Monday, October 31, 2016

Politix Update: A Tale Of Three Male Appendages & One Very Screwed Up Election

How very sad, but at the same time not surprising in this nightmare of an election year, that one of humanity's oldest problems -- men's little dicks getting them in big trouble -- threatens to dominate the closing days of the presidential campaign. 
We're actually talking about three dicks here.   
There is Donald Trump's dick, he who has bragged about its yuge-ness and his innumerable unsolicited groppages, which at last count had resulted in sexual predation accusations by a dozen victims in the wake of the Access Hollywood hot-mic video that lubricated Hillary Clinton's commanding lead. 
There is Anthony Weiner's dick, he who is the former U.S. representative and estranged husband of top Clinton aide and confidante Huma Abedin and has a well-documented inability to control his less savory appetites after numerous sexting scandals, the latest involving a 15-year-old girl that got the FBI's attention.   
There also is James Comey's dick, he who despite being warned by the Justice Department not to create the impression of meddling in the election, went public about an FBI investigation concerning emails found on Weiner's computer although Comey had not read those emails, it is not known if they contain national security material, or whether they are duplicates of emails the bureau examined in its previous investigation and semi-exoneration of Clinton. 
The Republicans who bullied Comey into blabbing on Friday afternoon in what The New York Times' Paul Krugman calls an especially malevolent example of "working the refs," sensed that this was their last best opportunity to slow if not halt the Clinton juggernaut, should be feeling a whole lot less chuff today.   
And Comey should be feeling a great deal of discomfort having so ingloriously stepped on his own dick in drawing the FBI into an election campaign when it is supposed to remain above all that.   
More clear-headed Republicans (all two or three of them) will be returning to earth because:
* Some 21 million people already have cast ballots, with Clinton widely regarded as having received a majority of those votes. 
* Clinton's hold on an Electoral College runaway remains assured even though the length of her coattails is not. 
* The FBI's Weiner probe (it seems you just can't avoid sexually loaded phrases) may only tangentially involve "Lying Hillary."
* The media focus has shifted from the Republicans' "this is bigger than Watergate" hysteria to Comey's conduct and Clinton's blistering counterattack. 
* The knowledge that Justice Department officials are as furious with Comey as Clinton and her fellow Democrats are.
Comey had set himself up for the Friday fiasco when he parted with usual FBI practice in July by publicly defending the bureau's work on the "exhaustive" Clinton email investigation although no charges had been filed and the investigation had been closed.  Comey did rebuke Clinton as being "extremely careless" in using a private email address and server. 
When Comey's deputies informed him last Thursday that a trove of emails that may be linked to Clinton's private email server had been found in the course of the Weiner investigation, he faced a dilemma: Inform Congress or delay doing so despite his pledges of "transparency" when the FBI first undertook the Clinton investigation. 
History will judge that Comey made the wrong call with Election Day a mere 11 days away and the Clinton emails having remained front and center in the Trump campaign's unrelenting attacks on her trustworthiness.  The impression that Comey was indeed meddling in the election is unavoidable.  He then compounded his mess by telling FBI employees in a memo that he hoped his announcement had not created "a misleading impression" when it did exactly that.  
The developments are manna for a news media anxious for a development -- any development -- that would interrupt the Clinton coasting-to-victory narrative. 
Most voters, on the other hand, have made up their minds.  The election already is over for them and Hillary Clinton will be the next president.  

© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN 

Cartoon du Jour


Friday, October 28, 2016

Politix Update: It's About Refusing To Govern, Seeking Revenge & Rigging Votes

Time off from the presidential campaign -- which is pretty much on autopilot with Hillary Clinton schussing to a landslide victory -- for a look at three shameful political stories: The refusal of Republicans to govern, the politicians of both parties who use vengeance as a weapon to harm their their opponents, and a hoary rigged election myth debunked.     
The refusal of Republicans not just to govern, but their unceasing efforts to try to make it impossible for the president to lead, whether it is acting on a Supreme Court nomination or emergency funding for the zika virus, is a slow-moving catastrophe to which we have become so inured that it is like the proverbial elephant in the room.   
The pretzel logic of this stratergy, as Dubya would say, has fanned the flames of the extremism that led to Donald Trump's takeover of the party, and explains why Paul Ryan has said he would refuse to campaign for Trump or defend him over his racism, groppages and myriad other vile traits, but falls far short of denouncing him: The deeply cynical House speaker believes that Trump has so little interest in policy that if he were to win, he would automatically sign whatever bills the House sent up to him.   
Given the possibility that Democrats will take back the Senate on Clinton's coattails but likelihood that they'll fall short of a House majority, things are bound to get worse.  With a diminished House majority, Ryan's hold in the speakership will be even more tenuous, and his ability to control the so-called Freedom Caucus will be well nigh impossible.   
The Freedom Caucus -- or Gang of 40, as I like to call them -- are the cannibalistic Tea Party-inoculated congressfolk who, although they represent barely 3 percent of the population, have effectively brought the Republican House caucus to its knees because of a fanaticism not seen in national politics since the run up to the Civil War.  In my view, this qualifies these men (and lone woman) as traitors because they reliably betray their country and are the spawn of years of conspiring to destroy the established order. 
The established order will be replaced with . . . well, the Gang of 40 hasn't gotten around to figuring that part out beyond their blanket intolerance of multi-culturalism, approval of integration of church and state, so long as the church is white and Christian, and a belief that women are inferior, gays are aberrant, immigrants are criminal, access to health care is a privilege and not a right, and the social safety that is the difference between sufficiency and penury for millions of people should be shredded. 
The traitor-in-chief is Jason Chaffetz.   
As electoral math goes, this Republican from Utah is a flyspeck.  He was sent back to the House by 130,717 voters in 2014 but now intends to cripple Clinton although she will have gotten more than 60 million votes.  As Trump pops soap bubbles in one of his gold-plated bathtubs as Clinton is sworn in, Chaffetz promises to convene years of hearings that will make the Benghazi witch hunt a blip in time and not the longest congressional probe since Pearl Harbor.  Chaffetz calls Clinton "a target-rich environment" and says the new hearings will focus on . . . well, he hasn't figured out that part yet. 
Chaffetz was a Jewish Democrat, then converted to Mormonism during his last year of college in Utah and joined the GOP when former President Reagan was hired as a motivational speaker for Nu Skin, an Amway-esque marketing company where he worked before he entered politics.  He is best known for having being humiliated by the president of Planned Parenthood for knowingly presenting a falsified chart during a rigged committee hearing.
My suspicion is that Chaffetz did bad acid in college and we're all paying for it years later, but he is proof that he and other Republicans have been playing politics by their own rules for so long that they no longer known what the rules are.  Treating Hillary Clinton's presidency as illegitimate is a consequence of that.   

