Saturday, January 28, 2017

Understanding The Internal Cancer Of The Politics Of Cowardice

 The lamentable politics of cowardice have a stranglehold on western civilization and we must recognize that the end result is that not only do we destroy who we are, what we value, and what we aspire to become; but we promote terrorism by making it's acts absolutely successful. A small group of extremists can literally destroy a nation, or nations; by flying a hijacked plane into a building.
They can observe that nation literally self destruct in reactionary actions that ultimately strip it of it's identity, it's character, and it's freedoms. The knee jerk reactions may seem to be "prudent" or in the interest of security...but they are cowardly and "reptile brained" in the end. Security is always an illusion, and it's an illusion that can not be bought with the currency of  tyranny, authoritarianism, or submission to being dominated. The world needs to understand that it's tragic turn towards nativism, the relinquishing of hard won freedoms and rights, nor the embracing of  despotic anti-democratic autocracy will not make the world "safe. It is quite the contrary. The transformation of free & just societies into supremacist police states is literally a reward rather than a deterrent for extremists. It teaches them terrorism works very effectively. One brainwashed zealot randomly shooting up a public place can transform entire nations from bastions of fairness and freedom into hegemonic falangists and principled egalitarians into chaotic reactionaries willing to trash everything they claim to hold dear and value. This is the point of acts of terror. And largely people seem inclined to give them exactly what they want. The destruction of western democracy.

    It isn't just America, the rise of reactionary fascism is every bit as present in the Netherlands (once the most liberal open society on the planet), France, England, and many other places that were once beacons of social democracy. France's Marine Le Pen expelled her own dad from the National Front, a far right wing party whose policy is against immigration. Add to this Italy's recent embrace of  Beppe Grillo, a comedian turned far right politician.  They are on their own, mini versions of Trump.  AfG, (Alternative for Germany) is an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim far right wing fascist party led by Frauke Petry. Their stand is to be able to shoot migrants within German borders. They are gaining in influence, the direction in which France and Italy move could well influence the vote in Germany in that curious phenomenon which can be called competitive nationalism. The last time that happened in the Western Europe was in the 1930s. I won't say know what happened. These are fringe movements... but so was Hitler in 1928. Speaking of 1928, the last time the US went GOP for the White House, Senate and the House of Reps was 1928. They met with the Great Depression in 1929 and of course the rise of fascism.  Fast forward to 2016 and again the US has gone Republican in the White House, Senate and the House. Oops. If Trump bungles awfully, which is frankly very likely and US heads into a deep recession, it could impact world economics and it is here that the weakness of centrist parties would  crumble in Western Europe.
Even in Greece, Neofascism is on the rise.
What can we do? Nothing. Really... nothing would be a far better policy than knee jerk reactions. Look at what happened when for whatever purpose the US and some of it's allies invaded the wrong country...Iraq. As a result, aside from lives lost and treasury looted; the entire region was destabilized, extremists had a boom in recruiting, refugees flooding other nations led directly to Isis and the stressing of Europe's social safety nets. The flood of immigration led directly to the rise of radical right wing autocrats selling native supremacy. Not only did hucksters of long rejected bronze age ideas become "viable" candidates, but they were actually elected.  All these things happened because of the ill considered asinine reactionary response to a terror attack initiated by 20-100 people.  Looking at this with objectivity, if you want to change the world, what is the most effective way to do it? I for one do not like the answer. And neither should you.

We very well could see every influential EU member tilt far right depending on how Italy and France tilt. The Netherlands, Turkey, and India are already skewed on the right. Blaming all of this on racism/Islamophbia doesn’t make sense (though it is one part). In the U.S., the Rust Belt voted for Barrack Hussein Obama in 2008 and 2012. A black man with a Muslim name. It’s gone to Trump now. Perhaps you can attribute it to sexism. That doesn’t however explain it fully.
The Rust Belt’s economics was at play. 
In what was once the Manufacturing Hub of  the USA recession corroded jobs
and standards of living plummeted
. Detroit is quite literally in a state of decay.
Look at the wage ratio of CEOs to workers in USA. It’s $475,000 to $1.
Trump went to Hillary’s left in economics, said no to TPP and NAFTA.
While going ape shit right socially.
  He openly courted all racists/bigots/Islamophobes/misogynists/homophobes.
And he won.

