Tuesday, October 10, 2017


It's a hallowed, hollow anesthetized
"Save my own ass, screw these guys"
Smoke-and-mirror lockdown

"Bad Day," REM
The morning after the Supremely Lovely Day, one of the loveliest ever,
I regarded the
hollow orange.

It lay in the backyard of the house we had rented, at the base of the tree from which it had fallen. Since then a critter had carefully and completely devoured its fruit.

I'm guessing it was a possum. We had seen two of them slink along a concrete gutter at the back fence the morning of the Lovely Day. The homeowner noted in her rental instructions that it's OK to feed the gray neighborhood cat should it happen by. We joked that maybe the nearsighted homeowner only thinks they're a cat.

The orange rind remained full and round, even with a flap across its middle clipped away, the shape of a rawhide flap on a baseball. Though the other baseball flap is all that remained, the rind held its shape.

In this quiet moment, soft talking all around in the backyard, the rind made me think of my country, hollowed out steadily as I write. The thought of it dampened the afterglow of the Lovely Day, in which our son and his beautiful fiancée got married.

That Day overflowed with novel sensations. Useless as ever, I stayed off to the side and witnessed the pell-mell rush to complete the many last details, which had been dreamed and planned for more than a year.
  • The groom and his men using the rented home as their base, adjusting their tuxes, sliding into their patent-leather shoes, pouring into the limousine that would take them hilly hither and yon.
  • Some of the bridesmaids readying themselves at the home too, in glories of makeup and gown.
  • The beautiful bride in the beautiful cathedral, her home, standing next to her soon-to-be husband, both of them crowned, in the Russian Orthodox tradition. We are at once somber and wondering, sneaking glances high into the church's uninterrupted space.
Unseen from high above in the cathedral, a choir burst forth, their intertwining harmonies filling the immense cube of space, and seeming to set fire to the gold leaf in the iconography, the Bible stories, that adorned every surface.
  • At the reception at a magnate son's mansion-turned-wedding-venue, the newlyweds embraced all of us who came to witness, embraced the moment they had yearned for, embraced long into the night.

    Lou Seal, the San Francisco Giants mascot, made a surprise appearance, an amazing how-did-she-do-it? arranged by my new daughter-in-law. Photographs prove our son went wild with glee.
It was joyful and bewildering, committed now to memory, bright and fierce.

Much of the rest of this year, however, has been ashes.

They are away now, the new wife and husband. They are out of the country, on a new chapter of their adventure together. It's not really a secret where, though I don't feel like disclosing. I feel in a way I have helped spirit them away. They are somewhere safe — safe from their own country, now being eaten away, like the orange, but looking somehow whole.

Our other child is stateside, in the country. I wonder what our children think of this place now. I could not have imagined what it's become.

In sixth grade I penned a school report about our country taken over by Russia or its simulacrum, of a transplanting of our representative government by a dictatorship, of our freedoms instantaneously removed, and how that world looked. But in my literary device it was all a dream, because the country in which I had grown up, by its very rightness, would not so much as brook a takeover.

I have thought that way, more or less, through my life. Despite its egregious behavior at home and abroad — for all its many failings and sins — my country was still right, an experiment worth improving. Though it has faced threat and extinction many times, my country would hold and thrive.


This is real, and this is worse. With the Trump administration, this is a daily dismantling from within, a taking away, a making less.

I watch the daily creation and vilification of the Other. The Other are legion — women, blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, Dreamers, the poor, critics, opponents of their thoughts and actions, activists for constitutional rights. The environment. The world.

I watch denizens of the Trump swamp take power, deliberate and swift, as if with orders to make whatever Is within their power, suddenly Not. Whatever Was, Will Not Be any more, for its own sake. Step by step, agency by agency. I watch them fly about the world needlessly at enormous taxpayer expense, then lecture us against fraud and waste.

Hypocrisy made hip.

I watch Puerto Rico drown in a hurricane and debt and denigration, and then see President Trump say he's doing a terrific job.

It is not just blatant. It is the Age of Flagrancy.

What is not on purpose is instead capricious, the stuff of unthinking, dangerous whim.

I wake up each morning with a thought I hadn't entertained since I was an Air Force brat and lived in the Cold War's chill across the coastal valley from the missile base, and could see the rockets lift off, and knew it would be a first target in a nuclear strike:

Is this the day nuclear war begins? Is this the day? Is this?

