Category: Politics

Weird Scenes #95: Gee, They Were So Young

Weird Scenes #95: Gee, They Were So Young

Whatever gets you through your life ‘salright, ‘salright / Do it wrong or do it right ‘salright, ‘salright / Don’t need a watch to waste your time oh no, oh no — “Whatever Gets You Through The Night,” written by John Lennon, 1974.

When it comes to sorting Americans into tribes based upon political beliefs — and we are so desperate to divide up into tribes — if you are thinking along the lines of “well, those [whatever] usually tend to be [whichever tribe you like, such as young conservatives, young progressives, young Libertarians, or jocks]…, you are most certainly full of two things, one of which is yourself.

We hear a lot about Gen-Z being very politically active and very progressive. Of course that’s not completely so. Like all previous generations, the largest subgroup are those who just don’t give a damn. These kids are much more politically active than the previous two, but they seem to be motivated not as much by some old fart’s progressive agenda as they are by the philosophy “You are destroying my planet, and I’m the one who is supposed to live here in the future. Not you.” And… that’s fair.

The younger you are the more cynical you might be, but I am living proof that cynicism is most likely to be a permanent lifestyle. For one thing, it’s more fun. This is a good thing: it’s easier to fight the good fights if you allow yourself to appreciate your victories, keep a sense of humor about absolutely everything, and never think about Sisyphus. It’s good to remember the words of some Joker: “Why so serious? Let’s put a smile on that face!”

So it came as no surprise that when I watched Donald Trump’s two pep rallies earlier this week, I saw a whole lot of kids. Almost entirely White kids, but there always are a few non-White people are there, some of whom were hired just like the large group of cheering fans at Trump Tower when the Donald floated down his escalator-from-heaven back in 2015.

Granted, the second of these sessions was held at a college, so it’s not a great an indication of teen-age lack of death-perception as the first. But both had this in common with our recruitment policies for our military: the younger you are, the less likely you are to be aware and protective of your longevity. By and large, if you were, say, a 45-year-old carrying a bayonet, and you were ordered to assault that well-protected Hill 59, you might hesitate. Then your problem becomes getting out of the way of the 19-year-olds who are much less concerned about maintaining their personal franchise.

It is at the core of military training: your master says jump and do not think, you jump without a thought as to your own mortality. 19-year-olds, by and large, have yet to fully develop that sense. I did all kinds of dangerous shit back when I was 19. And 18, and 20. I look back and smile, but I’m not smiling about those stupid risks. I smile because I’m still around to look back at all that dangerous shit. My actions were, and still are, quite serious. My cause is quite serious. My attitude is more “Why so serious.” Whatever gets you through the night.

So we’ve got several thousand southwestern young’uns shoulder-to-shoulder, in weather-appropriate dress (the southwest in late June demands less clothing), jumping up and down and shouting and screaming and cheering and carrying on, maskless, as though they were at the Titanic of high school pep rallies. As the Jefferson Airplane said back in my day, “bless their pointed little heads.”

Many of them think Covid-19 does not affect them because they are not old. Well, dig this kids: when all this plague stuff started, some Black people believed they couldn’t get it either. It was a big deal — a very big deal, until some of them folks started dying. Well, die and learn. Now we know that younger people are merely less likely to come down with Covid-19 than us old people who have little to lose but our memories.

Well, that’s America for you. This nation of ours is your go-to place if you want to age out of your own tribe.

Besides, our planet was overcrowded about five billion live-births ago. Soylent Green does not have to be made out of old dead bodies. I’ll bet the young dead bodies taste better.

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #067: Speaking Out on Pro Wrestling

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #067: Speaking Out on Pro Wrestling

For any living under a rock, #SpeakingOut is a movement in recent weeks that has exposing a litany of professional wrestlers for their misogynistic behavior publicly calling them out to be dealt with. In the wake of everything occurring throughout the world, it’s a breath of fresh air to see those in the business who need action taken against them start to suffer for their behavior.

