And now we are here.

When I woke up the day after the presidential election in 1980 at the ripe old age of 10, and my parents told me that Ronald Reagan would be the next president of the United States, I cried. I was sure that we were all going to die. We were entrenched in nuclear proliferation and Reagan had this weird anachronistic bone to pick with the former Soviet Union.

We did not all die – though I would argue vehemently that a huge number of people did die who should not have as a result of the Reagan presidency [see the War on Drugs and denial of medical attention to HIV/AIDS patients], and to be fair, the disasters of Reagan’s trickle down economic policies and gutting of social programs are directly related to myriad contemporary social problems in the country today.

Today we are still alive – though I would argue vehemently that a tremendous number of people feel that status to be incredibly tenuous as a result of a possible Trump presidency, and somehow Reagan has become the epitome of Republican values. A man who spurred our national debt to as-of-yet unrecoverable measure, considered a conservative. I would think it strange, but for the more recent turn of events.

I feel pretty confident that I am not going to die – literally or metaphorically – as a result of a Trump presidency. Not 100% percent, but pretty sure. But this is because I am a white, middle class, straight, CIS-woman, with an education. However, I do not feel at all confident that my friends of color are safe. Or that their children are safe. Or that my LGBTQ friends are safe. Or that their children are safe. Or that my Muslim friends are safe. Or that their children are safe. Or that my working, tax-paying undocumented friends are safe. Or that their children are safe. They are all at terrible risk of brash executive action (eventually) and rogue populist rage (currently) that has been normalized, rationalized, accepted, and therefore condoned by 26% of the eligible voting population who chose to allow a man of such little character as Donald Trump access to the presidency of this country.

Although I feel pretty confident that I am not going to die – literally or metaphorically – I have already seen how this new set of circumstances will impact what it means to be a woman in this country. Having suffered more than a year of being told that I was voting with my vagina; that I was ill-informed because of my dissent; that I was acting emotionally about something that required reason; that an incomparably more competent woman will still not be chosen over a man because she won’t smile, is not personable, is not a “10”, is too pushy/ambitious/sneaky; that my experiences are not valid – and possibly not even real – because I am playing a woman card, I am certain that I am at far greater risk for assault, abuse, disrespect, and disregard.

As a woman who was sexually assaulted in college (did you know most of my friends were assaulted and some of us did not even know that it was assault at the time, we thought it was normal? Did you know that when it happened to me my friend’s boyfriend freaked out that I might sue his fraternity because it was one of his fraternity brothers? Did you know years later this SAME person contacted my on OKCupid in Hong Kong and wanted to date me, apparently unaware that he knew me? Did you know that I chose to meet up with him – with a group of friends – to see if he would remember and he greeted me by saying I had a nice ass? Did you know that right now in 2016 not one single person would believe that I was “legitimately assaulted” by him because I never said anything at the time and that I was willing to face him again?) I already know that I am facing an uphill battle trying to explain – even to “woke” men that the kind of misogyny we are facing in this country is possibly more insidious than the racism, and that is a bold statement, but the evidence is there. When a student posts on Facebook “got totally wasted tonight and decided to walk home alone in the rain and it was such a beautiful night it made everything better” and I comment #MalePrivilege, his Berkeley raised and educated friends tell me to lighten up – it’s just a walk, and when I ask them if I could do the same, they say, sure if I wanted to risk it “like he did.”

So I wonder then, what hope I can offer the young women I work with who are not only women, but black and brown.

Today we are still alive – although I am getting killed by people on social media telling me that suddenly we are “one nation” and we need to “get along” and respect the democratic process.

Really?

Where were all you people when Obama tried to do… well, the list is too long so I will just say: appoint a Supreme Court Justice, for an example. Or how about the efforts to remove Obama based on the birther movement that was largely the creation of the now president-elect.

Yeah, I will remind you: you were not insisting people get along.

Eight years of disparaging the Obama family in ways far to gross to repeat and now #notmypresident is offending you?

Really?

Two years of “lying cunt”, “lock her up”, “shoot her for treason”, and threats of “fire and pitchforks” if your candidate did not win, and now you are trying to sound out kumbaya (I won’t hold you to spelling it, it’s a bigly word.)

