Monday, December 19, 2016

The Five Stages: A Democrat's Guide to Grief

It will all soon be over.  No, really.  I mean eventually on a long enough time line we all live and die and spend way more time being dead than we ever spent worrying about money, relationships, the environment or politics, but that is not what I am talking about.  The Electoral College process, the end result of which will be (just as it is now) a man named Donald J. Trump as the President-elect.  Then, on January 20th, he will officially take the oath of office and proceed to loot the country blind as his designated cabal of corporate raiders descend en masse onto Washington to flick on the flashing "Open for Business" sign, lest some lobbyist or corporate scumbag kickback agent not get the memo right away.  We have seen this movie before, sadly.  Rest assured, with the system we have in place, we will again.  Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

But there is still a flicker of hope this week amongst spurned Democrats, a flicker that will be stamped out under the cheaper-than-it-looks polished shoe of Donald Trump.  That flicker of hope is that somehow, someway, someone will rise up and, with the will of the Electoral College's bravery behind them, will silence all critics and banish the Donald back to the television from whence he came.  Surely there has to be a storybook ending to this roller coaster ride we've been on these last eighteen months, right?  The good rise up to slay the bad guy?  Hate to say it folks, but life is not a storybook.  It's ugly, messy.  And it looks to be both ugly and messy for some time to come.  No, the electors will not save us.  I am here to map out the stages of grief Democrat/Hillary supporting folks will experience this week as events unfold as I think they will.

Stage 1: Denial

This one we're already in and have been since November 8th: not MY president!  Love Trumps Hate!  In protest after protest, all across the country, sloganeers have been sloganeering on countless signs, shirts and poster boards, usually hoisted high by someone screaming their contents at the top of their lungs.  Surely this cannot be happening.  Surely he did not win.  But, look at how many popular votes Hillary got over him!  How could he win when he said all those horrible things?  Look, I'm sympathetic.  Really, I am.  I was a Bernie supporter but I never wanted Trump.  But this is the system we're stuck with, sadly.  I urge you to weigh the consequences: we continue on with the system we have, leaving it intact for 2020 when we have a chance for someone to throw Trump out on his ass, or we upend the whole apple cart and make it impossible for anyone to ever win ever again.  Do you honestly think this country could rationally amend the Constitution right now, to make things fairer?  Do you honestly think we would not immediately descend into chaos if the electors did not vote how they were allocated under the system we've had in place since this country's founding?  Quote Hamilton all you like, he would not even come close to comprehending what happened in this election, so I doubt his words are very instructive right now.  Just stop.  Hillary lost, and there are many legitimate, controllable ways she could have won.  Destroying the system to help her, or anyone else, end up being President next January is suicide, pure and simple.

Stage 2: Anger

We'll see this starting today: protests, protests, protests.  We will see the following in the next few days, mark my words: large, loud, angry protests in existing flash points like Seattle, Oakland, Portland and other Democratic enclaves, despondent editorializing aplenty, social media reports of angry, sometimes violent confrontations between Democrats and Trump supporters, and enough half-informed memes to make you want to crawl into a warm cup of cocoa from now until New Year's Day.  It will be noisy, and it will be ugly.  Ignore it as best you can.  The anger right now, the death threats against electors, it is all an incredibly misguided waste of time.  Do not waste or use up your anger now.  You will need it later on, when it serves a practical and actionable purpose.  But many will not heed my advice.

Stage 3: Bargaining

The manifestation of this stage, to me and as it pertains to this election, is the Russian hacking narrative.  Is it possible that things happened, possibly things that need some sort of Congressional investigation to get to the bottom of?  Well, they spent four years in Congress to find that Hillary herself did absolutely nothing to warrant any criminal action, and with her defeat chairman Trey Gowdy quietly closed up shop on December 7th, so why not investigate this?  That seems only logical.  But it ends there.  We may never be able to prove Putin knew anything, that Russia had some sort of collusion with the Trump campaign, or that any of this mattered on Election Day.  It may be years before we have any answers at all.  But no matter what we find, it does not change the history written on November 8th and 9th: Trump won.  He lost the popular vote, but captured the requisite number of electoral votes to ascend to office.  Nothing we find on the subject of the Russians or anything Wikileaks did will change that.  I do recommend we find out everything we can, to prevent it from happening again.  But it changes nothing in the here and now.

