Showing posts with label So You Think This Has To Make Sense. Show all posts
Showing posts with label So You Think This Has To Make Sense. Show all posts

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Random Barking Sunday: Cognitive Dissonance Division

How We Live Now

I'm the product of a middle-class white family from a small town, born not very long after the end of WW2; college-educated, male. This past January, in my small, lower-mid-tier level in my occupation, I went off to work daily as I have most of my life, and put up with whatever was necessary to pay for basic expenses; to get the pension, to maintain the healthcare. I dutifully set aspects of things aside for someday, and in the meantime for everything else, it's SITFU, and I enjoyed living as best I could. This has been my daily frame of reference for a long time.

Observing the world beyond, I generally tuned out politicians (politics = ultimately, lies and compromise, limited benefit to people), external wars (an obscenity; and I've had mine, thank you), domestic violence; mass shootings (no end), police shootings.

And no matter how Left my views might be, I did little beyond donations, attending the occasional march, to show my solidarity in the political stream: and I did these things, not out of anger or desperation or necessity, but because I could afford to.

And I understood my participation did little to acknowledge, and nothing to change, the disproportionate agony of people below me in the food chain -- mostly people of color, still taking the blunt end of the culture, 400 years after the arrival of America's first African slaves.
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The High School Civics Class view of America: myths which, when assimilated, were reflected all around us in the culture, ensuring we grew up as compliant members of society, good consumers.  We accept a consensus view that things aren't perfect, but I'm getting by. But we know it doesn't reflect reality.

And we understand -- questioning the difference between what we've experienced and observed to be true, versus reality-as-consensus, is a Red Pill / Blue Pill situation that most people explore at their peril. Supporting the consensus model has been the chief feature of stability in America for as long as I can remember. Everything about our culture -- particularly corporate media -- echoed that.

In the mid-1990's, that changed. The FCC under Reagan had eliminated the 'Fairness Doctrine' in 1984; broadcasters were no longer required to provide equal time for opposing political viewpoints. Over the next twelve years, Limbaugh, Wiener, and thousand wannabes sprung up on radio in the U.S., and built a public vomatorium.

Limbaugh -- just a bully, but now with a megaphone -- spewed his hate and mockery into the air, to be eagerly lapped up by right-wing listeners. They, in turn, vomited the same hate to others around them. And, 'hate radio' caught on as an organizing tool for not only mainline, GOP conservatism, but a wide spectrum of Rightist causes. Limbaugh, Wiener and other hate hosts didn't care what damage they were doing to the culture; suddenly, they were popular. And they were getting rich.

Rupert Murdoch, whose tabloid newspapers in Australia, the UK and America used a 'tits-n-tattle' formula that treated its consumers like children, saw the trends in the U.S. A cynical, opportunistic right-wing type himself, Murdoch believed there was plenty of money to be made in television, pushing right-wing conspiracy theories to a disaffected, conservative audience. Lil' Rupert saw an ocean of 'Joe Six-Pack' Rubes in America that advertisers would pay handsomely to reach.

Murdoch launched Fox as a cable channel in 1996 as part of a broader business model -- to coordinate his media as the propaganda arm of the English-speaking political Right. Helping elect more Rightist politicians would mean favorable treatment to expand operations when the Right came to power. It worked in the UK, the US, Australia; and eventually, the model would make his family empire indispensable to the racists, white nationalists and neo-nazis growing in the heart of American conservatism.

We've suffered 35 years in an America where truth and facts are whatever The Murdochs -- speaking through Hannity and Carlson, and an endless stream of blondebots -- say they are. The Murdochs have done more to divide America, to make it easier to exploit and weaken us into tribes over three decades than any other aspect of America's recent history.

They have made America a place where they, and the political Right wing, literally just make shit up -- and there are no repercussions. In Steve Bannon's quip, the Murdochs "flood the Zone with shit", and facts are lost in a sea of confusing half-truths and outright lies.

It's easier to lead the Rubes that way. And the Murdochs have personally benefited from it; they're very rich; and they do not care what damage they've caused to actual human beings in the process of that enrichment. Ask the family of Milly Dowler.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Ogg Ogg
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Comes Trump: The endless parade of MAGA, the triumphant apotheosis of stupid. Fox broadcast it all, like an endless Leni Reifenstahl film; flags and chanting (Lock her up! Lock her up!). There was nothing Trump could do or say that wasn't allowed. And he lied; constantly, daily, about everything. The right-wing media and its talking faces amplified Trump's lies, and presented them as facts.

People were stunned at his brazen racism, his craven love of authoritarian figures like Putin, his dog-whistling to white nationalists and 'christian' dominionists.  We watched America disintegrate in the international community as a result of Trump's personal statements and incoherent political decisions; Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller laughed and laughed -- destroying America has been their goal, and they feel proud.

We were horrified, and laughing. There seemed to be no end to it, and no repercussions -- not even impeachment; the fix in the Senate was always in. The intelligence community as much as declared Trump an active asset of the Russian government -- but it all meant nothing; Trump doubled down, tripled down. He laughed at us. He strutted and preened and capered, and just kept on: Teflon Don.

Additional Cute Animal Photo For Right-Wing Media
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It requires a significant amount of cognitive dissonance -- between the facts we know, truth, our experience; and myths we accept -- in order to be American. To live and work in this culture. How much cognitive dissonance you deal with depends where you are, and who you are, in America.

Then, two things happened that couldn't be spun, dismissed, or lied about -- although the entire political Right, and Murdoch's propaganda, have tried:  The Covid-19 Pandemic, and the murder of George Floyd.

Trump, aided by the Right's media, ignored Covid, dismissed it. He ignored it for six weeks -- then, even after suppressing testing for infection, when the case rates and deaths began climbing; when Trump showed no leadership whatsoever and threw everything in the faces of state governors -- when the Republicans could see their political repercussions in a collapsed economy and 200,000 dead by July... they did an about-face.

They used the Joseph Goebbels - Murdoch formula. They simply lied.  They said they had too cared, they had too been prepared and taken decisive action, all along. They asked us to believe whatever they said, even though it was utterly false. Because they made it up, and said it was 'true'.

And they pushed for America to Reopen Again! The Leader said everything would be back to normal in no time. Inconvenient medical spokespersons who said it was too soon, that it invited another spike in Covid cases; that there would be a likely 'second wave' of the pandemic in the Fall and Winter several magnitudes worse than the February-May wave we'd just experienced... Trump ignored them, too. He suggested people drink bleach.

And, America went back to work. Beaches were opened; the summer weather began in many places. And Covid cases are beginning to rise -- but there was another reason for that.
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A black man was arrested by four police officers on a street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, apparently for using a counterfeit $20 bill. One, a white officer, put his knee on the man's neck to restrain him. And, despite consistent protests from the man that he could not breathe, the officer (aided by the three others) did not relent and asphyxiated, murdered, the man, George Floyd. This took roughly twelve minutes, during eight of which the officer's knee was pressed down on Floyd's neck. And all of it captured on multiple cellphone videos.

If you were trying to find a metaphorical image for the black experience in America, an image of a prone black man with a white man's knee on his neck seemed brutally apt. That it was a white police officer was an added layer of metaphorical irony.

Weeks of marches and demonstration -- including rioting and civil disobedience and looting, but primarily peaceful -- followed. Their focus has been on violent actions by militarized police departments, primarily against people of color.

Videos from those demonstrations showed scores of examples of violent and brutal behavior, by police against those ... ironically, protesting brutal police tactics. As if many individual officers and departments didn't care what those optics would do, or the repercussions of their behavior in the broader context of This Historical Time.
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It's a defining, fork-in-the-road, Moment In America.  It's a national consideration of Race in America -- and everything connected with it around the distribution of wealth, power, and privilege. Where all this goes, and what actually happens, is hazy -- but the moment has started. Each of us, as individuals, have some responsibility for where it ends up.
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The single takeaway I hope for in all this is, that the burden of maintaining conflicting perceptions about our society and culture has finally become too much for the majority of us. That we can't tolerate the cognitive dissonance any longer, reject 'alternate facts' and demand truth -- in public affairs, in science, in our relations with each other. That we can't suppress our lived experience and accept lies in its place.

