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What was Old is New Again: Twenty-First Century Iconoclasm

Prologue: Historical Background

In the period from roughly 641AD to the so-called Triumph of Orthodoxy in 843, the Byzantine Empire, based in modern Istanbul, went through a period of instability, both internal and external. The period is known as the Byzantine Dark Age or the Iconoclastic Controversy. As a result of the rise of Islam and its expansion, the Byzantines lost the rich eastern provinces which they ruled since the first century BC. The Byzantines lived in a religious age, and so to explain this collection of failures, they turned inward.

Specifically, they believed that they had lost god’s favour because of some sin or other. The sin that the Emperors of this period chose to focus on was Idolatry. Orthodox Christianity assumed an increasingly visual form as it evolved across the centuries. Depictions of important religious figures, including Jesus himself, were common. This many in the clergy, and eventually the government, saw as idolatry.

Iconoclasm in the ‘Modern’ World, Part One: ISIS

During 2015, as they waged war on anything non-Islamic, the so-called Islamic State destroyed precious historical buildings and statues. The world quite naturally responded with revulsion. Here we saw the destruction of buildings and monuments because they did not fit into a group’s preconceived ideas. In this case, it was religion which has quite the history of cultural destruction in the name of faith, but religion is by no means unique. Ideology, with its rigid demands that reality conforms to it rather than the reverse, creates the desire to destroy any icons/images that are antithetical. ISIS was just a particularly egregious example. This is but one example of people’s feelings getting hurt having widespread destructive consequences.

Iconoclasm in the ‘Modern’ World, Part Two: Literature

As recently as 2019 (although this controversy is quite old) we witnessed attempts to ban classic works of literature from study at school. The targets were Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Their crime? Use of the N-word dramatic chord. These gems of American literature – the land of the free home of the timid it seems – contained ‘language’ that ‘made some students feel uncomfortable’. As Harper Lee herself noted, the irony of refusing to study books with anti-racism themes over the use of racist language is explosive. The language is designed to make people feel uncomfortable. It exposes the horrific nature of racism.

Refusing to study this book because it contains a particular word is a form of iconoclasm. Even if we do not burn the book itself, because people are uncomfortable with it we must exclude it from the curriculum. What is the difference between the Byzantine Iconoclasts destroying images they saw as blasphemous, ISIS doing the same thing and these literary examples? In all three cases, something has to go because muh feels. Screw – you. The world is not required to accommodate your feelings. Things are going to make you uncomfortable. Get used to it. Cotton wool is not a sustainable living environment. Grow up.

Iconoclasm in the ‘Modern’ World, Part Three: Entertainment in 2020

The example I am about to discuss, that of the Fawlty Towers episode The Germans, has been abandoned and the episode remains available. I want to discuss what I see as the Iconoclasm at play here, so some background is necessary.

There were demands that the BBC remove the Fawlty Towers episode The Germans. This is where Basil (John Cleese) famously does a parody of Hitler including a funny walk reminiscent of The Ministry of Silly Walks from Monty Python. It also includes this brilliant exchange around ‘the war’

German Customer: Will you please stop talking about the war?

Basil: ME? You started it!

German: We did *not* start it

Basil: Yes you did you invaded Poland

Calls to ban this episode, like those with Lee and Twain’s books, utterly miss the point. First of all the ‘you started it’ scene is brilliant and typical of the misunderstandings common in Fawlty Towers. Second, the ‘woke mob’ misses the point that Cleese is making fun of Hitler by speaking gibberish and walking around like an idiot. Cleese’s physical comedy adds much to the scene.

Analysis: Missing the Point

The fact that the mob utterly missed the point of the scene and saw ‘comedy around Hitler’ and yelled ‘BAN IT’ says much about the current state of popular culture. Comedies about World War 2 abound: Hogan’s Heroes, ‘Allo ‘Allo and Dad’s Army among others. These comedies were actually part of the grieving process after the war. Through satire, these shows demystified the war. They portrayed on screen a version of what it was like (edited appropriately for television).

This concept of missing the point actually applies, in two ways, to all forms of Iconoclasm discussed here. First, you cannot kill an idea. You may destroy statues, you may censor books from the curriculum, you may get comedy episodes banned, but the ideas live on. No matter how many books you burn (give them time) the ideas behind them are not going anywhere. The tighter your grip, to paraphrase Leia, the less you hold onto.

The second way these ‘woke’ clowns miss the point is their failure to ascertain the message behind what they seek to ban. Whether it was satirising and criticising racism with Lee and Twain or satirising Hitler with Cleese, failure to understand satire does not invalidate it. There is a saying that if you do not like what a sign is advertising, do not buy the product. The modern, pithier version of this is keep scrolling. People are going to say things you do not like. No individual is the arbiter of what is acceptable. Moving to ban things that even large groups of people find offensive is not the height of ‘wokeness’, it is the height of ignorance and virtue-signalling. This leads to my conclusion.

Conclusion: Wokeness as Distraction 

Prediction: there will be support for this new Iconoclasm from both the corporate sector and the corporate politicians. We have already seen this in the case of the protests around Black Lives Matter. Corporate politician Nancy Pelosi as well as corporate big-wig Jamie Dimon both ‘took knees’ in solidarity. Pelosi’s fake wokeness is well known, and the reason for this is simple. Solidarity with the protests, and even supporting banning certain things, keeps the focus away from the corrupt kleptocracy that passes for a government in the west.

So I have two gripes with the new Iconoclasm: you criticise art without understanding it and you are way too easily manipulated.

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The Past and The Future: Monuments in The Age of Black Lives Matter

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, protests against racism sprung up around the world. One notable target of these protests has been monuments in major cities commemorating their often less-than-stellar history. Some even went so far as to suggest the renaming of military installations named for Confederate leaders in America. We will deal with Trump’s reaction to this below, but for now, I want to ask a question. What specifically is meant by ‘remove’ as The Guardian used in reference to these statues? One definition I can support, the other I oppose in the strongest possible terms.

Disclaimer: I am an historian by training, and this has influenced my take on this. I cannot abide the destruction of any form of historical documentation, no matter how it makes people feel or the contemporary climate. This includes the preservation of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and statues of slaveholders. History is not just the good bits. There is a lot of savagery, barbarism, persecution and violence in human history. To destroy monuments to, and commemoration of, the unpleasant parts of history is to be a Ministry of Truth. It would be, if you will pardon the expression, a whitewashing of history. Over the next few paragraphs, I hope to make my position clear. You are free to disagree as always, but I ask that you hear me out.

Removing, Part One: Preservation away from Public View

As the title suggests, seeking to remove statues of Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Davis and others while preserving them is something I can support. If you do not wish for black people to have to look at statues of men who fought to preserve slavery, I understand. But put the monuments in a museum, please. Destroying statues does not show how ‘woke’ you are. Now here is where you might see some ‘preservation of arr heritage’ or similar argument. If your heritage is one of fighting to keep human beings as property, you need better heritage. But preservation serves history’s other main purpose: the warning sign.

Monuments commemorate individuals, achievements and past events. They do so with an agenda since many are propaganda, granted, but they commemorate never-the-less. Commemoration serves as a warning for future generations. The camps of the Holocaust were not destroyed, but rather became terra sacra (sacred ground) to ensure those atrocities are never forgotten and never repeated. Europe did not hide its anti-Semitic history but rather used the sites of its culmination to ensure the worst crimes were not repeated.

Monuments can serve the same purpose. When a child asks her mother ‘Who’s this Lee guy?’ she can tell her. Such a discussion cannot take place if the statue is in pieces in a landfill somewhere. As Churchill said, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Preservation of these statues outside public view is surely the best way to preserve the evidence of the past so future generations can learn history’s lessons.

Removing, Part Two: Destruction

What I have no time for is the wanton destruction of monuments. Not because I agree with the beliefs of the figures or any other Sally Strawman anyone might invent. As I said above, monuments are commemorations of the past: good and bad. The Res Gestae of Augustus is a brazen piece of political propaganda that tapers over some of the clears throat less savoury moments of his career. Some of these include taking over the state by force, proscribing his opponents and permanently exiling his daughter. Indeed, there is a famous bronze statue of Augustus (2.08m tall) in the Vatican Museum in Rome. Should this be destroyed because Augustus owned slaves, waged wars of conquest and ordered executions? Is he not ‘woke enough’ to survive in the Age of Black Lives Matter?

You might think the previous paragraph somewhat fallacious, but I ask you to consider why these statues are being targetted. These figures were racists, misogynists and all that. That is true. But so were figures from the much more distant past. Here comes the potentially fallacious argument: where would it stop? If statues of Lee and co can be potentially destroyed, what about Churchill? That man had myriad flaws yet his monuments are prominent. Before we get to Trump and his response to calls to rename military bases named after Confederate officers, a reiteration of my overall point seems appropriate. History is not merely the good bits. Indeed, history is, remarkably enough, the story of humans. Humans are flawed. To forget them is to forget their lessons.

Trump and the Confederate Bases

Calls have come forth, as I said above, calls to rename military bases named for Confederate officers. Trump’s response was, per The Guardian

These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a … history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom…The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations … Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!

That man is an idiot. Ok, in order. Great American Heritage? These are bases named after bigots and slaveholders! That is your ‘Great American Heritage’? A history of ‘Winning, Victory and Freedom’? They lost the war! Really! How can they be part of a history of winning when they lost the war? Also, freedom? Freedom for whom? To do what? The freedom for white people to own black people as property? Actually, do not answer that.

While it is true that many American heroes were trained on those bases and forts, changing the name attached to them has no consequences for the future or past heroes trained there. Further, changing the name of a base does not ‘tamper with history’ you wilfully ignorant simpleton. The history is still there even if you change the name. Finally, respect our military? You really do have the mentality of a child: changing anything, even a name, is to ‘disrespect’ the military. What an utter fetish patriot you are.

