Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Democratic Ennui

Although Wally is getting over a cold that knocked him on his ass for several days, he still feels listless.  “It’s like walking through syrup,” he recently told friends over lunch.  But he was not alone.  Others expressed similar feelings of vague dissatisfaction.  No one present, however, could define the vagueness nor cause for the subtle weariness that had overtaken them for the past year or so.

And it wasn’t until Barb, a retired social worker who’d been fingering her iPhone for the past several minutes, loudly exclaimed, “We got ennui, that’s what we got.”

Consisting mostly of retired progressive Democrats, it was only naturel that they figured the root of their malaise lay in their disappointment and neglect by the very people whom they had voted for and counted on to lead the way out of the doom and darkness of the Bush/Cheney Years.

But the path out of political doom and darkness was becoming circular, “and we seem to be heading back in the same direction from which we came,” Wally asserted. 

“Wally, you really need to get a life,” a retired air force sergeant argued.  “It ain’t all about rollbacks of financial and environmental reforms.  You gotta realize that this too shall pass.”

In the end, however, Wally had to admit that the sergeant was right.  But right now, America is in search of its soul.  And for Wally, that means only one thing.   Now that the Christmas commercials are over, the political ones are already on their way and will be here soon.  And things will surely get ugly.

“Sometimes,” he posted to a friend, later that day, “this constant and never changing impermanence really sucks.  You never really know what’s coming next.”

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

FYI:  Wally is still insisting that he is ready for Hillary, but the real question: Is Hillary ready for him and those like him?

Dear Hillary,
I’m a lifelong Democrat, but of late, have been feeling betrayed by my leaders.   The hope and change I was looking for recently got snuffed out with the passage of a budget (CRominbus) through both houses of congress.  And it looks like the high testosterone folks on Wall Street and the financial services sector won again.  Granted, it cost them a lot of money but this upfront investment is what will make their long con work, and the fact that, unless we get a congress or administration both willing and able to stop to it, this is the kind of con that can go on until the end of time.   And although able, neither a Democratic Senate nor President were willing to stop it.

They did, however, express sincere distress and dismay over their decision to do nothing.

Despite it all, I’m pretty happy with what President Obama has accomplished, so far, during his time in office.  Being African-American and all, I really appreciate what he and the Attorney General have done as far as the killing of unarmed black men by police, civil rights, voter suppression and immigration are concerned.  And let’s not forget our recovering economy, unemployment, LGBT rights, a change in relations with Cuba and so much more.

On the other hand, Obama and other Democrats have allowed cuts in programs for the middle class and decreased pensions for workers, while cutting taxes for the top one percent and allowing speculators on Wall Street to continue making dangerous bets without fear of consequences.   If they win they keep all of their nearly tax free profits.  But if their gamble goes south, we cover Wall Street with our FDIC tax money.  Heads, Wall Street wins.  Tails, the rest of us loose.  This is one reason why folks on Wall Street always think of themselves as winners.  Wonder what they think of the rest of us?

And that, dear Hillary is the question.  What do you and your high end donors, think of the rest of us? 

Were you Madam President, would you have been in favor of that piece of crap, so full of special interest riders, the bill had to be edited in secret without anyone knowing its final contents.  What a victory for political transparency.  Would you have sat back and let that bill poison bill float through congress? 

And what about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)?  As I recall, Bill Clinton was total freak for free trade agreements.  Those free market commerce arrangements killed both American unions and jobs.  And instead of less financial regulation, consider holding the top one percent more accountable for what their greedy and destructive behavior wreaks upon the world.

Hillary, I am at a loss.  In so many ways I believe you’d make a great president.  More to the point, I truly believe in you.  You’ve got the experience and won’t make many of the mistakes Obama has made and continues to make.  It took Obama several years to realize how ruthless and deceptive his enemies really are.  Even now, he seems to have trouble believing what he sees.

Meanwhile, you’ll hit the ground running and already knowing how and whom to fight.  Better yet, you’ll be a quick study of foreign and security issues.  Question is, what are you going to do about the rip offs perpetrated by Wall Street, big banks and the continuation of economic inequality?

You, like Obama, seem very much tied to the culture of Wall Street and the financial sector.  And that is my main, if not only, reason to even think about a third party or look at alternative Democratic candidates.  Thus far, I would really like you to be my next president.  But if you’re strongly aligned with the Wall Street culture, then I need to start considering other options.  Where are you on economic inequality?

