Hercules as a tribute to the strength demonstrated by President Trump in defeating Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose initials are prominent in the camp’s name.

Ground Level Conditions Poetry Presidental Election

Fight or Flight — The Social Imaginary of “Canada”

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Substantial protests against Trump’s election have spontaneously begun in cities across the country, and I imagine that their participants are familiar enough with the outcome of protests to dismiss any hope of remediation. As of yesterday, the gap in the popular vote between Clinton and Trump had grown to over a half-million, thereby replicating the same disjuncture as in the election of 2000. This time, however, is far more foreboding: the continuing scandalous repression of the popular vote and the ability of fascist elements in the United States to control the outcome of elections on a national level is only slightly discomfiting compared to the dystopia about to be unleashed on us.

It is a fundamental question of fight or flight. Few of us have the resources to flee; as for fight, we can afford few mistakes, whereas those about to take power will be indulged regardless of the grievousness of their errors. If California suffers the long predicted earthquake during the next four years, it will marinate in the rubble indefinitely. Trump won’t lift a finger. George W. Bush was hardly a president that New Orleans could rely on, and the West Coast had better be prepared for a worst-case scenario.

In the meantime, I take solace in the capacity of poets to alleviate the immediate distress with ironic humor. One of my favorite poets is Richard Garcia, who is probably the best living poet published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Rattle magazine posted one of his poems this morning in its “Poets Respond” section. Poets Respond section of Rattle 11/13/16