It was a fabulously awful week for politicians who use vengeance as a weapon against their opponents.   
In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a one-time rising star in the Democratic firmament, was sentenced to 10 to 23 months in the slammer for illegally leaking grand jury records in an attempt to discredit a critic and then lying about it to a different grand jury, but the biggest news was across the river in New Jersey at the Bridgegate trial where the star wasn't even in court.   
That would be Republican Governor Chris Christie, most recently Donald Trump's poodle, who was repeatedly identified by his two former top associates who are on trial as a bully and liar whose filthy fingers, despite his pious denials, are all over the scheme to close traffic lanes at the George Washington Bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing his re-election, causing four days of epic traffic jams.   
The New York Times flambéed the governor in an editorial, declaring with appropriate scorn that:
"Mr. Christie remained the offstage villain, the Mephistopheles of Trenton, but it was impossible for even casual trial observers not to discern, from witness after witness, the evident viciousness and grubbiness of the governor and his administration. He does exert a strange gravity, like some lonely planet, pulling lesser moons into orbit while greedily circling other bodies of greater mass and density: first the White House, and then the decaying gas giant Donald Trump.  Mr. Christie, who with the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani remains one of Mr. Trump's dead-end defenders, is apparently still leading Mr. Trump's presidential transition team."
Kane's career is at an end and the benighted Christie's should be.  He has another year to serve as governor if he is not indicted, which is a possibility, or impeached, which is less so, but yanking his future meal ticket -- his license to practice law, not eat cheesesteaks -- would be a good start.
Philadelphia has been ground zero for scare mongering by Donald Trump and his surrogates that the election will be rigged against him, and Those People will be to blame. 
Those People, of course, are African-Americans, and as evidence conspiracy freaks point to the fact that there were 59 precincts in Philadelphia in 2012 where That Person, aka President Obama, got 100 percent of the vote. 
Impossible, right? 
The 59 precincts, which are called voting divisions in the City of Brotherly Mayhem, are predominately black, each contain on average only several hundred voters and encompass just a few city blocks.  About a quarter of those divisions contain fewer than 20 Republicans and many others many less.  In fact, the Philadelphia Inquirer found that most of these Republicans couldn't be traced, had moved or didn't actually vote Republican in a city that is 68 percent non-white.
Democrats outnumber Republicans citywide by a 7-to-1 margin, and the reality is that no one wanted to vote for Mitt Romney in those divisions, something confirmed by the city's Republican election commissioner.   
This, of course, is a result of the GOP's own attempts to rig elections by excluding Those People from the party and trying to disenfranchise them when they have the temerity to want to vote.  And so the same pattern is likely to be repeated in those divisions on Election Day 2016. 

© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Remembering The Real Tom Hayden In This Fantastically Craptastic Election Year

