A Ticket on the Bat out of Hell

Lonely at the Top

Give me a Hand

It’s Getting Out of Hand

Down the memory hole goes my recollection of accepting a blind date with the idea that information is power. The hot night out was a double date. I was sat in back with Miss-information. Facebook and Google were in the driver’s seat.

Nothing to worry about. Don’t worry. We’ve got it— You mean the ad revenue? All of it? We’ve got it— Every Red Cent—Relax—

Digitally literate experts and influential faux-libertarian nerds were for self-enrichment motives ready to tinker with the connected-internet-revolution. And so we played-and the result? Down goes most of what we know as media, dog food and the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The advertising revenue has been hoovered up by the Big Two at the expense all known cultural and economic life on earth and it turns out that it matters ‘not-so-much’ to a spiraling out of control smartphone ensconced populace.

Kicking the bad actors off Twitter evidently diminishes stocks value and so there is a lot less kicking and a lot more kissing instead. Paid ads on Facebook by those pesky Rooskie’s? You don’t get the subterfuge gringo now do you? We don’t leave no stinking money on the table.

Bat crap crazy has always been a thing but then add wingnut conspiracy theory, resurgent Caucasian counterinsurgency and a dollop of bot driven Twitter induced smear campaigns and brothers and sisters ain’t nobody going to tell me that they know ‘in the name of all the good golly almighties’ what is going on in this fight for the survival of Democracy and Freedom. Chaos replaced Elvis as King.

Somewhere in the laying of the rails for this new high speed internet we forgot that our highway to good intentions might be hijacked by and for the Panamanian hide the money in an offshore bank account sanctuary for the global elite. Ditching money crosses all ideologies- hell it is a theological certainty Christ died so we might be able to fleece one another until the end of time.

We don’t even know what we are up against since much of what we seem to be trying to push back against is not neatly aligned on one side of the demilitarized zone or the other. We are all blended together into one petri dish mixture of crapified health-care mayhem.

Removing madness from office might be a place to start. Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon all have grown too big for their britches. I recommend voting for anyone who isn’t talking to Russians, pretending to act as if they don’t know anyone who has been talking to Russians, or mixing up in their minds the difference between a Putin sympathizer and a Russian immigrant fleeing a totalitarian police state immigrating to the USA in the hope of living free having escaped true tyranny. If you were in the Moscow Circus and nobody in your family worked with the FSB— you’re good to come on in.

Here’s a recommendation. We put a functioning democracy above a gangbusters capitalism and a record stock market close. We harden our media distribution system. Recognize that my blog is an opinion piece and not news, and that I’m a native born Californian worried about the future of the Left Coast.

We are all on our butts watching this careening out of control climate disrupted, overpopulated global village groaning at the strain of humanity thinking there is a short cut, cheap meal or simple way out of the mess and corner technology and private equity has put us in. Friends it is always  a bit precarious and tentative but when you go flirting with no-mans-land this is the inevitable peaceful queasy feeling you’ve been warned about and hoped to avoid. Well highway to hell is here. Let’s get out and march soon. Say hello. You’ll recognize me, I’m one of you. You know me. We are the peeps who can make a difference.

Like a Bat out of Hell on a Slow Train to a Better Ending

Train to nowhere

Sit Back Relax, We are Almost Done Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robber Barons Revenge

LA Market

A Little Fixer Upper for the Newly Minted Upper Lowers

Thomas Picketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century published down the rabbit hole of 2013 quantified capital’s relentless advantage over labor. The book researched and factually illustrated that the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of return on output. In other words the rich always get richer.

And down another rabbit hole was instantly vanished vast sums due to 2008’s global financial crisis. In one day Congress gave our banks more money than had ever been given over the span of a hundred years to poverty programs. God and Congress saved the Hampton’s, helicopters and whore houses. One out of three ain’t bad.

The whole Brexit thing was related to ordinary citizens living outside London having had their fill of the consortium of international bankers holed up in the City of London from relentlessly plucking their pocketbooks with the cooperation of a bought and paid for just down the River Thames Parliament. The populist’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were both dead and never were as charming as Paul Newman or Robert Redford. The ever charming actor Ronald Reagan and Britain’s Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher are Sun City’s poster children for the Gilded Age’s resuscitation.

