Trump and the Black Vote

Over the past six weeks or so Donald Trump has reached out in various ways to African-American voters with mixed reactions all around.   He promised a better economy, a crackdown on lawlessness that plagues the inner cities and curbing illegal immigration, which helps the low-skilled domestic job market.

All of these things have been more or less promised by other Republicans to deaf ears, but maybe the best case he actually made was listing everything that’s still fucked up or even more fucked up after decades of loyalty to the Democrats and asking “what do you really have to lose?”.   It’s actually not a bad point and probably more compelling than vague promises of jobs, school vouchers, etc.

The reaction was all across the board, but most reactions were usually somewhere in the neighborhood of “laughable” and a “waste of time”.   The black vote is usually somewhere slightly north of 90% Democrat and has been for some time.  There’s always some pandering from the Republicans, but usually it amounts to nothing more than a PR stunt to other whites.   “Democrats are the real racists!”  “We’re the party of Lincoln”  “These people share our conservative family values” etc.   There’s a joke that what do you call the one black guy at a conservative event?  The keynote speaker.  There’s always a conservative black preacher around every Republican event.

Trump’s appeal got laughed at.   There’s no chance in hell that Trump will “win the black vote” for various reasons.   However, I think it’s actually a really smart move and one that other Republican candidates wouldn’t be bold enough to pull off, let alone be able to pull off.

Why is it smart?   Well, where are all the black people at????  Some of the highest concentration of blacks in the US are in highly contested swing states.    You’ve got Philadelphia and Cleveland in PA and OH.    Then there’s Detroit in Michigan and Milwaukee in Wisconsin, states that either candidate can’t write off.   Even Denver has a large “urban” black population amounting to tens of thousands in a tightly contested state.   In this election we also can’t completely write off Maryland, with a large concentration in Baltimore.   Hell, some people are saying that even New Jersey is up for grabs this time around.

Am I or anyone suggesting that Donald Trump can win over the urban black vote of the Rust Belt?  Not at all.   But I don’t think it’s too far out of the realm of possibility for him to take 12-15% of black voters – compared to the single digits of previous Republicans.

African Americans are about 13% of the population and probably somewhere in the range of the high single digits of the voting public, maybe ten percent.   Taking 12-15% of this doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of the general public or even out of the African American voting pool for that matter.

Here’s what it does mean though – for every likely black voter above eight or nine percent that votes for Trump, that’s one vote that there’s about a 90% chance that would’ve went to the Democrats.   So he would be adding to his vote count and more or less subtracting from Hillary’s at the same time.

A bump of a few percent in the black vote accounts for an increase of a few thousand votes (that would mostly come at Hillary’s expense) in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.  Maybe a thousand in Wisconsin.  Even in a state like Iowa with a low black population it could amount to several hundred votes…and these states are often won by margins so slim that a thousand votes here and there could make all the difference.

…and the way our electoral college is set up, those few thousand votes in a few key states could make all the difference nationally.

I don’t think Trump is wasting his time here at all.

Blackout (2013)

I just finished watching this film on Netflix after hearing a little bit about it.   It’s a fictional account of a successful cyberattack on the British power grid which takes the power out for about a week, but the people on the ground don’t necessarily know how long it will be out.

Most of the story is told through cellphone camera on a couple of different people throughout the country in different circumstances. Then there’s plenty of stock footage of riots, traffic jams, etc.

It’s short, maybe coming in at about an hour and fifteen minutes and it’s not a huge investment of time to sit down and watch this.  I thought it started off kind of slow and lame, but as it went on it really did a good job of putting these people into the kinds of sticky situations that one would probably face without the electric grid.

I will say that nothing in it would be new grounds for the kinds of people who dabble in the doomsday/prepper fiction world, so maybe it’s more geared towards “normies” than anything else.   I will say that although the situations were predictable to the more “experienced” consumers of this kind of thing, they still had some punch to it, especially considering the personal view of the people in these situations.

You had a single mother and her daughter trying to get to Sheffield when the power went out.   They were on a busy highway and stuck in traffic.   Since there was no electricity gas pumps weren’t functioning and traffic controls were out, leading to huge jams that went on for days.   They ended up ditching their car and taking a ride with a man to Sheffield, known to be engulfed in riots and experience some, um, difficulties along the way.

