Friday, July 28, 2017

Systemic Evil

“The truth is out,” wrote Julian Zelizer, after the Senate failed to pass even the so-called skinny repeal of the Affordable Care Act. “Nobody is in control of this show.”


On the day of the Trump inauguration, I posted the following to my Facebook page:
Today is a watershed moment in American history. I have nothing but a sense of foreboding for the next four to eight years.

Yesterday I came across a 1999 article by James W. Douglass called A Letter to the American People,” which states in part:

“Two prophets, a president, and a president-to-be were martyred between November 1963 and June 1968, four and a half years that raised some of the greatest hopes in American history. Has our downward spiral ever since as a people, from hope to despair, from faith in change to an acceptance of systemic evil, been because we haven’t recognized the truth of those martyrdoms, bound up as they were with unspeakable forces that continue to threaten us all?”

Douglass refers, of course, to JFK, RFK, MLK, and Malcolm X.

It is tempting to view today’s events in Washington as a logical product of those four martyrdoms, and of that subsequent downward spiral. Certainly it is an ascension of systemic evil.

But I also sense resistance: a very real pushback against this systemic evil. I won’t be in DC tomorrow, but I’ll be in Denver, in solidarity with what I expect to be a very large crowd of resisters.

I recall the words of Faruq Z. Bey:

Is it midnight yet?
Are our fears to go ungrounded?
When are the demons to present themselves?

The next day I was, indeed, in Denver, where at least 100,000 people demonstrated against the new “president.” An exhilarating experience: part of a global protest against the most unfit office-holder in U.S. history. Millions took part, worldwide.

Trump has, in the months since, repeatedly demonstrated his incompetence. Now, in late July, it seems like the administration is coming apart at the seams. A word like “dysfunctional” is not strong enough to characterize it.

I get the sense that there is growing opposition to Trump within the Republican establishment. There appears to have been a successful effort to prevent ACA repeal. They’ll try again. Certainly, it is difficult not to sense, however distant it may still be, victory over this vulgar, manifestly unqualified, grotesquely substandard, transparently corrupt caricature of a president.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Stuff of Dictators

Six months into what, with luck, will be a single, truncated term for an illegitimate president, I still find it difficult to write that illegitimate president’s name. This seems fairly common. I often see references to “45,” or “Drumpf.”

Trump, the imposter, campaigned on a handful of vague ideas, like building that idiotic wall and barring people he doesn’t like from entering the country. The last remaining hope for his travel ban is the Supreme Court – weighted in his favor, thanks to GOP duplicity.

He also pledged to “drain the swamp.” The DC ecosystem hasn’t changed much; certainly not for the better. The White House is itself a biohazard, oozing toxic sewage.

As this is written, the GOP plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act has apparently crashed and burned, perhaps for the last time. Let’s hope so. Yet what can you say about a party and a president who are, to date, unable to pass a single significant bill – in spite of controlling the White House, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court?

The indefatigable Trump requires someone to blame. He tweeted that “we” were “let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans.”

Later, in a rare non-tweeted remark, he said, “We’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us and they’re going to say how do we fix it?”

This is his idea of leadership?

For nearly a year, I’ve been using this minuscule LUNG forum to vent my frustrations, resentment, and even rage at this fraud, beginning with a post in August 2016. I titled that one “President Trump,” at a time when joining those two words seemed obscene, even menacing. They are still obscene and menacing.

Since it has become a reality, I have continued. Almost no one reads these posts – certainly not Trump supporters. It’s fighting a forest fire with a squirt gun. But I must continue, for all the good it doesn’t do.

Along the way I’ve become a fan of Charles M. Blow, the New York Times columnist, who has been using his vastly influential position to really go after Trump. “I don’t trust anything — anything! — coming out of this White House,” he wrote last May, in a column titled “Trump is Insulting Our Intelligence.”

I anticipate each new Charles Blow column, even though he’s mostly preaching to the choir. I see him from time to time as a talking head on MSNBC or CNN. He was interviewed recently on Charlie Rose, that PBS interview program. Blow said he isn’t trying to change anyone’s mind, so much as bear witness. I guess that's what I am doing, too.

I love Charles M. Blow's stuff, but it doesn’t square with my conception of the mainstream media, which ordinarily is part of the problem. Maybe his and similar columns suggest the Establishment is trying to undo what Blow called the most significant mistake the country has ever made.

If I was a newspaper reporter, working in the context of a 1940s movie, and I was writing what I’m writing right now, I’d have to tear the paper from my Smith Corona, crumple it up, and toss it, exasperated, into the wastebasket.

There would be a cigarette dangling from my lips, and atop my head, a stylish fedora pushed back at a rakish angle. Thered be coffee, black coffee – lots of it – and a bottle of not-very-good scotch concealed in my desk drawer.

But I’m not a reporter in a 1940s movie, I’m writing this silly blog post – so I don’t have to trash what I’ve got so far and start over. Yet that is the temptation, as I hear (via Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell) that Trump is toying with the idea of pardons – for aides, for family members, and himself.

It may only be a trial balloon – but that’s the stuff of dictators.

