Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Resistance Kicks Off, Big League!

Saturdays are pretty much a lost cause for me, my typical schedule is to return from work around 5AM, sleep for two-and-a-half hours, then go to Manhattan to coach children's judo classes from 9:20AM to 11:45AM, returning home by about 1:30PM and napping for an hour and a half before getting ready to work at 5PM. This morning, though, I was sick as a dog- it might be a bad cold, but I'm feeling kinda beat up, so it could be the flu. I sent a blanket text message to the other coaches, telling everybody that I wasn't in a sharing mood. I blasted my sinuses a couple of times with my neti pot, set my alarm for 11AM, and spent the better part of the day sandwiched between the covers, listening to the radio. I may have been a non-starter today, but I listened to the coverage of the multiple marches for women's rights while I lay still, continuously blowing my nose.

WOW, is all I have to say, this global movement, the day after Vulgarmort's lackluster inauguration, has the potential to be a true game-changer if its momentum is maintained. Women are tragically unrepresented in congress- about twenty-percent of Congresscritters are women, while women represent about fifty-one percent of the population. As much as I had mocked the 'Tea Party' movement on the right, those fuckers got out and voted, and they supported candidates from the local level to the federal level. I sure hope that the marches, which were impressive, will lead to workshops, which will lead to networking in order to increase the percentage of women in the government. Liberals and progressives tend to have a bad track record when it comes to voting in midterm elections... this is a mistake that must not be repeated. The women of the United States demonstrated their potential power, now they have to grab it- the Orange Ogre shouldn't be the only one grabbing what he wants. Pussy Power is one thing, but Poll Power has to be the long-term goal.

Friday, January 20, 2017

From Hope to Carnage

It's typical for incoming presidents to have a theme that they plug, a vision for America. With past president *sniff* Barack Obama, the theme was 'HOPE', immortalized in Shepard Fairey's iconic graphic (Mr Fairey created new posters for today's inaugural). The newly-minted president of these United States had an entirely different theme to his inauguration:

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

Looking around my somewhat hardscrabble city, I really don't see the bloodbath that Trump describes. I sure as hell, though, don't see an education system flush with cash (with notable exceptions...), I sure don't think the local teachers' lounges have teak paneling.

Even worse is Trump's self-characterization as the hero who will lift the cowed, beaten down masses out of poverty and despair:

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.

I will fight for you with every breath in my body – and I will never, ever let you down.
America will start winning again, winning like never before.

We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.

We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.

We will get our people off of welfare and back to work – rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.

We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American.

This is coming from a man who's merchandise is largely made overseas and whose hotels are largely staffed with foreign guest workers. For a real golden shower oldie, Trump's signature property was built by illegal immigrants who were told to work without safety equipment.

I don't put a lot of confidence in the words of an individual, especially a blowhard like Vulgarmort- I look at their actions. Trump's words, though, are offensive, mendacious, divisive, and larded with dogwhistles about political foes. His speech is a calumny against wide swaths of the American people, and a pack of lies about his plans for them.

I'd take hope over carnage any day, even if the carnage is, for the time being, fake.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Goodbye, Normal Society?

Tomorrow, Vulgarmort ascends to the position of Commander-in-Chief... that's a pretty bizarre notion in and of itself. I'm an unabashed liberal, I believe that a good, competent government that provides checks on corporate power and ruthless individual behavior is to be desired... I also firmly believe that a society is to be judged by how its least fortunate residents fare- there are plenty of failed states in which there are very rich individuals and families. Tomorrow, though, a thin-skinned oligarch who is completely amoral and has a tenuous grasp on reality, will become the most powerful individual on the planet, and he is surrounding himself with other oligarchs, both related and non-related. In disquieting fashion, he even stated that he is going to stage Soviet-and/or-North Korean style military parades- he's not even hiding his desire to be a tinpot despot anymore.

The really bizarre thing is that my day-to-day existence really won't change at all, even though the United States of America has been kidnapped by kleptocrats and replaced with some sort of Changeling America. The Days of Dubya were surreal enough, but the coming administration is going to be some sort of grotesque farce. Still, though, tomorrow I will head off to work as usual, on Saturday, I'll get up early and take the subway to Manhattan to teach. I doubt the mood on the train will be as bad as it was post-election, and our conversation between classes will probably be similar to the conversations we've had for the past three months. Still, something has fundamentally changed. We will have a president who picks fights with actors on a social media app, a president who blithely talks about disbanding treaties that have held for over half-a-century. Everything has changed, but the routine for me will be the same, with some unsettling exceptions... occasionally, I will have to have conversations with immigrant, Muslim, and LGBTQ friends that I've never had to have before, even in the worst days of Bush 2.0. I've had those conversations in the past three months, but now the challenge is to back up reassurances with actions if need be. Tomorrow, everything changes, I know it intellectually, but it will take a while before reality sinks in on a 'gut' level.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Barack Obama's Last Press Conference

I listened to President Obama's last press conference today, and I was suffused with melancholy... this is the last time we will hear an articulate, calm, and competent American executive speak for the foreseeable future. I'm going to miss hearing an educated person speaking in multisyllable words as if he were talking to adults. I going to miss it Big League. The president threw down a gauntlet to the press, which they will hopefully take to heart:

