Tuesday, November 12, 2019

CNN [more than] a Week or Two Ago ...


So I thought I should post something today. And I remembered I'd wanted to post something a week back but never got around to it. What was it? I remembered.

So I went to the gym after work and in the change room the TV was playing CNN. A bunch of talking heads were discussing Trump's reaction to Robert Mueller's recent press conference wherein "Saint Robert Mueller of WMD Lies" told everybody that he never exonerated Donald Trump. There was Russian meddling, and Trump did try to obstruct Mueller's investigation of it. (Mueller explained that he's not allowed to charge a sitting president with anything, so he couldn't just accuse him of obstruction because that would be unfair. It would be unfair because the accusation would just sit there and, not being a legal "charge" Trump would be unable to challenge it in court and thereby clear his name. It would be unfair to do that to Trump. And Mueller is a fair, principled, straight-shooter. So he didn't accuse Trump of obstruction in the report. He just did it at the press conference.)

Now, Trump being Trump, when he'd first heard about the Mueller investigation it's reported that he said that he was "fucked" and that it would be the end of his presidency. This sounds plausible because Trump knows he's a con-man with a lot of criminal deals in his past. But Mueller was only investigating Trump's collusion with Russia. He wasn't looking into Trump's business dealings. And since (as MUELLER CONCLUDED) Trump hadn't colluded with Russia, the main focus of the subsequent report was that there was "no collusion," and that this, combined with Mueller's lack of investigation into Trump's corrupt business dealings, it looked to Trump as if he'd escaped unscathed.

Relieved, and desiring to look magnanimous, Trump pronounced Mueller an honourable man and said that the process had been fair and he was quite happy.

But, in the early days of the investigation, Trump made noises about trying to stop it. He asked people around him if there was some way that he could fire people or what-not. Repeatedly, he was told "no." What I'm trying to get at here is that there's smoke that looks like it came from a fire called "obstruction." But it's not as clear as that.

Anyhow, to bring to an end this ancient piece of writing that I started a long time ago, suffice to say that Mueller identified moments during his investigation when Trump appeared to be trying to obstruct it. Some Russiagate partisans have twisted things to make it seem like Trump's alleged obstruction is the reason for Mueller's being unable to indict any US citizens for collusion. But this is just not so. Here's an article about where Trump's actions could be construed as obstruction. None of them show Trump successfully blocking Mueller from investigating anything to do with collusion. (Other than an attempt to lie about the meeting with Russian nationals at Trump Tower, which Mueller independently concluded was a nothing-burger.) As I said at the top of this post, Trump knows that he's crooked and so he's justifiably scared of investigations. He's also a moron in many ways who doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut (or his dick in his pants or his hands to himself).

But as Mueller concluded: NOTHING points to any conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Putin's Kremlin to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. Therefore, in that regard, Trump is NOT a "traitor." He is NOT a "Kremlin puppet." He is NOT a "Russian asset." This whole thing has been an exercise in the Democratic National Council to use anti-Russian xenophobia to distract US-Americans from the reality that the neo-liberal "Washington Consensus" is massively unpopular with the people of the United States and that is the reason why Trump squeaked out an Electoral College victory against the "Washington Consensus" candidate Hillary "Bat-Shit-Crazy" Clinton.

The thing is, all of this stupid nonsense from the dearly departed Russiagate bullshit scandal which occupied over two years of breathless coverage, pushing more important topics ["more important" in many ways but not the least being that they were REAL as opposed to imaginary] out of the news-cycle, never stopped being stupid nonsense. The reporting on this particular spat between Trump and Mueller as I saw it on the tv-screens at the gym (almost the WHOLE TIME that I was there) was a microcosm of the whole abomination.

Trump's idiocy itself was being characterized as calculated lying. Mueller's dodgy behaviour was portrayed as the height of probity. The dispute over obstruction of justice was being used to insert credibility into the bullshit charges of collusion and "Russian meddling." And the end result of the entire farce was to drive Russiagate partisans deeper into their asylum of hysteria and delusion; to further convince Trump's blinkered supporters that he was, indeed, the victim of a "witch-hunt" conducted by the FAKE NEWS media and the corrupt Democrats; and to further shred the credibility of the mainstream news media.

