Debate #2 Trump and Clinton get down and dirty.

October 9th, 2016

My blow by blow version of the debate. You can watch it yourself.
First question are you going to elevate the tone?

The tapes of Trump speaking “locker room talk” has become dirty. Trump is now bringing up the Clinton sex scandals. Trump fans clapped when Trump said Bill Clinton was a sexual aggressor. Hilary responds with going high and got more cheers. She is bringing up the Khans, the Indiana judge, and this is getting dirty. Hilary brings up the birther issue. Trump brought up Sidney Blumenthal and the Obama birth. Trump claims Michelle Obama made negative comments. Trump brings up the Bernie Sanders defeat, and then he goes on about the emails. Trump is going to instruct the Attorney General to investigate Hillary Clinton. This is a direct threat. Hilary responds got to the web site and fact check. Trump fans cheer when Trump calls for Hillary being put in jail. Trump is saying Clinton is lying. Trump is trying to rattle Clinton. She is not going to buy it. Trump is now attacking the moderators as he wants to continue going over the emails.
Second question is about Obama care. She wants to rein in costs. She is going over the benefits of Affordable Care Act. She wants to increase aid to small businesses. Trump is states Obamacare is only getting worse. He notes it is much too expensive. Trump says allow interstate competition. that is what the Republicans have always claimed. He says the single payer system like Canada is horrible. Anderson Cooper asked Hillary about Bill Clinton’s comments. She clarified his comments about the expense. She is saying that giving it back to the insurance companies will turn it back to the insurance companies and people with preexisting conditions will not have insurance. Trump brings up Bernie Sanders twice, trying to get Sanders supporters on his side. He wants to do the block grant approach.

The next question is about Islamophobia.

Trump says Muslims have to report what they see. He speaks of San Bernardino as an example, Orlando and Paris, Radical Islamic Terrorists are something he wants to attack. Hillary wants to reassure Muslims. She says Muhammad Ali is an example of an American Muslim. She also says Muslims have to be part of the eyes and ears of America. She says defeating ISIS must be done in coalition with Islamic nations and she says his rhetoric plays into the hands of ISIS. Trump is now claiming that he would not have allowed invasion of Iraq. He wants extreme vetting from certain areas of the world. He has changed the language. He claims Obama is allowing people in without vetting from Syria. Now he says hundreds of thousands of people coming in from Syria. That is an exaggeration. Clinton speaks of women and children needing help from Syria. She blames it on the Russians. She says you cannot ban people based on religion when the country is founded on religious freedom. She thinks his statements are used to recruit fighters for ISIS. Third time Trump brings up Sanders claim that Hillary has bad judgement. He is talking about the border and his being supported by border security.

Is it OK for a politician to have a two faced position, public and private? Lincoln had to convince people with different arguments to get the 13th Amendment passed according to Hillary, giving context for her statements. She then goes into the Russian connection with Trump and she calls for the release of Trump’s taxes. Trump claims that she is trying to blame on Lincoln her lies, He called him Honest Abe. Trump says he knows nothing about the inner workings of Russia and doesn’t know Putin. He says he has no loans with Russia. He now says he pays hundreds of millions in taxes. He says again when audits are in he will release taxes.

Question about fair taxes for wealthy.
Trump answers that Clinton didn’t change tax code because her friends take advantage of it. He says he will lower taxes from 35% to 15%. He wants to reduce regulations. He claims there is no growth in the US, one percent. He wants to lower corporate taxes. Clinton says Trump’s plan will be a massive gift to the rich. His plan will cost the middle class. She is now saying taxes should go for those making over $250,000 a year, and she wants to use the Buffet rule that will tax those over a million and a surcharge on those making over five million. Anderson Cooper is asking about the rite offs and Trump says he did, just like the other wealthy. The carried interest provision is being left in place, in Hillary’s plan. Trump is saying Clinton is all talk. He is going on about Libya and Iraq. He is blaming ISIS on Clinton. She is quoting Reagan, she is responding to his attack saying she has done nothing in thirty years. She talks about getting health insurance for children as wife of president. She worked to get money for victims of 9-11, name on 400 bills as senator.

Question about Syria, Aleppo disaster, UN asked to do war crimes investigation of Assad Regime. Clinton calls Syria a catastrophe. She blames Russia, Iran and Assad. She says Russia is not interested in getting rid of ISIS. She advocates a no fly zone. She wants to work more closely with allies on the ground in Syria. She says she has taken on Putin and others. She says when she can she will work with Russia, but she does want to see war crimes investigations. Trump is now saying the US is behind in nuclear weapons and Russia is advanced. This is patently stupid. He tried to pin the line in the sand issue on Hillary which was not the case and she responded. Trump is saying Assad, Iran and Russia is killing ISIS. Pence says the US should use military force against Syrian regime. Trump disagrees with Pence, he wants to go after ISIS and forget about Aleppo. Aleppo has fallen. He says it is stupid to let ISIS know they are attacking Mosul. He wants the attack to be secret. The moderator is defending the US, Trump says the US should be secretive. He says ISIS is leaving Mosul. Two hundred admirals and generals are supporting Trump. Clinton says American troops should not be holding territory in Syria. Special Forces, trainers, are good. She is asked what she will do different from President Obama. Some of what they have to do is to signal to the allies what the plans are. She says go after Bagdadi. and arming the Kurds is her idea. She says they will take ISIS in Raqa after taking Mosul.

Do you believe you can be president for all the people? Trump says yes. He claims NAFTA is the biggest disaster for the country. Trump is claiming Clinton lies, he says he will make inner cities better, blames Democrats for failure in the inner cities. She will not do anything as president about inner cities according to Trump. Clinton says 67% voted for her in her senatorial re-election. She is proud of her record working for kids with disabilities, registering Latino voters, she wants to make sure that people have a place in America, claiming Trump might send children back to Ethiopia. Trump effect is an increase in bullying according to her. Cooper states that the half of Trump supporters that are deplorable was a mistake, she has an argument with Trump. She says she is proud of the campaign between her and Sanders. Trump says we have a divided nation, look at Charlotte, Chicago, increase in murder, he says Clinton has tremendous hatred in her heart. He then goes on to say she is another Obama. Trump goes on about the 3 am call in the morning about the Libyan situation in which Clinton did not respond to the ambassador. Doe Trump have the discipline to be President, Hillary says not. She mentions that under her husband improved the economy and jobs. She notes that Obama has improved the country after the worst recession, since the depression.