Camera 360

Betting the House…

Unemployment was epidemic, millions of homes foreclosed, bankruptcies skyrocketed and drug abuse, suicide and shiftlessness were synonymous with the new millennium’s urban chic. As implosions go this was a doozy, as in Neo-Duesenbergian excess.

Our French scholar dude- Picketty- had the temerity to suggest that since capital was so muscularly advantaged in the acquisition of wealth over labor that the best way to address this bully’s advantage was through the progressive taxation system that had served the free world so well since last we visited capitalism’s long lost Uncle Dave Depression of misery in the 1930’s.

To extinguish the fires of civil discord from our previous Gilded Age Teddy Roosevelt gathered the robber barons— banging their heads together until sense was made and a solution was agreed upon— that a redistributive progressive taxation system would be created to fund a social safety net so that when capitalism developed the inevitable wobbles there would be some modest stabilizers there to help and support the citizens of a country from certain misery and deprivation. If the robber barons would not block the creation of the social welfare programs our leaders would not block capitalism to run ahead at a good pace, not too fast so as to cause speculative bubbles and depressions, but fast enough to create growth while tolerating the inevitable recessionary downturns, more akin to an accident than a full catastrophe. Hence, in 1914 the creation of our Federal Reserve Bank System.

So here we are. Progressive taxation is threadbare, the social safety net is in tatters, and our latest crop of robber barons emboldened as ever desperate to horde every newly minted dime claiming the lion share of profit as their destiny and the resulting poverty their greed causes as the fault of the shiftless ungrateful rabble living just beyond their security gates.

Our politics and peace is at risk for the odd stalemated and captured bifurcated duopoly called the two party system. We have somewhere in our history chosen to layer democracy atop capitalism and ever since the two systems coexist in skirmish and dis-ease. The latest win in Congress for our oligarchs is a loss for the vast majority. The resulting size and scale of the inevitable wave heading toward the election in November 2018 remains for history to tell. This isn’t money as speech, this is overreach as blowback. I can hear the bugles, see the pitchforks- I can  imagine a progressive tax system being reinstated. The challenge to the working class has been joined.

working class heros

Enjoying the Spoils of Roosevelt’s Victory

Tyranny’s Last Round

Hidden Figures
Traitors are Everywhere

The Spaghetti Western as stories go begs for a villain. Riding into town he climbs down off his saddle, pushes his way past a freckled faced boy, wraps his grubby hands around the mother’s waist kissing her against her will. The dastardly villain’s snicker trots into a menacing chuckle unhanding his victim only after fondling her breast.

Sergio Leone’s mastery of the tormented, the overlong close-up, in tight on the actors eyes, the swelling orchestration, Ennio Morricone moody-vengeful heartstrings, misconduct has been witnessed, order now must be restored.

In a confrontation one or the other character may not care what happens to the bystanders. Self-preservation can be a weakness, protection of the innocent a distraction. Best of all is to allow for our adversary enough rope to hang himself.

We have been waiting, until now our frail billionaire, if he is even that, has by incessant lying escaped the inevitable.

Fragile, petulant, quick to be psychologically wounded, his weaknesses are there for the world to see. The gleam on his allure dulls with time. Predictably he hits back at the least insult by returning all volley with a more squalid insult than the truth he has been forced to confront.

But, the counterpunching has made his challengers only more determined. Never the quitter, fighting to the metaphorical death, our villainous adversary deep within his fragile security system of an ego can’t admit the jig is nearly up. But, it is.

I am sure the blow to come will be a beauty, a real bolt out of the blue. We may not recognize that the punch has staggered our villain or that he is on the ropes groggy now and ready to take his inevitable fall for the count.

It’s coming. The agony his election has caused bares too great a burden on our democracy. Had he the sense to have moved to the middle, to govern as promised on the stump, not betray his own not so well to do conservative voters.

Our boorish occupant of the Oval Office has an entire opposition party, a significant fraction of deputized investigators, forensic accountants and members of the free press delving into his darkest corners. The great orange one will soon be vanquished, it is obvious. He might have had a happier life, but there was this one last skirt to chase, one more sovereign private part to grab. Nobody is above the law or more equal than a mistreated-innocent-involuntarily hit-on woman. I see the end to a movie that ought never to have been made.

Tyranny’s Last Ride

human folly rides again

Vulgarians of the East

Bay Bridge

Beauty as Bridge- Beast as Brute

Back East was once sufficiently far away. Arriving on the opposite coast by cannabis infused Volkswagen bus was enough sudden enlightenment for a few spare decades prior to now. I didn’t need to arrive since I had been born here in Oakland by bright pre-enlightened East Bay Area breeding stock.

