Monday, August 31, 2015

Ten Years of Katrina

If you thought that American leaders were traveling to New Orleans these past few days to solemnly remember the victims and to acknowledge and apologize for America's shameful, ongoing response to the still-ongoing disaster of Hurricane Katrina, think again.

From Barack Obama to George W. Bush to Bill Clinton and all the politicians in between, they came and they saw, not to mourn, but to gloat over the neoliberal rebirth of a city. The only thing worse than their initial response is their current response. They are actually still congratulating themselves on a heckuva job well done. They actually used the word "celebration" more times than anyone has been able to count.

I guess they are saving their phony solemnity and their crocodile tears for the upcoming great exceptional American holiday of 9/11.

Barack Obama raved about American strength and Cajun cuisine, even jovially broke out into the theme song from The Jeffersons ("movin' on up to the east side -- to a deluxe apartment in the sky") as he toured a partially rehabbed neighborhood.

 Far from being shamed and shunned, George W. Bush was greeted with open arms and plaudits by Democratic Mayor Mitch Landrieu and DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile before he scurried to a photo-op with black children at one of the for-profit charter schools that replaced the entire city public school system. Protests against his jarring presence were few to nonexistent.

Smooth-talking Bill Clinton, surrounded by Nancy Pelosi, former Senator Mary Landrieu and other groveling Democrats, spoke at the Smoothie King sports arena in the downtown area. He fondly reminisced about his many visits over the years to the decadent French Quarter, which largely escaped damage. Without mentioning the 1,800 lives lost 10 years ago, he urged the audience to laugh, dance and have fun, because they've earned it.

None of the politicians mentioned that even as the military and Homeland Security began evacuating people or providing them with food and formaldehyde-laced FEMA trailers, they were rounding some of them up, imprisoning and torturing them in a makeshift prison (the "Greyhound Gulag") for the crime of existing in a flood-ravaged city. Blacks, Muslims, the mentally ill and all manner of suspects were accused of being terrorists or felons, caged without charge, even denied the usual phone call to loved ones. When they were eventually released, as much as months later, their confiscated money was missing, and they never got it, or their old lives, back.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has gratuitously used the occasion of the Katrina anniversary to shoot more Republican fish in a barrel, and to prop up Obama and Obamacare and the Democrats while he's at it:
There are many things we should remember about late August and early September 2005, and the political fallout shouldn't be near the top of the list. Still, the disaster in New Orleans did the Bush administration a great deal of damage — and conservatives have never stopped trying to take their revenge. Every time something has gone wrong on President Obama’s watch, critics have been quick to declare the event “Obama’s Katrina.” How many Katrinas has Mr. Obama had so far? By one count, 23.
Beyond that, Krugman continued, Katrina served to highlight the huge gap between Bush's macho image and Bush's sick reality. And then Krugman proceeded to trounce Donald Trump and nearly all the occupants of the GOP clown car. (He obviously cannot let the anniversary of a human disaster go to waste when it can be so easily used to trash the other side of the Money Party.)

Never once did he mention how Katrina highlighted the huge gap between rich and poor, and between black people and white people. In my published comment (since "disappeared" by editors) I pointed  out the reality that George Bush and his cabal of war criminals and cronies have never been held accountable for anything. Not the tax cuts to the rich, not the wealth and racial disparity that Katrina highlighted to a shocked nation, not the invasion of Iraq, not torture. I quoted Donna Brazile's glowing words to the media in my soon-to-be censored comment:
"Well, I'm one of those individuals that believes under President Bush's leadership, we got it right. It was slow. … The federal government had to figure out its role, and it took a while for the federal government to really figure out how to help us. And I think once the president made the decision that New Orleans would be rebuilt … the president made a commitment and I think he kept his word.”

The White House quickly confirmed that the rehabilitation of George W. Bush is now official and complete. The elite conventional wisdom is that Bush got a bum rap over Katrina. The poor guy's been reduced to painting his toes in his bathtub, fer cryin' out loud, so the rest of the cruel world is urged to forget that New Orleans once got turned into an epic toxic bathtub on his passive-aggressive watch.

Meanwhile the politicians swooped down upon the city like vultures to bipartisanly party like it was Mardi Gras in August.  

Its centuries-old charity hospital has never re-opened. Instead, taxpayers footed the bill for a billion-dollar luxury medical center.  Obama gushed during his visit that the city has been transformed into "a laboratory for innovation" and "a place as entrepreneurial as any place in the country."

As his former chief of staff and now mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel once infamously said, "Never let a serious crisis go to waste." Use natural and man-made disasters to plunder the commons and privatize everything in sight and grow very, very rich at the expense of the pesky victims.

Incidentally, Paul Krugman is of course not the only pundit to either ignore the Katrina anniversary altogether, or to co-opt it for political, tribalistic purposes. FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) has an excellent piece critiquing not only the failure of government to respond to the disaster, but the continuing failure of the mass media to  cover the poverty and racism that Katrina unmasked. They were initially shocked, shocked at what they saw. And not only have they forgotten, they are enabling the political class to keep covering up the fact that half of all Americans are only a paycheck or a Social Security stipend away from the streets.

Half of all American schoolchildren live below the poverty line, yet Donald Trump is sucking up all the attention and Obama is lauded for "renaming" Mount McKinley as an act of stupendous statesmanship.

The truth is that the political class would rather spend money on the endless "war on terror" abroad than even begin to acknowledge or rectify the economic and social terrorism being waged, with their complicity and approval, here at home. New Orleans is the living legacy of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. Not only are our leaders punishing the dispossessed, they're cashing in on them. They never let a crisis go to waste, especially a crisis that they themselves had an iron fist in creating.

And they give each other their high-fives and their heckuva-jobs and promise us Nirvana if only we would vote for them, one more time.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Anti-Democracy Democrats

The Democratic Party may have belatedly kicked Jefferson and Jackson out of its annual dinners for reasons of political correctness (having apparently just found out that both presidents were a tad on the racist side). But that doesn't mean the Democratic Party has suddenly changed for the better after its nearly two centuries of existence.

To the contrary.

Having just limited presidential primary debates to a maximum of six, and even threatened sanctions against any candidate who goes outside the party to hold informal debates, the 21st century Democratic Party is still operating very much in the Jacksonian tradition. And that tradition is speaking up for the common folk out of one side of its mouth, and pledging fealty to its wealthy benefactors out of the other.