Another question is about the Supreme Court Justice.
Clinton says she will support justices with real life experience. She wants justices who will reverse citizen united and will support voting rights. she want a supreme court that will support marriage equality and Roe Vs Wade. She wants a Supreme Court that will not always support corporate interests. She says Republicans should have supported Obama’s nominee. Trump calls Justice Scalia was a great model. He has twenty justices who will protect constitution and the second amendment. He says he is putting in 100 million contributions. Why isn’t Hillary Clinton doing the same? She responds wanting to have comprehensive background checks.
Energy policy question.
Trump says EPA is killing domestic energy business. He says he is in favor of alternative energy. He claims Clinton wants to put coal miners out of business and believes in clean coal. He says China is dumping steel and killing steel jobs. He says we have to protect our energy companies. Clinton says Trump is buying Chinese steel. She wants to make sure the USA is not dumping steel on the USA. She says the USA is energy independent. She says the USA is producing a lot of Natural Gas and that is a bridge to alternative energy. She wants to move to clean energy and create millions of new jobs and wants to revitalize coal country. She wants to do something for them. Coal prices are down world wide.
Last question would either of you mention one positive thing about the other?
Clinton says she respects Donald Trumps children and she thinks that is a good thing. She says the election is so conflict oriented because there is so much at stake. She doesn’t agree with anything he says. Get off of personal and get on to what we can do. I have done my best to help kids and families.
Trump says he is glad she compliments his children. He says she is a fighter and she doesn’t quit and that is a good trait.

That was it muted applause at the end. Then the shook hands at the end. This was very offensive debate. Trump was on the defensive at the beginning. Trump turned it around later on in the debate. His base will be happy, but it may have been more of a wash. He was more effective than Clinton. She was not as strong as others had thought she would be.
No apology from Trump, attacks Bill Clinton, and then goes on the offensive. Hillary was not prepared for Donald to come out swinging. Instead of being contrite, he attacked. He praised the Assad and Putin efforts in Syria and publicly disagreed with Pence. This was very odd. It is as I predicted, Trump would unite with Russia and take care of ISIS and anybody that gets caught in the middle like the Syrian opposition. Clinton was not able to dominate as much as she had in the first debate and it was strange that she had not been able to go on the offensive with the Trump tapes comments. She did counter attack on some of his 30 years comments but that was not enough. Trump pivoted away. He attacked the moderators and seemed to dominate in a way he was unable in the first debate. He did nothing to assuage the concerns of minorities, Muslims, and did nothing to display what he would do for people. Clinton was more substantive. But his emotional appeal to the five year old mentality was rather successful. Too bad.

Pence VS Kaine Debate VS Rumble in the Jungle

October 4th, 2016

The vice presidential candidates were more like traditional debaters. Pence was rather overwhelmed by Kaine, if this were a fight Kaine was Muhammad Ali and Pence was George Foreman. This was not quite the Rumble in the Jungle, but then I couldn’t resist, man who could sting like a bee was Kaine, running circles around Pence who literally could not defend Trump’s statements. Pence was stronger when he struck out on his own and made up a foreign policy that was much closer to the national establishment consensus
calling Putin a small man. and pushing for a get tough on Russia agenda. Both Pence and Kaine were in favor of a no fly zone in Syria. Whether Trump would actually support such a policy. The new Republican line to justify Trump’s remarks was to say that “Trump is not a professional politician” thus attempting to turn the continuous series of gaffs on the part of Trump. Democratic spin masters did a better job after the fact. Kaine was criticized for being too on top of things and being rude when he was simply a better debater.

Skip the ad and watch or not. I am not going to spend much time on policy tonight. If you have stumbled upon this in some distant future and wonder what is going on, just remember Muhammad Ali was a small man and Foreman was a giant. The David Ali beat the Goliath Foreman. Pence and Kaine both believe in Biblical analogies. David and Goliath is about as close as I can get. Which one is which, I leave that up to you dear viewer.

Clinton Vs. Trump 1st Debate

September 26th, 2016

I admit, I dosed off about two thirds of the way though the debate tonight, Monday September 26th, 2016. But it is over ninety degrees here in Long Beach and I don’t have air conditioning. I watched the debates again later on CSPAN when things had cooled off.

The weakness of Clinton on trade and her lackluster defense of her jobs plan indicated that Trump was coming on strong. Clinton attacked the trickle down economics of Trump and even got in a dig about how Trump got started out by borrowing money from his father. Hillary described her dad as a salt of the earth small business owner. As the debate wore on, Clinton came on stronger and especially hit Trump on the issue of his taxes and the birther controversy where Trump really had no answers. Trump wants to impose import taxes, tariffs, using the example of Mexico which applies a VAT tax on goods imported from the USA. He had no answer to the questions about how he would bring jobs back to the USA. Evidently it would be by offering large tax breaks. But historically when the rich get tax breaks they don’t invest in the economy, they by luxury goods and essentially play on the sock market, they don’t invest in creating jobs. She did much better attacking his tax plan. Claiming Trumps tax breaks would lose the country 3.5 million jobs, and her plan would add 10 million jobs.

Creating jobs though massively expanding the solar energy program in the US is part of the same stimulus that Obama used to help stimulate the economy in the depths of the recession. China and Germany already are leaders in the solar economy and unless there is protection of the domestic industry, it will not be able to catch up. Trump merely pointed out that some of the solar companies invested in by the Government failed.

NAFTA and the TPP were weak areas for Clinton. She ended up backing up her husbands enactment of NAFTA. He attacked her flipflopping on the TPP. She slogged through that.

Trumps wants to deregulate and lower taxes, traditional Republican claims. Clinton struck back with her announcement of a real time fact check on her web site. Clinton took on some of the populist mantle by wanting to raise taxes on the wealthy.

Trump made an absurd statement about Clinton fighting ISIS all her live. Clinton responded by asking people to check the facts.

Clinton seemed stronger on the TV screen and seemed comfortable, where Trump seemed tired, was sniffling, and as the debate wore on Trump seemed to loose focus. He interrupted, got louder and louder. He made sound bite statements. He accused the Fed and Janet Yellin of being politicized. He backed down on his statements about claiming the elections were rigged. Trumped bragged about making $624 Million last year and did not refute Clinton’s claim that he did not pay taxes last year. Trump’s voice after listening to the debates a couple times really got on my nerves.

Trump claimed he would not release his taxes until Clinton released her missing emails. This did not stick and Clinton managed to damage Trump by speculating about why he didn’t want to release tax returns like every president for some forty years or more. Clinton placed emphasis on conflicts of interests Trump might have. Clinton was able to slide on the emails by claiming that it was a mistake. Trumps was distracted by talking about his investments and bragged about the owed $650 million dollars being small change. He bragged about his property being worth $3.5 billion, in the process dropping the entire effort to make the emails stick. He went on about debt and poor infrastructure.

On race and sex, Trump clearly was at a disadvantage. Even though Trump seemed strong when it came to representing the interests of business, she seemed to be focused on the social issues. This is real switch. Democrats defensive on bread and butter issues and strong on social issues. CNN focus group responses on the debate had Clinton winning 18 to 2 out of 20, in a Florida group. Sanders supporters in the focus group leaned in the direction of Clinton. This was a very small group.

