Sunday, May 1, 2022

The New Abolitionism

Long before films like The Matrix or The Terminator audiences have been presented with stories of dystopian futures, from novels like 1984 and Brave New World all the way back to ancient times in the story of Plato’s cave. What all of these tales have in common is that they are extended metaphors, allegories that conceal a sobering truth, and that is the fact that whatever enslavement mankind finds itself suffering in the future, it will be because mankind has created that suffering for itself. At that point man will be the only one to blame for the forfeiture of his own freedom. It’s tempting—and comforting—to believe that what is happening in the United States today is a recent phenomenon. But history tells a different story. The attempt to enslave the population in America has been going on since European settlers first arrived on these shores. Things took a detour for a while when the people’s attention was distracted during the rise and fall of chattel slavery, but since the mid-nineteenth century the capitalist forces at work in our country, both North and South, have turned their to wage slavery as their objective and have gradually used their considerable wealth and influence toward achieving the goal of taking over the country and turning all of its citizens into wage-slave zombies who have neither the intellect to recognize, nor the will to fight against, the tide of complete corporate dominance that seeks to control every aspect of their lives in pursuit of the single-minded accumulation of wealth.

There are several avenues by which the corporate oligarchy in this country has been able to wrest control of the government away from the citizens so that it works only toward the goals of the oligarchy and against the interests of the people. The most fundamental of these is education. Over the last hundred years—and perhaps even further back—public education in the United States has had as its primary objective to indoctrinate children into accepting ideas and philosophies that will make it easier for corporations to control them in the future. Myths like the superiority of individual freedom over cooperative effort, capitalism over socialism, that anyone can become anything they want if they just work hard enough, the value of working and saving for the future, the more insidious ideas of social Darwinism that manifest themselves through sports and competition, and the most destructive of all, the normalization of religious mythology, have all served to weaken the intellect of the U.S. population over the last century, to the point where the working poor in this country have willingly surrendered their freedom to the very people and corporate entities that are enslaving them. They can’t tell the difference anymore between a lie and the truth. And in the most tremendous of ironies, they seem determined to give away their freedom to those who display the very power that will one day enslave them.

Once the appropriate educational programming has taken hold over a significant portion of the population and disarmed them mentally, the next step is to isolate the individual from a society that has the potential—when people work together—to diminish and ultimately defeat the power of the oligarchy. In the beginning the only avenue available to achieve this was the church. Subservience to an imaginary god and his self-chosen disciples on earth has been unimaginably successful. Brainwashing people into believing that they are inherently sinful, and therefore dependent upon an ideology that denigrates life itself in favor of a fictional heaven has trained people to endure otherwise unacceptable hardships without complaint in exchange for a reward that doesn’t exist. In that kind of environment rampant hypocrisy and suspicion take hold quite easily and serve as a successful tool with which to isolate individuals from one another. But that still leaves out the non-gullible in the population who reject religious mythology, and the way to enslave them is to develope ever more individualized forms of entertainment. The motion picture in the first half of the twentieth century served to further inculcate the masses with the ideas that are promoted in public education and the church, the myths that further the aims of the corporate elite: competition, individuality, the other as enemy, the intellect as enemy, the unquestioned good of capitalism and the evil of socialism, and above all a zero-sum game mentality. Television in the second half of the twentieth century went a step further and was able to isolate family members within their own homes. Finally, the twenty-first century has seen this technique perfected through social media, smart phones and Internet streaming of content in order to completely isolate individuals from one another and render their potential political power inert.

But atomization and indoctrination still aren’t enough. The population also must be enervated to a significant degree by channeling their energies into manufactured conflicts in order to drain them of the ability to resist what is happening to them every moment of the day. The goal, from the perspective of the oligarchy, is to antagonize people, to get them to fight and argue with each other so that they will focus their energies and frustrations in combat with other individuals rather than against the true enemy: a capitalist system that keeps them enslaved to subsistence wages. From the very beginning of this country’s founding, the most effective method of doing this has been hatred for the “other.” Among whites themselves this was—and still is—accomplished through religious division, hatred for those who do not follow the same Protestant doctrine, primarily Catholics and Muslims. Once it became clear to the working poor, however, that it was the rich who were the enemy, the oligarchy changed tactics by promoting white solidarity against those of other races, Blacks, Asians, Native Americans, and all immigrants, from Black slaves initially, to the Catholic Irish and Italians and Hispanics, the “exotic” Asians, and finally the religious fanatics from the Middle East. This has been an extremely successful tactic, and while it has been transformed and refined over the centuries it is still a potent avenue of control. Anyone who looks different, who behaves differently, or thinks differently, is pointed to as an enemy of the people, responsible in whole or in part for all of society’s ills to distract people’s ire from those who are truly responsible. Most recently, this hatred of the other has been expertly inculcated into those with liberal leanings and has infected the left through the culture wars in a way that is now indistinguishable from the overt racism that has always infected the political right.

But perhaps the most effective method to control the masses has been through political theater—a redundant phrase if ever there was one. As I have stated before on this site, politics is a lie. There is no such thing as politics. The capitalist oligarchy has worked hand in hand with the government of the United States since the colonial period. Because the economy of the United States has become so conflated over the years with the government, the myth of capitalism has been able to argue that the government—and therefore the existence of the United States itself—is dependent upon capitalism for its very survival. Without capitalism, so the myth goes, America would cease to exist. Because of that, nothing—absolutely NOTHING—that happens in Washington D.C. is going to change the fact of corporate control of the government and by extension its citizens. Politicians, Senators and Representatives, Supreme Court justices, and even the President, are all employees of the oligarchy and therefore are only there to serve the constituents who pay them—not the citizens who vote for them. What we are seeing today is just the end game of a very long process, cultivated over centuries, and reaching its final, critical phase: either the citizens of the United States are going to wake up to the danger facing them, band together and resist, or they are going find themselves having capitulated without their knowledge to overt corporate control of the government and, by extension, every aspect of their lives.

The goal of the capitalist oligarchy is incredibly simple, and has only one tenet: to appropriate as much wealth as possible by stealing the energy and production of the masses. I realize that this probably sounds Marxist, but that’s only because it is. And, of course, Marxism has been branded as a godless evil in this country precisely because it flies in the face of everything the corporate elite are attempting to accomplish. The demonization of socialist philosophies has been incredibly easy to achieve, far easier than discrediting science has been, because economics has no laws, no process by which to demonstrate its truth. Therefore, capitalists have been able to take the facts and twist them to mean exactly what they want them to prove. This technique has worked so well that it is used in nearly every aspect of right-wing propaganda now, and the easiest way to describe it is projection. Capitalists argue that a free and unregulated economy is necessary in order to promote healthy economic competition. This is a lie, and in fact the opposite is true. What the lack of regulation allows corporations to do is to collude with one another, enabling them to fix prices and hold down wages. But by convincing an uneducated and isolated population with their noses pressed to their phones that any kind of cooperative economics is evil, the people inadvertently have colluded with their captors to reject the only way of life that promises them true economic stability and security. And now, because this technique has worked so well in the past, the right-wing uses the same tactic with everything. If you really want to know what the oligarchy is up to now, all you have to do is listen to what they say about the left. EVERYTHING they accuse the left of doing is a practice they are already engaged in today.

It’s not just about maximizing profit, either. Corporations pay almost no taxes, but that’s still too much. What they really want is to pay nothing. That is why taking over the government is so important to them. Wealthy individuals pay far less in taxes on a percentage basis than the working class, and yet what they really want is to pay no taxes at all. As such, right-wing propaganda would have us believe that taxes are a government plot to steal your money. Once again, projection. The tax cuts enacted by Republicans are aimed exclusively at the rich, and they do absolutely nothing to keep the working classes from paying a far greater share of their income in taxes than the wealthy. The capitalist oligarchy knows they need taxes from the rest of us to pay for their roads and bridges, airports and sea ports and everything from garbage men to the CDC. It’s just that they don’t want to pay for any of it themselves, and want you to pay for it instead. Republican senator Ron Johnson is a perfect case in point. When the seditious traitor who occupied the White House during the last administration led the call for a huge tax cut for the wealthy and corporations, Johnson made it clear to the Criminal in Chief and his Republican colleagues that he could not support such a measure . . . unless corporations that he was invested in personally were allowed even greater economic relief. Republicans gave in to his demands, and Johnson made millions, money that was siphoned off from the rightful coffers of the government and into the pockets of capitalist oligarchs and their corporate arms in order to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of the electorate. But this is nothing new, as it has been going on for centuries. The only difference today is that Democratic DINO’s like Manchin and Sinema have been allowed to infiltrate the left and openly flaunt the system in order to use the same destructive policies from the other side of the aisle.