Please Madam Secretary, talk to us.   Tell us about your vision and let us know who you are.  We already know who Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are.  And now it’s your turn.



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Monday, December 15, 2014

What Would Hillary Do (WWHD)?

Wally says that he doesn’t get it.  “They just gave Wall Street a gift that will keep on costing the givers.  And it’ll be like, never have so many done so much for so few, all over again.   Wall Street will throw a party, not invite the rest of us, but leave us with the bill.  Just like in 2008.”

There is a lot wrong with that budget bill that recently passed both houses of congress, but one thing seems certain, with the roll-back of regulations governing derivatives trading on Wall Street, it’ll keep happening until it becomes illegal and someone finally goes to jail.

But to make sure they can keep passing legislation which totally benefit the top one percent, the same unknown person, or persons, also slipped in a little something that increases the cap on political campaign contributions from $32,400 to $777,600 a year.  During a two year cycle, for instance, a single rich person can give up to $1,555,200 or $3,110,400 for couples. 

So that’s how it works.  Rich people buy politicians via political contributions, who then pass legislation which voters don’t like, so that the rich can easier rip off the rest of us.  Once the laws are in place for continued rip offs, the rich then make it possible for them to give more, and the more that rich are able to give, the less relevant the rest of us become.

And both Democrats and Republicans are voting to screw us.  Democrats are saying how they don’t like the new laws but have to vote for them in order to get concessions from the other side.  Republicans, so far, haven't had to say much of anything.  And although Democrats never quite explain what the rest of us got in exchange for their betrayal of us, we all know that we'll eventually pay.

What’s next for Democrats?

Obama didn’t bring the change we were looking for and it’s unlikely that Hillary is even up for it.  According to Wally, “When it comes to Wall Street regulations and campaign contributions, she’ll let the rich people continue writing the rules and the only difference between her administration and a Jeb Bush Administration, for instance, is that Hillary will use K-Y Jelly when slipping it to us.  Shit.  She may even kiss us first.

“Meanwhile, I’m changing my voter registration from Democrat to Independent and if Democratic politicians keep ignoring Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders,” Wally finally concluded, “I’ll be looking around for a third party by the time 2016 rolls around.”

Thursday, December 11, 2014

With Liberty and Justice for All?

And if you’re growing up black in America, would that headline be true or false?

Wally will be turning seventy in a few weeks and he is still confused about that part of the Pledge of Allegiance that says, “With liberty and justice for all.”

“I was in the third grade when I first thought about that phrase,” he said.  “Even back then, I knew that it didn’t apply to me.  And it was a very unsettling thing for a third grader to suddenly realize.”

As it turned out, Wally wasn’t the only kid on his block to wonder why such an untrue phrase was included in something as important as the Pledge of Allegiance, and he and his friends talked of it often.   But as third graders, they had no understanding of poetic license and spin.  For them, liberty and justice for all, was either true or it wasn’t.

“The things we remember are probably very different from what most white people remember,” Wally wrote in an email to an old friend.  “Back then, lynching’s and police dog attacks were what we paid attention to.  And now, black kids are probably thinking about being shot by a scared and angry cop.”

Later that same day, Wally found himself discussing the recent police shootings with a white friend from his college days in Minneapolis, “I know what liberty and justice for all, means to me”, he said.  “But what does it mean to you?”

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Learn to Think Like a One Percenter

A rising tide lifts all boats, “But,” according to Wally, “if you’re among the very competitive top one percent, the less boats crowding the water, the more enjoyable and expansive your view.

“And fishing will always be fun.”

One percenters have a totally different view of the world than the rest of us.  And while the rising tide theory may make sense to the rest of us, the very wealthy have a different take.  “Not only is more for me better, less for others also works.” 

“I’d laugh in the face of Keynesian Economics,” Wally declared to friends, “and proudly let people know that my boats’ are already afloat and then ask, ‘and I should care about your boat because…?’”   

For toppers, economic inequality is a good thing.   More for them and less for the rest of us means that what they have is worth even more, simply because the rest of us have so much less.   Although things may eventually return to balance, it will be a while before that happens.  Meanwhile, the more inequality there is, the more vulnerable politicians become and more open to immense campaign contributions.  And the more politicians that toppers control, the more the laws, legislation and regulations will go their way.

“These days, were I in the top one percent,” Wally recently told fellow attendees at a Denver Inequality Teach-in, “my job wouldn’t be to create wealth like in the old days.  My job now days would be to snatch as much wealth as I can from people less clever than myself.  And that would mean most everybody else.”