Conclusion: Addressing the Hypocrisy Charge 

I want to end by addressing any potential charges of hypocrisy over my criticism of Trump in light of earlier paragraphs. There is no double standard here. The bases have monuments, plaques, signage and other ways of identifying them. We should put all of these things in the museum along with existing confederate monuments. I am also not suggesting that these bases be destroyed, merely renamed. It is surely the height of hubris and racial entitlement to expect black soldiers to train at Fort Lee, Fort Bragg (named for a terrible general by the way) or any other Confederate-named fort. Renaming them while preserving their history, rather than destroying them, is surely the compromise between doing nothing as the Idiot-in-Chief wishes to do and tearing them down.

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US Goes Full Fascist: Trump and The Floyd Protests

Disclaimer:

As an historian, I do not throw around the word fascist lightly. It has a very precise meaning but is so often used to describe anyone to the right of you. I am not using it in that sense. Fascism, as I am using it here, refers to an authoritarian and repressive government using military force to enforce its will domestically.

Background: The Protests Around the Death of George Floyd 

Protests have erupted across America in response to the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minnesota. The protests have been largely peaceful, but there has also been some violence, looting and property destruction. The latter is obviously to be condemned, but we cannot ignore the wider systemic issues to which these protests are responding. Consider the following brief list. The blatant use of excessive force by the police. Systemic wealth and income inequality. Political corruption and the government’s pathetic response to COVID-19. Rank corporatism in the government. The death of Mr Floyd may have been the spark for these protests, but the powderkeg has been there for a long time.

What was the response from the police, you may ask? Violence, in a word. Jimmy Dore has covered multiple instances of police violence throughout these protests. The police have become a militarised force who are not to be questioned, just ask them (or maybe not). The issue here is not about responding to the issues the protesters are upset about. This is about maintaining and exercising power and control. The Mayors of many of the towns have backed the actions of the police, despite the violence. This should not surprise anyone: a unified front in response to criticism is a common political trick.

Fascism, USA, Part One: The Framework

In a speech from the White House, President Trump declared that

In recent days our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, rioters, criminals, ANTIFA and others.

He then described acts of violence against the police while omitting any mention of acts of violence by the police. He added this little gem too

These are not acts of peaceful protest. These are acts of domestic terror.

While the claim about violence being anathema to peaceful protest is true, domestic terror Mr President? Recall his false equivalence of ‘very fine people on both sides’ in reference to Charlottesville and the infamous ‘Jews will not replace us’ clowns? No such claim here. What could it be that is different about this situation? I cannot seem to put my finger on it. Somone will work it out I am sure.

Fascism, USA, Part Two: Martial Law?

He then gets to the point of the speech that is garnering the most attention. Having outlined (in suitably propagandistic terms) the nature of the situation, the President said this

I am taking immediate Presidential action to stop the violence and restore safety and security in America. I am mobilising all available federal resources (civlian and military) to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruciton and arson and to protect the rights of law-abaiding Americans including your Second Amendment Rights

Yes, Mr President, because the protesters were coming for people’s guns. That man is an idiot. He lives in a reality completely of his own creation. But more to the point, mobilising federal troops (that’s what federal military resources means)?

As if this point were not explicit enough, he added this

I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets. Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled. If a city or state refuses to take the steps that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them

That last clause is decisive: sending the military into states to quell protests. The President has now gone full fascist. To deploy the military against unruly citizens is the height of tyranny. It is the very definition of a dictatorship; the very form of government America claims to oppose.

Cease Quoting the Laws to Us, For We Carry Guns, Part One: The First Amendment

The title of this section is a modernisation of a line from the ancient biographer Plutarch in his life of Pompey the Great. It refers to the fact that when you have troops at your command, the law means nothing. Well, I am going to do it anyway. This blatant violation of at least two laws that I can think of off the top of my head must be called out. Trump’s claim to be able to deploy the armed forces against American citizens contravenes many laws (the First Amendment chief among them). Now before anyone tries to strawman me and say that the First Amendment does not protect rioting, I never said it did. But Trump has conflated the issue of rioting with protest broadly defined, which is protected by the ‘beautiful law’ to quote him. The text of the much-vaunted First Amendment says (in full)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

Note the word ‘peaceably’ in that quote. It is perfectly legal to assemble (gather and protest) and to petition for redress of grievances (cry out for change in some form). You can, indeed you must, arrest the rioters and criminals and leave the non-violent protesters alone. Trump’s conflation of non-violent, civil protest with the rioters, intentional or otherwise, allows him to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Nuance never was his strong suit however, so the precedent is set: protest is bad. Any other rights you would like to curtail, you fascist?

Cease Quoting the Laws to Us, for We Carry Guns, Part Two: Posse Comitatus

Of greater interest than the First Amendment violation, however, (where the hell are you constructionist and states’ rights conservatives?) is the violation of Posse Comitatus. Under this 1878 law, it is illegal for active duty (federal) soldiers to perform law enforcement functions inside US borders. In other words, federal troops cannot be used as a make-shift police force. Note that this only applied to federal troops. The state governors are Commanders in Chief of their respective National Guard regiments and can deploy them to supplement existing law enforcement. The prohibition is on using federal troops for law enforcement purposes inside US borders. The problem is clear enough: state governors have no authority over federal troops.

Trump’s policy of deploying the military to quell the violence (and by extension the protests) by definition means he intends to have the soldiers shoot people. They cannot enforce the law, so what other purpose do they serve? This is truly dangerous and must be opposed with all possible (non-violent) force.

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2020 becomes 1984: Trump, Twitter and the Ministry of Truth

Prologue: Trump as Big Brother  

You do not need me to tell you that Donald Trump has a distant relationship with the truth. The man says what he needs to say at that particular moment as if nothing he said in the past ever happened. The truth is what he says it is on any given day and we have always been at war with East Asia. Well, the social media machine fought back. Some context first, then I want to look at Twitter’s response: the fact check. This is a serious Pandora’s Box. But some background first.

Background: Trump as Liar in Chief

Trump posted a Tweet stating that mail-in ballots will be ‘substantially fraudulent’. Two points here: first there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are any more or less fraudulent than in-person voting. Second, the last time an election used mail-in ballots for a special election, the Republican won. It truly is remarkable how quickly Trump can utterly contradict himself. Vote by mail is totally fraudulent but the Republican won. Amazing. This is analogous to his 2016 claims that the electoral college was a disaster for democracy – when it looked like he would lose.

He is such a child, turning on a dime for purely selfish motives. He truly has the mentality of a toddler: all he can see is his own desires. Anyone who meets his demands is his best friend (for now) and anyone who stymies him in any way is the worst person in the history of the world. He is a pathological liar: a glance at anything he has said in any forum since his time in office will reveal at least one exaggeration, misleading statement or outright lie. Anyone with the gall to call him on his lies is ‘fake news’, best understood as any coverage that is unfavourable.

A Look at Trump’s Lies: The Gish Gallop

Now you might say all politicians lie, and that is true. But there is a dimension to Trump’s lies that is unique. His claims are so outrageous that any attempt to fact check him would require so much effort and resources that it is counterproductive. This Presidency is a Gish Gallop. That term comes from a religious apologist debater named Dwayne Gish who would say so many things that were so wrong that the opponent would spend all their time correcting him and not be able to make their own case. Trump revels in this: he sets the narrative (or has it set) through his symbiotic relationship with Fox Noise and dismisses any criticism as Fake News. To return to the toddler analogy, this is the equivalent of fingers in the ears ‘la la la la la la’ nonsense; from a 73-year-old man. Seriously

Twitter Responds: The Fact Check 

In a recent article, The New York Times discussed the introduction of the Fact Check. Twitter introduced it following Tweets from Trump implicating former Florida Congressman Joe Scarborough in the accidental death of an employee in his office. She died of natural causes related to an undiagnosed heart condition, but Trump never let the facts get in the way of a good vendetta. Her family was, as we might expect, outraged and appealed to Twitter. The company would not remove the Tweets but did apologise. When Trump tweeted about the mail-in ballots, the rationale was that misinformation about voting could cause confusion and thus warranted a correction.

Naturally, Trump and his campaign were outraged at someone stymying Trump’s ongoing campaign of BSing the electorate. Trump himself went so far as to accuse Twitter of interfering in the election and of ‘stifling FREE SPEECH’. A Fact Check of my own, if I may: the First Amendment prevents the government from restricting freedom of speech.

The issue for the rest of this piece (and possibly others to come) is this: Does Trump have a point?

Publisher or Platform: What is Twitter?

In a recent segment on Rising, Saagar Enjeti raised the fundamental question of What is Twitter. If it is a publisher, there are certain restrictions on what it can put into the public domain. If, however, it is merely a platform, a sort of ‘bathroom wall’ where anyone can write as they please, then the situation is different. Is it the place of Twitter or any other social media site to ‘fact check’ the posts that are made? Who is qualified to make such judgements? And who watches the watchers?

Do you hire a physician to fact check anti-vaxxer claims? A climate scientist to fact check climate-deniers? An actual economist to debunk trickle-down? This gets very close to what Saagar called Technocratic Oligarchy, that is the rule by a few experts. Even if I think that claim is somewhat exaggerated, I can see the point. In particular, Saagar notes the presence of an openly anti-Trump ‘fact-checker’ on Twitter. This clown actually said that states that voted for Trump are called ‘flyover country’ for a reason. He also compared the Trump Administration to ‘ACTUAL NAZIS’ – which, for all their flaws, they are not.

Who are The Fact Checkers?