1968: Tom Hayden plans strategy with Chicago 7 Co-Defendant David 
Dellinger while George Wolkind makes friends at the University of Delaware.
As a young political activist weaned in the crucible of the anti-Vietnam War movement, Tom Hayden was George Wolkind's inspiration, but not the Tom Hayden of the wild and willfully distorted popular imagination. 
"Tom had a romantic faith.  He was a romantic revolutionary committed to nonviolence, something that I was as well," Wolkind remembers in the wake of the passing this week at age 76 of the radical activist turned progressive politician.  "He believed in America, he had a spiritual connection with the American people." 
The Tom Hayden of Wolkind's acquaintance does not fit comfortably with our grainy black-and-white newsreel memories of the Sixties, of bomb throwing, flag burning
and long-haired hippies screaming at and spitting on returning Vietnam veterans.  This is because the real Tom Hayden, who was a contributor to the Declaration of Independence of the day -- the seminal Port Huron Statement -- was rather understated for a supposed firebrand.  And experienced beyond his then young years.   
The line that can be drawn between Hayden's advocacy for civil rights and against war some 50 years ago as a Students for a Democratic Society leader to Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives matter is straight and true. And profoundly relevant in this fantastically craptastic presidential election year.
Wolkind first met Tom Hayden in 1967 at a regional SDS meeting at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  The Michigan grad, then a wizened 27, was a principal participant in the meeting to organize SDS chapters on college campuses.  Wolkind, a wet-behind-the-ears 20, was the nominal leader of the fledgling chapter at the University of Delaware in Newark, where he was a student. The afternoon's activity was not raising collective consciousnesses, but touch football.   
"Tom was crazy about baseball and football," Wolkind said.  "He was the quarterback, of course."   
Wolkind blocked for Hayden and scored a touchdown on a long pass toward the end of a pickup game against self-declared anarchists.  And brought back to Newark Hayden's admonition that a grassroots movement cannot succeed if it's not a participatory democracy. 
He put those principles into practice at Hullihen Hall, the University of Delaware administration building, which he and a couple hundred students took over in sympathy with three students who had been expelled (and their draft boards notified by the school in a notably malicious touch) after they walked off a Reserve Officers Training Corp drill field in protest over the war and ROTC being mandatory for underclassmen.    
"Are we really going to shut Hullihen down?  My idea was to force a confrontation," Wolkind recalls. "I asked myself, 'What would Tom Hayden do?' So we put it to a vote.  How many people wanted to shut the building down and how many wanted to just keep demonstrating?  The vote was overwhelming to continue to allow people to come in and go out." 
Wolkind himself was later arrested by Bill Brierly, Newark's legendary police chief, at the university's Student Center on obscenity charges (photo, upper right) while handing out fliers for a campus appearance by Hosea Williams, the civil rights leader, with the headline Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker, a phrase attributed to poet Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and shouted out by lead singer Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane in concerts and radio interviews. 
The Port Huron Statement was the foundation document of Students for a Democratic Society.  By the standards of today's superheated rhetoric, it doesn't seem radical at all, but then SDS was not radical, at least not at first.  Nor was Wolkind.  And SDS wasn't a product of the so-called Sixties counterculture; the organization predated it.   
The war in the Big Muddy escalated and then escalated some more.  Nearly 200 Americans a week were dying.  Public opinion was slowly turning against the Johnson administration.  Efforts by Hayden and other SDS leaders to force the U.S. to negotiate a settlement went nowhere, while a massive march on the Pentagon in October 1967, where Wolkind had been arrested for the first time, moved public opinion but not the White House.
Attitudes hardened and then hardened some more.  There were violent demonstrations on college campus, culminating with the murder of four antiwar protesters at Kent State.  Cathy Wilkerson, a Washington, D.C.-based SDS activist who advised the University of Delaware chapter, helped form the ultra-radical Weather Underground Organization and in 1970 escaped an explosion in a nail bomb-making factory in the sub-basement of her father's Greenwich Village townhouse that took three lives.  She avoided capture for 10 years.
"The student movement grew up.  We weren't students anymore," Wolkind says.  "Armed struggle soon became the final straw.  The movement basically threw Tom Hayden out, and the Weathermen were born out of this."   
Meanwhile, the Delaware campus returned to the state of political somnolence that still characterizes it today. 
Tom Hayden was used to if never completely inured to charges that he was a sellout.  "The Left eats its own people," Wolkind explains. "It eats its own people and spits them out more times than anybody."   
Those charges were deeply unfair, of course, unless you consider a decades-long career in mainstream politics as a California state legislator who tirelessly promoted an agenda advocating economic parity, racial justice and solar energy to be selling out.  But that was nothing compared to the weeks before Hayden's death when the sellout chorus succumbed to collective apoplexy.   
In July, Hayden attended a rather different Democratic National Convention than the 1968 bloodbath in Chicago that led to his indictment as one of the Chicago 7 (and eventual exoneration). Looking uncomfortably at the world his generation had inherited, to paraphrase the opening line of the Port Huron Statement, Hayden told delegates who were gathering in Philadelphia to nominate Hillary Clinton that she was his unequivocal choice.   
There is "one fundamental reason for my doing so," Hayden explained.  "It has to do with race.  My life since 1960 has been committed to the causes of African Americans, the Chicano movement, the labor movement and freedom struggles in Vietnam, Cuba and Latin America. . . . 
"What would cause me to turn my back on all those people who have shaped who I am?  And I have been so tied to the women's movement that I cannot imagine scoffing at the chance to vote for a woman president.  When I understood that the overwhelming consensus from those communities was for Hillary, that was the decisive factor for me."

