Archive for the ‘Deep political thought’ Category

When will it be Labor Day?

September 5, 2022

The late, great Gahan Wilson.

We never hear of Capital Day, not because Capital has no day, but because every day is Capital Day. The struggle in which we are now engaged will end only when every day is Labor Day.Eugene V. Debs, Labor Day 1903

It’s still Capital Day. For now, anyway.

At The Guardian, Douglas Rushkoff recounts his chat with a secretive group of super-wealthy dudes “preparing for a digital future that had less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether.”

In short, they’ve grown tired of our sniveling about their shitting in our shared sandbox and wonder whether they might be able to dispense with us altogether.

Writes Rushkoff, a self-described humanist and Marxist media theorist who writes about the impact of digital technology on our lives:

Their extreme wealth and privilege served only to make them obsessed with insulating themselves from the very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic and resource depletion. For them, the future of technology is about only one thing: escape from the rest of us.

One of the capitalists’ main concerns centered on how to control their security people after The Event — “their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, solar storm, unstoppable virus, or malicious computer hack that takes everything down.”

Yep, that could be risky. A SEAL might grow weary of barking for fish from the plump, well-manicured pinkies of a plutocrat. How to get away from it all when you need to take a few of “them” with you?

What happens when Labor Day finally comes around for real?

R.I.P., Barbara Ehrenreich

September 2, 2022

She took what they were giving ’cause she was working for a living.

Barbara Ehrenreich, the journalist, activist, and author who never lost touch with her working-class roots, has clocked out. She was 81.

Her New York Times obit draws from the introduction to “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” in which she recounts wondering with a magazine editor how the unskilled survive on the wages paid them and then blurting out something that she “had many opportunities to regret: ‘Someone ought to do the old-fashioned kind of journalism — you know, go out there and try it for themselves.'”

Which is exactly what Ehrenreich did, of course, working and living as a waitress, hotel maid, nursing-home aide, and Walmart “associate,” among other things. Then she came back and told us all about it.

And though she would be writing it up, she wasn’t phoning it in:

People knew me as a waitress, a cleaning person, a nursing home aide, or a retail clerk not because I acted like one but because that’s what I was, at least for the time I was with them. In every job, in every place I lived, the work absorbed all my energy and much of my intellect. I wasn’t kidding around. Even though I suspected from the start that the mathematics of wages and rents were working against me, I made a mighty effort to succeed.

She was not, and is not, alone. And in her Evaluation at the end of the book, Ehrenreich proposed that those of us who live in comfort while others barely scrape by should feel not just guilt, but shame.

When someone works for less pay than she can live on — when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently — then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life.

What a gift was Ehrenreich’s life. Peace unto her, her family, friends, and readers.

One step beyond

August 31, 2022

Your money’s no good here, and neither is anything else.

Mikhail Gorbachev has died and gone to Commie Hell, which looks a lot like Walmart.

Capitalist Hell, of course, looks more like Bed Bath & Beyond.

If I cared to visit a BB&B, which I do not, I could wander right on in with my face hanging out as in days of yore, and not just because there would be no other customers (and possibly no employees).

No, it seems that overnight Bernalillo County has switched from Condition Red on the Bug-O-Meter to Go-Anywhere Green, for reasons which elude me.

Oh, wait, just thought of one: The Labor Day Drive Far and Spend Heavily While the Gas is Still Cheap(ish) Holiday Extravaganza. Get out there and buy something, you sissies!

I suppose it beats hanging out in the castle with Prospero, waiting for the Red Death to come knocking despite the “No Solicitors” sign on the door.

And if worse came to worst one could always bunker up in a Bed Bath & Beyond, which has to be the closest thing to a sterile environment outside the Wildfire lab near Flatrock, Nevada.

But still, it all seems a bit one step beyond. Madness!

‘Are you employed, sir?’

August 26, 2022

The late, great David Huddleston as The Big Lebowski.

Employed, sir? No, I was not, despite my prestigious cowtown B.A. in journalism with a minor in political science.

And had my parents been foolish enough to borrow money to put me through college(s) — funds that were largely pounded down a noisome rathole of booze, drugs, rock ’n’ roll, cartooning, and Communism — they would’ve rejoiced to see any amount of the hellish debt forgiven and immediately invested a portion of the windfall on having me quietly killed.

Especially after they saw the homemade “colors” my bro’ Mike “Mombo” Brangoccio and I were sporting on the back of our graduation gowns:

“Mombo Club: Born To Pump Gas.”

Ay, Chihuahua. These kids today. Yesterday. Whatevs.

Your Humble Narrator, circa 1977.