I hope that people reject being so grossly lied to and manipulated, treated like children, Rubes and Marks. I'd hope Murdoch's media, and its business model based on brazen lies and manipulation, is finished in America and around the world.

And a part of this Moment has to mean confronting automatic assumptions about people of other races, gender and identification; the assumptions of white or heterosexual superiority, or of wealth and ownership. Is it the truth that all persons are equal, or are some more so than others?

Because this is all intimately connected to the distribution of power, and inequality of wealth in America, I don't have any illusions of how quickly this dialogue can result in meaningful change. Or that what's been triggered by George Floyd's death is anything more than a single step; others will have to follow.

James Fallows of the Atlantic recently noted that the story of America is about getting out of trouble, of facing and overcoming crises. America's current crisis has both a Leader utterly unfit to lead, supported by an entire political party in the Republicans; this, he agreed was unprecedented in our history. The question, Fallows went on, was whether our country had a sufficient counterbalance to the harm caused by Trump and the political Right -- that the sum of all things positive in America would be enough to overcome the damage, allow us to find a better resolution than division, exploitation, despair and death.

I'd like to think this moment is a wild card in that equation. That the sum of our best intentions as people will contain the weight needed to swing us in a different direction. I'm not often positive about the future; quite the opposite. But I'm willing to suggest that hope is not a bad thing.

We'll see what does happen. Hang on.
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Monday, April 27, 2020

Reprint Heaven: This Way, America

No, Over Here.  What The Hell Is Wrong with You?
(From October, 2016)

 Joseph Beuys / 1974 Performance Art, I Like America; America Likes Me (aka, "Coyote")

The Why Of Dog
It was a typisch day here in Downtown America.  Over at the Soul Of America, I was directed to a story about David Bowie, which contained a photo of what appeared to be a Dog dragging a leper / vagrant / symbolically-wrapped human around. We worked it through Skynet the Googlegerät. One thing led to another. And here we are in the Future, as always happens in America.
Beuys flew to New York, picked up by an ambulance, and swathed in felt, was transported to a room in the Rene Block Gallery. The room was also occupied by a wild coyote, and for a period of 8 hours a day for the next three days, Beuys spent his time with the coyote in the small room, with little more than a felt blanket and a pile of straw. While in the room, the artist engaged in symbolist gestures, such as striking a triangle and tossing his gloves to the coyote. At the end of the three days, the coyote, who had become quite tolerant of Beuys, allowed a hug from the artist, who was transported back to the airport via ambulance. He never set foot on outside American soil nor saw anything of America other than the coyote and the inside of the gallery.
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Coherence
Gentlemen, the people at home cannot understand either of you...
-- Elaine Quijano, CBS News, to Kaine and Pence

2016 Election Forecast:  Clinton 75.3%,  Trump 24.7%
-- fivethirtyeightdotcom

My friend; clear your mind of Cant.
-- Samuel Johnson

 I AM PART OF YOUUU !!!! (rabbitandmouse, 2006)
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The First Whorehouse In Space Will Be Built By The Bold
During his hour-long announcement of the SpaceX Mars colonization plan, CEO Elon Musk didn’t say where exactly Martian colonists will live once they arrive on the planet — and how exactly they’ll survive given the harsh environment. Musk seemed particularly unconcerned about solar radiation. “The radiation thing is often brought up, but it’s not too big of a deal,” he says...

SpaceX’s goal is to build [its] transport system [to Mars], like building the Union Pacific Railroad. “Once that transport system is built,” Musk says, “there’s a tremendous opportunity for anyone who wants to go to Mars and create something new or build the foundations of a new planet.” People will be able to go to the planet and build “anything from iron refineries to the first pizza joint.”
--  Alessandra Potenza and Loren Grush, The Verge, September 27, 2016

Ironically, this is also International Space Week.
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Not With A Bang But A Food Fight
As most everyone knows, the ending to Stanley Kubrick's 1964 anti-war black comedy, Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb has Strangelove (Peter Sellers) emerging from his wheelchair and taking a few steps, then a montage of atomic bombs going off.

However, that wasn't the original ending. Kubrick initially envisioned 'Strangelove' as a drama, based on a British novel, "Two Hours To Doom", about an accidental nuclear war.  He was introduced (oddly enough, by by Peter Sellers) to Terry Southern, an American expat writer living in London; Southern saw Kubrick's project as a vehicle for dark comedy about the end of the world, and the two co-authored the script ("I intended to make a dark comedy", Kubrick later said of his film). Sellers, a friend of both Southern and Kubrick, was cast to play three separate, believable characters (originally, four -- spraining an ankle kept Sellers from playing Major "King" Kong, and Slim Pickens was offered the role). 

In the original ending of the film, Dr. Strangelove stood up from his wheelchair, only to fall flat on his face. Meanwhile, General 'Buck' Turgidson (George C. Scott) noticed Russian Ambassador de Sadesky (Peter Bull) taking pictures of "the big board", and tackled him -- only to have the Ambassador throw a cream pie at him from a nearby buffet table.

Turgidson ducked; the pie hits President Muffley (also played by Peter Sellers) instead -- and the entire War Room erupted in a gigantic food fight. Finally, as nuclear war engulfs the world, Muffley and the Russian Ambassador, having lost their reason, end up sitting on the floor and playing with the litter of thrown food like children.

Ironically, Strangelove was being edited around November 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was assassinated. In the scene as filmed, President Muffley is struck with a pie and Turgidson announced, "Our President has been struck down in his prime!" Because Kubrick considered the action too close to actual events (and the actors appeared to be enjoying themselves a bit too obviously), that ending had to change, and Kubrick was in a bit of a fix. As the legend goes, Spike Milligan (He of the UK's famous Goon Show) was talking at the same time with former fellow Goonie Peter Sellers and learned about Stanley's dilemma. 

Milligan is supposed to have suggested the ending we're all familiar with: Strangelove standing up from his wheelchair ("Mein Führer -- I can walk !!"), followed by footage of one nuclear weapons test after another, accompanied by a soundtrack of British singer Vera Lynn singing the WW2 ballad well-known in the UK, "We'll Meet Again." Kubrick's film editor, Anthony Harvey, put the footage of the original food-fight ending with other cut scenes, which were afterwards misplaced and lost to history.

George C. Scott In The Lost Ending To Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (1964)

( One of my favorite things about Strangelove is Peter Sellers' ability (as Strangelove) to crack up Peter Bull, who played the Russian ambassador. The next time you see this classic, during scenes with a medium or long shot of Strangelove declaiming from his wheelchair, keep your eye on Bull.

The Two Peters: Peter Bull (Left) As Ambassador de Sadesky,
and Peter Sellers As Herr Dr. Unwirklichlieber, In The War Room

Do Hold It Together, Old Man.

(Sellers was a genius at creating characters, and Bull can't help but be affected. He tries, but at some point just can't hold it in any longer -- again, the film's editor, Anthony Harvey, managed to save the take and splice in the next shot just as Bull is about to lose it.  According to film lore, Sellers was even able to get the redoubtable Sterling Hayden to crack up.)
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Ain't We Got Fun
Global debt has hit a record high of $152 trillion, weighing down economic growth and adding to risks that recovery could turn into stagnation or even recession, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

In a worst-case scenario the IMF also fears that a wave of populist politics across the US and Europe could send globalisation into reverse with protectionist policies hitting international trade, investment and migration, sending the world plunging into a prolonged period of stagnation...

“At 225% of world GDP, the global debt …is currently at an all-time high. Two-thirds, amounting to about $100 trillion, consists of liabilities of the private sector which can carry great risks when they reach excessive levels,” the IMF said in its fiscal monitor.
--  Tim Wallace, Business Writer; UK Telegraph Online October 5, 2016

"Among 'developed' nations, the United States has one of the highest rates of child poverty on the planet...  Only Romania has a higher rate than the U.S. ...  More children live in poverty -- grinding, soul-destroying poverty -- in America than in Latvia or Bulgaria, two nations few Americans can even find on a map."
--  Motivational Screensaver

Wealthiest ZIP Codes In America (Clicky For Ubernormous Graphic! Spass! Nett!)
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Friday, April 17, 2020

Reprint Heaven: Edge Of The Volcano Edition

Unraveling

(Originally From 2016. Ordinarily, this is posted on June 28th, but for some reason seems appropriate now...)

