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November 1, 2020

THE CAMPAIGN FROM SPAIN LOOKS LIKE A PAIN

To watch the American elections from Spain is like watching your neighbors two houses down bickering over the back hedge. You’ve known them for years. Neither man is a dummy, but their egos are easily bruised. They aren’t bickering about anything in particular; they just don’t like each other and are really just complaining that fate has thrown them together. In different circumstances they could drink some amicable beers together.

Ten days till the U.S. election, nine days, eight days….Yes, we have the countdown here in Spain too, and the same desperation of reporters to report something — anything — different from the previous day. The president again campaigns without a mask on, and Joe Biden proudly wears his. Here’s the president at a rally, here’s Joe Biden leaving a hospital or factory after talking concernedly with the workers and learning about their problems. The chic Melania steps up to the mic here, and Jill Biden there, both women fighting for their men and American democracy.

In Spain, politicians have no glamour. Nobody cares much about their personalities or private lives. Hardly ten Spaniards in a hundred could tell you the name of the president’s wife. The couple has small children, I believe, but they are unknown. Spain has no cool Sashas and Malias.

That is one of the great strengths, however, of having a king: the president can remain a political hack who simply runs the government; all of the personal side of politics is absorbed in the monarchy. King Felipe’s wife, Queen Letizia, is a much-examined beacon of fashion, and their two daughters, now in their early teens, are endlessly analyzed for their hairstyles and clothes. It was recently noted that young Princess Leonor, heir to the throne, wore high heels for the first time, though her younger sister, Sofia, beat her to this milestone by a month.

In Spain, politics is pure ideology — more leftist, more rightist — but in America, campaigns are supposed to be all about The Issues, and it is a recurring mystery that American campaigns come and go without anyone talking about them. The real issues candidate, Bernie Sanders, could not overcome the blob candidate, having made the bad mistake of presenting himself as a democratic socialist, and the moment a candidate mentions “socialist” or “social” or even an inadvertent “sosh,” he’s doomed.

Biden’s stands on the issues are known in about the same proportion as Spaniards know the president’s wife’s name. Biden was just supposed to be the Democrat who could beat Trump. I wonder if that’s true. The Dems always lose when they put up a “normal” candidate, and Joe is as normal as cinder brick.

Another important oddity that strikes one from this distance: scandals don’t mean much anymore to the American electorate. Here in Spain, the previous president was brought down on a no-confidence vote when the titans of his party, though not himself, were found guilty on corruption charges. But in America, scandals flit across the TV screen like flies through the house, and people just shoo them away. Biden’s intervention in Ukraine in favor of his son — he bragged about it — would have disqualified him twenty years ago. Likewise, Trump’s calling Mexicans rapists is taken with philosophy by his followers.

Trump was absolutely right when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his people would still vote for him. Say what you like (or hate) about Trump, you have to admire that kind of acumen, and this from a guy who’s always lived thirty stories up in the air and rarely talked to anyone below the twentieth floor or the $250,000 tax bracket.

Political campaigns here in Spain are defined by law to last just a couple of weeks, though there is a certain amount of electioneering in what is called tongue-in-mejilla “the pre-campaign” period. But Spaniards don’t get to election day sick and tired of it all — well, maybe a little.

American politicians could emulate this practice: hold the election right after the conventions — say mid- to late-September — and inaugurate the new president on New Year’s Day. After all, can there be a single voter in America who has not already formed an opinion about President Trump? And all those “undecided” voters: when do they actually decide? According to advertisers, they often vote as suggested by the last ad they saw before leaving the house. Ninnies, if you ask me.

But finally The Day has arrived, though this time around we might not know the victor for a day or two. President Trump has decried this delay as being a big reason not to allow voting by mail. Me, I think it’s healthy. An exercise in public patience is not a bad thing, especially when the flu virus is making life miserable, and a remedy is still a long ways off.

October 13, 2020

WOULD THE FOUNDING FATHER WANT TO CHANGE THE CONSITUTION?

What would the Founding Fathers think of us now?
They’d look this mess and no doubt utter “Wow!”
Israeli lobby keeping Congress in check,
Government deficits and finance a wreck,
Deliberation given way to the merest ad-lib,
Though one thing’s eternal: political fib.

How they’d revile our foreign-policy sewers!
Kept from the eyes of civilian good-doers,
Designed for the dreams of the masters of U,
Who just like Alexander and Napoleon too,
Lust for the world, for entanglements galore,
Thousand bases abroad with room for some more.