To their credit, two of the national candidates -- Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders -- both spoke out against the undemocratic nature of the Party at the DNC's annual confab last week, rightly noting that the game is rigged for the establishment and against the voter. Left unspoken was the common wisdom that the less the electorate gets to see the robotic and ethically compromised Hillary Clinton juxtaposed with other, more populist candidates,  the better are her odds of securing the nomination based purely upon her money and her weighted press coverage and her powerful connections and her shallow progressive rhetoric.

 As told by Howard Zinn in his A People's History of the United States, the recently banished Andrew Jackson was the Clinton prototype. Jackson was the first American politician to pretend to "feel your pain" in order to get your vote. "He was the first President  to master the liberal rhetoric - to claim to speak for the common man."

 Despite the fact that he owned slaves, exterminated Indian populations and sent federal troops to beat striking workers into submission, he still enjoyed widespread support from the newly-enfranchised working class.
It was the new politics of ambiguity- speaking for the lower and middle classes to get their support in times of rapid growth and potential turmoil. The two-party system came into its own in this time. to give people a choice between two different parties and allow them, in a period of rebellion, to choose the slightly more democratic one was an ingenious form of control.
 Fast forward to 2015, and the Democratic establishment is still ingeniously, albeit desperately, trying to keep controlled debates largely confined to those between its own centrists and crazy Republicans. They don't want us to see arguments between centrist Dems and leftist Dems. Bernie Sanders is starting to give the plebes too many bright ideas and the power brokers too many conniption fits. The party establishment does not want the general public to see him and Hillary in too many head-to-head TV appearances. She might stumble. She might fall. She might start losing the super delegates who, she seems to undemocratically think, are not beholden to the wishes of actual primary voters.

America is in another of its periods of incipient rebellion, because the Precariat has gotten wise to the fact that we live under an oligarchy. Hillary Clinton openly admitted that she is anxious for a battle of the sexes and the hairdos between her and Donald Trump -- not a discussion about the malefactors of great wealth with Bernie Sanders. Even the four-to-six debates she has grudgingly agreed to are an inconvenience, a pesky bump in the road to her coronation. She and the Party establishment would prefer to give voters the choice between neoliberalism (free market solutions to social and economic problems, for the benefit of free market capitalists) and fascism (Trump's roaring xenophobia and racism for the benefit of free market capitalists) rather than a choice between neoliberalism and Sanders-style democratic socialism (for the benefit of ordinary people.)

That Sanders and even O'Malley are now shaking up the inner party structure from within is a stroke of genius. Sanders has long recognized that the establishment party system is anti-social to its very core and by its very nature.

Earlier this year, as the Democrats were formulating their electoral game plan at their ambiguous winter "issues retreat" they were also busily banning press coverage and otherwise acting in a distinctly totalitarian fashion. We could have seen that their summer agenda would try to consist of more of the same. This time, though, they had to let the media in. It might have looked undemocratic had they not allowed Bernie and other candidates to speak. Since he is running within the establishment and not as an independent, they had no choice but to let him in. Pure political genius on Bernie's part to make a public, in-house stink.

Meanwhile, an #AllowDebate movement has sprung up. From The Hill:
(Ben) Doernberg said he launched #AllowDebate earlier this month after realizing that many Democrats like him are frustrated with the DNC’s handling of its presidential debates this election cycle.
It now boasts 30 active organizers, he added, and approximately 500 members.
“The DNC exists – at least in theory – to reflect the will of the voters,” Doernberg said. “It is incredibly obvious that the DNC apparatus views us a nuisance and purely wants us to go away. That just seems wrong to me.”
Doernberg said #AllowDebate is inspired by the stark contrast between this election cycle’s debate rules and the DNC’s 2008 approach.
He said his organization is exasperated with the DNC’s unwillingness to let candidates participate in outside debates, which was allowed the last time the Democratic nomination was up for grabs.
 In the 2008 cycle, eventual nominee then-Sen. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton debated each other 27 times, including outside debates.
“I think telling the candidates that they are banned from participating in outside events is incredibly undemocratic,” Doernberg said.
As French philosopher Simone Weil wrote 70 years ago in the wake of the last outbreak of global fascism, political parties are inherently undemocratic. She believed they should be abolished outright. Like capitalism itself, they exist only for the sake of their own existence. Their goal is to maintain power and enrich their leaders. Ordinary people are permitted to register for token membership and thereby become"sheepdogged" into compliance and obedience and loyalty to the designated plutocratic power broker. Ordinary people are not ordinarily permitted to have independent voices within the confines of the strict party system.

During this endless American election season, the standard complaint has been that the media are covering it as a horse-race rather than as a dialogue about issues. But political parties by their very nature are devised to be a game and a sport to which we are invited to participate as mere spectators, biting our nails in shock, awe and suspense, as we root for our favorite team.

 During this endless War on (and of) Terror, it's also apropos to remember that the very concept of the political party was born in the post-revolutionary Reign of Terror. Weil wrote:
The evils of political parties are all too evident; therefore, the problem that should be examined is this: do they contain enough good to compensate for their evils and make their preservation desirable?
It would be far more relevant, however, to ask: do they do the slightest bit of good? Are they not pure, or nearly pure, evil? If they are evil, it is clear that, in fact and in practice, they can only generate further evil.
Simone Weil observed that the extermination of Jews would have been just as evil under the Weimar Republic as it was under Hitler. And so too are the forever-wars and the mass deportations and the global trade deals and the record incarcerations and the political corruption and the police brutality and the racial profiling and the erosion of civil liberties and the pollution for profit just as evil whether they're performed under a Republican majority or under a Democratic majority.

Once political parties gain power, they always seem to forget the basic social contract. Their goal becomes greed itself: more votes, more power, more members, more money. Weil wrote, "Once the growth of the party becomes a criterion for goodness, it follows inevitably that the party will exert a collective pressure upon people's minds. This pressure is very real; it is openly displayed; it is professed and proclaimed. It should horrify us, but we are already too much accustomed to it."

Or are we? 

This could be one of those infrequent moments in history when we are actually starting to become horrified. It is, ironically, this very sense of mass horror that should be giving us hope. No matter our social status, our race, our ethnicity, our nationality, we can all join together in horror and outrage over the fact that unfettered capitalism is literally killing us.

 People are beginning to discover their own agency and their own anger.

