Thursday, October 27, 2011

Freedom Fire Zones

Oakland's finest flipped with brutal flair. To be expected. The Occupy movement tests our owners' patience. Occupiers not only dig in for a long haul, awareness and desires expanding, they're making the political system look bad.

Official tears shed for Arab demonstrators now seem cynical. Well, to those who took it seriously. Double standards are an American constant. Endorsed by God. Consecrated by the Founders.

Whichever Oakland cop shot Scott Olsen in the head with a "police projectile" didn't help matters. A 24-year-old Marine vet who served two tours in Iraq joined Occupy and got a fractured skull and swollen brain for his trouble.

Olsen lies in critical condition, courtesy of an American police officer, not an Iraqi insurgent. Bad PR for the One Percent. Not that they can't move past it. If you can beautify Pat Tillman's demise, Olsen should be a cinch. To the degree that anyone of any importance cares.

Our owners and their mouthpieces clearly want Occupy to wither and die ASAP. Fun's fun, but this democracy crap is getting dragged out. Some liberal scribes profess admiration for Occupy, explaining the kids to their peers. Yet hostility is the reigning reaction.

What happens should Occupy continue as Obama is renominated? Do the Democrats make a last-ditch effort to corral them? Or does Obama go Hubert Humphrey, lecturing protesters about civility, manners, and duty? That Obama is running as a war incumbent offers a clue, but events are in serious flux. His handlers may prove inventive, though I doubt it. Power is its own campaign pitch.

At least Humphrey had New Deal ties, regardless of his pro-war stance. Obama has zero connection to social justice. His expansion of police state surveillance puts Nixon to shame. His reliance on drone assaults and targeted assassination makes George W. Bush resemble the frat boy caricature that long nourished liberal detractors.

Still, most liberals I hear and read pledge some kind of allegiance to Obama. Many don't see the disjunction of sympathizing with Occupy while touting Obama for reelection. Obama relied on the One Percent the first time around. He's even deeper with that crowd now. The picture is plain. The rest is projection and partisan interpretation.

Some Obama supporters I've spoken to have dropped all pretense about HOPE and CHANGE. Their New Obama is an Alpha Leader, a skilled assassin, a savage mule. Don't fuck with Barack! The dissolution of progressive fantasies about Obama has been steady and in places swift. His true face revealed. Loyalists are left with either denial or embracement. This accounts for their hostile, defensive tone.

It also means that, like former lib fave John McCain, Mitt Romney will be painted as a Tea Party fascist forcing women to have unwanted babies, when not lynching Black people on weekends. That Mitt and Barack are corporatists serving the same interests confuses those who require more dramatic scenarios.

Not since the Gore/Bush -- Cheney/Lieberman "debates" has a possible pairing epitomized our fixed system. I used to think it was an elite way of saying Fuck You. But again, this assumes that elites give a shit about how we view their world.

Scott Olsen's injury shows whose interests he served in Iraq. I'm sure he once considered it a patriotic duty, a form of Homeland defense. His joining Iraq Veterans Against the War denotes a change in perspective. His joining the Occupy movement demonstrates engagement with genuine democratic forces.

Keith Shannon, a fellow Iraq vet, said, “Scott was marching with the 99% because he felt corporations and banks had too much control over our government, and that they weren’t being held accountable for their role in the economic downturn, which caused so many people to lose their jobs and their homes."

When you march with the 99%, you've tipped your hand. You are, as Chomsky once noted, the domestic enemy. Tear gas, rubber bullets, truncheons, and sonic cannons (field tested on Iraqis) are your citizen badges.

The One Percent are in it for the duration. Matching their tenacity without succumbing to their brutality remains an ongoing, vital test.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Creeping Wreck

There are times when a political commentator gig seems worse than useless. This is one.

Take Qaddafi. His execution stokes typical American manias, most prominently self-righteousness and revisionism. Resisting the main torrent is exhausting and distracting enough. Making counterarguments in the face of flying bullshit requires patience and strength, two qualities largely absent in our discourse.

I couldn't do it -- well, I could, but man, what a waste of energy.