The Founders’ great farmers to finance have turned,
The making of wheat, corn and buggies now spurned
In favor of numbers that tumble and swive
In a world in which two plus two can make five,
Or six or eight if the leverage you push:
Depending on how much you risk your sweet tush.

What would they make of surveillance domestic?
Of Clapper’s NSA or spy-drones majestic?
Sure on censoring news reporters they’d frown,
But what would they make of our papers dumbed-down,
Where news ain’t just news but opinions a-mix,
Sources unnamed to the few facts better fix?

But what diff’s it make if from all types of sites
Folks get the news or just check games and fights?
Watch Harry and Meghan, hear rock or Stravinsky,
Watch music vids or on TED Talks Lewinsky,
Get Reddit just for news that holds them in thrall,
Though such a people ain’t a people at all.

The U.S. Constitution was no doubt a good call,
But the Founders would sure read the writing on wall:
After 200 years we must adopt the new new,
And stop letting billionaires the poor to screw,
In the high-tech life of a disparate nation,
It’s time to question and change its equation.

August 30, 2020.

Kyle Rittenhouse Shows Us Why Guns Should Be Banned

I read both Mike Whitney’s and Spencer Quinn’s defenses of Kyle Rittenhouse, but I have another interpretation of events: the trouble was not so much Rittenhouse, but his gun.

For the record, my information relies on videos of the event and on the New York Times careful reconstruction of events, which Mr. Quinn calls “fairly evenhanded.” Be that as it may, here is my analysis of this awful episode.

Mr. Rittenhouse started the evening with other gunslingers guarding a car lot but unfortunately got separated from the others and some time later found himself in another car lot, which is where his troubles started.

He was clearly the focus of much wrath from others present, though I’ve seen no speculation as to why Rittenhouse inspired such anger. As he says in one video, his intentions — laudable — were to protect property and, as en EMT, aid the injured. His rifle was for self-defense. So why did so many people all at once turn on him? Did he punch or insult someone? Unlikely: this well-spoken young man doesn’t seem the type. Could it be his white skin? No, his assailants were white as well.

No, it was surely the rifle he carried: no grouse-hunting pea-shooter but an AK-47 worthy of an Hawaii-5-0 episode. It symbolized something that the others reviled, which was someone who had taken it upon himself to keep them in line.

And then the fateful concatenation of events: a shot fired, Rittenhouse whirls, a man runs forward throwing something at him, Rittenhouse shoots four times, and not at the fellow’s leg. He tries to call someone — a friend, according to reports — and then runs away.

The next sequences available show Rittenhouse still running, and lot of people are after him. But now it’s different: Rittenhouse has just murdered a man and, to any impartial onlooker, seems to want to put plenty of pavement between himself and the crime. People bravely try to stop this rifle-toting youngster. One woman carrying her handbag runs up behind him and swats him in the head. Rittenhouse would have done well to shout that he was trying to turn himself in to the police up the street, but again that massive gun would have hurt his credibility.

And then the climax. Rittenhouse falls, and from a sitting position shoulders his gun. It is not clear to me that he gets a shot off. But no matter: a pursuer overruns him, knocking him backwards. Another guy — not a pursuer — runs up from behind him and whacks him with his skateboard. Rittenhouse is now lying prone on his back. If it had been me in that position, I would have grabbed the guy’s leg, brought him down, and given back as good as I’d got. But Rittenhouse had his hands full — of an automatic rifle, with his finger on the trigger, the safety off and the bullets already bought and paid for. So he shot the man in the chest.

Then another fellow comes running up with a handgun, clearly to shoot this dangerous and panicked young man, but he draws too slowly and Rittenhouse puts an admirable shot through his gun arm. The others wisely scatter after this.

With great satisfaction both Whitney and Quinn note that all three men Rittenhouse shot, two fatally, had criminal records. If they hadn’t — if the third man had been a Marine captain with four tours of Iraq under his belt — this would have tarnished the story. But the three were what they were: dispensable scum whose deaths had no more importance than a fly’s, much like the baddies in, for example, Hawaii 5-0.

I sympathize with young Rittenhouse. He is obviously a decent guy but with a twisted idea of public responsibility. He can’t possibly be declared innocent, but his youth and the circumstances certainly extenuate his murders. He was clearly as much a victim of that gun he carried as the people he shot, both because it made him a target and because it conferred on him the idea that it was his only defense, rather than his voice, his wits and his fists. Which is a commonality among gun-carriers: skewed judgment. That weighty chunk of steel inevitably brings out the indignation, arrogance, and power in a person. Officer Rusten Sheskey had a right to pull his gun on Jacob Blake — which started the Kenosha riots — but then he put seven bullets in Blake’s back when one in the foot would have done the trick. There’s the rub.