The brutal reality is, the myths that corporations and the wealthy elite have created around socialism are all lies. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING that critics on the right warn about would ever, or will ever, happen under socialism. In the first place, the very idea that capitalism and socialism are mutually exclusive is another of the big lies that have been forced down the throat of the populace. In point of fact, there is nothing wrong with capitalism in the vast majority of cases. There’s no one who feels that shoe stores, or restaurants, or nail salons, or the corner coffee shop need to be government owned. The fact is, ninety-nine percent of existing businesses would—and should—continue to be privately owned and operated. There are others, however, the one percent, that absolutely need to be taken out of private hands and turned over to state control. Those industries are the ones that directly affect the personal health and wellbeing of the citizens of this country: healthcare, insurance, housing and, most importantly, energy, all of which need to be in the hands of the federal government rather than for-profit entities. The reason why is simple. These are the primary areas in human life, and corporations should not be incentivized to withhold these basic human needs in order to make money. Period.

The political right continually rails against government regulation, for the simple reason that anything that prevents them from making money is seen as evil. The corporate oligarchy wants to be free to collude together to give employees as little as possible in order to make as much money as possible for themselves. As such, it only makes sense that in order to make people’s lives better, MORE government control is necessary, primarily when it comes to employment. While Bernie Sanders and others on the progressive left laud the miniscule movements made by labor unions, the reality is that unions are fragile and ineffective at best, and completely impotent at worst. The goal of all working citizens of the United States needs to be the abolition of wage slavery. There needs to be direct government oversight and control over every aspect of employment of this country. That means that wages—across every single industry and business in the entire country—need to be set by the government at levels that allow for a COMFORTABLE living wage for all. Benefits also need to be standardized and regulated. Business needs to be out of the business of health care. Period. Employers need to be told what wages they have to pay their workers, and relieved off all responsibility for healthcare and other insurance.

Housing needs to be controlled by the government, too. No longer should anyone be at the mercy of landlords who can raise rents at their discretion, evict people without cause, and gouge renters through a multitude of fees and penalties that they are helpless to refuse. With energy regulated, people will have set energy costs that do no fluctuate during the year. Prices of consumer goods will also be fixed by the government so that the exact same produce will cost exactly the same no matter what state or community it is purchased in. Taxes will also be regulated so that EVERYONE in the country, rich and poor, large corporations or small businesses, will pay the same percentage of their GROSS income or GROSS revenue as every other. No loopholes and no exceptions. With the wealthy and corporations paying at the exact same rate as everyone else, the percentage for all will be relatively small. Every aspect of a worker’s life will be supported and sustained by a government that suddenly has absolutely no use for lobbyists, because the vast majority of laws passed by Congress will have nothing to do with economics. Republicans will scream at this idea—as will those who have been indoctrinated to believe the propaganda they are fed. They will say that the government’s track record is horrible. And they are right—but for the wrong reason.

The reason that the Federal Government appears so inept is because it has been designed that way. Those in control of the government WANT it to seem as if it can’t function effectively so that people will naturally be suspicious of any government control. It must be remembered, however, that it is those people working directly for the corporate oligarchy—the employees of capitalism—who are purposely making the government inefficient. At this very moment, the political right is also hard at work attempting to overtly subvert the will of the people at the ballot box so that they can stay in power and do the bidding of their capitalist employers. And while there is some pushback from states and individuals, it is a systematic campaign that must be defeated before it’s too late to do anything about it. The vast majority of those who vote for right-wing politicians do not benefit AT ALL from the policies they enact, and yet because they have been so thoroughly indoctrinated by the right, they willingly vote against their own personal self-interest every time they go to the ballot box. At this point in time, it is arguably true that nearly anyone who votes for a Republican politician is voting for their own slavery.

In 1858 Abraham Lincoln declared, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” That is the place we have come to in America today. As long as the corporate oligarchy continues to wield nearly absolute power in our federal and state governments, there will be no progress made for humanity. This country has the potential to become the most beneficent state in the entire world, one that takes care of its population, gives them a living wage, a secure future, and the FREEDOM from the wage slavery that has so infected our society that the people don’t even realize that’s what’s going on. Socialism is the only way out. If your response to the word “socialism” is negative, it’s for only one of two reasons. Either you are part of the problem, a cog in the wheel of the corporate oligarchy, someone who benefits from keeping wages low and employee insecurity high . . . or you have been so brainwashed by capitalism that you can’t see how much capitalism has destroyed our society and how much it wants to continue to do so. Freedom from government is not freedom at all, but instead is the opposite, because under our current system the only entities that are free are the capitalist ones. The rest of us have become slaves to an ideology that is completely false. And the only way to combat that control is to ban together and insist that the government, “of THE PEOPLE, by THE PEOPLE, and FOR THE PEOPLE,” begin working for us instead of against us. And the only way that will happen is if we demand, en masse, to get rid of wage slavery for all time and make all of our lives worth living in the process.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Aaron Rodgers is a Moron

I suppose it was inevitable, that any population within the United States today is going to reflect the attitudes of the population at large. As a result, there are bound to be morons in the NFL just as there are morons in the U.S. as a whole. And as if they needed any more evidence, the message to the anti-vax crowd should be obvious: if you don’t wear a mask and you don’t get vaccinated, you’re going to get Covid. Period. Not that I care a whit about their health or their moronic decisions. I don’t. I have absolutely no sympathy for those who flout the science and then catch the Coronavirus and die, because they did it to themselves. What angers me is that their moronic decisions put other people’s lives at risk. That, I do care about. But Aaron Rodgers is a special case. Whether on purpose or not, at least Kyrie Irving of the Nets had the self-respect, as well as respect for others, to announce his idiocy to the world and let others know that if they played basketball with him they were putting themselves at risk. And so the Nets organization did the responsible thing—even if it was mandated by the laws of New York—and told Irving that until he decided to get vaccinated he wouldn’t be playing. That places the ball, so to speak, firmly in his court. And yet, whether or not Irving is still just as moronic, things played out quite differently with Rodgers.

Instead of being honest, the Packers quarterback made the calculated decision last summer to lie to the public—and, one assumes, the other players in the locker room—by making the claim that he was vaccinated when he wasn’t. Oh, sure, he didn’t use the word “vaccinated,” but that’s precisely what makes his lie so obvious. No one who watches that press conference can come away with any other conclusion. When asked if he was “vaccinated” Rodgers slipped in the word “immunized” and then continued on with the rest of the briefing as if he had used the word “vaccinated.” It was calculated deception and it worked. That is, it worked until he contracted Covid. As of course he was always going to, because the moron is unvaccinated! It doesn’t matter how much horse de-wormer or anti-malaria medication a person ingests, it’s not going to keep them from getting the Coronavirus any more than injecting themselves with bleach. Polio and small pox have been irradicated in the U.S. because of vaccines. And yet, unfortunately, measles and whooping cough are still with us because of anti-vaccination imbeciles like Rodgers. If proving to the world how stupid he is is more important to Kyrie Irving than playing basketball, then so be it. But the same should be true in the NFL, regardless of the city that the team is in. If players like Rodgers don’t want to be vaccinated, then so be it. But they should also have to sit their ass on the couch on Sundays just like the rest of us.