It is largely because the Democrats failed to stand up for the working class.
And that is the trend across the globe.
The centrists who are supposed to be center of left; Democrats, Labour Party, Indian National Congress, etc. are all sold out to the corporates.
The middle class worker’s extended middle finger is what they voted with.
And this is the trend globally.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

America's Mango Mussolini

The similarities between the rise of fascism in the 1930s and the political wasteland of the US have much in common. Mussolini originally coined the term "fascism" (some say his speechwriter did, but that has no bearing here) and he defined it as the combination of state and corporate powers. Today, on the White House's official government website there is a plug for the current Mrs. Trump's brand of perfume. Need I say more?
He’s just a funny and quirky man who’s not afraid to speak his mind.  Nobody even took him serious as first.”  That’s what people have been saying about Donald Trump — but that’s also what people once said about Adolf Hitler. The similarities are and should be frightening.
America’s increasingly sick abnormal politics have surrendered to complete dystopia.
Donald Trump, a proven serial liar, utter narcissist, failed businessman turned reality show clown, con artist, adulterer, a braggart about being a grabber of women’s genitals without their permission, a man who does not read, a proud ignoramus, admirer and fan of despots and dictators, a cheerleader for vigilante violence against innocent people, actor in a porn video, person who stiffs his employees, member of the Vladimir Putin fan club, racist landlord, the preferred candidate of neo-Nazis and other fringe racists, professional wrestling villain, and candidate who incites violence against his political opponents, is now the 45th president of the United States of America. 
Donald Trump is also a fascist authoritarian controlling the world’s most powerful and influential “democracy.” No this isn't fake news and it isn't satire.
Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, the American news media desperately avoided using such language to describe the Mango Mussolini. They did this largely because the advertising revenues, as well as an inability to accept how Trump had gamed obsolete journalistic norms of “fairness,” “balance” and “objectivity.”
In doing so, the American news media facilitated Trump’s rise to power. They labeled Trump as a “populist” who was “unconventional.” The American news media kept suggesting that Trump would “pivot” for the general election in order to win more “mainstream” and “centrist” voters. There were some bold voices who said that Trump had “authoritarian tendencies.” But very few commentators had the courage to plainly state that Donald Trump was a fascist — even though the evidence was readily available, and now undeniable.
  • Donald Trump does not believe in or accept freedom of the press.
  • Donald Trump threatened his political enemies with violence and/or prison.
  • Donald Trump used ethnocentrism, bigotry, nativism and racism to mobilize his voters.
  • Donald Trump does not believe he should be held to the long standing norms of democratic governance or tradition.
  • Donald Trump is a misogynist.
  • Donald Trump is obsessed with “strength” and his own “virility.” Promising massive military buildup in an age where a 200 dollar drone can take out a military base...when a 200 million dollar stealth plane is absolutely useless against some asshole setting a shoe on fire in a plane.
  • Donald Trump promises to bring“law and order.”
  • Donald Trump is a militant nationalist.
  • Donald Trump traffics only in conspiracy theories and lies.
  • Donald Trump admires and praises authoritarians and political strongmen.
  • Donald Trump’s press conferences are conducted exactly like Putin's.
  • Donald Trump has surrounded himself with a cabal that consists of family members and self-interested Cabinet appointees, who — like him — stand to enrich themselves through the agencies they are supposed to administer in the public interest.
Ultimately, the American news media were and are like the troglodytes in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” comforted by the dark because their eyes would be hurt by the light of the truth. Or, to borrow from a more contemporary example, the media did not want to face the situation Morpheus explains to Neo in “The Matrix”: “Standing there, facing the pure horrifying precision, I came to realize the obviousness of the truth.”
Political liberals and progressives belong to a centuries-long tradition with origins in the Enlightenment, they are unprepared to deal with the primitive thinking and irrationality that drives Donald Trump’s political movement and contemporary conservatism more generally. In reality, the Republican Party abandoned any semblance of normal politics beginning with their assaults on Bill Clinton in the 1990s. There has been a long decline which culminated with the absurdity of Republican reaction to Barack Obama and now the rise of Trump. Americans have become numb to the extremism and lack of truthfulness in politics due to constant bombardment with it..there are generations that know nothing else.
In New York magazine, Jonathan Chait  offers a classic example of how dangerous liberal reasoning has become to itself:
"It is impossible to know what course American democracy will take under Trump’s presidency. The fears of authoritarianism may prove overblown, and Trump may govern like a normal Republican."
This assumes there is a “normal Republican,” and that Trump is something else. Yet Trump won more votes than any Republican presidential candidate in history. Research shows that authoritarian attitudes have increased among the American public over the last 20 years, especially among Republicans. The Republican Party is the country’s largest white identity organization: It mobilizes anti-black and anti-brown animus for political gain. Since the 1960s at minimum, conservatism and racism have been functionally identical in this country. Trump leveraged those forces to maximum effect in order to defeat Hillary Clinton and win the White House.
In short, Donald Trump is a normal Republican. Pretending otherwise is what led the chattering classes to underestimate Trump’s appeal to angry, authoritarian-minded voters willing to pretend fascism is acceptable or even desirable.