The elevation of Reagan to Republican hero status makes me giggle these days. A man who inspired fear and terror in my 10-year old brain, seems different to me through the lens of history as well. Less demagogue and more Wizard of Oz, Reagan has become a work of fiction that few bother to actually study. If they did they would see that he would never have supported the kind of policies Trump is suggesting, and as Reagan’s family has made clear – he would have never endorsed a man as unhinged as Donald Trump.

When I woke up the day after the presidential election in 2016, I was shell-shocked, nearly catatonic. I could not believe that an electorate – even a numerically weakened one – would have allowed for such a coup. I did not cry, but I felt heavy. And so disappointed in myself that I did not see it coming: that I did not truly acknowledge it wasn’t  Trump who created in this country what I was seeing, he just encouraged these people to show what they have been all along – a group of people fueled by fear and dogmatic adherence to concrete understandings of a nuanced world.

We were not all dead – but little bits of me started to crack when I saw people saying “voting for Trump does not make someone a racist or a misogynist, they like his policies.” The thing is, he has no policies, and allowing someone to represent us that is truly as demeaning to human beings as Donald Trump is does make you – us – complicit.

Today I am sitting with the reality that 58% of white women voters voted for Trump. This was the group – the group I am a part of – that the pollsters never saw coming. 58% of voting women in this country hate another woman (or a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body) more than they hate a man who is facing child-rape charges, upwards of 12 sexual assault accusations, and believes that you can do as you please to women because there is nothing a quality piece of ass cannot solve.

Although I am devastated, scared, and bewildered by all of this… all I can think to say is you get the democracy you deserve. A climate denier has been appointed to the EPA transition team with the intent of dismantling the agency. A Wall Street banking savior is being floated as a chief financial advisor. The architect of the unconstitutional stop and frisk may be the next secretary of homeland security. Germany is warning us about violating human rights. China is warning us about dismantling environment protocols. When Russia starts lecturing us on the protection of civil liberties, maybe people will start to understand irony.

To the 26% I say to you, we are getting what you deserve. And because we allowed it to happen, I suppose we deserve it too.

This is a post about politics. But I wanted it to be about Prince.

When Prince died on April 21 of this year I was devastated. I was totally unprepared for how deeply and personally I felt the loss. I did something akin to sitting Shivah for nearly a month – all I did was listen to his music and think and reminisce and wonder. I wanted to write about how meaningful or profound or important Prince was to me, but I couldn’t do it. What had been so easy to explain about Bowie was lost on me when it came to explaining my feelings about Prince. I just sat there with his music and thought about all the ways he touched my life. It was a loss that defied any explanation for me. I loved him and I feel like he personally spoke to and for me in spite of the fact that there were things about him that I did not understand (his faith) or made me uncomfortable (consistent vague misogyny) or simply did not jive with other beliefs (LGBTQ rights to name one) to which I fiercely adhere.

Then I realized: I did not have to explain this to anyone. These are my own sentiments and opinions. They are not a result of being brainwashed, or a acting as a lemming, but a response to my own experiences and understandings of the complex world in which I exist. I can love Prince for whatever reasons I want to.

And no one considered for even a moment that they needed to explain to me how what I felt and thought and believed was wrong, and that if I could just be effectively enlightened I would understand what I thought and felt was incorrect.

Because we are talking about music.


I used to have a very dear English friend who told exceptional jokes – most of the time. On the occasion that he told a joke that I did not think was very good, I would not laugh. And every time this happened he would say to me, “Oh, you didn’t get it…” and tell me the joke again. I would say to him, “No, I got it, I just didn’t think it was funny.” And we would go around and around.

I have another friend who used to wind herself up to the point of insanity when someone would do something that she saw to be so ridiculous, infantile, or plain stupid, she could barely stand it. She was convinced that if she could just explain to them their lack of understanding (or stupidity in simpler terms) that they would change their behavior: that they would “understand.” I spent years as her sounding board and reminding her that she was the one suffering… that her need to “help” them fell on deaf ears and made her feel like a crazy person, no matter how valid her logic.

My recent experience discussing politics falls somewhere amidst these vignettes.

Maybe I’m just too demanding
Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold
Maybe you’re just like my mother
She’s never satisfied (She’s never satisfied)
Why do we scream at each other
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry

I am deeply conflicted about the state of American politics. While this is not new, it somehow seems more urgent. I wish, like many people, that there was a perfect candidate for president, but there is not. And frankly, what kind of person would want that job? Any examination of that question certainly makes me take a second look at anyone who’d strive for such a position. That being said someone’s got to step up and do it.