Our mob flew two banners. The Mombo Club mostly free-ranged around Greeley, where we infested the University of Northern Colorado like hairy roaches. El Rancho Delux was rooted in a ramshackle house with an overloaded septic system on what must’ve been the last surviving chunk of rural land in Glendale, a stoner’s throw from the Bull & Bush, Shotgun Willie’s, and the Riviera Lounge, whose “credit manager,” Adolf Scarf, was a piranha sulking in a tank behind the bar.

But the less said about our fraternal organizations the better. I don’t know how (or if) my co-conspirators paid for their educations, but several of our Little Urban Achievers have become respectable members of their communities, and certain statutes of limitations may have yet to run their course.

A tad unfocused, not unlike the graduates.

As for me, my long-suffering parents paid for my schooling, such as it was. When I transferred to UNC they even bought me a used singlewide trailer to live in, no doubt thinking I’d need to get used to such accommodations.

I did have to raise funds for incidentals. Thus I sold drugs, drew cartoons for my college papers, delivered appliances with “Star Trek” addict Ed the Beard in a Step van dubbed “The Hawkwind,” and (with Mombo) did odd jobs for a posh trouser stain who motored around town in a right-hand-drive Bentley.

All I invested in my degree was time and a few jillion brain cells. Not even the president can get those back for me.

Bats, man

August 9, 2022

“Uh, sorry, Batgirl. Misdial. We were trying to reach The Taxman.”

“Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.” — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, speaking at a U.N. conference on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Oh, good. I’ve often wondered what it would take to put an end to the proliferation of dumbass superhero movies. A global thermonuclear holocaust might just get ’er done.

Or maybe we just need the right supervillain.

It wasn’t the Joker, the Penguin, or the Riddler who croaked “Batgirl” in her crib. No, the killer was the Green Eyeshade at Warner Bros-Discovery-HBO Max p/b AT&T, who discovered — with tens of millions already pounded down this particular Bat-hole — that writing off a made-for-streaming Bat-flick on the conglomerate’s Bat-taxes would not be at all, well … batty.

Industry insiders cite two changes between concept and execution. The first, in ownership, makes this one-time “purchase accounting maneuver” possible, as long as the movie is never released in any way, shape, or form; and the second, in strategy, aims to once again give theaters a head start over streaming as in days of yore.

With a budget made for television, “Batgirl” apparently began life as a B movie in more ways than one. But it can’t be a net positive when the entertainment press is quoting sources as saying that “the film tested once, and the result wasn’t that bad. …”

Too bad for TV? Have these people seen TV?

But when studio CEO David Zaslav tells investors in a second-quarter corporate earnings call, “We’re not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it. And that’s it,” well … piss on the fire and call in the bats, son. If a cameo from Michael Keaton can’t save you, you’re fucked.

Speaking of fucked, how many of you have bomb shelters? Raise your hands … yes, you there, crouched under your desks as if we were all reliving Those Fabulous Sixties.

Which we very well may be, if you listen to the U.N. secretary-general.

“The clouds that parted following the end of the Cold War are gathering once more,” Guterres warned in his remarks to the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

“We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy. … Eliminating nuclear weapons is the only guarantee they will never be used.”

Yeah, well, good luck with that, Tony ol’ tiger. We can’t even cut back on “Spider-Man” movies.

While we’re debating whether “The Sandman” is true to Neil Gaiman’s original vision, you can bet your Batarang that some miscreant is trying to steal a tactical nuclear weapon from the Russkies, hoping to vaporize a hospital full of nuns, widder women, and crippled children in Ukraine, and then sit back and watch the fun.

The subsequent tit for tat as old scores get settled would quickly strip the planet of its tits, and also its tats. Anyone who can swing a bat (har de har har) will be stepping up to the plate, and the game will not be called on account of accountancy. Not even Michael Keaton can save us.

The good news is, this will make for some spectacular TV. The bad news? It will be on every channel at once. Welcome to Fyou Island, folks.

Not everyone will get voted off the isle, of course. There will be survivors, in remote spots like Tierra del Fuego. And people being what they are, some bored techie-turned-sheepherder in the former factory town of Rio Grande will eventually link one of the locally produced netbooks, powered by a solar panel, to the scattered strands of the once-mighty Internet.

Of an evening, weary of sheep, he will follow this thread, and then that one, and who knows? He might even unearth the digital archives of Warner Bros-Discovery-HBO Max p/b AT&T, buried deep beneath the glowing remains of Tinseltown in a blastproof vault.

Maybe he stumbles across that unfinished “Batgirl” movie, with its Latina star, and watches it.