Is this?

Reflexively, I think of how our leaders can protect us from the brink, and snap back to the real dread that the man in charge is the one pulling us to the brink.

I hit "angry" a lot on my facebook®™©, as if that will help.

Ashes flow in the air as I write, ashes from fires all around. Uncontrolled fire has destroyed whole neighborhoods where close relatives live in Northern California. Fire swept close to my childhood home two weeks ago in Southern California, where my sister still lives. Storms laid waste to Texas and Louisiana and Florida and Puerto Rico. A man beyond any understanding shot to death nearly five dozen people and wounded hundreds of others in Las Vegas.

But by all means, let us all denounce football players peacefully protesting racial injustice, and let the man who's supposed to lead us use is energy to confuse his followers that it's about disrespecting the flag.

My beloved San Francisco Giants finished one of their worst seasons this year. Three years removed from their third World Series win in five years, the Giants won 64 games but lost 98, tied for the worst record in baseball this season. They finished the season 40 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants battled hard not to lose 100 games. Lou Seal had little to cheer about. Our children's wedding, and not much else.

Every team opens the season in first place, but the Giants looked good and strong, promising; fans could breathe easy with hope. In lightning speed just a few things happened here and there, and the talented team became a wheezing creature. Funny how little it really takes to derail a vaunted team.

Or a country.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Look over there!

This is all going one of two ways — and either way, you lose. Unless you can do something about it.

I still don't know what to do about it.

But I'm on fire to find out.

Either you believe:
  • God stopped the rain right before Donald Trump delivered his inaugural address Friday
  • Three to five million illegal votes were cast in the general election, depriving Donald Trump of a just popular vote victory in addition to his Electoral College win
  • God resumed the rain as Donald Trump finished his address
  • The inauguration was most viewed, best attended inauguration in the history of the tradition. Period.
  • You and I suffer an American carnage
None of these is true. All are proven false, even semantically. All are lies, repeated by Dread Pirate Trump and his parrots.

They are not even very important, though the continued lie about the illegal votes persists as much as it intrigues, because voter fraud hangs heavy in this election, but not in the way Trump declares.

If you believe all this obvious why-even-try lying, and more (such a firehose of lies these days!), then you and I lose. You are a frog boiling, and you don't know your end is near. I do, and I'm watching, more frantic than I was nine paragraphs ago to find out how to fight this insanity.

You are doing as egregious sycophant Lamar Smith told you, that you should get your new from Donald Trump directly, rather than from the news media. Mr. Smith is a Republican Congressman from Texas, and someone who makes decisions about science and press policy in Congress.

Your froggie life will have boiled away before you realize your lost jobs that Donald Trump said he'd rescue are not coming back, that they have already been lost to automation and shareholders' need for squeezing profits from your company.

Creating a new economy and new opportunities? Not so much. Easier to sell you on the old economy that has already long gone. Too bad for you.

Your health care will become tatters, not that it will matter to you, in your boiled state. But it matters to me and so many millions. Something really good is replacing Obamacare, you will have heard while dying. But nothing will replace it, nothing good anyway, not for you. Just as long as all traces of Obama are gone, that's what matters to Dread Pirate Donald and his Parrots, and everyone following him into the fallout shelter. They could rename it, erase Obama's credit, and fix the flaws while so many millions kept their coverage, and maybe it would even get better. But no. The powers that be don't care, and they hope you boil away before you get boiling mad about it.

By coincidence, the top 1 percent will get tax breaks with the repeal! Imagine the odds!

Either you believe this glorious fountain of the most obvious bullshit ever spewed — or you don't.

You still lose.

The Washington Post ran a postmortem feature on the White House Goings-On Saturday night, how Donald Trump returned from the last inaugural fete (probably a happy dance — for him, anyway — with his clearly distraught wife Melania), and was so enraged to see coverage of the women's marches across the globe, and the suggestion that his inaugural crowd didn't match up — so enraged he wasn't getting his due as the once and future king! — that he made his press secretary Sean Spicer rush out to the media in a cartoon suit and school them on what we now enshrine as "alternative facts."

As much as I respect the Post for its unrelenting examination of Trump and his "presidency" (hey, Trump got to do it with "intelligence!"), I will offer that it is way off in this assessment.