Switching to Fox, I was surprised to see that their commenters believed that Clinton won.

The CNN poll immediately afterwards showed 62% Clinton won, 27% Trump won CNN/ORC poll results from 522 viewers, with 41% Democratic, 27% Republican voters.

Clinton did do a good job accusing Trump of stiffing contractors. This was something that Trump shrugged off as being the result of shoddy work. Trump was sluggish on the Email issue and he claimed that he was being polite and not taking the low road, one would assume he meant the sex scandals of Bill Clinton. But then as the saying goes, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and Trump’s marital record is not exactly spotless.

Hannity, the Fox talking head, was very favorable, cozy even, talking to Trump just after the debate. Where they joked about the Iraq war. Trump commented to Hannity alluding to sexual irregularities of Bill Clinton. That was the low blow he didn’t want to say on stage.

CNN commentators noted that Trump’s unprecedented entry into the spin room after the debate indicated that he failed to press home the points in the debate that he wanted to make.

From my perspective as a left libertarian. The comments on cyber war seemed to be all about cracking down nothing about civil liberties. There was limited discussion about the environment, except in reference to jobs and a short comment by Clinton that Trump believed Global Warming was a Chinese conspiracy. Clinton supports investing in solar and other alternative energy sources. Healthcare was not addressed. On trade Clinton sideways defended NAFTA when Trump attacked her husbands enactment of the Free Trade Agreement.

There was a discussion of race issues. Trump repeated his support of stop and frisk despite it being declared unconstitutional. Trump talked about his recent visits to inner cities of Detroit and Philadelphia, claiming that Democrats only care about poor black votes at election time. While there is truth in this, the policies that Trump advocates essentially will only benefit the rich. His lip service to wanting to help blacks, has been roundly rejected as insincere by black people in America. Clinton said she would invest in education of police about racial bias and her determination to limit access to weapons. She clearly stated that racial bias is alive and well in America.

One disturbing thing that Clinton and Trump agreed on was the removal of Second Amendment Rights to persons on the no fly and watch list. As someone who once was on the watch list for working on the protests against the invasion of Iraq, I find this a dangerous encroachment on civil liberties.

On foreign affairs, Clinton defended the Iran deal as one that “puts the lid” on the Iranian nuclear program. Trump doubled down on his determination to make NATO pay its fair share. He wants Saudi Arabia to pay. Clinton reminded the allies and the public that she would honor commitments and alliances. He claimed that Hillary doesn’t have the stamina to be president. Clinton went on the attack by reminding the public of the sexist statements Trump has said about women. He stumbled over this with slurs on Rosie O’Donnell, and his non comment comment on things that were too nasty to say about the Clinton family.

Newt Gingrich interviewed by Hannity, again drove the point about the sex scandals. Fox doing the leg work for Trump. It seems that they have decided the embrace the ugly duckling.

More later. I need to get some air.

Clinton Vs. Trump 1st Debate
Image from NY Times.

My girlfriend is solidly in the Clinton camp now. Another friend is solidly in the Green camp. I am reluctantly probably going to shift from Green to a defensive position and support Clinton, although as I pointed out to a friend. Trump and Putin together would run roughshod over the diplomatic niceties, in places like Syria, teaming up and blasting away the opposition and any squeamish attitudes about offending the Saudis, if they can get the Turks on board. Probably sacrificing the Kurds in the process. But ISIS would be squashed like a cockroach. Funny thing about cockroaches, when you squash them, the scent attracts more.

Domestically perhaps stop and frisk will be escalated to out right extralegal executions of drug dealers and illegals like the new President of the Philippines, are regular wild west approach. Vigilante justice raised to the level of law. Scary but if you believe in law and order, perhaps like Mussolini, a President Trump would make the trains run on time, and like Hitler build a new autobahn. So what if a few undesirable Muslims, Black Lives Matter activists, and Immigrant rights advocates disappear into the gulags. They already send thousands of immigrants into camps under Obama. Trump would act to accelerate the process and if white men don’t feel brow beaten anymore, well then it would all be worth it right?

Charlotte and Justice Delayed

September 24th, 2016

State of Emergency in Charlotte

State of Emergency in Charlotte September 23, 2016.

There is a famous poem by Langston Hughes

Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore–
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

This poem, about racism used to deny entry into the fullness of the American dream to people of color, was a warning about the consequences. Charlotte exploded. A city that has become a banking center, with Bank of America among others moving there, has experienced extreme divergence between the poor black community and the influx of white collar professionals.

Racially Divided Charlotte

The disparity of wealth between people of color, and white Americans, aggravated by the extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1%, has provided an additional factor to the social injustice of racial profiling.

Charlotte today, but violent reaction to social and economic injustice will occur until there are concrete moves to end ineqity and mechanisms are developed to redistribute wealth.

The Black Lives Matter program is an interesting proposal pointing to a pathway to a more socially just world. But like all proposals, it is only as valid as the work that goes into making it happen. It is up to us as a people to unite and bring about a more just and eqitable world.

Trump and Immigration

August 31st, 2016

Trump is playing a finessing game. He met with the President of Mexico, and claims that the issue of the wall payment was not discussed. Yet the Mexicans clearly contradict that statement. Trump is speaking as I write in Phoenix, and he first makes some nice effusive vagaries about how much he likes Mexicans. Then he goes on to double down on his anti immigrant rhetoric. But what does his inflammatory words come down to? He is essentially repeating the Obama administration tough deportation policy. He is restoring funding to the secure communities programs, and is going to expedite the deportation of criminally convicted aliens. He wants to pass something called Kate’s Law that has high mandatory minimums imprison previously deported aliens. He claims he is going to triple the number of ICE agents. This is essentially doubling down on the Obama administration policy. Nothing new here. He wants to add 5000 more border patrol agents and stations, perhaps this is the true wall he is detailing, instead of his pie in the sky wall.
He is making a big deal about sanctuary cities, claiming he will block federal funding. Not sure what exactly he means by that. All grants? End Federal food stamp programs? I doubt it. This is another false issue, like the threat from voter fraud by people voting more than once. He says nothing about hacking into voting machines which is way more likely to be problematic.

Enforcement policies are going to be aimed at visa overstays. He is going to block immigration from places with what he calls inadequate screening. This is his way to get around the anti-Islamic remarks he made earlier. “Extreme vetting….” Syria, and Libya are places he claims he will use this on. He made an absurd statement about how there are tens of thousands of persons from Syria roaming the country that have not been vetted. Then he doubles down on his ideological purity test for immigrants, to which the crowd responded with a chant “USA, USA” a rather scary response.