Cousin Ignatz, Asleep At Princip's Post: Sarajevo, 2014 (Matthew Fisher / Postmedia News)

Roughly twelve hours and 105 years ago, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the Grand Duchess Sophie, were shot by Gavrillo Princip, a member of an assassination team sent to the Bosnian city by the government of Serbia.

Collectively, the team was the gang which couldn't shoot straight: armed with crude grenades, a few pistols, and carrying some form of suicide pill, they waited along the route Franz Ferdinand's car would take as it drove beside the Miljacka river, which cuts through Sarajevo (local Austro-Hungarian authorities had helpfully published the Archduke's route beforehand).

Most of the team either was poorly positioned, or chickened out at the last moment.  One conspirator did throw a bomb at the Archduke's car, which bounced off its folded-back fabric top and exploded near a second car traveling just behind. Several people in the car had minor injuries and it continued on to a local hospital.

The Archduke's driver, Leopold Lojka, continued to Sarajevo city hall. When Franz Ferdinand arrived, he effectively unloaded on the hapless administrators about the state of their local security ("I come to your city and am greeted with bombs!"). Meanwhile, back at the river, the would-be bomber had jumped into the Miljacka and swallowed his suicide pill -- which he promptly threw up. The police arrested him, barely managing to keep him from being lynched a mob of pro-Austro-Hungarian citizens, and so save him for later trial and execution.

At approximately 12:30 PM, having finally accepted the thanks of the Sarajevo city fathers, Franz Ferdinand and his wife got back into their car, planning to go to the local hospital to see those wounded in the bomb attack that morning. They used the same route, in reverse, that they had taken into the city, driving along the river. But when the Chauffeur, Lojka, came to a particular intersection -- to his left, a street; to the right, a bridge over the Miljacka river -- he was confused.

 The Royal Couple (Seated, At Rear) Leaving City Hall: Fifteen Minutes Left

Believing it to be the route he needed to take to drive to the hospital, Lojka slowed and turned left into the street.  Almost immediately, he realized he'd made a mistake and stepped on the brakes. The car came to a stop a few yards into the street, and Lojka moved to put it in reverse gear.

 The Intersection, 2014: The Archduke's Car Turned Left, Into This Street;
The Restaurant Where Princip Bought Lunch, Now A Museum (Photo: CNN)

At that same intersection was a small restaurant. Gavrillo Princip, last member of the Serbian assassination squad, had gone inside to buy a sandwich, angry and dejected after the team's failure that morning. Standing on the sidewalk outside the cafe, he saw a large, dark-green automobile turn out of the boulevard and come to a stop directly in front of him. In the very rear seat were the Archduke and his wife.

The heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne had been delivered, less than ten feet away, from an armed assassin who had come to the city specifically to kill him. If you were writing a novel or screenplay, anything that coincidental would be branded as implausible. No one's gonna believe that.

Princip didn't hesitate. He dropped his sandwich, pulled a pistol out of his jacket and stepped towards the car, firing several shots, managing to mortally wound both the Archduke and his wife. Lojka, the driver, was ordered to rush the royal couple to the local military governor's residence. Sophie died on the way. A military officer in the car, checking on the Archduke's condition, asked the wounded man how he was; Ferdinand said, "Nichts (It's nothing)", and died.

Just over a month later, Europe was at war. Over the next four-plus years, the entire social fabric of the continent and much of the world changed, irrevocably. Monarchies ended; millions died; the map of the world changed as the victors annexed territory from Germany and Austria Hungary, and new countries were created. New technology was developed -- and in the Versailles Treaty, the groundwork was laid for a second, even more horrible war to begin by 1939.

(And, in 1918-19, the Spanish Influenza infected 500 million people, killing 40 million, worldwide. It was the largest number of fatalities due to pandemic disease since the 'Black Death': the coming of  Bubonic Plague to Europe in the 14th century [which killed an estimated 200 million].  In the U.S., millions were made sick, and 675,000 died [~0.6 per cent of America's 103 million population at the time]. It's often referred to as the "forgotten epidemic" -- just one more terrible event in an ocean of violence and atrocity.)

 Cousin Ignatz, Worn Out By All The History
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Why the history lesson? We're living through history. When we read about events in Europe during the Interwar Years (1918 - 1939), there's a feeling of inevitability, of being slowly sucked down a drain -- the revolving-door failures of parliamentary governments in France; Britain's declining empire; the manic Totentanz of global capital leading to 1929 and the Great Depression; the rise and fall of Weimar; the apotheosis of Italian and Japanese, and finally German, fascism. Regional war and civil war. 

... and we know where the story is going. It ends in Nanking, the Anschluss; Kristalnacht, Dunkirk; Auschwitz; Stalingrad; the Warsaw Ghetto; D-Day; the Führerbunker; Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But we always read about the years leading up to all that with a mounting sense of horror precisely because we all know how it ends. 

And we have the same feeling, looking at major global currents in our own time. While Brexit may be not have been a "shot heard 'round the world", the Tories are still (unbelievably), in power in the UK. The Scots still wonder about independence. The Greek, French and Italian economies are still at risk. Putinland, the Great Bear, still pushes the envelope here and there -- in Ukraine, and Syria. As IS loses on battlefields in the continuing slow-motion atrocity that is the Middle East, suddenly they appear in a Philippine city, on a London street. Disproportionate numbers of Black people are shot in major American cities on a routine basis. Climate change is not fake news.

America, ruled by Babbitry, greed and illusion, retreats from the world stage. Its leader is Bloated, Raving, delegating the running of a government to corrupt, car-wash dilettantes. Other nation-state players are happy to rush into the vacuum we leave behind. The balances in the old alliances we created after WWII have been squandered, all but unraveled. 

A regional conflict -- between India and Pakistan; Kim Jong Fat Boy's Fun Republic Of Chuckles and South Korea; Iran and Saudi Arabia, almost seems like a sure thing -- 'of course that's where all this is going'; no one would be truly surprised if one started tomorrow. What we wouldn't be prepared for is what would happen the day after, and the day after that.

Kleiner Mann; Was Nun?
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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Reprint Heaven: The Great Hedgehog Of Post-Modern Neoliberal Capitalism

Try Me

(Originally drained from the swamp on January 20, 2018, in celebration of The Leader attending the World Echo Nomik Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Leader has attended this year also, as he is Sore and Tried In the Senate. But don't worry: The Fix Is In! Leader shall be defended and the Great Deterioration shall continue.)

Obigatory Cute Small Animal Photo At Beginning Of Surrealistic Blog Thing

Moved by the posts of others, recently, I decided to take a stab at (what can be charitably called) stream of consciousness writing, sparked by the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, attended this year by Wonderboy, Murrikan Leader.

I don't normally play with this style of fiction; so, apologies in advance. As Wonderboy's own parents once said, "Let's do this, get it over with, and never speak of it again" -- point being, this is supposed to be topical, and funny.

(For those with no knowledge of Cricket, a "Diamond Duck" is the term for a situation where [per Wikipedia] "a batsman who is dismissed without facing a ball -- most usually run out from the non-striker's end, but alternatively stumped or run out off a wide delivery -- is said to be out by a 'diamond duck'.")
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Diamond Duck In Davos

1.  Greasing The Grenze

Coming into Davos, surrounded by winds whipping the confectioner's sugar of Swiss hospitality between the crisp billboards, Halt! Grenze! (Stop! Pemmican!) and Kämpfe Für Das Karussell Des Fortschritts! (We  Struggle For Kurt Russell's Foreskins!) The searchlights are blinding, guard dogs bark with an accent (Wüf!), and sudden efficient women are opening doors of perception in your car, murmuring, "Good evening. Anything to declare?"

But you're not surprised. No, not you; never you. All this was in the briefing. They are efficient, here in Davos. The Mark O' Mammon is barcoded on their hind parts -- you've been shown photos -- and at home, skis are racked demurely beside priceless paintings bought at bargain-basement rates, in auctions at Zürich and Geneva, between 1936 and 39.

And of those pouring into the valley, no one ever says to the women, "Ah DO -- Ah say, Ah say, Well AH DO DECLARE," in a voice borrowed from Foghorn Leghorn -- although you have a secret urge to do that. The women smirk at you, without envy, because Ach, Ja; we know this about you. You wish to do That Cartoon Rooster; such a typical male. We here in Davos know -- otherwise, you would not be allowed here. A brief blonde hand mumbles through your luggage, brushing socks and briefs, lingering for a moment with the rough play of starch in a shirt -- then, waving your car on: Alles Gut; los geh'n. 

