Ad Hominem

July 27th, 2016

The last time I ran for office (an office I’d be occupying now if I could have attracted just 400,000 more votes) I considered this campaign slogan: “Don’t be an asshole!” I decided against it, opting instead for “It’s Finally Come to This!” Insults, I figured, probably wouldn’t have gotten me a lot of votes. 

Democrats are forcing me to take another look at that political decision. Because my conscience won’t allow me to cast a vote for the Clintons, I’m advised by Dems that I’m silly, having a tantrum, exploiting my privileged status, facilitating neofascism, and an admirer of Vladimir Putin. Because of defects in my personality, they tell  me, Trump will be elected president. It’s an ad hominem attack that seems to be aimed at persuading me to support their union-busting, red-baiting, war-loving, bank-financed slate of candidates. Instead of being persuaded, I’m more hostile than ever, but that’s me.

If poll-takers are to be believed, the personal attacks are working. People are embracing Clinton out of fear that they will be blamed if Trump and the Russkis prevail on election day. Because of assholes like me, same-sex marriages will be dissolved, Republicans will control both houses of Congress, the general public will become subject to deportation, and Clarence Thomas (who wouldn’t be on the Supreme Court but for the support of 11 Democratic Senators) will become Chief Justice.

Why am I willing to take the risk of being blamed for all this?  Not ruling out personality disorder as a factor, I suggest I’m compelled by logic. History tells me that predictions, especially predictions of public opinion and public policy, are mostly wrong.  Since the politics of fear relies principally on prediction, its practitioners are directing me to dread events that probably won’t happen.

It’s true that if Trump is elected, I’ll have to hear his inane whining from time to time for an extended  period, but I dread the hoarse tones of the seducer Bill Clinton just as acutely. I will hate Trump, but I will also hate Clinton, and she brings her husband’s member back into the White House with her. Since both candidates are notorious liars and cheats, we can only guess what they will do as president, and predictions about issues like war and peace and who will sit on the federal bench are hot air. This uncertainty may be grounds for terror, but it’s illogical to suggest that one candidate is scarier than the other.

If poll-takers are wrong, as they have been on occasion, Democrats’ don’t-be-an-asshole tactic will backfire, and voters who might have been persuaded to cast a ballot for them had they heard praise for their adherence to principle will instead use the election to protest their ill treatment. Could happen. You’re welcome to blame me for it.

Doggerel

July 26th, 2016

Trump don’t owe the Kochs nor Richard Cheney or George Bush

They’re all backing Clinton now that shove’s come down to push.

Trump could make an entrance with his trophy decked in bling,

Or Clinton’s randy Billy could launch one more bawdy fling.

Bernie says he’s frightened that a clown could get elected,

“Stop the revolution! This chump’s got to be rejected!”

Screams the crowd of bankers, pols and weapons profiteers.

Stirring up your basic mix of hatreds, dreads and fears.

She’s amused to talk about the odd assassination,

Willing to drop bombs on any dark skinned  population.

She’s a snarling pit bull. Her opponent’s more a terrier.

Which of these two mutts unleashed is likely to be scarier?

F. Y. P.

June 29th, 2016

It seems fairly clear that cheating, lying and stealing have prevailed to ensure that the Clintons receive the nomination of the Democratic Party. There will be no takeover of the party by the forces of justice. It can’t be saved and it probably isn’t worth saving. 

We took our best shot, and we had a hell of a leader, but we knew at the outset that the party is owned by our enemies, like most of the earth’s assets, and is populated by political pawns currying favor with the owners in the interest of personal advantage.

The Democratic Party is an institution so thoroughly discredited that there’s no real prospect of reform. Taking it over would be like taking control of a racketeering outfit. Once you subtract the corrupt practices, there’s nothing left.

We and Sanders have no duty to make good on any pledge he might have made. The conduct of Democrats has been so egregious that any capitulation to them would be an offense in itself. So grievous has been the Democrats’ affront to our movement for social justice and common decency that an endorsement of their nominee would be a betrayal.

