Wednesday, November 2, 2022

American Fascism: Closer Than You Think

Last night I had a bad dream—a nightmare really. I just don’t understand how half of this country can turn so fascist. It makes no sense. I hear all the time, commentators on the left like Bill Maher trying to make peace between the two sides—but the right isn’t listening. It doesn’t matter how much we try to accommodate them, the right-wing voter is truly stupid to believe the lies that Republicans tell them. It’s all a load of crap, and they’ve bought into every word of it. Even while they’re being screwed by the politicians they elect, they just don’t seem to care—or more inescapably, they are simply too stupid to understand how they are voting against their own self-interest. Politicians on the left want only to make life better for everyone in this county. Those on the right, however, are merely the employees of the corporate oligarchy, and have only two goals: to eliminate taxes for the rich, and regulations for corporations. That’s it. The people can go to hell. The Congressional employees of the rich have tapped into the ignorant, anti-intellectual hatred of the underbelly of this nation, and they realize now that it is the only way for their corporate bosses to remain in power. The left is increasingly trying to socialize—though not nearly fast enough for me—but that is the fear of the oligarchy. And now their only hope of wresting power from the people is through fascism.

But to my dream. About a week ago something popped up on YouTube that I glanced at, read, and then tried to ignore. But it obviously stayed in my subconscious because this nightmare bubbled to the surface. The title of the piece, from MSNBC, said something to the effect that if Republicans take control of the House and Senate that they will attempt to impeach Joe Biden. For nothing. Because they have absolutely nothing to impeach him for. But if that succeeds, then they truly have found a way to subvert the will of the people. They will no doubt do the same thing to Kamala Harris, and then the Republican Speaker of the House will simply move into the White House and fascism will reign in this country. It’s unbelievable. In my dream I was watching a sort of documentary about the new president: Scoop Jackson. Not our Scoop from Washington State in the seventies, but a black guy who had been made the new president by the new fascist Congress. It was as though I had woken up one morning and the world had tipped on its side. The inmates had truly taken over the asylum. And to have to watch news coverage that wrings its hands and nearly weeps at what is going on is akin to someone giving a detailed description of the Titanic going down . . . while we’re all onboard. And worse yet, half of the people cheering as the fucking thing sinks.

Well, I couldn’t get back to sleep, and that’s why I’m writing this now. I simply can’t believe that a time will come in this country when the will of the vast majority of the people will simply be ignored, a right-wing fascist government will be installed, and the oligarchy will finally have won. I can’t even find the strength to hope to believe that things will eventually right themselves, that the people will finally come to understand how they have been lied to and stop the madness. I know too much about history to do that. People are fucking morons. All you have to do is look at religion to know that. In a week either the tide will be stemmed—temporarily—or we will find ourselves staring into the abyss. It’s so ironic now that I once wrote a whole piece on this very blog about how the mid-term elections are of no importance whatsoever. But if the oligarchy and their employees in Congress take over, then the end of our democratic society will have come about as a direct result of a mid-term election. I truly hope my dream is not prophetic, but at this point I refuse to hope. Until the voters on the right, who only care about hatred, turn their back on lies and deceit, everything I thought was true about this county will be in peril. I guess we’ll find out what happens in another week. The previous president was bumbling, stupid idiot, but we didn't know how good we had it. We won’t be so lucky next time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Historical Blindness

What’s so maddening in attempting to really get to the historical truth behind the Constitution is the way in which historians themselves—consciously or unconsciously—continue to perpetuate American mythology through the repetition of societal norms that keep the truth buried. When blatant right-wing historians do this it’s understandable because they have either an ideological axe to grind or they benefit in some way from the standard belief system that has been indoctrinated into U.S. citizens almost from the time they’re born. What’s more unsettling, however, is when otherwise respected historians accidentally slip these kinds of things into their texts because they don’t understand the way they themselves have been indoctrinated. Joseph J. Ellis is a case in point—though it’s impossible to say which of these categories he fits into. Ellis, the author of the very popular Founding Brothers, which was made into a miniseries by the History Channel, more recently published a book entitled American Creation, which takes a look at the period from the Revolution to the Louisiana Purchase through a series of lengthy, interrelated essays that examine events though a tightly focused lens. In his otherwise informative section on James Madison’s work on the Constitution, writing about the debates between the Federalists and Antifederalists, this startling passage by Ellis suddenly appears:

          All attempts to explain the debates in primarily or exclusively economic terms have been discredited
          by modern scholars. The messy truth is that there was a maddening variety of voting patterns from
          state to state, and within states from county to county, that defied any single explanation, economic
          or otherwise. (Ellis 114)

He then moves on as if all this is self-evident. There’s not even a citation to back up his assertion, attempting to obviate the need for that through the collective weight of his anonymous plural “modern scholars.” I hear people talking . . .