The abolition of the two major political parties is not likely to happen, of course. But the fact remains that both of them are being rattled from within, without, and below.

Whether these upheavals will lead to Trump-style fascism, or whether they will lead to a new New Deal, is still an open question.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Vampire of the Vanities

(graphic by Kat Garcia)

The conventional wisdom that the writing of New York Times columnist David Brooks sucks has taken on a whole new meaning with his most recent mishmash of a piece, titled The Big Decisions. The fact that he deliberately hides the conservative source of the funding for the author whose book on "transformational research" he peddles is just one of the problems with the column (more on that later.)

It's what poses as the subject matter. Let Count Brookula speak for himself:
Let’s say you had the chance to become a vampire. With one magical bite you would gain immortality, superhuman strength and a life of glamorous intensity. Your friends who have undergone the transformation say the experience is incredible. They drink animal blood, not human blood, and say everything about their new existence provides them with fun, companionship and meaning.
Would you do it? Would you consent to receive the life-altering bite, even knowing that once changed you could never go back?
The difficulty of the choice is that you’d have to use your human self and preferences to try to guess whether you’d enjoy having a vampire self and preferences. Becoming a vampire is transformational. You would literally become a different self. How can you possibly know what it would feel like to be this different version of you or whether you would like.
Vampire Hunter D then seamlessly segues into how the choice to become a vampire is similar to the choice of becoming a parent, or joining the military. He shares links for a North Carolina philosophy professor named L.A. Paul and her alleged research into the "transformative experience." As Brooks tells it, she has concluded that life's major decisions are better made with your gut than with your rational mind. In other words, you should be more like George W. Bush, who readily admits to having invaded Iraq based upon his intestinal rumblings. Brooks seizes upon the Orwellian discovery (in the halls of academe, no less) that ignorance is strength, and he enthusiastically slithers into another one of his favorite haunts: the mysticism of moralism. (for thee and not for him and his ilk.)
Our moral intuitions are more durable than our desires, based on a universal standard of right and wrong. The person who shoots for virtue will more reliably be happy with her new self, and will at least have a nice quality to help her cope with whatever comes.
Totally maddened by this drivel, I then clicked on Brooks's link to his philosopher to see if he was just making this shit up. And way, way down at the bottom of her page, in small print, is the notice that a billionaire's trust fund (the Templeton Foundation) has awarded her and some Notre Dame professors a multi-million-dollar cash grant to delve into "transformations". From there, it is ridiculously easy to follow the money into the true, religious right anti-science agenda of this grantor. (Whenever you feel puzzled by a David Brooks column, it is always best to look beyond the gobbledygook and search for the cash connection. You will usually not be disappointed.)

 I will let my published comment to his column tell the rest of the story: 
 Following the links to L.A. Paul and her book, we learn that her research on the "transformative experience" is funded by a $4 million grant from the Templeton Foundation.
As Nathan Schneider wrote in "The Nation," this billion-dollar foundation also finances research on the "virtues" of the free market, intelligent design, and the inclusion of religious curricula in medical schools. It donates heavily to such conservative think tanks as the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.
 Templeton's written purpose "is to encourage the top 1/10 of 1% of people and thereby encourage all people that progress in spiritual information is possible, desirable, can be done, and will be done."
Enter David Brooks, and his endless advice to the elite lovelorn, coupled with his relentless moralizing to the huddled masses.

In today's edition is the very subliminal message that all of you ladies on the Pill, or who might (gasp) even be contemplating an abortion, just go ahead and take the plunge into parenthood and maybe even some Brooksian nirvana on the side.

Left behind in the new "sharing" economy? Consider joining the military. Because let's face it, they're the only jobs the GOP is willing to fund.
 How vampires factor into all of this is anybody's guess. Maybe it's because the GOP make it their life's work to coddle the plutocrats sucking the rest of us dry.
David Brooks is an integral part of the corporate-funded media/political/academic nexus, which is in the business of hiding the perfidy of late capitalism within the muddy churn of the "marketplace of ideas." It remains unaccountable to the public, because its various agendas are rarely in the public interest. It is just surprising that Templeton is so honest about its true purpose of instructing the elite how best to "trickle down" its plutocratic gospel to the masses. Brooks is the power broker, selling the agenda of the robber barons of free market conservatism -- which is now in especial overdrive with the imminent arrival of Pope Francis on American shores. The pope, you may recall, made a recent reference to capitalism as a great big pile of steaming dung.

Thus does David Brooks turn to "spirituality" as co-opted by neoliberal vulture capitalists, movement conservatives, and other "thought leaders" suffering from a galloping case of Dark Ages nostalgia. And he gets paid mega-bucks to do it, while more real journalists are being eased out of newsrooms every single day. But, as Brooks glibly says, at least they'll be "left with a nice quality to cope with whatever comes."

The subtext of his Cotton Mather-lite column is "Go &%@% yourselves, plebes!"

Always look for and read the fine print. Always follow the money. Whenever possible, disinfect the vampires with the sunlight of exposure.

(A necklace of nice quality garlic bulbs wouldn't hurt either.)

Palace Intrigues

The punditocracy's second-favorite topic this week (after Trumpmania) is whether Joe Biden will run, and if he runs, whether he'll pick Elizabeth Warren as his running mate. Also, rumors are flying that, not so very much behind the scenes, President Obama is doing everything in his power to mess with the Hillary Clinton candidacy. (After all, it is his FBI -- not the GOP -- that has picked campaign season as the optimal time to begin combing through all her emails. As if Obama didn't know that for the whole time that she was Secretary of State she was using a private account.) 

Machiavelli Muses

  Most of this is speculation, of course, and way beyond my investigatory capabilities as a blogger from the sticks. But one speculation is easily debunkable, and that is the possible endorsement of Biden by Elizabeth Warren. Unless she has totally gone over to the dark side, this is not going to happen. The truth is that not so very long ago, he was her Public Enemy #1.

It's all there in a 2003 book she wrote with her daughter Amelia, called The Two Income Trap.

Before she founded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, before Obama threw her under the bus, before she became a politician and a powerful senator, Warren was that rare bird, a Harvard economics professor with a side gig as a consumer advocate. It was her task to go after the credit card industry predators ruining the lives of struggling middle class families -- particularly those headed by single mothers -- and arm-twist congress-critters into keeping the bankruptcy laws working in favor of the families being crushed by usurious debt. She discovered that in the previous 20 years, the number of women filing petitions for bankruptcy had gone up by 662 percent.