Perhaps it's a younger person's game. I enjoyed tweaking blowhards back in the day. It was fun. The confused expressions I'd receive made me laugh. Calling John McLaughlin a loud shill to his face, on his show, into his cameras remains a satisfying moment. McLaughlin stumbled over his text for a beat. I don't think anyone had spoken to him like that. He froze me out for the rest of the show, snubbed me afterward and never invited me back. Like I gave a shit.

There were many others. Mostly on panels. I felt I had nothing to lose. I also thought I was telling the truth. As close as I could get, anyway. I was considered extreme, unserious, crazy, conspiratorial. Reactionaries sputtered when I trashed Reagan and Bush. Liberals shouted when I trashed the Clintons and even John McCain (who once was a liberal hero). None of it bothered me. It became a challenge. Nothing serious, but a form of exercise nonetheless.

I can't imagine doing it now. The information system is stacked against alternative views. You need to be either a masochist or egotist to engage it. And to what end? Average people don't watch political chat shows. The educated class is too indoctrinated to consider heretical arguments. Professional clowns are there to make noise and wave flags. Political lunacy is so mainstream that someone like me would sound like the real lunatic. Potentially fun, yes; but again, only if I were younger.

The Qaddafi death circus lacks the heat of Bin Laden's murder rave. But some sizzle exists. Tyrant though he was, Qaddafi was nothing like the global monster portrayed in popular fiction. It's comic how inflated his reputation became. The real story, where Qaddafi essentially danced to the neoliberal tune, serves no official interest.

Like so many before him, Qaddafi was an imperial speed bag. To be pummeled when needed. Qaddafi helped in his own demise. His personal flamboyance owed more to Siegfried and Roy than Mussolini. His violations of human rights were rewarded and played down until he had to be Hitler again. Then he was the worst ruler on the planet. Beyond civilized norms. A mad dog loose among peaceful nations. There's only one way that narrative ends. As we've seen.

A nagging concern must be, Who do we get to replace Qaddafi? Not in geopolitical terms, but as a propaganda savage. Syria's Assad seems like the next target, though that would be a tougher production.

Despite official hostility, Syria and Israel have sought to normalize relations. Overthrowing Assad's regime would lead to regional instability, something I doubt Israel desires. But who the fuck knows. Once crazy is released, it quickly morphs into something deadlier. Especially when it's continually fed.

Qaddafi's straitjacket doesn't quite fit Iran's Ahmadinejad, yet tailoring continues. The most recent effort, a Master Plan employing Mexican drug cartels to whack a Saudi ambassador, was inspired. I'm not sure who the target audience for that was, but its creators committed to the premise.

It was reminiscent of the Soviet MiG scare in Nicaragua. More closely, the fabled Libyan hit squads that roamed Washington, DC, somehow undetected, but armed and ready for action. (This was dramatized in the popular science film, Back To The Future.) When does Iran ditch its surrogates and sends its own hit squads stateside? I'm sure we'll be the first to know.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rinse Cycle

Two dykes scream then kiss. A beautiful sight. Not as voyeurism, but as a healing example. Follow the dykes. We'll live better.

Younger women feel colder to me. Granted, they're not looking my way. If they were, I wouldn't look back. I've had enough freaks in my life. Still, they seem glazed. Stares, pouts, postures. Skin tight but false.

Perhaps it's dimensional. Some Nijinsky cubist barrier. Anonymity allows for perusal. But they're worlds away.

Women my age remind me of my age. Can't complain. We share the same tongue. Cultural baggage. Our separate wing of the madhouse.

I find many of them beautiful. They made the transition. Others are like me -- vain, insecure, overcompensating. I should like them but don't. We're mutual imposters.

Drinking dims the glare somewhat. You alight but most often crash. A dull thud. Boring as porn.

My ancestors hit it hard. As have I. Their legacy's in my gut. Our minds grilled over time.

I see them in darker corners. Blended shadow smiles. They are less daring in retrospect. Late laughter drinks pissed away.

I've entered their time. Quieter than I imagined, but comfortable enough. This will change. We don't exit mellowly. Wild eyes, kicks, punches at air. Tension explodes near the grave.

It has nothing to do with toughness. We simply grab what we can on the way out. One more touch. A final taste. Everything expended before nothing consumes us. An unspoken joke cutting clean.