Ellis does his work well here in the way he uses the phrase “any single explanation.” Given that very specific context, he’s right, there wasn’t any one, single explanation for why individual delegates framed the Constitution the way they did. But where alarm bells go off is when he says the motivation of those involved cannot be understood in “primarily . . . economic terms,” which is patently false. Even Madison understood that. His list of grievances against the individual states in their obvious scorn for the Articles of Confederation were all economic. Madison’s second reason for why anyone even goes into politics in the first place was economic. Everything from Indian removal, to taxation of citizens, to slavery was “primarily economic.” So it seems quite disingenuous to make a blanket statement that utterly dismisses the major—if not exclusive—economic underpinnings not only of the Constitution itself but the formation of political parties, the efforts of lobbyists, and the economic right-wing agenda that has continued in an uninterrupted line from the founding to the present. Politics, in America, from the very start, has always been about economics, and to suggest otherwise is incredibly misleading.

But it’s not until the next essay in his book, about the formation of political parties, that Ellis’s pose as an impartial historian completely unravels. One of his early salvos is to perpetuate another sacred myth in American history that has no basis in fact, and this has to do with ignoring the crippling effect of the two-party system on the ordinary citizens of the United States.

          From our modern-day perch it is easy to see the indispensable role that organized political parties
          came to play later on in channeling the combustible energies of a wild-and-woolly democratic culture
          into a coherent and disciplined framework. It is also possible to discern the invaluable contribution
          that the two-party system made in providing a safe and structured location for ongoing dissent, in
          effect creating a routinized and institutionalized outlet for argument in lieu of the guillotine or the
          firing-squad wall.

The rhetoric here is chilling. First he uses the smug security of hindsight to suggest the we can understand so much better than the founders how things were to turn out. Of course the phrase “organized political parties” has nothing controversial about it, and it makes sense that those parties would be the most rational way to focus the energies of “democratic culture.” But that in no way should imply that limiting the country to only two of those parties is better than, say, half a dozen parties that could more accurately represent the varied interests of the average citizen in Congress and the White House. And yet, from there Ellis immediately goes on to tout the “invaluable contribution” of “the two-party system” before indulging in a whopping false equivalency by suggesting that any democracy with more than two parties leads inevitably to “the guillotine or the firing-squad wall.”

This is absolutely crazy. In the first place, parliamentary democracies around the world have used multiple-party systems for centuries—England being the primary example—and yet throughout Western Europe there have been no firing squads or guillotines for hundreds of years. It is only when the number of parties has been reduced to one that the people suffer under tyrannical dictatorships as they did in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and in the Soviet Union. The crippling flaw in the two-party system in America is that it leaves citizens in a highly vulnerable position. As Republicans have worked assiduously over the last thirty years to jerrymander districts, restrict voter access, and obstruct beneficial Democratic legislation, the majority of the people in the U.S. are dangerously close to becoming disenfranchised. The great danger in having only two parties, is that if one takes over there is nowhere left to turn. Author Jason Stanley, whose book How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them came out during the middle of the previous administration, says, “That’s where we’re tilting, at the very least, into a one-party state where that party is supported only by a minority of the population . . . That is where we’re headed unless Americans wake up and we all do something about it together.” And yet like all dangerous myths Ellis simply pronounces the obvious good of the two-party system as if it’s a given that requires no other explanation. “The invention of the two-party system was a major achievement . . . that seems beyond contention” (Ellis 169).

Worse still, Ellis then goes on in the essay to suggest those founders who were alarmed by the economic hegemony of the federal government—specifically Madison and Jefferson—were in some way mentally unstable. In fact, he goes so far as to label Madison and Jefferson’s beliefs as a “conspiracy theory” in order to undermine their concerns completely with the reader. Author Joseph E. Green has gone to great lengths to explain how the very words “conspiracy theory” have been used historically to label someone as outside the mainstream of thought and cast aspersions on their character, while at the same time reassuring the users that they are members of the group with correct beliefs, all this from a two-word phrase whose only function is to destroy credibility at a single stroke.

          The term “conspiracy theorist” is meant to be dismissive, obviously . . . You call someone a “con-
          spiracy theorist” to put them down or accuse them of being an intellectual outcast without having
          to think hard about it . . . The term is a psychological attack meant to marginalize the speaker of
          the improper thought . . . However, this is only one half of the equation. The other half is that the
          term imbues the speaker with psychological reassurance and power . . . When this power is given
          over to television networks and beat reporters and those who provide opinions in voice and print,
          there is an incredible foundation laid to support the “sacred” premises against the “profane” ones
          . . . to promote a dedication to certain ideas that short-circuits our reason. We hear certain concepts
          and are granted a pass from thinking about such unpleasantness. That guy is a conspiracy theorist.
          (Green 2014, 13-14)

What makes this chapter in Ellis’s book so bizarre is that he goes to great lengths to disparage both Madison and Jefferson in order to reinforce the mythology that he apparently believes, societal assumptions like capitalism as an unquestioned good, a two-party system that is likewise the apex of political organization, and that criticisms of the Constitution by certain of the founders were little more than conspiracy theory. Ellis describes these criticisms by Madison and Jefferson as “distinctly hyperbolic.”