Listening to Trump’s half truths, is exhausting, at least writing about it is. Trump in a sound bite is manageable, listening to his rants for half an hour at a stretch is simply too much to bear. He repeats statistics without putting them in context. It is counter effective when his facts become blatantly twisted by the rhetoric of hate.

Cracking down on visa overstays probably would have effectively removed Trumps wife from the USA when she was a working model. E-Verify extension is another part of his policy. Not only crime but work. He is citing the Center for Immigration Studies, a well known right wing anti-immigrant think tank. He is also going to go after illegals who get government benefits. This would invalidate policies such as those in California that provide benefits. It is unconstitutional to refuse public education to immigrant children (Plyer vs Doe, 1982).

Trump’s cure for America is to kick out all the illegals. He claims that welfare use and gangs will decrease or disappear. There is one route for immigration for illegals, they will have to leave the country and reenter legally. No amnesty according to Trump. This policy will impinge on agriculture, meat packing, construction, and other industries that hire low income workers. Will there be Americans willing to do manual farm work? Not likely without a higher wage and overtime like that being proposed in California.

Black Lives Matter, Grim Sleeper, & Green Hope

August 13th, 2016

Aspen Institute Conference on Race Relations Video.

I went to a Black Lives Matter event in front of City Hall in LA where the activists involved are protesting police shootings of minority youth. They are calling for the police chief to step down. Although I am no fan of Chief Beck and have never been personally helped by LAPD, I find calling for the removal of the police chief to be a step that while it may be personally empowering for the activists if the were to achieve this goal, it does not get to the root of the problem. This is a matter of power relationships. As long as the law is structured to protect the property interests of the wealthy, there will be no real reform. Underclasses are policed to keep them from spreading their undesirable ways into the areas of the city inhabited by the controlling class. Police are the thin blue line protecting property and those who have entered the sphere of the protected classes.

With that said, occasionally there is some basic policing, such as the recent capture of the murderer of many women in south Central Los Angeles, Lonnie David Franklin Jr., now better-known as the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer, convicted of at least ten murders, was sentenced to death recently. Margaret Prescod, founder of advocacy group Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders, host of the Sojourner Truth radio show on KPFK, has pressured LAPD to find the murderers of these black women, and has accused the police department of neglecting solving the murders because the victims were perceived to be, as she put it, “Crack Whores.” In reality they were mothers, and daughters, persons who did not deserve to die simply because some of them were sex workers. Franklin claims he did not commit the murders according to the LA Times article on the trial “The ‘Grim Sleeper’ is sentenced to death for string of murders” by Marisa Gerber and James Queally dated August 10, 2016, when he was confronted by the victims families. But the evidence seems conclusive.

In an interview with NPR Prescod explains “We went down to what was then Parker Center Police Headquarters to find out about the murders, see what was being done about it, how the community was being informed, and we were told by the guy in charge, said, ‘Why are you concerned about it? He’s only killing hookers,” from Families Of LA Serial Killer’s Victims Still Await Closure by Kirk Siegler May 2, 2016 transcript.

This seems to be a glaring example of where police priorities have been. The murders have been going on in poor neighborhoods for decades. Police claim that there is a code of silence that often prevents residents from reporting crimes and helping investigations. But when the police act, as the recently released Department of Justice report on the Baltimore police that condemns the abusive culture of police treating minority neighborhoods as occupied territory, there is good reason why people may be reluctant to turn to the police. To quote from the report in another NPR piece ‘Lock Up All The Black Hoodies’: DOJ Report Details Abuses By Baltimore Police by Camila Domonoske dated August 10, 2016, the pressure to bring about significant reform in local police departments around the country is increasing as the establishment media gets the green light from the Obama administration to ramp up the coverage of cases of police maleficence.

I don’t want to just parrot reports from NPR that I hear on the radio as I drive to and from work in the Los Angeles traffic gridlock, so I went down to meet with Prescod at the Black Lives Matter encampment, and listened to the stories of those present including a woman representing a Gang Truce group who had nothing good to say about the police, her husband is currently locked up. Talk went around a circle of some fifty to sixty persons, mostly persons of color, but some white supporters such as my self as well. This was the weekend before the Republican convention. I heard of he incarceration nation where large swaths of black youths have been incarcerated for minor offenses and have since in many places lost their right to vote, as convicted felons in many states cannot vote and incarcerated persons are denied the right. Also due to the requirement on job applications to report convictions many are unable to find jobs, denied housing and public assistance, even food stamps. These mostly minority men become even more likely to return to crime or find themselves trapped in a marginal world of exploited off the grid employment often as sex workers.

I know quite a few denizens of the motels on commercial strips who have no ID, outstanding warrants, work selling drugs or their bodies, who survive from day to day with little hope other than the enthusiasm of youth. What these young persons need is opportunities to go back to school or to find entry level apprenticeships. Instead they find drugs, easy temporary cash from the sex trade, and the inevitable return to prison.

I know plenty of more fortunate twenty somethings who cannot find meaningful employment, live precariously depending on the kindness of strangers, all in an economy that seems to have left an entire generation outside and an increasing number of what were formerly middle class in marginal service jobs or in the gig economy with no benefits and no job security. I am fortunate to have a skill and experience, but I would hate to be an unemployed youth today. Education is a debt trap for them with no guarantee of employment. For minority youths it is worse, far worse, because not only is the limited opportunity, but also a police apparatus that has been designed to oppress and incarcerate with color and youth being the indicators that flag the individual as a target.

This dystopian view, most recently a result from the failure of the Sanders campaign to make real headway in changing the Democratic Party establishment, which the recent Wikipedia release of the DNC emails shows that the party apparatus actively attempted to thwart the Sanders campaign, leaves one again in the political desert seeking some kind of relief. In my case I am leaning back to the Green Party. I like the Canadian Strategic voting plan, vote green in Red and Blue states and only vote for the Democrats in swing states. This will help build the momentum for a Green Party presence in the next round of elections, especially if Green Party candidates can begin to show results in local elections. This may be a pipe dream, but many of those who rallied to Bernie have now got the grass roots campaign experience to work on an entirely independent manner. If the Black Lives Matter, Immigrant Rights groups and the Environmental movement can find common cause under the banner of a new party, Green or other, then there is hope for America. Otherwise we will have demagogues like Trump and establishment tools like Hilary Clinton running the show.

Trump Circus

July 21st, 2016

Trump Speech at RNC

I am watching Donald Trump give his rambling acceptance speech. He is citing a law passed under the Johnston administration that threatens to remove tax exemption when religious institutions enter into the partisan political debate, he wants to eliminate that provision. There is a left wing Church in Pasadena that has been prosecuted under that legislation, as have sanctuary churches. I am not sure he means to support churches that give refuge to undocumented immigrants, but there it is.