What can be done?
What do good people who believe in fairness do now?
Protest marches are great. They are a cathartic release.
And they can, if sustained make a difference.
Run for office on the local and state level.
Practice political consumerism: Refuse to spend money at stores, banks, and other businesses that work with Trump, his administration or his enterprises.
Target Republican officials with phone calls and emails. Let them know that if they support Trump's fascist agenda there will be negative consequences at the ballot box.
Borrow from the obstructionist strategy that Republicans used against Barack Obama.
Turn the metaphorical map upside down and practice political Aikido.
Especially we must learn from those groups and individuals who have been actively fighting fascism.

Donald Trump and his movement are not normal. Do not make the mistake of treating them like they are. There is no room for negotiation or compromise. Nor burying your head in the sand if you didn't like Clinton either. That's over. All that matters if you want to see any sort of reasonable future is to band together with any and all anti-fascists. Whatever other squabbles one may have, and maybe one person's issues are not yours or vice versa; it doesn't matter. FDR & Churchill certainly weren't in agreement with Stalin on many matters...but I'm glad they opposed Hitler together.
I'd be writing this in German if they hadn't.

America is your country. Donald Trump and his supporters represent the tyranny of minority opinion. They are the worst example of  the "ugly American". And this movement is a real threat to the world.
Don't care about the world? History teaches us that it's a real threat to you personally.
Not a woman? Not on the list of people Trump hates?
You will be.
Want to equate all this with the usual left v right bickering over taxes?
It's not. There is absolutely nothing "usual" about this.
Want to write opposition to Trump's fascism off as partisan chicanery?
It's way beyond that.
America, quite likely the world actually; as you have known it... will not survive a full frontal fascist regime like this.

Now is the time to reclaim the United States’ fundamental character.
The will, spirit and character of this nation is NOT to be found in fascism.
 Shouting “Not in my name!” is a fine beginning, but not an ending. Resistance to Donald Trump and everything he represents must be the new normal.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 - A Shit Year...Or The Shittiest Ever?

2016  definitely sucked
      As we bid a contemptible good riddance to 2016 with it's numerous absurd Terror attacks, Zikas, Brexits, police shootings, Syria, Trump, record-hot temperatures, the losses of  our musical heroes, cultural icons, artists, friends, and family...well this has been one unrelenting godawful turn around the sun hasn't it?  I see a fair amount of hoopla suggesting 2016 is actually the worst year ever.  As  terrifying events truly piled up on each other in 2016, is it in a way they have not done any other year in human history? Is it possible to judge the awfulness of a year while it’s still unfolding or very fresh in memory? Is it possible that we just notice negative happenings more these days because of  high levels of connectivity? And what does “worst year” even mean—“worst year” for New Yorkers, Americans, for humanity, for the planet? As a way of actually finding some sort perspective on these matters, lets look at some other godawful years that have occurred.