Wally went on to explain to the horrified group how lifting all boats is probably a silly idea to a one percenter.  “Their idea is to keep as many boats as possible stuck in the mud and out of lake,” he said. 

Another attendee, having heard enough of Wally’s craziness, challenged him with, “Good thing you ain’t rich because you’d be a real dick.”

“To be in the top one percent, I’d have to be a sociopath,” Wally shot back.

“Ok.” the other attendee asked calmly, “suppose you actually had to look some of those people you fucked over in the eye.  What would you say to them?”

“Have a nice day and thanks for all the fish.”

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Cops, Big Banks, Wall Street and the Rest of Us

So what do cops, big banks and Wall Street have in common?

“All three,” according to Wally, “can get away with most anything and never go to jail.”

Cops are, after all, our last best defense against total breakdown and chaos while big banks and Wall Street are the only things standing between us and total breakdown and chaos.  And because of their special status as our protectors and preservers, we tend to treat them like gods and allow them special favors and dispensations.   “In theory, that might be all well and good,” Wally recently texted to a friend, “but in reality, it is bullshit.”

Because their social roles are so important, we also tend to endow them with a kind of super human sense of wisdom and integrity.   But that is seldom the case.   Specifically, cops are charged with making our lives safe by going after the “bad guys” as they define them.   More often than not, being young and black is enough to make anyone a bad guy.  And, as we all know, bad guys get whatever they deserve.

And it a cop’s job, as they may see it, is to deal out righteous justice to bad guys.  The bankers and Wall Street traders, meanwhile, see their jobs as making a lot of money and to deal out righteous Karma to the rest of us non sociopaths who aren’t clever enough to make it big in the financial services sector.  In other words, they are rich, can hire lobbyist and lawyers and don’t have to give a shit.

“But the point is,” Wally said, during a recent indie TED event in Denver, “as long as the protectors and  preservers are never held accountable for the pain and suffering they cause, there is no reason for them to stop.”

People who have lost homes and savings and ended up declaring bankruptcy know how corrupt that system is.  But believe it or not, a lot of those barely legal and, in some cases, totally illegal financial schemes got started in black neighborhoods right after World War II.  Once perfected, spun and semi legalized, these schemes left the ghettos and are now are now feeding the fat financial and real estate sectors.  

But much like drugs, jazz and rock and roll, a lot of stuff makes it out of the ghetto and into the mainstream.   And since cops are getting away with cold blooded murder of black citizens now, might these unavenged behaviors escape the ghetto and become a scary part of your everyday life?  “It might sound a little crazy,” Wally said at the above mentioned event.  “But in a land where corporations can become people overnight, anything is possible.”

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The St. Louis County Grand Jury: Once More with Feeling!

Wally vowed to neither write about nor discuss the St. Louis County Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the cold blooded killing of Michael Brown.  “It’s a waste of time,” he said.  “And if you disagree with me you’re likely to piss me off.”

Emotions are running high and, if truth be told, there is no real objective truth.   After listening to Bob McCulloch, the St. Louis County District Attorney, it was clear that, in his mind, the lack of an indictment is proof of Wilson’s innocence.   A few days later, five members of the Rams, ran onto the stadium with their hands up, as in “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” and expressed their opinion of the district attorney’s opinion.  “And although McCulloch has a right to his opinion,” said Wally, “it just goes to show that opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.”

Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports, via Reuters
Then, the local police union, St Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA), demanded an apology from either the NFL or the Rams.  At some point, someone believed that the Rams had apologized, but the team’s management denied that they ever apologized.

But if a recent post by Think Progress has any truth to it, then the truth may yet be knowable. Or maybe something close.   Seems there is an obscure provision of Missouri Law which might bring some clarity to all the confusion.  According to a recent post on their website:

“There is a provision of Missouri Law — MO Rev Stat § 56.110 — that empowers “the court having criminal jurisdiction” to “appoint some other attorney to prosecute” if the prosecuting attorney “be interested.” (The term “be interested” is an awkward legal way to refer to conflict-of-interest or bias. The statute dates from the turn of the 20th century.) The court with jurisdiction over Darren Wilson’s case is the 21st Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri. That means the power to appoint a special prosecutor is held by Maura McShane, the Presiding Judge of the 21st Circuit.”
The only question now is, Will the Presiding Judge of the 21st Circuit, appoint a Special Prosecutor and create a real grand jury?  “Or,” Wally asks, “Will she let the bullshit continue?”