There are a lot of unintended consequences that might result from his statements. His rhetoric is pretty much self congratulatory, but he included his base in a royal we when disparaging the establishment types who claimed he didn’t stand a chance. He is playing the underdog card in a quite sophisticated manner. By playing to the common man in his rhetorical style, keeping to language that any elementary school kid could understand (my 5 year old granddaughter keeps asking “is that true” to the Trumpisms), he is able to confound the intellectual class, and his peers, with this dumbing down, similar to the folksiness of Bush Jr.

I managed to make it through the convention platitudes and rabid attacks on Hilary Clinton, only to discover that there is very little there, there. If only he were another Gertrude Stein… Truly the P. T. Barnum of our age, this man is dangerous in his conceit. People might elect him just to have another version of the Trump reality show Trump: The White House Years. He still used the Rolling Stones in his theme music despite the complaints from the band. I guess you can’t always get what you want.

Gangsterism Reflects Failed Modern State

June 19th, 2016

Victims found dumped in Tijuana, Mexico

Narco-Economy: Review of Gangster Warlords Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America, by Ioan Grillo. New York: Bloomsbury Press. 2016. Hardback $28.00. 378pp.

The author, Ioan Grillo is a British journalist living in Mexico City who has been on the Latin American beat since 2001. He is the author of a previous book about the cartels El Narco Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency (Grillo 2016). The book is thankfully footnoted and has an index and even though it reads a bit like a detective story, it has incisive analysis and references academic work to back up the author’s own on the ground analysis interviewing drug lords, street dealers, community residents, police, and government officials in Brazil, Jamaica, the UK, USA, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico. With some 15 years of experience the author gives an on the ground perspective on the rise of the Narco shadow state in the Americas. Fueled by demand in the USA, the UK, Europe and increasingly, in the countries in which the gangs and Cartels operate, Grillo describes the conditions in which the gangs and Cartels thrive. Not focusing on the consumer end, or the production of the drugs so much as the sociology of the gang and cartel networks, how they manage to survive and thrive in nations with less well developed infrastructures than in the developed world providing real life alternatives for the chronically under and unemployed youth of the barrios and favelas as well as the small towns in where they are located.

Without a doubt this is an issue of import and as I read the book I became engrossed with the tales of these alternative state-lets emerging in the collapsed world of the global economy. Not only has neoliberalism failed to deliver the goods, but it has been complicit in destroying the infrastructure that would provide an alternative to collapse. This is the Disaster Capitalism Naomi Klein wrote about in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine where she describes how the shock doctrine to curb inflation in Bolivia prescribed by Jeffrey Sachs in the 1980’s led directly to massive unemployment, and pushed thousands of Bolivians into the Cocaine trade with an estimated one in ten in the coca business by 1989 (Klein 2007, 188). The victory of neo-liberal economics forced upon the Bolivian people, in a coup-less victory unlike the previous model Pinochet’s Chile, where the democratically elected communist Allende was overthrown in a CIA backed coup (78-80). But the neoliberal connection to the rise of the drug trade is unfortunately not very evident in Ioan Grillo’s book which is long on narrative and folksy descriptions of the Narco commanders and foot soldiers but is short on background analysis. His book certainly raises alarms as to the extent of the problem, and he does spend some time describing the vigilante movement in Mexico that emerged to contest the Knights Templar of Nazario Moreno in lieu of an effective government which had essentially ceded control of vast regions of Michoacán and Guerrero provinces to the cartels (Grillo 298-300). But while mentioning the Zapatistas as inspiring indigenous people to rise up by their example of a successful resistance to the Mexican state in forming an autonomous region, he does not really seem to understand the import of the rising which he almost dismisses as not serious. “Their armed challenge lasted only twelve days before a bishop brokered a cease fire” (299). What Grillo does not mention was the timing of the rebellion to coincide with the initiation of the NAFTA trade agreement which has proven to be so devastating to small farmers in Mexico were every farmer who could follow the debates over NAFTA knew that in the early 1990’s Mexican corn sold for $224 a ton and US Iowa corn sold for $110 a ton on the border (Womack 1999, 22). Free trade would be the death of the Mexican small holder farmers and inevitably would lead to the flooding of the markets with cheap American corn. John Womack’s description of the EZLN upon the towns of Chiapas has a different ring. “On January 1, 1994, some 3000 booted, uniformed, masked, and well trained men and women, all armed, many with Stern Mark II’s, AK-47’s, M-6’s, and Uzis, moved out from numerous clandestine bases, concentrated in several units, and captured San Cristóbal, two towns not far north, six more eastward toward the cañadas, two of them in pitched battles, and many villages elsewhere in the region” (12). Developing the background in some detail of the policies of the Mexican government, and attempts on the part of the mostly indigenous peasant farmers to call attention to their plight including a major anti NAFTA protest on the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the white oppressor in 1992 in which protest was largely peaceful (22), Womack unlike Grillo, explains the social, economic, and political context, including many supporting texts, including statements from the Zapatistas, with specific reference to symbolism of the January 1 rebellion as it related to the first day NAFTA went into effect (42).

Grillo mentions the traditions of the leftist guerrilla insurgencies of the 1970’s in Guerrero and to a lesser extent in Michoacán, noting the 1968 Tlatelolco Square massacre in passing, he treats the left in Mexico, as he did the revolutionary left in Brazil, and in Jamaica in an almost scornful manner, as merely the breeding ground for a more effective brand of gangster, writing of the Red Commando in Brazil, Grillo describes the leader he William da Silva Lima who “sees his crimes as political in a broader sense, and himself as a robber because he was born poor. This echoes the self-justification made by gangsters across the Americas (Grillo 2016, 64, 242). Simplistically noting that gang leaders tend to be readers and studious, as if that were the link that made gangs as powerful as they were (53). Grillo describes the M8 revolutionaries in Brazil dismissively describing Fernando Gabeira as the Green Party politician “photographed on Ipanema Beach wearing a purple women’s G-string…. [and] kidnapping the U.S. ambassador in MR8’s most notorious operation in 1969” (55). His description of the series of dictators who overthrew democratically elected governments, aided and abetted by the CIA as the result of a “moth bitten document with SECRET stamped on it” (51), as if the period was merely the result of US government paranoia. This dismissal of the period of the generals, the disappeared, the torture, and murder of leftists, unionists and others who merely attempted to express their civil rights, seems to play into the rather shallow content of the analysis overall. The author is constantly making pop cultural comparisons as he describes Williams as being like the Paul Newman character in the movie Cool Hand Luke, trivializes the oppression of the poor and turns the leader of the Red Commandos into a pop cartoonish figure, easily dismissed (44).