“Hijo de la chingada,” he will mutter to himself. “This sucks.”

A bang-up job

July 4, 2022

The morning clouds have been something to celebrate.

The only firecracker I personally set off today was a itty-bitty kiddie snap-pop left over from the previous night’s celebration in the cul-de-sac, a neighbor’s lightly explosive summertime labor of love. I hit it with a tire as I rolled out for an Independence Day bike ride.

Snap!

That felt about right, considering.

Albuquerque seemed unusually quiet for a Fourth of July, and I wondered once again whether The Duck! City is a place that people leave for a holiday, not one they visit.

Or maybe we’re all just wondering whether there’s anything left of America to celebrate.

We had a good group at last night’s fireworks show. Not exactly a representative sample of the U.S. population — hey, this is the ’burbs, and the foothills to boot — but if we were heavy on white-collar types from the university, the lab, and the government, we also had people of color and a sizable crop of kids, the most I’ve ever seen at one of these shindigs.

There were snacks and beverages and folding chairs. Squeals of delight from the young, and oohs and ahhs from the rest of us, with the occasional round of applause for a particularly percussive fountain.

The show didn’t start until 8:30 and so we were up a little later than we like, and I may have been a little grumpier than usual as I toured the foothills this morning on my old road-racing bike. Frowned as some oblivious tool blew right through a stop sign. Got mildly irked at an American flag protruding from a New Mexican zia with a security camera built in. (One nation, under surveillance.) And I actually flipped the bird to a banner reading, “Don’t Blame Us, We Voted for Trump!”

Finally, motorists eastbound on Paseo del Norte still haven’t figured out the new right-turn configuration at Tramway. Jesus wept, etc. You want to watch your ass cycling southbound if you ever want to see another fireworks show.

All this being said, there are bright spots. One of them is out there in the cul-de-sac right now with a leaf blower, clearing away any detritus he might have overlooked last night as the rest of us headed for bed.

He doesn’t have to do it. It’s a free country, amirite? But he’s doing it anyway, and not just for show, either. He does it because it’s a nice thing to do.

Lemons and lemonade

June 12, 2022

Looks like another scorcher out there today.

El Presidente made it to Fanta Se OK, so I guess nobody stole his car during his brief sojourn in The Duck! City.

It must ease the mind to have a coterie of swole dudes with earpieces riding shotgun on your road trips. Oh, they’re not as heavily armed as our typical teenage tosspot swerving a stolen Honda Civic through The Big I, one hand on the horn and the other out the window, its extended middle digit expressing his fervent desire that all who see it enjoy a ride of a different sort altogether.

But these are trying times. One must make do. When life delivers lemons, one asks one’s SS compañero in the back seat, “Fuck I want with these lemons? Pass me that rocket launcher, Slick, I want to clear a lane.”

I bet José was rocking the A/C all the way, too. Sure, it kills the gas mileage, which must drop that big black presidential pimpmobile down to meters per gallon from miles. But hey, it’s not like he’s whipping out his Visa card between gunfights at the Maverik station.

“This tank’s on my boy the Mad Dog. Sure, he’s on the dole, but his old lady makes fat stacks helping Strangelove find the owner’s manual for the Doomsday Machine and whatnot. Trust me, they can afford it.”

There are a lot of federal paws in the old Dog’s pocket these days as José tries to piss out actual and metaphorical fires from Canoncito to Kyiv. And for his troubles people from right and lift smirk that he’s a senile old fool who should be wetting himself in a Home somewhere, his greatest ambition to cop a feel of a plump caregiver.

Lemonade from lemons, folks. José’s finest quality may be that he is not Adolf Twitler. Just think about that pendejo, completely off the leash in a second term, doing whatever struck his fancy between inhaling Happy Meals and cheating at golf.

Herself and I were talking about José, Adolf, and the Hilldebeast just last night, and my old Pueblo Chipseal colleague Milan Simonich must’ve been reading our minds when he wrote this “Ringside Seat” column for The New Mexican:

To date, Biden’s greatest accomplishment is saving a nation from another four years of Trump, who somehow maintained a political base after kowtowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

That sad part for America and for Biden is that he didn’t run for president in 2016. He would have trounced Trump in that election. In turn, Trump’s corruption would have been restricted to his business deals.

The Democrats, bound to blind faith and political dynasties, nominated Hillary Clinton in 2016. She had just as many negatives as Trump.

Clinton was the wrong choice for the Democratic Party but the right matchup for Trump.

Clinton became the first Democratic presidential nominee to lose Michigan and Pennsylvania since 1988. Those two states were key in providing Trump with his victory in the Electoral College. Clinton won the popular vote, which became a meaningless statistic.