Anti-vaxers are always on about “personal choice” and “personal freedom.” But the point that has been made continuously since the pandemic began is that a person’s individual freedom ends at the point that it puts others at risk. The boneheaded anti-intellectualism of people like Rodgers has never been clearer than it has been during the pandemic. While they cry and whine and complain about the imposition on their freedoms of having to be vaccinated and wear masks in public, they seem absolutely clueless about their imposition on the freedom of others not to be put at risk by their foolish decision to ignore the science. Of course, the Packers organization is as much to blame as Rodgers—their only concern, just as with State Farm, is money—but that’s another subject for another time. Arron Rodgers purposefully lied about his vaccination status, and put not only his teammates—who quite possibly may have known—but the rest of the players and staffs he played against, as well as fans who attended the games, none of whom could possibly have known, at risk because he is too stupid to understand that people have an obligation in a free society to consider the results their actions have on others before they act. Rodgers knew exactly what he was doing, and should be made to pay the price by being barred from the workplace, and the salary that goes along with it, until he has been vaccinated, just like Kyrie Irving . . . and just like the rest of us.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The Beatles: the Biography

by Bob Spitz

First published by author Bob Spitz in 2005, his book on the Beatles would be more appropriately subtitled “a biography.” I wasn’t properly introduced to the Beatles’ music until 1981, though I actually remember watching the Beatles cartoon show as a little kid in the late sixties. In the seventies I only heard their hits on the radio during the oldies program on my local Top 40 radio station, and I was intimately familiar with a few of their later songs like “Hey Jude,” because it was on a couple of jazz fusion albums I owned, and “Got to Get You Into My Life,” which was released as a single in 1976 to support the Rock and Roll Music greatest hits package and was given frequent radio airplay. But it wasn’t until I was out of high school and playing music professionally that the bass player in the band I was in loaned me all of his Capitol LPs because one of the songs we played in the band, “I’ll Cry Instead,” absolutely fascinated me. Well, that was all it took. The Beatles instantly became one of the few bands where I liked almost every single song they had recorded—Steely Dan and America are the only other two that come to mind. As far as I’m concerned, they are the most consequential and influentially important band of the 20th century. Further, I would go so far as to say they are the greatest pop/rock group in history.

A couple years later I began purchasing books on the band and devoured them. I read Philip Norman’s Shout!, which I enjoyed tremendously, but couldn’t really get into the Hunter Davies’ biography because it seemed like a PR piece, more fluff than substance. I was far more captivated by the inside stories, like Peter Brown’s The Love You Make, and especially George Martin’s All You Need is Ears. The later was absolutely fascinating because it focused so much on the music. And I even found Mark Lewisohn’s detailed Complete Beatles Recording Sessions an absolute page-turner, though there was no narrative thread at all, again because of the emphasis on the music. In subsequent decades I did very little reading on the group, however, and was instead content to listen to the music—especially after the Capitol LP box sets came out and I could hear the music as I first remembered listening to it. They are still my preferred mixes and track arrangements. So in 2005, when Spitz published his new biography of the group, I immediately bought the hardback and waited for the perfect opportunity to read it. My assumption was that the 856-page book would finally be the definitive biography of the group and I wanted to savor every page. Well, it took fifteen years, but I finally managed to make the time to read it, and all I can say is that it was decidedly not worth the wait.

One of the things I hadn’t been conscious of when I read Philip Norman’s book in 1985 was the particular bias that the biography had. But since it was really the only complete story up to that point—like my VHS copy of The Compleat Beatles prior to the Anthology—as a beggar, I wasn’t in any position to be a chooser. Author Erin Weber gives a nice rundown of the problems with most Beatles narratives in her book The Beatles and the Historians, which she divides into three categories: 1. The Fab Four narrative, which is where the Hunter Davies’ book firmly resides. 2. The Lennon Remembers narrative promoted by Rolling Stone, which is similar to the cult of Miles Davis and John Coltrane in jazz histories in that the story slants so heavily in their direction that there’s little room for anything else. And 3. the Shout! narrative, which I consider a subset of the second category because it makes Paul responsible for every negative thing that ever happened to the group. Well, Spitz’s book lands squarely in the Lennon Remembers category because of how heavily he emphasizes John Lennon to the detriment of the other three members of the band. It doesn’t take long for the reader to figure this out, even in the Liverpool section. If I were to roughly divide the entire book strictly in terms of content, Lennon gets about 50 percent, McCartney 35 percent, Harrison 10 percent, and Starr a paltry 5 percent.

There are long, lavishly detailed sections in the book about everything John does, about his school, his friends, his family, his drug use, and his relationships, first with Cynthia and then Yoko. Jane Asher, on the other hand, though she was Paul’s primary girlfriend during most of those years, barely gets a page. Pattie Harrison gets a single sentence saying that George was able to get her a bit part in A Hard Day’s Night, and Maureen Starky . . . nothing. The reader has absolutely no idea who she is or how she met Ringo. At first it’s a bit shocking, but by the halfway point in the book it’s so disappointing that it makes it difficult to plow through the rest of it. Similarly, the stages of the band’s history are equally uneven. The pre-fame Liverpool history nets an entire third of the book’s length. Then, as they become increasingly famous—and their story increasingly more interesting—Spitz spends less and less time on each subsequent year, until the end of the book rushes to a close, as if the author had been working on a deadline and had to summarize the final years of the group’s existence rather than write about it in any depth. The longer one reads, the more one has the sensation that a lot more was left out of this version of the story than what remains between the covers. Though it doesn’t seem possible, Spitz actually manages to make the story of the most fascinating music group of the rock era boring.

By far the most egregious flaw in the book, however, is the short shrift that Spitz gives to the music. He uses lots of flowery adjectives to describe the music that provide absolutely nothing to the reader in the way of insight or appreciation for either the writing of the songs or the recording of them. But in a way that particular flaw makes sense, as there are major gaffs throughout the book that expose the fact that Spitz has almost no understanding of music at all. Just a couple of examples will suffice. In one section early on, about John and Paul writing songs together, Spitz states that the two were especially conscious about attempting to write a clever “middle eight” for each of their tunes. Then, as a knowing aside, the author tells the reader that what the two songwriters actually meant by the middle eight of a song was the “chorus.” Wrong. Unbelievably wrong. The middle eight of a song is called the bridge, not the chorus. And there are other, less maddeningly stupid, but just as irritating musical errors, like when Spitz states that the solo instrument on “Fool on the Hill” is a flute, when it’s actually a recorder. This is so unfortunate, because the music is finally the point. It’s the reason for Beatlemania, not the other way around. The Beatles’ melodic and harmonic sophistication as a group was light years ahead of any other recording act in the sixties—and even the individual members in the decade that followed. And their execution of that material in the studio was also unmatched. But that wouldn’t be apparent from reading this book, as a ten times more space is devoted to Brian Epstein than to George Martin.

The Beatles: the Biography is simply not a very good book, no matter how one looks at it. Spitz has been commended for conducting a bunch of new interviews, which did have a lot of potential, but then used those sources in a very uninspired manner. And while quotes by the actual Beatles are sprinkled throughout—from extant sources—it only serves to make the paucity of more unique interview material by them all the more noticeable. Even when he does use Beatle quotes it’s to poor effect, as they almost never add anything substantive to the story and therefore feel unnecessary, as if he wasn’t really able to discern which Beatle quotes were important and which weren’t—then went ahead and chose the latter. It’s a shame, because Mark Lewisohn’s first volume of the absolutely definitive biography of the Beatles, Tune In, only reaches the year 1962, and on the author’s website he says that the second volume won’t be out until at least 2023. That biography, however, will be well worth the wait. In the meantime, Spitz is what Beatle fans are stuck with. Though honestly, for all its overt bias and fictionalized history, Philip Norman’s book is a much more entertaining read. My suggestion to Beatle fans is to acquire books by participants like Peter Brown, Derek Taylor, George Martin, Geoff Emerick and the like, and those specifically about the music like A Day In The Life and All The Songs, and forgo Spitz’s biography completely in favor of Mark Lewisohn’s infinitely more satisfying approach.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Big Lie

The fact that this country has endured—and successfully removed—a chief executive who lied to the people over 30,000 times during his four years in office, an average of over twenty lies per day, is reason to celebrate. But the stain on our democracy represented by the previous administration is only a symptom of a disease that will not be cured simply by changing our brand of executives. Unfortunately, the previous fascist presidency is not the worst that America has endured in this respect, and is still being forced to endure, even after the inauguration of President Joe Biden. While the Big Lie has resided in the Oval Office every four years for at least the last hundred and seventy years, and may to some extend reside there even now, the Big Lie’s home is really in the Congress. This should be clear to anyone who pays attention to what is going on the Capitol, because the insurrection there on January 6th was only the most obvious manifestation of a more subtle and insidious insurrection that has been going on ever since the end of the Civil War and continues to threaten our republic up to this very moment: the Big Lie.

The first thing to understand about the Big Lie is the way that it is perpetuated. An interview that Fox News did on inauguration day with Karl Rove is a perfect case in point. The goal of Fox News is to promote an alternate reality to its viewers, and after President Biden’s inauguration speech one of the anchors on the network expressed his disappointment at the way the president had accurately assessed the dire situation in our country. “Why do you think they’re talking everything down?” This is an absolutely ludicrous question to ask because things in this country are objectively bad; they are empirically bad; they are demonstrably bad. And the reason they are bad is due entirely to the abject failure of the previous president and his administration to do anything to stop it from becoming that way. The previous president did absolutely nothing to address the pandemic and the attendant economic collapse that resulted from his own inaction. The reason President Biden was “talking everything down,” was because it is down, and it was the failure of the previous president that made it that way. That’s why the citizens voted him out of office. Karl Rove’s response?