And I wish I didn't have to write about that crapola. But so many otherwise intelligent people bought into that total drivel and I think it's symptomatic of the reasons why our species is doomed. If intelligent people can be made (through partisan derangement, gullibility, self-delusion) to believe in complete bullshit like this, ... what hope is there for civilization?

Monday, November 11, 2019

Our Doomed Species

NOTE: This was an old, unfinished effort that I decided to dredge out of the "drafts" folder and post just for the hell of it. I added a word about the recent coup in Bolivia and one or two other things and that's about it.

The pathetic dissembling of the "Russia-gaters," as they try to pretend that Mueller's report might somehow still vindicate their moronic and self-destructive conspiracy theory is interesting in so far as it provides real-time evidence of brains struggling to fit reality to their ideologies. In fact, since the implosion of the Hillary Clinton campaign, these useless liberals have becoming increasingly more desperate. They allowed themselves to ignore or rationalize Barack Obama's numerous crimes against humanity and democracy. They convinced themselves that the murderous, racist, corrupt incompetent Hillary Clinton was THE BEST CANDIDATE EVAHHHHH!!!! whose Electoral College defeat can only be attributed to external causes. (Ian Welsh pointed out a long time ago that all sorts of things contributed to HRC's humiliation, but that discounting the legacy of Democratic neo-liberalism and Hillary's personal awfulness is a colossal blind-spot.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Current Reading

Just some of the latest stuff I've been reading.

First: Calypso by David Sedaris [SPOILERS BELOW]

If you don't know already, David Sedaris is a wildly popular US-American humo[u]r writer. I've read four of his other books and I've enjoyed them all. Calypso is a little bit different from his droll, dry, absurdist, hilarious (at times) usual fare. In this one we're given some of the darker aspects of his family and his reflections on the realities of ageing.

For instance, ... haunting most of the book is the spirit of his sister Tiffany, who committed suicide. Tiffany Sedaris is described as a difficult person who had obvious mental problems. Towards the end of her life she lived in squalor, engaging in dumpster-diving and making art out of found-objects. On the internets you can find other sources who say that David Sedaris does her a disservice in his description of her and that she was a beautiful, creative spirit. But Sedaris doesn't claim to be the last word on who his sister was. He describes her as he knew her. And it's pretty obvious that he isn't writing with pride about how the last time he saw her he closed the door in her face when she showed up at one of his book readings.

We learn that Sedaris must have gotten much of his talent for observation and story-telling from his mother as he recounts how all the children lingered around the dinner table after eating to listen to her tell her stories about the people and events she'd experienced during the day. She'd also offer her observations on their own stories. But then Sedaris informs us that his mother became an alcoholic in her last years. That she was an embarrassing raging drunk. Sedaris has already told us how his mother died of cancer when she was 62, but in Calypso he begins to reflect on the fact that he's closing in on 62 himself. One day soon he'll be older than his mother was when she died.

Finally, Sedaris tells us about his father. Previously his father has been described as a devastatingly witty fellow. He was an IBM engineer in the 1960s. He still is (in his nineties) a jazz music aficionado. Sadly however, like many an older white male, he's become a consumer of right-wing rage TV and radio. Moreover (and one of the reasons for his mother's drinking) he's been a hoarder for decades. The Sedaris household was a dilapidated shambles. All the rooms crammed with papers and junk his father had brought home. It's bizarre how his father is obviously still a highly functioning individual while engaging in this nonsensical behaviour.

This is a touching, sad book that still manages to make you smile. Sedaris's response to finding out about "fit-bits" or describing himself as looking like a hand-puppet when wearing a shirt three-times too long for him. Whatever their "eccentricities," Sedaris's parents created a very original set of kids.

Next up is Robert Dallek's Franklin D. Roosevelt: a political life.