The recent murder of the indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres brings home the brazen level of violence in the nation of Honduras which has the highest per capita murder rate in the world (186). Co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Movements of Honduras (COPINH) which had participated in the opposition to the coup government in 2009 as part of the Refoundational Space resistance group (Webber and Gordon 2013, 46), Cáceres had more recently been active in opposing the building of a massive dam project by a Honduran company, Desarrollos Energéticos S.A., or DESA and had convinced several of its backers to withdraw funding from the dam project drawing the ire of DESA. The environmental activist had won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2014 among other awards (Pestano 2016). The environment of impunity in Honduras has fueled the violence against environmental activists in a nation where some 111 had been murdered between 2002 and 2014 (Global Witness 2015, 16). The Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights at the UN has called for an independent investigation due to the lack of credibility of the President Juan Orlando Hernández government efforts to investigate the murder of Cáceres and her fellow activist Nelson Garcia (OHCHR 2016). As Blitzer in his article of April 11, 2016, in The New Yorker, pointed out that the Honduran regime claims to have the support of the FBI in its investigation of the murder was not true and the investigations were being conducted by a private investigator from New York. The fallout has even affected the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton where protesters have accused her of being responsible for the death of Cáceres due to Clinton’s involvement as Secretary of State in the U.S. government position not to call the overthrow of the Liberal Zelaya government in 2009 a coup (Pestano 2016).

Webber and Gordon state, the 2009 coup represented a consolidation of the neo-liberal agenda fused with militarism across the region from Columbia to Mexico (Webber and Gordon 2013, 18). Their research indicates that as neo-liberalism kicked into high gear in the 1990s, after all threats from the leftist groups in neighboring states had been defeated or otherwise neutralized, the Conservatives and Liberals implemented reforms that resulted in the dispossession of peasants of much of the gains from previous land reforms. People headed for the urban slums and the United States as rural poverty reached some 70% in the late 1990s (26). Maquiladoras expanded and in the slums gangs gained a foothold so that the conservative government under President Maduro was able to expand the military in a “war on gangs” (23-25, 32-33). “Violent crime has increased dramatically in Latin America in the wake of neoliberal restructuring. Central America is at the leading edge of this phenomenon” (32). Corruption in the government of Honduras with extends to the highest levels of the police force as well as prominent politicians as they have been implicated in the murder of the former Honduran Drug Czar in 2009 (Arce 2016).

Skipping this entire history, Grillo in his synopsis on the recent history of the Central American states glosses over the 1980’s leftist insurgency in El Salvador, the Sandinista overthrow of the U.S. backed dictatorship in Nicaragua, the brutal dictatorships in Guatemala, and the strongman rule in Honduras where he mentions the U.S. campaign against the Sandinista government under the Reagan administration which used the air base at Palmerola in Honduras to arm and support the Contras (Grillo 2016, 188-189). While mentioning the CIA backed coup in Guatemala in 1954, his three paragraph history lesson is boiled down to another pop cultural representation the Oliver Stone movie Salvador (189). While giving factual information, that he must assume readers are familiar with due to the briefness of his background briefing, the constant pandering to the reader with pop references, indicates a journalistic bias that assumes the reader will be lost or bored, without entertaining cultural titbits. Where Grillo has an interesting use of pop culture is in his identification of certain gang names and symbols with pop culture such as the relationship between the El Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha with a movie starring Charlton Heston The Naked Jungle, translated in Spanish as ‘Cuando Ruge la Marabunta” which translates as “When the Ants Roar” thus the Maras are a group of friends who gather together like ants in a mutual protection society Grillo gets his information from an anthropologist Juan Martinez (189-200). While this and other rather trivial information, such as how the Maras were originally associated with heavy metal culture in Los Angeles, where the gang formed among refugee and immigrant youth in the 1980’s, such trivial is not a substitute for a deeper analysis of the background of the conditions in Central America (195-196). Revealing that the child immigrant wave of 2014 was a direct result of U.S. deportations of gang members in Los Angeles back to their countries of origin, does not tell the reader much about the underlying conditions there other than to say the wars of the 1980s led to a refugee population settling in Los Angeles (203-204). Facile arguments such as the gang members fought because they liked to, and as a way to establish a reputation among the gang, does not go far in explaining the persistence of the gangs or the economic drivers behind the attraction of the gangs (199).
Grillo does do a decent job in tracing the cultural roots of the gangs and the sociological attraction of being in a gang as a way to protect the recent immigrant youths in the potentially hostile streets of Los Angeles. A better analysis of the U.S. policy to deport plane loads of El Salvadoran gang members onto the impoverished streets of El Salvador after the 1992 truce between the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the El Salvadorian government would have been useful. The short sighted U.S. policy, out of sight out of mind came back to haunt the U.S. with the exodus of the children in 2014 (185-186). Interesting factors also indicate that simply eliminating the gang wars with truces don’t necessarily work, as the short term results may be a dip in violence but quickly return to previous or higher levels (Katz and Amaya 2015). This would seem to indicate that the drivers for the violence is not a socially driven factor but has a strong economic driving force behind it and larger political dimensions that are not directly related to the immediate activities of individual gangs.


As the U.S. goes from one drug epidemic to another, with high grade heroin being the most popular in the news cycle of late (Ahmed 2015). The American appetite for drugs remains unabated and will not necessarily result in a decrease in the activities of the crime syndicates as drug legalization and harm reduction becomes increasingly the focus in the United States and other countries, witness the recent drug policy conference at the United Nations where the split between those who would double down on the punitive approach to drugs, were countered by the increasing view of the harm reduction parties who would reduce the violence resulting in something of an impasse (Glenza 2016). Clearly the policy of focusing on the war on drugs has been a disaster that has led to tine militarization of and occupation of poor communities around the world. If there was an intentional policy to oppress the poor around the world, the war on drugs could hardly have been improved upon. As neo-liberal practices have been increasingly causing disruption to traditional cultures and live styles around the world, there has been an increased disparity between the concentrations of wealth in the hands of the few, at the cost of social services in many countries, education, and traditional work opportunities, The results have been masses of young ambitious and desperate young men seeking out a path to follow their own aspirations to a better life. For thousands around the world and especially in Latin America that opportunity is in the cartels and the gangs.

Grillo describes the symptoms, and the personal stories of the actors, foot soldiers, tactical middle men and masterminds of this new world in which the alternative economy has emerged. His focus is on sensational descriptions with some background information for the casual reader with a focus on the criminal sociology of the gangs and cartels. The book was interesting in a tabloid journalistic sense, although having personal experience in the underground economy and with gang members the voyeuristic aspects of the book were not particularly interesting. Grillo does not propose particularly profound solutions but he is to be admired for his willingness to tread upon the paths local journalists have been reporting upon for years, describing the development of the underground economic and quasi-political response to the neo colonial and neo liberal policies of the wealthy elites of the world.

