Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Watched All The President's Men last night with someone who hadn't seen it. It'd been ages for me, so the film felt fresh as well. Not only is ATPM a time capsule in style and subject matter (remember investigative journalism?), it reinforces how imperial corruption has sharpened.

"Jeez, that Nixon was a piece of work."

"He was a brutal, paranoid fuck," I replied. "Sad thing is, Obama's worse."

Oh man is he ever. Difference is, Obama's smoother. No self-pitying rants from him. Obama makes you feel good about awful things. If you're predisposed to it, that is.

The past four years will do little to dampen liberal spirits. They're already revved up, intent to keep fascist Republicans out of the White House. That no Repub running can match Obama's authoritarian record is beside the point. If anything, it deepens liberal love for Their President. As the year slogs on, this mindset will intensify. By election day, the only way decent Americans can forestall a Nazi putsch is to give Obama another term.

Again, it's a great system for those who own it.

Liberal propaganda is already piling up. On Facebook, claims about the Democrats' progressive nature appear hourly, the most brazen (so far) insisting that Liberals Are Cool. To support this theory, a checklist of liberal social achievements appears. Victories for workers' compensation. Protection for seniors. Civil and voting rights. Reproductive freedom.

Impressive. Thing is, that Great Leap Forward hit the wall with George McGovern's defeat in 1972. Since then, it's been a rightward retreat.

Under Carter, Clinton, and now Obama, the clock has been steadily set back. Policies that would make Nixon blush with excitement have been championed and enshrined by liberal heroes. Small wonder why Obama supporters reach through time to justify their present acquiescence.

Obama's expansion of Bush/Cheney police state measures isn't as sexy as Medicare, though there are those who'll defend surveillance and endless war as well. Recall liberal orgasms over the Bin Laden hit, or defenses for the Just War in Libya. Whatever it takes to elect Democrats. Our sole hope for survival.

Didn't catch the State of the Union speech (or SOTU, which to my weary, dyslexic eyes resembles STFU). What's the attraction? Arrogance and pretense are rubbed in our faces. Adults who buy into this bullshit, or worse, believe it has something to do with them, are tragic souls.

If you're paid to watch and regurgitate SOTU talking points, that's one thing. But to feel that it's your "democratic duty" to watch a president boast and lie as the corporate-owned Congress claps along, all I can say is "Netflix."

Noam Chomsky said that Watergate demonstrated how the system polices itself. Woodward and Bernstein weren't all that interested in COINTELPRO, the FBI's program of surveillance and disruption of dissident groups and figures. They probed Nixon's spying on the Democratic National Committee, an action that stepped on numerous elite toes. Nixon and his henchmen overreached with that operation and paid the political price.

Lesson: Don't fuck with those with serious political power. It's a reason why the Reagan gang got away with Iran/contra. Or Bush/Cheney with the Iraq war. Or Obama with the NDAA. I doubt that Romney or Gingrich will be elected; but if one of them is, he has a lot of ground to cover.

Still, I enjoyed watching the pre-Internet research dramatized in All The President's Men. Imagine, actually poring through books! Lots of them! With hundreds of pages! Jotting down notes and quotes with pen and paper! Countless hours of intensive mental labor!

Who among the eager young devotes that kind of effort to expose today's political criminals? I know of a few with the desire. And of course there's WikiLeaks, or what's left of it. In this age of streamlined corruption, digging deep while keeping pace is the current struggle -- if you'll excuse the retro-jargon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Get Sprung

Many liberals I've known hate that DC's National Airport is named after Ronald Reagan. He was a warmonger! A reactionary! He traded arms for hostages! Shame on National for honoring his name!

I usually counter with, What about Dulles? I've never heard a liberal denounce that airport's name.

John Foster Dulles was a Republican Secretary of State who helped plan anti-democratic coups in Iran and Guatemala. He and brother Allen had business ties with Nazi companies. The best you can say about Dulles is that he opposed nuking Japan. But since most liberals defend Truman's atomic assault, Dulles' opposition should count against him.