          Well, part of it is to lower expectations. The economy is really bad, Covid’s all screwed up, it’s all
          bungled, you know. It’s gonna be really hard to get these things fixed. And then as people get their
          vaccinations and the economy begins to rebound as a result of it being opened up, they can say,
          “Look at us. Didn’t we do a great job?”

Uh . . . yeah, they can. And yes, they will have deserved every bit of that recognition because of the economic and pestilential wasteland the previous president turned the country into. If President Biden can manage to reverse the disaster wrought by the most blatant criminal ever to occupy the White House, he will deserve all of that praise and much, much more.

What Rove seems to be doing here is trying to shift the blame to the Biden administration for the disaster that the previous administration created—the very same thing the right did after Obama took over during the cratered economy of the Great Recession that had been brought about by the Bush administration, one that Rove himself participated in—implying that Biden shouldn’t be able to take credit for his success because somehow he must have been responsible for it in the first place. But Rove doesn’t dwell on that talking point because, were anyone to even think about it for a second they would realize he actually has no point. His comment simply sounds negative, and conveys the connotation that something is not quite right with the new administration if they claim success for cleaning up the mess that the country is in, when in fact it was the previous administration that was responsible for setting the height of those “expectations” by kicking them to the ground. Though Rove’s clear implication here is that President Biden and his administration for some reason should not deserve that praise, he can’t dwell on the point because the idea is demonstrably false.

From there Rove moves over immediately to the Big Lie, the falsehood that has been undermining the success of this country for hundreds of years. And I’m not talking about the success of the rich. I’m talking about the promise of this country that has never been realized, ever, in its two hundred and forty four year history, and that is the commitment to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for ALL of its citizens. This is Rove’s next comment:

          I thought it was a good speech. It wasn’t a great speech but it was a good speech, and it was the
          right speech for the moment. But there was a point in there where he said we’re divided as a country
          between the people in the country who believe in the American ideal, and [the people who believe in]
          racism, nativism, and fear. No, no, no. We’re divided as a country politically over questions of policy
          and direction and respect.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the Big Lie. That is the lie that has kept ninety-nine percent of us in bondage to wage slavery for hundreds of years, and distracts us from understanding what is truly going on in our government because those who perpetuation the Big Lie don’t want us to know.

When Rove says that this country is divided politically, he is lying. What the citizens of this country have yet to figure out is that politics is not an end in itself. It is not a self-contained, closed system. Politics in a republic, especially a representative democracy, is all about constituency. It is about the people who are represented by politicians, not the politicians themselves. Politics as it is practiced in America has absolutely nothing to do with “policy and direction and respect.” It is about the needs of constituents, pure and simple, and how the politicians elected by those constituents can best deliver to their supporters the things they desire to meet their needs. In order to understand politics in the United States it is imperative that people look beyond the politicians to see who they actually represent.

The problem for most of us is that we can’t seem to do that. Just one example of this phenomenon can be seen in an interview with a pop music star from the mid nineteen sixties, well before he scared the skirt off of J. Edgar Hoover when he became radicalized in the seventies. John Lennon had begun to grasp the primary elements of the Big Lie when he spoke to journalist Ray Coleman way back in 1966.

          The trouble with government as it is that it doesn’t represent the people. It controls them. All they
          seem to want to do—the people who run the country—is keep themselves in power and stop us
          knowing what’s going on. The motto seems to be: “Keep the people happy with a few (cigarettes)
          and beer and they won't ask any questions.” . . . It would be good if more people started realizing
          the difference between political propaganda and the truth . . .

So far, so good. Lennon has identified that the government doesn’t represent the people but instead controls them. They do this through a coordinated campaign of distraction—cigarettes and beer in his day, entertainment and social media today. But then he hits an intellectual wall, as most people do when attempting to discern the real forces at work:

          We’re being conned into thinking everything’s okay, but all these bloody politicians seem the same
          to me. All they can talk about is the economy and that. What about people, and freedom? These
          things that matter more don’t seem to worry them.

That’s because the politicians aren’t the real problem. Lennon comes incredibly close to understanding the truth, but then mistakenly winds up blaming it on the politicians themselves. “From what you hear, none of the politicians has any intention of giving ordinary people complete freedom. Just keep them down—that’s all they really want.” And as a result, he’s forced to admit that, “I’m not suggesting I know what the answer is—I just know there’s something wrong with the present way of governing the country.” The reason he doesn’t know the answer is that he’s looking for it in the wrong place.

So, what is the answer to combating the Big Lie? The first step is to understand exactly who the constituents of our politicians really are. They are the wealthy elite, a corporate oligarchy that donates heavily to both Republican and Democratic political campaigns in order that those politicians will secure their interests in Congress. Then, to ensure compliance with their agenda, they hire lobbyists to make direct payments—as indirectly as possible to avoid overtly breaking the law—to these politicians in order to make sure they are working for the interests of the oligarchy. Those payments don’t have to be money, and they don’t have to be paid immediately. One of the most lucrative bribes that politicians frequently accept is the assurance of a job as a lobbyist themselves once they are out of office. This is precisely what happened to the Democrat that New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated in 2018, Joe Crowley, a 10-term congressman and the Democratic Caucus Chair. A year after his ignominious defeat he went right to work for the largest lobbying firm in Washington, and in doing so exchanged his paltry $174,000 salary as a politician for a salary that is potentially worth millions. The true enemies of the state are those who want to use the mechanism of the state to make themselves ever richer by denying opportunity and security to those on whose backs their wealth is created. The brutal truth of the way the government of the United States is run is that politicians are employees, and Americans are never going to get anywhere until they stop yelling at the employees and start asking to see the owner.

What makes this task so difficult is the massive—and quite effective—campaign of misdirection funded by the corporate oligarchy. Their primary tool in this regard is the media, right wing and left wing alike. Watch any corporate-owned media outlet when they attempt to report on the workings of the government and you will see that they focus almost exclusively on politics. For the right-wing organizations like Fox, this is all they report. Left-wing sources like MSNBC will sometimes report on the regularity of former Congressional politicians who take jobs as lobbyists, or the travesty of judicial rulings like Citizens United, or the influence of big money on politics. But the infrequency of that kind of reporting only serves to emphasize the importance of the relatively unimportant majority of the reporting that focuses on political struggles within the House and Senate, and between the Congress and the White House. The biggest obstruction in the Congress to democratic reform is not Mitch McConnell . . . it’s the Koch brothers. But watching mainstream media, that’s not readily apparent. McConnell—and Cruz, and Hawley, and Tuberville, and the rest of the fascist Gilligan’s Island castaways who attempted to block the counting of electoral votes even after the armed insurrection of the Capitol by Maga-ites (pronounced “maggots”)—is an employee of the corporate oligarchy and, like the soldiers of the SS, he’s just following orders.

Corporate controlled right wing propaganda has effectively neutralized a vast swath of the electorate who have been brainwashed into believing that government is bad, that taxes are bad, that programs from which they themselves benefit—like Medicare and Social Security—are bad, and that Democrats are evil socialists who want to destroy our capitalist way of life—even though only a small percentage of Republican voters even make enough money to benefit from austerity politics. But voters on the left are not immune to the lure of political struggle as entertainment that misdirects their attention away from the corporate oligarchy to meaningless political battles by combatants who are all essentially on the same side. One of the most idiotic statements made last summer in the midst of the peaceful protests in the wake of the George Floyd murder and others, came from Joe Rogan. When he learned that protesters in Seattle were demonstrating in front of the house—or one of them, at any rate—of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, he mused aloud as to why they would be doing that. What does Amazon have to do with anything? This is the problem for many on the left, a completely different kind of brainwashing. Systemic racism does not exist in a vacuum—hence the adjective “systemic.” That is why protests in Portland have continued even after the Biden inauguration, because politics is not the problem, the corporate oligarchy is.