Works Cited

Ahmed, Azam. Aug. 29, 2015 Young Hands in Mexico Feed Growing U.S. Demand for Heroin. The New York Times. Accessed 2 April, 2016. to-meet-heroin-demand-in-us.html?_r=0
Arce, Alberto. (April 22, 2016). Honduran Ex-Police Chief Says Government Faked Documents in Assassination Case. The New York Times. Accessed 24 April 2016. police-antidrug-assassination.html?_r=0
Blitzer, Johnathan. (April 11, 2016).No Answers in the Murder of Berta Cáceres. The New Yorker. Accessed 22 April 2016. answers-in-the-murder-of-berta-caceres
Glenza, Jessica (21 April 2016). Decriminalize all drugs, business and world leaders tell UN. The Guardian. Accessed 21 April 2016. -session-global-drug-policy- failure-critics-say
Global Witness (2015). How Many More? 2014’s deadly environment: the killing and intimidation of environmental and land activists, with a spotlight on Honduras. Global Witness Limited Accessed 22 April 2016.
Katz, Charles Max and Amaya, Luis Enrique (2015) The gang truce as a form of violence intervention : implications for policy and practic. Fundación Nacional para el Desarrollo, San Salvador, El Salvador, América Central. ISBN 9789996149313 (E-Book, inglés, resumen)
Klein, Naomi. (2007). The Shock Doctrine The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Picador.
OHCHR. (22 April 2016). Honduras murders: UN Expert urges independent investigation into killings of rights defenders. United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR). Geneva. Accessed 22 April 2016. hash.pI5j67VO.dpuf
Pestano, Andrew V. (April 19, 2016). Why this protester is blaming Clinton for the murder of a Honduran activist. UPI. United Press International, Inc. Accessed 23 April 2016. for-the-murder-of-a-Honduran-activist/8981460996811/
Webber, Jeffery R., and Todd Gordon. 2013. “Post-Coup Honduras: Latin America’s Corridor of Reaction.” Historical Materialism 21, no. 3: 16-56. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 24, 2016).
Womack, John Jr. (1999). Rebellion in Chiapas an historical reader. New York: The New Press.

Jens Stoltenberg NATO Sec General, Foreign Policy Advisors-Cruz, Trump, Sanders

April 10th, 2016

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks on the state of affairs with NATO during the Atlantic Council at the Ritz Carlton in Washington, USA on April 6, 2016.
April 07, 2016| Credit: Anadolu Agency

Jens Stolenberg speaking before the Atlantic Council on April 6, 2016, made encouraging noises for the United States and the advocates of the establishment view that the NATO alliance is the right wing of the American imperial project. Japan and the Asian Alliance being the left wing. Stoltenberg argued for increased defense spending on the part of NATO members to their 2% commitments (A Conversations with NATO Secretary General 2016).

“Only Poland this year joined the four other countries, out of 28 total NATO members, that are meeting the alliance’s goal of spending 2% of their gross domestic product on defense. The other four are the U.S., Great Britain, Greece and Estonia.Overall, six countries are raising and six are cutting their military spending as a proportion GDP this year when compared with 2014, and the rest are staying the same” (Bendavid 2015, np).

The lack of unity among the NATO members in their commitment to become the tool for policy generated largely from Washington, DC is evident in these numbers. Wishful thinking on the part of Stoltenberg is largely driven by a desire to reassure the US Congress which he had spoken before earlier in the day. The presence of the Secretary General at the Atlantic Council at which he pointedly refused to be baited into commenting on the statements of some of the American Presidential Candidates, should be interpreted in my view, based on the prologue to the question “wild ideas spouted by some of the candidates” as being a polemic to provide an oblique comment on the commentary of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Bernie Sanders, leaving Hillary Clinton and perhaps John Kasich would be acceptable.

Regarding the Cruz team, they are a mix of NeoCons and Rigt wing Extremists like “Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration Pentagon official who has emerged as a lightning rod in the Obama era, accused by the Southern Poverty Law Center of being one of the nation’s leading Islamophobes” (Lake 2016, np). To the left, in Republican terms is Eliot Abrams from the Bush Administration who advises against demonizing Islam, as well as Mary Habeck an expert on Jihadist organizations who advocates a more moderate stance also. Victoria Coates is Cruz’s main foreign policy advisor. She apparently deliberately included the rabid Islamophobes with the more traditional Neocons, bringing the debate to a much harder line than has been the norm in recent Republican administrations.

Looking at Donald Trump there is marked move away from the top ranks of the foreign policy establishment. “The advisors he has enlisted appear to have spent little to no time as policymakers, and of those who have served in the military, few have top-level experience. One has been consistently condemned by Muslim rights groups and another was investigated while working as the Pentagon’s inspector general” (Lee 2016, np). The members include Keith Kellog who works in intelligence and security firms. Carter Page an investments firm manager who wrote a blog post that is similar to the chickens coming home to roost argument made famous by Malcolm X and that got Ward Churchill in so much trouble. George Papadopoulos is “a director at the London Centre of International Law Practice. In its mission statement, the group views global issues with a “promotion of peace,” which falls into accord with Trump’s noninterventionist approach” (Lee 2016, np). He also was an economic advisor for the Ben Carson campaign. Also Walid Phares professor at George Washington University with controversial links to Christian Militias in Lebanon accused of massacres of Muslims. He defends some of Trumps rhetoric as in this quote from NPR “Mr. Trump, because we are in a political season, he’s making those statements, but when he will come to the White House … then he’s going be tasking experts to answer that question, and I’m not sure that the experts are going to recommend any form of torture” (Phares cited by Lee 2016).
There are also a number of former military with service in the field as well as a Silver Star recipient Bert Mizusawa. Joseph Schmitz the former Pentagon Inspector General has been accused of blocking investigations of Bush administration officials during his tenure. This group is a mixed bag of possibly interesting out of the box thinkers, but none of them are as Lee states, top level operatives in the Washington establishment.

Sanders has still been somewhat reluctant to release information regarding his foreign policy team. Larry Korb “a defense policy expert at the Center for American Progress” (Crowley 2016, np), has been offered a position according to this Politico article but there is not much more on it He served in the Reagan administration. Another Bill French, a policy analyst at the left-leaning National Security Network” has become a foreign policy staffer. Bill French, a policy analyst at the left-leaning National Security Network” (Crowley 2016), as a foreign policy staffer. Lawrence Wilkerson the former aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell, has also been helping the Sanders campaign. He is a well known critic of the invasion of Iraq. Speaking about the CIA’s past activities Sanders said “The CIA plays an important role,” he added. “But have they done things which they should not have done on behalf of the United States government? Absolutely” (Crowley 2016). He is a critical voice but represents a position that seems to be not much further to the left of President Obama, a critical realist who has renounced his 1974 view that the CIA should be abolished.

