We Didn’t Start, We’re Fired

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soap

Blame millennials for the missing bar of soap.
But blame their parents for the rest of it:
the postwar settlement they turned to shit;
the rising seas; the flattening and declining slope
of income growth; the OD rate for dope;
George Bush invading Baghdad in a snit;
“prestige” TV; Armstrong’s hematocrit;
Fox News, CNN, the man from Hope.
Even the awful form of this complaint
is accidentally due to Billy Joel,
another boomer bastard: they’ve destroyed
the world in increments, but now they faint
at the minor foibles of the kids today, a whole
generation dad left unemployed.

Cody

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The children aren’t the future; they are now.
My five-year-old, for instance, is concerned
that five-year-olds in China will have learned
integral calculus while he learns the cow
goes moo. Father, he asked, how can we allow
declines in public spending when it earns
broad wage-multipliers as returns?
Is Xi reformist, or is he a Mao?
And can we win the war on terror with
a formal legal apparatus that
constrains our agencies and binds their hands?
Do coastal elites represent a fifth
column? Is the Bible a samizdat?
Will I have to share the boys room with a trans?

The Reign of Error

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What went through Loretta Lynch’s mind when Bill Clinton buttonholed her in that airport? I imagine her like one of those poor robots in an Asimov story, thrown into a fugue of helpless malfunction as the indelible rules etched into the very fabric of her mind looped back on themselves in unresolved contradiction. The people who arrive in these positions of appointed, administrative authority don’t arrive through some exercise of uncompromising brilliance, but through the application of the sort of subtle, anticipatory empathy—business schools like to call it “emotional intelligence”—that mark the climbers in any organization, a quality that used to mark a successful courtier before our democratic pretensions overran our good sense of what, exactly, our Secretaries and ministers really are and were.

On the one hand, her brain must have rebelled at the discordant vibrations of the appearance of impropriety; on the other, well, here is a former two-term president and Grand Poobah of the Democratic Party that appointed her, not to mention husband to that party’s current presumptive Presidential nominee—in other words, the actual archetype of the person from whom she is constitutionally, professionally inclined to curry favor. What was Clinton thinking? For all the nefarious theories out there, I suspect he just wasn’t. If there is a through-line, a plot thread to the bizarre picaresque of Clintonian scandals, it is, in the ironically apt words of G-Man James Comey, extreme carelessness. If the Clintons were once in a sense arrivistes (“He came in here and he trashed the place, and it’s not his place,” said David Broder in a moment of accidental honesty), their successful elevation to the highest order of the American aristocracy came in no small part because they so successfully affected the aristocrats’ most singular characteristic of simply not giving a shit about the consequences that should not—and would not—apply to them.

So when Comey processed before the cameras to pronounce Hillary merely a venial sinner, no one was really surprised—least of all, I suspect, Loretta Lynch, who would never have tethered her career to even a slight chance that she’d have to prosecute a potential US President. If she’d thought for one instance that the FBI might recommend an indictment, she’d have recused herself and tossed the job and the decision to some poor career prosecutor whose real intelligence and competence consigned him forever to the middle ranks. But as Comey uttered the magical incantation, “no reasonable prosecutor,” my own mind fled immediately to different moment, back in November of 2014, when St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCollough announced that a Grand Jury had “determined that no probable cause exists to file any charges against Officer Wilson and returned a ‘no true bill’ on each of the five indictments” after that same Officer Wilson, that August, had killed an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown.

Lynch’s decision to abrogate prosecutorial discretion and leave the question to the purportedly independent judgment of an investigatory body had the eerie echo of a DA trying to appear above the fray as he quietly works to avoid punishing a killer cop. Running the State Department out of a server closet in your basement and shooting an unarmed black youth are separated by a moral gulf as well as a difference of scale, but they are nevertheless bridged by a connection of a ubiquitous, official corruption that is both bland and deadly. It permits the murder of black men by agents of the state; it permits the un-FOIA-able (attempted, anyway) planning for mad wars and drone assassinations. Clinton defenders have seized on the data that numerous other high-ranking State and DOD officials have also conducted their business via private email; they imagine this is exculpatory, but it’s actually systemically damning. They’re all, it turns out, immune.

Our application of the law is exactly backwards; it applies with unfaltering severity to the least powerful and with increasing leniency the farther up the social and economic ladder you go. A black man can be murdered for having a broken tail-light; the official who murdered him gets “paid administrative leave.” A Private gets 35 years in prison for leaking a trove of war documents that—officials rushed to assure us—didn’t show anything we didn’t already know, while a former Secretary of State can blitz around the world with a password password and be reminded that she was a bad girl for not using 2-factor before successfully becoming the President of the United States. You can go to jail for running an online sports betting site, but Jamie Dimon…

I’m basically a pacifist and live in mortal terror of wars and revolutions, but it’s getting ever harder to look at the state of society without hearing the distant but swiftly approaching swish of the guillotines.