Who is qualified to check facts as I asked above? No matter who is chosen, whether a left-leaning outlet like Kyle Kulinski, TYT, Sam Seder, or a right-leaning outlet like Ben Shapiro or Rush Limbaugh, all of these people have their bias. But they would not even be considered as potential fact-checkers since they are not ‘authoritative’, a term best understood as the establishment. An example of a fact-checking piece is this one from CNN on Trump’s claims about mail-voting. Keep in mind this is the same CNN who peddled the Russia-Gate nonsense for four years. This is the same mainstream media that quite openly does establishment propaganda. Are these the people we wish to have as ‘fact-checkers’? Do we really want Bernie Sanders or AOC’s claims about M4A to be ‘fact-checked’ by CNN and MSNBC, networks openly hostile to the idea? This is not about checking facts, this is about control of information.

Conclusion: He Who Controls the Past Controls the Future

The year 2020 has officially turned into 1984, with Twitter as the Ministry of Truth. Anyone on the ‘resistance left’ supporting this has a severe case of shortsightedness. Such a policy can easily be turned against any group when Wrongthink becomes the order of the day. The original purpose of Twitter was as a platform. Now I am as pro-fact as the next person, but until First Contact with the Vulcans is made, pure impartiality is not possible.

Twitter needs to abandon this policy quickly. Not because Trump is the President subject to a different set of rules, but because a platform is just that. A blank canvas onto which people put their ideas. The response to factual errors is to have the media (laugh along with me) point them out and put correct information (facts) in place of the erroneous statements. Twitter fact-checkers set a dangerous precedent and should be abandoned quickly.

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The DNC and the Democratic Base: An Abusive Relationship

Prologue: A Confession

I want to get this out of the way early. As all critics of the Corporate Democrats must, I hereby pledge my allegiance to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of Russia. Since it is impossible to criticise Corporate Democrats without being a Russian Agent, I hereby confess now. It is not as though any form of denial would make a difference: that is how unfalsifiable claims work. Я работаю на правительство России, товарищ (I work for the Russian government, comrade).

Defining Our Terms: The Abusive Relationship

Consider a relationship where one partner is openly hostile to the other and works with another to undermine them. Gaslighting is common. The hostile partner feels entitled to the love and affection of the other partner. Any form of independence is seen as a threat to the abuser’s power. When confronted with these facts, the partner says ‘What are you going to do? Where else have you got to go? No no – you will stay because the alternative is worse’.

Here we have threats, intimidation, entitlement and emotional abuse defining the dynamic of this hypothetical relationship. The suggestion is that the abused partner has no choice or other option and is thereby obligated to put up with whatever the other partner dishes out. Over time, the victim comes to define this perversion of a relationship as ‘love’.

The Definition in Action, Part One: The DNC and Centrist/Older Voters 

The parallels between the hypothetical of the previous paragraph and the DNC ought to be obvious. I want to start with centrist and older voters. Died in the wool of the abusive relationship, they have drunk the Koolaid. This consists of statements like ‘this is as good as it gets’, ‘we are the best you can hope for’ and ‘hey, at least we are not the Republicans’. I actually have some sympathy for these voters, even if I fundamentally disagree with their politics and positions. These voters are, often (but not always) members of what Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti of Rising call the Professional Managerial Class (PMC). Typically, these people are more financially comfortable and can thus afford to focus on social issues. Social issues are, to be fair, one of the major differences between two quite corporate parties.

But this is a distinction without a difference: a corporate party filled with social regressives (GOP) or a corporate party filled with ‘woke’ clowns? The underlying philosophy of corporatism (made manifestly clear by the recent bailout packages) is still there. Voters willing to place social issues above economic issues are usually (but again not always) in a position where economic policy is less important.

The Definition in Action, Part Two: The DNC and the Progressive Base

The group for whom I have no sympathy, and more than a little contempt, are those who would shame any voter with the temerity to not vote for Joe Biden. The Corporate Democratic Party is, like the abusive partner described above, very much entitled to the votes of their base, and can (and does) take them for granted. Anyone with the gall to actually evaluate the record of Joe Biden and make a conscious choice about voting for him instead of falling in line because Orange Man Bad is to be shunned. Trump enabler! Russian Agent! Racist! they shriek. They petulantly demand that you do not think, just fall in line because Trump is such an aberration. Trump is such a threat. He is so bad. Do you not see? Outrageous that you actually want Mr Biden to be vetted.

This aptly fits the definition of ‘You will stay here because the alternative is worse’. Do not look outside the house, for you are not going anywhere. Now go and make me a – sorry – go and vote for me! You have precisely no policy-based reason to do so but do it anyway because Orange Man Bad. Anyone who doubts the suggestion that there is no policy-based reason to vote for Biden should recall his quote that ‘nothing will fundamentally change’

The DNC and a Lack of Motivation to Change, Part One: Trump as Standard Republican 

I have said before that Orange Man Bad is not a campaign slogan, nor is it a strategy. Running on what Bill Maher called ‘Trump Fatigue’ will not get your base out to vote. The other major consequence of Orange Man Bad is the precedent it sets.

Trump is not, contrary to the media’s petulant shrieking about ‘norms’ and ‘civility’ and ‘decorum, good Sir’, actually that different from a standard Republican. When we consider policy and ignore what I am increasingly convinced is nothing but media baiting from Trump, he is a standard Republican, albeit on cocaine. He has cut taxes for the rich, deregulated business, gutted environmental protections and had a bellicose foreign policy.

This is standard Republican stuff. Indeed, if you look at the nature of the disagreements that establishment/elite figures have with Trump, it is rarely about policy. The disagreements are about tone, and civility and procedure. An example of the latter was when Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blasted Trump for launching a military strike – without a congressional vote. The issue was not that Trump had launched a military strike on a foreign country, but that he did not go through the proper procedure. So the disagreements are aesthetic at best.

The DNC and a Lack of Motivation to Change, Part Two: Framing

The idea that policywise, Trump is a standard Republican and not some out of bounds exception creates a problem. Running a campaign where you define a man who is, on policy terms, a standard Republican as an existential threat to the nation means this can be applied to any Republican. This is useful for the Corporate Democrats, since such a campaign presents them as the ‘return to normalcy’ ticket. Such a campaign requires precisely no policy changes. They can remain the same corporate slaves they have been for the last generation and still present themselves as reasonable. Such framing also allows them to present anyone with the gall to not vote for them as ‘outside the realm of respectable political discourse’ or some version thereof.

The Corporate Democrats thus have no motivation to change since, in their framing of political discourse, they are the ‘obvious choice’. Now you might say does not every party do this? Present their opponents as unreasonable and themselves as they only choice? Perhaps, but parties in democratic systems typically serve their base, not shame them for having the cheek to actually make a choice rather than simply doing as they are told. Parties are supposed to meet the people where they are, not the other way around. The Corporate Democratic Party has only itself to blame when its base, long abused and ignored, goes somewhere else. Watch the party lash out like a stymied abuser when that happens (even worse than they are now).

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Bernie Drops Out: A Post Mortem

America’s Dad Bernard Sanders has ‘suspended his campaign’, which is politician speak for dropping out. The result is that former Vice President Joe Biden is the Democratic Presidential candidate for 2020. I wish you luck, Mr Vice President, for you shall need it. But I digress. This piece is about the Sanders campaign, the lessons to take from it and its legacy. I am going to lay some blame at the foot of the media; I do not think we can legitimately deny that the media’s bias against Sanders played some role in his lack of success.

That said, any suggestion that I writing an apologia for Senator Sanders and his campaign will hopefully be mollified by the criticism I will level at both him and his campaign. They, and indeed Senator Sanders himself, were far from flawless in their campaign strategy. Both proved inflexible and to some extent politically tone-deaf in their reactions to circumstances on the campaign. I am sad that his run is over, but there are lessons to learn. Some of what follows may not be pleasant for Sanders’ supporters.

Dad Drops Out: What Happened

Folks are well aware that, following the simultaneous withdrawals of Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar, Biden did extremely well on Super Tuesday. Following his predictable win in South Carolina, the former Vice President had the momentum. The withdrawals of Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar and the establishment coalescing around Biden is what Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski called Bloody Monday. Sanders stayed on, however, despite petulant screeching from the establishment that he drop out. Well, you got your wish, you bastards. To paraphrase Sir Robert Walpole, you have your candidate, I wish you well.

Dad announced his withdrawal, citing the painful truth that no viable path to the nomination exists. He is behind by 300 delegates and the numbers simply do not work. These are the facts of the situation, facts that he expressed very eloquently and I encourage you to read his statement.

Dad Drops Out: Why, Part One: The Media

We need to consider many factors to explain why a candidate who is in line with mainstream American voters’ opinion faced such a struggle. Note that I said voters’ opinion. Mr Sanders’ policies are popular among the people (even a Fox News audience cheered for M4A). The corporate sycophants in the media, who are as corrupt as the politicians, could never support a populist. So the media consistently portrayed Bernie in the most negative light possible. As critical as many people are of the media (guilty), we must accept that they do have a wide range of influence.

Despite terrible levels of trust in the media, they still have massive amounts of influence. Like it or not, the way the media portrays a candidate shapes their image. The flagrant dishonesty in the media’s coverage of Sanders is well known, but this example I think illustrates it well. Sanders praised former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro for his literacy programme. Naturally, this drew outrage from the professional pearl-clutching brigade and suddenly it was ‘Sanders loves Dictators’. What he actually said, if you intentionally dishonest actors could remove your heads from your rectums for a moment, was that Castro’s literacy programme was a good thing. That is all. Sanders still condemned the regime, he still said authoritarianism was evil, still said political prisoners in gaols was inappropriate. But the media did not care.

The N-word and the F-word are no longer what you think they are. Instead, they are Nuance and Facts. Both are every bit as taboo as ngger and fck and neither has a place in ‘polite’ and ‘civil’ corporate media conversation. The narrative is what matters, in this case, Sanders Bad. The media has much to answer for in the fall of the most popular candidate in recent memory.

Dad Drops Out: Why, Part Two: Strategic Flaws and Weaknesses

For all the flaws of the media, and they are legion, the Sanders campaign, and indeed the Senator himself must bear ultimate responsibility. In the early states, meaning those before Bloody Monday, Sanders’ strategy had been to secure a solid 30% of the vote. This is because, simply put, that was all he needed in such a crowded field.

