Saturday, December 03, 2016

Millennial Disaster

I swore I wouldn't get into this but it's in the nature of old business for this blog.  Back in October, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote a column headlined: Baby boomers have been a disaster for America, and Trump is their biggest mistake yet.  I wrote a spirited rejoinder.

Part of his thesis was that polls showed boomers slightly favoring Trump, though I disputed his numbers and their relevance.

Well, now the election is over and the statistics are in.  Did the baby boomers do in Hillary?  Nope.  It was the millennials.  And the numbers are clear, according to...well, the Washington Post.

Nationally, Clinton did better than Barack Obama among boomers over 65 by a point, and was down 3 points from Obama in the 45-64.  (The youngest boomer is 52.) She was down a point in Milbank's Generation X.  But Clinton did 5 points worse among millennials.

But that's just the national story.  According to exit polls, in the states that lost her the election she was down among millennials five points in Michigan, 16 points in Florida, 17 points in Pennsylvania and 20 points in Wisconsin.  That is, down from Obama--enough (according to the Post's The Fix) to cost her these states and the election.

Why?  When polls all showed Clinton winning among millennials by larger margins?  According to the Clinton campaign manager: He noted, for example, that younger voters, perhaps assuming that Clinton was going to win, migrated to third-party candidates in the final days of the race.

So millennials, forewarned by baby boomers like me, members of this failed generation, voted for Nader anyway.  And they got us Worse Than Bush.  Way way worse.

Who's a disaster for America?

Friday, December 02, 2016

Once Upon A Time There Was a President

      click photo to see original size

The slogan that quickly emerged for the anti-Trump demonstrations since the elections is a telling one: Not My President.  In some ways, it's useless to insist that in respect to the most meaningful forces and trends distorting political, economic and environmental situations around the world as well as within the US, who happens to be President is of lesser consequence.  The office is powerful, culturally influential but it is also archetypal.  We're always going to care who it is.

In grade school we learned (at least in my generation) that the new United States broke the tyranny of kings.  This leader of a nation and a society would be elected. By now, more of the people are enfranchised, and the presidency is the only office for which the entire nation votes.

So the President represents as well as leads us.  And we're affected in our sense of ourselves and our time by who holds the office.  This is despite the fact that for the majority of the years since 1960, the President has been somebody awful.  And that includes one who in my own modest way I worked to elect.

Who is "my" President?  My first was JFK.  My second and likely last President is Barack Obama.  The contrast between him and nearly every aspect of his presidency on every level, and his successor are so nearly opposite that no ordinary explanations can account for it.  Sure, there are political explanations and the election itself is a matter of numbers, not even the majority will.  But you can't get past the fact that, regardless of their tragically mis-perceived self interest (unless they were billionaires, and even then...) a lot of people voted to destroy the country and the future for everybody.  That kind of tears it for me.

 Yet none of that in the end matters, at least to me.  Only the fact of who is going to demean and diminish the office and all its archetypal ramifications...and of course what his administration will do.

So I mourn the presidency as I honor the current President for the last times.  Maybe some will stumble on these posts in the future, and get a visual idea of what the presidency could be, because that's, once upon a time, the way it was.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Defining the Darkness.7

No source for this thought on terrorism.  But it was said during the campaign that terrorist groups like ISIL would be ecstatic to see Trump win.  His xenophobic and specifically anti-Islamic rhetoric and possible actions are exactly the recruiting image of America these groups sell.

Perhaps they'll let the new administration show its cards first.  But eventually--and maybe sooner rather than later-- I expect maximum effort to pull off a major terrorist attack on a US target.

This will drive Trump to either fulminations of frustration but little more than Twitter rage, or (I'm sure they are hoping) a rash act, possibly involving nuclear weapons, and/or committing the US to extended and large-scale warfare.

It may be that the Obama administration has destroyed enough of the ISIL leadership and structure to make this much less likely.  ISIL etc. may be limited for awhile to taking credit for individual acts.  But their recruiting is likely to become more successful.  Active terrorism and whatever that provokes seems likely to be part of the darkness ahead.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Defining the Darkness.6

"Gutting Obamacare might be the least controversial part of Tom Price’s health care agenda.

By tapping the tea party Republican as his top health care official, President-elect Donald Trump sends a strong signal he may look beyond repealing and replacing Obamacare to try to scale back Medicare and Medicaid, popular entitlements that cover roughly 130 million people, many of whom are sick, poor and vulnerable. And that’s a turnabout from Trump’s campaign pledge — still on his campaign website — that he would leave Medicare untouched.