Hilary and Kasich representing more main stream views will not be subject to discussion at this point. I would only add that Sanders and Trump take a more conservative position regarding foreign policy while in my view Ted Cruz has the more extreme interventionist view, perhaps even more hawkish than Clinton although not the hawk that his erstwhile rival Rubio was.

Works Cited

A Conversation with NATO Secretary General H.E. Jens Stoltenberg. April 6, 2016 - 4:00 pm. Atlantic Council. Accessed 9 April 2016.

Bendavid, Naftali June 22, 2015 9:03 a.m. ET Just Five of 28 NATO Members Meet Defense Spending Goal, Report Says
Report comes amid concern over Russia’s growing military assertiveness. Wall Street Journal. Accessed 9 April 2016.

Crowley, Michael. 02/24/16 04:10 PM EST Updated 02/24/16 04:48 PM EST/ Sanders reaches out for foreign-policy help. Politico. Accessed 9 April 2016.

Lake, Eli. March 17, 2016 6:00 AM EST. Cruz Assembles an Unlikely Team of Foreign-Policy Rivals. Bloomberg View. Accessed 9 April 2016.

Lee, Kurtis. 7 April 2016. 3: AM. Here’s who Donald Trump is taking foreign policy advice from. Los Angeles Times. Accessed 9 April 2016.

Sanders Campaign, Apathetic Youth, and Grumpy Old Me.

February 28th, 2016

From Bernie Sanders Presidential Candidate.

I almost never post here anymore. School, work and my granddaughter are eating up my time. But I thought I would take some of my homework time to make a couple of comments. Perhaps it was watching The Big Short that got me fired up, or the work doing get out the vote calling for the Bernie Sanders campaign today. Whatever the reason, I am writing some of my observations on the current scene around me.

Once I got the hang of the automated dial system, I did pretty good calling to get out the vote for Sanders. Mostly I skipped the script and got to the point. I hate it when people read from scripts and so I didn’t feel like subjecting anyone to my version of the same. More Sanders supporters answered than Hillary supporters, fewer Republicans than I expected and lots of no answers since it was Saturday evening. I found myself encouraging people to go to the caucuses or primaries, no matter who they supported. Interestingly there was only one outspoken Trump supporter in the batch and only one lady lectured me on the evils of socialism. America truly does seem more liberal, or at least more frustrated with the system than four years ago. I think the failure of the Obama administration to gain significant headway has broiled over into the public at large. The copays on Obama care are too high, the wages are still stagnant, and youth unemployment is way too high.

Having my stepdaughter living with me has made me very aware of the levels of youth unemployment, that being around the relatively privileged student population at the university hasn’t. She is out of work, all of her friends are out of work or have marginal Mc Jobs. The worst part is the total lack of interest in participation in the political process. They have bought into the radical critique of the Occupy movement but they are totally apathetic in terms of doing anything about it. The same goes for the students, although not to the same degree. I spent a long five minutes in my Political Geography class lecturing kids on how things haven’t changed as much as they would like, because of the same generalized sense of malaise and despair over their personal ability to make a difference. It was a bit shocking actually.

Well I beat my head against the wall with my step daughter and her friends, but they just seem to want to hang out, smoke pot and joke around. I guess on a superficial level my generation was the same from an outside perspective, but we were fired up with ideals of revolution. Much of the changes we fought for have become part of their daily life and they just accept, liberal pot laws, racial tolerance and sexual diversity as normal. On the other hand I do find anti-homeless attitudes that I find inexplicable. My step daughter even approves of the gentrification of downtown LA, even though it meant that her former boyfriend could no longer afford to live there. She didn’t get connection between Whole Foods entering the neighborhood and the increased rents. Explanations of the dynamics of the situation on my part simply go over her head. I have actually had comments from her friends that I am spreading negative vibes. That sort of no-nothingism, has led me to the unhappy conclusion that all this easy access to pot is supporting an apathetic view that I find alarming. These kids are not getting high and dreaming of revolution. I am not sure what they dream of. Based on what I overhear of their conversations it is not of a particularly high intellectually stimulating order.

OK, I can hear it now, gramps is getting grumpy. I hear my irrelevance reflected in the incomprehension to my attempts at giving them political analysis. When I turn on CSPAN or a documentary about current events, on the TV in the living room they put on the ear plugs and turn up the volume of the latest Britney Spears tune on their iPods. Funny all these jobless broke kids have iPhones and recently I discovered that there is a thriving black market in stolen and second hand Apple products that these kids participate in. In fact it seems that they live in a third world like cash and barter economy. Most of them have little or no ID, don’t have driving licenses, take services like Uber or the disdained public transit, and seem to all have food stamps, but they don’t cook! My step daughter loves to buy overpriced organic junk food from Whole Foods. I tell her at least go to Trader Joes or Ralphs where the stuff is less expensive and the owner’s political views are not quite so fascistic. She likes the atmosphere, when she shops at Whole Foods she says she feels like she is part of the young healthy and successful. Explaining that that is simply a marketing ploy on the part of Whole Foods does not work, rational decision making is not her strong suit or seemingly something that any of her friends indulge in. They hang out, some at the Hare Krishna temple, and wait, for what I am not sure, but they seem pretty fatalistic about their prospects.

I don’t exactly live the life of a middle class success story. In fact I try to use my life as a warning as to what not to do with your life as I am spending my late working life trying to catch up and stash a little savings while I still can. The Revolution didn’t happen and as things stand it looks like our Socialist Vanguard in Bernie Sanders is about to get crushed in the Democratic machine’s super delegate insurance policy that a truly populist candidate can be crushed before it can capture the nomination. I am less optimistic than I wish I could be about the prospects for change. But people are pissed and even if these kids are not part of the solution, I do hope that eventually they become uncomfortable enough to desire more. My step daughter made the comment that she would support a candidate that gave her free child care for her daughter. I told her that both Clinton and Sanders had polices to expand just that, but she had to participate in the struggle to make the changes happen, not wait for it to be handed too her as a given. I don’t know if she got it. But perhaps the discomfort of being a single parent will eventually prod her into activism. The lack of jobs, or the hassle getting her GED, or the fact that she and most of her friends are in their mid-twenties with few prospects may prod them reluctantly into action.

Perhaps, like during Occupy, enough of them will become inspired. They don’t pay enough attention to the political process to catch the Burn, even though I have Bernie Sanders signs, bumper stickers, tee shirt and buttons all over the apartment. One can hope something will get them going. Sometimes I wish we had another Vietnam War, now that was a great motivator, the Draft and an ugly war in a faraway jungle. Right now the military is something to aspire too for these kids. But then that is the general idea. No prospects, the military can pick and choose its cannon fodder. But that is another conversation.

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