Monday, October 24, 2016

Politix Update: Pondering The Crash Landing Of The Donald Who Fell To Earth

Cheeto Jesus was going to fall to earth sooner or later.  The laws of electoral physics had not been repealed nor had Americans gone totally crazy.  The problem was whether he would run out of hot air before we ran out of calendar.   
I take no pleasure in having long ago predicted the outcome we are now on the verge of realizing: A mighty Election Day rebuke 15 days hence in the form of a popular and electoral vote landslide victory for Hillary Clinton, who bless her goodhearted if troubled soul, might well have been defeated by any number of Republicans fitter than Donald Trump. 
I take no pleasure in having gotten it right because that has not spared me the wrenching ordeal of someone who bleeds red, white and blue and has watched his beloved country teeter on the precipice because of a sociopath's overweening lust for acceptance beyond his closely-proscribed orbit of celebrity and glitz and his consuming anger when that acceptance is not forthcoming.  Such as at the Al Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner the other night in what Esquire's Charles Pierce called "the Los Alamos of after-dinner speeches" when he was lustily booed by New York's glitterati because of his bitterly tone-deaf remarks about Clinton. 
Oh, the night sweats I endured as Trump seemingly closed the gap in early September before those laws of electoral physics finally kicked in.  Then, having flown too close to the sun, his wings began to melt, his descent commenced and accelerated. 
But while Trump may have been the Icarus of modern-day American politics, he was no Pygmalion. Despite repeated promises from his campaign that he was going to pivot and become a contender with honest-to-goodness appeal to more than angry white men, he was pathologically incapable of making any such out-of-character transformation. 
Trump has cared only about himself, while his supporters with their Make America Great baseball caps have been merely stage props in a stratospheric flight of fantasy by a spoiled brat with a propensity for reckless cruelty, someone who we now know may never have done an honorable or honest thing in his life.   Trump has drilled so far into our heads that we failed to understand that the election has been just another business deal for him.  That it was just another sad chapter in the devolution of the Republican Party has been obvious.  What hadn't been obvious until the final debate in Las Vegas last week is that Trump had stopped running against "Lying Hillary" and was now running against democracy.
Actually, the Icarus analogy is pretty lame considering that Trump has spent the entire campaign in the gutter.  And this certainly is no time for high-fiving, because we now have to consider the implications of his crash landing, which could be a good deal messier than the proverbial cleanup in Aisle 5.   
I would feel a lot better about the mess being contained had the Republican Party not gifted us Trump in the first place and, lest we forget, its abominable record on "respecting" presidential election results.   
Since 1992, there have been two Democratic presidents, each twice elected.  After Bill Clinton was first elected, then-Senator Bob Dole made a big deal out of saying it was the job of his party to represent the people who did not vote for the president, and then the party tried to throw Clinton out of office when he was re-elected.  The GOP has been openly brazen about trashing Barack Obama, and historians will long ponder how much greater his successes would have been -- and how much healthier and more secure the country would have been -- had the opposition not been so unrelentingly disloyal to the point of outright treason. 
Having said all that, I cling, perhaps naïvely at this late date considering the Trumpkins' blanket disconnect with reality, to the belief that there will not be anywhere near the chaos that The Donald's intemperate remarks are encouraging. 
This is because: 
* There is no evidence that Trump's supporters are planning to lock and load and double-step down to the nearest inner city polling place to make sure the Coloreds are on their best behavior. 
* There may not be protests after the results are announced because Clinton's victory will be so great, including wins in some red states, that the legitimacy of the vote won't be in dispute. 
* There is the possibility that Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell, the two top elected Republicans, will concede for Trump if he refuses to do so in the face of an overwhelming loss.  

If the Republican Party's goal has been to destroy Obama, Trump's goal now seems to be to destroy the presidency. But there is no margin for a chastened GOP leadership in trying to prevent an orderly transition of power by balking in the face of Clinton's victory. 
Trump's view of America has turned out to be as small as his hands, while the only thing he has been good at is making excuses.  (His latest whopper is that he has kept bringing up Bill Clinton's indiscretions because Michelle Obama did it first.)  There simply is no excuse for the party that gifted us Cheeto Jesus to prolong the Trump Agony beyond Election Day.   
Republican Party leaders should want it to be over as quickly as the rest of us do.

© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Jack Kerouac: A Trailblazing Beat Writer Who Could Never Overcome His Hype

Like a lot of college kids who came of age in the Sixties, reading Jack Kerouac's On the Road was a rite of passage for me, one that occurred a few days into my freshman year when my considerably more sophisticated dormitory roommate loaned me his dog-eared copy.
I caught the Kerouac bug so bad that I went on to read virtually everything he wrote after tracking down a last few obscure titles in the early 1970s, when I was traveling the Far East, at a wonderful bookstore on the Ginza in Tokyo that specialized in those orange-spined Pengiun paperback editions. And like the movable feast of characters that populated Kerouac's real and fictional lives, I spent much of the 1970s on the road, an odyssey that took me to 49 of the 50 American states. (Sorry, Montana, I'll drop by someday.)
The good news from this literary experience is that I can confirm -- as if I needed to tell the bibliophiles among you -- that Kerouac is deserving of the mantle of trailblazing Beat Generation writer.  He has exerted an enormous influence on many writers, myself included, as well as Ken Kesey and Richard Brautigan, and musicians like as Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.
The bad news is that while I was to read just about everything Kerouac wrote, only two more books -- The Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels -- gripped me as On the Road had, and most of the rest of what Kerouac wrote is second rate or worse.   He was influenced by and is often compared to Thomas Wolfe, the master of 20th century American fictional autobiography, but can't hold a candle to him even considering Wolfe's well deserved reputation for having written an awful lot of bad prose.  Maybe that's just me, because most critics are kinder.
Kerouac did have many of the ingredients that make up the tortured artistic soul, including a difficult lifelong relationship with his mother, deep sensitivity and low self esteem, ambivalence about spirituality, ambiguous sexuality, unhappy in love and a profound addiction -- in his case alcohol. That is obvious from the body of Kerouac's work, some 25 or so novels and other books in all, but does not explain why his prolific but relatively short life produced a mere handful of books that arguably are worth reading today.
Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac in Lowell, Massachusetts on March 12, 1921 to French-Canadian parents, Léo-Alcide Kerouac and Gabrielle-Ange Lévesque, who like many other Quebecers of their generation had emigrated to New England to find work.
Kerouac and his family spoke joual, a Quebec French dialect, and he did not begin to learn English until the age of six, two years after the death of his nine-year-old brother, Gérard, whose passing affected him deeply.
Kerouac started writing poetry at a young age, but it was his ability as a running back and a football scholarship to Columbia University that was his ticket out of gritty Lowell.
In a twist of fate, Kerouac broke a leg in a game during his freshman season, soon dropped out of college and began meeting many of the Beat Generation characters who would populate his novels, including Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, John Clellon Holmes and William S. Burroughs. He joined the Merchant Marine in 1942 and then the Navy in 1943 at the height of World War II, but was honorably discharged on psychiatric grounds – for having an "indifferent disposition."
He later lived with his parents in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens after they too moved to New York, and that is where he wrote his first novel, The Town and the City (1950) and began On the Road.
From the outset, Kerouac's novels were long, rambling, dense and packed with details about his daily life and thoughts, and his editor at publisher Robert Giroux cut some 400 pages from The Town and the City, a generational epic influenced by Wolfe.  No matter, the book sold poorly and for the next six years Kerouac was unable to find a publisher.
Fame, all of its attendant problems and Kerouac’s eventual undoing came calling with publication of On the Road in 1957.
Kerouac had written the book on a roll of Teletype paper in the course of a three-week Benzedrine and coffee binge in 1951. Inconveniently for fans who believe that the novel was written off the top of his head, much of it had been laid out in diaries and correspondence during an extended road trip across the U.S. and into Mexico with Cassady, who was the model for the character Dean Moriarty.