Rittenhouse is a perfect example of why guns ought to be banned. Other shots are heard in the background of those videos of him, and I’m sure lots more will be heard in videos to come. Probably someday soon everyone will come to those riots packing a piece and a couple clips for good measure, and then it’ll be just one big jolly free-fire zone, Second Amendment guys on one side and “anarchists and communists” on the other, a final showdown between Right and Left, a video game come true. I’m looking forward to it — but I live in Spain, where guns are largely banned, the future of the white race is of no concern, and we watch with sadness while America descends into chaos.

August 1, 2020
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The Ultimate Racial Fight: “Standard American English”

Haven’t had your fill yet of hot racial strife?
There’s lots more on the way to sweeten your life.
I’m talking this fall when the schools open doors,
And into their hallways a multitude pours,
This multitude consisting of girl and boy
And those whose pronouns are a trick to employ.

But more to the point, kids who speak different ways,
Like saying «We speaks» and use sundry odd phrase,
Which for sure cause Teacher to flash her red pen,
And let Johnny know this is fine for grown men,
Who swish long three-pointers while talking their trash,
But alas, the book rules: «we speaks» is too rash.

So to school does Johnny’s mommy come striding,
Indignant indeed and on high horse riding,
To point out to Teacher «we speaks» is correct,
And if she don’t think so she’s going to regret
The day she elected her worthy profession,
Which is also known as culture suppression.

Thus dinner is served for the folks who love fights
And consider «we speaks» as one of their rights.
The principal’s pulled in, and then the school board,
Which holds its next meeting before a great horde
That demands admission of «we speaks» as right,
And God help the objector whose skin is too white.

«Standard American English» is thus in the dock,
A committee quick formed to re-write its full stock,
Pitting top-hatted Defenders of Proper
Against those promoting an English of pauper,
Amidst accusations of bias of race,
For when push comes to shove, out fast comes that ace.

You think the George Floyd matter stirred the Big Pot?
Wait till our language is the center of plot.
Few knew poor Floyd but every George can fine speak,
And thoughts does have ‘bout what’s right and what’s freak.
So tune up your grammar, friend, cinch your vocab’,
What’s coming up soon is the final mob grab.

July 5, 2020
Putin Paid Bounties to Have Governors Misinformed about Covid-19

Those guys at the Times, they wouldn’t know a fact

If it walked up to them and their faces smacked,

I refer, of course, to the recent Big Ish:

That Russkies paid bounties to give Yanks the swish,

Cash on the barrel for Taliban slayers;

Single-shots only, guys, no Uzi sprayers.

 

As usual nary a word of it’s true,

As usual it’s all a big misconstrue,

Forced interrogation gone wrong from the start,

Ka-boom propaganda performed with some art,

But Dave Sanger et. al. just couldn’t resist,

Since big allegations are what long persist.

 

Allegations! Ya just gotta love ’em to bits,

When circulation blues have folks in the pits.

You say the story’s not true? Who in hell cares?

The point’s to keep hot those Vlad Putin scares,

‘Cause bounty he’d happily pay for a lark:

Compared to him, Covid’s a walk in the park.

 

Hah! The real story, which the Times overlooked,

Is the money Vlad paid to have governors shnooked

Regarding the dangers of easy infection,

Which if you’ve noticed has caused great inflection

In the number of cases where gov’s have relaxed,

And said only homeboys go ’round with face masked.

 

Yup, a snake in the grass, that President Poot’.

Betcha he planted the Talib’s tale of loot:

T’was just a distraction from his real intention

Of making our country one big detention,

So’s no one can vote come Day of Election,

And we’re stuck with Don, the Russky’s selection.

 

A brilliant prison escape, or really an FBI espionage operation?

A presidential election is gamed by one person who, despite exposure and national humiliation, goes on to become a national icon.

A businessman reunites by chance with a girl he gave advice to on a short plane ride 7 years earlier. She took his advice: now she's the star of a Broadway dance show.

A massive banana-plantations strike in Ecuador brings out the best and worst, the comic and the tragic, in American scheming.

My last novel. A false-flag operation in New Jersey may turn into war.