But once it was a 2 man race, the strategy needed to evolve; and it did not. Sanders’ stump speech did not change, not did his labelling or marketing. He continued to appeal mostly to younger voters, openly calling himself a Democratic socialist. In addition, he started the #nomiddleground campaign. This portrayed him as uncompromising and, yes, somewhat of an extremist. Right or wrong, this would not play well with older voters, who are the more likely voters. These were major strategic blunders on the part of the campaign.

Dad Drops Out: Why, Part Three: Tactical Problems

There were tactical blunders, too. When Sanders was asked if he thought Joe Biden could beat Trump, he responded ‘I do’. Wrong answer, Dad. You were in a primary, Sir. When the media asks you if your opponent can fulfil the role the two of you are competing for, you say No. You say that you are the better candidate. What kind of alternative says that the other guy can do the job? The primary is a job interview for the role of Nominee. If you were at a job interview and they asked you ‘Do you think the other guy can do the job?’ you answer ‘I am the best candidate’. You make your case, which you did not do. Your inability or unwillingness to make your own case cost you dearly.

Finally, Sanders displayed considerable personal weakness on the campaign. He frequently referred to Joe Biden as ‘my friend’, called him ‘a decent guy’ and so on. This lack of a ‘killer instinct’ crystalised in his utter refusal to call out Biden’s corruption. Biden openly said that he had ‘prostituted myself’ to moneyed interests. Bernie allowed his personal friendship with Biden to get in the way of doing his political duty, which was to expose Biden for the corrupt corporate insider that he is. Sanders had no such problem exposing Mrs Clinton’s corruption. No friendship there, I guess.

Bernie Sanders as Prophet: The Way Forward

As critical as the previous paragraphs were of America’s Dad, his campaign is still a watershed moment in American History. As Chomsky said, Sanders has fundamentally changed the conversation. Ideas that were unthinkable even two years ago are now part of the conversation. The media largely dismisses them, but the very fact that they have to respond at all speaks volumes. Politicians, too, are forced to respond to the ideas of M4A, tuition-free public college and eliminating student-loan debt. The conversation is changing. Sanders’ focus on the issues, sometimes unfortunately to the exclusion of smart politics, has brought that style of campaign back to the forefront of politics. Long may this continue.

The Sanders campaign also received donations not from Wall St or other corporate interests, but from regular Joe and Jane citizens, averaging, per his suspension statement, $18.50. Thus a populist campaign funded by small-dollar donations is possible. With a few minor tweaks and adjustments, great success may be had using this model.

Bernie Sanders is the canary in the coalmine, setting many a useful precedent for his successors to follow. Who those successors are remains to be seen, and we must acknowledge that a void in left leadership does exist since Sanders will not run again. The Presidential campaigns of America’s Dad Bernard Sanders represent major milestones in American history. His legacy is considerable and must not be forgotten. Forward, Progressives. Dad showed the way, and it now falls to you to pick up the baton.

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Calcified Corporatists: Dems Out-Lefted by Trump on Healthcare

The Democrats have placed on glaring display their lack of self-awareness as well as their corporatism. In response to the health crisis that is a pandemic, the party, as well as its nominee, has shown how out of touch they truly are. In this piece, I want to look at the Corporate Democrats’ ‘response’ to the health crisis and compare it to that of the Trump Administration. This will likely not be popular among Democratic partisans, but that is irrelevant. Your party is proving itself to be a collection of out of touch elitists. Their response to a pandemic is yet more of their failed ideology. They have refused to adapt to the situation. They embody the phrase that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The criticism is apt.

Exhibit A: Hillary Clinton: Let them Buy Insurance

We begin with the political zombie that just will not die. On the third of April, Mrs Clinton tweeted that in response to this pandemic, Trump should ‘Re-open the health care exchanges’. This is a reference to the Affordable Care Act. This piece of legislation compelled citizens to purchase health insurance in the private market. Government-mandated purchasing of private insurance: land of the free indeed. So, Secretary Clinton’s solution to a pandemic was to once again force people to buy private insurance. A simple question, Madame Secretary: using what? The immediate context is that people have lost their jobs! They have no money with which to buy insurance. What would you have them use? Blood plasma?

The sheer elitism in her comment says it all: let them buy insurance. You lost your healthcare because you were laid off due to no fault of your own? Well, why not just buy some insurance using the savings that you do not have? The Secretary is evidently not aware that almost half of Americans cannot afford a one-off $400 emergency, to say nothing of recurring monthly payments. She is aware that many people’s healthcare is tied to the very jobs they have just lost, but she still wants them to buy insurance. Incredible. So out of touch, so elitist. Finally, it is noteworthy that her response to this crisis was, at least in part, to funnel yet more money to the private sector. The insatiable greed of capitalism never takes a back seat, does it, Madame Secretary?

Exhibit B: Joe Biden and the Veto Pen

During an interview on MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell posed the following question to Joe Biden

Let’s flash forward: you’re President. Bernie Sanders is still active in the Senate. He manages to get Medicare for All through the Senate in some compromised [form]…Nancy Pelosi gets a version of it through the House of Representatives. It comes to your desk. Do you veto it?

Actually a decent question there. Consider this: all of the political work has been done. The battle is won. The bill has made it through the House and the Senate. All Biden has to do is sign it. He still said he would veto it. Now, before anyone argues that this was three weeks ago, nothing has changed. In a more recent interview in the last few days, Mr Biden said he still opposes any form of single-payer Medicare for All, despite accidentally arguing for it. Hashtag coherence.

Let us ignore for the moment the raw political stupidity it takes to alienate your base by saying you would scuttle their chief issue. Focus instead on the sheer lack of courage and leadership on display. Mr Vice President, it is not a crime to change your position to adapt to changed circumstances. It is not ‘politicising the tragedy’ to call for a Medicare for All system in response to this pandemic. Indeed, the very mental flexibility that such a change would involve is the most important character trait of a President. Your continued insistence, Sir, that Medicare for All is dead despite its wild popularity will suppress the Democratic base. This is because, as I said previously, they have no reason to vote for you.

Blindsided from the Left: Trump Responds 

President Trump’s response was to, in the words of former Obama health official Andy Slavitt

Announce another plan. People without insurance can get cared for for free. And hospitals would get paid for at Medicare rates.

In other words, even without private health insurance, citizens (no mention of age) can go to a hospital and receive care and treatment, free of charge. In addition, the government would pay for the cost of the consultation, testing and treatment at Medicare rates. So the coverage offered in Medicare is being extended…to all. Hmm – where have I heard something like that before? Medicare…for ALL! You calcified corporate cuckolds have officially allowed Trump to take the left-wing position on healthcare! Jesus Christ how can you be so incompetent?! You clowns are so far up your own arses that you cannot even play the populist part for purposes of a pandemic (or, more cynically, an election year).

This is, in all likelihood, what Trump is doing: assuming the role of a populist on the issue of healthcare for purposes of an election cycle. His ability to read the room that is the electorate and assume a popular position is part of the formula of his success. However, motivations to the side for a moment, this is the correct position. Whether or not he realises the precedent that adopting such a plan puts in place (why should this system only apply to COVID-19) remains to be seen, but on this issue he is right.

Trump is assuming the role of a populist

Conclusion: Die, Democrats, Die

This incident is a shining example not only of Trump’s ability to read the electorate but of how utterly calcified and corporate the Democratic party is. The sheer political ineptitude of refusing to adapt your position to circumstances is actually remarkably conservative. In previous pieces, I discussed conservatism’s petulant insistence on sticking to their guns and demanding that reality bend to their ideology. The Democrats are doing the exact same thing. Hey, Dems: when you are out popularised by Donald Trump, you need to, like the dying animal you are, walk into the forest and not return.

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Neoliberalism, COVID 19 and Priorities: Hypocrisy Exposed

In this piece, I want to look at two policies from the Morrison Government in response to COVID 19. The first concerns a plan for free childcare for the duration of the pandemic. The second concerns economic stimulus. Both of these policies are good ideas. However, we cannot ignore the context in which they are taking place. Specifically, these policies are in response to a global pandemic. It took a viral outbreak with almost a million cases and fifty-thousand deaths to bring about these incremental (and temporary) examples of social progress.

Both of these facts around this part of the government’s response expose the brazen hypocrisy at the core of Neoliberalism. The takeaway is this: these governments have the money for increased social safety net programmes and infrastructure, but they choose to not invest in these things. To put it crudely, the issue is not ‘we can’t afford these programmes’, you fuckers are just unwilling to pay for them! A blank cheque and the keys to the treasury for the political donor class with crumbs and scraps for the serfs! As the Irish poet W.B. Yeats said ‘the centre cannot hold’.

Neoliberal Hypocrisy, Part One: Scott Morrison’s Free Childcare

Per The Guardian, the Morrison government is introducing a payment that will effectively make childcare free. The payment, which the government will distribute to childcare centres, will represent 50% of regular fees. Centres receiving such a payment will be required to not charge parents any fees. Set aside for the moment the fact that Peter Dutton and his wife own a string of childcare centres. Even I am not cynical enough to suggest that this was the motivation behind the payment. However, it is interesting to note that the payment went to the businesses rather than the people. Neoliberals to the core.

The payment will last for the duration of the COVID 19 pandemic. Taking a broader perspective, childcare in Australia is notoriously expensive, costing anywhere up to $18,000 a year. The pandemic has motivated the Prime Minister, albeit in his usual business-friendly manner, to subsidise this crucial service. This raises the obvious question: if the government can do this now, the money clearly exists to implement it. Childcare is essential if households are to have two incomes, which is becoming increasingly necessary. Thus, it seems a good boost for the economy to have childcare be government-funded. Since the economy is all neoliberals care about, this just might be how we sell it to them.