     72,000 B.C. -  there was a volcanic super-eruption on the island of Sumatra in present-day Indonesia. The explosion was massive. Where once there was once a mountain, there is now a lake.
It exploded with the force of 1.5 million Hiroshima-size bombs. Rock and magma were hurled continental distances. A layer of volcanic ash approximately 15 centimeters (about six inches) thick settled over the entire continent of Asia.  The skies darkened and global temperatures fell.
Yes, this was a pretty shitty year too. A“long night” descended, and something analogous to a nuclear winter began that year and lasted for many years afterward. The food sources died off, and the recent mapping of human genome indicates that the population of  human beings was reduced to between merely 3,000 and 10,000 people. From this tiny group of survivors,  all 7 billion people on Earth today are descended, making us one of the most numerous but genetically close species in nature.
This genetic "closeness" may account for the bad decisions and behaviors of 2016.

1348 - We talk about 2016 being a particularly disastrous year, but historically there’s nothing new about vicious detestable assholes fighting for power. Nothing new about  dreadful useless leaders with incorrigible bad ideas gathering widespread support. Consider for a moment 1348, when the Black Death took hold. Dogs tore at the bodies of the dead that lay about unburied in the streets.
The disease spread quickly all along the Silk Roads and then across the trade routes crisscrossing the Mediterranean. In the space of  a mere 18 months, it killed at least a third of the population of Europe.
Francesco Petrarch
“Our hopes for the future have been buried alongside our friends,”
wrote the great Italian scholar and poet Franseco Petrarch. It seemed like the end of the world was coming. Some advised avoiding “every fleshly lust with women,” others that marching barefoot while self-flagellating would help. One writer in Damascus recorded that plague “sat like a king on a throne and swayed with power,” killing thousands every day. Yes, on the bright side here in 2017, at least for the moment; dogs are not tearing at the bodies of the dead that lie unburied in the streets.
However there was a positive consequence of the Black Plague,  a consolation prize...a parting gift. The Black Death spurred one of the most golden of golden ages in history. Plague led to sharply reduced inequality, a spending boom, and a flowering of the arts. Storms do sometimes give way to sunshine. Maybe...maybe...

     So how does one measure the “worst year in human history”?
By some calculus of human suffering? By sheer number of deaths? By the geographical extent of misery? While any of these metrics provide ample and ready candidates, I suggest, however, that the worst year ought to be the beginning of a world-historical process that once started, offered no chance for reversal.
was such a year.
That year, the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella completed their conquest of Moorish Granada. Within a few years, the roughly half-million Muslim inhabitants of the territory would be killed, enslaved, or expelled. The kingdom also expelled its Jewish population, resident since Roman times, which provided the blueprint for similar persecutions and expulsions in the years to follow. Spanish actions helped create the idea of a geographically distinct “Christian Europe,” replacing the more than two millennia of political and religious identities that had connected different Mediterranean shores. The most significant event of that year, however, was the first American voyage of Christopher Columbus. Columbus wasn’t the first European to reach the western continents, but his voyages were the first to become widely known. As a result, Spain and its rival powers accelerated their overseas contest for trade and territory. Old World diseases made their inevitable drift to the Americas and by the early 16th century, a series of plagues ultimately caused the demographic collapse of  90 percent of the indigenous population.  And by the mid-19th century,  for many groups, the utter obliteration of their society itself. Worse still, as the indigenous labor force disintegrated, Europeans turned to Africa for new sources of enslaved labor.
Few years in human history are so freighted with catastrophic consequences.
Will the events of 2016 have such reverberations in history? Well maybe so...maybe not.
At any rate, the abominable events that unfolded have yet to enslave anyone...but don't hold your breath. The death of truth or the "post truth" era has yet to find a bottom.