What we’re seeing is a systemic change; where allegations are being met instantly with action and repercussions. You might say that #timesup to live by the “wait and see” or “innocent until proven guilty” defense used by many who bear the brunt of the hashtag. But it’s clear by way of all that has come out:

Women will be believed. They will be heard. And those accused must deal with the ramifications. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #067: Speaking Out on Pro Wrestling”

Weird Scenes #094: Copaganda Kills

Weird Scenes #094: Copaganda Kills

The silence is speaking / So why am I weeping / I guess I love it / I love it to death / We still got a long way to go / Yes we still got a long way to go — “Long Way To Go,” written by Michael Bruce and recorded by Alice Cooper, 1971.

With respect to rhetoric, I will admit that the phrase “Defund the Police” was just asking for trouble. Some people tend to react before they think, assuming they ever get around to the latter.

Some people who hear “Defund the Police” immediately turn off their brains, rejecting it without thinking it through, just like they did reacting to the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” While it’s fun to watch these lazy fools go apoplectic, I suspect few of them could find Camden New Jersey on a map. Their police force was defunded in 2012. Police had to reapply for their jobs with no guarantee that they would now qualify. Several interesting things happened: the city’s violent crime rate fell 23% and its non-violent crime rate fell 48% (source: that radical democrat communist organization called “the FBI”). Amusingly, police violence increased, until the newly empowered neighborhood watchdogs were able to slow that down. Excessive force complaints started dropping in 2015. Camden is a better place.

This is a good program, and the Minneapolis city government now is adapting it for their use. You’d think everybody would be happy: the cops became less of a threat to the community, and crime went down dramatically. But, of course, the hysterical right will not see that. They believe an unfettered police department is a bulwark and every black person killed or severely harmed by police, as well as their fellow travelers, further establishes law and order. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #094: Copaganda Kills”

Weird Scenes #097: East of Centrist

Weird Scenes #097: East of Centrist

“(Trump is) the second president of the Confederacy… The people who are interested in law and order are not in the White House. The people who are interested in law and order are in the streets.” — Steve Schmidt, former Republican Political Strategist and political consultant to George W. Bush, Lamar Alexander, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and John McCain.

Kayleigh McEnany

As you may have heard, two days ago Trump tweeted “Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?” His press secretary du jure Kayleigh McEnany said on Wednesday “It’s not a baseless conspiracy. No, not at all. I won’t acknowledge that.”

Don’t you just love it when the nation’s public employees surrender their souls and lie through their teeth over easily disprovable Trump tweets, just to save their phony-baloney jobs? This is a time-honored tradition dating, oh, all the way back to Sean Spicer, Trump’s first chief shill. He established a tradition that has been followed by Anthony Scaramucci, Sarah Sanders, Stephanie Grisham, Raj Shah, and now Ms. McEnany… not to mention Michael Dubke and Hope Hicks, communication directors who posed as ersatz press secretaries.

What’s cute about McEnany’s latest prostration is that, back in June 2015 she told CNN that Trump’s campaign kick-off, in which he said Mexico was sending immigrants to the US who were rapists bringing drugs and crime to the United States, was despicable (my word, not hers). What she said at that time was “To me, a racist statement is a racist statement. I don’t like what Donald Trump said.”  Continue reading “Weird Scenes #097: East of Centrist”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #066: Black Lives Matter

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #066: Black Lives Matter

As I write this — on Sunday, June 7th, 2020 —  it comes on the heels of taking my family out to the park today for a walk. While I wish it was for just fresh air and sunshine… alas, today we walked alongside our community in a peaceful protest march. With masks adorned and side-by-side with people of all ages, creeds, colors, and religions, we took stride with signs in hand. My sons, 2, 4, and 8, marched alongside their neighbors, not wholly aware of the injustice that exists in the world.