As a registered Democrat I will be voting in the Democratic primaries for the nominee to be the successor to the Obama administration. I am intentionally a member of a political party and as such voting in the primaries for my party is a privilege I rightly get for being in the party. Allowing non-party members to influence the outcome of our primary is inappropriate; if you want to vote in a primary, do so for your party, or join a party – or flip flop parties – I don’t care, just don’t bitch and moan about not being able to assert influence on a group you do not want to be a part of.

I’m under no illusion that any of my choices for the nomination are devoid of faults. But I also firmly believe that it is my fundamental right to choose who I want to vote for based on what matters most deeply, internally, and inexplicably to me without owing an explanation anyone, especially strangers on the Internet.

Since this campaign kicked off on the Democratic side, I’ve been really interested in who I consider to be the two viable candidates: Clinton and Sanders. And since the Sanders campaign has gotten some legs under it I have been on the receiving end of incessant and unsolicited, patronizing behavior from his supporters. This ridiculous over-explaining has largely come from young, white, men of privilege. Don’t misunderstand, I know lots of people of color, of all ages, and gender orientations who also support Sanders, but it has been the white privileged Sanders supporters who have come at me aggressively time and again to tell me that I am: ignorant, brainwashed, confused, hypocritical, not checking my privilege, emotional, small minded, uneducated, uninformed, etc., etc.

I appreciate many of Bernie Sanders’ policies. I’m not very impressed with his position on guns or immigration, I’m not entirely convinced about his economic policy, and I am wholly unconvinced in his ability to be effective and nuanced in foreign policy, which leaves me very uncomfortable as we move further into an era of intense global interconnectedness. But this doesn’t mean I can’t see the good ideas he has, and recognize core beliefs he holds that that I also hold. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is a politician who also has ideas that I hold dear. She also has a record that I find impressive, and I believe she is a deep thinker who understands that it is actually a sign of intelligence to change one’s mind if new information informs the choice, knows how to get things accomplished, and sees the importance of compromise. These are all things that have become ever more important to me as I’ve gotten older.

Still, none of these circumstances prevent me from voting for any other candidate if I choose. One of the fundamental aspects of American culture is that I am allowed to vote for who I want to and I do not owe anyone any explanation about this beyond what I am comfortable with.

I find the constant attacks on Clinton’s policy changes as flip-flopping, or catering to victory, simpleminded and defensive. The idea that she is somehow a career politician while Bernie Sanders, who has been in the senate for nearly three decades is not, is laughable. And while Sanders has voted on many things I agree with, so has Clinton. And to be honest, Sanders is the ultimate flip-flopper: he has not even been able to commit to a political party. [Interestingly this could be his undoing because by encouraging people not to join a political party he is now crying that people can’t vote for him in a political party primary. Again, at what point does it seem reasonable that nonparty member should be allowed outcome influence the outcome of party politics? I understand there’s a lot of problems a party politics but this is what we’re working with.]

Further, the risible idea that somehow Sanders can create a political revolution is shortsighted, un-researched and shallow. The fact of the matter is Obama was supposed to inspire such a revolution. But the reality is he was not able to initiate even the seeds of a revolution for two very real reasons: 1) it wasn’t his agenda; and 2) none of the would-be-revolutionaries did the job of meeting their responsibility to vote in the midterms, and so he got screwed and was unable to push anything through the resulting obstructionist Congress.

What will be different about a Sanders administration (on the outside chance that he gets into the White House)? What on earth makes anybody think that a Republican Congress that was defiantly obstructionist to Barack Obama – middle of the road by anyone’s standards – is going to accept Bernie Sanders policies? Ultimately, it must be acknowledged that I do not trust that the Sanders revolutionaries have the fortitude to stick with it and vote in the more mundane midterm and elections that are necessary and will follow. These are things I think about, deeply and seriously. Which does not mean I am asking for you to tell me how I am wrong, just that I am considering all of it.

Perhaps I have a new or overreaching respect for Machiavelli, but I’m a firm believer that you cannot affect change if you can’t get a seat at the table.