“They will … not just roll back five or 10 years of progress — but 50.” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group that supports Obamacare."


The Death of Superheroes

Superheroes have never been bigger box office. Legions of dedicated fans parsing each new film across the Internet sit among other less intense moviegoers out for spectacle, preferably in IMax and 3-D.

After some false starts in previous decades, the Marvel comic book-based movie franchise has hit upon its formula of combining groups of its copyrighted superheroes into several movies a year, still adding new characters from its comics to the mix (most recently Dr. Strange.)

The other comic book franchise, DC Comics, is trying to do the same with its formidable stable of superheroes, including the very first: Superman. Though its attempts to apply the Marvel formula have met with mixed results, it continues to stir fan interest as it adds more of its characters to its movies. Both franchises are expanding their demographic reach by transforming formerly white male characters into women and people of color.

Moreover the superhero movies are of a piece with other “tent pole” movie “franchises,” notably Star Wars and Star Trek. They also combine visual effects action on a huge scale with character repartee. At a recent screening of Dr. Strange, the trailer for the next Star Wars movie show it to be indistinguishable from past Star Wars movies. Meanwhile the music for Dr. Strange is almost indistinguishable from the music for the Abrams’ Star Trek films (particularly the first), by the same composer.

But in their escalating scale, the superheroes are losing their reason for being, apart from visual thrills and commerce. Superheroes now exclusively battle super villains, when they aren’t fighting each other. They are gods fighting other gods. They fight ostensibly to save humanity, but they are completely detached from people.

That’s not how they started, or what first endeared them to readers and made them heroic.

Superman, the first superhero, was born in the Great Depression. Jerry Siegel was 20 when he and Joe Shuster created Superman in 1934, influenced, he recalled, by “President Roosevelt’s ‘fireside chats...being unemployed and worried during the Depression and knowing hopelessness and fear. Hearing and reading of the oppression and slaughter of helpless, oppressed Jews in Nazi Germany...seeing movies depicting the horrors of privation suffered by the downtrodden...”

Siegel was also reading about crusading heroes and seeing them in the movies. He wondered how he could help these victims of the 30s. “How could I help them, when I could barely help myself? Superman was the answer.”

Strikingly unlike today’s superheroes, Superman’s first exploits were saving an unjustly condemned woman from the electric chair, and stopping a wife-beater. In his 1930s adventures, he rescued miners in a cave-in, battled stock market manipulators and munitions manufacturers fomenting wars to sell their wares. He fought crime, but also poverty and unsafe labor conditions. He came to the aid of individuals in trouble, and was devoted to the common good. He was a selfless, high-spirited and humorous hero of the people.

Later superheroes, like Batman and Spider-Man, were motivated by a sense of justice, partly because of past trauma involving crime committed against parents or parental figures. These days some superheroes (like Batman) and action movie villains tend more towards elaborate revenge fantasies.

Born in the early 1960s, Spider-Man achieved heroic status partly by battling powerful villains but also through navigating the difficulties of ordinary life. Like Superman, he had a secret identity and led a double life, which grounded him. His relationships and affections—with his parental figure elderly aunt his love interests and friends—as well as his un-superhero-like problems with a nasty boss gave him a human dimension. His exploits were often related to actual people he was trying to protect or rescue. The success of the Spider-Man comics jump-started the Marvel brand, and set the template for several of its other superheroes.

Today’s superhero movies are almost completely detached from recognizable people in individual trouble, or even groups of people in specific situations of danger and tyranny. With the violent abstraction of video games, they battle across interchangeable urban landscapes that are little more than visual Lego constructions to twist and destroy. This is not to say they are without value, or do not offer some ethical and philosophical points of view. But for all their manipulated excitement and cleverness, there is an emptiness at their center.

In some sense, movies like a lot else that depends on technology, do what they do because they are capable of doing it. I counted at least a dozen visual effects companies in the credits to Dr. Strange.

Beyond delivering new and more elaborate effects, it could be that this turn in superhero movies speaks to our sense of powerlessness over the forces that confront us. Perhaps when the climate itself seems to be turning against humanity, it seems too large to be addressed by the civilization that is thoughtlessly causing the climate to deform. It’s apparently a matter for cosmic forces, for the gods and their evil counterparts. But in these movies their battles are meaningless—just elaborate versions of fistfights and wars, that reveal nothing and accomplish only wish fulfillment victories.