My 8 year old grasps it a little. But he is still innocent at his core. This all seems to him like an odd off-shoot of a Minecraft or Roblox world. He doesn’t understand how his friends — those in his class at school, his teammates in baseball teams past, or even the girls who he plays with down the street — are treated unfairly in society at large because of the color of their skin. My wife and I explained it to him as best we could. And he could recite correctly the “hows” and “whys” of the situation. But I know behind his dark brown eyes, his thoughts and feelings are still forming. Meanwhile, my 4 year old was just beaming to have so many people to say hi to. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #066: Black Lives Matter”

Weird Scenes #092: Ask Mister Manners

Weird Scenes #092: Ask Mister Manners

National Brotherhood Week / National Brotherhood Week it’s / National everyone smile at / One another-hood week, be / Nice to people who are / Inferior to you. It’s only for a week so have no fear / Be grateful that it doesn’t last all year – written by Tom Lehrer, 1965

I’m hardly the poster boy for Miss Manners. I’ve been known to be disrespectful on purpose, as I hold a deep commitment to bringing offense to power. I am just sophomoric enough to call out assholes-in-power in language that projects my emotions. Hey, it’s a living.

So this might come as a bit of a shock, and it’s certainly going to sound very old school. I think we, as a species, need to be less preemptively judgmental. By “preemptively,” I mean we give people a certain amount of respect because they’re breathing, and they can earn more or lose some as you get to know them as individuals. If we find yourselves reflexively acting in an offensive manner because of our baked-in opinion of whatever group they represent, then you are guilty of prejudice. Pre-justice, if you will.

I realize usually we don’t think we’re victimizing anybody. We’ve got to keep an eye on our attitudes. Besides, it’s far more fulfilling to loathe somebody as an individual based upon your informed opinion.

I find it hard to believe that individuals only prejudge people of definable victimized groups, and there are those who hate people of all groups, sometimes even their own. We have a word for those people: misanthropes. They exist. I hate misanthropes. They’re very confusing. Focus, people!

You might find this hard to believe, but we used to celebrate something called “National Brotherhood Week.” Yeah, I know, that’s gender specific. It was the 1950s, when Westinghouse and General Electric made kitchens so marvelous that women never wanted to leave them. The slogan was — and you might want to sit down — “Take a Negro to Lunch.” Naivety, thy name is humanity.

Clearly, it didn’t work. Perhaps this was because it was co-sponsored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, which certainly sounds like (and often is) an exclusionary organization. Would a Muslim feel comfortable advocating personhood from their platform? A Buddhist? A Satanist? An atheist? Head’s up, people, we do not all believe in the same god, or gods, or even any god whatsoever.

As Shylock sort of said, “Hath not a [fill in the blank] eyes? Hath not a [fill in the blank] hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a [fill in the blank] is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.”

That particular scene-stealer is from The Merchant of Venice, and it was written by a bigot. But, here, Shakespeare seems to have moved past his environment. When you think of one of our victimized groups, think of Shylock… who, by the way, really wasn’t a very nice guy.

Among all the torment and horror it causes, at the root bigotry and prejudice is as disrespectful as it is a showing of a lack of manners. We came up with this whole manners thing out of self-preservation. It is thought that the handshake, now sadly banished for good cause, was created to flush out strangers who might knife you. We say thank you to people who help us because we don’t want them to think they’re being taking advantage of. We say please because we’re asking for that help and realize we are inconveniencing the other person.

We say “I can’t breathe” so that the asshole who has lost his bigoted mind might get his knee off of your neck.

It’s not just self-preservation. It is societal preservation. America is a cultural smorgasbord of infinite length, and that is what makes us unique. It’s the only part of American “exceptionalism” that is worthy of note. American enlightenment comes from a plethora of influences that, in combination, makes us smarter, more experienced, less bored, more entertained and much, much stronger.

This is not the Planet Kumbaya. We are going to hate people; that is what separates us from lower-form mammals. But, as noted, you should hate a person for his or her own actions and not because they’re members of a group somebody taught you were subhuman. Trust me, if you enjoy hating you have an arena full of nasty individuals from which to choose.