There are worse fates. I've read about a few.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Long Run

The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save.

But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.

Like Arthur Jensen's the-world-is-a-corporation speech in Network, Morpheus' observation was prophetic. Increasing numbers of people question the system that owns us. Some are tentative, curious. Others want direct confrontation. Most desire relief from uncertainty. It's still early and in flux. But it's happening.

Reaction has been predictable. Right wing megaphones drone about socialist threats. Commentators condescend, even when trying to "get" what the kids are doing.

On Bill Maher's Real Time, P.J. O'Rourke, who's played a conservative curmudgeon since his late-20s, finally acted his age, denouncing Wall Street protesters as unwashed bongo drummers who need haircuts. Former SNL cast member Victoria Jackson peppered protesters with inane questions -- a wince-inducing Michael Moore impression.

Overall, the consensus is: How much longer does this go on? When will these people go away?

I wonder about that, too. And I support the Occupiers. It helps that the protests attract military personnel, union workers, average people fed up with the status quo. This can only widen and deepen resistance. But where does it lead? What's the next stage?

Naturally, the Democrats try to usher protesters into their tent, co-optation their prized tactic. So far this has failed. Obama represents the owners, forcing his apologists to strain reality on the run. As the election nears, a good number of those bashing Wall Street will vote for its favored candidate.

Someone like Rick Perry will make this easier to swallow. But if Mitt Romney gets the nod, attempts to separate Obama from his GOP reflection may prove comic indeed (especially after the news that Romney's advisers helped Obama craft his health care "reform"). The key is that current momentum isn't lost amid partisan noise.

As many of my political friends have noted, it's stirring to see anti-corporate arguments becoming mainstream. For those who spent decades shouting from the margins, this upturn in consciousness made it all worthwhile.

And this is just in the States. Global awareness and action grows by the hour. Elites are nervous, but remain secure. There are countless millions who accept the system as it is, or feel too powerless to confront it. The latter have examples to inspire and follow. The former spin excuses for those indifferent to their lives. These people may be the hardest to reach.

Friend Jon Schwarz found tragic comedy in this. The 53 Percenters claim comfort in the Matrix. Inevitable. Thinking beyond immediate conditions takes effort when you're boxed in. Acting on desire instead of obedience requires leaps most people fear to make. Changing the world isn't easy. Or safe. Or necessarily probable. But the current system guarantees alienation and downward mobility.

The 53 Percenters acknowledge this, yet celebrate it as a virtue. To unplug is to realize that the spectacle is a lie. Welcome to the real world.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Little Time Bombs

The ocean offers some answers. Cool water. Swirling sand. Big splashes against rocks. Salty mist. Growing up in Indiana made oceans exotic. I still feel childlike when walking a beach. Venice is a touch chaotic, its boardwalk vaudeville for tourists. But a glance at tall palms soothes me. Head clear. Mind at rest.

Sure as fuck beats that Ann Arbor hotel room. My three week bender about did me in. Hanging on to a life that no longer exists.

My son released me. Penned a letter telling me to go. His basic raising is done. He wants to move to the next stage. This includes his dad getting back into the world. So here I am, getting back into it.

Don't know if I'll ever move to LA, but I could do well here. There are plenty of spaces for me to read in and perform. Gave another reading at Ron Lynch's Tomorrow! Saturday night. Not as vibrant as the last time. Reading a parody of 9/11 manias pretty much silenced the audience. A few chuckles, but mostly stares. Friends told me that the crowd was rapt. Maybe so. I couldn't see past the front row. Read into the harsh stage lights. Dove directly into the seats.

Everyone that night worked the audience. What Barry Crimmins calls re-inflating a leaking beach ball. What's different than most rooms was Ron's reaction. He kept it smart. Didn't surrender to cheap bits. Brought the audience to him. It helped to have Chris Walsh and The Doorknockers on hand. There's no fourth, fifth or sixth wall when these guys perform. Whenever I'm around this kind of energy, I believe in comedy again.