But the dangers that confront us may not be beyond human capabilities to address. It even seems that soberly dealing with the climate crisis should be a fairly ordinary extension of current civilization, even if it requires heroic measures.

But perhaps it’s felt to be beyond ordinary, and beyond us altogether. That may be partly because as a culture we’ve avoided talking about it. It requires more: a vision of what is possible, and models that realize those possibilities. Some versions of the hero—of the original superhero-- might help. But that’s not what we’re getting in today’s popular culture.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Defining the Darkness.5

In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
He added:
Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California - so why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias - big problem!

Trump’s statements are baseless and misleading. It is not just, as many (though not enough) news organizations reported, that Trump provided no evidence for this. There simply isn’t any evidence for it. It isn’t real."

Presidents have lied on an important matter of fact, but usually when their lie is difficult to discover.  President Johnson lied about a North Vietnamese attack on an American ship in the Gulf of Tonkin, and demanded that the US respond with unfettered war.  That's when Vietnam became a war.  It was not generally acknowledged to be a lie until tragic years later.

In 2016, this is a huge lie about the basic American process of selecting our government, and it is not only easily refuted, it was immediately refuted.

That however also is different from the recent past.  News media did not call a President or president-elect a liar, and they did not note in headlines to the very story of what he said, that he had provided no evidence at all.

But after the campaign, this lie is not a surprise.  America is about to be governed by an administration that lies as a matter of course.  It deceives in every way possible.  This kind of lie however is transparent, to the country and to the world.

Some part of the country--perhaps half--seems inclined to believe these lies.  There is no limit to the foul lies spewed across the Internet that this administration in waiting is willing to embrace.

This pathological lying, beyond any sane politics, is a chief source of the shame that many of us are feeling at the outcome of this election, and how we look to the rest of the world, to history and to ourselves.

Of course, this could be a political diversion instead of the usual projection.  Even though the feds have announced that no foreign hacking is evident, the FBI has proven untrustworthy in this matter.  Could there be nervousness about the recounts?  There is some argument in the media about how tactical or strategic Trump's lies are, or are they deeply pathological.  Whatever mixture of the two is involved in these specific lies, the pattern of lying is paramount.

The ascendance of G.W. Bush to the presidency in 2000 was a national tragedy.  Some of us realized it would be, but in his campaign Bush lied in ways that could not be refuted.  He said he was against foreign intervention and "nation-building."  He said he took climate change seriously and would address it.  Then he invaded Iraq and not only prevented the US from joining the world community in figuring out how to address climate change, his administration stifled climate science as much as it could.

Those who thought there was no difference between Bush and Al Gore were naive and self-deluded.  But this year, national and world media made it crystal clear, over and over, that Trump is a liar. Some analyzes said that nearly 3/4 of his statements during campaign speeches were lies. (In the two tweets above, there are at least 6 lies made or implied.)  Over a period of months, it was made loud and clear that his suicidal policies are built on pernicious lies.  

That's a source of the shame that is upon us.  Persistent lies backed by power drive out facts, truth, reality.  That's what dark ages are about: the rule of ignorance, the disappearance of a common ground of reality and truth, the shadows falling over our time.

Be kind, be useful, be fearless.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Defining the Darkness.4

"A civil rights group is calling for more police protection of mosques after several in California received letters that praised President-elect Donald Trump and threatened Muslim genocide.

The Los Angeles Times reports Saturday  the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the same handwritten, photocopied letter was sent last week to the Islamic Center of Long Beach, the Islamic Center of Claremont and the Evergreen Islamic Center in San Jose.

The letter was addressed to “the children of Satan” and said Trump will “cleanse America and make it shine again. And, he’s going to start with you Muslims.” It is signed by “American for A Better Way.”


This is only the most recent reported incident of racial intimidation.  Anecdotally,  Humboldt State minority students report a number of racial incidents both in town and on campus, including one report of a black student surrounded by whites making racial slurs.

These are just one expression of the racism and xenophobia that is coming out of the shadows. In fact, in psychological terms, this can be seen as classic cases of shadow eruptions--racism repressed because of societal disapproval, now unleashed due to perceived permission by a power shift in that society.

The image of a post-racial society was shattered during the Obama presidency, and now it seems that the image of millennials and younger Americans as especially "post-racial" was oversold.  Darkness spreads, and this may be just the beginning.