And then, you glimpse the last billboard: Im Diesen Friedenskrieg Gibt Es Keine Gefangenen! -- No Prisoners In This Peace War. The Great Carousel Of Progress gives only to take. It really is shitty, what a Town Without Pity Can Do. Ha, ha, ha; that's our Davos!

Even if you have a Safe Conduct Leaflet, dropped like pet leavings on sidewalks by the IMF and WTO (Be a DO RAG, it proclaims, Not a DON'T RAG), after surrendering, the best one can hope for in coming to Davos is a cot in that hut on the mountain. They'll be jammed in with municipal workers and novelists. There will be a crucifix hung on the damp concrete wall, and a 1970's postcard showing light at the end of a tunnel. In the dark, farting and snoring settle around you, diaphanous, studded, anxious. You dream of gristle.

The others will receive a coupon for a discount-price small soda, and a trip to observe George Soros' hair colorist, reading a copy of Forbes, through a bulletproof window. But the Surrendered had denied the primacy of the Great Carousel, so their Davos will be a short sniff of the leather seats in an otherwise unoccupied Daimler. Then, to be sent home at their own expense for long retraining in a job that will take months to find, and which is discontinued the day after they are hired.  Ho, ho,ho, ho, Cisco! Ho, ho, ho, ho, Pancho! That's our Davos!

But this is not your Davos. You are not on file, under the name you were given to use, as having denied The Carousel Of Progress. [Your Name] has been Cleared, umbrage squeezed dry and ready for productive action in service to Man's Betterment. If L.Ron were ever alive, he would be. If Tony Robbins were real, he would guide you personally across the hot coals. Parma-shahanda Yoga-nanda, Parley-voo. In your mind, a Crackerjack prize, and in your gloved hand, the feel of a bag strap made from an endangered petrochemical, all telling you this is real.

(But: The whole squeezing Man's Betterment is just fake bullshit, a double-blind ruse. You're here in Davos in a big quilt, so far under the covers that your latitude and longitude come up Zeroes. You're not who you say you are, and never were. The hopes of all humankind stain your carpeting in expectation that you would complete this mission and get an oil change. God is with you, but he steals your stuff and sells it downtown.)

You stride up to the 4-star hotel desk repeatedly, just trying it out. The clerks -- parthenogenic, muted -- take no notice. They are busy timing each other's movements and their interactions with guests. The clerk with the lowest total time receives a coupon for a discount-price small soda. The rest are allowed to live, but forced to wear old animal costumes outside the hotel, in public, so that all will know of their shame and inexactitude.

Your electronic room key is imprinted with the likeness of Klaus Schaub, wearing a bib, and pictured eating in a 'Communist Lobster' franchise restaurant. The room, fragrant with violets; your phone, seeking you; and promises of delights of the eye, tongue and intellect are hung around the wallpapered box of your room like laundry washed in the sink. It is cheesy and expensive: the highest expression of the Free Market. You have made it.

Pencils down. You evacuate your bowels. The toilet has a shelf for you, the curious, to view leavings before flushing, and it would be churlish to refuse anything offered for free. This act of introspection will be your best moment at Davos. They told you this would happen -- but nothing, nothing could prepare you for that moment of contact, of spurning. You wash your hand.

2.   Where You Were, Gentlemen

It's the day. There are WEF conferences and hubub scheduled, rooms, many rooms, of people murmuring peasancarrots, peasandcarrots repeatedly. But you were instructed to feign shyness until The Moment. You hang. You chill. In The Packed Elevator, you do your Robin Williams laugh -- and everyone in the Car suddenly does the same thing.

You almost flinch. It's endless, permeable, like having a colonoscopy on a train -- but you remember: Keep control. Deep breaths. Be Coolidge: You Lose. Then, the Car stops; its doors slide open and a man moves past you, still making his seal-bark laugh, pausing to wipe his eyes on a woman's hair, and pat you on the shoulder as if to say, Dude -- good one.

Here, finally; the white placard outside a door to an auditorium, with a single word in red: Stumpfegger. This is where you are to meet your contact. You accept a glance from the woman beside the door -- an intense simulacrum of Donna Reed -- who hands you a brochure entitled Complete Release. Blushing, she says this conference covers "the plot for forgiveness of all First-World debt." You smile, nodding, earnest, but keep moving. Your mission is more important than what you suspect about her thong underwear -- and will never know. You'll have to live with that.

They said, Your contact will know you. All you had to do was to find "Stumpfegger" and show up. You stand near the tasteful refreshment table and realize the man serving drinks is a frenzied doppelgänger for Joe Turkel, eternal bartender in The Shining, and decline a tequila shooter. You wave the Complete Release brochure back and forth, as instructed -- a signal, an urgent, full-bladder motion, and think about thong underwear. Really hard.

Then, you see The Contact. You see them seeing you see them, actually. Everything that happens after this is a blur; you'll be debriefed about it for weeks in extra crispy detail, a swimming up from sewage depth to where sheep graze, safely. And, fortunately for you, the story will not change. You will be allowed to go back to wherever it is you come from. You will be allowed to toil in many jobs, but not remain for long -- because Lt. Gerard will always show up, looking for money.
__________________________________

What catches your attention about The Contact first is his hair, its architectural blondness -- now whitish, now caution orange, and shiny, like preternatural two-tone ice cream or a small child's flotation device. The Contact is a suet, puffed inside his black suit, behind the signature doublewide red tie. His face is a carnivore drunkard's bloat, too-small eyes, piggish; his mien oblate and spiky. His lips are a crayon line drawn by an angry pensioner across the lower third of that orange face. The French Cuffs of his whitish shirt have little numbers embroidered on them: "45",  and he is nodding, nodding, at you as he walks forward. This is your contact.


3.   Historical Briefs With A Brown Streak Of Genius

A Stonehenge of men and women in sunglasses surround The Contact. They move in formation, maintaining a Raggedly Ann circle around him, continually bumping into other guests, chairs, tables, each other, headed right towards you in a chorus of s'cuse me; par-done, pal; hey lookout; aw christ you could see me comin', right? and who keep reaching inside their jackets as if checking to ensure they still have their wallets.

You clench. The deer flips on its headlights and there you are, about to get a mouthful of antler (Hi! Remember me? You hit me with the Volkswagen! Payback's a bitch, pal!). You think of the face of your mother -- or Lady Gaga, or another suitable female substitute, just as The Contact stops directly in front of you. You are standing in his Circle Of Trust, surrounded by partially blind people who have weapons.

"Hey, you know," The Contact says, lifting his chin and tilting his head back to look down at you, Mussolini squinting at a small boat far out at sea, "You know, I was out there, goin' by, and thought, 'You know, I should stop in there'. How's it goin'?" You open your mouth to answer but the contact, like the voiceover for an industrial safety film, keeps on talking.

"There's so many things goin' on here! It's like the world's fair of banking and whatever, right? You know, they never -- never -- wanted to invite me to Davos. I mean, I'm the most sympathetic person to what they want to do, in this whole place, the whole thing, me -- and they never invited me before! Not once!"

The Contact sees a blur moving outside his Circle Of Trust and raises a hand, perfect white teeth in the ocher pudding of his face, saying, "Hey, thank you. How ya doin', yeah; thank you," before turning the oily tumblers in his eyes back on you.

The Contact's eyes widen to the size of dimes. He throws his hands out, experimentally, the breadth of a large fish. "But, n-ow -- now, they had to invite me! I'm the leader of the free world, right? Over 300 on the electoral; nobody ever mentions that, by the way. But, hey -- Swiss've been great, they really have, very gracious -- they've been very, very good to me, very respectful. Not saying they're not. I'm very much thinking I hope they stay like that."

You nod. You lean towards him slightly, and enunciate the code phrase: Hobo Oboe.  The Contact stops, squints, pushes on his chin. "Din' getcha," he says; you rinse and repeat. The Contact thinks about what an impression of remembering something might look like, then leans towards you, and speaks a countersign: "Ah, Yeah, yeah.  'My Penile Prosthesis'." He steps a little closer and, with a quick glance around the room, squeezes out a shruglet, raising his brows while the eyes remain inscrutable, swinish.