A good shingle-sided two story in the Berkeley Hills, a rough idling Peugeot that needed brakes and willowy denim clad unshaven woman that didn’t need brakes was all the fashion, the rage, we were the famous coyote she sought to know horizontally.

Fog was customary, winters more or less arrived on the clock, as did spring and the fierce belief that parking tickets would as if by magic just go away.

Michael Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop arrived and remained. Lydia Pense fronting for Cold Blood replaced our Janis jones. Weekends were spent in Mendocino. Weekdays we toiled as little as least as was possible. The sun-washed deck at Sam’s in Tiburon for lunch an ache in our voracious appetite for lazily crafted cocktails. Before good booze there was strong booze. The hangover and squandering of wages and time we deluded ourselves into believing cost us next to nothing.

There were the years we had Jerry and the years we didn’t. There was a dot-com bubble, fern bar and the arrival and departure of the Fillmore to do. We did a lot of doing. Counterintuitively we altered the course of history first with Nixon and then Reagan. William F Buckley’s ruling class was rendered monosyllabic. There was only one word left- taxes. Education and science once identified as progressive ghettos have been squeezed by conservative tourniquet.

The summers in the Loire were splendid. Returning again and again to the crumbling ruins of our streets and bridges, what passes as infrastructure, the remains of our once great nations vaunted upward trajectory now frozen in squabbles between the have’s and have mores.

This and other circumstances we are no are longer in control of- take your pick- we have so many unsolved problems to ignore.

I am imagining the wildfires while inconvenient will eventually after incinerating most of the what remains of California will go away. On the other hand our nations capital inhabited now, whether you voted for him or not, all agree I should think it unanimous, the current man about town has proven to be a particular kind of billionaire. We have elected a vulgarian. Foul-mouthed, uncouth and loutish are terms that come to mind. Over sixty-million of our citizens thought it was time for a puppet preferred by Putin to follow the black man so that instead of solving some of our more pressing problems we could ferment the mother of all constitutional catastrophe’s to be triggered by the firing of this rumpled suited honcho with the last name Mueller.

This is that famous moment when we realize that this is the long spoken of hot water and we are all that unconscious amphibian resting in this pond of our own making as the temperatures rise. I’ll break it to you gently, whisper into your ear, as gently as I can, in case you didn’t yet know, just one word… it’s time to—  jump!

knocking it out of the park

There Really is a Better Way

Taking the New Normal for a Spin

Burned Out Four

Valley Fire 2015

Lake County, California

We flew south from Seattle to Burbank arriving over the Thomas Fire where the blaze had just crossed from Ventura into Santa Barbara County. Last summer’s dry season never came to an end. Instead this fall the Southland of California was treated to twenty degree above normal temperatures, low humidity and then the voluble Santa Ana winds.

Last nights flight down the coast was crystal clear, picture perfect. While cool in Seattle less average was the clear sky. Less than common still was the monolithic singular cloudless atmosphere witnessed the entire length of the west coast. As we approached Burbank after sunset we descended over the top of Los Padres National Forest. Looking down off the starboard side of the plane we could see flames approaching Carpentaria and further north near Montecito. The fire had in just twenty-four hours consumed another one-hundred-thousand acres with the most inhabited of those yet to be consumed acres in sight. Both densely populated communities are thickly canopied and in any other moment would be regarded as blessed with a handsome landscape. Not visible were the five thousand firefighters who had cut fire breaks. Standing along the break they braced to snuff out blowing embers that might escape from the national forest and ignite a blaze within the city limits of the two communities. Thousands had been order evacuated. The Department of Homeland Security had no answer to this terror threat.

There have always been wildfires, but there had always been a time of year associated with the fires. In decades before the present California had grown to near forty million citizens. In past times the wildfires happened out there in the wildlands far from the California car crazed maddened clogging crowds. An unintentional a price had come due for our obsessive horizontal sprawling real estate development. And as we all know Mother Nature bats last in the game called life. In this instance wildfire had come to speak about the risks homeowners take when locating their domicile adjacent to a tender dry fuel loaded landscape that with one accidental spark and aided by an ill-timed windstorm can ignite an inferno of unstoppable proportions.