Lest I be too critical, this is actually a good idea. However, we should not ignore the fact that it took a pandemic for Mr Morrison to do this. Note too that this will be temporary. Once the pandemic passes the pseudo-deity Surplusius Maximus will render its head. It will demand virgin sacrifices. Just you wait.

Neoliberal Hypocrisy, Part Two: Scott Morrison’s Economic Stimulus

The second act of government policy in response to COVID 19 that warrants attention is the economic stimulus package. Like the childcare policy, this includes many good ideas, including raising the rate of Newstart as well as direct cash payments to affected citizens. This, again, is a good idea, but the context is less positive for the government. Calls to increase the rate of Newstart have long fallen either on deaf ears or received cries of ‘we can’t afford that’. The current stimulus package appears to suggest otherwise. To paraphrase what I said above, you have had the money but not the will. Before anyone argues that these are extraordinary circumstances, stop and reflect. If it takes extraordinary circumstances for the government to increase what amounts in many cases to subsistence (and below) levels of social support, what does that say?

I want to be absolutely clear here: these policies are good ideas. As convoluted and at times contradictory as Morrison’s message has been on this virus, the economic measures are good ideas. So I am not critical of the policy per se. Rather, my focus is on the underlying ideology. Specifically, the fact that it took such a pandemic to force Neoliberals to act with basic compassion. This ideology is clearly incompatible with a functioning social democracy. So how does this metaphorical oil slick continue to survive in the beaker of water that is social democracy?

The Balancing Act: Neoliberals and Social Programmes

Any attempt to roll back popular, universal programmes will be wildly unpopular, and the neoliberals know this. The FDR Administration during the Depression introduced Social Security as well as the New Deal. These policies proved very popular (famously, term limits were introduced because of Roosevelt). Conservatives since have tried to privatise Social Security in various ways. Sneakily, such attempts at privatisation have taken place under the guise of ‘reform’ and ‘saving’ the programme. Cost is the chief gripe. Various lefties have taken to saying mockingly ‘How-yi-gon-pay-friiiiiiit’ (How are you going to pay for it) in reference to conservative opposition to popular social programmes such as M4A. You can see where this is going.

The sheer hypocrisy of neoliberal attitudes to social programmes comes out when you consider the gargantuan corporate bailouts, to say nothing of the ever-increasing military budgets. Evidently, when the priorities are those of the corporate elites, money is no option. Trillions upon trillions of dollars for the war machine and corporate welfare. But if someone has the gall to say ‘hey, there seems to be a lot of money available. Let’s do this policy to help the wider society’, the outrage that pours forward is palpable.

It is fitting to end where I began (albeit crudely): you fuckers have always had the money, but it took a fucken crisis for you to grow a conscience!

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Krystal Ball Demolishes Joe Biden

Krystal Ball of Rising on The Hill TV recently made a comment that perfectly encapsulates Joe Biden and the Democrats. I want to give her comment, delve into the details and extrapolate a little.

The Krystal Ball Looks into You, Part One: Swing that Axe!

On a recent edition of Rising, Krystal offered this pearl of wisdom on Joe Biden. For full context, he was on MSNBC doing an interview about COVID-19 among other topics. Krystal said

He [Biden] is actually perfect. He’s a perfect emblem of a dying, gasping, hollow husk of the Democratic establishment. He’s the perfect emblem and mascot for that. When I see him out there [in the media] I think ‘Yeah. This is exactly what they want. It’s exactly who they are. Just some empty husk, reading from notes so that they can push and direct in the right direction. Ultimately what is he promising? Nothing will fundamentally change. You don’t need to do anything. Just man the ship, and put the regular people back in place. That’s all that they’ve ever promised

That was a barbed-wire wrapped sledgehammer strike to the skull. What a brilliant encapsulation of the rotting hulk that is Joe Biden and the Democratic Establishment. Ok – praise over, let us delve into this.

In Biden, we have a rich, old, white, corrupt candidate who is politically illiterate and quite incompetent. He openly serves the donor class (see this segment about his donors having veto power over his VP picks) while paying lip service to the liberal base through identity politics. He promised to put a black woman on the Supreme Court and pick a woman for his VP. Could there be a better encapsulation of the Democratic Establishment? Corporatist economics under a veneer of wokeness.

The Krystal Ball Looks into You, Part Two: A Propped Up Puppet

Krystal has provided insight into Biden’s true role in this process. His role is basically as a puppet for his younger VP pick. Mr Biden has clear cognitive decline, and it looks increasingly unlikely that he would serve one full term, never mind two. His Vice President, whoever it may be, would likely serve out his term when his cognitive decline renders him unable to serve.

Krystal and Saagar (her co-host on Rising) also discussed the possibility of a Reagan-Bush style situation, where the VP becomes the presumptive nominee to replace their boss. The result would be twelve years of Democratic rule, specifically of the neoliberal variety. When Joe Biden told a room full of wealthy donors that nothing would fundamentally change, his role was thus crystalised: he was a status quo manager. He was not an agent of change (even Obama had the good sense to run on that)

Showing how little she cares for the norms of Washington DC, Krystal even added that Biden’s role was to ‘put regular people back in place.’ A sort of ‘return to normalcy’ if you will. See, these inept and out of touch clowns think that Trump is the problem. His lack of civility and mean tweets (ignore his policies since they agree with him there) are the problem. If we can remove Trump, even if we have to put the corpse of Joe Biden in there, things will return to normal. Why Joe Biden though, you may ask?

The Krystal Ball Looks into You, Part Three: Status Quo Joe

Extrapolating from Krystal’s comment slightly, Biden’s coronation at the expense of Bernie Sanders is easily explained. In contrast to Trump, who has the annoying habit of saying the quiet part loud when it comes to Washington serving the corporate elites, Biden knows the score. The former Vice President has been in this town for nearly half a century and knows (or used to know) how to do the elites’ bidding without being so open about it. Trump lacks that subtlety. Sanders was never an option for the corporate media since he represents the people and not the corporations. So Biden was the only option. He will restore dignity to the oval office. He will say ‘America’ as he bombs the sh*t out of brown people. Biden will say ‘freedom’ as he cuts corporate taxes. He will put a corporatist black woman on the Supreme Court.

Conclusion: Joe Biden, the Base and the Future of the Democratic Party

Never wonder why various lefties, notably Kyle Kulinsky of Secular Talk, are saying not to vote for Joe Biden. It does not matter, they say, whether you live in a swing state or a safe state: do not vote for Biden. Lest you think this is sour grapes for the establishment screwing Bernie Sanders, what motivation does the left have to vote for Joe Biden?

He does not agree with them on policy, which is what they care about the most. Biden said he would veto M4A because of ‘its price tag’. That is such a bogus talking point since M4A actually saves money. I ask again: why should the left vote for Biden? Because Orange Man Bad? What policy-based argument do the Democrats have to entice their base to vote for Biden? The party is not, contrary to their own beliefs, entitled to the votes of their base. They must earn them, something Biden has no intention of doing.

Joe Biden thus represents perfectly not only the ‘dying, gasping, hollow husk’ of Krystal’s comment, but the wider disconnect between the Democratic Party and its base. The base is focused on policy, and they have a very specific agenda. Failure to meet them where they are, to say nothing of being openly hostile to their agenda, does not bode well for the future of the party. In addition, no amount of shaming them, or threatening them with Trump if they do not vote ‘the right way’, will bring them on side. The fundamental disconnect between the Democratic Party and their base could not be starker. Joe Biden is the perfect representation of that disconnect. Do not be surprised, Democratic Establishment, when the base does not vote for you when you gave them no reason to.

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COVID-19 and the Exposure of Neoliberalism

The acolytes of neoliberalism are likely to view this piece as politicising the current crisis. I care not. For decades we have been told that coddling big business and the rich will generate a prosperous society for all. This was always a lie, but until recently the oligarchs have been able to get away with it. The ever-increasing demands of the petulant child that is modern pseudo-capitalism have been tied successfully to the prosperity of the wider society. Any attempt at reform, to actually distribute some of the prosperity to the peasants was decried as socialism. This while these hypocrites gladly partook in consistent corporate socialism. As I stated in a previous post, socialism per se is not the problem; it just has to go to the right people.

The COVID 19 pandemic has exposed the utter failure of neoliberalism. Whether it is the utter obsession with getting the peasants back to work, up to and including sacrificing lives to the market gods, or the refusal to lock down countries because freedom, this philosophy is exposed. Even Morrison said that his measures to stimulate the economy, more than half of which were for the banks, should not go so far as to ‘bury the budget for a decade’. He is still obsessed with his blessed budget surplus. Neoliberalism is thus exposed as a fair-weather philosophy. When everything is fine and the economy (the stock market) is doing well, it and its advocates are fine. But when a crisis hits and the government is actually required to, you know, do something, they are utterly out of their depth.

The Failure of Neoliberalism, Part One: Government Fails because we Broke It

There is an old rightwing trope that says

The nine most dangerous words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’

Government is not the solution, so the logic went, it is the problem. What they did not tell the rubes to whom they sold that snake oil was that the reason government did not work is that they broke it. They defunded the various agencies (looking at you Trump for firing the pandemic experts at the CDC and cutting its funding among many others) which created the situation of their not working. This is the charge often levelled at the right of creating their own success. They break government, usually by defunding it, so it is ineffective and then say it does not work so this function of government must be privatised.

It is noteworthy that it is only ever those aspects of government that help the ordinary Joe and Jane that are undermined though. If an aspect of government can help the donors of the corporate cuckolds who currently occupy the majority in the representative body, that will be funded to the hilt (quite literally in the case of the armed forces). This is yet another version of socialism is not the problem, the wrong recipients are.