This was the moment. This was why you came to Davos: to observe your leavings, and tell this person what you were instructed to say -- a single phrase, "Stormy Weather". You ignore the sure impression you have gained that The Contact is wearing thong underwear, stand on your feet's balls, and draw a deep breath -- but before you can speak, The Contact interrupts you.

"Hey, I have a lot to do; so much to do, I've got -- you wouldn't believe how much I have to do in this job. I tell you, if I could go on strike, I'd do that. Leftists would love it. Chuck Schumer'd love it -- but I am the most involved president, hands-on involved, of any president. Not since Lincoln, or anyone, has there been a harder-working president than I am. So that's one.

"Two, nobody is listening to me. I mean, the people, some of the people, they listen, sure. But there's a fucking conspiracy with the New York Times and fucking PBS. Jesus; fucking Frontline. The Washington Post -- that Bezos, he's just trying to mindfuck me. But, I'll be fair, some of my own people -- don't want to name anybody, but some of them are very close to me -- use the media to talk themselves up. Take credit, make me look like some crazy, stupid person. Happened just last week."

Everyone in the Stumpfegger Room is looking at something else while they look at The Contact, and you. He has drawn himself up on a cocktail napkin, his gut pendulous within a tent of jacket; he pushes a stubby finger into the inches before your face, shouting, "I'm tellin' you: I am not stupid, like everyone says! I'm Smart!! I am fucking in charge!"

"I was elected with the largest electoral numbers in modern history -- I was, me! Not the goddamn Daily News! And I'm about ready to say to the Post, 'Hey, Jeff; you want to get shut down? You want a military censor sitting in your office with a magnifying glass up your ass? You want the IRS looking at your offshore LLCs?' And those terrible conditions in his shipping places; just terrible. We're gonna look into that. He's outta control, that guy; it's very sad how outta control.

"I'm not even getting into the Russia thing. Yeah, we're lining up for ol' Bobby; and oh, everyone's gonna be surprised when we let go, my friend!" His face is an alarmed bell of crimson. "see, it takes just one thing, just one thing, and the whole ball game can change. That's what I'm saying; I'm saying that. All right." His face relaxes like a sphincter, and he nods, lifting a hand with two fingers, faintly Benedictine. "All right. Thanks very much. Great to see you."

The theme to "Heroes Of Telemark" begins to play in the background and he's off walking, his perimeter of flesh shifting with him back through the room and out the door.  A tendril in your head saying hey man that tequila shooter be lookin' good right now. From here to eternity, everyone is turning, turning, and have come round, Right wing, at last, to be looking at you. If curious glances had their own mucus, you would be coated in slime.

You order a tequila; the Joe Turkel bartender says Your Money's No Good There, and it's all on the House. Somewhere, you realize that you did not give The Contact that message. On the way back to the hotel, your Uber driver talks about a company which has made an app -- an interactive photo-calendar of shaved animals, for other animals. It has had two billion downloads at $2.99 each.

Obligatory Dog-Faced Fruit Bat Photo: Pooch Of The Sky

At the hotel, you receive a message: Mother says the cow is sick. You must come home immediately. Tickets will be delivered today. There is also a huge, Dog-Faced Fruit Bat, in a basket, from the Davos Chamber Of Commerce. One of these messages is benign, the other ominous, and you do not know which is which.

The Fruit Bat turns on the room's television;  you both watch situation comedies in German until the Fruit Bat turns to you and says, "Are you understanding any of this?"
___________________________________

The Fruit Bat dials Room Service and orders a Martini. After a time, the Room Service waiter, a man in his mid-twenties, appears. He places the Martini, and the bill, on a side table.  The Fruit Bat sips at the Martini in silence. The waiter stands to one side, observing. The world wonders.

After a few minutes, the waiter politely clears his throat and says, "You know -- we don't get many Fruit Bats ordering Martinis here." The Fruit Bat, glancing at the bill, replies, "Yes; and at these prices, you won't see many more of us, either."
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Monday, August 19, 2019

Smash The Past With Savage Blows

Yellowhammer


Britain's Prime Minister; The New Model Of Leadership:  'Mercurial'  'Individual'  =  Wanker

At the end of Terry Gilliam's "Time Bandits" (1981), a boy has escaped through time in the company of some mutinous employees of the Supreme Being, ultimately defeating The Evil One by carbonizing him, then blowing him into a bunch of carbonized chunks.

The boy wakes up, at home in bed (all a dream?) to find his parents' house on fire. The Fire Brigade brings out a toaster-oven, advising it was the cause. The parents open it -- and inside is what the boy recognizes as a chunk of The Evil One.  "Mum! Dad!" the boy shouts. "It's evil! Don't touch it!!"

The parents look dumbly at their son (I'm not gettin' ya, boy) -- then, look at the Chunk in the toaster-oven; at each other -- and then both of them reach into the oven and touch it. There is a fiery explosion, whereupon Mum and Dad 'splode into Chunks themselves.
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Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and the rest of the Wankers are pushing a No-Deal Brexit -- not because there is no other alternative. But Boris and his Brexiteers appear to be using the threat of a no-deal as a gigantic game of Chicken with the EU. But, Oops -- the Union called their bluff.

Since Boris buffaloed his way into Number 10, girlfriend in tow, enough evidence has surfaced that he and Nigel and the Wankers intend to crash out of the EU -- because they have no other plan. There isn't one. And when October 31st arrives, and a Crash-out occurs, the government's own report predicts a Britain headed for disaster: chaos at ports of entry, shortages of critical goods, medicines, petrol; businesses closing; layoffs; even riots.

Britain's cross-governmental civil preparedness plan for a no-deal Brexit even has a code name: Operation Yellowhammer.
_____________________________

A common economic framework has been the chief reason for the EU's existence in the first place. Crashing out of the Union with no 'deal' means (among other things) no trade and employment agreement between Britain and the EU. Highly-paid employees from across the EU, living and working in England, will become 'foreigners' on November 1st. So will British citizens working abroad, and British retirees in Portugal, Spain, Italy or southern France.

Advantages British businesses have had within the EU will disappear, kicking them smartly in the balls just at the point when a delicately interconnected global economy is slowing. And a Brexit crash-out may be the thing which adds to collective financial pressures and turns a global slowdown into something deeper and more serious.

It's less clear whether Yellowhammer and Nigel's demolition derby will mean the end of the United Kingdom, or not. A majority in Scotland (62%) and Northern Ireland (56%) voted to remain in the EU (Wales voted to leave, 53% - 47%). There are clear economic benefits for them to do so -- and there's enough regionalist sentiment, in Scotland at least, to use a crash-out as an opportunity to push for independence. Boris Johnson doesn't remember Culloden and doesn't care; Nicola Sturgeon certainly does.
_____________________________

After the 2016 Brexit referendum, some pundits were quick to note that 'Leave' won because its supporters were the English equivalent of Trumper populists -- nationalist, nativist, anti-immigrant conservatives, the National Front's "Britain For the British!" types seen in the late 1970's.

Others saw in the vote a rejection of the policies of neoliberalism and the forced austerity created by organizations like the IMF, ECB and WTO, which the EU voted to uphold and Britain agreed to. Those 'Leave' voters were more concerned about economics which benefited a wealthy elite, than nationalist or anti-immigrant sentiments.

But for Boris, Nigel and the Brexiteers, leaving the EU has never been about immigration, or any one issue. Brexit was only a lever through which they could take control of Britain's Conservative party, in the same way Trump now controls the Republican party in the United States.

They cultivated a right-wing populism, all about kicking a liberal Britain to the curb -- a nationalistic, anti-immigrant, privatized nation, full of proud 'Little Englanders' who saw each other through their traditional pecking order of wealth and class. An authoritarian model, where it's organizers -- like Trump and friends in the U.S. -- will benefit greatly.

Trump's Secretary of the Treasury and Spouse Enjoy Their Lifestyle
(Time Magazine Online)

In America, Trump cloaks his greed and racism (with the help of the Murdochs) in a manufactured popularity and traditional American imagery. He lies about himself constantly, shamelessly. Being President is just another way to siphon money out of a world of Worker-Bee Losers, and he's filled his cabinet with people who believe exactly the same -- for these people, "public service" means the public serving them. Trump has bought their loyalty with access to streams of cash, and their snouts are buried in the feeding trough.