"Having a child is now the single best predictor that a woman will end up in a financial collapse," she wrote in the preface to her book. She found that bankruptcy was becoming the biggest cause of family change: more than death, divorce, heart attacks, cancer, graduations and other disruptions.

She called it the "two income trap" because no longer can a even a married woman go to work to help out in hard times and make extra money for non-essentials, no longer can a mother stay home when a child, spouse or elderly parent gets sick, without fear of financial collapse. Now they were in the workforce just to barely break even. And when finances collapse, it's mainly the women who bear the brunt and take the blame and the responsibility, Warren wrote. 

Long before the 2008 financial collapse, home foreclosures were skyrocketing.

And Senator Joe Biden represented Delaware, the Credit Card Industry Capital of the World. The bankers who were his political donors wanted to make it harder for people to discharge their debts via personal bankruptcy.

Biden, who'd been trumpeting himself as a champion of women's rights in his capacity as sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act, was anything but when it came to championing their economic rights. He was also co-sponsor of bank-friendly reform legislation that has made it difficult if not impossible for families struggling with credit card and medical debt to declare bankruptcy and start afresh.

"And in a statistic with special significance for Senator Biden," Elizabeth Warren wrote, "more women will be victimized by predatory lenders than will seek protection from an abusive husband or boyfriend."

"Senators like Joe Biden should not be allowed to sell out women in the morning and be heralded as their friend in the evening," she added while scoffing at his campaign literature featuring glossy photos of himself with National Organization of Women (NOW) officials.

That other self-professed champion of women, Hillary Clinton, also voted with Biden and the Republicans in favor of the banks and against debt-ridden mothers, in 2001. This was a total flip-flop from her previous stated position. As Warren wrote, "The bill was the same, but Hillary Rodham Clinton was not. As First Lady, Mrs. Clinton had been persuaded that the bill was bad for families, and she was willing to fight for her beliefs. Her husband was a lame duck at the time he vetoed the bill; he could afford to forgo future campaign contributions. As New York's newest senator, however, it seems that Hillary Clinton  could not afford such a principled position. Campaigns cost money, and that money wasn't coming from families in financial trouble."

Sweet Nothings... Joe and Hillary

I'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Warren met Biden at his Naval Observatory digs this past weekend. Her agreeing to become his running mate on a possible Democratic ticket would be as grotesque as her quitting the Senate to become a lobbyist for Citigroup.

Not going to happen. I predict she either stays neutral, or if she endorses anybody, it will be Bernie Sanders, who has joined in her proposal to break up the big banks by introducing legislation to do just that. If Hillary wins the nomination, Warren will be forced to make a token appearance at the convention -- and that should be the sum of her curbed enthusiasm.

Sanders, by the way, just got the endorsement of Cornel West. This should help put a dent into the punditocratic meme that Bernie and black people don't get along.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Trump Happens

Sinclair Lewis warned us about this character 80 years ago.

The resemblance between the quasi-fictional postmodern demagogue named Donald Trump and the fictional Depression-era demagogue named Buzz Windrip is so uncanny as to make me wonder whether Trump hasn't used It Can't Happen Here as a handy guide to how to win the presidency during hard economic times.

See if you can guess which of the two candidates spun out the following word salads: (answers are below) 

"I want to stand up on my hind legs and not just admit but frankly holler right out we've got to change our country. The Executive has got to have a freer hand and to be able to move quick in an emergency, and not be tied down by a bunch of shyster lawyer congressmen taking months to shoot off their mouths in debates..., But these economic changes are only a means to an end and that end must be fundamentally the same principles of liberty, equality and justice that were advocated by the founding fathers of this grand land back in 1776."


"I will build a Great Wall -- and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me -- and I'll build them very, very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."

"My one ambition is to get all Americans to realize that they are, and must continue to be, the greatest Race on the face of this old Earth, and second, to realize that whatever apparent differences there may be among us, in wealth, knowledge, skill, ancestry or strength -- though, of course, all this does not apply to people who are racially different from us -- we are all brothers, bound together in the great and wonderful bond of National Unity, for which we should all be very glad."


"I shall not be content until this country can produce every single thing we need. even cocoa, coffee and rubber, and so we keep all our dollars at home."


"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best. they're not sending you, they're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

"Usually I'm pretty mild, in fact many of my friends are kind enough to call it 'folksy'... but I hope none of the gentlemen who have honored me with their enmity think for one single minute that when I run into a gross public evil or a persistent enough detractor I can't get up on my hind legs and make a sound like a two-tailed grizzly in April.... I have always succeeded in licking them, so that my indignation at these homicidal kleptomaniacs is not personal by entirely on behalf of the general public."

"So I've watched the politicians, I've dealt with them all my life, if you can't make a good deal with a politician then there's something wrong with you. You're certainly not very good. And that's what we have representing us. They will never make America great again. They don't even have a chance. They're controlled fully, they're controlled fully by the lobbyists, by the donors, by the special interests, fully."

"An honest propagandist for any cause, that is one who honestly studies and figures out the best way of putting over his message, will learn fairly early that it is not fair to ordinary folks, it just confuses them, to try to make them swallow all the true facts that would be suitable to a higher class of people."

"One of the earliest things I would do, probably before I even got in, and I wouldn't even use, you know I have you know the best negotiators in the world. I know the good ones. I know the bad ones. I know the overrated ones. You get a lot of them. They are not good. They get the good stories, because the newspapers get buffaloed, but they're not good. But I know the negotiators in the world,  and I put them one for each country. Believe me folks, we will do very well very very well."

(Answers: Windrip, Trump, Windrip, Windrip, Trump, Windrip, Trump, Windrip, Trump. The quotes from Windrip are from "his" bestselling book, Zero Hour: Over the Top.) 

Sinclair Lewis wrote his cautionary dystopian satire as Hitler and Mussolini were increasing their power in Europe, and FDR, still in his first term, was beginning to implement New Deal policies to combat crushing 25 percent unemployment. The novel has Windrip wresting the Democratic nomination away from Roosevelt because the incumbent president and other candidates were "far too lacking in circus tinsel and general clownishness to succeed at this critical hour of the nation's hysteria, when the electorate wanted a ringmaster-revolutionist."

Sound familiar?