The Failure of Neoliberalism, Part Two: Profit Motives in Essential Services 

As I stated in a previous post, certain essential services such as health, the armed forces, prisons and so on have had a profit motive built into them. The private sector does everything better because competition, they whined. This turned out to be a lie, of course. The result was policy being guided towards increasing the profits of these industries. Famous examples include private prisons demanding that laws be changed to place more bodies in beds. In the context of the current crisis, the for-profit health industry in the United States is the most egregious example. One woman, for instance, received a bill for nearly $35k for her COVID 19 treatment. Yes she had an underlying condition, but still, it takes a particularly ghoulish governing philosophy to profit off people’s sickness, but this is what the American health system has done. Tieing private profit to public services is yet another of the major failings of neoliberalism.

Where to Now? The Next Order

When the world eventually recovers from COVID 19, serious structural questions will be asked, at least by those outside the corporate establishment. Clearly, neoliberalism was not equipped to handle the crisis that was COVID 19. Demands for structural reform will come thick and fast. Here is a list of suggestions for these reforms. A new Bill of Rights so to say

  1. The Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, at the local, state and federal level, shall be duly elected by the people. The electoral process shall also be funded by the people through tax revenue. Any and all donations from any third-party source for any reason, are hereby deemed unconstitutional and will be prosecuted. Elections shall be clean. Any previous rulings, legislation or executive orders/actions on this topic are hereby voided. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action.
  2. There shall be no monopolies, whether of media or any other commodity. Pre-existing monopolies shall be broken up. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action.
  3. The financial industry, including but not limited to, banking and investment firms, shall be limited in terms of their value. This will be known as the ‘too big to fail, too big to exist’ clause. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action.
  4. A minimum hourly wage shall be set, and chained to inflation and productivity. In addition, a Universal Basic Income shall be instituted. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action
  5. The social contract shall be enforced; education to all levels, universal healthcare and generous pensions/social security shall be paid for out of tax revenue. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action
  6. Tax evasion by corporate entities shall be investigated and, if a violation is discovered, prosecuted and the revenue recovered three fold. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action.
  7. Free-trade agreements from previous times are hereby declared null and void. No agreement of such a nature shall be entered into under any circumstances. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action
  8. The domestic rights of free speech, freedom of the press, assembly, protest and petition for redress of grievances shall be upheld.This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action
  9.  The use of military force, under the supreme command of the Executive, shall only be undertaken in response to an immediate and materialised threat; pre-emptive war shall not be undertaken under any circumstances. Such actions shall be grounds for impeachment of the Executive. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action
  10. The privacy of the people in their persons, papers, effects, residences, electronic devices shall not be violated without a warrant obtained from an impartial judge under strict scrutiny with probable cause. Extraordinary circumstances shall not serve to circumvent this provision, nor to lower the legal standard. This provision shall not be overruled by Executive, Legislative or Judicial action.

Pipedreams? Perhaps, but it is wise to ask for much more than you hope to get.

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American Corporatism on Display: The COVID-19 Response

In a recent piece for this site, I suggested that the response of the Trump Administration put ideology before people. Well, Congress has just proven that theory correct with its economic package in response to the virus. To the surprise of precisely no-one, the corporate socialism rolls on while the peasants beg for crumbs. In this piece, I want to look at the provisions of the plan, sourced from a Senior Democratic Aide in the Senate. Various news articles will fill in the other details.

Background and Overview: The Package: From Original to Final Version

The watering down process that is legislative negotiation in the Senate worked its magic on this package. The grand rhetoric that was Trump’s initial address got hit in the face with the shovel that is Congress. Talk of covering ‘the cost of the healthcare for the coronavirus’ soon became covering the testing, without mention of the actual treatment. Talk of ongoing Universal Basic Income (UBI) soon became a one-off, means-tested payment. More details on this below, but you can see the bigger picture here. What began as good ideas (even if they likely did not go far enough) became weak half-measures during the legislative process. But we have not even gotten to the corporate socialism aspects yet. I would like to focus first on the weak measures designed to help the people. After an overview and setting the scene, we now turn to some of the details.

The Package, Part One: Sick Leave

You could be forgiven for thinking that the opposition to payments to, and legislative protection of, the peasants came from Republicans. However, the majority of the opposition, and caveats, to the idea of UBI actually came from Democrats, specifically the leadership, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Originally, broad sweeping worker protections were in place, specifically a $104b package focused chiefly on paid sick leave. Then, as you might expect, cries of ‘what of the profits’ came forth on cue from the GOP. To his credit, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), did say to his caucus to essentially shut up and vote for it, but the intent was clear.

Apparently, however, McConnell does not quite have the level of control over his troops that he thought he did. Republicans put forth amendments that watered down the bill, naturally, and now merely 20% of workers will actually receive paid sick leave. The amendments exempted some types of businesses from the paid sick leave provision and provided various other pro-corporate loopholes. Nothing changes, just the date.

The Package, Part Two a): Attack of the Democrats! Direct Stimulus and UBI

Initially, both President Trump and his Treasury Secretary supported an emergency UBI. This represented direct cheques being made out to the population to keep the economy going. Capitalism survives by people having money to spend, and UBI would have addressed this. So this was a good idea and credit where it is due. Then came the Democrats. The Week reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi first floated the idea of means-testing stimulus payments. The rationale was that she did not want to ‘write checks to millionaires’. The ability of the Speaker to say that with a straight face is impressive since she is a renowned corporate sellout.

The Speaker also does not seem to understand the concept of universal inherent in universal basic income. Her suggestion that writing cheques to millionaires somehow delegitimises a good idea is ridiculous. By her logic, the wealthy should not be able to benefit from medicare or other universal programmes. Such programmes are funded by tax revenue like the rest of the government. To suggest that the wealthy are somehow immune to this crisis is absurd on its face. Now, is it true that the wealthy would be able to financially weather the crisis more easily than the average person? Yes, but universal means just that: for all. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All does not exclude the wealthy: why should UBI? Pandemics do not care about your income level!

The Package, Part Two b): Political Ineptitude in Focus: The Democrats 

Trump and his Administration are outflanking the Democrats on their left. The sheer political ineptitude of the Democrats is remarkable. The ostensible party of workers is being outflanked on the left by a faux-populist. Trump essentially said get the cheques out now – and he was right. The Democrats and their paperwork and their means-testing are precisely not what is called for in a crisis! It is this utter lack of leadership, compassion and basic common sense that will cause Biden to lose to Trump in November! How politically tone-deaf are the Democrats?! They have allowed Trump to assume the mantle of popular leader in a crisis through their insistence on playing politics. Thank you, you inept buffoons, for handing Trump a sledgehammer with which to hit you. 

The Package, Part Three a): Corporate Socialism 

A Senior Democratic Aide in the Senate unearthed the corporate socialism aspects of the bill

  1. a $500b corporate slush fund
  2. Weak stock buy-back language that the Treasury Secretary can ignore.
  3. Executive compensation limits only last two years
  4. Language on ‘worker retention’ is weak with various outs for companies
  5. No language to guarantee that workers will benefit from the bill
  6. Little transparency of the bailout process (how much and where it goes)
  7. No specific provision to eliminate eviction or foreclosure.

Ok, so we have half a trillion dollars for the corporate sector with essentially non-existent or weak as p*ss rules attached. Basically let the corporations loot the treasury and be quiet. 2008 ring any bells? Now to be fair corporations did not cause this crisis. A pandemic is genuinely unforeseeable. To that extent, I understand a limited business bailout. But the attached rules are pathetic.

Focus for a moment on one issue, stock buybacks. This is businesses buying their own stock to artificially inflate its value. This should be illegal since it is fraud: buying your own stock (which you clearly think is a good buy) which creates artificial confidence around it which you then use to sell at a higher price? The language in this bill is notably weak and places very few constraints or limitations on the money paid to the corporate sector or what they do with it. Would I go so far as to temporarily nationalise businesses (or even industries) that receive a government bailout? Perhaps that goes a little far. However, it would be a nice turnabout on the dogma of ‘privatise the profits, nationalise the losses’.

The Package, Part Three b): Austerity?

The staffer outlines more problems, but the highlights are these

  1. No additional funding for Food Stamps
  2. No funds to help with the treatment of the uninsured

In other words, the most vulnerable are on their own. Recall too that Republicans have cut Food Stamps multiple times in recent years. To not increase the meagre amount of Food Stamps, even temporarily, in the midst of a crisis shows a remarkable degree of callousness. Finally, health insurance companies will be allowed to make an exorbitant profit from this crisis on the backs of the most vulnerable.

I end with a quote from Stephen Colbert. This was done in character many years ago, and its relevance has only increased with time

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it

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Joe Biden, Establishment Candidate: An Analysis, Part One

The establishment has coalesced around former Vice President Joe Biden. Following the withdrawal of Mayor Pete and Senator Amy Klobuchar the night before Super Tuesday (nothing suspicious there), the fix was in. Biden did very well on Super Tuesday and took a delegate lead over America’s Dad, Bernard Sanders. However, the former Vice President did not receive the ‘front runner treatment’ the way Sanders did. No tough questions or increased scrutiny for Biden. The reason for this is clear enough: Biden is an establishment candidate and a corporatist. The questions I hope to answer in this piece and those to come are these: Who is Joe Biden as a candidate? What is his record? Does the base, who the establishment is now going to demand support Biden, have any reason to do so?

Joe’s Record, Part One: Bipartisanship, Part a) Background 

Initially, bipartisanship seems like a positive thing: both sides agreeing to come together and pass legislation. The media certainly grants much praise for this. What they do not tell you is the substance of the bipartisanship, because that is both irrelevant and inconvenient. It is irrelevant because what they compromised on is not as important as that they compromised. To reveal the substance is inconvenient because the compromise typically involves some policy in favour of the rich and against regular people.

Harper’s Magazine is scathing in its criticism of bipartisanship

It was bipartisan accord, after all, that brought us the permanent war economy, the war on drugs, the mass incarceration of black people, 1990s welfare “reform,” Wall Street deregulation and the consequent $16 trillion in bank bailouts, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, and other atrocities too numerous to mention

Sums it up well. Bipartisanship is pretty well always in favour of the military-industrial complex, or the banksters or some other rich group and against the people. But what has this to do with Joe Biden? Answer: he has been at the very centre of this process for decades. A couple of examples will suffice.