          If you accept their rhetoric at face value, the deepest impulses of the American Revolution, the true
          “spirit of 76,” were being hijacked by a conspiracy of northern bankers and “paper-men” who com-
          posed a “speculative phalanx” moving forward behind the satanic leadership of Alexander Hamilton.
          Though these men represented a tiny minority within the overall populace, they had somehow managed
          to engineer a hostile takeover of the fledgling American republic and were now poised to consolidate
          their control to the detriment of all the ordinary citizens, mostly farmers, the true lifeblood of the nation.
          The ultimate goal of this Federalist faction was to undermine the republican government and replace
          it with a monarchical state in which the presidency became a heredity rather than an elective office
          and “money-men” became the new American aristocracy. (Ellis 170-71)

Other than the “hereditary state” aspect of what Ellis considers the two men’s fever dream, all of these things are true. In the twenty-first century it is crystal clear that a “tiny minority” is in fact working to take control of the government, “to the detriment of all ordinary citizens,” and this capitalist oligarchy has every intention of becoming the “new American aristocracy.”

Ellis goes to great lengths to portray these two founders as somehow mentally unbalance for the simple fact that they were able to see how a federal government almost completely focused on economic growth was going to marginalize the vast majority of its citizens.

          There is no question that Jefferson and Madison were sincere; their personal correspondence
          confirms the heartfelt conviction that a Federalist plot was afoot. There is also no question that
          Jefferson and Madison were wholly sane and thoroughly rational men. The question then becomes:
          How did they develop such a quasi-paranoid image of the Federalist agenda? . . . By any neutral
          standard, the picture that Jefferson and Madison saw in their heads was a preposterous distortion.
          (Ellis 171)

The condescension here is thick as Ellis admits that both men were “sincere” and “sane” before going on to call them “quasi-paranoid.” Then he has the audacity to claim that “by any neutral standard” the two men obviously had become unhinged. This is a common rhetorical device, to enlist the agreement of the reader by suggesting that the only sane—neutral—position to hold is to agree with the author. But this is disingenuous at best, and at worst insultingly insidious. It’s a travesty to the legacy of two great men in this nation’s history that an historian like Ellis can cast aspersions on them because they were able to see what others weren’t—and apparently Ellis still can’t. But it also makes it painfully obvious where Ellis’s affinities lie, as what Madison and Jefferson warned about has actually come to pass. In that context Ellis’s attempt at obfuscation of the truth is shameful.

Ellis continues on in this vein by asking a series of rhetorical questions designed, once again, to elicit the reader’s agreement. How, he muses aloud as though he’s Tucker Carlson, could Washington and Adams be considered “Tories?” And how could Hamilton’s financial program be considered bad for the country? Ellis inadvertently gives the answer to the latter question when he writes offhandedly, “The enrichment of a few investors was an extraneous by-product of an economic policy rather brilliantly designed” (Ellis 172). Brilliantly designed for whom? Madison and Jefferson could see the handwriting on the wall, and U.S. citizens of today are suffering under the reality of that prescience as a small percentage of Americans have manipulated the federal government into making them rich while the vast majority of citizens work as wage slaves. As to the first question, Ellis is monumentally dishonest to pretend that he doesn’t understand exactly what the two founders were saying. Washington and Hamilton weren’t monarchical “Tories” in the traditional sense, but the economic system they were designing had the potential to become something very similar. After all, it was obvious Hamilton wanted to emulate the most successful model of economic power he had available to him: the British Empire. Washington and Adams were simply guilty for letting Hamilton do whatever he wanted.

But Ellis answers his own questions by suggesting that some kind of senility had overtaken them, that the two addle-brained men were attempting to re-enact their Revolutionary War triumphs all over again. The Revolution, he reminds the reader, was undertaken “because the American colonists were not represented in Parliament . . . taxes or restrictive laws were being imposed on them without their consent” and then with smug assurance adds that America’s representatives “were duly elected or appointed officials chosen by the citizenry in accord with the rules prescribed by the very Constitution that Madison had done so much to shape.” (Ellis 173). This coy attempt at deceit is maddening. The lack of representation in colonial times under the British is absolutely no different than what Madison identified as happening in the states under the Articles of Confederation after the war. And the abuse is no different today, with Republicans trying to tax the poor so that they have some “skin in the game,” while at the same time legislating gigantic tax cuts for the rich. And talk about restrictive laws. With the Supreme Court having been groomed over the past twenty years to strike down federal freedoms and allow states to enact draconian legislation that the vast majority of citizens disagree with is exactly like Parliamentary oppression. Finally, it’s positively ludicrous to suggest that the majority of politicians working in Washington are doing so in order to work for the public good. Even Madison could see that. When Ellis cries out, “How, in heaven’s name, could fiscal responsibility be seen as an unmitigated evil?” he might as well be writing Fox News talking points.