Windrip offers a hodgepodge of a platform, capped by a promise of a guaranteed yearly income of $5,000 to white citizens only. He calls for a nationalization of the banks by the new "Corpo" party, and lower taxes for only those plutocrats who swear fealty to Windrip and his regime Just as Trump loudly dog-whistles persecution of Mexicans, Windrip openly calls for the persecution of blacks and Jews -- because, as Lewis trenchantly noted, "nothing elevates a dispossessed farmer or factory worker on relief as to have some race, any race, that he can look down upon."

Windrip also calls for an end to labor unions and putting women back in the home where they belong. He vows unlimited financial support for police, the military and veterans.

Sound familiar yet?

Windrip, like Trump, is so extreme and so gruesome and so hilarious that none of the establishment press takes him seriously as they chronicle his every word, as they are drawn to his every public appearance like flies to a jar of rancid honey. And that includes Doremus Jessup, the newspaper editor hero of the novel, who counsels his readers that "this comic tyranny cannot endure.... It can't happen here."
The one thing that most perplexed him that there could be a dictator with some of the earthy sense of humor of Mark Twain, a George Ade, a Will Rogers, an Artemus Ward.... Windrip could be ever so funny about solemn jaw-dropping opponents. Did that, puzzled Doremus, make him more or less dangerous?
Sound even a teensy bit familiar? How many of us have chuckled appreciatively as Donald Trump skewers the denizens of the GOP Clown Car and exposes the inbred corruption of the entire political system that the rest of them don't dare address for fear of evoking the wrath of their plutocratic sugar daddies? Trump makes us temporarily forget our woes by allowing us into the inner sanctum of his billionaire brain, letting us rise to the level of his own incompetence. He has made stupidity cool again. He's made the world safe for xenophobia.

But back to Sinclair Lewis's warning. Buzz Windrip's first order of business, upon taking the oath of office, is to declare martial law and temporarily suspend habeas corpus because of some unnamed outside threat and to preserve "national security." His storm troopers, dubbed the Minute Men, proceed to place recalcitrant Congress members and other critics into protective custody. Poor people are beaten by police for the crime of being poor. The unemployed are herded into labor camps. And once their new sub-minimum wage jobs force the gainfully, privately employed themselves into forced labor camps, the cycle continues. Concentration camp torture sessions under the guidance of licensed physicians are the order of the day for dissidents and independent journalists and political prisoners.

Just like Windrip, Donald Trump appeals to the basest instincts of the masses, with his toxic combination of stand-up comedy, racial dog-whistling, zombie economics, jingoism,  and paranoia. So far anyway, there has been no line he hasn't been able to cross without a "yuge" uptick in his favorable ratings. Even when some Boston thugs beat up and urinated over a homeless Latino man last week, even after Trump approvingly called them "passionate followers of mine," the cheers from the right wing and the astounded coverage from the pseudo-left media continues unabated.

This is not funny. This is, frankly, getting downright scary.

The fascism, or corporism, that Sinclair Lewis warned about, has actually been with us for a long time now. Trump just trumpets it more brayingly. Trump and his progenitor Buzz are "just something nasty that's been vomited up," as wealth inequality, a permanent state of war and mass surveillance, and racist police brutality "continue to ferment like ptomaine" in our national gut.

Under the Obama administration there has been an unprecedented war on whistle-blowers and journalists, an ever-escalating drone assassination program, a record number of deportations, a complete blurring of lines between government and big business, increased incarceration of black and brown people, burgeoning poverty, and an over-stressed, underpaid, precarious labor force.

While the liberal class gasps in phony outrage over the Republicans' use of the odious term "anchor babies," it largely ignores the Obama administration's own cruel and inhuman imprisonment of babies, children and mothers in America's privatized migrant detention centers. A federal judge has recently issued a scathing critique of the Department of Homeland Security for keeping innocent refugees from Central American violence locked up like animals and denied due process of law. To the howls of indignation from the Obama regime over "national security," she has ordered those gulags emptied within two months.

So forget about the Republican vs. Democrat, Greater Evil vs Lesser Evil, electoral match-ups.

What we are really witnessing is an epic battle between the Dark Ages and the Enlightenment. 

Playground At a Family-Friendly Housing Unit

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

1600 Griftylvania Avenue

Not only don't they bother hiding their corruption, they gleefully rub our noses in it. As told to the New York Times, Barack Obama has been using the People's House as the main venue for negotiating his billion dollar exit bonus.

No matter that he has more than a year to go before actually quitting the premises and entering private life. Just because he is still a public servant doesn't mean he can't get a head start on the grifting sweepstakes. As a matter of fact, he got started on his abuse of power post-presidential planning and fundraising while the confetti from his second inauguration was still wafting above the Beltway swamp.

Obama has appointed a special White House aide whose only task is to ensure that his final year and half in office serves as a "glide path" to a rich and rewarding future.

He has designated Hollywood director Steven Spielberg chief scriptwriter for the narrative of his life. He fully intends to keep glamorizing, and doubtlessly fictionalizing, his biography. The I Am Legend show will continue.

And Obama has every intention of remaining a powerful leader of the free world, a sort of emperor emeritus influence peddler with star power:
In their conversations with Mr. Obama and his advisers, people from Silicon Valley and Hollywood are pressing for a heavy reliance on cutting-edge technology in the library that would help spread the story of Mr. Obama’s presidency across the globe. Ideally, one adviser said, a person in Kenya could put on a pair of virtual reality goggles and be transported to Mr. Obama’s 2008 speech on race in Philadelphia.
Some discussions at the dinners have focused on the role Mr. Obama might play internationally after the diplomatic opening with Cuba, the nuclear deal with Iran, the confrontations with Russia and the drawdown of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama doesn't want to emulate Bill and Hillary Clinton, who (notwithstanding the Lincoln Bedroom rentals) foolishly waited until they were out of office before starting their own grift in earnest. Not only were they dead broke when they left the White House, they discovered to their chagrin that their sudden loss of hard, official power and influence really put a dent in fund-raising for their library and family foundation. The Clintons were not in a position to trade favors for quite awhile.  Hillary was right about having to work really, really hard over many years to amass all those millions.