This is one of the first general histories of FDR following the release of the personal papers of his cousin and confidante Margaret "Daisy" Suckley who died in 1991 at the age of 99. FDR played his cards very close to his chest for his entire life and very few people knew him. He has occasionally been referred to as a "sphinx" for his inscrutability. Suckley's correspondence gave historians the first glimpse at the inner Roosevelt; his stresses and strains, agonies, intimacies and his passions.

Dallek's book was my first reading of FDR's life in its entirety so I really don't have anything to compare it to. But I will say that it makes me more sympathetic to the man. Roosevelt can obviously be criticized for being an elitist and an imperialist who preserved the inhuman system of capitalism. But it also has to be said that he was a few steps in the right direction for social justice and the welfare state. And, given the strength of reactionary forces in the USA then (and now) he was probably the best that anyone could seriously have hoped for. Reading a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt I found out about several times when FDR purposely confounded the progressive ideas of his wife and her supporters. But reading Dallek it's clear that while he wasn't as forward thinking as his wife, his personal views were farther along than his public utterances.

For instance; he was fairly sympathetic to the labour movement. But the famous sit-down strikes by the Congress of Industrial Organizations were extremely unpopular with both the business class (obviously) as well as the general public. Roosevelt appears to have been perfectly willing to simply let both sides work it out between themselves and would have been happy either with the status-quo or (more importantly) victories for labour. But he couldn't say this. When asked for his opinion he attempted to avoid the question, but was eventually forced to say "A pox on both their houses." This was actually politically courageous because (as I said) public opinion and ruling class opinion) was definitely on the side of business. By saying what he said FDR showed that he would not take the side of employers against workers. However, saying this infuriated CIO leader John L. Lewis whose organization had given large sums to Roosevelt's 1936 re-election and now felt betrayed.

FDR's apparent conservatism was really political prudence. The forces of reaction were far too strong. Considering the hostility of the owners of the media, most of the business elites, and the Southern racists who comprised the strongest bloc within his own Democratic Party, FDR achieved as much as he could and probably more than anyone else could have at the time. And he did it successfully enough to win an unprecedented four presidential elections. (Although without the war both the voters and he, himself, would probably have preferred he be only a two-term president.)

But Dallek missed a few important things. The one that stands out the most was his failure to mention that FDR and Eleanor met while she was working at a settlement house in New York City. He was impressed and charmed by her work among the poor and she, in turn, was impressed with his stated desire to help improve social conditions as a politician. This patrician devotion to social justice was one of the building blocks of their early relationship.

I also just re-read Ernest R. May's Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France. I read it again because it's extremely well-written as well as being about a very important topic. Also, the first time around, all of those new German and French names and bureaucratic institutions overtaxed my soggy brain and I felt the need to give it a second go.

The book is described by its author as a re-examination of ideas presented in an earlier French work titled Strange Defeat written in 1940 by Marc Bloch. In that work, Bloch describes the failure of (among other things) the French high command, who had failed to understand the transformation of warfare since 1918. In Strange Victory, May argues that France wasn't really all that ill-prepared for war in 1939 and that Germany wasn't all that better prepared. Given the forces on either side, the French and the British had good reason to believe in eventual victory. What produced Germany's "strange victory" was a daring strategy of a feint through Belgium with the main armoured thrust going through the Ardennes Forest, combined with French and British intelligence failures to recognize the signs that this was going to happen, and, furthermore, the failure of the French to quickly respond to the new reality when it was obvious.

May makes it very clear that the war could have been over with a defeat for Germany in 1940 if only a few things had been different. (And that therefore, the world would have been a very different place.)

Next I've read Toronto writer Jess Taylor's Just Pervs.

This is a collection of short stories about women's sexual and romantic lives. I'm introducing some female characters into my graphic novel and I've decided that I should read women writers rather than rely on my own half-assed observations of female behaviour and portraits of female characters by male authors.