Then you had a young couple (or maybe they were brother and sister? I forgot) that went to the hospital after being in an accident.  We see the inner-workings of a hospital on batteries and backup generators, where they have to make some difficult choices on who gets the precious energy.

Then there’s a pack of “chavs” that are taking advantage of the chaos to basically loot and plunder.  Since Big Brother is no longer able to watch the proles on Airstrip One, these guys have a free hand to do as they please. These guys represent that sizable portion of the population that probably would go nuts in a situation like this without any regard to the greater community around them.  I won’t spoil it, but they make a decision that is extremely wasteful and short-sighted for their slight and temporary gain that winds up biting them in the ass.

But my favorite character was the prepper/survivalist guy with his blog and youtube channel.   They lived in a London suburb where he stockpiled food, kept a backup generator, tended a vegetable garden and in general led a life that prepared for a situation just like the one he and his family were in.

Let’s talk about this guy for a minute…  He almost seemed gleeful at the beginning, knowing that his work paid off.  At one point his wife tells him “not to gloat” over their fortune.   Without spoiling his fate, it gets out that he has things that people need and it makes his family into a target for the unwashed masses outside their garden gates.   He’s probably the most interesting character and situation out of the ones shown in the film.

I’m not sure what message the director was trying to get out through the prepper.   Is he saying “fuck it, don’t even bother because people will try to take your shit anyways” or is he saying that a few of the things that the guy did were severe missteps?    Either way, I thought it was a fair and poignant criticism, either way.   Sure “they’ll just come and take it” is kind of an eye-roll inducing excuse in that world, but I thought it was a realistic scenario presented in the film.

One thing that I kept thinking throughout the whole thing was “where are the guns???” then I’d remember a few seconds later that their laws are a little different than ours regarding those kinds of things.  It made me feel fortunate that I can come up with a decent way to defend myself via firearms.    Then again, there’s also few firearms floating around in the hands of the bad guys.   Either way, I felt fortunate that here in the United States of America we have a right to own firearms as it seemed to be the glaringly obvious thing missing from that guy’s preparedness measures.

So yeah, Blackout is worth an hour plus of your time.

Hillary To Give Speech on the “Alt-Right”

Yesterday Hillary Clinton’s people announced that the Hildebeast would be giving a speech in Reno, NV on Thursday about the alt-right and denouncing Donald Trump’s connections within that shadowy world.

Wow.    There’s been so many “I can’t believe this is actually happening…” moments surrounding this election cycle and this might be the cherry on top.   I thought it was remarkable when the term “alt-right” was used in quite a few mainstream media outlets (sometimes even in the right context) and when a few internet celebrities had publicly expressed some sort of connection with the alt-right.

I just never would’ve expected that something that seemed like such a fringe movement a few years ago would be something that would get some airtime in the arena of political discourse….and I especially wouldn’t have believed that we would have a major candidate take the time to stand up and lecture the American public in her school marm manner on the dangers of the rising alt-right and most notably, Donald Trump’s ties to it.

So most people are probably going to ask “what’s the alt-right?”.  Hillary will answer it for them with something on the lines of a bunch of dangerous racist, sexist and homophobic misanthropes hell-bent on tearing down the foundations of American democracy…and Donald Trump’s campaign is only emboldening these people, as he’s been signaling to them and apparently has direct ties to the alt-right via his campaign staff.    That definition will work for most of the people listening, especially those already inclined to Hillary.

My answer to that question would be a little more…nuanced.   The alt-right is “right” politically in the sense that it acknowledges a timeless sense of traditionalism over conventional/contemporary thought on the political spectrum (although it may overlap at times, of course) and certainly modern progressivism.   So you have ethnonationalism over multiculturalism, traditional gender roles over feminism, hierarchy over democracy/socialism, etc.