Anyway it’s nearly three o’clock, as you can see, and I’m on deadline. What do I make of this latest development? How do I handle it? What will Perry White say?

We live in interesting times.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Say No More

“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters.”

Hubris is extreme pride and arrogance shown by a character that ultimately brings about his downfall.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Olo Boiler Welding

That thing that looks like a big green cube in the photo below is really a historic old building in downtown Denver.

It’s located near the city’s Union Station transit terminal. I pass it almost every day on my way to work. The photo was taken from a moving bus in early July 2017, using my cell phone.

The building began to intrigue me a year or so ago. I really love these old brick buildings. For me, they evoke great nostalgia, like a Scott Joplin rag.

I became so fascinated with this building that one Saturday morning on my day off, I took the bus to Union Station, my bike on the cowcatcher in front, and rode the four or five blocks to this building to check it out. I took more than seventy pictures, a few of them shown here.

Later I tried to find out something about the building. Even though it’s a registered historic landmark, and has been since 1986, I couldn’t find a scrap of information. (And I thought Google was infinitely powerful!)

It is, or once was, called the Olo Boiler Building - whatever that means. That’s about all I know.

After taking all those pictures, I rode my bike home. It took about two hours.

Now, a year later, that old redbrick building is draped in green, and its immediate surroundings are deeply excavated. I don’t know what the work is all about, but I’m glad to see the building is being preserved.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Real West Wing

The West Wing used to be among my favorite guilty pleasures. A TV drama set primarily in the White House, it’s about a fictional President of the United States, one Josiah Bartlett, and his family and staff.

Josiah Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen, is the kind of president you dream of: a man sincerely interested in the good of the American people, and motivated to always do the right thing.

He is genuinely enthusiastic for those things that always have, and still do, make America great – not just its Constitution and Bill of Rights, but its natural treasures, like the National Park System. “I’m a bit of a nut about the parks,” Bartlett says in the first season. He sometimes keeps exhausted staffers listening late into the night, as he goes on and on about Park trivia.

In any given episode, one or more of these staffers face moral and ethical dilemmas. Bright and idealistic, and totally committed, they usually do the right thing. But there are occasional lapses, for which they pay a price, and/or learn an important lesson about governance and/or themselves.

I’ve always recognized The West Wing as fantasy, and the characters as too squeaky clean to be believed. But I like the dialogue; provided you don’t take any of it seriously, it’s a harmless diversion. If only our real public servants were so committed!

But I can’t enjoy it like I used to. The current, real-life occupant of the White House makes it much less pleasurable, even as escapist claptrap. The contrast between TV and reality is so sharp, I cannot flip that brain-switch that allows me to suspend disbelief, and take The West Wing for the guilty pleasure it once was.

Oddly, some take the opposite position. As I prepared this blog post I came across an article that said some people are binging on The West Wing “to cope with the Trump presidency.” Someone named Kate actually said: “I’ve been watching West Wing on Netflix just to see a competent government.”

A competent government?’s fictional.

Even House of Cards, a much darker, much grittier portrayal of American political life, has become hard for me to watch. Its protagonist is thoroughly, unambiguously corrupt, but it’s still a fantasy.

Nothing can surpass the corruption, the negative energy emanating from the real-life White House.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Choose One: Trump is a) a chicken-shit; b) a coward; c) gutless; d) all of the above

When Trump is unfairly attacked, “he will punch back ten times harder.”

This wisdom, this penetrating insight, is attributed to Melania Trump. It’s a steaming load of horseshit.

I’ve about had it with President Pig. Trump’s Twitter tirades, his “punching back,” whether he’s targeting the media in general or specific media or political figures (Mika Brzezinski, SNL, Chuck Schumer, e.g.) are about as courageous as a guy who gives you the finger for cutting him off in traffic.

He’s a gutless blowhard, like bullies always are: all bluster and lies. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.

Yet Trump holds the reins of power. There is no denying that. And he must be stopped: there’s no denying that, either. By now, his base knows this, though they’ll never admit it. The ones who won’t accept it are as delusional as their hero.

But I, for one, could not care less about his “base.” I am sick to death of hearing about them – as if they’re some all-powerful entity we must appease. They are vastly outnumbered. Their guy lost the election by three million popular votes. So, fuck ’em.

On weekdays, I have a long, often dull commute home on public transit. (On the way in, I work.) Last December, to pass the time, I created some bogus Trump Tweets; I’ve inserted a few, further down in this post.

I suspect that Trump, the intoxication of his campaign long gone, is losing interest in the Presidency. Maybe he understands, at last, that it hasn’t made him King Donald; certainly he is under a scrutiny he never bargained for. Which explains his childish lashing out.

On the other hand, the presidency feeds his lust for power, so maybe he’s in it for the duration – until his inevitable comeuppance, and public humiliation.

Every day brings a new outrage. As I write this on a Saturday morning in the western United States, the Associated Press reports Trump as tweeting: “Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?”

Interesting question from a man who has steadfastly refused to release his tax returns. (His “question,” of course, is in reference to his police state demand for detailed information about every voter in the country.)