Taylor is a good writer. Good at describing urban interiors and states of mind. And sequences too I guess. The story that moves from a party boat to an apartment to a pharmacy just flows right along.  I could picture all the small apartments and Toronto bars as she described them. The themes are generally grim. About unrequited love, bad choices, insecurities, delusions and failures.

Finally, I'm almost halfway through E.P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class.

I should have read this book a long time ago but it wasn't on my university reading lists and for one reason or another I always put off reading it independently. It's a monumental work of over 800 pages detailing the political and social and economic aspirations and realities of ordinary people in late-18th and early 19th-century British people, from agricultural workers to textile workers to skilled artisans and shopkeepers. I'm not sure what I could say that hasn't already been said more eloquently by other reviewers over the last 70 years. I'll just say that it is eminently readable and comprehensible and scholarly.

So that's what I've been up to lately.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Liberal Minority Government

The best that could be expected. Justin Trudeau's Liberal majority has been reduced to a minority government. Now the Liberals will have to govern with the consent of at least one of the other parties. At the very least they will not be allowed to be so arrogant as to attempt to pass legislation so abhorrent to all the other parties so as to trigger an election. On the other hand, the other parties (other than, perhaps, Scheer's Conservatives) will themselves be leery of forcing another election. I suspect that Trudeau will first try to govern alone.

It doesn't seem likely that the Liberals can be forced to pass electoral reform. Together the NDP and the Greens don't have the votes to force the combined Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois to eliminate the unfair advantage that FPTP gives them.

Good to see that Maxime Bernier's Nazi Party didn't win any seats and that the Fuhrer himself failed to win in his own riding.

Conservatives will probably whine about how their party got more of the popular vote than the Liberals did. But they whine all the fucking time about anything and everything anyway. If you add up the NDP and the Green Party votes it's clear that Canada remains a social-democratic country with at least some sense of environmental and scientific reality.

I guess that when all is said and done though, nothing has really changed. Back in the days of Harper, the Liberals pretty much went along with the harpercons' corporate agenda. The Justin Trudeau Liberals can continue to pass the corporate agenda with Scheer's Conservatives supporting it.

Is Scheer out? It doesn't matter one way or the other. The shortage of any sort of talent among the Conservatives works in his favour. But his own mediocrity and uselessness means he's not irreplaceable himself. Whether he stays or goes as party leader won't change the fact that they're almost all a bunch of deplorable idiots.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Liberal Hysteria & Hypocrisy

Partisans of the Liberals are insane. For this entire election they've been shrieking about how opponents of the Conservatives have to vote Liberal or else they'll be splitting the vote. If you don't vote Liberal it will be YOUR FAULT if Scheer's Conservatives win a majority and subject us to a four-year nightmare of Jason Kenney/Doug Ford/Stephen Harper proportions. You see, if you vote Green in your riding and so do 4% of the voters in your riding, and the Liberal candidate only gets 28% of the votes to the Conservative's 31%, that means you helped elect that Conservative. And if you vote NDP and so 8% of the people in your riding, well that means the lesser evil lost and the greater evil won. AND IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!!!!

This is the way that our antiquated "First-Past-The-Post" (FPTP) electoral system works. In Canada, the present political scenario goes as follows:

10% realize that human beings need the natural world in order to live and have therefore decided that the Green Party is who they'd like to vote for.

15% of us believe that social justice, economic justice, ecology, etc., are important and would like to vote NDP.

35-40% of Canadians are vaguely pro-welfare state, and are totally down with multi-culturalism and GLBT rights. Some of these people also entertain delusions about needing to protect wealthy entrepreneurs from being fleeced by lazy poor people. And anyway, they've always voted Liberal. So they'd like to vote Liberal.