On the Road relied heavily on the narrative style, Kerouac's early flirtation with Buddhism and the music of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and the other bebop musicians that he and his friends were grooving to.  It also borrowed liberally – too liberally for the alternately awed and hurt Cassady, who himself never matured as a writer -- from Cassady's own letters to Kerouac.
Publisher after publisher rejected On the Road because of its experimental writing style, but finally Viking Press purchased it after insisting on and getting major revisions.
Kerouac was living and writing in Orlando, Florida by the time On the Road was reviewed by The New York Times on September 5, 1957. Gilbert Millstein hailed him as a major American writer and the book as the defining work of the Beat Generation.
The review began:
[I]ts publication is a historic occasion in so far as the exposure of an authentic work of art is of any great moment in an age in which the attention is fragmented and the sensibilities are blunted by the superlatives of fashion (multiplied a millionfold by the speed and pound of communications).
And concluded:
There are sections of "On the Road" in which the writing is of a beauty almost breathtaking. There is a description of a cross-country automobile ride fully the equal, for example, of the train ride told by Thomas Wolfe in "Of Time and the River." There are details of a trip to Mexico (and an interlude in a Mexican bordello) that are by turns, awesome, tender and funny. And, finally, there is some writing on jazz that has never been equaled in American fiction, either for insight, style or technical virtuosity. "On the Road" is a major novel.
Overnight, Kerouac's antics with Cassady, Ginsberg and friends became the stuff of legend in large part because of his inevitably awkward appearances on The Tonight Show with Steve Allen, and other programs. During his lifetime, many fewer people read Kerouac's books than celebrated his adventures through the interviews he gave.
The Dharma Bums, set in California and based on Kerouac's experiences with Buddhism and San Francisco area poets, was published in 1958. (A personal aside: I reread Dharma Bums while living in San Francisco in the mid-70s. Book in hand, I was riding a city bus one afternoon when it stopped for a traffic light at Columbus Avenue and Broadway as Kerouac walked across that very intersection in the book.) 
My other fave, Desolation Angels, drawn from a summer he spent as a fire lookout in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington state, appeared in 1965.
These books are to my mind the most accomplished examples of Kerouac's narrative style, which he later called Spontaneous Prose, a technique akin to stream of consciousness.  Indeed, a big reason that I find most of the rest of his writing not as good is because it seems anything but spontaneous although, and to burst another Kerouac myth, he rewrote and rewrote all of his manuscripts.
Years later, Kerouac was asked by Ginsberg to explain Spontaneous Prose. The result was a list of what he called 30 "essentials":
1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside your own house
4. Be in love with your life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yrself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Don't think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You're a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
To end at the beginning, why then did Kerouac produce a mere handful of books that arguably are worth reading today?
Because these books, notably On the Road, are "about how to live your life," as John Leland puts it in Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think), a sweet little 2007 tome only slightly longer than the title. Kerouac simply was incapable of living that idyllic low-overhead life of work, love, artistry and faith, and never escaped the overweening clutches of his beloved Memere.
Jack Kerouac died at age 47 on this date in 1969 in a St. Petersburg, Florida, hospital as a result of internal bleeding caused cirrhosis of the liver, the result of a lifetime of heavy drinking. He was living with his third wife and his mother.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Politix Update: Last Debate A Debacle For A Defiant Trump As He Circles The Drain