Ellis also portrays Madison and Jefferson as flip-floppers. “How did they develop such a quasi-paranoid image of the Federalist agenda, an image that would cause one of the primary authors of The Federalist to repudiate all his previous arguments on behalf of a sovereign federal government and make Jefferson, a member of Washington’s cabinet, believe that his highest duty was to subvert the very government he was allegedly serving?” (Ellis 171). This is especially galling considering that Ellis had already answered the question in a previous essay, and now completely ignores the implications of what he had already written. Madison was in favor of a strong federal government—not for economic reasons but for the good of the people. His experience of the behavior of the individual states toward their residents was disappointing at best. “The overwhelming evidence, as Madison read it, revealed a discernable pattern of gross irresponsibility, a cacophony of shrill voices, a veritable kaleidoscope of local interests with no collective cohesion whatsoever . . . and that there was a glaring gap between what advertised itself as the will of the people and the abiding interest of the public” (Ellis 105). It was the abuse of the people that prompted Madison’s belief in a strong federal government, in order to protect them from abuse by the state legislatures—abuse of exactly the same nature as that being experience today—and the two most important aspects of the new Constitution he was proposing were both meant to meet that obligation he felt to the people.

          The legislative branch should be bicameral and, most crucially, both branches should be proportional
          according to population, thereby decisively shifting the core definition of representation from states to
          the citizenry itself . . . Madison regarded as his most controversial but nonnegotiable proposal, [that]
          all state laws must be subject to approval at the federal level in order to leave no doubt where
          sovereignty now resided. (Ellis 107-108)

But Madison didn’t get what he wanted, what he knew was best for the American people. The state delegates to the Constitutional Congress could only be induced to vote for the new document if one of the chambers of congress was not proportional to the population—the Senate—and absolutely refused to entertain any suggestion of a federal veto power over state laws. So that’s what Madison was stuck with, and in both of those compromises he knew, with absolute conviction, that the Constitution would be a failure because of it. So why did he exert so much energy in trying to get it passed? It’s because the Articles of Confederation had been such an unmitigated disaster. The Constitution might be a failure for the people, but it was infinitely better for the country than what the United States had at the present, which was almost equivalent to having no federal government at all. Once that task had been finished, however, it makes perfect sense that he and Jefferson would then try to correct the mistakes that had been made and attempt to fashion a federal government that was more responsive to the needs of the people than to business interests. They knew what the problem was. They could see it with singular clarity. And history has proven them correct.

Finally Ellis is unable to resist dredging up a favored trope among Revolutionary historians: slavery. Apparently, both Madison and Jefferson feared how powerful the federal government had become because they didn’t want the government to outlaw slavery. Now that’s an argument that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. In the first place, the most beneficial federal government to slave owners was the Constitution that slave owners had a hand in shaping. Slave states from Virginia to Georgia had refused the federal veto, and along with the non-representative Senate had increased their individual power in the Congress. And second, Madison wanted a stronger federal government, one that theoretically could outlaw slavery in any states it wished by overturning state law. What he didn’t want was one that was controlled by big money interests at the expense of the people.

          It was not just the bank itself, then, that terrified Madison and his fellow Virginians, though that
          source of dread was real enough. It was the open-ended definition of federal power on which the
          bank was authorized, which in effect gave the federal government a roving mandate to extend
          its authority wherever it wished, to include the thoroughly vulnerable issue of slavery. (Ellis 176-177)

How any historian can pontificate that slavery was vulnerable, when it was one of the largest business interests at the time, is inconceivable. And this is especially misleading when hindsight makes it quite clear that it took a civil war to finally end the practice. Not only was slavery anything but fragile at this point in history, in retrospect it appears positively invulnerable.