The most recent example of this truth is the phony moratorium on political donations in the wake of the Capitol insurrection. After January 6th many corporations announced that they were going to temporarily postpone political donations, not just to the supporters of the insurrection like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, but to politicians in both parties. The reason for this nakedly disingenuous move is clear. By halting donations only to those actually responsible for aiding and abetting the insurrection, Senate and Congressional Republicans, it would necessitate that some action be taken to hold those politicians accountable for their reprehensible actions before the resumption of donations could begin again. But by halting donations to both parties, it allows those corporations to make a token expression of disapproval, and then at some later date resume donations to both parties without requiring any consequences be administered to those traitorous Republicans who continue to shamelessly remain in office. This should not be a surprise to anyone. It is those very politicians that have prompted this faux outrage on the part of corporations who are the employees of the corporate oligarchy, and who have enacted the very legislation that facilitated—as well as obstructing legislation that might hinder—their employer’s ability to increase their net wealth by $931 billion during the Covid-19 pandemic at the same time that more than ten million Americans have lost their jobs.

The right loves to parrot phrases from civics class to the effect that politicians work for the people, that they act at the behest of the citizens who voted for them, that they are only carrying out the will of their base of supporters. This is a lie. Federal politicians, both Democrat and Republican, work for their employers, the donor class that funds their campaigns, that lines their pockets, and that rewards their loyal service with golden parachutes once the actual citizens have finally had enough of their lies and shameless greed. That is what finally happened in the Georgia senatorial runoff, and while it is a hopeful sign of things to come it may only wind up being an isolated instance because of the inability of the electorate to stay focused on the real enemy. Again, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are merely employees, working at the behest of their corporate donors, but it only muddies the waters to focus on the fact that they are also wealthy. They, just as other rich politicians like Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney, all benefit from the tax breaks and deregulations they sponsor, granted, but they are not doing this work for themselves alone. They work for other, much wealthier employers, their real constituents.

By distracting the electorate with politics, however, and stoking the flames of discontent by emphasizing the meaningless goals of “policy and direction and respect,” the corporate oligarchy keeps people from going after those who are truly responsible for the miserable state of this country for the vast majority of its citizens. Jeff Bezos and others like him are the modern day equivalent of slave planation owners and later industrialist robber barons. They are able to pay slave wages because if a person can’t, or won’t, work for the pittance they offer there are hundreds of other desperate people willing to take their place. And if wealthy elites can keep people zoned out on the “cigarettes and beer” of today, sports, entertainment, social media and politics, then those people cease to be a threat to their financial insurrection against the U.S. Those they can’t placate with mindless obsession they can misdirect by pitting them against each other, either literally through the perpetuation of racism, classism, sexism, and identity politics, or through their proxies in the federal government. Even independent left wing commentators like David Dole, Sam Seder and David Pakman continue to get bogged down in political conflict instead of emphasizing all along the way what the actual conflict is. Brilliant books have been written exposing the true nature of the struggle, like Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains and One Nation Under God by Kevin M. Kruse, and then nothing happens. Events like Occupy Wall Street during the Obama administration tend to remain isolated and are then marginalized and eventually forgotten as the oligarchy continue their own march to occupy the U.S. government and legislate the rest of us into an existence that is nearly all “pursuit” and no “happiness.”

The Big Lie is that politics has anything to do with this. In the coming months and years the Biden administration will do battle with the Republicans in the Senate. Little will actually be accomplished, though the vaccination rollout will no doubt continue to be administered by the desperately overburdened states. As a result, the Republicans may win back the Senate in 2022 and continue to aid the oligarchy in obstructing any legislation that could help working class voters in both parties. They may even win back the White House in 2024. And then the whole thing will start all over again as the political pendulum continues to swing back and forth. But none of this will have anything to do with who is pulling the strings, who is actually manipulating the way the issues are framed. Politics is a symptom, not the cause. This country is not divided of its own accord. It has been divided purposely, a rift manufactured by a wealthy elite intent on exploiting that artificial division as a way of keeping the citizens of this country fighting against each other rather than the real criminals in our midst. We have not simply become a country of haves and have nots, devolving into economic divide that we cannot control or understand, helpless victims of the hand of fate. No, we have been played—and are still being played—by those who have only increased their wealth during this most recent economic downturn, because they have actively created the very system that allows them to do so. And until we really begin to fully grasp the true nature of the problem we will continue to be duped by the Big Lie.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

We Don't Have To Win Today

When I was a public school teacher I was given one of the best pieces of advice in my entire career during my first year of teaching. I had already endured a frustrating couple of months in a mostly rural community school that was vastly different from the well-heeled urban high school I had done my student teaching in, when the staff was given a presentation by a local law enforcement officer. What he told us was essentially this. When you have a conflict with a student who is acting inappropriately or violating school policy, do what you can to mitigate the damage in the moment but don’t attempt to completely resolve the situation right then. Tempers may be raised, and confrontation may do more harm than good. While it may be difficult to leave things unresolved for the time being, the officer explained to us, especially if the student thinks they’ve triumphed or gotten away with something, the thing to always keep in mind is that you’ve already won. Simply by virtue of the fact that you are the teacher and the students are the violators, you have already won. The key to any confrontation in public school, he told us, is to always remember that you don’t have to win today. The advice was transformative. As a teacher the policies of the school, and even state law, were on my side. In any confrontation with a student violating those policies or laws, therefore, I had already won, and I could rest easy as I filled out a discipline referral or reported the student to the administration later because . . . I didn’t have to win today.

Something similar is going on in Washington D.C. at the moment, in the wake of the deadly and unprecedented armed insurrection of the Capitol Building on Wednesday. In the discussion about the relative effectiveness of proceeding with another impeachment of the president, many people are unaware of the full scope of this act and what it means for the country in the long term. While the justification for the immediate move to impeach the president a second time is obviously with an eye to removing a dangerously unhinged man from office, it’s also important to remember that we don’t have to win today. While removing the president from office as soon as possible is an absolute necessity, there is also the time consideration to deal with. He will be gone by law in less than two weeks, and so it may be difficult to achieve the desired results before then. As such, many people are rightly uncertain about the efficacy of proceeding with the impeachment if it may only result in removing him from office a few days early, or perhaps not at all before he is required to leave on January 20th. President Elect Biden appears to be thinking the same way. But there are other reasons to proceed immediately with articles of impeachment, no matter how long it takes, and even if the entire process cannot be completed before inauguration day.

The first important reason is that the impeachment will also be a referendum on Republican complicity in the most corrupt and undemocratic administration in the history of the United States. The vote in the House of Representatives to approve the articles of impeachment will force House Republicans to either vote for democracy and the American people, or to continue to side with a fascist tyrant who has wantonly incited an insurrection against his own country. The vote in the Senate to convict or acquit the president will do the same thing for Senate Republicans. This is a vote that should define their entire careers and provide ample evidence of their lack of fitness to hold public office in the future if they vote against democracy and against the very people they have been entrusted with representing. And while it's doubtful Mitch McConnell would ever bring it to the floor of the Senate, he won't be in control much longer either. The second reason for proceeding immediately with impeachment is actually not about removing the president from office, as important as that is. What many people in the media and throughout the country don’t seem to realize is that the other penalty for impeachment is to disqualify the president from ever holding public office again. This is the real and lasting benefit of impeaching him again because it will forever silence the specter of further attempts by him to overthrow democracy in America. What’s also important to understand is that the proceedings do not require that he still be in office. Even if he were to resign, the impeachment can continue and he can be prevented from ever holding office again. We have already won; the president has been voted out of office. But there also MUST be consequences for his treasonous, anti-democratic actions. The thing to keep in mind, however, is that we don’t have to win today.

This is also true when it comes to the president and his crime family operations. There has been so much talk in the media about the Department of Justice memo that suggests a sitting president should not be investigated or indicted for wrongdoing. And at the same time, there has been ongoing speculation about the possibility that the president will attempt to pardon himself. These two things taken together, and especially the way that they generally have been reported in the media, have been understandably frustrating to the majority of the electorate who sees this as a technicality that may allow a thoroughly corrupt president to avoid the punishment he has only brought upon himself and so richly deserves. But there are two aspects of this narrative that need to be articulated better—and hopefully emphasized much more by the media in the coming days. First, presidential pardons are only valid for federal crimes. Even were a presidential self-pardon to survive legal challenges, the president is still in violation of numerous state crimes. And for those, a presidential pardon would do him absolutely no good. The president’s most recent violation of election laws in Georgia and his ongoing illegal financial activities in New York are just the most high profile of his state crimes. It’s almost certain that many more charges will be filed in other states the moment he leaves office.