One pledge Sanders made is worth repeating: “I’ll do everything I can to see that Donald Trump doesn’t become president.” Supporting the Democratic nominee doesn’t fall conveniently into that category. She’s the most unpopular candidate offered to the public in living memory. She seems to be depending on large numbers of people “holding their noses” to cast a ballot for her. Her acolytes include veterans of the anti-war movement, who must swallow her enthusiasm for violent engagements from Yugoslavia to Libya and beyond. They include advocates from the civil rights and anti-poverty movement, who must swallow her multimillion dollar fees from longtime oppressors in finance and business. They include labor activists, who must swallow her support for destructive trade agreements. They include feminists who must swallow her defense of the sexual predator, her husband, and his prowling among the female staff in Little Rock and Washington for victims, all later smeared by her as liars and whores. If her victory requires Democrats to vote in violation of principle, it’s hard to make the case that she is the best bet to beat Trump. She’s depending on the capacity of these folks to overcome conscience and support longtime enemies. Could be risky.

Will they call us spoilers? Yeah, they will. So let’s start the discussion now of what we’ll be spoiling. It’s time to acknowledge that the potential for damage to the nation from a Clinton presidency is at least equal to the potential from a Trump presidency. She ascends to office with friends and allies in some of the most corrupt regimes since Caligula ruled Rome, from Goldman Sachs to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Trump comes with an unruly mob of aggrieved workers. We can deal with his crowd. Her crowd will crush us.

Our delegates are preparing to expend resources for the convention. For what purpose? To gain a plank in the platform? For a chance to express a vice presidential preference? Sanders could choose to save these resources for an independent run.

It’s late for an independent run, but early enough to make a statement to Democrats. Wouldn’t it be sweet to tell them to shove their stinking party? Accuse them of being Republicans. Repudiate them before they have a chance to call us losers, which they will. At this point, we can claim victory and exit stage left. We shouldn’t do it without Sanders, but if he deserts us, we have no better choice. Also, in case you’re wondering, the “Y. P.” in the title stands for “You People.”

Mad Dogs and Imbeciles

June 27th, 2016

The referendum results rescinding UK membership in  the European Union are being characterized in the mass media as madness spurred by racist feelings toward immigrants. Prices will rise for the average Brit, the news-mongers tell us, jobs will evaporate, and storm troopers will  rule. What the commentators never mention is how much this decision  will cost the people who sign the reporters’  and editors’ paychecks and write their scripts.  

The “race” against whom this referendum was directed is the minuscule segment of diversely colored humanity that controls all the world’s assets, including the mass media. Rich peoples’ investment in the rigged economy of Europe–rigged to enrich the owners at the expense of the people–is devalued ever so slightly by  this move, and they don’t give up a penny without a fight.  In the media, they fight by hurling epithets at the British majority.

In the USA, when rich people lost about a tenth of their assets in the 2008 crash, they blackmailed Congress into a transfer of billions from us to them. In a world that runs on credit, they reminded us that the money spigot can be turned off at any time, and our leaders capitulated. They’re teaching that same lesson in London and Edinburgh today, delivering  reinforcement on TV screens and in newspapers throughout the profit-motivated world. They are demanding capitulation.

You may have noticed that the mass media in the USA have suppressed all discussion of the reasons Brits actually give for wanting to leave the economic union. Typically, people on the street don’t attribute their dissatisfaction to racism, but to underemployment, low wages, corruption, and the breakdown of social institutions. They blame their leaders and their media, who have uniformly cautioned them not to leave the EU, overriding these powerful forces by a 52 to 48 percent plurality.  The media were so frightened of this outcome that they censored discussion of the merits of withdrawal, but the censors failed to persuade.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that rich people favor union when it unifies bankers and traders, but not when it unifies workers and common people. The European Union establishes uniform protocols for the conduct of international business, a pursuit open almost exclusively to the rich and super-rich, and the protocols are in every respect written to their advantage. The common people of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, noticing that their own quality of life has been in steep decline, have now voted to repeal those protocols, and the rich are enraged.

Nobody can predict whether the rich will make good on their veiled threat to crash the world economy if UK voters don’t reverse their decision and compensate traders for their modest losses. It might be profitable, at this stage, for the owners to note that they are vastly outnumbered and that their property rights are nothing but words on paper.

The Terror Industry

June 15th, 2016

The embedded mass media have been spinning the massacre at an Orlando nightclub as terrorism, motivated either by Islamic fanaticism or bigotry toward homosexual men or maybe both.  Never mind that the killer was a frequent patron of the establishment he attacked and was known to have a hot temper. He was a Muslim of Afghan nationality, and he told some of his victims he was angry at the USA, and that was enough for the embedded mass media to assign him a political motive and put a scare into their audience. Why the rush to judgment?