Overall it’s a worldview that not many people will be able to fully comprehend, pro or con.  I don’t say that because “h’yuck h’yuck, people are stupid!” but rather most people have a hard time framing this kind of thing outside of the parameters of center-right/center-left political thinking.   The intellectual foundations of the alt-right really go beyond the confines of how we usually think politically.   It might blow people’s minds to find out that the alt-right is just as critical (if not more) towards present-day “conservatives”, or uh, “cuckservatives” than they are on democrats.

Ok, so here’s what I think will happen in Hillary’s speech tomorrow…   She’ll roll out the David Duke endorsements of Donald Trump right off the bat.   She’ll make a direct connection between that guy from Brietbart (NOT an alt-right publication) to Trump as exhibit “A” as far as Trump’s ties with racist boogeymen.  She’ll recount his “missteps” as far as calling for the border wall, calling all Mexicans rapists, being islamophobic, etc.   She’ll lambast him for not doing enough at the very least to denounce the racists supporting him while contrasting it with her campaign, a real rainbow coalition of concerned Americans.   Probably all pretty predictable stuff designed to keep the “Donald Trump is a racist” meme circulating.

What will the reaction be?   Well, for one a shitload of memes and mockery from the alt-right, who are absolute experts on this kind of thing.   I’d also imagine that it will have the unintended consequence of getting “angry white males” to look into the alt-right after hearing it mentioned as forbidden fruit.   I’m sure it will get a lot of press time because A.  Hillary doesn’t get out much   B.   They love her and C. Anything that they believe makes Trump look bad.  People who are already sold on Trump being a big scary mean racist guy will feel vindicated and it will probably fall just as flat as anything else with most of the population.

At any rate, as a person that has been listening to the podcasts, reading the books and visiting the websites of the alt-right for a very long time now, I’m really looking forward to hearing what Hillary has to say about the situation.   Again, it almost seems like we’re in a bizarro-world that we actually have a major candidate using airtime that she could be using to talk about health care, the economy, foreign policy, etc. to (presumably) denounce the alt-right.   Someone must’ve done something right to get things to this point.

…And Another Thing About Liberals and Terrorism

 

When there’s some kind of act of terror, one very common response from the left is something along the lines of “well, it’s not as big of a deal as …” and then pick almost any other mode of death.   Maybe more people were killed by a white mass shooter in the same period, maybe more people were even killed by lightening.  You get the idea.

 

Here’s the problem with that – again, the have a hard time seeing this as an existential issue.   We don’t HAVE to have the conditions to make terrorism viable.    We don’t HAVE to have the foreign policy that pits us against these people and we don’t HAVE to allow the people we just pissed off to live amongst us.   These are choices that as a society we should be making instead of having them made for us and assuming it’s the way it has to be.

We’re probably all in more danger of being harmed by an American citizen, born and raised here than an Islamic terrorist.   I don’t doubt that at all.    We certainly have some, uh, domestic issues we need to work out…but they don’t exclude each other.   I’m not sure why this is so hard to get for some people.   Just because I’m more likely to be killed by some common criminal here doesn’t mean that terrorism isn’t a problem and it certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t a preventable problem.   Our internal dysfunction is our poison to swallow/cross to bear and has nothing to do at all with terrorism from outside our society.

I just don’t get the mentality that this is something we absolutely have to live with and accept, so whenever something happens we just tell ourselves “well, white people kill people too!” and/or “more people were killed by bear attacks over the past five years!” and that everything will be ok.

On that note, I understand it’s a bigger issue in Europe than the US.   To be honest, I hardly ever see a Muslim out in the wild here, let alone one that seems like he/she has an axe to grind.   Still, I don’t understand why the western world in general has to accept a parallel and often antagonistic society living amongst us.

A Few Thoughts on Wikileaks…

So the dust has settled a little bit on the recently, yet ill-timed (well, for the Democrats) wikileaks.

– Hillary did a good job of basically ignoring them and deflecting the issue.   Honestly, what she did was probably the smartest way to handle it, given all the factors.   They were able to give it a little bit of a spin so that people were talking about the Russians (possibly) behind it.   Trump took the bait and the press was able to turn it into “Trump is a traitor” for inviting another country to commit espionage.