But while the president’s inability to avoid state prosecution has been reported by the media, what isn’t generally talked about is the complete context surrounding self-pardon. What reporters and commentators typically focus on is that there is nothing specifically in the Constitution to prohibit a president from pardoning him or herself, which means this president will absolutely attempt it. That said, however, what is almost never mentioned in these discussions is that very memo from the Department of Justice which states that the president should not be indicted while in office. Because further along in the memo it states quite unequivocally that while the DOJ should leave the president unmolested while in office, the trade off for doing so is that he is not allowed to pardon himself. So, while it is an absolute certainty that the president will pardon his crime family and himself before he leaves office, those pardons will not protect his family or himself from prosecution at the state level, and further, the president himself will certainly not be able to avoid eventual federal prosecution because his self-pardon will never be upheld legally in light of the DOJ memo.

What all of this means is that the forty-fifth President of the United States will almost certainly be convicted of numerous crimes at the state and federal level. It won’t happen immediately, but then it doesn’t have to. Time is on our side. This also explains the itinerary that the president had planed months ago that included a trip on Air Force Two to Scotland on January 19th. That’s right, the president had planned on heading to his resort in Scotland on the day before the inauguration, conveniently placing him on foreign soil when his term of office expired. Fortunately, Scottish authorities have denied his request to enter their country. While they cited Covid-19 restrictions as the reason, it also seems fairly clear that they have no intention of welcoming a fugitive from justice. But while the president has been blocked from going to Scotland, there are many other foreign countries that may be more amenable to harboring a wanted criminal. The president has already made it clear he will not be present at Joe Biden’s inauguration, but he hasn’t said where he will be on that day. With any luck he will flee the country and thereby tacitly admit his guilt once and for all to his followers. And with even more luck he will be extradited back to the U.S. to be held accountable for his numerous criminal acts against the United States and its citizens and spend his final days in prison. To accomplish this, the impeachment is a necessary first step. We just need to be patient.

Like Al Capone, or O.J. Simpson—who eventually did go to prison, just not for their actual crimes—it may not be as satisfying as seeing the Capitol Police walk into the Oval Office and haul the president out in handcuffs while the Secret Service looks at the warrant for his arrest and shrugs, but I believe that American justice will finally win out in the end. The weak willed vice president is never going to agree to invoke the 25 Amendment. Nor is the president’s amoral cabinet—who choose to avoid the West Wing these days rather than confront the catastrophe that they helped create—going to do anything to hasten his removal. Instead it is the people, through their chosen representatives in the United States Congress, who need to move forward and impeach the president with all deliberate speed. While he will certainly be impeached by the house, the impeachent may not make it to the Senate until well after Joe Biden tkes office, in order to guarantee his conviction and disqualify him from public office. And that's okay. While the president is a criminal who must be removed from office as soon as possible, that soon as possible may only turn out to be on January 20th. Thus it’s important to keep in mind that we’ve already won; it's just the punishment that will come later. He will, in fact, be gone in a few days, and will most likely end up in jail or as a fugitive, which means we’ve already won. We just need to remember that we don’t need to win today.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Grifter In Chief

Shortly after the election of Joe Biden to the highest office in the land, the lame-duck president set in motion the last great con of his administration: stealing as much money as he can from his own supporters before being forced to leave office. The idea was to claim that the election had been stolen from him, then inundate the courts with a barrage of baseless lawsuits designed to subvert the will of the people, and make the people pay for it. But almost as soon as the website went up and the emails were sent out demanding that his supporters foot the bill for these legal challenges, astute reporters read the fine print and saw that the money was actually going to two places, the president himself—not the legal fund—and the Republican National Committee. This was reported on by all of the major media outlets in the second week of November, with articles like this one on MSNBC: “For Trump, One Last Fundraising Scam Before Leaving Office.” Likewise, in the Washington Post an editorial headline read, “Trump’s Election Challenge Looks Like a Scam to Line His Pockets.” Politico as well, in an article by Maggie Severns entitled “Where Trump’s Recount Fundraising Dollars are Really Going,” made it clear exactly what the true nature of this scam actually is:

          Much of the money raised by . . . the Trump campaign won’t go towards challenging election results,
          however, but to help set the stage for the president’s next act. The Trump campaign has a recount
          fund, but the money won’t go to it unless someone gives more than $8,333. Rather, 60 percent of a
          donation up to that amount for Trump’s “Official Election Defense Fund” is routed to a new PAC started
          this week by the president that can pay for a wide range of activities . . . The remaining 40 percent
          goes to the Republican National Committee.

All of the mainstream newspapers and on-air personalities covered this story at the time, and it should have been the foundation for all of the reporting that has happened in the last month since. Instead, the media has moved on to a different narrative. The hosts of news shows now discuss the intricacies of the legal challenges—even though all of those legal suits have been entirely baseless and without a shred of evidence—and the wrangling between the president and the individual state legislatures, election offices, and governors, all illegal activities, it should be pointed out, but rarely is. There is also much pointless hand wringing about what this means for the country, when that is not the point of these activities at all. In speaking about the plethora of court cases being summarily dismissed or withdrawn, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, on MSNBC, put the situation this way: “Trump and his allies aren’t filing these cases because they believe he won the election. They’re not trying to reverse the results in any meaningful way.” True, very true. But it’s then that Vance goes off the rails. “What they’re seeking to do is to undermine the integrity of our elections, to cast doubt in the minds of so many American people that the future of our elections is really in doubt.”

No, no, no, no, no!

That is absolutely NOT what is going on right now. The president does not have a plan and he does not have a grand strategy, for the simple fact that he does not have a brain in his head. He’s a functionally illiterate narcissist who can’t even get out of his own way long enough to succeed at his own criminal undertakings. Sure, he can say the words on a teleprompter, but don’t ask him what they actually mean because he doesn’t know. The only way he can make sense of the President’s Daily Brief is if it’s in comic book form—with the words redacted so they don’t confuse him. Attempting to ascribe some kind of Machiavellian scheme to his actions is tantamount to claiming Jaws had a personal vendetta against the Brody family. A shark is fish with a tiny brain that has no way of distinguishing between the kicking feet of individual humans in the water, much less the humans themselves. And the president’s brain is nowhere near that complex. The president has already scammed over 200 million dollars from his supporters through the election defense fund, and so there’s no way he’s going to give up that pipeline of free cash by conceding the election, ever. He is a common criminal—very common indeed—and the only thing that animates his every activity is how he can enrich himself. Period. There is no other motive. The president said as much in his recent rally in Georgia, which was ostensibly for getting out the vote in the state runoff for two crucial Senate seats, but as with everything else was really only about him: “You know, I don’t do these things for other people . . . I don’t like doing it for other people.”

Of course not. The president has absolutely no concern for anyone but himself. His sociopathic response to the Covid-19 pandemic is only the most obvious case in point. Not only did he ignore warnings about the deadly epidemic early this year, but purposely downplayed it with the public. Then, when he was proven wrong about the true virulence of the virus he doubled down and said people should not wear masks, and so as part of the 296,000 deaths so far—and still climbing—that he is directly responsible for, are the over seven hundred deaths of the supporters at his mask-less rallies in which he should rightly be charged with manslaughter. It would not in any way be out of line or unrealistic to suggest that the reason the president refused more doses of the vaccine from Pfizer last summer is because they weren’t willing to give him a big enough kickback. So he thought he’d try his luck with other pharmaceutical companies also working on a vaccine. None of what the president has done in the last four years—NONE of it, including what has transpired in the last month—is out of character for a man who has been such an abject failure in business that the only way he can actually make any money is to steal it from other people.

The two commentators who consistently seem to focus on the president’s criminal activities with any regularity are the independent Keith Olbermann and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who said the other day that despite all of the attempts to overturn the election results that people shouldn’t loose site of the “crimey things” the president is doing. What Maddow—and the rest of the news media, it seems—cannot seem to stay focused on is that IT'S ALL CRIMEY. That’s right. The only thing the president knows how to do is lie, cheat, swindle and steal, all day, every day. This latest escapade is nothing but the next chapter in the long con he is playing on the American people, the Republican Party, and his anti-intellectual followers. This president is the most repugnant human being ever to hold office in the U.S. government, and that’s saying something for a political party that also boasts the likes of Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio among its membership. But the mainstream media cannot seem to keep their focus on what really matters in these remaining few weeks, that the president is a criminal, and therefore everything he does is simply a part of his criminal operation.