Still, in the end – these are just my beliefs. I’m interested in why people think/feel/believe the way they do, especially when it is counter to my natural inclinations, but my interest is not an invitation for a semantic deluge extolling the rights and wrongs of bloody opinions.  I fundamentally believe people are entitled to their beliefs and it’s entirely possible I won’t always understand why they think the way they do… There is not one singular truth in this complex universe.

[And as a preemptive response to criticism about not sourcing or providing evidentiary material to this post, let me reiterate that I am speaking (venting) about my right to choose, not trying to provide rationale for my choice.]

Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I’d still have to bum rides off people.

That I disagree with you (or whoever) doesn’t make me uninformed or ignorant: I GET THE JOKE. It makes me a unique human being with my own ability to formulate rational thought- although being a woman I do keep hearing that I am not rational, I’m emotional and voting only for Clinton because of some apparent vagina coalition. STILL, FOR ALL OF OUR BENEFIT, YOU CAN STOP EXPLAINING THINGS TO ME.


Prince understood all this. He understood that he could be straight, gay, not a man, not a woman, something that you never understand, fundamentally faithful, viscerally sinful, that no one could tell him what was right or wrong, or what he should think, or believe, or act upon.

Maybe that is what I loved the most about him.

Prince would have voted for whoever the hell he wanted to and he would have waved away your patronizing, didactic, dogmatic insistence that you know better with a graceful wave of the hand and an incomparable smokin’ guitar solo.

 

The Political Line: Keith Haring @ The De Young

 

Keith Haring was the first artist I chose to love all by myself, outside the influence of my parents, or however else it is that we begin to understand our tastes. I have several pieces in my home, (prints of course…) and have always kept my eye out for his work (see poster ripped from a wall in Salzburg above.)  Haring broke out on the scene when I was at the perfect age to grab on to a new type of pop art. It was bright, bold, the lines spoke to me. I mean I was a pre-teen in the early eighties… I was loving the slick, stylized feel of big colors (Esprit anyone?), smooth lines (Nagel – don’t hate…), and looking for something that made sense to me in a world that seemingly made less and less sense. But these were strange times, and they were going to be all the more stranger for me as I started to see the eighties emerge around me.

photo 2

Things I remember? Telling my mom to vote for Carter not John Anderson because in our mock election at school, the Anderson votes had led to a Reagan victory, and due to the narrative I was generally exposed to, I was pretty sure we were all going to die a soon as Reagan took office. John Lennon’s murder. Xanadu. Some drama in Iran. No-nukes rallies. Michael Jackson. The emergence of the Anti-Apartheid movement. Olympic boycotts. Live Aid. Our first Mac. My step-dad’s first cell phone: the Brick. And some artwork that was showing up in New York’s subways.  Today I got a screaming refresher course in the decade that took me from 10 to 20.

From the first time I saw Haring I knew that this was an artist I understood. I understood the frenetic feel, contrasted with super clean lines and bright colors. I understood the politics. He spoke to things I knew about and would grow up under the influence of: AIDS. Crack (is Wack). Oppressive governments. Racism. Homophobia. Environmental devastation. The computer age.

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I learned somethings I didn’t know about his work and his life, and his techniques. I learned that Larry Warsh is maybe the most bomb-diggity art guy in New York. I learned that a Sheikha in Dubai owns a couple of amazing pieces of Haring’s work. I learned a new phrase: VISUAL VOCABULARY. And I like that a lot. And Haring was basically right that more people go to the subways than go to the museums – although today, it hardly seemed that way. A huge crowd – nearly as interesting in its diversity as the exhibit added much to a stunning exhibition.

There has been a lot of discussion of Haring’s work and it’s intention – aesthetic? political?commercial? sell-out? watershed? Maybe it is all of the above. I like to think so. I can say, more than 30 years later, his work has a prescience and a relevance that is almost eerie. And seeing this amazing exhibit at the De Young in San Francisco today took me right back to a crazy period of time that shaped me and informed so many of my sociocultural priorities and concerns… so how cool to see it all before me today.

photo 4

photo 5

photo-69

 

For a ton of amazing images from museum visitors, go to Instagram and click on the De Young Museum Keith Haring Exhibit location tag. #Awesome.

 

Do you believe in magic? How about John Fugelsang?