Therefore, the Obamas have already begun hosting a whole series of ego-stroking late-night schmooze-fests with the rich and famous to expressly discuss how best to accomplish the future care, feeding and glorification of Barack and Michelle Obama. Times reporters Michael Shear and Gardiner Harris chronicle one White House dinner for a hedge fund billionaire, a couple of bestselling authors, a Hollywood actress and a Silicon Valley venture capitalist: 
The long-running dinner this past February is part of a methodical effort taking place inside and outside the White House as the president, first lady and a cadre of top aides map out a postpresidential infrastructure and endowment they estimate could cost as much as $1 billion. The president’s aides did not ask any of the guests for library contributions after the dinner, but a number of those at the table could be donors in the future.
The $1 billion — double what George W. Bush raised for his library and its various programs — would be used for what one adviser called a “digital-first” presidential library loaded with modern technologies, and to establish a foundation with a worldwide reach.
Supporters have urged Mr. Obama to avoid the mistake made by Bill Clinton, whose associates raised just enough money to build his library in Little Rock, Ark., forcing Mr. Clinton to pursue high-dollar donors for years to come. Including construction costs, Mr. Obama’s associates set a goal of raising at least $800 million — enough money, they say, to avoid never-ending fund-raising. One top adviser said that $800 million was a floor rather than a ceiling.
So far, Mr. Obama has raised just over $5.4 million from 12 donors, with gifts ranging from $100,000 to $1 million. Michael J. Sacks, a Chicago businessman, gave $666,666. Fred Eychaner, the founder of Chicago-based Newsweb Corp., which owns community newspapers and radio stations, donated $1 million. Mark T. Gallogly, a private equity executive, and James H. Simons, a technology entrepreneur, each contributed $340,000 to a foundation set up to oversee development of the library.
In days of yore, this might have been construed as bribery. But in the age of legalized corruption, it's just neoliberal business as usual. And with all the shallow media attention being focused on the insane antics of Donald Trump and the perfidy of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama is able to come off smelling like a rose, reeking of sober statesmanship. 

...and nor will it never end, not if they can help it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Commentariat Central

(*Updated below)

 Per reader request, here is one my semi-regular New York Times comment dumps. Please feel free to also post your own, Times or not, on any topic within or without reason.

Paul Krugman, Bungling Beijing's Stock Markets, Aug. 14:
China's leaders swing more toward Ayn Rand than Karl Marx, that's for sure.
Whether the state runs the "markets" or the markets run the state is moot. Losses are socialized, profits are privatized. Struggling people become the victims and scapegoats. Wealth disparity widens to epic proportions. The center cannot hold.
Surely it is no coincidence that the day after China began devaluing its currency, there was that horrific explosion in Tianjin. China is in political and social and ecological crisis as well as economic crisis. While a small cartel of billionaires bask in luxury, millions are suffering. The government is even banning press coverage of what looks to be a monumental health and environmental disaster.
 This is what we have to look forward to if the Randians of the GOP gain power and abolish the EPA, along with what few banking regulations we still have left and are still being feebly enforced. Just as the global financial collapse didn't teach them, China won't teach them. Capitalism run amok is a veritable cancer upon the body politic -- and the cancer always dies along with the host.
But as Murray Bookchin wrote, “For capitalism to desist from its mindless expansion would be for it to commit social.suicide."
China seems to prefer collapse. It's not alone: the global Market State is condemning us and the planet we live on to an early death. Unless and until we act, the smoldering ruin of Tianjin will be the future for all of us.

 Maureen Dowd, Introducing Donald Trump, Diplomat; Aug. 15:
 This piece might be called "My Dinner With Donald," because never for one minute are we allowed to forget that Maureen Dowd has cast herself in a starring role. On the surface it's an exposé of plutocratic misogyny, but ultimately it's a screwball pas de deux between an ornery billionaire and a woman who not only has the guts to confront him, but ends up on his approval list anyway.
It's damage control, an endearing portrait of a gruff, flamboyant old honeybear of a man. It has the tone of a Tracy-Hepburn battle of the sexes. Maureen waves her scolding finger at Trump while snidely snickering over their banter. Like any romantic comedy, it ends very well for both of them.
 The audience -- both the selfie stick-waving gawkers at Trump's restaurant, and we, the hapless Times readers -- are cast as the pathetic outsiders in this dramedy. And that is as it should be, because those of us residing in the fringes of the real world are indeed superfluous to what passes for politics these days. The presidential contest is a marathon reality show for which we're forced to pay premium rates that we can ill-afford.
We gape as she teases Donald about his high chair, gasp as they schmooze over his Rosie O'Donnell slurs and Heidi Klum disses. She assures us he was never referring to Megyn Kelly's period.
 Dowd's political columns have the same superficial quality as Trump's infinity of mirrors.
Jump out of her shallow pool and get into the sunshine. Feel the Bern.

Charles Blow, Activists "Feel the Bern?", Aug. 17:
Maybe Black voters are not as familiar with Bernie because the mass media don't cover him as well and as outrageously as they cover Hillary and Donald and Jeb.
 Maybe BlackLivesMatter can't heckle Hillary like they heckled Bernie because she has Secret Service protection and a billion-dollar oligarchic war machine, and he doesn't.
 And anyway, what is so wrong with heckling? It's as old as democracy itself. Bernie handled himself very well at his campaign event. Certain white critics of the hecklers, not so much. Would they have preferred that he give the protesters the finger, as Nelson Rockefeller once did to his everlasting regret, or break out into a cold scowling paranoid sweat like Nixon, or pettily snipe that "this is my House and these are my drinks" as Obama did recently to an LGBT activist who heckled him over his border incarceration policies? The other LGBT activists in the audience did themselves, not the protester, a huge disservice by booing her.

In this age of money-driven politics, heckling is bottom- up democracy in its rawest form. Without the heckling of politicians by women advocates in the 19th century, we never would have gotten female suffrage. Because of 20th century hecklers, the Vietnam War ended more quickly.
I hope to see a lot more heckling this campaign season. It'll keep the office-seekers off their robotic scripts and on their toes. It might even remind them who they're supposed to be working for.
 Paul Krugman, Republicans Against Retirement, Aug. 17:
 The trashing of Social Security has long been a pet project of the American oligarchy. GOP pols are just more vocal about it, because "hate thy neighbor" is a huge vote-getter. Or, at least it used to be. People are becoming aware of how rigged the system is against them.
Every day I see another scare headline about how Social Security is going broke, or how disabled workers are committing massive fraud to collect a few paltry dollars on the taxpayer dime. Big media, totally captured by the 01%, and are only too happy to spread the Big Lie on behalf of their owners.
The most egregious recent example comes from journalist Katie Couric of Yahoo, whose CEO is a big donor to Democrats. She tells the whopper that the government hoards your personal, deducted FICA taxes until it starts paying them back out to you when you retire. The truth, of course, is that the trust fund and contributions from current workers go to pay the benefits of current retirees. It has worked this way for 80 years.
Never once does she mention that any shortfalls in the trust fund can be easily fixed by a raising or scrapping of the FICA tax cap. Instead, she repeats the Big Lie that the old are robbing the young.
Until a year ago, the Clinton Global Initiative was partnering with Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to spread this same sick message on college campuses.
We should be expanding Social Security. Scrap the cap, lower the retirement age, and raise the benefits.