25-30% of Canadians think this country was built by hardworking, white Christian people (okay, okay, ... they're not racist or anything, and some of those immigrants are hard-working too and they're welcome in this TOLERANT society, ... especially when they're socially conservative!) and that it's a goddamned CRIME when criminals and moochers and bleeding-heart liberals want to punish success and tax decent, god-fearing Canadians to pay for bullshit like hospitals and schools and roads and medical care for veterans, ... speaking of veterans, ... HEROES! ... Canada has a noble martial history of being slaughtered and slaughtering back in World War I and all the way up to the clusterfuck in Afghanistan ... and well, you get the picture. These people vote Conservative. And also, rich people who laugh all the way to their own banks at these stupid rubes vote Conservative as well as own the fucking party.

5-10% of this country are racist dumbfucks and they don't care who knows it. (Well, some of them sorta care because they could get fired for being so racist. But just wait until they've turfed all those "politically correct" faggots and get to run this country the way it should be run.) And, also, global warming is a Chinese plot because that famous fat old guy with the spray-on tan and the yellow comb-over who wants to fuck his own daughter (who is, let's face it, a "nice piece of ass" just like her father said she was) said so. And these people are voting for Maxime Bernier's Canadian National Socialist Worker's Party. Because the Liberals aren't pro-Tar Sands enough for them and the Conservatives aren't racist enough for them.

I seem to have lost the point of this post. Tell you what. Just go to this post by Montreal Simon where I actually tried to engage him and his deranged co-blogger, and read how all these fucking Liberal Party idiots simultaneously scream about vote-splitting while trashing any talk of electoral reform.

If somebody needs to have the contradiction in that explained to them, they're probably too far gone.

Speaking of "too far gone," please entertain yourselves with the hysterical rantings of Simon's detestable co-blogger as she lashes out at every leftist topic imaginable, spewing liberal talking-points and smears and innuendos about "Bernie-bros" and "Corbynistas" and everything else under the sun and calling me a terrorist of some sort or another.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Another Dismal Election

Who is it going to be? The pro-corporate, pro-Tar Sands, pro-imperialism, pro-austerity, pro-inequality, pro-etcetera-lots of bad things Liberals?

Or the pro-corporate, pro-Tar Sands, pro-imperialism, pro-austerity, pro-inequality, pro-racist, homophobic, christo-fascist Conservatives?

Or the semi-pro-corporate, pro-Fracking, semi-pro-imperialism, excluded by our electoral system NDP?

Or the pro-corporate, pro-Tar Sands Greens?

Or the racist fuckwads of shit-head Maxime Bernier's Canadian National Socialist Party?

Let's face it; these parties are representative of just how fucked our society is. We're dominated by capitalism, which at its base is an inhuman system. We're a society based upon the theft of Native lands. We're a cultural and economic colony of the USA. (At least English Canada is, culturally.) And, there's a lot of stupid, or ignorant, or both people in this country. Racist, deluded, hypocritical, selfish.

Perhaps all those activists who don't care for electoral politics are right. Perhaps their extra-parliamentary marches, demos, forums, websites, actions, etc., are the way to go. Except for the fact that they've shown themselves to be pretty much useless. Occasionally every party but the Conservatives (and sometimes even the Conservatives) feel obliged to mouth words to make people feel good about them. But does anything ever really change? There are some limits on the depredations of the oligarchy, but will it be enough to stave off the ecological nightmare that is looming over us?

I think we need to articulate a clear, achievable vision for this country. One that speaks to individuals' self-interests while also putting a halt to our more insane, destructive behaviour. And this must be accompanied by a clear plan for how to get there. Everything else is just spinning wheels.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Simon and Jackie Go Crazy

So, I visited Montreal Simon to read his latest post, which was a condemnation of the Scheer Conservatives and their fans who are bringing USA-Repugnican style hatred and violent rhetoric up here. It started off well with a picture of some sub-literate right-wing moron holding up this ridiculous (and frightening) hand-made sign:

I've said on numerous occasions that stupid people must have the same right to vote as non-stupid people. But there needs to be gatekeepers to prevent the rise of stupid ideas and rage-fueled political movements from having any prominence greater than the level of three city blocks. Alas, for reasons of selfish cynicism our media and corporate elites see fit to pander to these cretins and stir them up. As well (whose kidding who?) from their own behaviour and the words that flow from their mouths, pens, pencils, keyboards, many among our elites aren't all that intelligent either.