A lot of talk on the internets these days about what g/God thinks, and who g/God loves/likes/hates, and what is means to be religious (well, to be honest, this is mostly surrounding what it means to be Christian…) While I know this is hardly a revelation (see what I did right there?) recently it seems quite pointed toward specific current issues: the abortion debate and same-sex marriage. Granted I live in San Francisco so I am sure that my perspective here has a very obvious bent, but I have been amazed listening to people speaking for g/God, even here. Interestingly, no one is talking about how we should not judge and we should love our neighbor and we should care for those who cannot make it on their own…

It has got me thinking about a couple of things. First of all, I am not traditionally religious insofar as I was not raised within the teachings of a particular faith. But I do believe… in something. I am not sure what that looks like exactly, but I think to assume that everything conceivable is a result of humanity (not to mention the silliness of considering (believing??) that we have the capacity to comprehend “everything conceivable”) is rather limited in view. And I am not just talking about science or evolution, but I am talking about feelings, and connections, like Edward Lorenz thought about and like the feeling you get when you are around someone you have a huge crush on: that shit is real. These ideas inform the foundations of my belief system. Secondly, I have come up around a variety of religious types, from Catholics, to Baptists, to Lutherans (okay, not traditionally super devout…), Mormons (of the traditional & Jack varieties), Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, even a few fundamental Christians, as well as a few other new-agey varieties. I feel like this was a really great environment to see how religion can be hugely beneficial to humanity. None of these traditions seem to fit me perfectly, but I keep my eyes open – perhaps embodying the hope my mom had for me, that I would “have a ticket for all the rides.” I do not mean to make light of all this either. I think to say, as people like Richard Dawkins do, that people who believe in a god are delusional, is pretty ignorant, and even in my darkest days I have not come to the depressing conclusion that more than 90% of humankind are delusional.Frankly, the only thing I find more arrogant than religious zealots spewing hatred in the name of an omnipotent God, are atheists judging people in the same way for holding a different world view. But I have written about this before and need not digress. Lastly, I believe that the energy that connects people is benevolent (if sometimes misunderstood), even when I am in my worst moods, I hold this to be true. This is important to understand my criticisms of those who would speak for g/God. Continue reading

Apparently, you can be a “little hypocritical.” Related: You are an idiot.

America, please explain the following:

1) You supported the Patriot Act because, you said, If you are not doing anything wrong you should not care if you are being checked up on. But then, you lost your bloody mind over Edward Snowden’s disclosure that the NSA was “spying” on you. What have you been up to, friend?

2) Further, you say that the government should not be able to spy on you, but this guy is a traitor for telling you they did? I am so confused. (Still, I think something is rotten about this whole Snowden thing… )

3) You would sacrifice your first-born child to guarantee your right to unfettered access to any sort of firearms, and insist that increased regulation of guns in any way is a violation of your 2nd Amendment Rights. But, you are totally okay with requiring people to show multiple forms of identification – on demand – to vote, or walk down the street.

4) You do not believe that Americans need laws to help them make wise choices about the shitty food they insist on eating, making us the most obese nation on the planet, but you do not trust these same Americans to be able to make sound decisions about smoking marijuana –less dangerous than your WalMart diet, BT-dubs.

5) You believe that you should have the right to do whatever you believe is appropriate in terms of how you raise your family, as long as it is not hurting other people, yet you do no think same sex couples should be allowed to marry.

6) You scream about upholding the US Constitution, but allow for a)monopolizing the press; b) the elimination of basic rights of privacy; c) the dismantling of the right to remain silent; d) the assignment of individual protections to corporations. This is very confusing, but maybe you cannot read?

7) You support the death penalty, but will not allow women the right to choose when it comes to abortion. Related, you refuse to support social welfare services that would provide for the babies you want to be born.

8) You are freaking out about ensuring that future generations are debt free, but are totally okay with destroying the environment to reach this end. Does that not seem somehow incongruous to you?

I find it interesting that the same people who scream about what we’re “leaving our children” in terms of debt happily ignore climate change and pollution.
“Here you go Billy and Susie, a nice squandered planet with unbreathable air! But hey… you’re debt free!!”

9) Your litigious nature has made it clear that you will take no responsibility for anything, so you forcefully obstruct any sort of new legislation that suggests government control; but you want the total freedom to make shitty decisions that result in costly consequences. Apparently you are unaware of the most basic cause and effect reality of lawmaking and that laws are a response to the idiots among us.