Stage 4: Depression

This is obvious.  Trump becoming President is depressing.  Having a staunch EPA foe and climate change denier running the EPA, and surely gutting it from within, is depressing.  A Secretary of State cruising the globe to make it easier to burn every drop of fossil fuel possible between now and 2020, with untold damage done to the climate as a result, is depressing.  A union hating fast food chairman as Labor Secretary is depressing.  A cabinet full of Goldman alums surely put there to rub the place blind and blow another bubble guaranteed to explode and cost the taxpayers even more billions is depressing.  But we have to rise above this, to obstruct, to take action, and to expose corruption wherever possible, and use the impeachment process if possible.  But this can only happen after he takes office.  We cannot let depression make us complacent though.  Trump must be obstructed wherever possible.  Act like a Republican and Just Say No.

Stage 5: Acceptance

Optimally the many forces against Trump will be united in criticizing him, obstructing him and defeating him politically in any way possible before the end of his first 100 days in office.  This requires the Hillary supporters currently pushing this "faithless electors/Russian hacking" narrative now to accept that these were losing strategies, just as encouraging Hillary supporters to not worry about picking up Bernie supporters and ignoring much of the American heartland to campaign in coastal liberal strongholds were losing strategies.  Optimally, we're all in this together in 2017 and beyond but honestly, going forward the defeat of Trump is so important, and its base of potential voters so broad and wide-reaching we may not even need most of them to come to their senses.  But hopefully, most of them will.  We accept what happened, and we accept our duty to do everything we can to change it and make sure it never happens again.  Will it happen?

Time will tell.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Trump's Cabinet: American Kleptocracy Defined

The Trump cabinet is shaping up to be the sort of “basket of deplorables” we were all warned about, and the news just keeps getting worse and worse.  Never before in America have we had a group of robber barons with actual government power, at least not since the days of Warren G. Harding and his “Ohio Gang” of corrupt thieves.  Harding also promised to consult some of the “best minds” when making his choices, just as Trump did, and in true Harding fashion Trump instead chose “merely best friends,” in this case fellow travelers amongst the 1% and other corporate leaders.  Let’s go over the latest indignities.

Your Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil.  One can hardly imagine a more nakedly brazen pick for a post of such significance than this one.  Rex Tillerson: long a foe of American foreign policy when it conflicted with the international business interests of the only company he has ever drawn a salary from in his adult life, will now be the international deal-making face of America to the world.  Simply a stunning pick, and one that frames every other pick announced thus far in its proper context.  Simply put: Trump has assembled all the pieces of a corrupt kleptocracy, meant to bleed dry both the national coffers and the wallets of every citizen of this country.  Exxon will now surely get the $500 billion Russian oil deal that sat languishing during Obama sanctions, and every country with some natural resources to spare and a corrupt dictator in charge will certainly be paid a visit, out of pure national interest of course.  One can hardly imagine a man more obviously personally profiting and making huge sums of money for himself and those he considers friends while he is in public office, besides Trump himself of course.  Mark my words: just watch the same Republican whore Congressmen and hack pundits who criticized Obama for high gas prices in 2009 laud the corrupt Trump regime for its “good deal-making” even when oil and gas prices shoot right back up again and ExxonMobil’s profit soars.  Trump voters wanted someone to “drain the swamp,” but instead Trump picked a real life swamp monster to high office.

While we’re on the subject of loathsome creatures let me turn to the next pick we will discuss today: the former Governor of my current state of Texas, “Mr. Oops” himself, most recently seen busting a move with Vanilla Ice on Dancing With The Stars, that’s right everybody, give it up for Rick Perry!  Rick Perry: who in three terms made sure every single donor’s palm was well greased, who turned the entire western half into the state into a moonscape of natural gas fracking sites (seriously, check Google Maps), the man who “oopsed” and forgot the name of the agency he will now purportedly lead: the Department of Energy.  Mark my words: if they can frack for natural gas next to Old Faithful or on the edge of the Grand Canyon and somehow make a buck off of it, the wells will go up under this greased pig’s watch.  Perry is a loathsome creature and further evidence that Trump’s strategy with cabinet picks is twofold: either rob the place blind or shut the place down.  I believe Perry’s job is to mostly do the latter, but I’m sure based on his history in Texas he will find a way to also do the former.

When you add these two recent picks to some of the others that were made: foreclosure king and Goldman alum Steve Mnuchin who will try to top Hank Paulson as the most corrupt Treasury Secretary ever, Gary Cohn who joins Steve and the other Steve in a triad of Goldman hacks, Andrew Puzder who made a name for himself as the anti-union leader of Carl’s Jr and a fan of “hot chicks eating burgers,” and Scott Pruitt, the oil industry insider who made a name for himself by being extremely anti-EPA and who will now run the EPA, the message is clear: abandon all hope.  Trump has quite simply appointed the most loathsome list of “stave the beast,” government hating corporate thieves I have ever seen in my adult life.  I challenge every single Trump voter who honestly believed Trump when he claimed he, like Bernie Sanders, wanted to help the middle class to tell me what they’re thinking as these picks are announced.  Do you honestly believe things will improve for you now with these slimy chucklefucks in charge?  If so you’re more delusional than the Democrats still insisting an Electoral College revolt might still save us.  This might just be Game Over.