– But that other country already committed espionage and to quote R. Lee Ermy in Full Metal Jacket “it’s because of assholes like you leaving their footlockers unlocked that we have thieves” ok, maybe that’s paraphrased a bit.   Still, acknowledging that Russia (or whoever) would’ve gotten some juicy details is admitting that the unsecure emails are a national security issue.   Trump won that one by getting them to walk into that one.

 

-On the subject of “traitors”, I’m blown away by the use of that word from the left.   Something just doesn’t seem right.  I thought this when the Confederate flag was a big issue a year ago and a portion of the “outraged” folks were foaming at the mouth over being traitors the US.   Something just seems bizarre about it.   Accusing DJT of treason for suggesting that those emails should be leaked is laughable.  I’m pretty sure everyone who really wasn’t supposed to have seen them has already had a chance to look at them.   Some of the traitor-calling is honestly probably another shred of hope from the left that something will finally stick on this guy and bring him tumbling down.   Not going to happen this time.

 

-As far as the DNC emails go, honestly they were kind of mundane and I’m sure the GOP would have some similar dirt if you dig deep enough, although I’d imagine the condescending tone towards the constituents would be down a couple notches.   I think there really is a tone of “thank God we’re here for all these poor, little people” from the DNC.   On the flip side, I’m sure the GOP talks in similar tones towards Southern evangelicals and probably really believed some of their bullshit about Trump supporters being basically idiots that only backed him because he was on TV.

 

-Bernie Sanders.    Wow.   He could’ve been the big winner out of this but he turned into probably the biggest loser in all of this.   It was made clear that the DNC stacked the cards against him, as it’s been assumed all along.   We have concrete evidence of the DNC rigging the press and conspiring with Hillary’s campaign on ways to make Bernie seem less appealing.   Although he put out a statement saying he was disappointed and this coming to light confirmed everyone’s suspicions about Hillary and the DNC, it wasn’t enough.   Many of his supporters felt left down and to me he honestly seemed pretty pathetic up there pandering for Hillary after all that transpired and his endorsement fell about as flat as possible.   Granted, some of the “Bernie bros” will gravitate towards Hillary whether they like it or not but the whole thing adds to the “system is rigged” theme of his campaign.

 

-Let’s talk “taco bowls”.   Some people have made a big deal out of the DNC referring to their Hispanic outreach as “taco bowl outreach”.   While it’s probably not the language you’d want getting out, I completely get what they were trying to say.  I think they were just trying to poke fun at Trump’s notorious taco bowl picture believed to be a poor attempt to pander to Hispanics instead of referring to Mexicans by a food they potentially eat.   I get it.    No big deal.

-Was Russia behind it?   I don’t know.   If they were, I see why.   One candidate basically promised WWIII with Russia and the other is calling for increased cooperation and dialogue with Russia.   If I were Vlad, I wouldn’t be opposed to meddling in American affairs for this one.

-Even if Russia was behind it, it doesn’t change the fact that what was said was said.   It’s been compared to someone getting caught cheating by their spouse when he/she goes through their phone and then blaming them for getting into your phone.

-I’ve noticed that Hillary’s campaign hasn’t spit too much venom towards Russia for (allegedly) being behind the hack, but rather just brought it up for domestic consumption.   They’re starting to get smart.   They know that when/if she brings up meddling in other countries’ affairs, Trump will be there to bring up all the color coded revolutions with Hillary’s fingerprints.  I think they know Hillary’s foreign policy failures will be a big sticking point and as long as they can keep the voting public on their toes about Trump’s temperament, they’re doing fine.

-I would like to think that Vladimir Putin IS behind it.   I really believed that he saved us from the Obama admin’s um, indiscretions in Syria and prevented WWIII by standing firm against them and outfoxing them on Assad’s chemical weapons program.   Is Vladimir Putin a benevolent force as the savior of the Western world?  Probably not, but he’s as close as we’re probably going to get.   He’s acting solely in Russia’s interest but it goes to show that the interests of our two countries could be aligned.   A lot of people (myself included) don’t get why Russia has to be our enemy in this day of age.   I mean, I *get* it, I think but think it could and should be different.   What happens to the neoliberal order when/if Trump and Putin change the alignment?   That’s a whole book into itself that I won’t go too far into right now.   At any rate, I like and respect Putin more than I do any contemporary US politician.