Boris, Nigel and the Wankers want the same: a Trump-like political agenda that gives them power to line their pockets and distribute largess to other rightist Wankers. They've dressed up their swinish greed with more sonorous and adult-sounding phrases (typical with a people who use language like poetry, even when it's for a utilitarian purpose) -- but it's a power grab for personal gain, pure and simple.
_____________________________

So, if everyone understands that crashing out of the EU is like touching the piece of pure evil in the convection oven, and you will explode and die... why? Why do it?

My perception is that Boris, and Nigel, and opportunistic British Conservatives want a Britain disrupted and disorganized. It's easier to loot when it's prostrate. It's like corporate raiders, leverage-buying a behemoth company fallen on hard times, then butchering it and selling it off piecemeal for their own enrichment and that of their friends.

They're not using a new model for seizing power -- but it's being pursued around the world, at the same time, by too many people to appear completely coincidental:  Bolsonaro in Brazil, Salvini in Italy, Orban in Hungary, Duarte in the Philippines, The Great Leader in the U.S. -- and now Boris, Nigel and the Wankers.  It's Steve Bannon's populismcreate the chaos; repeatedly blame liberals and the central government as the cause; then take advantage of it. Control the conservative party by forcing it into more radical positions. Once in power, do whatever the hell you want.

What's being torn apart isn't a corporate entity, it's a national government -- and the political and personal benefits at that scale are enormous. This kind of takeover isn't democracy; it isn't about creating a government to best to serve its citizens. It's about power  -- rewarding one's friends; punishing one's enemies; and holding on to power for as long as possible, usually measured in election cycles. Then, having drained everything out of the country you can, walk away. Who the fuck cares what happens to the Little People? You got yours, Jacky Boy: #Winning!

The potential chaos created by a no-deal Brexit is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity -- for Boris, Nigel and the Wankers, for Stevie -- but the tricky bit is, they will have to try and put this massive economic and social disruption over on the British people. The only way they can do this is to lie and obfuscate, say that they're "doing everything they can" to go out with a deal. But, lying is something easy for Boris, he's already done it to become Prime Minister.

After the no-deal Brexit on October 31st, Boris will blame the misery he and the Wankers have created on the EU, or immigrants, or liberals. He'll have the Murdoch press to help him sell whatever lies they want to push. There could even be a war with Iran by then, which might distract people, for a while.

And then, there's Trump, riding to the rescue of Britain's economy. Boris seems to agree with making America Britain's principal trading partner to make shore up its economy in a post-Brexit world, replacing a portion of the economic framework Britain currently has with the EU. Trump, of course, mentions it as if it were a done deal.

It might provide a temporary lift to the markets, even a talking point in Trump's reelection -- the right-wing echo chamber would claim it as a victory for Free Trade under the wise stewardship of  The Leader. But ultimately it's just smoke and mirrors -- any rewards of such an agreement are highly speculative, and years in the future. It's not clear the U.S. Congress would allow or ratify such a treaty, and business with America can't replace, for England, the income they currently receive from all EU nations they trade with.

And The Great Leader isn't a dependable business partner. Boris may learn the hard way that with Trump, there is no more 'Special Relationship' -- and Boris and the Wankers need The Leader more than he needs Boris.
__________________________________

One of the great, momentous political questions of the 21st century is how do we minimize the effects of climate, and realize an equitable future for all, without creating a corporatized world where people become 'aphids milked by ants', through the Facebooks and Googles and Cambridge Analyticas?  Put another way -- how do you oppose neoliberalism without replacing it with nationalism or fascism? I believe the answer is clear.

However, as with our own Congress, the British Parliament is paralyzed. Leadership on all sides seems compromised. Liberals and Labor are divided; Conservatives are divided; every party in Britain seems disorganized, overwhelmed with backbiting and infighting. It's how Yellowhammer was able to bully his way to leadership of the Conservatives, and into Number 10, in the first place.

At the moment, it looks like things are disorganized enough in Britain that a no-deal Brexit, and everything to follow it, is the likely outcome; a victory of the Buffoons. Still. I like to think there's some fight in Labor yet, beset as that party seems to be with its own internal issues.

It's not that I'm kneejerk-sympathetic to Labor as the primary Left party in England; they are, however, the only one preserving some third way between the Raving Monster Looney Party of Boris and Nigel the Brexiteers, and the Neoliberal New World Order.
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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Random Barking: News On The March


Despicable

Robert Mueller hadn't even stepped from the podium before The Murdoch manure machine began doing all it ever can do (via Media Matters):
STUART VARNEY (HOST): My judgment is it was a neutral statement. What do you say?  
PETE HEGSETH (FOX NEWS HOST): I think you're right. I mean, we saw the definitive end of the Mueller report. If you're looking for more, you're looking in the wrong place. And he made that very clear. But I think both sides are going to take what they want from this statement. You're going to have the president rightfully saying no collusion, no obstruction, I'm exonerated, let's move on. The coded language in the second part though, I think is what Democrats are going to seize on, which is department policy is such that we're not able to charge a sitting president with obstruction, therefore, we didn't. He didn't say he didn't obstruct. He said we're not -- it would be unfair to bring charges against a sitting president where there's no place to adjudicate it. So I think that's what you'll see on late night television, on the other networks obsessing over the fact Bob Mueller's hands were tied by the Trump Justice Department and therefore, he didn't bring obstruction charges. But I think the bigger narrative will be the president can go to the voters, which will be the ultimate decision on this in 2020, and say they dragged me through the mud for two and a half years, I was exonerated, let's do something big with the next four years.
ELIZABETH MACDONALD (FOX BUSINESS HOST): Not full exonerated, just not enough evidence --- 
HEGSETH: That's what he'll say.
MACDONALD: Not enough evidence to prosecute a crime. That's what Mueller is just now saying.
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Division

Digby reprinted an article by Ronald Brownstein of CNN:
Even amid record-low unemployment, robust economic growth and a roaring stock market, President Donald Trump has shown no signs of expanding his support beyond the roughly 46% of the vote that he carried in 2016.
National surveys now routinely find a huge falloff between ... Americans satisfied with the economy and the percentage that approve of Trump's performance as President… attitudes about the economy were much less powerful in driving voters' decisions in 2016 and 2018 than their views about fundamental cultural and social changes, particularly race relations and shifting gender roles.
Each of these dynamics underscores how the economy's role in politics may be shifting as the basis of each party's political coalition has evolved.  Increasingly, the parties are bound together less by class than by culture.
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Dysfunction

A Guardian column by Aditya Chakrabortty notes the basic crises which triggered a vote for Brexit in Britain haven't even been admitted to, let alone addressed, by politicians who 'split the difference' in compromises that benefit the Owner Class, and continue to erode public trust in the ability of traditional political parties to represent the interests of The People.

While Chakrabortty doesn't say it, that discontent with "business as usual" politics (reflected in the UK's 2016 Brexit vote and last weekend's victory of Nigel Farage's one-trick-pony Brexit Party in the EU parliamentary elections) is mirrored in other European countries, and in the U.S.  
[The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michael Barnier, noted] "The UK is in ...a very serious crisis [which] isn’t linked to ... Brexit ... It’s a much deeper crisis. An existential crisis"...
...[Current conditions in Britain which led to Brexit were the result of] Thatcherism, in all its cold, stiff, failed ugliness. And the problem there is that the Thatcher experiment has pretty much failed. Four decades after she took power, 38% of working-age households now take more from the state in benefits, health and education than they pay back in taxes. Wealth in Britain is so concentrated that the head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies believes “inheritance is probably the most crucial factor in determining a person’s overall wealth since Victorian times”…
[Brazillian philosopher and Harvard professor Roberto Unger observes] “If you leave the EU, you do so to become something else. But you don’t appear to know what you want to become... European politicians, whether centre-left or centre-right, are so used to the politics of splitting the difference. They are incapable of facing up to fundamental problems... and that leaves a vast vacuum to be filled by any passing nationalist populism."
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Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Thing