My much loved daughter in Seattle and her partner have put off any thought of having children. Even at just twenty-five they’ve recognized and noted that the climate has changed, they know that the world is in trouble and the trouble that most concerns them is the trouble people make for the people who take climate change as a real and present threat. Stalemates are quaint even useful on a chessboard and existentially suicidal when played on the surface of the earth.

Puerto Rico is in super hurricane ruins, barely able to function, its electrical grid destroyed. Houston pounded by rains and floods- turned into a lake and now is mecca for slightly water damaged furniture. California not to be outdone has put on a wildfire show unlike any other. How we react, what we do, the planning and precautions we might take will tell us all we need to know about how smart, how intelligent, how adaptive and resilient our species is. Stalemate and gridlock might be a useful tactic in our nations capital but it won’t work here. If ever the world needed enlightened leadership now is that moment. If you are an optimist it is never too late, for the pessimists it already is, either way Mother Nature doesn’t care. Facts speak for themselves.

great tree

Piece of Reality Prior to Wildfire

 

Time to Go

ship

Following the Big Boys

We have thrown the baby of leadership out with the bathwater of abdicating any responsibility to govern. That splat you here coming from the horizon is the sound of dunderheads colliding with reality.

We have no idea how to get out of Afghanistan. Until then we extend and pretend. Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman were far smarter. Within seventy-two days they’d seen enough and threw the towel in.

Some low flying duster pilot while knocking back a cool one at the local titty bar after a day of crop spraying scrawled his formula for governing on the back of a cocktail napkin. Knots, strangleholds and infinitely regressive feedback loops were doodled on one side of the disposable napkin in the middle an equals sign and on the other in bold caps was spelled out TOTAL LEGISLATIVE GRIDLOCK.

Citizens of Kansas are treated to economic laboratory experiments executed under the misguidance of the the unrepentant failed economist Arthur Laffer. The idea from corn country was if you are going to try something to be sure to try the worst possible ideas in the world and then keep shooting yourself in the foot. Mission accomplished!

Never attempt to do the right thing, or the best thing. You want to do the thing that works for you and your tribe. That’s leadership in a post Fellini’s Satyricon world. Media tycoon and Prime Minister Berlusconi brilliantly pillaged Italy prototyping then perfecting the oligarchic model of bamboozling while cavorting with adolescent hookers. Thanks Silvio!

Leadership isn’t lost so much as unrecognized. Dueling ideologies discredit and delegitimize. Ripe followers are left to rot while lesser well funded minds rush to fill the void. Great ideas are the currency of the realm. Leadership is not happily married to great wealth. We may be having our Ernie and Ethel moment. For the sake of world peace and marital bliss someone needs to pack their bags and go. This indecisiveness, this inability to know when to leave is that un-peaceful, uneasy sucking sound you and the rest of us have been trapped in for a good while now.

porthole

The Way Way Out

Diamond Studded Offshore Love Affairs

Nancy Sculpture

The Balancing Act— Sculptor Nancy Rubins

Wilbur Ross looks like someone who would end up with the name Wilbur Ross. Why all these offshore bank accounts in Cyprus in partnership with Russia clients?

Trying to keep up with the Paradise Papers and Sunday football is an unpleasantness. Needless distraction really. Paradise Papers on the front page Sunday afternoon by Monday morning the tawdry tax dodging affair will be relegated to the back pages.

When the Queen of England needs to offshore her fortune you know that deck by Hoyle is in need of a better shuffle. There’s more cheating going on than there are congressional aids.

I’ve got a friend convinced that climate change is a racket. He’s telling me the government is colluding with the oil companies to force voters into buying insulation, electric cars and savings bonds for Polar bears.

It’s 100% guaranteed that the Central Intelligence Agency is seeding clouds and the Pentagon’s aiming radiation down from outer space with mirrors. The moon is a prop put in orbit back when Cole Porter was still something.

Trying to explain the con game pops circuit breakers inside the already cluttered minds of ordinary Joes and Janes. The jet setters who own international domiciles in Paris, London, New York and Tokyo don’t see citizenship as a duty. Like General Electric they are a globalized enterprise.

My high-net-worth-friends—— it’s all about tax shelters, the Cayman Islands and keeping your money undisclosed and offshore

Any good coming from tax cuts is as likely as a married man finding a lap dance being more inspirational to his vows than the old bride and the cold dinner waiting for him at home.

honey
Sweeter than honey