-I think this will hurt Hillary in the polls, regardless of how she deflects it now.   I think it was just kind of assumed in popular culture that she was corrupt and conniving but accepted, now there’s actual tangible substance in our era to back up those sentiments.   A lot of “independents” that lean to the left were behind Bernie without any real loyalty to the democrats.   Some people will feel obligated to vote for Hillary, but quite a few won’t.   I think Gary Johnson will really clean house in this demographic.   Trump will have the support of most Republicans and enough people like me that aren’t loyal to the GOP but tend to lean that way.  Hillary gets the democratic core and then the swath of independents that believe that Trump is “literally Hitler”.   As much as they like to drag out people like Jeb!, Mitt Romney, etc. that say they can’t back Trump, this only exists at the higher levels. He’ll get huge (or uh, ‘yuuuge’) support from rank and file Republicans with maybe only a token level of “I held my nose and voted for Trump” to it.

At any rate, I’m curious to see what else comes out of these leaks.   The other question is whether or not anything from the GOP is going to be leaked.   I’m sure there’s some dirty laundry there, such as Jeb! basically being coronated at the outset, collusion against Trump and probably Cruz too and I’m sure you can find some insensitive language and “stupid rednecks will believe…” peppered throughout the correspondence.     What an election year!

Goodbye, Old Friend…

So I’m getting rid of my truck in favor of a new-to-me truck.   I bought it in 2005 from my dad when I got back from Iraq and paid cash.   It’s a ’97, but at the time it had somewhere in the neighborhood of 45k miles and was in great condition.     Today it’s pushing on it’s twentieth year on the road and about to fall apart.

Every year for the past five or so I tell myself “hopefully I can get another year out of her…” and faithfully she delivers.    I’ve put about 100,000 miles on it in those ten years (not bad at all, really) but the truck is really starting to fall apart.    Let me think of all the things that are wrong with it as we speak:

 

  • the brakes just started squealing.
  • the tires are bald.
  • the cupholder broke off when I had to slam on my brakes eight years ago and sent my dog flying into it because some guido asshole failed to signal to me his intentions to turn.
  • the air conditioner doesn’t work.
  • the running boards are about to rust off.
  • the handle on the gate doesn’t work.   You have to use pliers or a screwdriver to make it work.
  • Even if the gate did work, it’s so rusty that the latches don’t hold sometimes.
  • the weather strip broke so rain and snow gets in.
  • there’s electrical problems so the rear drivers side light panel always goes out.
  • there’s a lot of rust on the body.
  • A battery leaked on the inside and ate up the interior carpet.
  • the bed liner is coming unattached.
  • the heater leaks.

 

…and that’s all I can think of for now.  I’m sure there’s more.   I’m sure there’s more that I don’t know about and would have found out sometime in the near future.

To be honest, I took some pride in the fact that I had an older vehicle (although admittedly I think I crossed a threshold and it got to the point where it was kind of embarrassing in some situations).   I liked that I didn’t have a car payment and I felt that it said something about me that even though I could’ve afforded a newer, nicer vehicle I opted to shun and sneer at consumerist pressures in a world where we’re told that we need a new vehicle every three years or so.

I have travels, investments and savings to show for the first six or seven years I owned that truck payment free and well, maybe more than anything peace of mind from the past three years or so to show from it.     Well, I guess theres’s been times where the truck has given me some headaches.    It seemed like it completely went to shit right about the time my (ex) wife left me.   To be honest, I lost more sleep over the fact that my truck was falling apart than my marriage.  I knew that having a paid for vehicle was a good thing and would continue to be a good thing as long as I had it.

Tomorrow it’s going off to an auction.   Honestly, I’m glad I’m getting rid of it that way instead of having to sell it.   Even though people in the market for a truck like that expect some things wrong, but can you imagine having to look someone in the eye and rattle off that laundry list of everything that’s wrong with it???