Determinism

Via the Soul of America, a review of four books about That Thing Called Democracy which our political system serves us, really is the end of the American Dream -- the myth of consumer riches and The Good Life, or 'Why We Fought WWII and The Cold War": 
... Trump is “not an anomalous departure but rather a return to the historical norm.” Trump exposes starkly what the civility of Obama and his administration obscured -- the subordination of American democracy to capitalism, patriarchy, and the iniquitous racial order descended from slavery...
...democracy is threatened by two types of deterministic worldview ... “inevitability” and “eternity.” The first is the determinism of the “end of history” and modernization theory, which declares that “there is no alternative” to liberal democracy. This, broadly speaking, is the worldview of the liberal elite in the West ... 
The disappointments and resistance that their top-down programs of modernization engender give rise... not to a genuine popular reaction, but to a second type of elite mythmaking, in the form of “eternity politics,” or mythic nationalism.
Whereas modernizers promise a better future for everyone as long as we all follow the one best path, mythic nationalism “places one nation at the center of a cyclical story of victimhood.” Against the dark backdrop of a world of threats, the governing elite promises not progress but protection.
Our current situation... has been shaped by the wild oscillation between the determinism of modernization theory, and the determinism of nationalism. Both foreclose any real debate and all practical alternatives. They are both inimical to genuine democracy. One licenses domineering technocracy; the other, cruder forms of authoritarianism.
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Disproportion

A Mandos Post at IanWelsh dot net; what he's saying is don't underestimate the effect of large numbers of liberal voters who just want Everything To Go Back To What It Was:
Take a look at Joe Biden—he appears to have, for now at least, considerable staying power in the Democratic primary opinion polls ... If your model of political psychology can predict a strong core of popular support for Trump without also predicting a strong core of party grassroots support for Biden, you should really rethink it from the ground up.  For a core of US voters, the presence of Trump in the White House is an unprecedented emergency and an enormous support of anxiety and real, day-to-day stress.
You can call it Trump Derangement Syndrome or whatever, but the feeling is there, and implicit in this feeling is that Trump is an anomaly, a hiatus in the proper march of American institutions [emphasis added; see 'Determinism', above], that should by rights have gone to Clinton, and if not, to one of Trump’s Republican primary competitors.
 And the advantage of Biden, from this perspective, is precisely that Biden presents an opportunity to force the recalcitrant portions of the Democratic party and, yes, the American left insofar as it plays electoral politics, to choose explicitly once again whether it will acknowledge and ratify that feeling, or whether it will die on a hill of particular material policies to the neglect of vital institutional decorum.
But for many left-wingers, it seems that even to admit that this is the dynamic is too much to bear. It requires admitting that the Neera Tandens of the world do not merely represent a type of think tank class traitors in cahoots with the rich, but they are actually the genuine grassroots representatives of a large portion of American society, large enough to make a big difference as to who will win the primary and the presidency.
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Disintegration 

The Great Curmudgeon quotes Greg Sargent in the WaPo:
And Democrats should be aware of the risks that dithering poses to public understanding. One side’s willingness to engage in full-saturation propaganda casting the investigation itself as the real crime -- disinformation designed to blot out shared agreement on the most basic facts about what just happened before all of our very eyes -- now has an attorney general who may be willing to help carry that out. 
Given this deep imbalance, without a coherent narrative from the other side that makes Trump’s corruption and epic misconduct unequivocally central to this national moment -- one riveted around whether Trump committed the high crimes and misdemeanors that render his removal imperative -- is there not a great risk of deepened public confusion, just as Democrats prepare to ask the voters to do the hard work for them?
The Dems said wait for Mueller (totally reasonable). Then they... had no plan for what to do if Mueller didn't send the Marshall of the Supreme Court to arrest Trump or the Republicans didn't respond with "Oh my God it turns out the president is bad!" Neither of which was going to happen. Now we have an AG who is about to turn the Justice Department into a fully partisan operation to investigate Trump's enemies, and being investigated, even if it leads to nothing, is a nightmare in itself, especially for the secondary characters who can't necessarily afford $600/hr lawyers.
The beautiful thing is this will provide the symmetry that our press loves. On one hand, we have Republicans investigating Democrats. On the other hand, we have Democrats investigating Trump/Republicans.
Both sides. It's all partisan. Washington is broken. Vote Schultz!
They had to run with it right away. They didn't.
yassss.

Vote Schultz!
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Dissolution 

As I've said elsewhere: This cannot continue, and This cannot end well.

Robert Evans' podcast, "It Can Happen Here".

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MEHR, AUF DER GROSSER GREISGRAMISMUSS MUSS SEIN:


The Big Guy Votes In Favor Of A Quick Radioactive Barbecue
I think Dem voters did hear the "wait for Mueller"message - Dem voters also like the impartial GOP Daddy referees deciding issues - and then came Mueller day. And when Mueller day arrived the Dems had some shiny new gavels in their possession. So, now, they want the Dems to follow the course set out by impartial GOP Daddy referee Mueller, as they were told they should. And Mueller says impeach the motherfucker.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Reprint Heaven: The Collect Call Of Chtulu

When Your Border Wall's Lost In The Rain In Juarez

(And as more Democrantic candydates appear, it's helpful to use the Wayback Machine to gain perspective -- and so there's this, from July 2016.)
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One of the unspoken Intertube traditions (which we recognize, as we do All Intertube Traditions) is, Never Blog After An, uh, 'Social Call'.  In other words, Don't Drink and Blog.

Blogs (so it is said) should be for sober reflection and analysis, if you want people (for example, the three persons and the Superintelligent Parakeet who read this blog) to take you seriously. Well; fuck that; let's push on.
______________________________

When the Brexit was a Day One news item, the English-language European and American mainstream media characterized 'Leave' voters as resembling the 'National Front' types I once encountered in London in the late 70's -- racist, nationalistic troglodytes -- as if the only motivation for wanting to leave the EU could be the potential for a sudden influx of Middle Eastern refugees.

Even today, pundits on some very nice soapboxes are still saying the Brexit is the last gasp of White Britain, the Last Hurrah of a Failed Empire, brought about by political Neanderthals, doomed to extinction by the forward march of Progress.

Progress, For Them: More Exclusive Resort Locales

Maybe. But after you pare away the Raving Loonies, those focused on keeping out 'the Darks', the "Little Englanders" -- the Vote became a rejection of the elitist-sponsored inequality being brought to you under the label of Globalism.

Before 2008 (and even for a time after), anyone claiming that the world was being structured for the benefit of the few at the expense of everyone else -- that it was an organized effort -- would have been marginalized, derided as part of the Tinfoil Hat crowd, a Loony Liberal (or, worse, Communist) and effectively ignored: Yeah; go stand over there, with the 9-11 guys and David Ickes with his nine-foot reptilian Overlords, and the anti-Semites.

The MSM have repeatedly described The 2008 Crash as an 'excess of the financial community' -- an aberration, something out of the ordinary. Like many others, I watch the monthly U.S. employment figures and CPI, and the gyrations of the global Market in an attempt to read the tea leaves... but all that is part of everyone's post-Crash focus: Are we 'getting back to normal'? 

The fix of The Crash was to bail out the institutions and individuals who caused it. After a while, no one in the MSM seemed to pay much attention to the fact that All Of Us had paid to bail out corporate banks, to underwrite their private insolvency with public loans. Because they were Too Big To Fail. Because Freedom.
"[There was] a contract that said, if you work hard, if you essentially are a good citizen, there will be a place for you, not only an economic place, you will have a secure life, your kids will have a chance to have a better life, but you will sort of be recognized as part of the national fabric."

The ... American institutions that underpinned this contract including locally-owned businesses, unions, and public schools. ... the void left by the decline of these institutions was filled by the default force in American life, organized money.
-- Wikipedia Entry (Paraphrased), "The Unwinding", George Packer (2013)
And in the eight years since Der Untergang, there has been a resulting massive shift in American society (and in global institutions) which we haven't come to terms with -- primarily because humans always seek a stable local reality, and will ignore a ton of shit if it means they're "getting by".  Meanwhile, over 90% of income increases since 2008 have gone to a fraction of our population; trillions in wealth have been transferred from the majority to that tiny, useless minority.  And it is not coming back.

Not everyone can march in the streets, but it's still relatively safe to cast an anonymous vote -- ergo, Bernie's popularity in America, and Trumpo's. And the Brexit vote. They're bellwethers of what's going on in the hearts of The People, things that can't necessarily be bought or manipulated by Kochbrudern money, or Little Rupert's 24X7 sewage operation.