*Ana Marie Cox, Bernie Sanders Has Heard About That Hashtag, Aug. 17:
The Gallup pollsters didn't bother informing respondents of the difference between "socialism" (Marx, Lenin) and "democratic socialism" (Sanders, Scandinavian countries with a strong social safety net, most aspects of FDR's New Deal.)

Thus is the poll skewed on its face. And Ms. Cox, to her discredit, seemingly didn't bother to do her research on the differences between the two socialisms either. She seemed more interested in the differences in candidates' hairstyles.

But, to her credit, at least she is not quite as dismissive of Bernie as Nate Cohn and his obsession with polls. As G. William Dornhoff writes in "Who Rules America?"--

"Polls also can be used to suggest that a public opinion exists on issues for which there is none. This does not mean people do not have general opinions, but that they often make it up as they go along when responding to specific questions about policy preferences. If questions about affirmative action or oil drilling are framed in one way, they yield one answer, but framed in another way, they yield a different answer, especially for those without knowledge or firm opinions."

 So I wonder if the Gallup respondents, in the Age of NSA, were afraid to answer the socialism question, lest they be deemed unpatriotic. Maybe they figured it would be safer to Just Say No to the stranger on the phone.

But I bet if they were asked if they'd vote for FDR again, the "yeses" would have been in the 90%-plus range. Sanders is the FDR of the 21st century.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Obama to America: Support Your National Police State

 Barack Obama today praised the bravery of armed police officers while glibly commiserating with victims of police state violence and terror about how "frustrated" they must be feeling these days. To beat a cliche even further into the ground, he vowed that morale will improve while the beatings continue.

In his weekly taped address (a.k.a. his weekly dog whistle to the Oligarchy), the president announced the allocation of more government money for police department public relations programs, and  zero money for the actual victims of police state brutality. Never once did he utter the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

So without further ado, here is another edition of Let's Play Parse-a-Prez. (Obama's actual words are in italics and my analyses are in parentheses):
Hi everybody.  It’s now been a year since the tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.  His death—along with the events in Cleveland, Staten Island, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and other communities—sparked protests and soul searching all across our country.  Over the past year, we’ve come to see, more clearly than ever, the frustration in many communities of color and the feeling that our laws can be applied unevenly.
(Obama reduces the homicide-by-cop of Michael Brown to a "tragic death." He euphemises the homicides in Baltimore, Staten Island and elsewhere as "events." The police state assassination of a twelve-year-old boy in Cleveland, for example, just sort of happened without any direct racist cop action. And these passive happenings make people understandably upset and frustrated!  But instead of admitting that government agents are executing black people at the rate of about one a day, for no other reason than they exist, Obama dismisses this brutal reality as a "feeling" in communities that the "laws" (actually, it is total lawlessness) are being applied unevenly. In other words, if cops killed white people at the same rate that they kill black people, he wouldn't even be needing to have this Doctor Phil-type conversation.) 
After Ferguson, I said that we had to face these issues squarely.  I convened a task force on community policing to find commonsense steps that can help us drive down crime and build up trust and cooperation between communities and police, who put their lives on the line every single day to help keep us safe.  And I’ve met personally with rank and file officers to hear their ideas.
 (Again, he does not address the government's de facto policy of brutality. He immediately pathologizes poverty by pointing to the need to "drive down crime" in poor neighborhoods. He defends police against poor communities and black drivers without mentioning the predations of the police state. He convened yet another study group. He softens the negative image of police by enfolding them into a cozy "community," in which cops and the people they terrorize are all members of the same family. He's even met personally with lower-level, callow young officers to show what a friendly, paternalistic guy he is. He doesn't mention that a small but significant number of these officers are certifiable psychopaths who not only put citizens' lives at risk, they also endanger their fellow cops, both directly on the streets and indirectly in the court of public opinion.)
 In May, this task force made up of police officers, activists and academics proposed 59 recommendations – everything from how we can make better use of data and technology, to how we train police officers, to how law enforcement engages with our schools.  And we’ve been working with communities across America to put these ideas into action.
(True free market neoliberal that he is, Obama prioritizes data and technology. Somebody, somewhere, is going to make big bucks crunching numbers and analyzing algorithms and marketing body cameras at huge mark-ups.

 Rather than question the horrific practice of placing police in schools, the president changes the issue into how the police state might insert itself into the classroom in a more "engaging" fashion. Maybe they can use pink guns with Disney logos to make standardized test-taking under armed guard fun and scary at the same time?

I'm not being entirely facetious. One of Obama's cosmetic solutions to the public's perception problem is to outfit domestic occupying forces with "softer" uniforms. However, the police are having none of it, rightly noting that a cop dressed up as Mister Rogers is not likely to elicit as much respect from the huddled masses as somebody looking like this:


 To be seen as even more fair and righteous, Obama has used the tried and true procedure of co-opting "activists" by placing them, at staged White House events, into close physical proximity with concerned police state officials and a smattering of wise, detached professors. As Glen Ford and other critics have pointed out, officials allowing protesters a seat at their table is S.O.P. for the attempted watering down of protest movements.) 
Dozens of police departments are now sharing more data with the public, including on citations, stops and searches, and shootings involving law enforcement.  We’ve brought together leaders from across the country to explore alternatives to incarceration.  The Justice Department has begun pilot programs to help police use body cameras and collect data on the use of force. 
(As long as they are honest about whom they arrest, maim and kill for the crime of existing while black, then it's all good. This is actually the most breathtakingly shocking, Orwellian part of his weekly dog-whistle. As far as Obama is concerned, the collation and sharing of data trumps the evil of state-sponsored violence and murder.