Montreal Simon goes from trashing right-wing assholes calling for Trudeau to be "hung" (or run over by a truck) for taxing them, for verbally acknowledging global warming, for admitting Syrian refugees, for marching in PRIDE parades, and etc., ... where was I? .... Oh yeah, ... Simon goes from condemning those assholes to conflating them with progressives who yell at him for buying the TMX pipeline (so as to bail-out the Bay Street parasites who invested in that bitumen project) and praises Trudeau for asking his supporters (booing the guy) for tolerance as he lets his security drag the man away.

Immediately afterwards Simon mentions a guy who threw an egg at Trudeau during a climate march in Montreal, but it's unclear from the Global News video what that guy's agenda was. Personally, I've never gotten too incensed about ordinary people throwing pies (or, now, eggs) in the faces of politicians.

"What if that pie/egg had been a gun or a bomb or a knife?!?"

Yeah. But you're missing the important point that it wasn't a gun or a bomb or a knife. It was a cream-pie/egg. You could just as well shriek that the hand of someone extended for a handshake could have been a gun. But it wasn't. The person sticking their hand out to a passing politician just wants a handshake. Just as the person with the pie wants to make a statement and not kill anybody.

Simon then starts his spiel about how Justin Trudeau is the most activist politician fighting climate change EVAH!!!! because of his carbon tax and his investments in renewable energy industries. But, if Simon were honest (or not honestly ignorant) he would know that this is mere tinkering and that it is all cancelled-out by his continuing to develop the Tar Sands. Which is par for the course for a liberal politician. They're the masters n' mistresses of using empty words to gull their deluded followers. They "feel your pain." They "want to see all people rise to their full potential." They "don't want to see anyone left behind." They say the things we want to hear in order to get elected and continue to say those things as they enact policies that contradict their flowery words.

The end result of political cowardice and deliberate deceit by politicians like Justin Trudeau is going to be the extinction of most of the earth's life-forms. It will AT LEAST mean the deaths of tens of millions of people. Given this, it was justified for that protester to yell at Trudeau for his sickening devotion to the TMX pipeline. And it is the height of stupidity to conflate environmentalists with legitimate grievances with Islamophobic, racist, right-wing homophobic shit-heads threatening all their adversaries with murder. (Notice how that protester at the Liberal rally stayed right where he was and didn't make a step towards Trudeau.)

And, of course, the first "commentor" was Simon's in-all-but-name co-blogger "Jackie Blue." I haven't (and won't) read her entire densely-packed, extended comment. But she basically says that leftist "shit-disturbers" are as big a threat (to "rational centrists") as right-wingers. Now, given the evidence from Simon's own post, anyone not an idiot can see that isn't true. She then goes on to whine about the progressives who didn't vote for mass-murderess, corrupt scumbag Hillary Clinton. Because "Jackie Blue" continues with the bullshit story that she's a US-American and she continues with the bullshit belief that Hillary Clinton wasn't a murdering scumbag.

Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq War you stupid fuck! She voted for a war based on obvious stupid lies. The war she voted for has KILLED ONE MILLION IRAQIS and maimed and traumatized millions more. And that's only one of her colossal "mistakes" that she made while servicing the oligarchy and becoming a multi-millionaire herself. And it was Hillary's own sense of entitlement that led her to rig the Democratic primary to defeat Bernie Sanders and thereby bring on the presidency of Donald Trump. Hillary gave us Trump you imbecile!

As a species, we have to do the hard work of overthrowing his rotten, inhuman, ecocidal system. And the longer that (mostly decent-minded) people like Montreal Simon pledge hysterical allegiance to hucksters like Liberals, the longer (and perhaps TOO LATE) will it take to start that job in earnest.

(I'll end by saying that I probably won't be voting. My riding is a contest between the Libs and the Cons. And, from reading this article, I'm pretty much deflated about my choices anyway.)