Mister, Jones

Everyone I know has the sense (and has had it, since the shark-feeding-frenzy Verrüktzeit preceding The Crash) that we're rocketing towards an unknown singularity. It may crush us flat, as we travel an Einstein-Rosen Bridge of history, before being blown out into the future. 

Some kind of change is coming; the bellwethers are all around us: For decades, art and film have presented stories set after some unimaginable crash / alien incursion / pandemic / Zombie apocalypse / fascist revolution.  In real life, politics has devolved into populism on the Left and faux-populism on the altRight, while Business As Usual (personified by Herr Obama and Hillary The Inevitable !) still runs the show. The Usual Suspects still own the circus. The future is set because they wish it.

It is a sham and all of us know. So in November, just three people will come out to vote. One will cast a ballot for a glorious return of Clintonia; one will vote for the return of The Good Ole Daze. One will arrive to vote for Ralph Nader, but is nearsighted and so votes for Her Majesty in error. And so Cruella Deville will be Our Leader. Or will she?  Such a cliffhanger !
One of my Hillaryite Colleagues is nervous again, stunned by Hillary's plummeting polls since Comey justly called her a serial liar and regal jackass with neither interest in or competence for following rules mere mortals must. He's leading in Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida, HC said. O look, I said, pointing to the big screen in the Student Union, a truck plowed into a Bastille Day crowd in France. HC said, this is nuts. Students rushed through the Student Union holding cell phones in front of their faces, screaming at each other like battle bugles. It's dress rehearsal, I said.
--  Soul Of America, "And We Should Dance"
No one know what's going to happen, and no one knows the Form Of The Destructor. The only  takeaway we have is a gnawing foreboding. We sense there is an iceberg, dead ahead, a banana peel or large clump of animal feces on the sidewalk in the dark. But we can't discern it's exact shape -- Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is; do you, Mr. Jones. 

All I can do is pay attention to other observers on the Net who are much better at a broader analysis than this humble Dog correspondent. And to join the Greek chorus of those who pass along their observations so that we all too, also, might benefit.

The old world is discombobulating right in front of our eyes. Keep looking, and don't turn away.
In Britain as well as America... The triumph of Margaret Thatcher in the 1978 general election had the same role there as Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980 did over here: a new, more aggressive conservatism took up the Left’s rhetoric of class warfare with a vengeance and inverted it, ushering in an era in which the rich rebelled against the poor.

The Labour Party under Tony Blair... responded [in] the same way [as the Democratic party] did under Bill Clinton: both ... dropped their previous commitments to the working class and the poor, and focused instead on issues that appealed to affluent liberals.  They gambled that the working class and the poor would keep voting for them out of ... misplaced loyalty—and over the short term, that gamble paid off.

The result in both countries was a political climate in which the only policies up for discussion were those that favored the interests of the affluent at the expense of the working classes and the poor [Emphasis added]. That point has been muddied so often, and in so many highly imaginative ways, that it’s probably necessary to detail it here.
 Progress, For You: The Decline (The Tenderloin; San Francisco CA)
Rising real estate prices, for example, benefit those who own real estate, since their properties end up worth more, but it penalizes those who must rent their homes, since they have to pay more of their income for rent. Similarly, cutting social-welfare benefits for the disabled favors those who pay taxes at the expense of those who need those benefits to survive.
In the same way, encouraging unrestricted immigration into a country that already has millions of people permanently out of work, and encouraging the offshoring of industrial jobs so that the jobless are left to compete for an ever-shrinking pool of jobs, benefit the affluent at the expense of everyone else.
The law of supply and demand applies to labor just as it does to everything else:  increase the supply of workers and decrease the demand for their services, and wages will be driven down. The affluent benefit from this, since they pay less ... but the working poor and the jobless are harmed ... since they receive less income if they can find jobs at all.

It’s standard for this straightforward logic to be obfuscated by claims that immigration benefits the economy as a whole—but who receives the bulk of the benefits, and who carries most of the costs?  That’s not something anybody in British or American public life has been willing to discuss for the last thirty years. 
-- John Michael Greer, Archdruid Report
The Benefits Of Globalism: Obligatory Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Thing
Cameron’s risky bet to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership has backfired disastrously. The unexpected victory for the leave camp has shaken both Unions to their very core, dividing left and right on either side of the Channel ...
 Yet the unspeakable truth is that, at a deeper level, the [Brexit vote] ... has [to do] with ... the widening gulf between political elites and European citizens more generally. While racism and anti-immigrant sentiment have been central to the leave campaign from the very start, it is difficult to believe that all 52 percent of Britons who voted leave are committed fascists.

Many of these people are ordinary working class folks who are simply fed up with the erosion of their living standards, the disintegration of their communities, the lack of responsiveness of their political representatives, and the unaccountable technocracy that has “taken control” over their lives. Brexit was first and foremost a political statement by the dispossessed and disempowered.

... Ultimately, the British vote to leave the EU, whether it eventually materializes or not (and there is no guarantee that it will), is symptomatic of ... a structural crisis of democratic capitalism, that has in recent years evolved from a global financial crisis into a deepening legitimation crisis of the political establishment, which is now in turn exploding into a full-blown crisis of governability of the existing social and political order...

-- ROAR Magazine; Jerome Roos, editor: "#Brexit Confirms: The Neoliberal Center Cannot Hold"
... the Founders distrusted popular government for the simple, unassailable reason that the American people are drawn ineluctably to raving bigots and would-be totalitarians. Who are these unhinged, pitchfork-wielding yahoos, now rudely demanding their moment of reckoning at the expense of the institutions erected to discipline them?
-- "The Political Class Struggles", Chris Lehman, 'The Baffler'
For Us:  Eight Nine More Years; Business As Usual. With Occasional Botox.
Hillary really seems to believe that her victory is enough of a consolation prize to negate our miseries. Sadly, there are enough people who agree that she'll never disabuse herself or her notion. If she loses, she'll blame us. We'll have deprived ourselves of the joy of witnessing her happiness.
-- :p, Airport through the Trees
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MEHR, MIT:  There is also, too, this from Something You Should Read (emphasis added):
The greatest trick the Republicans ever performed was dragging America’s political spectrum so far right of center that the Democrats caved and became center-right corporatist shills ... a horrendous compromise between anti-war, anti-poverty, anti-racist idealists who believe in building a better America, and the well-to-do status quo defending blowhards who think buying a Beyonce album on iTunes is somehow proof you believe Black Lives Matter.

Essentially, those who understand our current politics are infested with a rot that spread misery and poverty, and “free market” neoliberals who cloak their faith in the current system with a sick and twisted perversion of “Identity Politics.” They seek nothing more than a more diverse oligarchy to rule over the poor and the disadvantaged, they think they can weaponize poverty to punish and silence white racism. 
They’ll call illegal drone strikes a “white issue,” they’ll defend an infinitely rich and powerful white woman’s vocal support of an illegal war that has murdered hundreds of thousands if not millions. They’ll support a “sit-in” to create policy around a Bush-era terrorist watchlist to strip rights from Muslims. All of this is so far detached from anything a “Left” would ever stand for. ...

Let me make it clear ... you were an outspoken supporter of a Liberal White Supremacy that infests our current political class. One that pretends a black President is somehow a victory while the wealth gap between white and black families has only grown under his reign. One that believes Silicon Valley can somehow end racism through apps. One that pretends Edward Snowden is somehow a traitor, while a Secretary of State running a private email server to hide from public accountability and FOIA requests is somehow woke feminist labor. One that pretends Hillary only voted for the Iraq War because doing otherwise would be “political suicide.” One that pretends claiming poverty while having a luxurious AirBNB in a developing nation is not grossly inappropriate. One that thinks a vote for an infinitely rich and powerful white woman whose incompetence has had grave consequences for poor Muslim women overseas is somehow a meaningful victory for feminism....

Vote for Hillary all you want. However, wrapping it up in a triumphant narrative of identity politics and social justice when the only success is more dead innocent Muslims overseas — for no fucking reason — I mean the drone assassination program Hillary Clinton oversaw as Secretary of State had a fucking 90% failure rate— is nothing short of absolute vulgarity.
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