Friday, June 29, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

Judgments don’t come easily for us Hamlets of the world, at least in human relations. I often suffer from excess empathy in my bloodstream. I seem to walk, too readily, in others' shoes even if they pinch or flop.

I could lose my place in line at Baskin-Robins equivocating over whether I want one scoop of pumpkin ice cream on a waffle cone or two scoops of Rum Raisin in a cup. It took me over three years to leave Part One of my life and enter into Part Two, needlessly vacillating. I would have had trouble being on a jury with Joni Mitchell’s, looking at life from both sides now, running through my head…

…which may be why I feel so decisive about issues once or twice removed. There’s no waffling over matters of policy or candidates. I have no patience with the undecided whose grasp of geo-politics is feeble and fickle.

John Roberts sided with the majority of the Supreme Court in a historic decision which restores my faith in the institution. They reasoned well, threaded the needle, finessed it, ceded a little bit of ground but landed on their collective feet. As a result Roberts may lose his entre into the good old boy’s club and not get invited to many dinner parties with Scalia, Thomas, etc…

He chose not to betray his sworn testimony given at the Senate confirmation hearings at which time he vowed not to legislate from the bench as an activist judge. We’ll never know if he agonized, lost sleep and wrestled with his angels. His rationale was apolitical, based solely on whether the law was constitutional. He transcended his ideology. Kagan and Breyer also crossed over to the other side striking down a portion of the Medicaid provision. This was a memorable day for integrity and suggests a new template and possible path for both Conservatives and Liberals.

The Affordable Healthcare Act is, after all, a Republican plan, an alternative to Single Payer. Regrettably, its full implementation has been delayed until 2014. How ironic that all we have to look at is Romney’s plan in Massachusetts with 98% participation.

That voice of conciliation from the right has been muffled, if not muzzled, for the past few years. It needs to be wakened and provided a model. The shrill sounds we’ve been subjected to about an over-reaching government are the mindless rhetoric of right-wing extremist money. With John Roberts’ decision, we finally have a Republican to quiet the noise.

I wonder if Roberts deliberates over a menu, giving full weight to the chicken club and egg salad sandwich. Both are constitutional but he’d have to decide which came first the chicken or the egg.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mother Of All Summers

As summers go, the one 67 years ago beats them all, both personally and historically. It was 1945. As a prelude to summer events, Pres. Roosevelt died on an April Thursday afternoon. I heard the news on my way to Hebrew School to learn the mother tongue. Germany surrendered the first week of May. By June Truman was getting up to speed. In July the Allies met in Potsdam. Churchill was voted out of office. Ten days later we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, then on August 9th, on Nagasaki. Japan officially surrendered on September 2.

I didn’t go to Times Square to join the throng on V-J Day but I did publicly weep when FDR died. For my entire life up to that point he was the voice on the radio I associated with God’s, stern yet warm, intoning his commandments. By the end of summer I was no longer a believer but God didn’t care.

I should thank my mother for giving birth to me twelve years earlier with the foresight to plan my coming of-age when the world seemed to be starting over again. This would be my summer of exodus from an Edenic childhood into the larger, uncertain world; my secular Bar Mitzvah a year before my Bar Mitzvah.

Whatever meaning the ritual of initiation had, it was for me, not religious but an entry into the adult world; not a tribal identification but a dim sense of being a grown-up American, coming into consciousness at the end of a war. It felt like a beginning as if I were new, just as everything around me were about to begin.

I remember the returning G.I.s, baseball players back on their teams, new building developments, no more war bonds, air-raid wardens or blackouts. I wondered what newspapers would have to print without those front-page maps of advancing Allied armies.

The end of one chapter began another. Winston and Franklin were replaced by Clement and Harry. Truman was neither fatherly nor the charmer like his predecessor. His cadences were in mid-western no-nonsense clipped tones. I was ready for a harsher voice.

Patriotism, for a child is visceral. I believed in those Four Freedom posters by Norman Rockwell; freedom from fear, from want and freedom of speech and worship. The images were everywhere, in public buildings and classrooms. Movietone news gave us victory after victory. Songs and movies showed us as wholesome, healthy and happy. The world was presented as good or bad and we were the good guys.

Paradoxically, the end of the war signaled the start of a more complex ideological war which split our country into partisan camps. I was politicized early, perhaps too early. Even in my thirteenth year, I felt the change resulting in some frayed friendships, moving me closer to the margin. My family bought The Daily Worker, a newspaper few others read and I echoed that radical voice in my bumbling way. It was a step toward separating me from the pack, for better or worse.

The events of that summer shook the world in ways all of us would come to understand a few years later. The Nazi atrocities scar my sensibilities to this day, too much in my thirteenth year and still beyond my imagining. Like most Americans, I wasn’t fully aware at the time, the Nuclear Age had begun. Global annihilation was to be factored in forevermore.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Santa Monica is a beautiful place with beautiful people. If I didn’t live here I would have it high on my list of destinations with its contoured coastline, pier, palisades, promenade, old ficus with slithering roots, palms as tall as lighthouses, coral trees with red lanterns, rolling fog, boardwalk, bike paths, life on the streets, and the funk.

There are certain things so ugly they are beautiful in their deviation from the agreed-upon, like the narrative embedded in an aged face, the sunset smeared with polluted air, old masonry passing from squalor to quaint, the beauty of authenticity, of truth.

Take Lincoln Blvd; so void of striking architecture, so choked with traffic, so pocked with fast-food joints and ridden with car-crazed businesses it is a paragon of Americana, one of those streets without pedestrians, ridden with drive-ins, auto repair, car washes, quick lube, smog tests, car lots, motorcycle shops, and car rentals. You have to love it for the mirror it holds up to our obsession with wheels.

There is a kind of beauty even in broken dreams, in the residue, the face of those down on their luck. You want to say, Hello in there, as in the John Prine song, to the bag lady with all her earthly goods tied like appendages, in plastic bags, to a shopping cart, her wheels. And there’s a beauty of hope and resilience in the eyes of the homeless fishing for redemption in recyclables.

Ocean Park, where we live, is a beautiful mix, an area bordering Venice in what real estate agents call a nonconforming neighborhood undesirable for resale but most desirable for a mottled array of humanity, retired folks by the grace of rent control, artists eking out a living, screenwriters waiting for a text or tweet, dog-walkers and yuppies who bought Apple at six. There are new Infinities alongside ‘62 Beetles. Hedge-trimmers next to hedge fund operators. Second careers and no careers. The possessed and the dispossessed.

Main St. is a funky stretch on its way to gentrification with a Carnegie library (1918) on one end and a binoculars-shaped building on the other. It is the place where Richard Diebenkorn had a studio a few decades back and produced his Ocean Park Series of abstract paintings. Some were inspired by what he saw outside his window and others look like aerial views of the region. His palette captured the distinctive light of this area just as Matisse had done for the south of France. Diebenkorn’s work contains layers of color that seem to give way to an under-paint which suggests the presence of a recent past, mimicked by the shops on Main street, also ephemeral in the way they are here today, then gone; the impermanence of life.

Beauty is one of those words under constant revision and for many, a limp and hollow adjective, no longer an operative term. My preference is to keep and expand the meaning, from the jacarandas of Eleventh St. to the all-night Laundromats on Lincoln.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Danger Afoot

I’m walking two blocks down Ashland to mail something because they took away my favorite mailbox on Highland, just minding my own business when I’m stopped by a cop. He says I’m a suspect. I fit the description of the infamous Ashland-Highland burglar: 5ft 11 in, turkey neck, going bald.

Open your wallet, he says, and sure enough there’s a twenty just like the guy they’ve been looking for since last October.

But officer I used to be 6 ft 1 in. with a head of hair and I was about to get a couple of rolls of quarters for the washing machine.

Sorry Mac, that don’t sound like no alibi to me, he growls, tell it to the detective at the station.

Can I just drop my Netflix in the mailbox in case I get out in the next 3 years I’ll have something to live for?

Across the street, another guy my age is walking his dog. He sort of looks like me, the guy, that is. A police car screeches to a stop, pulls him over, too. Both of us are cuffed. Even the dog. I’m hoping he’s their guy and he’s looking over at me the same way. I’m beginning to think maybe I am guilty. I wouldn’t put it past me. It’s been a life of crime. The way I swiped candy once when I was twelve and copied my homework from the girl sitting next to me in high school. I have a vague memory of stealing third base but I suppose that doesn’t count. I even sneaked into a second movie in a multiplex a few years ago and returned twice to the salad bar at the Soup Plantation. What if they’ve been following me all these years with a special GPS and Google has it all chronicled?

Maybe I’ll get off easy with community service work in an orange suit landscaping freeways. Orange is my favorite color though my preference is for something less bright, a bit muted like persimmon or Sienna but I’m sure I could make the adjustment particularly if I roll around in the earth. It could be a teachable moment learning the names of all those plants and ground cover. A poet friend recently wrote about hens and chickens which is a common name for a group of small succulents growing close to the ground. The hen is the main plant, and the chicks are the offspring, which start as tiny buds on the main plant and soon sprout their own roots, taking up residence close to the mother plant.

I’m glad to have ended up in the natural world with my mind in dirt, free, at last, from my misdemeanors. I have a lot of remedial work to do to get myself one with Nature. I’ve been two with it for far too long. I do like scenery but that’s not quite the same thing as Nature.

I didn’t know where I was going with all this and could hardly wait to find out at the bottom of the page. Next time I have to mail a letter I’m driving the two blocks or taking the bus except I have to walk three blocks to the bus… or a better idea is to leave it out for the mailperson and hope the neighborhood burglar doesn’t spot it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Us And Them

Imagine a room with ten people, half of them Tea Partiers and half normal people like us. Suppose the conversation was limited to Mom and apple pie, expanded perhaps to all relatives and recipes. Would political affiliations be revealed? Possibly not if we tried hard to contain ourselves. What if we added movies or books? My guess is that values would slip out which translate into political persuasion.

It calls into question the differences, not just in policy, but in mind-set, even language, between the two parties. What makes those who don’t live in the big house on the hill vote Conservative? Why do they continue trying to de-legitimatize the President, suppress voter turnout and saturate the media with lies? Can it be traced back to family dynamics early on or is it, as Woody Allen suggested facetiously, a brain tumor?

Clearly, if people voted in their best interests, Democrats would win every election in a landslide. Why they do not is a fair question. Class consciousness is such a taboo in this country, close to a third of union members align themselves with their corporate bosses. Marx would turn over.

There are those, raised by strong patriarchs, who listen for that authoritarian voice their entire lives. Bertrand Russell once said, The problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubt. Tea Partiers are the folks who see deliberation as weakness. Fear is their default position whether it is fear of God, fear of immigrants, terrorists or anyone who just doesn’t look like one of us.

Conservatives are also afraid of change. They are the push-back against progressive social programs. Of course not all change is progress but as Groucho, that other Marx, sang, Whatever it Is, I’m against it. This has been the Republican mantra. Gridlock is not dysfunction for these people; it is their goal.

Technology is much more than gadgetry. It causes a disequilibrium in the way we live, at least until we come to terms with it. In this age of unimaginably accelerated innovation those with a Conservative bent tend to fall back on traditional institutions like the church and other real or imagined myths and these familiar images trump class in the voting booth.

And then there are guns; another function of fear. Republicans are terrorists in the way they keep the threat on a front burner. Bush used red alerts to win support and placate the Pentagon. The Karl Rove’s of the country may one day be seen, metaphorically, as terrorists who flew their plane into the towers of Wall St., crashing the economy and subverting national interests.

A corollary to fear is punishment. They think in punitive terms. Death penalty, water-boarding, assault rifles, bloated arsenal of weaponry, Quantanamo are all part of it as if our mission is to eradicate the satanic worm from the sin-sick soul.

Liberals are more likely to come from families which model empathy. They question authority and live with the tension doubt creates. They are more concerned with equal opportunity, social justice and environmental degradation. They ponder. They reason. And they call their mother.

Of course Republicans also call their Moms and even return their library books. We probably share more than we know on a personal basis. If those original ten people were stuck in an elevator between floors some new alliances might be forged. Cooperation, I submit, would be more fruitful than competition. Damning the government won’t get them to the next landing; in fact one or two may find a new appreciation for government inspectors.

This country co-exists with the two strains but has never been so divided since Civil War days. To the extent they can be reconciled we will persevere. As long as Conservatives chose a non-negotiating position the nation will fall further into disrepair. Maybe they are too busy salivating over the flood of corporate cash, hoping to elect their shell of a man who echoes Groucho’s lines, These are my principles and if you don’t like them, I have others.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In The Doghouse

Confession: Indefensible as it is I am not a dog-lover. Is there a word for people like me? Canine-misogynist? Dogophobic? No, I looked it up and my crime is so heinous there is no word to describe me. It's more than criminal, it's faintly subversive.

I could blame it all on my mother, how she had a fear of animals. Fear morphed into indifference with me. I’m not about to pet a pit-bull or even take my chances with Dobermans I don’t know but otherwise I just try to ignore most of them. Chihuahuas, to me, are large insects. Great Danes, small horses. Poodles are too manicured, too manikined, too cute for their own good.

I do have a fondness for Irish setters. Prince Charles cavaliers are soft and furry. Airedales have a certain appeal and dachshunds are sort of adorable. Dalmatians and Labradors are handsome and beagles are the essences of melancholia. But I can live my remaining days without any of them.

In my life Part One I even put up with a dog, a sheltie named Chelsea; a pint-sized collie with the instincts but without the smarts. I think we had her for about five years. If I went into our pool she thought I was a sheep and raced around the perimeter herding me. In the Valley heat Chelsea would exhaust herself to near collapse being obedient to her ancestral genes. After a while I learned to keep her indoors and listen to her persistent barking. She was not my best friend; not even in the top twenty.

I should add that, as an act of redemption, my three daughters all love animals which number seven beloved cats. I doubt if that will get me past heaven’s gate.

I know that seeing-eye and hearing-ear dogs are heroic, that police dogs sniff out drug-smugglers, some even detect land-mines, that lassie was practically human, that dogs do noble deeds in hospices, some fetch newspapers and slippers and Frisbees and yet…. Members of their species also snarl, slobber and smell….even the aforementioned.

Another objection I admit to is the way dog-owners bark at their dogs, shouting orders or reprimands like the parent I never was. I find the superior/inferior relationship disturbing. Civility was something I tried to model without becoming General Patton.

As an apartment-dweller in my early years I never felt deprived. Nor did I ever see the need to defend or even wonder much about the four-legged world. They simply weren’t allowed and now living again in an apartment building for the past 28 years the issue is settled for us.

So why do I feel so defensive about all this? Maybe because dog-loving is one of those behaviors that defines normalcy and I barely qualify as it is. There is also the suspicion that my mother’s legacy lives within me. Not so much a fear but an unwillingness to confront the irrational. Animals cannot easily be reasoned with though I’m reminded how Flannery O’Connor first got into the newspaper by training a chicken to walk backwards. Dogs are probably the most intelligent quadrupeds but there is still, in me, that vestigial reptilian brain I’ve not yet fully embraced.

Monday, June 11, 2012

John Donne, Undone

Imagine Donne’s famous poem/meditation rewritten to read,

Every man IS an island unto himself.
Ask not for whom the bell tolls.
It’s not my problem.

Politics aside, I’m thinking of a fairly recent literary trend in which the characters of the novels shun human relationships and responsibilities, display little affect and seek isolation. They barely have a pulse.

The celebrated French author, Michel Houellebecq, writes with a chilling remoteness. In his 2012 book The Map and The Territory the protagonist, an artist, is so cold his most enduring relationship is with his boiler. Made objects hold his fascination more than people. Both parents in the book end their own lives and he lives out his own as if on an island in a sea of grassland. In real life he was born and raised on a small island off Madagascar in the Indian Ocean until age six when his mother and father are said to have, lost interest in him.

The English novelist Tom McCarthy writes with the same obsessive impulse. Characters populate his pages you would never invite to your fantasy dinner party much less meet at Starbucks for a cuppa. They seem bloodless, so de-humanized they dissolve into ideas. The action is deliberately repetitive. One critic said while reading him he experienced a will to no longer live. Indeed, both writers dwell on death in its many permutations.

Yet these are risning stars in the literary night sky. McCarthy was short-listed for the Man-Booker prize and Houellebecq is winner of the Priz Novembre, the French equivalent. Like it or not they are important voices, conceptual literary artists, in our midst whose purpose seems to be to provoke and thereby widen our perception of what our market-based system and technology have done to us. Under the illusion of connectivity we may be moving further toward an atomized existence.

Whether they are writing parody, forcing us to confront life and death or are simply unable themselves to create emotionally fleshed out characters remains unanswered for me. One critic characterized Houellebecq’s language as having a crystalline brutality. He seems to wallow in the vulgar and vile aspects of existence. Michiko Kakutani, a N.Y. Times critic, called him a deeply repugnant read.

The French writer enters his novel as a major character only to be murdered and dismembered with his body parts assembled around the room to resemble a Jackson Pollack action painting. He puts death in our faces as a way to force us into a confrontation with mortality. Their counterpart in the art world would be Damien Hurst whose dead sheep in formaldehyde was recently exhibited at LACMA.

In McCarthy’s novel C we are given a surfeit of codes, signs, hums and whirs which may be metaphors for larger meanings or lead us nowhere. Again, intimacy is depicted with objects rather than through human relationship. When Serge, our protagonist is close with his sister, incest is suggested.

These are writers who set out to disturb, to rattle us from complacency. They proceed, as far as possible, to break the rules of conventional narrative with digressions, misdirection, plotlines withheld and an absence of motivation. Worldly goods are seen as utilitarian. Characters live austere lives above any interest in possessions. I take this as a statement rejecting the commodification we have come to embrace as consumers. Psychological probing to explain behavior is absent as well. Whereas 19th century fiction moved toward the revelatory these books seem to propel the reader to the abstruse. The translucent is much preferred over the transparent. There is no resolution to our predicament.

Non-literary page-turners of the best-seller variety are designed to shorten the flight-time from LAX to Hong Kong. In contrast, the aforementioned books will make you squirm and demand your attention. You may get agitated. Whether you will see the world from a slightly different angle or just attack the flight attendant I’m not sure.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Why I Didn't Became A Major League Baseball Player

Besides peaking at age twelve and not having any particular talent beyond my years for throwing, catching, hitting or running…. it’s the scrutiny, stupid. There is no other enterprise where ERRORS are noted on a scoreboard. 

I couldn’t imagine living my working life in a fishbowl called a stadium. Think of your dentist going O for 5 one day or your barber in a slump and the whole country knowing about it. Performers do, at least for their limited audience but a flat note here or missed step there, is pardonable. Even umpires are said to err half a dozen times during a game with impunity. But no occupation labors under greater transparency than athletes and especially baseball players. Every pitch thrown, bat swung and ball caught is noted. There are people who tally such stats. 

Who cares?, you may ask and I shall ignore the question as a spokesman for this alternative universe called sports. I was one of them who cared for a time. Memorizing batting averages and such is an entry into the adult world for many kids and a sure way for first generation children of immigrants to become fully American. If a player goes hitless or makes a game-changing error, thousands of fans think less of him. Conversely, if he goes on a tear his value is raised a notch or two. The numbers are tallied not just for tomorrow’s newspaper, they are indelibly inked into the great ledger in baseball heaven. What was the ratio of walks to strike outs for Joe DiMaggio, I hear you ask. I have the answer in my baseball encyclopedia on one of its 2,780 pages. 

If the man who waters the lettuce in the market misses the Iceberg or overdoes the romaine only he knows. Society even allows a trial lawyer a margin of error when the judge instructs the jury to disregard that last remark. Crimes are expunged from the record but not a shortstops’s bobble; it follows him into his grave and afterlife. 

In this digitalized world of data-collecting Google may know more about me than I do. Our consumer-based society is moving toward the obsessive culture of baseball statisticians. Paradoxically, at the same time, everything non-quantifiable becomes more valuable, even in baseball. Some years ago when Jackie Robinson was receiving death-threats, a teammate, Pee-Wee Reese put his arm around him as they took their positions on the field. The desegregation of the game was assured. Another great player, Roberto Clemente, donated tons of goods for earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He went down with his chartered plane; human moments beyond measure and neither act appears in any record book

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Post Mortem

Yet another morning-after Wednesday in the doldrums; I should be inured by now to the folly of voters but the misalignment is unsettling. No matter how we spin it the results augur an ill-wind for November.

To think it was a mere 3 ½ years ago when I was drunk with Obama and what seemed like the death of the Republican Party. His victory was resounding. The demographics appeared to have introduced a new generation of minority voters and a tide of new consciousness. The opposition, with aged McCain and lunatic fringe Palin, was regarded as irrelevant and insubstantial.

What happened is one of those perfect storms of a stagnant economy, virulent racism, and a fiercely, emboldened Conservative block in Congress along with possibly the most right-wing Supreme Court majority of the past century which unleashed an obscene amount of corporate money into state and local elections.

The inundation of political financing, floods the Internet, radio and T.V. with commercials never seen before. The old Hidden Persuaders are at work with truth-bending and repetitive deceit. Elections have become an exercise in consumerism. Candidates are bought into the same way we buy brand names over generics. Never under estimate the gullibility of the general public. Just get the name out there often enough and it worms its way into the psyche. If Coca Cola pulled their entire advertising budget its absence would be palpably felt.

Obama promised change, whatever that means, and clearly it meant different things to different folks. It has translated into business as usual on Wall St. having retained Bernanke and Summers and installed Geithner. Change has been imperceptible in terms of our Rendition policy and renewal of the Patriot Act, with drone attacks ratcheted up at the risk of a diplomatic breach with Pakistan. Quantanamo remains due to Republican intransigence.

Change from the previous administration came in a new spirit of conciliation, a reaching toward the opposition party as if they were a reasonable, rational, responsible body. Every extension of the hand got slapped, if not bitten off. Even when he adapted moderate Republican positions they were rejected. Liberals gnashed their teeth. Independents turned their back and now assign equal blame to both parties for a gridlocked Congress.

He got no points for killing the bad guys and points off when he attempted healthcare reform. He now finds himself presiding over a falling Dow due mainly to the maxed out credit in Southern Europe. Most importantly, he has taken a hit for the failed Bush economy and impossibility of moving corrective legislation through an implacable Congress.

At the end of the day I’m feeling those familiar post-mortem blues; out of sync with the winds that can bring us to port. What will it take to waken the slumbering undecided? Where have all the flowering students gone? Will the non-white population vote only their wallets? Are we witnessing the numbing effect of sensory overload ... along with intellectual impoverishment? I’d like to believe Wisconsin was an apparition but it may be that I am the apparition and vanishing fast.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


A modest proposal: Arrest every Republican in Congress. The charge is sedition for pledging allegiance to Grover Norquist in lieu of his/her country.

I pledge allegiance to the flag and the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible, under God, with liberty and justice for all.

The Pledge was first adapted by Congress in 1942. It has been modified four times since its composition in 1892 by Rev. Frances Bellamy. Don’t tell Boehner and McConnell but Bellamy was that dreaded S word, a Socialist. He was also the cousin of socialist utopian novelist, Edward Bellamy.

The Pledge was supposed to be quick and to the point. Bellamy designed it to be recited in 15 seconds. As a socialist, he had initially also considered using the words equality and fraternity but decided against it - knowing that the powers-that-be were against equality for women and African Americans.

The true reason for allegiance to the flag is the Republic for which it stands. A republican form of government is legitimized both by our constitution and popular suffrage. It is a form of representative government unlike a democracy which legislates by direct vote. Yet our upper chamber of Congress is wildly disproportionate with some senators elected by 37 million voters and others by half a million.

Republicans in Congress have not only vowed to vote against taxes which support every modern industrial state but they have subverted their role as legislators by advocating a dismantling of the Agencies of Environmental Protection, Housing and Urban Affairs and Education, tailoring their rhetoric accordingly to their audience. Their mission is to destroy the government they pledge allegiance to.

While singing the anthem and waving their flags they need to be reminded about, one nation, indivisible, a concept they have militated against with their obstructionist vetoes and polarizing stands. As the Democrats move even to the right of what was the middle, the party of privilege stakes out a polarizing position unthinkable even ten years ago. They have regressed to rhetoric of the Antebellum South bent on splitting this indivisible nation.

Justice for all is not on their agenda. They would deny voting rights to the marginalized, block a path toward citizenship for the undocumented who serve in the military, defund agencies which protect us against food and water contamination as well as opposing restraints on Wall St.,same sex marriage and woman’s issues. They rejoice as the economy sputters. Their oath is to an unfettered oligarchy, their allegiance to their corporate patrons to whose drum they march.