 Remember, Obama has always boasted about being the Most Transparent President Evah, so the Drone President is urging his terroristic minions to be just as open and honest (wink, nod) as he is about admitting that they kill people, and regretting that mistakes are sometimes made in the name of Keeping Us Safe. Additionally, saying one thing and doing another is a talent that must be constantly honed in order for it to be effective. Fooling some of the people all of the time takes a lot of practice. Obama should know. His hair is getting grayer by the minute.

And about that data. Police are gathering tons of it spying on the BlackLivesMatter movement, both online and in person.)
 This fall, the department will award more than $160 million in grants to support law enforcement and community organizations that are working to improve policing.  And all across the country – from states like Illinois and Ohio, to cities like Philadelphia, Boston, and Nashville – local leaders are working to implement the task force recommendations in a way that works for their communities.
(No money will be awarded to hire teachers, create jobs, or improve housing and infrastructure in these communities.  But because they create the buffer zone between the rich and the poor, police agencies will get all the money they need.)
So we’ve made progress.  And we’ll keep at it.  But let’s be clear: the issues raised over the past year aren’t new, and they won’t be solved by policing alone.  We simply can’t ask our police to contain and control issues that the rest of us aren’t willing to address—as a society.  That starts with reforming a criminal justice system that too often is a pipeline from inadequate schools to overcrowded jails, wreaking havoc on communities and families all across the country. So we need Congress to reform our federal sentencing laws for non-violent drug offenders.  We need to keep working to help more prisoners take steps to turn their lives around so they can contribute to their communities after they’ve served their time.
(Obama kindly admits that police violence will not be solved by police violence alone. Nevertheless, he gives credence to the right-wing dogma that the police state is an important weapon against poor and minority people. Oligarchic man cannot live by bread alone, after all. Although the president recently commuted the sentences of a handful of drug offenders, he dog-whistles in this speech his intent that there will be no more pardons or commutations for the tens of thousands still languishing in for-profit  prisons. He is punting it over to the selectively moribund Congress. Meanwhile, he will constantly trumpet all the propagandist baby steps he is taking to help those lucky symbolic few "turn their lives around." Meanwhile, he stands by while public schools in poor neighborhoods are closed, unionized teachers are fired and their pension funds robbed, and hedge fund billionaires reap the education profits via charter schools.)
More broadly, we need to truly invest in our children and our communities so that more young people see a better path for their lives.  That means investing in early childhood education, job training, pathways to college.  It means dealing honestly with issues of race, poverty, and class that leave too many communities feeling isolated and segregated from greater opportunity.  It means expanding that opportunity to every American willing to work for it, no matter what zip code they were born into. Because, in the end, that’s always been the promise of America.
"Investing in our children" is code for the aforementioned billionaire charter school movement and other privatization schemes. Obama, like other centrist extremists, always uses the language of the market to refer to people and their needs. The commodification of human beings is the very essence of neoliberalism. So, if you "feel" isolated and segregated, the only way you can escape your crumbling existence is to develop your skill-sets through hard work and college debt peonage.

  The president has one thing right, though: In the end, the American Dream is nothing but a public relations promise. The reality is a nightmare. We are, indeed, in the end-times of democracy.
   And that’s what I’ll keep working for every single day that I’m President. Thanks everybody, and have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Loving Lizards

I have always loved frogs and lizards, reptiles and small amphibs.

Living for decades in the tropics on a tiny island (pop. 1,400, the size of Manhattan) 90 miles south of Cuba, lizards lived inside and outside my house.

On the island there were Lion Lizards and iguanas and geckos and"wood slaves" (tiny, almost  transparent rubbery lizards that hung around wood and were ocher-colored as old Luden's cough drops).  There was also the occasional scorpion in the house.  And I shook out my sandals and shoes before putting them on.  

Wood Slave

The lion lizards, grey and white as old coral rocks,  disengaged their tails when attackers were near, and left their curly tails rocking back and forth like smiles while the lizards sped away to grow another tail. They would gather outside in coral rock walls just like old American stone walls in New England, and wait for a bread crumb or bit of cheese, and trundle comically toward the food .  We called them Larry, Moe and Curly.
Curly Tail
 There was a good size lizard - pale white - perhaps an albino female gecko, who laid her white eggs behind books  in my bookshelves. Alas, the eggs never hatched, the mother lizard had chosen an infortuitous nest.
Chameleons changed colours, Anoles climbed the screens and ballooned their throats like tiny bright orange spinnakers.  All of the lizards "pumped" their upper bodies up and down - did push-ups - to declare their territory, proclaiming "I AM!". 
 The male lion lizards were chubbier  than their girl friends and would mate fearlessly in the sun, regardless of oglers.  The local boys made a lizard snare from the long central rib of a fresh palm-frond - machete-hacked from nearest bearing coconut palm - a slip knot loop on the end - and they would reach far ahead of the curly tails with the long frond and catch the lizards around the neck and watch the lizards dancing on the snare and then let them go.
Green Anoles Mating
 I supplied lizard food inside my house. The plats du jour that the lizards enjoyed were cockroaches.  People would ask "how can you stand lizards in your house?" 
 And I said they were great bug-eaters! In the morning I would find only the pale brown transparent wings and tiny black twiggish legs and feet of a large flying Caribbean tropical cockroach (also called Palmetto Bug in South Carolina) on the floor. The roaches came in adult and teen-ager sizes, and fortunately the lizards made short shrift of them.

Green iguanas were outliers, bad guys, invasive and large and long and immigrants from some other island, but Rock iguanas (grey) and a few Blue Iguanas (endangered and endemic only in the Cayman Islands), were homeys, good guys. All the iguanas enjoyed basking in the sun, stretching out on the hot macadam roads, and alas tourists and locals ran them over in their trucks and  cars and left them for road pizza.  Huge buzzards - turkey vultures -  gathered like old clubmen and feasted on whatever had been mashed by such careless drivers.
Blue Iguana
 Once, I spotted an anole on my windshield,an adventurous soul nestled next to the window-wiper, and I drove to the bank, to the market, to the Post Office and stopped for a take-out fish-dinner at Star Island restaurant, and that lizard just leaped off the windshield when we got home, and she must have had traveling tales like Eudora Welty to tell all her friends.

 I wasn't the only amphibian/reptile amateur on the island - a friend of mine had a Hickatee (fresh-water and land turtle) who answered to the name of YO...  In addition to lizards, I love frogs,but my frog-lover story is for another time.