So if you’re going to offend somebody on purpose, at least do it with a smile on your face…and be prepared for Newton’s Law to kick you in your ass.

Weird Scenes #091: “He’s Out For Blood Tonight!”

Weird Scenes #091: “He’s Out For Blood Tonight!”

Well I’m about to get upset / From watchin’ my TV / Checkin’ out the news / Until my eyeballs fail to see / I mean to say that every day / Is just another rotten mess / And when it’s gonna change, my friend / Is anybody’s guess

It is said, by whomever it is that says these things, that art is that which stands the test of time. That works for me. The lyrics I’ve scattered though today’s column were written by Frank Zappa fifty-five years ago after watching the Watts Rebellion on his TV. This song was the reason record producer Tom Wilson signed Zappa and the Mothers to their first record deal.

The song, “Trouble Every Day”, could have been released this very week. It is all about today. And tomorrow.

If you believe the right-wing jackals who are braying “Oh, no. It’s not our happy little black people causing the problem. They’re being mind controlled by those far-left-wing anarchist Democratic outside agitators!” then you are part of the problem.

People assume a lot. Some assume the protesters are entirely or largely black. That is totally and completely untrue – look at a cross-section of media coverage, look for who’s focusing on black people, and note the source. Then compare those shots to the others. Trump says ANTIFA is an actual organization, and that all the so-called outside agitators are left-wing. According to the FBI, most of the identified “outsiders” are from known far-right-wing groups.

Looting is another matter. Such demonstrations, once they are so identified, vastly increase the opportunities for looting. Those people grabbing the boodle aren’t protestors, they are criminals exploiting these situations. Despite Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Laura Ingraham’s most orgasmic wet dreams, the looters are parasites as formidable as the coronavirus, and they will leech onto whatever opportunity comes their way… and that goes back to the Year Gimmel.

As Joan Rivers used to say, “Grow up!”

You might respond “But I don’t hate [fill in the blank] people! I CAN’T POSSIBLY be racist! There isn’t a racist bone in my body!” That latter part might be true, but your brain is not a bone. If you don’t understand that it is far more difficult, and far more dangerous, to be black in America than it is to be white, then you are a big part of the problem. To quote another Frank Zappa lyric, “Better look around you before you say you don’t care.” In order to be part of the American Race — a mongrel race, to be sure, and I’m proud to be part of that — you have to pay at least as much attention to what’s really happening on the streets of our nation as you do to the football point spreads.

Does your life matter? How about that black person over there. Does that person’s life matter? Yes, you say? Then act like it! While you’re at it, make sure your police do, too. They are the ones killing people in your name.

And all that mass stupidity / That seems to grow more every day / Each time you hear some nitwit say / He wants to go and do you in / Cause the color of your skin / Just don’t appeal to him / No matter if it’s black or white / Because he’s out for blood tonight

On his ABC-TV show last Friday, Jimmy Kimmel said “I especially want to pose this question to older people who have seen this before in this country, who have lived this nightmare of race riots already, in the ’60s and ’70s, ’80s, now. Is this who you want leading us? A president who clearly and intentionally inflames violence in the middle of a riot to show how tough he is?” Kimmel added, “I don’t care what you are, right, left, Republican, Democrat, something else. Enough is enough. We’ve got to vote this guy out already.” That is truth to power.

Forbes Magazine, which never has been confused with The Daily Worker, tells us “since January 01, 2015, 4,728 people have died in police shootings and around half, 2,385, were white. 1,252 were black, 877 were Hispanic and 214 were from other racial groups. As a share of the population, however, things are very different. Black Americans account for less than 13% of the U.S. population but the rate at which they are shot and killed by police is more than twice as high as the rate for white Americans.”

The toll of the 1965 Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles: 34 people killed by the LAPD and the National Guard, 118 people suffered gunshot wounds. $40 million in damages, in 1965 dollars. Today, that would be over $325 million.