Because terror sells. We have reorganized our daily lives–travel, school, business, workplace practice–to stem the risk of terrorism, even though by most estimates it’s killed only an average eight Americans per year since 2002. An entire industry has arisen to deal with the threat, so that there are now as many people involved in the prevention of terrorism as there are terrorists. Hundreds of people are imprisoned without trial to prevent terrorism. Tens  of thousands of people are forbidden to board a commercial airliner. Each and every one of us has to disrobe, at least partially, to enter a public building. If we took comparable measures to eliminate medical errors, we could save 10,000 lives per year. But the risk of medical malpractice, unlike terrorism, isn’t covered with much enthusiasm at NPR and CNN.

That’s because terrorism is drama, and drama attracts attention, and attention is what the mass media want most from you.  If they can get your attention, they can bombard you with advertising, which will motivate you buy stuff, especially stuff like drugs, food and drink that have the power to distract you from the fear elicited in you by the risk of terrorism.

It’s funny that most people are not embarrassed to be terrorized. Beginning in 1942, the Nazi government of Germany launched frequent bombing raids on London and other English cities, but  the people weren’t terrorized. They took shelter during the raids, but they went about their normal activities the rest of the time. They were no stronger or smarter or healthier than people of today,  but they were harder to frighten. Why?

Because in 1942 the word from the authorities was to keep a stiff upper lip and maintain your composure.  Today’s authorities inundate us with an endless flow of terrorizing rhetoric, and we find it hard to resist. Cowardice has become a virtue, and terror, a sacrament. Lucky thing, too, because our modernized rules of engagement now employ tactics like torture and robotic attack, once considered acts of supreme cowardice.

It’s not just the mass media that feed the terror industry. Government officials are direct beneficiaries of a terrorized people. They are privileged in the interest of security to conduct government business in secret, to spend obscene sums and to place themselves above the law. We give them the unfettered right to name our enemies and allies, and we encourage them to punish those among us who resist or defy them. Corrupt officials feed corrupt media with information likely to  satisfy their audiences, and the media dutifully suppress information that could disrupt the sanctioned stream.

The terror industry has resources even more powerful than the risk of violence, which is largely fictitious and presented as such hour after hour on television and in movies. The real-life risk of poverty terrorizes us to the point of panic. The terror industry keeps us ever aware that our jobs are temporary and our income altogether conditional. We have jobless and homeless people not because of a shortage of jobs or places to live but so that people with jobs and homes will stay worried enough to work cheaply and pay exorbitantly for whatever social insurance they can cobble together.

How strong is the terror industry? Strong enough to prompt us to abandon common sense. Take the case of the Orlando killings. We know perfectly well that violence directed at nightclub patrons is commonplace and is almost always a matter of revenge magnified by alcohol. Violent man gets treated rudely by some other patron or the bartender or the bouncer and breaks a chair over somebody or burns the place down or shoots someone. Unlike terrorism, this sort of violence actually happens, and there’s every reason to believe it happened in Orlando, but we are willing to believe the killer had complex political motives because NPR and Clinton and Trump say so.  We might want to shop around for ways to resist this sort of indoctrination or at least teach our children to resist. It’s weakness to be terrorized, and we can’t afford weakness right now.

Unopularity Contest

May 23rd, 2016

If we are to believe our embedded mass media (MMM), a sizeable minority of voters is ready to tolerate a presidential election in which both candidates are widely recognized as people of low character. It won’t be the first election in which most votes will have been cast to prevent the opposing candidate from winning, but these two could turn out to be the least popular pair ever nominated. The ammunition available for character assassination is abundant on both sides, and the candidates themselves are both dirty enough to use it all. The advertising is not likely to elicit a loving feeling in the electorate, a big section of which has already announced an intention to vote for neither. 

Faced with a choice between Trump and Clinton, people of conscience could stay away in record numbers. If that’s how things turn out, the responsibility will fall squarely on the gossip-mongers who claim the mantle of a free press. They inundated the public with images of Trump and Clinton, challenging them rarely, accepting always that a record of lying, cheating and stealing–habitual traits in these two–does not necessarily disqualify a candidate for high office. Depend on MMM to deflect the blame for this travesty onto the American people, who, rendered stuporous and ignorant under the censored stream of misinformation and disinformation supplied by the MMM, will have proved incapable of bringing principle and conviction into the voting booth.