Biden probably became president four years too late to do his best work. He’s not as quick or convincing as he once was.

He’s also not Trump. That’s reason for hope in a fiery season of discontent.

Sure, we can do better. We can always do better, and should. But we’re gonna have to work at it.

“Grab an oar, Skeeter, and put your back into it. We cain’t all of us be philosopher-kings, and this Ship of State don’t row itself.”

Paging the White House gardener

June 10, 2022

Adolf Twitler couldn’t even get his own veep hanged. Sad!

OK, just for the hell of it, let’s say Adolf Twitler’s putsch was successful. Kept his fat ass blistering the Oval Office furniture with angry Mickey D’s farts, on the rare occasion when he was actually in town instead of slinging divots and bullshit at one of his comic-opera palaces.

Let’s also say that a group of angry socialists, Blacks, women, gays, gun-controllers and pro-choicers unhappy with this outcome marched upon the U.S. Capitol and started a “dustup,” as a DeeCee feetsball knuckle-dragger recently described the Jan. 6 insurrection.

And while we’re at it, let’s envision the GOP response to a House committee investigating the second “dustup.” Would its work be dismissed by Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and other pustules on the American body politic as “illegitimate” and “a sham?”

Hee, and also haw. There would be no such committee. The Proud Boys hired to replace the Capitol Police would have machine-gunned every one of those terrorists while Mike Pence’s dead eyes gazed blindly down upon them from his gibbet. Congress would be too busy wondering who’s next to look into anything more substantial than airfare to Costa Rica.

Only white fascists get to water the Tree of Liberty in this country.

Memorial Day menu

May 30, 2022

Lt. Harold J. O’Grady, formerly with Brooks-Scanlon Corp. of Foley, Florida.

Occasionally the mundane overwhelms.

Too hot to sleep. Whoops, almost forgot to set out the garbage and recycling. The last avocado’s gone bad; no guacamole for the morning toast. Do we have anything Herself the Elder will eat when we bring her over this afternoon? Or do I need to go to the grocery on Memorial Day?

“Boy, you sure get offered some shitty choices,” a Marine once said to me, and I couldn’t help but feel that what he really meant was that you didn’t get offered any at all. Specifically, he was just talking about a couple of C-ration cans, “dinner,” but considering his young life you couldn’t blame him for thinking that if he knew one thing for sure, it was that there was no one anywhere who cared less about what he wanted. There wasn’t anybody he wanted to thank for his food, but he was grateful that he was still alive to eat it, that the motherfucker hadn’t scarfed him up first. He hadn’t been anything but tired and scared for six months and he’d lost a lot, mostly people, and seen far too much, but he was breathing in and breathing out, some kind of choice all by itself.

Michael Herr, author of “Dispatches,” met that particular grunt in Vietnam. But he has brothers and sisters everywhere getting offered some shitty choices, mostly by us; our scrapings from the bottom of the ballot box, a real shit sandwich, one that eats you if you’re not careful, or simply unlucky. Just another kid snatched out of a small-town sawmill and shipped off to a picnic in someone else’s woods. One thing’s for sure — he won’t be “board” there!

Sometimes I think Memorial Day should be expanded to honor lives lost to lip service as well as national service. But there aren’t enough hours in the day. It could wind up bleeding all the way over into the Fourth of July.

Flower, child

March 26, 2022

A little bit of sunshine against the back wall.

Wowsah. One minute it’s icicles on the wisteria, the next it’s SPF 70 on the arms and legs.

Yesterday was my first outing sans arm and knee warmers this spring. Didn’t even bother to bring ’em along. As a consequence this morning I am a slightly darker shade of pale. In selected PG locations, anyway.

Chihuahua.

Elsewhere, the weather remains unsettled. Finding Ukraine unwilling to roll over and play dead, Voldemort Poutaine, the old commie spook whose military education apparently began and ended with World War II, may be inclined to declare victory and settle for trying to choke down a smaller bite of the country that he’s been chewing on for a while now.

Then again, his purse dogs keep yapping about Dropping the Big One to See What Happens. So, let’s not start dancing the Hopak just yet.

Meanwhile, the less said about the Ketanji Brown Jackson job interview, the better. Jesus H., etc. How Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and Josh Hawley can take three steps in public without getting kicked in the nuts remains a mystery to me.

No wonder everyone wants legal weed these days. The whiskey isn’t doing the job.

Oh, well. Today we’re looking at a high of 76° (!), so I can apply another layer of color to my carcass. But if Pat O’B ventures out today he’s gonna need a space suit. Tucson hit 90° about five days early this year and it’s only gonna get hotter.