10) You might be an idiot. Or I am for spending time thinking about all this shit and somehow thinking that might make a difference.

https://twitter.com/VirgoRises/status/348971508040884224

Related:

The shit is overwhelming.

This is going to be short. Well, shorter than it should be for sure. Actually, it may not be that short. But this confusion is a consequence of my mental state being overwhelmed. Here is the deal. It is another gorgeous San Francisco morning. We have been having beautiful clear blue skies and temperatures in the high 60s, even 70s here and there for the past few days. And I am in the midst of a four-day weekend. Today, I woke up and had delicious locally roasted espresso and sat in the sunshine reading the latest issue of Rolling Stone (I still get it in the mail, and though I was bummed by the new, more uniform [I guess] smaller size, I imagine I will continue to subscribe because one of my favorite discoveries in mom’s garage were the heaps of decades old RS issues chronicling the decades that my mind might otherwise forget… oh those 80s and 90s…) I had already read the article on Lena Dunham because A has got me watching this show – which she absolutely loves – and frankly, Lena/Hannah basically is A. [When I read, “Her eyes are still lined with now smudged make up from a Daily Show appearance the previous day. (“I love what it looks like when it gets crumbly and shitty.”)” I realized this was a reality.] Anyhow, I had already checked that story out and so I moved on to Taibbi’s latest story on the big banks… not too big to fail, but “Too Big To Jail.”

I was interested in reading this article for several reasons, and not just because it was by Taibbi – one of my least guilty pleasures – but because it was looking specifically into HSBC, the bank I had consorted with for more than five years while living in the Far East. “HSBC broke every law in the book, but its executives got to walk anyway, in a case that may change American justice forever,” the subtitle claimed. I remember switching from B.O.C. to HSBC (mistake #1). I loved the Bank of China, primarily for the beautiful I.M. Pei tower, but it was sort of a pain in the ass bank for anything not directly China related. HSBC was so much more convenient because it was so multinational. And I was impressed by their tower as well, it is completely reassemble-able and looks lke the most bad-assed erector set ever. But it is no I.M. Pei. I should have placed more importance on their architectural stylings (mistake #1a). Apparently I forgot for a hot second about how multinational generally means fuckwittage of an equally grand scale.

I remember my pal Andy, a long time Hong Kong resident from England now in Oman, who had a real chip on his shoulder about HSBC. But, I mean, he is British and they have so many chips it is hard to know sometimes if it is not just a longing for their national cuisine. None the less, he hated this blinking bank. I didn’t give it much thought (mistake #2). Soon, my MPF, vacation funds, savings, credit cards and all auto payments were running in and out of HSBC (mistake #3). Granted, I was a teeny tiny customer in the Hong Kong banking scheme and I know this, relatively speaking I was like a microscopic entity in the world of unimportant HSBC customers. But this was okay – nothing wrong with flying under the radar. Anyhow, this is my connection to HSBC. Mostly.

As I read through the article, which details the way in which HSBC has colluded with the other big banks around the world to basically fuck us all by manipulating interest rates, financing terrorists and cartels, and convincing anyone with any power to address the corruption that to punish these banks would actually be more damaging to us than to let them continue to do whatever they want, I started to get, not exactly depressed, but more accurately, overwhelmed. The article, which clearly shows how the banks are actually a danger to the intentions of capitalism (a system in which authentic supply and demand would regulate the market fluctuations) and how people in power can really get out of jail free, because the resolution we should want *pats us on the head* is to “ensure that counter-parties don’t flee an institution, that jobs are not lost, that there’s not some world economic event that’s disproportionate to the resolution we want…” ends like this:

In other words, Breuer [assistant Attorney General, quoted above] is saying the banks have us by the balls, that the social cost of putting their executives in jail might end up being larger than the cost of letting them get away with, well, anything.

This is bullshit, and exactly the opposite of the truth, but it’s what our current government believes. From JonBenet to O.J. to Robert Blake, Americans have long understood that the rich get good lawyers nd get off, while the poor suck eggs and do time. But this is something different. This is the government admitting to being afraid to prosecute the very powerful – something it never did even in the heyday of Al Capone or Pablo Escobar, something it didn’t do even with Richard Nixon. And when you admit that some people are too important to prosecute, it’s just a few short steps away to the obvious corollary – that everybody else is unimportant enough to jail.