 It was a do-or-die moment for Donald Trump, and he died. 
With less than three weeks until we can begin to try to remember what life was like before Trump's toxic stain befouled every thing his small hands touched, Trump ceded the third and mercifully final presidential debate in Las Vegas to Hillary Clinton while guaranteeing that the focus during the closing days of the campaign will be on his fitness for office because of his utter lack of respect for it.
Clinton acted like she was on the verge of clinching the presidency when --  in a surprising and deft role reversal -- she was not mocking Trump.  He, in turn, acted like a blustering schoolyard bully who realizes he has lost the fight of his life while confirming in perhaps his only candid moment of the night that he might not accept the outcome of an election it increasingly appears he will lose by huge popular and electoral vote margins. 
In a pulse-stopping moment that will go down in history, while shadowing and, one can only hope, forever tormenting Trump, moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News asked him if he would accept defeat.  
"I will look at it at the time.  I'm not looking at anything now.  I'll look at it at the time," meaning after Election Day on November 8, Trump replied. 
"Chris, let me respond to that," Clinton interjected.  "That's horrifying. We've been around for 240 years.  We've had free and fair elections.   We've accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them.  And that is what must be expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election."   
Wallace tried again.   
"There is a tradition in this country, in fact one of the prides of this country is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner . . . and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country.  Are you saying you're not prepared now to commit to that principle?" 
Again, Trump refused to commit.   
"I'll tell you at the time," he finally said.  "I'll keep you in suspense, okay?"  
Was Trump unaware of what his words mean and their enormous consequences?  Or did he just not care?  Probably both, but it was difficult to tell because his demeanor seemed less that of a man struggling to remain composed, which he ultimately failed  to do, than being on the verge of giving up and merely content to insult America rather than his all too vulnerable opponent.   
Then, ignoring the firestorm of criticism, he further upped the ante today by saying that he would "totally accept" the results "if I win."   
If anything, Trump seemed even less prepared than he had for the first two debates, which is not surprising in light of his debate coach, disgraced former Fox News boss Roger Ailes, quitting in disgust this week because Trump "couldn't focus."  He had no script and rambled disjointedly on policy points.  While he whined, as usual, he barely responded to Clinton's trenchant jabs, whether her assertion that he had used undocumented workers to build Trump Tower or Chinese steel in his Las Vegas hotel.   
When Clinton called Trump a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he limply replied, "No puppet.  No puppet," adding emptily, "You're the puppet." 
When Clinton jabbed him about hosting The Celebrity Apprentice television show while she was hunkered down in the White House Situation Room monitoring the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, he feebly allowed that "The one thing you have over me is experience."   
Wallace's questions were far tougher than Trump's rejoinders.   
Shock of shocks, he avoided pursuing a red-meat question from Wallace about sexual misconduct allegations against former President Bill Clinton.  He feebly tried to discredit the nine (oops, make that 10) women who have accused him of predatory behavior in the wake of the Access Hollywood hot-mic video that has had much to do with sending his campaign into a tailspin that was predictable, as well as inevitable, because it has been running on fumes for so long and reality was quickly catching up to it.  
That reality is now verging on cluelessness.  Trump has been campaigning in states he already has lost or has little chance of winning, while his travel schedule for the next several days suggests that he has no electoral map strategy, only grievances, revenge threats and rants against an anti-Semitic tinged "global conspiracy" to rig the election.  His is no longer a presidential campaign in any traditional sense unless you consider it normal to rely on swamp gas from WikiLeaks, threaten a constitutional crisis by inciting your supporters, and show more interest in ginning up rationales about why you are going to lose rather than trying to win.  And letting President Obama get inside your head. 
Trump was a different man last night in that he was consistent, for a change.  But he was consistently underwhelming, sometimes seemed bored with the whole affair, and his performance was a kind of slow-motion meltdown.  He seldom talked over Clinton and the moderator as he had regularly done in the first two debates, and had to struggle to keep up. 
"Such a nasty women," he grumbled at one point.  "Nobody has more respect for women than I do," he said at another in a sad, now oft-repeated rejoinder in claiming that his accusers "have been debunked." 
Keeping it classy, as always, Trump had invited Obama's Kenyan-born half-brother, Malik, who is a Trump supporter, to the debate in an effort to revive his false accusations that the president was born in Kenya.  Irony of ironies, under Trump's immigration plan, this Muslim from a troubled African land targeted by terrorists would be denied entry into the U.S.   
For the reality television star, the Las Vegas debate was yet again all about his self righteous self, not America and a people who cry out for a better and more secure future.  The election is just another deal for him to negotiate.  And another tragic chapter in the devolution of the Republican Party.   
Donald Trump is so abjectly ignorant of how our political system is supposed to work that it has become glaringly obvious that he is no longer running against Hillary Clinton.  He is running against democracy.    

© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN