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Dismantling the Popular Democratic Process

Yeah, not one of my catchier titles but sometimes you just have to say it plain.

I’m in the midst of reading a new book about the long history of pseudo Libertarian incursion into American democratic progress and it’s enlightening to say the least. As far as I’ve always understood it, Libertarianism as defined as a political ideology, is basically the capitalist version of Anarchism, the main difference being that somehow the magical free market will save us all as opposed to the rainbows and butterflies that come with mutual cooperation without coercion doing the same. Both ideas come mainly from intellectually elite boy-children whose moral superiority casts no doubt on their otherwise easily disprovable assertions.

Make no mistake though, with enough money and a firm commitment to fundamentally changing the balance of power back to elite, white, landholding, educated, moneyed folk you can talk the ignorant unwashed masses into almost anything. The dog whistles drown out the jack hammers drilling into the  power of working folks. Racial and ethnic fear mongering hold the head of reason underwater until the bubbles stop, it’s too late, democracy as even the least of us understand it is dead.

At the risk of turning this post into a book report, in Democracy in Chains, author Nancy MacLean tells the story of James McGill Buchanan a Nobel Prize Winning economist and the arguable grandfather of Political Economy. The book constantly refers to his philosophical adherents as Libertarians but that tag will prove to be inaccurate as the story goes on.

In short it outlines the transformation of an economic movement more in line with the way colonial America worked than the idea of democracy we’ve come to accept. A way of thinking that basically obliterates the current social order. It’s one of those books that confirms with eerie accuracy what many of us have seen happening around us.

Basically, read the book.

My tangential comments on the ideas surrounding the book will follow.

I’ve talked about my own anarcho-libertarian leanings before, I’ve also talked about my sympathy for all types of middle to lower class people (being one of them myself doesn’t hurt) but i want to step back from both and look at this transformation through my own experience of them. It means fundamentally different things to different people but the general gist is that individuals are prime before the state, whatever state that is.

I lived through the Reagan revolution so I felt the behind the scenes machinations that steered the political ship during that era even without knowing they were there. I felt the meanness that was tested during that era, the proto-tea party movements of “Angry White Men” (I never get tired of this clip) the anger and resentment that helped restart the Klan and  create the still racist but less obviously so patriot movement. The “Libertarians” of the Virginia school of political economy were making inroads into the corridors of power, aided and abetted by none other than Charles Koch (who to this day is the grand wizard of “Libertarian” direct action) they used any social movement that would benefit their oligarchic elitism. Many of the same tactics used by the preservers of the Confederacy are still being used today to divide and sterilize the power that the working class attained post labor.

They used racial animus, fearmongering and outright lies and distortions to push an agenda that legitimized the idea that only certain people had the right to weigh in on political matters and only certain experiences mattered. You can easily rectify this with many of the “constitutionalist” provocations that defended slavery, opposed universal suffrage and defend ideas most of us hold as undemocratic. The cause beyond all causes though is to restore a colonial ideal that only educated, land-holding white me be given the franchise. The erosion of voting rights among communities of color not only assumes that the poverty-stricken are not educated enough to make a valid decision in determining their future but that the cannot be given the information to make that choice in a rational fashion.  White rural poor America gets a second tact.

“When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

This is the foundational truth of the new Libertarian movement, it is the fuel that has fired the engine of their attracting their most ardent followers. As demographic changes continue to become more apparent, women become more powerful and racial minorities become (collectively and deceptively) the majority, white males have become the target audience for a newly lipsticked pig.

This movement will and has used any means to grab power. It uses disinformation directed at communities of color and majority communities as well. It uses a slow steady well-funded effort through a network that feels increasingly comfortable coming out from behind the scenes. It intends to wrest what we think of as democracy as broken as it already is (and much of this is by design, designed by, guess who?) into what actually is a plutocracy. This makes the Republican Libertarian wing’s tacit support from the Trump agenda in all its fracturing, disenfranchising, Russia-loving glory make much more sense.

Trump is not only a useful idiot for Russian oligarchs, but for American ones as well.

This will not end well if it ever ends at all.

The Case for “All Lives Matter”

Edited on 10/12/17 because the first time around I just don’t give a f***!

Edited 9/8/17 because brought to you by the letter “M.”

Edited (yet again) on 8/10/2018 for a few misplaced (s)s and slightly augmented wording.

Can we re-purpose a reactionary frame?

Can we take something not quite patently offensive, but triggering and reshape it to mean something that can unite rather than divide? Can a community of people, who already feel burdened with the explainer role, manage again to unify under something they mainly feel is a bastardization and outright insult to the movement they identify with?

If we’ve learned anything from the election of Donald Trump, we should take away this, using the language of the oppressed to claim oppression works, but can the opposite work as well.

When I’d seen the statement “All Lives Matter” in response to BLM, I cringed. I knew it was a reactionary, angry, reflexive response to a needed if not fully appreciated movement. It angered me that people who know better should have understood that killing an unarmed member of any community should be denounced, that people who should know that there is a disparity between the way young Black men are seen and treated in our society, and the way young white men are treated. That Black Lives Matter, of course, wasn’t a statement of exclusivity but one of defense. That the implication that ONLY Black Lives Matter was NOT part of this declaration, nor was the implication that Black Lives Matter MORE, but it was merely that Black Lives Matter AS WELL.

There is much to be said about how we got here, much hand wringing to be done about how history had drawn a clear line to this moment and how forces, both seen and unseen have forced these confrontations.

For context, I suggest reading some of the books on slavery or civil rights or some of the more inclusive books on American history A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn is a good place to start.

I’m not getting into context here, it’s too obvious to me and would distract from my point. Plus, I believe we should all be more responsible for exposing ourselves to the context of the history of the country of which we so effulgently pronounce our love.

One of the things I have learned about messaging is that sometimes to do it effectively; you have to give up some deeply held preconceptions. You have to resort to some to the tricks of the oppressor, if you will, and one-up them by playing their game. There are limits to this, of course, but within those limits is where progress can be potentially made.

Appropriation is a hot-button term. It evoked Native headdresses or kente cloth; it evokes everything from girls in yoga pants to Rachel Dolezal.

It doesn’t deserve the reputation it has. Appropriation is, in some cases, the same thing as acceptance, it is the brother or sister or transgendered, polyamorous, biracial neighbor of cultural assimilation. McDonald’s appropriated images of Black families in print ads to appeal to the people it was trying to sell burgers to, advertising, in general, appropriates members of audiences it wants to reach, and this is often called “inclusion.”

My feelings are half and half. Half of me welcomes the representation because it brings visibility and half of me knows the motivation is to sell a product. In many cases, even this gives a certain amount of arrival cred but still begs the motivation question. Yet, for whatever reason, it’s better to be seen in a positive light than a negative one, though it can be argued that this isn’t all that positive:

but is was certainly better than this:

Appropriation can be a gateway to conversation and understanding, or it can be a gross misuse of a symbolic cultural totem. I think its time for us to use the poseur of appropriation on the All Lives Matter crowd.

It makes sense that reactionary forces would seize on an approximation of a statement that virtually says the same thing. In this era of lack of imagination, lack of the ability to see things in shades of grey, and lack of connection across lines of partisanship, we have been unable to ask each other, “so what exactly do you mean by that?’ instead of reflexively attacking each other over our perception of that meaning.

So let’s start out by saying that all lives do matter. Black, White, Mexican, Gay, Straight, tall and short, cis, queer, nongender specific, Cops who occupy all of the other identities as well and are both sheltered and wrongly maligned, we can even go as radically far as to say that plants, animals….all life is important. The human variety is where we’ll focus for the moment though, let’s just say that all human experience is valuable.

Now we can get into a little trouble here in our appropriation as we often do when trying to be inclusive, how far is too far? So if the whole point of this is a marketing strategy (and make no mistake, the most efficient way to convey this message is through that means), who is the intended audience?

Assuming the target audience is the former Obama voting Trump devotee, a person who, right or wrong, thinks he is now in the minority, who assumes that being white has somehow become a liability, despite all evidence to the contrary, and now feels he must pull back into an enclave of reactionary juxtaposition. We aren’t going for the 1% White Lives Matter crowd, they are lost and never wanted to be a part of this new America anyway. Calling out the hypocritical other and also the people who genuinely don’t understand why All Lives Matter is such a divisive statement by appropriating the tag is a tact worth pursuing.

Re-branding as All Lives Matter, re-purposing with inclusion in mind of the people of all races that have been discounted and ignored, bringing in law enforcement of all races to have a dialog about how people are not treated equally and to what degree. Actually TALKING to each other about these vital issues under a moniker that doesn’t seem to exclude.

Maybe All Lives Matter can be a vital starting point to challenge the notion that they do conceptually and working on how they can actually.

Taking advantage of the short memories of Americans to change things in the long-term may be sneaky, but it can also be useful. From a marketing standpoint, it would be as brilliant a coup as turning a brand that had been wrongly associated with Nazi Germany into a brand that appeals to the Spanish-speaking among us.

In the world of spin, anything is possible.

 

 

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The Monster in the Closet

For fuck’s sake will a single, now outraged, republican who isn’t voting for Trump please admit that they’ve been part of the problem?

The closer we get to the inevitability of Trump winning the people’s choice award for the now fully irrelevant and angry white male contingent of the Republican party the more roaches start looking for lifeboats off the sinking ship that it has become.

As I have said before, if Trump wins (which he will) the republican nomination, gets his ass handed to him by whomever wins the democratic nomination (check) and still keeps talking (which he also will) there will be far reaching consequences. The rest of the world, already bewildered by our treatment of our current president and thoroughly bug-fucked scared at even the remotest possibility of a Trump presidency, are shaking their collective heads so furiously at the laboratory of fascism we’ve become that they have fanned the four winds into the first January Atlantic hurricane in 60 years.

In yesterday’s New York Times, a “paper” whose relevancy and integrity continue the long slide down the sewer pipe, former Republican speechwriter and “conservative” cheerleader Peter Wehner (I never heard of him either) finally takes a stand and says that Trump is the Antichrist out of space who has single-handedly dragged the party from the virtuous free-market religiosity of the Bush years to the bat-shit insanery that is now. He’s not the only one. Nikki Hailey, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, “the other white Bush”, and even evangelical fuck-nut Mike Huckabee, nary a one among them who hasn’t scorched the earth with a smaller version of the flame thrower Trump has been proudly shouldering, have all denounced the front runner as inflammatory or some other  rhetorical phrase that means next to nothing.

Look, I said it before and I’ll repeat it now.

You fuckers had it coming.

For anyone to state without a severe ironic drawl that Trump is anything but the embodiment of the true nature of the modern Republican party, nursed on the southern strategy and tuteled in a one room backwater schoolhouse on the prairie by Lee Atwater under principal “Joe” the plumber, is to reject these little things called “history” and “common sense.” How these morons can possibly not see their own complicity in the creation of FrankenTrump out of the rotting corpses of Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed and the Von Mises institute, lit up and brought to life by a withering lightning rod on the (wholly inadequate) roof of Angry White Male Inc. is beyond cognitive dissonance, it is irresponsible, and infantile. It is “blaming the other guy who rented the house after we blew holes in the walls” fucking insanity.

YOU, you lazy piece of shit, YOU, you pandering, forgetting where you came from douchebag, YOU, YOU are to blame for the care and feeding of the out of control animal you stuffed full of wingnut paranoia and birther-ism when it served you and and ego-stroked when you needed votes yet now want to disown as someone else’s problem. YOU, you irresponsible asshole, not the misled, misinformed, misshapen white men you so easily manipulated into blind hatred for anything NOT them, YOU!

How many Republican who voted for Reagan, Bush and well….Bush stood up against the dog whistle politics of Lee Atwater?   Or the identity politics of the Christian Coalition? How long did it take for them to shake the cobwebs off and take David Duke seriously? How deep up their own asses were their heads that they ignored, sympathized with or played upon the Angry White Male fear and loathing syndrome that swept across the country in the mid 80’s culminating in the patriot and militia movements and finally the single worst act of domestic terror in our history? How many of you have taken responsibility for the rhetoric that called for “second amendment remedies” and “head shots” that encouraged the attempted assassination of a US Senator?

How fucking long did it take for Republicans of good conscience to speak out? With every act of violence, with every stoking of the rhetoric of hatred cloaked in OxyContin fueled “common sense”, with every suggestion by mainstream republicans of the racial fear of “the other” invoked and consequently blown off as rational… you fucking begged for this.

And only now, as the consequences of the ignorance of these growing embers gathers to burn down the forest of the party do they suddenly find a conscience? Even in my youth, untrained but attuned to the subtleties and not so subtleties of racial coding and white anger at the whittling away of their inherent privilege, did I see this coming.

Not, mind you, in such a package, but if ever there was the perfect marriage of cultural collusion it is Mr. Trump. Money and the power that follows, fear of the other while simultaneously exploiting the other for profits, playing into fear and hatred while somehow claiming the opposite while still maintaining credibility. All in the most unbelievable package, a package of Viagra and trophy wives stewed together in a chunky stew of opulence substituting itself for virility. Men in hunting gear gathering support for a guy who golfs with celebrities and probably could not not survive outside under the best conditions for more than an hour? The embodiment of an appeal to nature fallacy appealing to nature.

Only in America? Probably not. But there is so much of America, mostly the bad parts, in him that we are willing to overlook it all in favor of the fantasy of him.

Somehow the establishment, after playing with the same fire, stoking the same hatreds for their benefit, believed that this was impossible? They are only words after all, and only liberal English professors actually believe that words have consequences.

The Republican establishment’s willingness to ignore the warnings of 50 years of identity politics, racial bating and scapegoating of those we have invited here with our uniquely American rhetoric (Tired, poor, yadda, yadda…) are the reasons we have Trump. The culture that promotes the appearance of virility through enforcement of will in so many anti-democratic ways here and abroad, created this monster. Our lack of reasoning and squashing of dissent as un-American lead us here.

And now we have a choice that leads us, either way, to more pain, more suffering and more stupidity.

But still, we do have a choice.

A Tale of Two Realities Election Day Edition #thisishowdemocracydies #Midterms

Political drumbeats have a habit of fading out at the end of the song. Especially when the conventional wisdom is eroded by factual information, politicians HATE factual information.

Take the recent Job numbers VS. the President’s approval rating. Part of that reality is the fact that there is still a huge amount of wage stagnation despite the economy’s on-paper bounce back, another part is, simple and succinctly put, propaganda. We’ve been told for so long that the President and his Democratic allies are job killers, they want some sort of Socialist utopia where no one has to work and everyone sustains themselves off the government. All this despite the fact that Democrats have pushed since Clinton, to roll back welfare, hold the line on the minimum wage and sheer away waste and spending in programs like Head Start and Medicare.

Republicans have made the Obama administration more about personality than fact; the latest job numbers prove that in multiple ways.  The economy being the main issue for both the 2008 and 2012 elections and he doing everything within his power to try to correct it, including a truncated stimulus that, if it was fully realized would have made an even greater and sooner impact.

Yet, somehow, the economy has not been the talking point of either side in this midterm cycle. It makes sense that this would be so on the republican side, as the dual cobras of “I told you so” and having to explain how a rise in GDP of 3% hasn’t shown up in Joe the plumbers pocket yet. They could correctly say that the vast majority of the new jobs were comprised of low wage part time employment, but then they would have to explain why, and that could get messy. Politicians in general and republicans in particular are really bad at lying about specifics, if you can get them to talk about specifics in the first place. The Democratic silence on this is even more astounding, unexplainable and borderline insane. But to hitch your wagon to the increase in jobs, the re-expansion of the economy and the “saving” of America would be admitting the Colored guy in charge had something to do with it.

Since the depth of the financial crisis and the mathematical end of the recession in June of 2009, the news has been long-term good. Although somehow we have all managed to fall into the stock market idea that short term gains are more predictive than looking at the big picture, the general economic prognosis is that we are recovering, and that recovery is accelerating. Republicans hate this. They have all but fallen silent on the latest job numbers, have ignored the test kitchen failure in Kansas and instead, have decided to run on, well, Kansas.

Take Tom Foley in Connecticut, in a way it is very much a rehash of the 2012 Presidential election, more than most, with Malloy, whose approval among CT residents of all parties is less than stellar, but among Republican voters is dismal, polling neck in neck to Foley. That Foley, who has a long record of screwing workers and flouting federal income taxes, is doing so well in a progressive labor state like Connecticut speaks volumes about both potential who is voting and how stupid they are.  Have we not already gone down this road with Brownback? Is that not turning into a dismal failure? Why is this guy even an issue in a dark blue state like CT?

Yet Republicans in a muddled and misinformed message have relied more on the country’s fear and Racism than any bit of factual truth. They wish us to feel that raising taxes on high earners is somehow treasonous and smacks of socialism, if that is so then the US was a Socialist country during the war years. We raised the money to pay for our wars by increasing the marginal tax rate to 75% at its highest.

During the Bush Administration tax rates fell, consistently as we fought one of the most expensive “wars” in history. Much of the damage done is still being kept under wraps, no caskets were shown as dead men and women were kept away from the media sites for fear of inciting anti-war sentiments, and the massive protests that were occurring with regularity were not covered by the corporate press for fear of alienating advertisers, many of which had ties to either members of congress or the administration itself, as well as a clamping down on civil liberties such as the right to assemble that was also largely ignored.  And with that erasure ramped up during Obama’s first turn and nearly completed today, with the erasure of what a desperate state the truly incompetent Bush left us in, and the painstaking steps the Obama administration had to take to dig us out nearly closed, here we stand.

Fear, ignorance, hate, and money.

4 Billion, with a B. Largely now coming from who knows where, tying other Democrats to a president who they have always regarded as a liar and a fraud before a policy was ever written. Money that no one can trace against a President they say covered up information about everything from his birth certificate to Benghazi.  It is one of many ironies that plague our process.

Yes I believe that Election day should be a national holiday and that voting should be compulsory. I believe that if you make people show ID to vote you should make every effort to get everyone in your state an ID who is eligible, or as part of the registration process you should get a state issued voter ID card, no more of this unfunded enforcement mandate bullshit.

Even better, let the bastards who have been crying about voter fraud pay for IDs instead of spending 4 BILLION on ads ever election cycle decrying it.

Yes, this is how democracy dies.

What no one is talking about.

There are three issues surrounding tomorrow’s mid-terms that everyone is missing:

GOP redistricting: Republicans have been very smart (sometimes I think they collectively have a ton of rocks for brains on topics ranging from Religion, Foreign Policy, Guns and money, but you can never say that they are strategically stupid, like the Cylons, they have a plan) about winning Gubernatorial races just in time for congressional redistricting. Only 5 states have independent supposedly nonpartisan commissions for this purpose, the majority have either complete legislative control or partial control by the legislature. The GOP swept to victory in a few key races in 2008 (New Jersey and Virginia being the most notable), and more in 2012, 6 more to be exact. In all of those states the legislature has a strong, or the only hand in deciding redistricting. Guess who has done the majority of redistricting since 2006?

GOP voter suppression: Even if the GOP never physically kept a single person from voting, they have done more to dissuade the key Democratic voters, Minorities and young people from voting in this election. Let’s face it, it really doesn’t take much to keep minority voters from the polls, especially in a midterm election year, as a matter of fact Democrats of all stripes are less likely to vote in midterm elections. But add the constant assault of voter id laws and the insane amount of misunderstanding as to what the rules are, especially among poll workers, and those numbers are driven even lower.

Money, money, money: as I noted in the last post, the spending is out of control. The unrestrained, unaccountable numbers of millions being spent on some of these races just boggles the mind. The scare tactics and outright lies, unchecked by a cowardly corporate media and the sheer ubiquity of negativity both turn off and infuriate voters. When you have only the angry voting, you get only the ideologically unhinged elected.

As another blogger so eloquently put it; “this is how Democracy dies.”

The $1 Tax Dodge

Beware the $1 CEO. Revere the $1 CEO.

CEO’s, entrepreneurs, the super-rich are our new heroes. They are  Zeus, Apollo, Jesus, King…they outrank sportsmen and women in trustworthiness polls, even though the institutions they run are the same that are ranked consistently untrustworthy. They are our new icons. The self-made man, the great American myth is back with a vengeance.

The $1 CEO’s are particularly crude about garnering our favor, John Mackey famously remarked that he made enough money and wanted to work for the joy of it. An interesting remark coming from one of the most ardent libertarian businessmen, or at least one of the few who will publicly address and defend their pure market capitalistic beliefs. The Koch brothers, Adelson and the other notables under this big green tent espouse no such pussyfooting, so are exempt in this case.

Personally I do not believe that these people deserve our admiration, respect or even pity, especially the ones who publicly tout their $1 salary. Mackey started his company from investments (gifts) from friends and family and started it as a small cooperative and grew (as most Übermensch businessmen would tell, organically) into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.  Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, who started the company from his HARVARD dorm room (a) lucky enough to go to college b) smart and lucky and wealthy enough to go to Harvard c) went to fucking Harvard) as a “hot or not” style hookup site. Or the founders of Google Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Stanford students, Page’s pedigree includes a father who was a leading computer scientist and Brin’s father and mother are also scientists, all are tops in their fields.

All these men have taken the $1 CEO route. Though Mackey has been most vocal about the reasons, all of them have allowed the more important reality of their decision be buried in a sea of crocodile tears generated by the financial press and sympathetic politicos.  They’ve become revered as generous and selfless when exactly the opposite is true.

As Robert W. Wood writes in Forbes, the reason these guys do what they do has more to do with good old-fashioned tax dodging than any altruistic motive. After all, altruism is bad, greed is good. http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2014/04/05/tax-smart-billionaires-who-work-for-1/

So instead of paying a fair portion to the taxman like the rest of us, they get off taking alternate means of compensation in the form of shares and other non-cash payments that are taxed at a substantially lower rate. All the while allowing the PR machine to crank out puff piece after puff piece about how generous and selfless these guys are. That line of bullshit also only adds to the veneer of untouchability and John Galt heroism that the establishment narrative reinforces in us plebes.

And what you say? But these guys work hard, are self-made and do good work. Well I say that their “work” is in no way proportionate to the exorbitant scale of their pay, however it comes. None of these people were “self-made” they had nurturing environments massive financial assistance from family members, damn good educations or all of the above. They may be extraordinarily smart people but they are all extraordinarily smart and at least in some way, extraordinarily privileged.

 

In a way, its kind of like pulling back the cape and discovering that Superman has been rescuing humans is because he’s been pimped out by the guys from the “To Serve Man” episode of the Twilight Zone.

Heroes indeed.

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