An arrestable class and an unarrestable class. We always suspected it, now it’s admitted. So what do we do? (Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone #1177, February 28, 2013, p. 57.)

Shit. It is things like this that make my job so hard… you know, trying to teach young people that they have a decent shot at, well, at anything really, that is supposed to be offered up on a (mythically) fair playing field. Sitting for a minute and contemplating Taibbi’s piece, which offered much in the way of evidence, both of corruption and a kind of spinelessness among many potential agents of change, I thought out loud: the problem is people need to know this, but what percentage of people are going to actually take the time to read through more than a standard column length article and try to make sense of this shit? I mean, I just sat for what, 45 minutes going through this and I am enraged, but are other people going to do this?

No. [My question – happily – did not seem rhetorical to my Sunday morning companion, but his answer was disheartening.]

Yeah.

This led me to the first of two directly related though still tangential thoughts I had on finishing the article. We have been watching Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom recently, which is show about a news program that is aiming to actually report news rather than the mind-numbing pabulum presented on regular broadcast news these days. The earnest (often overly-so) characters truly believe that people need to know the kind of shit that Matt Taibbi (and Paul Krugman and Jeremy Scahill and Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd and Amy Goodman and Fareed Zakaria and anyone on the Daily Kos and, shit, Tom Tomorrow for goodness sakes, among so many other interesting voices) want us to know. But, apparently people don’t want to do the work to know this shit, as the ratings clearly indicate – in real life and on Sorkin’s drama. When the news moved away from Weiner’s wiener and Casey Anthony so did the majority of viewers…

This is a conundrum. And one I can assure you that the powers-that-be are aware of. If we are too lazy to be bothered by the kind of outrageous scandals that are being perpetrated by people who are supposed to be on our side let alone those who are supposed to have some sort of common interests with us (market capitalism, a meritocracy, fairness) then, why should anyone else be bothered? [Cue Brave New World, or Idiocracy, or whatever metaphor or analogy you choose to remind yourself that those in power are aware you are not paying attention and that gives them unlimited freedom to perpetrate whatever the fuck they want.]

Taibbi’s article notes that doing business with those who are unable to do business elsewhere (terrorists and cartels, in particular) is extremely lucrative as you can charge whatever you like for your services. Most of us call this loan sharking. And there are elements of it that harken back to the goals of a market economy in terms of a supply meeting a demand… but the thing is, you are not supposed to be able to deal in illegalities.

At least we are not supposed to.

I won’t even get into the LIBOR scandal here that is discussed in the article – suffice it to say that Taibbi suggests the scale of the LIBOR collusion makes Enron look like a parking ticket. But I will say, without intentional hypocrisy, that I understand why the banks show no indication of ceasing and desisting their baseless, immoral dealings. Why should they if the people they are screwing over do not even care enough to protest. Maybe we do all get what we deserve.

Which brings me to the second quasi-related thing the article brought to mind for me: my own dirty little secret about the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Company, the bank born of the Opium Wars. When I was leaving Hong Kong and endeavoring to cease and desist all my dealings with HSBC I was having no end of difficulty getting them to cash out my MPF. MPF is the Mandatory Provident Fund that all Hong Kong workers pay into. It is a great deal and I would have never touched it had I planned on remaining in Hong Kong. I did not plan on remaining in Hong Kong. And I made this abundantly clear to HSBC. I also wanted to get the money – a fairly substantial sum – to clear out my tax burden with the bank. Long story short, they refused to cut the check until I was already home, at which point they sent it to me in HK dollars, which resulted in a substantial conversion fee (nearly US$1,000). They also made clearing the tax account a near impossibility, so I gave up. They called me and called me and called me about this for months on end threatening legal action and all sorts of “really scary things”. Then, all of a sudden, one day it stopped. And in a more recent effort to clear my good name with them, they had no record of me or my accounts.

According to the Taibbi article, in late 2010 HSBC liquidated its collections department to move all those people to their money laundering investigation unit. In what was an obvious  fail in terms of efficacy for the bank as these people were not trained for or interested in dealing with their new duties, the clear win for the bank’s bottom line and their shady business partners also, it appears, made me a small winner.

So there HSBC. I may not be able to get people to use their brains and be outraged by this sinister global banking mob, but just once, I got to actually stick it to the man. And even though I am 100% positive they couldn’t feel it or give a shit about it, it felt good from over here.