Ellis continues in the rest of the essay to trash Jefferson’s reputation, and Madison by association, but the whole exercise is sickening. Using snide comments and knowing asides he gleefully assassinates the third president’s character with just as much relish as he claims Jefferson did to Hamilton. To be fair, Jefferson from the beginning was much less interested in federal oversight of the states than Madison, but went along with his younger colleague to get the new Constitution passed because he also understood just what a disaster the Articles of Confederation had been, a most profound disaster when it came to his area of expertise: foreign policy. Jefferson’s concern, as was Madison’s, was for the people. And Ellis can’t help himself in attempting to cast doubt on that fact, with his claim that that the two weren’t real farmers because “neither man ever did a full day’s work in the fields” (Ellis 177). So what? Both Madison and Jefferson were part of the planter class in Virginia, slaveholders just like Washington—and, by the way, Ellis makes no such attempt at character assassination when it comes to Washington. Madison fought in 1790 to prevent the federal government from having authority over slavery, only to get them to honor the twenty-year moratorium that they had initially agreed upon. But he knew that the clock was already ticking. It’s a matter of record that all the founders from Virginia were bothered tremendously by slavery and at a loss as to what the answer was short of abolition. Nevertheless, Jefferson continued to remain a staunch supporter of the yeoman farmer throughout the republic, and yet the fact that his efforts on their behalf just happened to coincide with the planter class is simply something Ellis doesn’t even want to consider. He’d rather make him out to be an evil schizophrenic instead.

The snarky tone of the whole chapter is incredibly off-putting, but even worse is the blithe perpetuation of the myth of capitalism. All of the capitalist givens that Ellis accepts without question—and wants the reader to accept as well—are in truth the reason that the United States is in so much internal trouble today. Corporations and the wealthy continue to demand that their employees in Congress give them bigger and bigger tax breaks, and allow monopolistic practices like price gouging, collusion, pollution, and wage slavery to punish the working class. The one percent has a strangle hold on the citizens of this country, and yet Ellis has no problem touting how great those “innovations” are that gave them that power, while at the same time making a mockery of the Founders who could sense with alarm where the emphasis on economic power and lack of proportional representation in the federal government was going to lead. All of which supports the conclusion that Ellis is little more than a right-wing shill instead of a serious historian. That the federal government has to take a backseat and watch while state legislatures oppress their people is simply wrong. That the two-party system has allowed this kind of abuse to continue is simply wrong. And that a capitalist cabal has been able to take control of the government and continues to line their pockets while bankrupting the majority of the country is simply wrong. But you wouldn’t know that from reading Ellis’s book.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Good Testimony from Bad People

In many respects the January 6th Hearings have been something of a tremendous relief, as dozens of former aides of the former Criminal in Chief have been shown making the case we all knew was there: the former president knew he lost the election, knew there was no voter fraud, and purposely set about to undermine democracy in order to avoid at all costs the peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden. He okayed the planned insurrection, personally set it in motion, and continued to stoke the flames while it was going on, including refusing to allow the national guard and military to stop it. And in the process he was perfectly willing to sacrifice the lives of his own vice president and members of congress in order to remain in power—in the same way he sacrificed the lives of District of Columbia police officers. But in experiencing that relaxation of tension we all feel from seeing the truth finally come out, it’s important to remember who these people are that we are watching. One of the best headlines I’ve seen since the public hearings began was something to the effect of “Good Testimony from Bad People.” This is vitally important to keep in mind. People like Bill Barr, Eric Herschmann and the presidential grifter’s family members who have testified are NOT HEROES. Far from it. They are criminals, every bit as much as the leader they were following and carrying out orders for. The fact that some of them told the truth to their fearful leader’s face was not heroic . . . IT WAS THEIR JOB. It’s what they were SUPPOSED to do. It goes without saying that the architects of the "big lie" like Rudy Giuliani, Peter Navarro, and John Eastman should be tossed in jail and the key thrown away—along with their seditionist leader and the Congressional traitors who supported him. But that doesn’t mean those who spoke out against them at the time should be given a free pass.

It’s important that we don’t forget the nightmarish four years that led up to the January 6 Insurrection. For four years this country’s grifter president was doing everything in his power to make underhanded deals and wield his presidential power to coerce others into making those deals—It’s not a stretch to believe that the only reason this idiot didn’t roll out the Covid vaccines when he should have is because Pfiser and Moderna weren’t giving him big enough kickbacks, so he decided to punish THEM by not purchasing any—forget the hundreds of thousands of American citizens actually dying from the disease. From strong-arming leaders of other countries, to screwing taxpayers out of money by funneling government funds to his hotels and other properties, to lining the pockets of his biggest sycophants, his children, and his own company, EVERYONE who worked for this criminal is culpable for enabling his illegal operations and they should be punished right along with him. THEY were the ones facilitating his crimes and in doing so broke their sacred oath to protect and defend the Constitution after it was clear he never intended on honoring his oath from the very beginning. These people were on the inside, they KNEW what he was doing, and in many instances they were profiting from the president’s illegal activities. These are not good people, and their testimony—often reluctantly given—does not whitewash their own culpability and does not atone for their sins against this nation.