After the show, Chris, Doorknocker Davey Johnson and I had a nice chat about the humor biz. Both are thoughtful, precise. Chris is especially analytical. Onstage he slices metal. Offstage, he's soft spoken. He and brother David are regulars at Upright Citizens Brigade, among other outlets. They are well-regarded in the LA scene. Not an ounce of cynicism or jadedness. Their performances are infectious, odd, funny. Where they'll end up is anyone's guess. But they'll emerge at some point. Sooner than later.

Not that LA is completely inspiring. The entertainment machine is everywhere. You hear its hum when talking to its employees. My friend Eric knows that sound well. A former comic book writer turned screen scribe and script doctor, Eric has stories. Entertaining, horrifying stories. Nothing that would surprise you. Still, it's amazing what people in the business are capable of. What they'll do without blinking.

Over lunch, I said to Eric that at least Hollywood doesn't bomb and occupy other countries. "Not yet," he replied.

Eric reminds me of my old friend Mark. When in LA in my twenties, Mark showed me Hollywood's fringe. Old theaters. Deserted movie lots. Locations where legends worked. Mark's deep knowledge of film history gave these places life.

Eric's similar. After lunch, he pointed in directions where Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton filmed. Knew exact locations for each project. Of course then Hollywood was more of a cow town. Laurel and Hardy filmed amid suburbanites driving or walking past their cameras. You can still see those ghosts in shorts like Hog Wild. Going about their business. Walking past giants they didn't see.

Think I'll go walk in their wake. If I spot two guys in baggy pants and derby hats falling off a roof, I'll know to keep walking. Mustn't ruin a take. We all have our places.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wall Street Story: A Brief History

Early traders dealt in limited commodities, so any emerging market was seized upon. A bull market in ocean floor bacteria led to this trading frenzy, establishing the term "liquid asset."

But the smart players sought fresh opportunities. Young J.P. Morgan discovered dry land, envisioning factories and regal summer homes, ushering in The Gill Dead Age.

As increasing areas of dry land became industrialized, a new breed of traders and investors evolved. The American Dream had arrived.

Yet mega-profits led to complacency, blinding investors to possible dangers on the horizon.

After the crash, the economy stagnated for centuries, luring traders into money pits where many lost more than their shirts.

Eventually, the economy stabilized, releasing the innovative energy of American business leaders.

Some protested what they viewed as corporate "theft," but posed no threat to the status quo.

Mergers and consolidations streamlined the workforce, imposing fiscal discipline that attracted new investors.

Today, traders engage new challenges, making us the envy of the modern world.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Caught In A Riptide

Looks like young Alvy Singer was right.

Three scientists, Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and Adam Riess, won the Nobel Prize in physics for confirming young Alvy's fear: the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate. According to their research, everything that is known will be covered in ice. As Charles Blue of the American Institute of Physics put it, the universe will become "a very, very large, but very cold and lonely place."

I thought that was already the case. The upside is that reruns of The Big Bang Theory will not contaminate alien cultures. Stay positive kids!

If the universe eventually does explode like Monty Python's Mr. Creosote, we should find comfort in the here and now. Well, maybe shelter. Some kind of covering. Ideally with a hard surface. Because those who own this planet are ripe for counterattack.

As increasing numbers of people wake up to and resist political and economic tyranny, our owners will get increasingly antsy. And nervous people with power tend to be very dangerous. They'll try to contain and rollback resistance with minimum force -- for budgetary reasons, mainly. But when they feel their privilege being threatened, watch out. They will not go down without a fight. We have the numbers. They have the weapons.

This is not meant as discouragement. I like the upbeat tone from the growing Occupy movement. It's essential. Just remember that however festive you feel, boots are set to crush your flowers. There will be defeats. Set backs. Elites didn't create militarized police to write tickets. Class war from above is still being waged. Slowing it while exposing it to others is the present task.

Or so says this old man. Movements can have effects. The Central American solidarity movement had many successes, despite the slaughter in that region. It certainly helped prevent a US invasion of Nicaragua. It helped make the Iran/contra scandal happen. Reagan's presidency took a hit, though the state regained its balance. Now we're going after the entire economic system. A much bigger job. But a necessary one.

Like the universe, human energy expands. We know which direction bankers want it to go. Let's keep them from reaching the breaking point.

AND: I'm planning to check out Occupy DC's action this Thursday. More later.