Hopefully it spends the rest of its life in as a fulfilling and dignified manner as my old truck deserves.   In the meantime, I’m hoping that in ten years or so I’m able to look back on another old truck that I paid cash for years ago and think about how much value I got out of her.

 

 

Russia’s New Conservative Allies in the US: The ‘Alt-Right’

Here’s a really good article from Russia Insider on the ‘alt right’ in general and the adoration for Russia that generally comes out of the American alt-right.

 

Everyone knows I’m a huge fan of Vladimir Putin and something of a Russophile.  I think there’s an idealized vision of Russia that many people in the West with a similar worldview to mine have.  We think of an austere land where people have a strong connection to their folklore, faith and soil.  A place that has never been touched by the hands of cultural marxism, neoliberalism and soulless consumerism.   A place so cold and grim you have no other choice but to be strong.

Ok, so in reality Russia probably isn’t the right-wing wonderland that many people imagine but in practice they do act as a counterweight to a lot of the things that the US/Team West does in the world that we disagree with.    Lots of places aren’t happy with our intervention, but Russia is about the only place in the world with the teeth to back up their disapproval.

Although I consider myself a good, red-blooded American I’ve found myself cheering Russia outfoxing our leaders several times in the past decade or so.   Russia invaded Georgia?  Probably not the nicest thing they could’ve done, but Georgia kinda had it coming and we shouldn’t have made any deal with Georgia to back them.   We’re about to bomb the shit out of Syria?  Putin stepped on Obama’s dick really, really hard and refused to back down.  I truly believe that man deserved the Nobel Peace Prize (Vlad, not Obama!) for that and if I ever met the guy, I’d thank him for saving us from our leaders.   Problems in the Ukraine?   The Russian government called ours out on their hypocrisy and continue to do so – Putin has put our politicians on roast in quite a few of his public speeches….and many Americans like me laugh a long with it.

Sometimes it feels like this guy looks out for us more than our own politicians do….but in reality I know that he’s just looking out for Russia’s best interests….which amazingly enough, often aren’t too dissimilar.   We’re concerned about terrorism and stability in the Middle East.   We’re concerned about Europe’s economic health.   Both nations are (or “were”) interested in space exploration.   We both have mutual energy concerns.  We are both beginning to look to the Pacific for our futures.   We need to cooperate on the Arctic.

Although we have a lot of reasons for dialogue and cooperation, our leaders aren’t interested.   The Bushes and Clinton administration honestly just kind of gave Russia the cold shoulder.   This is maybe understandable given how recent the Cold War was, so I can see a reluctancy to get too cozy.   Russia was also a complete basket case for most of this time though too…

The Obama admin has been outright hostile to Russia since her resurgence and challenge to *complete* US hegemony in the world.   The whole Pussy Riot ordeal several years ago seemed like a concocted scheme to demonize Russia at a time when Putin had some really, really tough questions for Obama over Syria.  I remember he cancelled a meeting over “humanitarian concerns”, i.e. in protest of the alleged treatment of LGBTQLMNOP Russians.   I don’t use the “I was so embarrassed of my country!” statement lightly, but I was when Obama ranked the meeting with that bullshit excuse.  I also recall a meeting that happened between Obama and Putin where he tried to stare down Putin – bitch, please!   Putin would fuck you up!

Anyways, one of the big selling points of the Trump campaign to me is the idea of treating Russia like a friend or at least civilly.    Every other candidate including Bernie Sanders has called for anywhere from increased sanctions and more mean words to Russia all the way up to World War III.   Although Trump gets the “reckless” label, I really believe that Hillary would be a lot more likely to get us into a tangle with Russia.

As of very late Russia has been the boogeyman in Democrat circles, as they were just accused of leaking the emails that have been giving the DNC so much grief recently.   They say that Putin’s people are endorsing Trump.    While it’s probably a deflection tactic to see if they can get people worried about Russians over the content of the emails, I could see why Putin would want Trump in office, just because his foreign policy talking points are much less antagonistic towards Russia as the alternatives.

Putin has publicly stated that he wants no involvement in American internal affairs, but I don’t doubt that they would try something if they really wanted to affect the outcome.   If Putin’s dudes are actively trying to take down Hillary, again, I’d like to thank him for saving us from our own politicians.