So enjoy the ride down the drain, folks.  George Carlin would be having a field day with the news of 2016: he saw all of this coming years ago.  It’s a natural progression: instead of appointing corrupt political hacks to cabinet posts who are lobbied, bribed and cajoled into playing ball with the rich business interests, Trump simply recruited the rich corrupt folks right into the government.  At least this way our tax dollars will be stolen with an additional level of efficiency though, right?  The aim now, for those of all political stripes who oppose this brazen perversion of every function of government, is to harness the ease of information sharing of today and expose what happens in every way possible, and to bear witness.  Those who elected this man need to rue the day, and in short order I am sure they will.  Because anyone who is not a billionaire or currently a CEO of a large company is in for a rough ride these next four years.  But at least it will be entertaining even while it’s horrifying, right?



Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Carrier Deal: "Politician Trump" In a Nutshell

Trump made a really big deal during the campaign that he was not a politician.  He said he, unlike the long line of useless, weak and “dumb” political ignoramuses that had come before him, understood not only how best to govern but more importantly, how best to get the economic engine in America moving again.  Specifically, he said he would be the best one to create jobs and keep jobs here.

This was on display August 12th in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Trump was all puffed up, said “Crooked Hillary” didn’t “have a clue” about jobs, and went on a tear about how weak and ineffectual the usual political tricks were in preventing companies from moving jobs out of the US.  He called out tax abatements, low or zero interest loans and other perks as “dumb” ways to keep companies here and the crowd ate it up and chanted his name.  This was in the heart of steel country, after all, an area long neglected by Democrats and Republicans alike.  So they responded to the attention, very expectedly, and one cannot necessarily blame them for missing Stage 1 of the long con.

For all his bashing of normal politics, Trump has made a very shrewdly political turn before he’s even managed to officially take the oath of office.  He took advantage of his Vice President-Elect being governor of Carrier’s home state, took advantage of the fact that their parent company is a big government contractor, and added 7 million of Indiana’s tax dollars on top as a cherry.  Candidate Trump thinks tax incentives are “dumb,” but President-Elect Trump thinks they are just the thing to Make America Great Again.  And since everything political in America is about “your team vs my team,” Republican apologists and Trump true believers are lining up to say how great a deal this was for all concerned.  It’s pure unmitigated bullshit, pure and simple.

Politically it was a shrewd move, seemingly widely supported by most of America.  I have gotten into arguments with Trump supporters already, and have seen other supporters in public say the same things.  They say Trump kept his promise, that $7 million is a drop in the bucket next to the cost of unemployment and benefits for workers without jobs and that we need to do things like this to stem the globalist tide of offshoring.  But I have only one question for you: if Trump said politicians are weak, and that tax incentives are bad, how can I believe anything you or he says when he does a complete 180 degree flip-flop mere months later and you applaud him for it?  And how repeatable do you think such “deals” are in a state where the VP-elect is not the governor, or where the governor isn’t compliant to Trump’s brand of “deal making?”

For all his emphatic talk about politicians, how slimy they are, how prone they are to lobbyists and special interests and all the rest, Trump will end up being like any other politician.  He will be compliant to lobbyists, he will throw his own ideals and promises overboard during his term whenever circumstances require it and he will fail to come through for many of the people he said he would be a “champion” for.  These are things presidents do: just ask any enthusiastic Obama supporter from 2008.  This is the first of many, many flip-flops and I plan to rub every Trump supporter’s nose in it for the next four years.  Which is it: was Candidate Trump right, are tax incentives which even conservative pundits have conceded are just a form of income redistribution, bad?  Or are they part of good “deal making” like President-elect Trump thinks?

This story though, like anything related to Trump, has an interesting twist.  After the leader of the local union got on television and called Trump out for a “promise half-delivered,” citing that the number of jobs actually saved was misreported, Trump replied in a snarky manner on Twitter as he is wont to do.  An observation: this is going to be a long four years for Trump if he still cannot learn to pick his battles.  One cannot respond to every two bit union leader who throws some shade his way or one will have no time left to govern.  Being president is making people upset, it was after all Abraham Lincoln that said “You can please some of the people all of the time or all of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.”  Trump would be well served to just shut the hell up and let his policies stand for compliment or criticism on their own without personal comment but I doubt he will.  He is the most thin-skinned person to ever hold the office of President in modern times, and an intellectual child.  He simply cannot let things pass.