Mike Pence is probably the most egregious example of this. This man was the presidential idiot’s most sycophantic, boot-licking, toady in his entire administration—and that’s saying something. For an entire month after the 2020 election he sat by and did NOTHING. And when the question was raised about possibly refusing to certify the votes of the electoral college, he seriously looked into it with his staff and his lawyers. Only then did it become clear that refusing to do his job would be a criminal offence. And THAT is the only reason that he refused to do it. PENCE IS NOT A HERO. Pence did not refuse to get into the limo because he was a hero, he refused because he did not want to be assassinated. Mike Pence’s actions on January 6th were not heroic. He is a coward. In the end, all Mike Pence can be said to have accomplished was doing his job—which is what he was supposed to do. What he did was no different than a criminal pulling his car into the parking lot of a 7-11 with a gun in the passenger seat, and then deciding not to rob the store because he could go to jail if he were caught. THAT’S IT. Believe me, if there had been some path to doing what the president wanted without landing Pence in prison, HE WOULD HAVE DONE IT. In the words of presidential historian Michael Beschloss: “Until the 6th of January [Pence] was a silent accessory to a president who was running a diabolical plot to fix the 2020 election against the will of the voters . . . and it almost cost us our democracy.”

The testimony these people have given—and will continue to give—does not absolve them of their crimes. They were an integral part of a criminal presidency that came to its ultimate fruition in the January 6th Insurrection. The former president is guilty of sedition and crimes against the Constitution and the United States of America. The January 6th Committee has already proven this. The only question now remains as to the strength of character of Merrick Garland and whether he will prosecute the former president to the fullest extent of the law. The former president belongs in jail. He is a criminal. He is a seditionist who betrayed his oath of office, betrayed the Constitution, and betrayed the American people. But those who aided and abetted him age guilty too, and it’s important to keep that in mind throughout their testimony. This country seems to be teetering on the precipice of fascist anarchy disguised as “libertarianism,” and the only way to restore law and order is to demonstrate the consequences of breaking what should be the most heavily penalized crimes in the country short of murder: the willful disregard of the Constitution and crimes against the state. So, while it has been good to finally hear the truth about the criminal activities of the former president and those in his inner circle, we must remember that those giving testimony are guilty as well, and should not be allowed to go unpunished for simply stating what actually happened in the days and weeks leading up to the Insurrection. It’s important not only because of who these people are—in all likelihood, if given the opportunity, they would do the exact same thing again—but for all those who have followed their example and continue to emulate their illegal activities. There must be consequences, commensurate with their crimes, and the failure to do so would be equally criminal.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Democratic Destruction by Design

Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING that has happened in the United States during the past six years has happened by accident. I know that a lot of people in this country are confused by what the Republican Party has been doing, but that’s only because they don’t have any historical perspective. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the trends that we are seeing from the right-wing have been a part of our country’s battles between the average citizen and the wealthy elite since before the ink was dry on the Declaration of Independence. It’s no wonder that U.S. history has been hijacked by the right for their own purposes—everything from Southern revisionism in the myth of the lost cause to the demonizing of critical race theory—because anyone who studies what has actually been going on in this country since the founding—not the myths—can only come to one conclusion: the wealthy in the United States have been trying to wrest control of the country from the people since the very beginning. I know this sounds like a paranoid, conspiracy-theory rant. But if there is an actual conspiracy . . . then it’s not a theory.

It's very simple. From the beginning the moneyed interests in this country were bent on making sure the federal government stayed as weak as possible. The reason? So they could avoid the things that prevented them from making more money: regulations and taxes. That’s the entire reason that so much power was left up to the individual states. Without a powerful federal government, the states could do whatever they wanted and limit voting rights in order to create tax havens and regulation-free operations for the corporations who set up shop there. The Constitution itself was built on the idea of keeping political power away from the citizens themselves, and vesting it in the hands of a wealthy elite. The Electoral College is just one vestige of this oligarchical past. And if it seems maddeningly archaic today, think about what it used to be like in its original design: the individual senators from the states were the ones who picked the electors, NOT the voters. Everything, I repeat, EVERYTHING that is wrong with our country today was designed to be that way. The whole goal, from the very beginning, has been to make sure that rich, capitalist oligarchs were able to wield complete and unfettered control over the country in order to create a capitalist utopia in which the citizens worked as wage-slaves for the wealthy. And it has nearly come to pass.

As I have said over and over on this blog, politicians are employees of the capitalist oligarchy. They have no other job but to make sure that their constituents pay as little taxes as possible, that they have no regulations on their businesses, and that the electorate—the expendable cogs in their money-making machinery—has no way to stop them. There have been a couple of major glitches in the plan, to be sure. The most devastating was the Civil War, which forced Southern aristocrats to forego literal chattel slavery for the less obvious method already in place in the North: wage-slavery. The Great Depression was also a major misstep for capitalists in that it destroyed much of their wealth and ushered in the only socialist era of the country’s history: the New Deal. Since then, however, wealthy capitalists have been working tirelessly to take over the country from within. And now the final phase of their plan has been set in motion. The only question is whether or not the citizens will wake up out of their stupor and resist, or keep their heads buried until one day they find themselves living in a capitalist dictatorship.