No doubt the president will announce his intention to run for re-election at some inopportune moment, perhaps on January 20th, and perhaps timing the announcement to occur at the very moment when Joe Biden is being sworn in as a genuine president. When it happens, however, is less certain than the fact that it definitely will happen. Why? Again, for only one reason. This will allow him to continue to raise money from his clueless base after he is gone from the White House, from people who can ill afford to be sending their hard earned money to a grifter. His re-election organization will then allow him to keep on stealing a steady stream of cash from the electorate for his personal use for years. That’s right, every time he takes a trip somewhere his plane fare will be paid out of campaign funds. Every time he stays at a hotel it will be paid for with campaign dollars. He will argue that everything he does for the next four years and beyond is part of one endless presidential run and therefore he will be able to live off of the money he steals from the working class people he has duped into believe he cares for, despite the fact that he has no more concern for them than he does for the women he has sexually abused, the undocumented immigrant children he has caged, the non-violent protestors he has violently attacked, or the hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens that he has killed through his criminal negligence.

The current president of the United States is a sociopathic criminal and a con man, and the only hope of restoring the confidence of the people in the office of the president is if individual states’ attorney’s general and city district attorneys open numerous investigations next year into all of the illegal activities of the president’s crime family operations, then take the president and his family to court, and eventually put them all behind bars where they belong. Keith Olbermann, bless his heart, seems to be the only political commentator with his eyes on the prize, continually pointing out the president’s many crimes, as well as the crimes of his family and associates, and the specific laws they have broken. And in doing so he unambiguously advocates for the vigorous prosecution of these un-convicted felons. But for them to actually be convicted, the rest of the news media need to stay focused on what the president really is, and what his only goal is: a continued and concentrated effort to subvert the laws of this country for his own benefit. Nothing President Joe Biden does in the next four years will be able to bring this country together if a known criminal is able to roam free and continue his blatant illegal behavior without any consequences. The only thing that will wake up his brainwashed followers to the fact that he is not above the law is if he is finally put in jail. And for that to happen the media needs to fulfill its duty to the American public, not just by calling out the president for his many lies, but by pointing out the specific treasonous criminal activity he is engaged in every time they mention his name.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Next Jimmy Carter?

Like millions of other people who voted for the Democratic ticket in the general election in November, Joe Biden was decidedly not my guy. As a Democratic Socialist I believe that the kind of governmental reform that Bernie Sanders has been advocating for the past decade is not only desirable, but necessary for the long term viability of our democracy. I voted for Elizabeth Warren in the primary, but would have been quite happy to cast my vote in the general election for Sanders. And early in the primary campaign that appeared to be the consensus of the rest of the Democratic voters as Sanders took an early and commanding lead, while Biden didn’t appear to have a chance of becoming the nominee. After Super Tuesday, however, it was all over but the shouting. Covid-19 had been allowed to sweep through the country by the inept and criminally negligent occupant of the White House, and somehow Joe Biden had captured the momentum and the Democratic nomination, and went on to deliver a crushing loss to the man-child who had used the highest office in the land as the platform for his own criminal enterprise. Though Biden was definitely not my guy, like so many other millions of people in this country, I was ecstatic that the country would no longer have to suffer four more years under the worst president in the history of the United States.

But even with two weeks until the Electoral College ends the massive disinformation campaign being waged by the petulant child in the White House and his propaganda arms in the media—and another month beyond that before the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice-president of the United States, I’m actually concerned that this might have been the worst thing that could have happened. Not worse that four more years of fascist and anti-intellectual rule, don’t get me wrong; nothing could have been worse than that. But historical precedent has me worried. I was in elementary school when Watergate engulfed the nation and was only vaguely aware of the specific details about it at the time. And it was only a few weeks before I was to start junior high when my dad made me come into the family room to watch President Nixon resign. Gerald Ford then made things worse by pardoning the disgraced president, denying the country the ability to hold Nixon accountable for his comparatively minor crimes when viewed from our perspective today. As a result, the voters not only rid themselves of Republicans in the White House, but voted in a complete Washington outsider, Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, to be the new president in 1976.

But Carter was ill prepared for the job, in both experience and personality. Endlessly empathetic and a devoutly religious man, he also micro-managed his subordinates and seemed far more interested in foreign affairs than solving the multiple crises at home, which included massive inflation, rising oil prices, and a military-industrial complex looking for a new war and itching to use the nuclear weapons that had been denied to them during Vietnam. Ironically, for a guy who negotiated a truce between Israel and Egypt, and eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize, the worst foreign policy disaster ever to befall a presidency came on his watch during the Iran hostage crisis. The real nadir of his presidency, however, came during the “malaise speech” in which, like a disappointed father looking over a bad report card, Carter took to the airwaves and essentially told the citizens of the United States that it was all their fault because they had such a bad attitude. In the end, voters were so sick of Carter that they inadvertently ushered in twelve years of militarized, anti-regulatory, predatory capitalism under Regan and Bush. And it was only another outsider—way outside this time—in the form of billionaire Ross Perot, who siphoned off enough of Bush’s votes in 1992 to throw the election to Bill Clinton and save the country from even further middle-class devastation.

The parallels with today are too similar to ignore. The country didn’t vote for Carter because he was Carter, but because he wasn’t Nixon and Ford. Likewise, a large percentage of Biden voters this year did so not out of a desire to see him in the White House, but because they wanted the dumbest man to ever hold the office out of there. Similarly, Biden, like Carter, is an empathetic and devoutly religious family man. And like his Democratic predecessor, he seems just as ill equipped for the task at hand, this time to take on a rogue Republican Party bent on destroying democracy as we know it. The most troubling thing about Biden is his political history. This was something recounted in detail back in a March 2019 cover article in Harper’s called “No Joe! Biden’s Disastrous Legislative Legacy.” The article, written by Andrew Cockburn, is a cautionary tale published just ahead of Biden’s announcement of his presidential run, and should be read by every American to acquaint them with the new president’s political predilections. In it, Cockburn begins with Biden’s apparent willingness to compromise with the right on just about anything.

          “I believe that we have to end the divisive partisan politics that is ripping this country apart,” he
          declared in the Rose Garden in 2015, renouncing a much-anticipated White House run. “It’s mean-
          spirited. It’s petty. And it’s gone on for much too long. I don’t believe, like some do, that it’s naïve
          to talk to Republicans. I don’t think we should look on Republicans as our enemies.”

This does not bode well for the next four years because Biden believes that he’s a deal maker, someone who can work across the aisle and get things done. He may, but in the end they won’t wind up being the things this country really needs. For one thing, the landscape has changed, and dramatically so. Biden came of age during a time when Democratic stalwarts like Edward Kennedy and Tip O’Neill actually could get things done—to a certain degree—by compromising with the Republicans. But politics in the twenty-first century is so completely different that it no longer bears any resemblance to the political world that Biden inhabited before being tabbed as Obama’s VP. The public heard something similar in this campaign, when Biden proclaimed that he will govern for all Americans, not just Democrats. But as Cockburn stated, “By tapping into these popular tropes—‘The system is broken,’ ‘Why can’t Congress just get along?’—the practitioners of bipartisanship conveniently gloss over the more evident reality: that the system is under sustained assault by an ideology bent on destroying the remnants of the New Deal to the benefit of a greed-driven oligarchy.”

What makes this outdated attitude even worse in Biden’s case—or if looked at another way, actually explains it—is that as a senator from Delaware, he was in the pockets of big money from the very beginning.

          There are some causes that [Delawareans], or at least the dominant power brokers in the state,
          hold especially dear. Foremost among them is Delaware’s status as a freewheeling tax haven.
          State laws have made Delaware the domicile of choice for corporations, especially banks, and
          it competes for business with more notorious entrepôts such as the Cayman Islands. Over half
          of all US public companies are legally headquartered there . . . [as such] Biden was never going
          to stray too far from the industry’s priorities.

This is a situation that led Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren to state of her Democratic presidential rival: “His energetic work on behalf of the credit card companies has earned him the affection of the banking industry and protected him from any well-funded challengers for his Senate seat.” Given all of this, it’s also quite possible that his cozy relationship with the banking industry explains his inexplicable overtaking of Bernie Sanders in the primaries. Both Sanders and Warren have been outspoken advocates for banking and finance reform, and because of that earned the wrath of the moneyed interests and inspired completely fictional hyperbole on the right to the effect that either one of them as president would mean the complete destruction of the American economy.