That does not of course mean that I’ve enjoyed every story that you have filed, but that’s the point of this relationship. You’re not supposed to by sycophants, you’re supposed to be skeptics, you’re supposed to ask me tough questions. You’re not supposed to be complimentary, but you’re supposed to cast a critical eye on folks who hold enormous power and make sure that we are accountable to the people who sent us here. And you have done that. And you have done it for the most part in ways that I could appreciate for fairness even if I didn’t always agree with your conclusions. And having you in this building has made this place work better, it keeps us honest, it makes us work harder, you’ve made us think about how we are doing what we do and whether or not we’re able to deliver on what’s been requested by our constituents. And, for example, every time you’ve asked “why haven’t you cured Ebola yet?” or “Why is there still that hole in the gulf?” it has given me the ability to go back to my team and say “will you get this solved before the next press conference?”
I’ve spent a lot of time in my farewell address talking about the state of our democracy. IT goes without saying that essential to that is a free press. That is part of how this place, this country, this grand experiment in self-government has to work. It doesn’t work if we don’t have a well-informed citizenry, and you are the conduit through which they receive information about what is taking place in the halls of power. So America needs you and democracy needs you. We need you to establish a baseline of facts and evidence that we can use as a starting point for the kind of reasoned and informed debates that ultimately lead to progress. So my hope is that you will continue with the same tenacity that you showed us to do the hard work of getting to the bottom of stories and getting them right and to push those of us in power to be the best version of ourselves. And to push this country to be the best version of itself. I have no doubt that you will do so. I’m looking forward to being an active consumer of your work, rather than always the subject of it. I want to thank you all for your extraordinary service to our democracy, and with that I will take some questions.

The preamble to the press conference can be summed up as: "Do your jobs!" President Obama gave some subtle digs at Trump for planning to move the press corps out of the White House, and challenged the press to play the necessary role of check on political power. In his inimitable 'no drama' way, he lectured the assembled press corp to push back against the 'fake news' that has so tainted this political cycle.

As a nerd-American, I am going to miss this intellectual president. While he wasn't the 'liberal messiah' that his detractors believed his supporters believed he was, he was measured and prudent... something to be cherished after the unabashed, irresponsible adventurism and kleptocracy of his predecessor, seemingly ramped up to eleven by his successor. President Obama's tenure in the White House was unmarred by scandal, free of major blunders- all in the face of Republican hostility and intransigence. If he had had a loyal opposition, one which hadn't attempted to sabotage his every accomplishment, I imagine he could have achieved truly great things.

At the very least, I will remember the past eight years as a dreamtime during which a president could string together coherent sentences, a near-decade of sagacity sandwiched between the misrules of C-plus Augustus and Pee-plus Augustus. Le sigh...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Maya Angelou Was Right

The late, great Maya Angelou coined an aphorism which should be rendered in needlepoint and hung on the walls of every American: “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” Oddly enough, though, some people really don't get this- exhibit A being: "I voted for Donald Trump because I wanted to see change in our country. One change I didn’t want to see was access to health care at Planned Parenthood blocked."

Le sigh...

Besides choosing virulently anti-choice Mike Pence as his running mate, Donald Trump came out and said that he'd defund Planned Parenthood during one of the GOP debates:

I'm still wrapping my head around the notion that people would vote for a guy who made clear-cut statements about his policy proposals, believing that he wouldn't follow through with them. Not too long ago, one of Trump's spokescritters exhorted the public not to pay attention to Trump's words, but to 'look into his heart' (funny, all I see is arteriosclerosis)... basically, she was urging people to trust him precisely because he's lying.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Via Tengrain, we have a hilarious juxtaposition of the sacred and the profane that was sent to him by zrm. This reminded me of a similarly-themed bit of artwork I came across in Brooklyn:

Now, this is a Holy Family for our debased age, a perfect blending of the sort of religiosity and consumerism that leads to televangelists selling potato slop on the t00b. It's still not as crass as the prosperity gospel, though.

Friday, January 13, 2017

About that Canadian Drug Importation Bill

I'm going to have to sound a somewhat contrary note regarding the thirteen Democratic senators who didn't support the bill to allow the cheap importation of drugs from Canada. The issue of cheap Canadian drugs is a red herring, because these drugs are typically American-made drugs which are exported to Canada at low cost because the Canadian Health Services buy in bulk and can negotiate low prices. Here in the 'States, the Republicans placed a ban on Medicare negotiating directly with the pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of medicines. The solution to the problem is not to buy back our own drugs from Canada, but to give Medicare the power to use leverage on the pharmaceutical industry to lower prices. I love Canada, and Canadians (check out my blogroll), but I don't see them as the saviors of sick Americans, Canadian drugs are a poor solution to an engineered problem. We need to free Medicare to buy the pharmaceuticals at low cost... personally, I'd nominate Dick Valentine to head up such an effort:

The sick joke behind this whole tragic mishegas is that American taxpayers foot the bill for the development of the drugs that bring huge profits to Big Pharma.