Columbus burning natives in Hispaniola
1919 - This was a shitty year too. The allies had won the First World War but effectively lost the peace. An isolationist U.S. Senate refused to ratify the League of Nations treaty while President Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke. Meanwhile, as the government ended wartime spending and regulations, inflation skyrocketed and unemployment shot up to 20 percent. An influenza epidemic, one of the worst in history, killed a half-million Americans. The 18th Amendment introduced Prohibition and a decade of lawless dog eat dog power struggles. More immediately, the infamous “bloody summer of 1919” saw race riots in cities across the country: Chicago erupted in five days of brutal violence that left 500 wounded and 38 dead. Meanwhile, lynchings continued to rise, with 76 black Americans killed, including 10 war veterans.
The fall of 1919 featured massive labor strikes: 350,000 steelworkers in Indiana, 425,000 miners in coal country, most of the Boston police force, etc. America was poised for a revolution. Fear turned to panic with mail bombs sent to prominent Americans like Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and John D. Rockefeller. In November, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, himself the target of a bomb, launched the first Red Scare, a massive series of arrest raids against suspected radicals, anarchists, and communists that turned into the biggest violation of civil liberties in modern times. All told, 1919 was a year of political chaos, social unrest, economic disasters, deadly epidemics, bloody race riots, giant labor strikes, and brutal government overreach.
Definitely a shit year.
World War I

2003 - a prime candidate as measured by long-term consequences for democracy.
In February of that year, as the Bush administration and its allies geared up for war.
Protesters eager to speak out against the mobilizations swamped cities around the world in the largest global demonstration for peace in world history. In Manhattan, more than 100,000 protestors from all walks of life swamped the city, stopping traffic in the middle of the street, and assembling in a vast throng near the U.N. building. European cities saw even larger protests.
"So we create the conditions that lead directly to the rise of Isis, flood the European liberal nations with refugees collapsing their social programs, rob from the poor and give to the rich,...basically shoot humanity in the face and torture them for shits and giggles...and some black guy gets blamed...ha ha ha. What a plan!"
The U.S media, still dominated by major networks owned by only a handful of corporate overlords, barely covered the event. In New York, the nightly news showed images, instead, of a sympathy protest in Baghdad—a damning substitution. The failure of the occupied media to cover these protests (which set a precedent, followed ever since)—and, more broadly, to aggressively question the Bush administration on the absurd lies and half-truths used to rationalize the war—was catastrophic for the entire world.  The quiescence of political parties when confronted with the even-then very dubious link between 9/11 and the war in Iraq revealed the power of macho patriotism to sweep away partisan dissent and intelligent thinking, and to cow the news into submission, a power that has proved durable and dangerous. A power that has apparently turned most of the western world's brains into sand. The war went on as planned. And the terrible world we live in now, —jingoistic, bomb-scarred, drone-addled, armor-clad, morally bankrupt, spied on, and over-flooded with refugees creating the rise of nativism—is the consequence. Yes...I think 2003 in a historical sense was complete shit. Maybe the worst ever.   Alas my friends,  there is sadly no shortage of candidates.

I failed to point out 1876, A true toilet clogging stinker. There was a split presidential election which set the stage for the bargain that ended Reconstruction. While we might be tempted to nominate the highest casualty year of the Civil War as the worst, the failure to defend racial equality in the South after so many lives were sacrificed seems far more tragic since it continues to cause death and misery 130 years down the road . Also, in ’76 you have the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the inexplicable cruelty of bison-hunting equestrianism on the Great Plains. The fall of Reconstruction and the rise of Plains reservations are enough for a really bad year, and then you add race riots in South Carolina, and Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia...well let's say a courtesy flush was in order.
I neglected the years of the rise of fascism, the Holocaust, the age of the robber barons, the rise of the dark corporate overlords, etc. Well there's veritable feast of bad years we wish could be forgotten quickly.
With past years we have the vision afforded by historical perspective, which is something we lack in evaluating 2016.
One thing leads to another.
See you on the bottom.
Coming soon!  - How to get the most out of your bottomless pit.