November 2014
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Rags and Bones

by Jonathan Wallace

The elections

I voted. Why didn't you?


In the annals of declining democracy, in the era of late capitalism, it is interesting to note how few of the chattering class are uttering the "I" word right now. As they did with Clinton at the end of his second term, the Republicans have the numbers to start it but not to convict. They can taint the historical record, humiliate the President, tie him up for a most of the rest of his term. Why wouldn't they? Its not even a matter of leadership, because Boehner's and McConnell's ridiculous records prove there is none. You have a multitude of ungovernable sycophants, such as Ted Cruz and Michelle Bachman, psyching each other up , and they will eventually act because no-one has the individual courage not to. (I couldn't remember Bachman's name but googled "crazy Republican congresswoman" and five out of nine top page hits had her name in the title). There's no-one who has the morality, authority or control to say, "What will America look like in the future if every time the president and Congress are from different parties, there is an impeachment?"


All of the discussion about America not paying ransom misses the true moral issue. We keep hearing government official saying that if we paid ransoms, more Americans would get kidnapped, etc. What about the truth that ransom dollars fund the purchase of guns and explosives which are used to kill people who aren't kidnap-worthy because they can't pay any ransoms themselves? Every time Isis sends a suicide bomber into a marketplace or Shi'ite mosque, he is wearing a belt purchased by French or some other nation's ransom money. If you think about it, the subtext is a class system in which we are purchasing the survival of white people by paying in mangled brown corpses. Seriously.

Al Sharpton

I think the inequality of the laws is becoming both more accentuated and more public as time goes by, as if it almost doesn't matter any more to admit that the rich and powerful are a higher life form. I was startled to read in the Times that Al Sharpton went years withholding income tax from employees and not paying it to the government, but has never been prosecuted. He owed $800,000 by the end of 2012. In the world I was raised in, as a businessperson in the '90's, this was one of the worst mistakes you could make, and you would certainly do time for it. A 2011 article in Forbes tells the story of a Queens accountant who owed a little more than $100,000 in payroll tax and was looking at a possible five year sentence, (he had also committed some other tax-related faux pas, but so has Sharpton). Is Al Sharpton so powerful politically that he is in the same exempt category as the Koch Brothers and Donald Trump? There seems to be one law for the billionaires and powerful, and another for the rest of us.


I vote mostly for Democrats, but selected the lefty third party guy on the ballot rather than voting for Cuomo, who is a bully and corrupt. I hope his father is ashamed of him--Mario was one of the more honest politicians ever.

Capitalism and fraud

Late capitalism involves a basic right to defraud other people, which was most prominently enshrined in law in the nationwide refusal of U.S.attorneys to prosecute those who bundled bad mortgages into worthless securities and sold them to trusting clients. How much more deliberate than that does it have to be? In the mortgage fraud arena, in which people were tricked out of the deeds to their homes, the U.S. attorneys are prosecuting some small con men but no bankers, even though in some specific cases it is impossible to believe that banks gave mortgages to the con men and straw men without any suspicion. The "takeaway" is, if you are going to commit crimes, commit huge ones.

One-state solution

This meme is out there; it made the op ed page of the Times recently. Written in polite phrasing by Israeli intellectuals and their American defenders, it goes like this: The two state solution won't work, because the Palestinians are too violent and hateful. So just let us keep ruling them forever. We can give them more material things than they can give themselves anyway, if they would just settle down to be good little sheeple.

I hardly know what to say, except that its not gonna work.

Democratic cowardice

The Democrats deserve whaever happens,as they are too insecure and frightened to exercise any leadership anyway. Alison Grimes refusing to admit she voted for Obama (then losing the election) was paradigmatic. For forty years, the party has seemed almost masochistic to me. When Al Franken was elected to the Senate, I hoped he would be the happy warrior, the counter-Limbaugh, traveling around the country verbally beating the crap out of Republican hypocrites. Instead, he vanished into Minnesota. The Democrats have abandoned the public sphere, the discourse, the very definition of words like "liberal" to the Republicans.

Net neutrality and jobs

I was amused by the several Republicans who parroted the same trope, that net neutrality would kill jobs. Once upon a time, Republicans might have championed the small entrepreneur, the Vermont woman with a website offering her handmade goods or artisanal food--the individual who will get run over and smashed by deals which make sure that your computer hangs for a minute before her locally hosted web site comes up. Instead, any attempt to protect the consumer, any attempt even to help small business-people, gets denounced as a "job killer". I suppose that if Nazi Germany had won the war, or even survived it, there would,ten or twenty years later, have been voices recommending that Auschwitz be shut down, and others responding indignantly that closing the camps would kill jobs.

Ebola gear

Ebola seems not to be as infectious as I feared, and is fading away from public consciousness for now. But I was amazed to see a photograph in some paper or another (Daily News?) of Bellevue nurses dressed in their "protective"suits. They weren't wearing the state of the art space-suits that are needed to be moderately safe, but the same paper gowns and masks the Texas nurses were wearing when they got infected. Did whoever wrote the caption not know the difference, or was the newspaper collaborating with some kind of Official Narrative, that we are better prepared, safer than we really are?

Attorneys General

Lobbyists go to national meetings of state attorneys general, take them out to dinner, offer campaign contributions, and "persuade" them not to investigate or indict clients of the lobbyists. Apropos of our nation not even trying to cover up the incidents of late capitalism any more, this is indistinguishable from bribery.

Samsung stupid

I have a new Samsung phone and the design and presentation of its interface are wildly out of control. At a resort on Crete in the mid-90's,I once tried to paddle a paper-mache kayak that some local manufacturer had modeled on magazine photographs of real kayaks. It kept tipping and I fell out. The Samsung interface bears the same relationship to the Mac, and before that, the Xerox PARC model. It contains several large advertising widgets that offend me that I don't know how to get rid of, if its even possible: Why do I need to know about something called Story Album, permanently taking up two thirds of the real estate on one screen of my phone? Alarms are an old and easy application, but the alarm widget has no visible way to turn off the one that I set, and which I now have to keep moving from day to day so its always set for the day after tomorrow. Chrome seems to have been deliberately crippled--functionality which allowed me to share and save web pages and images seems now to be turned off. If you go into "Apps"looking to download free apps, there is no longer a search function-- you are steered to Amazon Appstore, which lacks much of the free content. Then there are glitches that I also encountered on my old phone, like the screen going dark repeatedly just as I am trying to get to some information in a file or email during a phone call.

One of the incidents of late capitalism is crappy products distributed by unchecked monopolies.

Voter ID

There was a classic New York Times statistical-punt piece saying that voter ID laws don't really prevent that many Democrats from voting. Morally, that was about the same as saying (my favorite moral parable), that some politicians really do eat babies, but the numbers are much lower than reported, and it is unlikely that baby-consumption will really cut down the absolute numbers of African American communities in the future. "They're not eating enough babies to affect the demographics."

I had three or four more topics but I'm too sick to continue.