A Secret Memo

Conspiracy and the Occult, Culture, Justice, Media, Plus ça change motherfuckers, Poetry, Religion, Things that Actually Happen, Uncategorized, War and Politics

But the crucial issue is not when, but how.”

I will be with you, whatever.
But this is the moment to assess
Bluntly and boldly, whether

The danger is, as ever,
That action acts to make a mess
Which lingers with you, whatever

Plans, resources, clever
PR pitches you address
To your blunted people, whether

Or not they’re listening. Never
Forget our gaudy, tawdry press
Has stuffed them full of whatever

Trash they think is pleasure.
I hate them all. George, I confess
I can’t decide whether

Perhaps the better endeavor
Would be to self-invade. God bless
Us, be with us whatever
Chance, fate, or weather.

Urinetown

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pod

We bundled the children into the car and went
into Manhattan; the attendant at
the Icon garage wore a knitted hat
and smelled like grass; he had some kind of accent.
O, City of Finance, thin-crust slice, cement!
We expected young men dressed like cats,
beautiful, manly, in their junkyard habitats,
instead our babies saw some gender-bent
weirdos, two young women, clearly not
identified as male, one in a near
I-Dream-of-Jeannie outfit, enter the gents!
My boy began to cry. “Daddy, I’ve got
to pee!” Think fast, John! “Peeing’s queer!”
I cried, the modern father’s last lament.

Fired Like a Dog

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I tell my dog that she is fired. She
regards me, head cocked and floppy ears
each lifted slightly; whatever it is she hears
and apprehends, she snorts, and squats, and pees
on the hardwood floor; this appears to please
her to no end; she pirouettes and yowls,
beagle-body pitching, feet to jowls,
fully engaged, unlike a human: we
are idiomatic, every sound reflects
an abstracted actuality; we mean,
even when we’re speaking gibberish; we try
to fold the world into sequenced sound. Our pets,
the wild animals, the wind-shook green
leaves mean nothing, don’t know that they will die.

A Parliament of Fowls

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So sore, ywis, that whan I on him thinke,
Nat woot I wel wher that I flete or sinke.

During the Middle Ages, people thought
that Valentine’s, or thereabouts, would mark
the date when birds paired off, each lark to lark,
each life-pair-bonded waterfowl not
quite sure their spouse would like the card they’ve bought;
should they’ve considered jewelery? trips? The spark
of a single season’s mating faded to the dark
mornings in winter; they woke together, fought
for the first shower and who would walk the dog,
who would make the bed and do the dishes
from the dinner that they’d thrown the night before,
while all the years became a catalog
of various compromises; yet one wishes
for this forever. The swans are never bored.

In Your Own Clever Way

Conspiracy and the Occult, Culture, Poetry, Things that Actually Happen, Uncategorized, War and Politics

1) You in your own voice describe them as “muscular”

Philippe Reines to Marc Ambinder

There’s nothing new here. We have known it all
since we grew out of our college commitments;
got our WaPo gigs; became assistants
to undersecretaries; bought our Falls
Church houses; unsolicited, got called
by Blitzer’s harried booker when a different
call-in pundit’s call was dropped. This persistent
shock that gambling’s going on recalls
that scene, you know the one, that quote I can’t
quite place my finger on; but why is it wrong
to give a little courtesy to those
on whom one’s access is dependent, grant
anonymity, bury a strong
lede from time to time, soften one’s prose?

Goldman Sacks Rome

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Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.

-Matthew 4:8

That’s what they offered.

-Hillary Clinton

The Spirit brought her out, and the devil said
some of these rider reqs are quite obscene:
a private jet and caviar in the green
room? We usually do business class instead;
a good hotel, of course, and comfy bed,
but a whole floor and a fleet of limousines?
eunuch attendants and a host of seraphim?
payment in blood? the final triumph of the dead?
She shrugged. Look, Satan, one accrues,
when one is such an avatar of ex-
cellence and obviously deservèd fame,
some costs and expectations; retinues
aren’t cheap these days; they require sex,
feeding, jobs, and booze to treat the shame.

Ronald Raven Signs a Piece of Legislation

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Never more than a few wing’s beats
away; the poor pigeons warble that
they’ve lost the parking lot where they grew fat
to the loud and faster Corvidae who bleat
an almost-human language; the raven defeats
the mere flocked and fearful flights of cat-
harassed and bread-fed winged rats
of the city by being them but more: he eats
what they eat; lives where they live; but he
collects in his nests a bright collection, this
strange habit of display, half warning
and half fetish. De-natured doves, we,
really, are the pigeons; how we miss
the lost evening cliffs. But the raven is morning.