Biden’s hand-in-glove relationship with Wall Street, however, is nothing new. John F. Kennedy was the last Democratic president—with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter—who wasn’t beholden to big business and the banking industry. And just look what happened to him. Lyndon Johnson was the absolute worst, rubber-stamping a war in Southeast Asia that killed tens of thousands of Americans, with the only result that it fattened the wallets of defense industry owners and executives. In fact, it was the utter failure of the eight year Obama administration to make any substantial reform of the financial industry during the Great Bush Recession, anything that might stem the tide of the shrinking of the middle class and the wage slavery that is the daily reality for most of the citizens of this country, that resulted in the devastating election of 2016. Slick Willy was even worse, which not only tainted Hillary by association, but in point of fact. She was unable to escape her own Wall Street ties, dubious ethics, and the devastating policies of her husband, especially in regard to black incarceration—something that Biden had his hands in as well. According to Cockburn’s article,

          By the 1980s, Biden had begun to see political gold in the harsh antidrug legislation that had been
          pioneered by drug warriors such as Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon, and would ultimately
          lead to the age of mass incarceration for black Americans. One of his Senate staffers at the time
          recalls him remarking, “Whenever people hear the words ‘drugs’ and ‘crime,’ I want them to think
          ‘Joe Biden’” . . . Despite pleas from the NAACP and the ACLU, the 1990s brought no relief from
          Biden’s crime crusade. He vied with the first Bush Administration to introduce ever more draconian
          laws, including one proposing to expand the number of offenses for which the death penalty would
          be permitted to fifty-one. Bill Clinton quickly became a reliable ally upon his 1992 election, and Biden
          encouraged him to “maintain crime as a Democratic initiative” with suitably tough legislation. The
          ensuing 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, passed with enthusiastic administra-
          tion pressure, would consign millions of black Americans to a life behind bars.

One hopes that Biden has seen the error of his ways, and his selection of Kamala Harris as vice president may be the evidence for a genuine reversal of policy in the coming years. But Harris has no executive powers, and it remains to be seen how seriously Biden takes on nation wide systemic racism in law enforcement.

There’s no doubt that Biden will have his hands full with his response to the coronavirus, something his immediate predecessor ignored and which resulted in over a quarter of a million U.S. deaths—a total that is still rising. The attendant economic collapse of small businesses and growing numbers out of work employees is only slightly less urgent. Foreign affairs as well have been an unmitigated disaster under the current administration, and though Cockburn’s article demonstrates that Biden’s reputation in this area is also greatly exaggerated—“Biden’s claims of experience on the world stage cannot be denied. True, the experience has been routinely disastrous for those on the receiving end, but on the other hand, that is a common fate for those subjected, under any administration, to the operations of our foreign policy apparatus”—it will command much of the commander-in-chief’s time as well. But if Biden is going to avoid the ignominious fate of Jimmy Carter he’ll need to focus on three areas of domestic policy that compelled voters of all stripes to the polls to get rid of the current president: healthcare reform, economic reform, and law enforcement reform—including a wealth tax to pay for it all. Currently, however, the president elect has no plans to deal with healthcare at all, other than by attempting to expand the Affordable Healthcare Act, a half-hearted compromise in the first place and something Republicans have been trying to kill almost from the moment it was passed.

It’s criminal that this country is the only advanced nation in the world that doesn’t have universal healthcare. But again, the reason for that comes down to political support for the moneyed interests that control politics in the first place. To allow something as critical as the health of a nation to be held hostage by the profit motive is unconscionable. Privatization of health insurance in this country has been a travesty, especially since these companies stand to make even more money beyond their overpriced premiums by denying benefits to their customers. Meanwhile we have a system already in place, Medicare, that could be extended to all citizens and solve the problem almost at once, and yet the very people who benefit themselves from free government healthcare, Congressional Republicans, are the same people most actively trying to do away with that system for the rest of us. Unlike any president in the last fifty years Biden has a golden opportunity, in the midst of a worldwide medical crisis, to effect real healthcare reform, and yet it’s doubtful Biden will come anywhere close to solving the problem. That’s what happens when politicians seek only compromise rather than reform. And like appeasement with the Nazis in Munich, Biden may face the same consequences as Neville Chamberlin by doing likewise with Republicans.

As Andrew Cockburn’s Harper’s piece points out in detail, Biden looks to do no better with financial reform. Rather than sweeping regulatory limitations placed on big business and financial institutions—including paying their fair share of taxes—his only economic plan seems to be his “Build Back Better” program of expanding the clean energy industry. One can already see the growth of lending and subcontracting that will continue to support and grow wealth for the top end of society, while completely ignoring necessary reforms like a 15 dollar an hour minimum wage, strengthening manufacturing unions, addressing income inequality, closing loopholes for overseas production by U.S. businesses, and putting a stop to a host of other practices that continue to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Biden’s obligation to big money will likely prevent any meaningful change for the working class he panders to, a relationship that he carefully cultivated during the campaign. Finally, racial tensions, exemplified by the continuing spate of preemptive murders of blacks at the hands of white police officers must be dealt with in some kind of substantive way once and for all. Defunding the police—an unfortunate term, if an extremely accurate one—has real potential. By farming out many inappropriate police responsibilities to other agencies, especially those dealing with domestic abuse, homelessness, and drug abuse, those funds typically allocated to police departments could then be diverted to fund groups better equipped to deal with those issues than uniformed men carrying guns.

What’s so frustrating about Democratic centrist ideology is that it doesn’t work. Not only hasn’t it worked for the past fifty years, it has failed miserably. The tremendous irony is that, were Democrats able to embolden themselves to run roughshod over the corporate tools that the Republican Party has become, they would finally be able to institute much needed reforms that would help everyone, not just those with money. And once that happened all Americans, especially the working class, would be able to see the benefit to themselves and others, and finally be able to understand the disinformation that is being fed to them by the right for the lie that it is. Instead, centrist Democrats have been cowed by the very propaganda coming from the right that insists “socialism” is a dirty word, and that they can’t get elected by pursuing a progressive agenda. Well, the most recent election has put an end to that particular myth. All of the Democratic senators and congressmen and women who stayed in the center lost their races, while those on the left with progressive ideology won or held their seats. The new reality in politics is that the wealthy oligarchy fears the power of the majority as a threat to their tyranny in a way they never have before. That’s probably the reason that Joe Biden won the Democratic nomination in the first place, and from the looks of things he is busily assembling a third, do-nothing Obama administration, with cabinet picks like Neera Tanden promising to make things even worse.

Again, however, I do want to emphasize that the colossal difference between the last four years and the return to normalcy that Joe Biden’s election represents will possibly go down as one of the most important turning points in United States history. And the people were right to celebrate in the streets at the removal of the most corrupt, hate-filled, democratically corrosive administration in our history. I’m sure I’ll cry watching the inauguration, just as I did when I watched Obama’s first acceptance speech in 2008. But it’s the very idea of a return to normal that worries me, because there is a new normal today. And in this new, severely altered reality, “normal” is not going to succeed. This is something that Republicans figured out back in 2014 when they gained control of the Senate. They began then, and have never stopped, their all out assault on democracy through complete Congressional obstructionism, a far right Supreme Court judiciary, and the use of full-time propaganda arms in the form of right-wing news networks. And if working class voters elect another fascist that is even marginally more intelligent than the imbecile in the Oval Office now, the country is going to be in real trouble. Meanwhile, Democratic politicians still wring their hands and profess a desire to “reach across the aisle.” It’s a recipe for disaster if the left doesn’t push back against the anti-democratic policies of the right with equal force, because we may not get this chance again.

If Joe Biden continues with Democratic business as usual, or worse yet, makes poor decisions like choosing to ignore the current president’s crimes for the sake of healing and deny the country justice yet again, he runs the very real risk of handing the reins of government over to the Republicans for a long time to come—the very thing that happened in 1980 when the following 12 years of uninterrupted Republican control nearly destroyed the middle class. With any luck Biden will decline to run in 2024. He’s already the oldest president ever elected; four years from now he’ll be 82. That may be fine for Supreme Court justices, but an old man is still an old man, however sharp mentally, and if he’s saddled with a Republican controlled Senate, accomplishes nothing and still runs again, it seems impossible that he could win a second term. Kamala Harris is the one bright spot on the horizon. A Democrat with a progressive ideology and agenda, she could be the way forward for the party, but only if Biden does the right thing and steps aside when the time comes. Morning in America has mercifully come and gone, but now that it’s Midnight in America we still have a long way to go until the true dawn. Control of the Senate may help, but only if Joe Biden has the fortitude to do what is absolutely necessary for this country to survive. We need Joltin’ Joe rather than Grandpa Joe, and so let’s all hope that he steps up to the plate and delivers. If not, in a cruel twist of irony, the last four years may turn out to be the good old days.