 

Pence for Vice President. Yawn.

 

Last Friday Donald Trump announced Mike Pence of Indiana as his vice president.    Honestly, I’m a little disappointed.   I hoped it would be someone that made the ticket feel a little more like an “insurgency” within the GOP.   I understand that a guy like him is probably comforting to the kinds of Republicans that are “wary” about voting for Trump….and comforting to the donor class so I get it.

The other thing is that with Pence he takes on some GOP baggage that he didn’t have before this.   Pence has been pretty outspoken about the gay thing, which doesn’t play well with a lot of people and Trump so far has been outside of that discussion for the most part.

I recently drove through Indiana and noticed a “Welcome to Indiana.   Our bond rate is AAA” immediately after crossing from Illinois.   Ha ha.   So maybe the guy is good on spending and economic issues, or at least has a sense of humor enough to dig at Illinois.

 

 

Will The Rio Olympics Be A Shit-Show Or What???

Brazil, constantly lauded as “the country of the future” was given a golden opportunity this decade to showcase the country to the world with the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.   Both events obviously are probably THE two biggest events in the world.   It’s a big deal to land one, let alone two in such a short period of time.

All I’m hearing about Brazil’s preparations are that they’re sorely lacking and there could be some real hiccups in making the 2016 Olympics a success.   I guess it makes sense.   When Brazil took on these challenges, they really were up and coming.   Everyone was talking about the “BRICs” and Brazil was the “Green Dragon” to China’s Red Dragon that would be the next big thing on the world stage.   Today?  Well, Brazil is probably worse off than they were a few years ago after being rocked by scandals…and low commodity prices.

When the Olympics were held in Beijing in 2008, the opening ceremony was absolutely amazing.   The 2012 opening ceremony in London was, well, pretty fucking weak.   Out of all the things Brittania has to be proud of, doing a presentation about the fucking NHS?   Come on….  At any rate, when contrasted with Beijing four years earlier it made me think that one world was vigorous and up and coming while one was flaccid and running on fumes.   I wondered if by the time 2016 rolled around, where would Brazil be on the world stage?

Scandals and corruption are nothing new in that part of the world, but the Rousseff administration really must’ve crossed the line of what’s acceptable and what’s not down there.  Amiss the dysfunction, it sounds like they haven’t been able to put together what they needed to do for the Olympics.

To be fair, a lot of people down there didn’t want the Olympics.   It’s great for some people and brings in a ton of money, but it’s said that the “regular people” are hurt by being forced to pay for the massive infrastructure updates that lead to a short term burst in wealth for some people….and then these buildings and such the people pay for sit and rot after they’ve served their purpose.   I guess I see the angle of how it can be seen as a vanity project to bring the Olympics over a real boost to the economy.   If you can only handle X amount of people now and you need to bring it up to Y to host the Olympics, how do you sustain the difference between X and Y afterwards?

Last month there was an article about Brazilian police officers holding signs at the airport saying that tourists weren’t safe.   While I’m sure there’s some Latin melodramatic embellishment to their claims and some personal interest in making them seem more valuable (I think they were striking? I’m not sure), crime is a huge problem down there.  I’m sure they’ve been pretty heavy-handed dealing with it leading up to the Olympics, but I have a hard time believing that petty crime won’t be a not-so-petty problem down there.

In addition to buildings and such not being completed or realistically on schedule to be completed, I’ve read that larger infrastructure projects such as mass transit updates, sewers, roads and cell service haven’t been satisfactory updated.    I believe the HMFIC of the Olympics went on record recently saying that this is the worst prepared Olympics he’s ever seen.

Oh, and it sounds like there’s going to be some…um… environmental problems, too.   The section of the coast where they plan on doing the sailing events has problems with extremely high levels of human sewage.  That’s not exactly safe or pleasant.

…And there’s the Zika virus.  You’re going to have people from all over the planet going into this area with the virus and then those people are going back.   While not exactly an end of the world scenario, there could be some very tangible consequences of the Olympics coming home with some unfortunate tourist(s).   There’s been travel warnings hinted towards and I’d imagine if Brazil didn’t have so much at stake there would be a more clear “yeah, don’t go here” message than right now.