Nary a peep. Same goes for Kennedy Airport and the Kennedy Center. Reciting JFK's crimes is pointless since millions do not view him as a criminal. But the point remains. So why the fuss about Reagan and not Kennedy? Of course we know the answer. But every so often obvious questions should be asked, just to retain what sanity is left.

In all my visits to DC, I'd never been to the Kennedy Center. When a friend offered a ticket for an evening of music celebrating the Tunisian Revolution, I said sure. It's been a long time since I've dressed up and gone out; plus, I'd finally see the hallowed place. As a new resident of the District, it seemed almost mandatory.

I was curious to see how the Arab Spring would be depicted. US elites were caught off guard by the uprisings, backing their friends and clients until that proved untenable. Then poof! They were for democracy. Expressed lavish support for political freedom. The standard bait and switch.

In reality our owners oppose popular Arab rule, as there is tremendous hostility to their imperial interests. Libya was a test case with an already demonized foe, using the Arab Spring as cover for NATO intervention. The Western concept of Spring is more explosive than dissent from below, a season the Iraqis continue to endure.

Overall, the Kennedy Center was underwhelming, a frozen reminder of "modern" architectural tastes from the late-60s/early-70s. I was taken with the giant JFK head in the lobby. For all the cracks about North Korean Leader worship, we do a fine job of canonizing our plaster saints, or in this case, bronze martyr.

People milled around the head, admiring its scope and inspirational likeness. But I thought, if you're going to deify JFK, do you really want to emphasize his head?

Near the head was a bar, a more fitting tribute to the Kennedys. The concert was about to begin. I slammed a Stella Artois and entered the theater with my friend. The audience bristled with excitement. There had been rumors that the Obamas would appear, maybe the Bidens. We were mercifully spared that. Still, the crowd felt psyched. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.

Then came the speeches. The Arab Spring was rightfully hailed, followed by imperial ass-licking. I knew this was probable. We're in DC, after all. But it went on and on. How the US has traditionally encouraged democracy in the Arab world. How our shining example of unfettered freedom inspired those in the streets. A State Department flunky, whose name I didn't catch, spoke on Hillary Clinton's behalf, praising Madam Secretary's love of liberty.

People nodded affirmatively. Applauded here and there. It all made sense to them. To me, it seemed a perfect moment for a personal tour of the building.

As I left the theater, I saw the bartender putting away his bottles. If I was going to sit through two more hours of what I'd just seen, a stiff drink was needed.

"Absolut on the rocks, please."

"I'm sorry sir. The bar is closed."

"Okay. How about a beer instead?"

"Sorry sir."

"There's a bottle right here! Come on, man. Charge what you want."

"Sir, please step away from the bar, or I'll have to call security."

Now I was truly glad that Obama and Biden didn't show. Imagine having this exchange with Secret Service agents around.

Rebuffed, I walked throughout the Center. I liked it better without people, a large stark space from lost time. As with so much else in DC, the Center's size and symbolism convey imperial confidence.

This especially made sense with Kennedy, whose presidency marked the high point of US power and wealth. Those days are long gone, the Center an anachronism. To have it crumbling and covered in vines would at least give it some character.

When I re-entered the theater, the speeches were winding down. I took my seat as a video promoting Tunisia's tourist industry came on. It reminded me of the Mount Airy Lodge commercials from the 80s, promoting a Poconos resort for stressed out New Yorkers. Swimming pools. Saunas. Golf courses. Fine dining. Five star hotels. Yep, it looks like the average Tunisian finally has it made. Thanks to us, naturally.

At long last, the concert began. Composed by Jaloul Ayed, Minister of Finance in Tunisia's interim government, the symphony celebrated Hannibal Barca's military campaigns. Playbill described Hannibal as having "a great capacity for ruthless endurance in battle, as well as an equally charming personality."