Part b) Example 1: Segregation

The first example is the infamous ‘busing’ issue. This refers to debates in the Civil Rights Era concerning racial integration of schools. Joe Biden agreed with those who opposed integration. He had, again in the words of Harper’s

a shared opposition to federally mandated busing in the effort to integrate schools, an opposition Biden predicted would be ultimately adopted by liberal holdouts

In other words, not only did Biden support racists who believed in segregated schools, he expected ‘liberal holdouts’ to fall in line. So little has changed in forty-five years. Democrats agree with Republicans (Biden was doubtless not alone) and demand the base fall in line. Nothing changes just the date.

Example 2: Crime

The second example is, if possible, far more egregious and concerns crime. In the 1980s, being ‘tough on crime’ was one of the mantras of the day. Biden worked with notorious racist Senator Strom Thurmond to pass a series of crime bills that would have made Draco of Athens blush. Among the highlights, we have, again from Harper’s

The 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which, among other repressive measures, abolished parole for federal prisoners and cut the amount of time by which sentences could be reduced for good behavior. The bipartisan duo also joined hands to cheerlead the passage of the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act and its 1988 follow-on, which cumulatively introduced mandatory sentences for drug possession. Biden later took pride in reminding audiences that “through the leadership of Senator Thurmond, and myself, and others,” Congress had passed a law mandating a five-year sentence, with no parole, for anyone caught with a piece of crack cocaine “no bigger than [a] quarter.” That is, they created the infamous disparity in penalties between those caught with powder cocaine (white people) and those carrying crack (black people)

So Biden was a drug-warrior with all the inherent racism that comes with it. He was a tough guy against those who had no money and no power. This is your Democratic candidate for President?

Reflection: Past is Prologue?

Now you might say that the events I have described in this piece are from more than three decades ago. While that is factually true, it leaves out rather important details. There is a saying ‘you are what you do’: a version of actions speak louder than words. The political version of ‘you are what you do’ is ‘you are your record’. It is not relevant how long ago these incidents took place. They are still fair game and there is tangible evidence of a lot of this including Biden’s own words on video as well as his quotations to the media. Biased as the media is, its usefulness in quoting people’s own words is not to be doubted.

Also, does the Democratic Party seriously think that Donald Trump of all people is going to ignore Joe Biden’s poor record? No matter how loud you screech some version or other of ‘Have you no sense of decency, Sir?’, he is going to hammer Joe Biden on his support for NAFTA, PNTR with China and other trade deals, among other issues. His support for the trade deals just mentioned will have consequences in the Rust Belt where Hilary lost in 2016. This piece represents but a small sample of Joe Biden’s atrocious record in politics. I pass over in silence his votes for the Iraq War in March of 2003 as well as the infamous PATRIOT Act of 2001.

Conclusion: A Warning

The Democratic establishment has coalesced around a corporatist – again. His record, much like Mrs Clinton’s before him, poses serious issues for electability. This is truly ironic since the media has been insisting that Biden is the most electable. The petulant children in the establishment have gotten their way: they are sitting at the adults’ table. Let us see if they like the taste of the poisoned chalice that is running a corporatist against Donald Trump.

More on Joe next time.

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Principles Dropped in Real Time: Bill Maher Loses His Mind

Over the last year or so, I have been quite critical of HBO’s Bill Maher. Formerly an acerbic firebrand during the Bush Administration, this softened during the Obama years. However, like so many in the elite echelons of the Democratic Party and the media class, the election of Donald Trump had a profound effect on him. He developed a bad case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. This is the idea that everything Trump does, whatever the actual consequences, is bad because Trump did it. This takes the pithy form Orange Man Bad. The actual substance of the act is not important: Trump did it therefore bad because Orange Man Bad.

In this piece, I want to take a look at Bill’s most recent New Rules segment on his show Real Time. In it, he tells Democrats to basically take money from corporate lobbyists and SuperPACs because Orange Man Bad. This is a useful example of principles being abandoned quite literally in Real Time.

Bill Opens His Bazzoo, Part One: What Principles?

Bill opens his final New Rule, which is typically an editorial comment on an issue of the day, with this

And finally, New Rule, Democratic candidates have to stop telling me who they will not take money from. Money? From bad people? I don’t care if they’re bad. I just want to know if their money is good.

So the point here is to set aside corruption, set aside the fact that corporate and billionaire money usually comes with policy strings attached; set all that aside because Orange Man Bad. He accuses all Democrats of not taking billionaire and corporate money. The reality is that, in fact, only Bernie Sanders has actually done this. More to the point, his campaign, which is entirely funded by the people (aside from a few unions), has been remarkably successful. So it actually is possible to run a campaign without reference to what is in all but name the American Aristocratic Class.

Bill then makes a flagrantly dishonest comment about fundraising when he says that

Bernie Sanders does the best among Democrats, raising $46m in February, but in the same period the Republicans raised $86m. Some of it from Americans!

Did you catch it? He compared the fundraising efforts of one man to an entire party! Remarkably dishonest commentary: an utterly false comparison. But then recently Bill has never let the facts get in the way of discrediting populism. Also, nice subtle dig there at Trump and Russia there, you corporate hack.

Bill Opens His Bazzoo, Part Two: Purity Tests – Again

Maher then turns his attention to the Democrats (read Sanders), saying

Democrats are competing to see not who can attract the most donors, but to see who can refuse the most: because they’re pure: Pure losers!

Yes, because the process of running for political office is actually a circus where you see who can amuse the donors the most. It is for this reason that you run for office: to raise money! To sellout! To be a streetwalker for corporate and billionaire wants while playing the civility card! I shall show decorum as I bomb the sh*t out of brown people and cut corporate taxes, Good Sir! Makes me sick.

Bill then focuses on the fact that Sanders has taken no corporate or billionaire money, saying

Bernie Sandes brags that he accepts no money from corporate PACs, SuperPACs, follil fuel, insurance [and] drug companies. No siree: if you want to give Sanders money you had first better be able to prove you don’t have any

The bias is strong in this one. So if a citizen does not have the multi-millions or billions of dollars that the corporate and rich worlds have, they have no money? Now you might say that is a strawman of what he said – not by much. Also, a none-too-subtle dig at populism there Bill: only the poors support Sanders. The principle of electoral funding is the same for Sanders and the other candidates, even if the source is different. Contributors, whether PACs with unlimited funds or Mrs Smith in Virginia with $18, want you to implement certain policies. There are expectations attached to political contributions whatever the source. Regular citizens have money, Bill, just much less than the elite world of which you are so clearly a part.

Bill Opens His Bazzoo, Part Three: Standards as Unilateral Disarmament and Revisionist History

Bill then comments that having a campaign funded by the people and refusing corporate and billionaire cash is ‘vanity’, adding

It’s unilateral disarmament: it’s bringing a hug to a gun fight

That is mindless crap. The Sanders campaign has run ads both in support of his own policies and against his opponents. The Senator also has many fan-made ads (how many other candidates can say that?). So the idea that a populist campaign cannot compete is simply not supported by the evidence.

In a remarkable piece of revisionist history, Bill takes us back to 2008 and notes that no-one took more Wall St cash than (then Senator) Obama. Bill notes that Obama took their cash, got elected and then

Passed the biggest Wall St reform in generations

Ok, the ‘biggest Wall St’ reform to which he refers is the Dodd-Frank Bill, which had loopholes through which a truck could be driven. Also, after the 2007-8 crash, not a single banker was even prosecuted, never mind gaoled. Oh yes, Obama was so tough on Wall St. Indeed, to this day, he gives speeches to Wall St for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yeah – proper Wall St Sherrif he was.

Bill Opens His Bazzoo, Part Four: He Did It First, Pathetic Spin and Optics

In what is perhaps the weakest argument in the entire segment, Maher then says that if Trump can take money from disreputable sources, so can Democrats. Yes, because nothing quite legitimates bad behaviour like seeing someone else do it. By his logic, if I see a soldier murder someone, I can do it too. Idiot. It truly is remarkable how poor his argumentation is.

Bill then attempts to rationalise taking bribes (which is what campaign contributions are) by saying such contributions are ‘fines’. Fines typically are not paid voluntarily, Bill. Furthermore, fines usually do not influence policy the way political bribes do. He then shifts his focus to Democrats, specifically Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, returning money they received from Harvey Winestein because ‘the money didn’t rape anybody’. Seriously: Maher has no concept of political optics. To keep that money gives the impression, whatever the reality, that you support Winestein. Perception is more important than reality in politics Bill, even when it comes to money. 

Bill Opens His Bazoo, Part Five: Some Fleeting Sense at Last

Maher attempts a pathetic hypocrisy burn on Sanders by describing his donors as ‘a donor class’ since half of adult Americans live near the poverty line. While it is true that not everyone can afford to donate to political candidates, do you think Bernie is going to ignore those who were unable to contribute? He is unlike other politicians, Bill. He does not only listen to his donors. To think this man was once considered an intellectual is amazing.

All is not lost though: he does offer a ray of hope, however fleeting

The only fair solution is complete public financing of campaigns. But until that happens, get off your high-horse about ‘winecaves’ and billionaires who want to help

Right, and those billionaires ‘who want to help’ are doing so for entirely altruistic reasons and want nothing for themselves. Do you hear yourself, you out of touch elitist clown? They want to help, alright: help themselves! The idea of the benevolent billionaire as somehow the compromise in the current system is absurd.

Bill’s Trump Derangement Syndrome went off the scale when he said

Purists say [in reference to billionaires] you can’t buy an election! I say, against Trump, please do!