President Johnson did not use the riots as a reelection ploy, although at the time he certainly could have used one. He did not blame the whole thing on “outside agitators” — a term so pungent you can smell what the bull just had for dinner. He did not encourage white people to go out after those blacks who might or might not have been involved in demonstrations, let alone riots. He did not encourage the authorities to use savage dogs, water cannons, shoot-to-kill demonstrators, he did not call out the mayor of the affected city as a “very weak Radical Left Mayor” (who must) other words. After the 1965 Watts Rebellion, Lyndon B. Johnson did not do what Donald J. Trump has been doing the past several days: pouring jet fuel on every fire he could see on television.

Hey, Donnie! You wanna stop this violence that you hope and pray will give you a second term? Here’s one way to do it.

Get the cops to stop thinking it is their right to kill black people at will.

Stop this, or you’ll really see the fires burning.

Our country isn’t free / And the law refuse to see / If all that you can ever be / Is just a lousy janitor / Unless your uncle owns a store / You know that five in every four / Just won’t amount to nothin’ more / Gonna watch the rats go across the floor / And make up songs about being poor – lyrics throughout excerpted from “Trouble Every Day,” written by Frank Zappa, ©1965. Frank later the line “by whomever it is that says these things.”

Weird Scenes #090: Tweedledumbass

Weird Scenes #090: Tweedledumbass

Lies, dripping off your mouth like dirt / Lies, lie in every step you walk / Lies, whispered sweetly in my ear / Lies, how do I get out of here / Why, why you have to be so cruel / Lies, lies, lies, I ain’t such a fool — “Lies,” written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, 1978

We all have said things that are later proven to be mistaken, and I’m mouse enough to admit that on March 21st 2006 I fubared one right out of the park. Watching a CNET piece about Twitter, I proclaimed “who the hell wants to know what you’re having for lunch, and why it’s being served to you on such crappy plates?”

Of course, I was wrong to the tune of about sixty-five million American daily active users. One of those daily active users happens to be the President of the United States. He’s got 80 million followers worldwide, but that includes the media, other politicians, the curious and those hard up for light entertainment. Trumpsy loves Twitter because he has 100% control over his message… or at least he did until Tuesday. The Orange Fool repeated his completely baseless lie that mail-in ballots lead to vote fraud and forgeries. Twitter attached a warning to this and a couple other presidential fabrications suggesting readers fact check his claims.

Twitter did not say “This dipshit is lying again!” They didn’t even call bullshit on his bullshit claims. They just suggested people check it out, which they should be doing anyway… certainly by now.

Turns out, Twitter’s tweet hurt Li’l Donnie’s feelings. He tweeted “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen… Clean up your act, NOW!!!!”

Four exclamation points!!!! I guess he means it. He repeated his threats to regulate or shut down social media companies for trying to silence “conservative” expression. In so doing, Trumpsy betrays his lack of faith in capitalism: such conservative voices, no matter how few, possess on average nearly two eyeballs each and internet content providers cover their nut with the number of eyeballs they attract.

Therefore, if you are a “general interest” content provider, you don’t want to chase away any noticeable group of followers. Even Trumpsters buy stuff… like, say, Clorox and hydroxychloroquine.

According to Reuters, after Orangey made his threat shares of Twitter and Facebook dropped – temporarily. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #090: Tweedledumbass”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #065: Grinding My Gears

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #065: Grinding My Gears

I recognize that having column inches such as I do grants me a public space to air my grievances. A place, in plain sight, to shoot straight and vent with hope in finding sympathetic ears. Such as it were, we all have these spaces — take the social media platform of choice, and let loose. But here, on Pop Culture Squad, I’m given a bit more leeway to stretch a would-be status message and let it get some height. Normally I’d save my ire for something specifically in the pop culture space (#relevancy), but, here I am stuck in quarantine — a nebulous vacuum of pop culture at present. So, I’m detailing several things in my life that are at very least pop culture adjacent that have been grinding my gears. Hopefully with a little venting, this tightening in my chest might relieve itself a bit. On with the ranting!