It's not the only medium calling out Donald Trump's narcissism, terrible temper, ego — even suggestions of mental illness — but I am suspicious.

Donald Trump knows exactly what he's doing. More plausibly, forces behind the curtains and doors in the Oval Office know what they're doing, especially how to work Donald Trump like a lever for their fascist, authoritarian aims. Trump knows what they're up to, and may be in it for the big payoff somewhere down the road.

A disarming opinion by a writer for the Caracas Chronicles says Donald Trump is like Hugo Chavez, the late totalitarian ruler who left Venezuelans with the oil-poor chaos they live under now, where people stand in line all day in hopes of toilet paper, and catch whatever grain spills from relief trucks while the military profit from the rest on the black market. Come to think of it, Hugo Chavez also said he was giving back Venezuela to the people.

So did supervillain Bane, in the Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.

Hugo Chavez was not stupid, writes Andrés Miguel Rondón, and belittling him and raging against him didn't take him down. Doing so just gave him room to mass-label his opponents, the people, as the enemy, and turn them into cartoons, and turn power against them.

Or even better, to ignore them — as our Republican power elite are doing right now to you and me, even you boiling frogs. None of the Republican leaders meeting with Trump yesterday seemed particularly perturbed by Donald Trump's voter fraud claims or the use of alternative facts. Mitch McConnell, honorable servant of the people, said there could be other sides to any argument. Two plus two could mean just about anything, you see.

Rondón suggested it's better that our leading opponents of Donald Trump use his weight against him, like a judo move, and be among the people, and be with the people, and truly know their concerns, and separate Donald Trump from the people in this way. To give America back to the people, truly, and not in some nationalist phrase that means its opposite.

That's a patient play, and maybe it's right. But I don't think we have time. I have a feeling this cluster bombing of bullshit, this widespread deployment of clampdowns on government agency communication and removal of climate change information, this renewing of oil pipelines, this closing borders to refugees from Muslim countries and threats of Muslim registry — this whirling hurricane of the most ridiculous, cartoonish lies — are a weapon against us.

All this is camouflaging some mad race Dread Pirate Donald and his puppet masters are embarking on, and they're frantic to get it done before we boiling frogs and their dry but doomed witnesses find out.

Investigating massive voting fraud! And finding out whatever Donald Trump wants to find out, so he can suppress voting further, but call it free and fair! Maybe trademark it! Publish lists of crimes by immigrants, and use it to restrict Muslim Americans! And that's just what we know of!

I will never forget John Steinbeck's opening line from The Moon is Down, a novelette of the Nazi capture of a Norwegian town. Never forget it since the day in 10th grade I first read it:

"By ten forty-five it was all over."

Watch the skies.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


So, it's Thursday morning, and Donald Trump hasn't revealed to us what he knows that no one else knows, about alleged hacking and manipulation of the U.S. election. Like he said he would.

"You'll find out Tuesday or Wednesday," Trump said Saturday at the New Year's Eve party he hosted at one of his resorts.

That was yesterday. And that was two days ago.

We still don't know. Because Trump doesn't know. He knows he doesn't know. Because Trump doesn't care. About anybody but Trump.

In two weeks he'll be our president. In name only.

"And I know a lot about hacking," Trump said at his party. "And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else."

I thought, if nothing else, Trump would produce the guy from the bed in a bedroom somewhere — the guy Trump has repeatedly said could be as likely as Russia or China to have screwed with the election.

But what he produced — as you and I and everybody else, including Trump, have known all along — was nothing else.

Because is a liar. He is a liar and a manipulator, scaring hell out of citizens and corporations alike. Citizens united, indeed.

What Trump is NOT is the thing, above all, we need in our president. Someone to trust.

I can't believe anything he says.

Trump's lies are how he has defrauded businesses and voters, how he has put the leader of a foreign power over the integrity of our own intelligence sources and the intelligence of the American people, how he makes money from the office he will hold.

Mine isn't partisan griping; mine is a lament for human decency.

No need to retrace his transgressions. They are legion, half-baked fresh every day.

Which is why this transition looks like a takeover, looks like a takedown, smells like a breakdown.

So many people I know bid bitter goodbye to 2016, that it sucked, that it took with it too many of our most cherished celebrities.

Yes it did, but here comes 2017. The living are going to envy the dead.