That's a tough combo to pull off when using elephants to crush enemies. Someone of that stature deserves a stirring symphony. Unfortunately, Ayed fell centuries short.

Not that it was a bad symphony. Hell, I would've preferred a bad symphony, introduced by Leonard Pinth-Garnell whom I would never walk out on. Hannibal was simply a boring symphony. Obvious. Thumping (the elephants?). Brash. More John Williams than Mozart.

The audience didn't appear crazy about it either. People checked watches. Stole quick glances at their iPhones. Like Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane, I twirled my program, killing time. As Hannibal dragged on, people began to leave. But we stayed to the cymbal crashing end.

In the cab line outside, commentary was tepid and brief, if polite. Hannibal didn't conquer this crowd. A portly white guy ahead of us got into a cab and was immediately kicked out by the driver. Apparently, he didn't want to go to the white guy's address. So the white guy accused him of bias against Black people.

The driver erupted. Loudly demanded respect. Screamed for someone else to get into his cab. He looked at me. I begged off. This made him angrier. Finally an older couple appeased him. They settled in as he kept yelling, his cab racing out of the lot.

I didn't catch the driver's nationality, but he's clearly adapting to American patterns. Maybe the speech makers inside were right. Sometimes it hurts to be so envied.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Remember Blogs?

If you haven't noticed, I'm on a bit of a site hiatus. Working on other things. Moving about with more travel in the near future. Plus, I haven't felt like writing extensively about the present scene. Hard to believe, I know. But surprise is the spice of any fulfilling life.

Fresh posts will appear soon (and there's always my Twitter feed). One involves an evening at the Kennedy Center honoring the Arab Spring. Well, that's what the program said. What I endured was something entirely other.

Porter Wagoner best sums up my current mood. Remember, it was he who introduced Dolly Parton to the world. So he had some knowledge of life's darker secrets.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

One Of Us

It begins yet again. Actually, it never ends. We are throttled by elections, primaries, fund raising, attack ads, appeals to cheap nationalism and tribal hatred. A conga line of energetic mediocrities, to lift Gore Vidal's timeless description, deign to manage us for their employers.

We're told how lucky we are. How blessed. Envied by countries with freer elections. Americans gorge on envy. Our national lifeblood. Advertising relies on envy to sell shit. So why not inject it into our politics, such as it is?

I know -- this is obvious. We've been down this tangled path too many times to count. But at least this time around, there's ferment from below. Occupy is off the front burners, but remains lit.

This election is the perfect space to occupy. How it's done, to what end, is still developing. My sole hope (that battered, abused word) is that Occupy isn't swallowed by Obama and the Dems. There's a risk of that happening. Obama still casts a seductive spell on many liberals. A sexy savage mule.

I wonder if Obama's staff are amazed by how much they've gotten away with. Success usually breeds arrogance, especially at the presidential level. Obama's signing of the National Defense Authorization Act closed 2011 with a perfect Fuck You to his supporters -- to the extent that his supporters oppose police state legislation. Or bother to notice.

No, most liberals are busy portraying the Repubs as a unique menace to all that is Good and Pure about our nation. The GOP certainly makes it easy for them.

But as primary season drags on, money, not ideology, will decide the matter. And that looks more and more like Mitt Romney. For all the booga-booga about Gingrich, Perry and Santorum, liberals truly fear a Romney nomination.

Like Obama, Romney is a reliable corporatist, pledged to endless war, indefinite detention, expanding surveillance. Romney's advisers helped Obama frame his healthcare "reform." How do you demonize an Obama collaborator? We'll soon see.

Liberals can be creative in tight spots. Romney's Mormonism must be tempting, but it's a limited target. I suspect liberals will play the Patriot Card. Obama the Osama slayer. The quiet storm that topples dictators. That sort of thing.

I don't envy those employed to follow and report on this twisted charade. Which probably makes me a bad American. Well, they certainly know where to find me.