This drew loud cheers from his audience. Wow – so Bill is willing to risk oligarchy to see Trump out of office. His hatred of Orange Man burns so strong that not only should Democrats have no principles, they should prostitute themselves to billionaires.

Conclusion

This crap continues, but I think I have made my point. Maher has advocated a Faustian bargain due to his hatred of Orange Man. He is so blinded by hatred that he would advocate open oligarchy, where the elections of what used to be a Constitutional Republic and a Representative Democracy would now be up for grabs to the highest bidder. If you think this hyperbole, consider this: politics is like the law, built on precedent.

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Ideology Über Alles: The White House and COVID-19

A well-established trope of modern tory governments is their stick to your guns at any cost, utterly blind adherence to their ideology. No matter what happens, the answer is always more of their ideology. Now, you might say that is true of political parties the world over, and there is some truth to that. But there is a crucial difference. Non-tory governments have the situation impact their policy while still reflecting their ideology. Tory governments, by contrast, have their ideology as the assumed truth and they apply it come-what-may. While both sides are ideological, the order there is critical. Tory governments force reality to bend to their ideology, while non-tory governments let reality influence their response, even if it is ideologically driven.

We saw a real-time demonstration of this utterly idea-free ideological purity earlier this week in the Trump Administration’s response to the coronavirus. Their response shows not only where their priorities lie, but also just how much of a plutocracy or an oligarchy America has become. We will see how other forms of ideological extremism have come to the fore in this situation too, whatever the reality demands.

Ideology Über Alles, Part One: Economics

The stock market reacted to the outbreak of COVID-19 by losing thousands of points in a matter of days with no end in sight. Now you might ask why we should care if a few investors lost a little money in their gambling scheme. Twenty years ago that would have been true. But we live in this Brave New World of Socialism for the Rich. The investor class has, since the crash of 2007-8, been the subject of ongoing coddling from their political clients in the government.

This coddling assumes the form of bailouts, tax cuts, subsidies, deregulation etc. The rich are the centre-piece of the economy, they tell us. If we coddle them (though they never call it that) the prosperity will trickle down to the rest of you peasants. This brief overview of the treatment of the rich provides vital context for the Trump Administration’s response to the virus: tax cuts.

You heard: tax cuts. The administration is discussing whether it should engage in what MSN called

[a] targeted tax cut package… [and] whether the White House should lean even harder on the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates

This is only part one of the Administration’s response. In the next section, we will look at the ‘scientific’ and ‘medical’ responses. For now, look at what this says about where the Administration’s priorities lie. The focus is on helping the monied class, through tax cuts which are obviously for the rich. Two reasons for this. First, any long-term tax cut (without a sunset clause) is always for the rich. Second, this was in direct response to the stock market volatility.

Oligarchy Exposed

The game is laid bare, my friends. The response of this openly plutocratic government to thousands of people dying around the world is to focus on how it affects the sacred rich. The thirteen people who have died, and the chaos created around the country? We might get to that, but be serious: rich people matter more than terrified peasants. We look after our own here in the corrupt corridors of power. Money, and those with it, matter more than a few dead serfs. When will the members of the Trump cult realise he cares not a fig for you (or the rest of the regular citizenry for that matter)?

The optics of the response need not have been this bad. Even if you wanted to respond to the economic effects, which, due to the entangled nature of commercial and investment banking, are considerable, common sense demanded that you not make that the focus.

Ignorance Personified: Trump Responds

Trump’s personal response to the virus outbreak was, as one might expect, woeful. Social media provided some commentary on the President’s ‘insights’ from an interview with Sean Hannity.

Remarkable, is it not? Trump is openly dismissive of the experts and the number they have announced because what he says is true because he is Donald Trump. He identifies it as ‘coronaflu’ and not a virus. My favourite part of the summary is his suggestion that people with the disease return to work. Not only is this fundamentally irresponsible from a medical perspective, it also shows a quite callous disregard for the sick. The President is effectively saying ‘GET BACK TO WORK!’. He simply lacks the empathy (like a certain Prime Minister I could name) to offer human responses. All he can see is the consequences for him and his fellow rich people. Ordinary people do not enter into the equation.

Ideology ÜBER Alles, Part Two: Religion

Prior to introducing the religious aspect of this, a section from later in the MSN piece demands attention

These ideas [from the White House] would not be designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but they would seek to arrest the economic fears spreading through the economy

A little deconstruction, if I may. The focus, you will note, is not on actually, you know, helping stem the flow of the disease. No no no. See, we do not actually care about that. The previous section offered some points on the economic bias present in the Administration’s response. But religion plays a role also. The Administration put Mike Pence in charge of the response. Pence is a well known christian extremist who, as governor of Indiana, exacerbated an HIV crisis (admittedly through delay rather than religion).

Where his religion does play a role in the coronavirus response is this photo of him and his team attempting to ‘pray away’ the virus. He also supported ‘therapy’ for ‘people wanting to change their sexual orientation’. Even if this is not explicitly ‘gay conversion therapy’ (complete with electrodes), it does not look good. Pence also openly argued in the House of Representatives for ‘intelligent design’ to be taught in schools. Yeah. A man hostile to evolution is being placed in charge of the response to a biological threat. Ideology trumps (pardon the pun) reality every time with these clowns.

Good luck, America.

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Democracy as Farce: The Fall of The Democratic Party

When Rome transitioned from being a Republic to an Empire, she maintained many of the previous institutions, terms, and labels. Consuls were still elected, the Senate still met and many other aspects of the Republic continued to exist. Even the man in charge, Augustus, was called ‘leading citizen’ (princeps). It was an utter farce, of course, since Augustus was completely politically (and more importantly militarily) dominant. But it looked good. Augustus masked his dominance using familiar terms and people went along.

We see a similar situation occurring in the United States right now with the Democratic Party. I recently wrote of the plot to steal the nomination from America’s Dad Bernard Sanders using Superdelegates. I want to delve into some aspects of this plot that I missed in that piece. Specifically, I want to deal with the idea that ‘Democracy’ and ‘the Democratic Process’ is as much a farce for the Democrats as princeps was for Augustus.

Democracy as Farce, Part One: Muh Popular Vote!

One aspect of the 2016 result that the media will not let us forget is the fact that Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote. Ok – so the popular vote is what should determine the outcome of the electoral process; got it. Except no. Such is not the case when it comes to the Democratic Primary and Mr. Sanders. Returning to 2016 briefly, if we compare delegates in the primary to electoral college votes, Mrs. Clinton got more individual votes, but she did not win enough delegates. The Democratic establishment has spent nearly four years since election night complaining about how undemocratic the electoral college is. Calls for abolition came thick and fast.

Do you see the clear double standard here? When Mrs. Clinton lost the delegate count but won the popular vote, the popular vote was the metric for victory. Yet, if Mr. Sanders wins the popular vote in the Democratic Primary but happens to fall short of a majority of delegates, the popular vote is suddenly meaningless. It is almost as if the truth is a moving target based on whether the corrupt liars in the media and the DNC like the candidate. Seriously – spare me your lying, self-serving hypocritical nonsense. Democracy in the Democratic Party is a sham and a farce.

Democracy as Farce, Part Two: The Buzzwords 

The Democratic Party is big on using lofty yet quite meaningless buzzwords to make the heels click. Democracy, the Democratic Process, Our Republic and the much-vaunted Rule of Law. Much like the Romans whom they parallel so much, ‘Democracy’ and ‘The Republic’ are codewords for retaining aristocratic and plutocratic control. How truly ironic it is that the so-called party of the people, the Democrats, have a process that is quite literally able to overrule the vote of the peasants if the lords disapprove.

It may surprise some to learn that Republicans – you know them – the ‘fascist’ party – do not have Superdelegates. If it had been up to the party elites, Donald Trump would never have become the nominee in 2016. But the vote of the people stood and the party nominated Trump. Ok – when a party that Noam Chomsky described as a radical insurgency is more democratic (at least on the issue of nominees) than the ‘party of the people’, said party has a serious problem.

The party who fearmongered about ‘election interference’ in 2016 is doing so again in 2020. Muh Russia is once again the culprit. Hey, Dems: the 1950s called, they would like their scare tactics back. The lack of self-awareness it takes to accuse another country of election meddling as you openly plot to interfere in an election is breathtaking. You care not a fig for Democracy. It is, appropriately enough, a fig-leaf to cover and provide legitimacy for what is increasingly a kleptocratic oligarchy.

The Fall of the Democratic Party

I touched briefly in the last piece on what the consequences would be if they used Superdelegates to steal the nomination. The Sanders wing of the party (which represents the base) would likely revolt and depart in disgust. The Party thus has a choice: they can respect the Democratic will of the voters or they can install a candidate and expose American Democracy for what it is: a meaningless charade designed to have the peasants rubber-stamp the coronated corporate candidate of the elites. A meaningless veneer of legitimacy placed over the rotting, corrupt and kleptocratic shell that is The American Experiment in Self-Government.

Install a candidate at your peril, Democrats. You will lose young people for a generation and beyond. Your future political existence is on the line here. Do not screw this up. If you believe in Democracy (literally people-power) then you have no choice but to let the result stand – whatever it is. Your hypocrisy on the popular vote will be exposed as what it was: a child changing the rules so they always win. Such a child soon learns that they have no friends since no-one wants to play with them.

Conclusion

Part of me wants them to do this: not because I want to see America’s Dad Bernard Sanders get screwed, but to see this rotting hulk of an establishment fall. They are such a paper tiger: no actual ideas, faux resistance based on ‘tone’ and ‘civility’ and utter and complete political weakness. They often run as ‘republican lite’, which essentially means they agree with Republicans on the economy, war, and most other issues but they do not hate gays. This corrupt, syphilitic monstrosity needs to fall. Political parties, as Keith Olbermann once said, destroy themselves; they are never destroyed by outside forces. They cause their own destruction. Mr. Sanders is either going to reform the party or the party will commit seppuku in public. Either way, change is coming.

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