I understand that corruption is a way of life down there.   I also understand that the kind of money they thought would be flowing in when they took this on isn’t panning out due to low commodity prices.  Brazil runs on commodities, namely agricultural ones.   There’s also the budding oil industry that has had management problems (Petrobras!) as well as sinking oil prices making it harder to break even.   It hasn’t been smooth sailing for our Brazilian friends, but hopefully they surprise us.

As for me personally, I’m hit or miss with the Olympics.   There’s some events I really dig, others not so much.   Unfortunately it seems like they like to give priority to the ones I don’t care about.  I’m sure I’ll tune in for the opening ceremony at least and catch some of it here and there.

The Harrows of Spring by James Howard Kunstler

I just finished the fourth and final installment of the World Made By Hand series by James Howard Kunstler, my favorite energy skeptic, misanthrope and architecture critic.   As a big fan of the previous books, I figure I’ll review this book.

Each book takes place in a distinct season in Washington County, New York in the aftermath of a major economic collapse where fossil fuel energy has become scarce to nonexistent.   The citizens of the United States have endured plagues, terrorism and well, each other leaving a world distinctly different than the one we know, where “modern” people are forced into a lifestyle similar to that of their great grandparents to cope.

The final book begins in the spring, a tough time for our ancestors – the food stores from the past season are dwindling, there are few new crops coming in (namely a few edible weeds) and livestock are often in the child rearing stage or too young to be of value.

The main source of conflict in the book comes from the Berkshire Republic in Vermont who come to Union Grove looking to absorb them into their new federation that has formed in the vacuum of the virtually non-existent United States of America.    Kunstler gave us a sneak peak a few months ago of one chapter of the book, the first interaction between a couple New Faith guys and the “Berkies”.    Basically, these guys are like present day social justice warriors and maybe Bernie Sanders supporters – it just dawned on me how similar “Berkie” is to “Bernie” and of course the Vermont connection.

Initially I was worried he’d make the Berkies too clownish, as JHK does with Southerners.  I didn’t feel that he made them out to be too much of generic caricatures of that kind of person.

Although I think the actual reoccurring characters of the book were a little flat other than Stephen Bullock, the interpersonal connections seemed a little deeper in this one.   I also think that some of the story was phoned in, I’m not sure if this is good or bad.   A few events seemed to just happen a little too fast in the book but looking back on it a lot happened.   It seemed to leave a few loose ends, but not the kind of “encore” loose ends to tie up.

The story line was a little bit more believable than the previous edition “History of the Future”, but I understand the point of making a character that can see a larger part of the country so I appreciated that aspect.

The descriptions of food are one of the big things people take away from the series and this one delivered and took a bit of creativity because of the lean time of the year.   Lots of food from the river, eggs, preserves and foraged stuff like mushrooms, fiddleheads, etc.   I liked the gourmet aspect of Stephen Bullock’s fare.

I thought it would be a little more grim in the food department.   There were shortages described in the book, especially of corn meal (a main staple) and green vegetables, as well as salt, a product of trade coming to a halt.

I don’t feel that it really concluded anything other than a calendar year though, but maybe that’s his point.   The relationships between the New Faith and the community has improved since the first book.  The town has improved with the opening of the hotel/bar/restaurant by Brother Jobe and the laundry, giving the place more life.

Even though the population was down since the “old times”, it’s mentioned in this book by one character that things might be “better than before” in Union Grove.   This sentiment plays into one of the main themes of the series, that although the world as we know it went to shit there’s opportunity for return to simplicity.   It’s hard not to read one of these books and not feel slightly envious over some of the experiences of the people – sailing on the rivers and Great Lakes to exotic locales (that are currently mundane), eating fresh and seasonal food, honest and meaningful labor and probably more than anything, the level of community that exists now that life has been reduced to the very, very local scale.

Overall this was a good read and a very nice finish to the World Made By Hand series.   Hopefully JHK finds a way to continue on with the world he’s created in Washington County, NY.

1 2 3 27