This is what we’re in for, folks.  The man cannot even go through December without holding rallies full of people chanting his name but this is not what the job entails.  The job, as we have seen unquestionably during the Bush and Obama years, is being burned in effigy on a daily basis and managing to govern anyway.  And while Trump was able to pull a classic political flip-flop in feeding Americans the very thing he criticized as a candidate and make them (mostly) thank him for it, he will not be even remotely successful in accomplishing his goals if every bit of criticism draws him off task.  Be careful what you wish for, Mr. Trump.  This job may not be all you thought it was.  To those who supported him: get ready to be disappointed.  Union workers are already having buyer’s remorse and it’ll be downhill from here.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Going to California

When I was about to go into high school, my family decided to move to California.  Many things played into this decision, but suffice it to say that just as with every other move we made during my youth, my dad felt he had burned his final bridge in Phoenix and so California was the next step.  He had regaled us all with stories throughout my childhood of his Happy Days and Beach Boys-like time in Southern California during his own high school years, much of which had a good chance of being made up for storytelling effect, but either way this was a move given a bit more grandeur and mystery because of built up expectations.

We broke our lease in Phoenix, we filled a moving truck with all of our worldly possessions in the thick of the August desert heat, and set off for the west coast and the unknown.  I’d had mixed feelings about this, mostly because middle school had been such a difficult time for me socially.  I found out years later that it is a difficult time for most people socially, but as attached as I had become to Phoenix during my five years there, the most time I had spent living anywhere besides the city of my birth, I had some part of me that felt it was time for a change.  So when the “big family discussion” about the move came up, as we all floated in our backyard pool one evening trying to cool off, I did not exactly say no, even if I also did not emphatically say yes.  My mom got a job though, so it was decided.  We would go west.

The drive from Phoenix to San Diego is one I have repeated more times than I can count in my adult life, but this first time it held wonder, mystery, and the unknown.  We had travelled to California as a family by car before, more than once in fact, but just on I-10.  The only thing notable about that drive was the windmills out near Palm Springs.  The drive on I-8 was more desolate in those days, complete with the rotting husks of decades-old abandoned service stations and stores by the side of the highway.  I only remember staring out at the distant mountain vistas that whizzed by, crossing each line of bigger and bigger mountains until finally the biggest one of all loomed in the distance.

The truck struggled along with the other trucks in the right lane to scale this mountainside highway.  We were under 20 miles per hour the whole way.  But once we reached the summit, we must have gone a full half hour before the accelerator was needed again.  We were on a downhill trek all the way to the coast.  San Diego loomed somewhere in the distance past these black mountain peaks.  Once we got to the top, all the local radio stations started to tune in, and my one sticky memory from the final leg of this drive was my normally gruff and intimidating father driving blissfully downhill in our moving truck, singing along with the songs on the radio.  You could tell, in that moment, the lure of California had grabbed hold of him once again.

Our house in California was much smaller than the one in Arizona, even though it was somewhat more expensive to rent.  My room was much smaller too, and felt cramped.  The house was odd, the non-master bathroom had no shower so we all had to share the master shower in the morning.  The back of the house, the dining room and den area, was added on as a custom project by the house’s owners, who now lived out of state.  It had a Jacuzzi in the back, but no pool.  It felt different, it was an adjustment.  But mostly, I remember venturing outside and just standing at the driveway, which sat uphill relative to the other houses on our street.  It was foggy that morning, and the lingering smell of a distant skunk hung in the air.  I stood silently and surveyed my new surroundings, breathing the mix of thick moisture, distant salt air and skunk.  It felt different, it smelled different, and it looked different.  The word weighed on me: California.  A place you heard about on TV, in movies, in music.  I was here now.

I don’t live there anymore.  But my family still does.  Many people I care about are there and have absolutely no plans to leave.  At least one of them never will (see below), but it’s likely that’s true of the living ones too.  I spent far, far more time there than anywhere else, including the city and state of my birth.  Despite my misgivings, despite my apprehension and despite the discomfort I always felt living there, at least to some degree feeling like I did not quite belong there, it was home for a very long time.  In a way it always will be, and it remains an indelible part of the person I am today.  Right as I sit here, the spell of the mysterious California broken by years and years of familiarity and experience, I marvel that I experienced living in such a place, that such a place was able to become part of my personal story and makeup.  And when I “go home” to see my family, it will still be in California, the mysterious land on the coast just over the mountains.