The key to achieving this goal is so ionic that it almost defies belief. The cornerstone is getting the most rabid and jingoistic Americans to hate democracy. Essentially, to get them to hate America itself. This is why we saw the former presidential moron cozying up to dictators, because the trick is to float the idea of strength over freedom to his followers. This is why Fox news propagandists recently went to Hungary to tout the authoritarian government there, or sided with Russian aggression over the sovereignty of Ukraine. The idea is to get the anti-intellectual right-wing voter to eventually give up his rights and freedoms to an authoritarian government in the U.S., one that is based on unfettered and unlimited capitalism. And it’s working. Gun rights aren’t about guns for Republicans in Congress, they’re about money, money for their employers who make the guns. Busting unions isn’t about the freedom to work, it’s about freedom to keep wages low in order to make money for their employers. Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING that goes on in Washington D.C. in the Republican caucus is about politics—it’s about MONEY for the people who employ them. That’s it. And a right-wing agenda that is all about curtailing freedoms—in the guise of morality—even when it isn’t directly about money simply works in their favor by getting their base used to the idea of not being free.

The capitalist oligarchy doesn’t care if nut cases shoot up grocery stores and schools and churches. In fact, they WANT that, because it keeps the people at large arguing among themselves. And while the people are embroiled in political theater, with the right-wing ignoring the problem and the left losing their shit because they can’t do anything about it, corporations and the wealthy elite continue to work tirelessly behind the scenes to strip away voting rights and entrench unregulated capitalism in order to enslave the rest of us—EVEN THOSE WHO VOTE REPUBLICAN—to the point where eventually we won’t be able to do anything about it short of armed revolution. How’s that for irony? What’s so unique now, in this late-stage end game, is that they don’t even have to pretend anymore. The oligarchy simply orders their employees in Congress to do their bidding and lie about why they’re doing it, and because that works they continue to lie, and even when they’re caught they just lie some more, to the point where it is absolutely clear that right-wing politicians have absolutely no fear of completely ignoring the will of the people who vote them into office. It costs them nothing because most of the country is so stupid that they can’t see what’s happening. People have become so blinded by the very idea of “politics” as it is fed to them by the propaganda arms of the oligarchy in the media that they can’t see that politics itself is meaningless, something merely to distract them from the truth.

The most recent articulation of these historical facts is by Nancy MacLean in her excellent work on U.S. economic history entitled Democracy in Chains. But her work is nothing new. As early as 1955 historian Richard Hofstadter and like-minded academics put out a book of essays called The Radical Right, outlining the multitude of ways in which the right was bent on taking over the country, through eliminating voting rights, controlling the judiciary, and eventually taking over the entire federal government itself. Again, the big push by the corporate oligarchy came in the wake of the New Deal because of how much it threatened to curtail unfettered capitalism. And I want to be clear, this was absolutely NOT a fear about the elimination of capitalism in any way, shape or form, because the New Deal was in no way anti-capitalist. That’s right. The problem for the oligarchy is that ANY government is too much government. Because what they really want are NO RESTRICTIONS of any kind on their capacity to make money. They want to be able to destroy the environment, destroy communities, destroy families, destroy the workers themselves, and do the same to every other country in the world, all in the pursuit of making as much money as quickly as possible. And to accomplish this, all they need to happen is to destroy democracy itself. Because that’s what is finally standing in their way.

One of the first democratic protections to be wiped out in enacting their end game was the gutting of FCC regulations by Ronald Reagan that made it permissible for public news broadcasts to lie to their viewers without any repercussions. This was done so that media oligarchs like Rupert Murdoch could make millions more dollars in the short term, while at the same time the capitalist oligarchy as a whole could undermine the intellect of the uneducated electorate in preparation for their final takeover. Propaganda is a crucial element in the success of this particular takeover. As early as 1944—before the war was even over—the big capitalist lie was formulated by right-wing economist F.A. Hayek in his book The Road to Serfdom—talk about ironic—by doing what the capitalist right has been doing ever since: projection on a grand scale. Because of what he had seen throughout the Roosevelt administration in its attempt to create a more equitable society, he took the truth and turned it around one hundred and eighty degrees to come up with this, Nancy MacLean’s summary in Democracy in Chains:

          “It is because nearly everybody wants it that we are moving in this [socialist] direction.” Everywhere,
          people were deluding themselves “that socialism and freedom can be combined” when in fact they
          were dire enemies. The growth of government, he argued, would in time undermine all freedom and
          usher in totalitarian states. (MacLean 39)

The reason everyone was so positive about the New Deal is pretty obvious, because the capitalists and their employees like Herbert Hoover had bankrupted the country. And at that point in time the ONLY entity that was in a position to help a destitute nation—much less actually care if people lived or starved to death—was the Democratic Party in Washington and the Roosevelt administration. The big lie, propagated to this day, is that socialism and capitalism are mutually exclusive, unable to co-exist together. But that lie has been demonstrably proven as such by the many socialist countries in Europe whose people have flourished under the combination. The growth of government—and not just growth, but a powerful government given the mandate to wield sweeping changes on behalf of the people for their best interests—is now the only way to guarantee freedom. It is the corporate state—a fascist, authoritarian government that has as its only mandate the complete freedom for business interests and the wealthy elite—that is the definition of a totalitarian state.

All of the work that sprang from Hayek’s disciples was based upon the completely false assertion that capitalism couldn’t survive in any kind of socialist context. But that was the whole point, to get rid of any kind of government oversight, no matter how slight, in order to free up capitalist markets that were anything but free. The simple fact of the matter is—again, looking to our own history—that the natural evolution of capitalism is NOT toward free market competition, but toward monopolistic consolidation and collusion between those monopolies to set prices which allows for inflation and artificial spikes, to fix low wages, and standardize poor working conditions, just as we see Amazon and other like-minded corporations doing today. These economic disciples of Hayek broke from traditional economic theory in one very dramatic way: NONE of their work was based on testable and verifiable data. None of it was based on facts. Instead, the goal was to destroy democracy from the inside. “But how to spread that view,” says MacLean, “in an era in which Americans—indeed, people the world over—distrusted markets after the Great Depression and the global conflagration it set off, and found government protection beneficial for more and more?” (MacLean 41)

That’s right, the economic reality that motivated this crowd was that the socialist policies of the New Deal were actually WORKING, and making lives better for “more and more” people. It’s maddening in retrospect to look at the utter disingenuousness of these so-called economists. The goal was never to make things better for people in society, only to make them better for corporations and the wealthy. And what we see today is the end result of decades of pushing a flawed ideology that is, at its core, anti-democratic. Since the U.S. government was actually working for the people and making their lives better, the only recourse was to destroy the people’s faith in that government, and so that’s exactly what they set out to do. Instead of “positive” economic practice that attempts to measure and quantify through actual experiment and factual data what works, their only recourse was to turn government into the bad guy. “If only one could break down the trust that now existed between governed and governing, even those who supported liberal objectives would lose confidence in government solutions” (MacLean 42).

Thus we have the deliberate sabotage—from the inside, by Republicans—of nearly every government program and department that can be thought of, from the Veterans Administration and Social Security, to Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, Education, Health and Human Services, the CDC, Transportation, Housing, the Interior, you name it. If Republicans can find a way to slow down, disrupt, defund—if not utterly destroy—a beneficial government agency, they will do it. And they will do it with only one objective in mind: to make people believe, FALSELY, that government is inept and incapable, and not to be trusted. Every frustration that you have with the government, from the IRS all the way down to the DMV, has been consciously created by the corporate right, with the sole objective of getting you to hate government and, it is hoped, democracy by association. If you hate what goes on in Washington D.C. and your state capitol, then you will be less likely to vote, less likely to work for change, less likely to care what happens to other people. They WANT you to feel as if you have no rights so that one day when you wake up and find out you actually don’t have rights anymore, you won't do anything about it. Nothing about government ineptitude in this country is an accident. It is a carefully calculated plan to get you to abandon the only chance we have of making substantive change for the better in our society: by renouncing unfettered capitalism and embracing WE THE PEOPLE instead.

And that’s why everything happening today—EVERYTHING—is unfolding as it was designed to unfold. Convince the population that capitalism is the only economic system that works and that socialism is evil. Convince the uneducated that it is democratic freedom that is responsible for their economic destitution so that they will want to destroy democracy. Convince the people that there is no “system” in place—it’s all a conspiracy theory—so that they believe the real enemy is their next-door neighbor and will expend all of their energies fighting with their fellow citizens rather than the capitalists who have actually enslaved them. Distract them with entertainment, sports, and social media so that they stay uneducated, and will believe any crackpot, anti-government lie fed to them. Make them believe that gun control is bad, that unions are bad, that a living wage is bad, that welfare is bad—never mind the fact that the single largest, by a gargantuan margin, recipient of welfare in this country is corporations. Make them believe that price controls are bad, that wage controls are bad, that regulations that make sure corporations don’t kill them are bad. Convince them that EVERYTHING that is good for them and will make their lives infinitely better . . . is bad. That’s what is going on today. The sky isn’t falling, it’s being dismantled on purpose by a corporate cabal that wants only one thing: to transform this country into a corporate dictatorship bent on turning its citizens into batteries that they can toss into the garbage when they’re used up. It's time—long past time—for people in this country—ALL the people—to wake up to what’s really going on and vote—while you still can—like your lives depend on it . . . because they do.

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 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.