1. Virtual Events

With remote learning, and businesses needing to flock to tele-meeting spaces like Zoom, Facebook rooms, Skype, and the like… the population is tired of virtual fraternization. Save perhaps the concerts being put on by various musical artists who all happen to have sophisticated recording equipment in their homes… Zoom and the like are fast becoming tiresome. Yes, we all get it. You throw on a normal shirt, and keep the pajamas on under the gaze of your web cam. Ha ha. Woo. But every virtual event remains the same. We speak over one another, or have dueling monologues. Our kids crash in, and suddenly we’re juggling staying engaged, and remembering we’d literally like to be anywhere else. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #065: Grinding My Gears”

Brainiac On Banjo #086: We Can Be Heroes

Brainiac On Banjo #086: We Can Be Heroes

There goes my hero / Watch him as he goes / There goes my hero / He’s ordinary — “My Hero,” written by Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel and Pat Smear, 1995.

Memorial Day, which we celebrate today because usually more gasoline is sold over three-day weekends, was still called Decoration Day when I was a child. It didn’t become a federal holiday until 1971, even though Decoration Day became a thing after the first U.S. Civil War. According to History.com, one of the earliest Memorial Day remembrances was organized by a group of freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.

In recent years, the definition of Memorial Day has grown to include all of those whose lives were sacrificed for the greater good. Today, we tend to call these people “heroes” and that would be okay had our definition of hero not been allowed to expand to those who do what all humans are supposed to do: help out those in need. That’s where I get a bit cynical. I’ll go along with the hero thing as long as we come up with an equally descriptive term for those who could but maliciously refuse to help out those in need.

I think you know the people I’m talking about.

Yesterday, the New York Times ran the front page I reproduced above. The story, of course, was continued on interior pages but I’m sure you get the point. This was one of the most appropriate front pages I’ve seen, and I’m the type of history freak that reads old newspapers for fun. I rarely go out of my way to praise the NYT, but fair is fair. It would take the effort of a much better writer than I to make the point any sharper.

Yesterday, I had an online conversation with a friend who is a veteran of our recent middle eastern activities, who, by the way, was wounded in the war. I don’t think he is a hero for having been wounded. I think he’s a hero for having been there in the first place.

Be that as it may, we discussed the Times’ use of the word “incalculable.” Obviously, if there’s a list, the number is calculable. That’s true, but I don’t think that was the point. I said it was the loss itself that was incalculable and not simply the number who have died thus far. For every name listed, there are an incalculable number of people who are severely impacted: friends, co-workers, family, online correspondents, vendors dependent upon their business, brothers and sisters in arms, teachers, nurses and physicians and others who have been there in your support system for years, and so on. The impact is truly overwhelming, particularly as it’s all been within the past ten weeks or so.

His initial thought was significant: we should be specific in our rhetoric. Damn near everybody has suffered a loss in this pandemic, and most of those who haven’t probably will before it’s all over. We bitch about our inconveniences, but we are still here to complain. In no way does that make the rest of us heroes. We are survivors, and we should be proud of that. Or, at the very least, appreciative.

We are living through a history we will tell our grandchildren about. My maternal grandfather died of the Spanish influenza that followed World War I, when my mother was about three years old. It took me quite a while to piece together that story. Today, history is no longer written by the winners — history is written every moment of every day, in print and online, with audio and video to flesh out the static pictures and provide a more accurate view, in the aggregate, for future generations.

I am fond of quoting philosopher George Santayana’s well-known aphorism “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I say “well-known,” but I remain amazed by how often I read the words of people in power who simply do not get that. I can’t understand why. Maybe power tends to erode reason.

Maybe it’s more the quest for power that erodes reason, particularly when that power is defined by money.

Yesterday, the New York Times made Memorial Day all the more memorable. Maybe we can’t avoid such disaster, but there is a great, great deal we can do to minimize the damage.

True to the present name for this holiday, we must never forget.