The two multimillionaires that currently lead the major parties have already begun to switch modes, and the game is on to woo the disaffected majority. So far, it’s been a one-note appeal: “Vote for me or (Trump/Clinton) will become president, and you know what that means” (what it means, in either case, is that people like them will get richer, while the rest of us provide the wherewithal). If voters don’t buy this, the candidates might start offering us stuff, with promises they have no intention of keeping. Can either of them overcome the revulsion people naturally feel when they’re exposed to contestants like Clinton and Trump? Nose-holding, which shills for both parties now recommend to dissidents, might not suffice.

The advantage of a Clinton or Trump presidency is that it’s well-deserved. If ever a people proved worthy to be led by scum, we are that people. Our mainstream–the worst generation, as some have dubbed us–has pursued a scorched earth policy on every issue. Today’s high school and college kids have never known a time when the nation was not at war. Before their eyes, the planet they will soon inherit is disintegrating, and the mainstream seems to be OK with that. That the two leading candidates for chief executive are irredeemably corrupt seems natural somehow, and fitting.

This Can’t Happen Here

April 19th, 2016

Dear Survivor

On this saddest day ever, all of us might profitably reflect on the events of yesterday. The  destruction of your nation’s capital, with the loss of so  many innocent lives, was undertaken to preserve humanity.  Your leaders, with the approval of your communications  media and a substantial minority of your people, had taken the world to the brink of catastrophe and had to be stopped.

As you know, the attack was initiated by no government, no  nation, no political entity of any kind, but by an  assembly of individuals from every corner of the planet.  We met in secret. We pooled resources. We debated. We  purchased the means of destruction, and we caused them to  be placed strategically where they would do the greatest damage to the seat of your government. Retribution may be possible if the members of our diverse assembly are detected and  apprehended, but there can be no retaliation.

This was not a punishment but a deterrent. The damage caused by your nation’s rampage is incalculable, and all signs pointed to an acceleration in the near future. As you must know, your government is responsible for armed conflicts throughout the world. Your communications media are controlled by commercial interests whose investment in warfare is universal. Your armed forces are deployed to be visible to your carefully selected nuclear-armed adversaries in Asia and Europe.  You claim reverence and piety even as your government vaporizes dark-skinned children in faraway places with missiles launched from unmanned aircraft. Your leaders have repeatedly used and threatened to use armed force to advance your commercial and political ends, and the current assembly of candidates for national office announces a continuation of this policy.  We believe that the destruction of key areas of your capital city and its richest suburbs has the potential to reverse the process of disintegration you seemed to have chosen.

The extent of collateral damage (a term your leaders invented) was great, and it is regrettable that so many innocent lives had to be lost.  It is always the case that justice inflicts pain on the innocent along with the guilty. In the case of your nation’s capital, the culpability was so clear and so widespread that mankind can take satisaction in the toll taken on the guilty and be content with an apology to the innocent.

So sorry.

One Time Only

March 17th, 2016

Of those who have been invited to take advantage of the opportunity offered by Bernard Sanders, a majority have so far declined. It’s unfortunate, because his offer has been to lead a revolution, a task that he and only he is qualified to undertake. With the possible exception of George Washington, no other person has ever risen to power in the USA along the path he’s followed, strictly on strength of character, and we are not likely to see a replacement for the 74-year-old anytime soon. 

He has been selling social justice throughout his adult life, and he has built a political movement around an agenda that, 60 years ago, could have landed him in prison as a Communist. Courage of conviction doesn’t often get a candidate elected, but he’s used it to win elections against Republicans and Democrats combined, the only senator who can claim that distinction. He has stood alone, on principle, time and time again. Struggling against the political tide is widely considered a disqualification for high office, but Sanders has somehow managed to overcome conventional wisdom. Nobody has won tougher elections than Sanders, and, in living memory, none has done it by dedication to social justice.

As he has implied repeatedly, he can’t succeed without the participation of the majority, and  the majority has opted not to take part. Too bad, because the USA is not likely to get an opportunity like this again: a principled social justice advocate who knows how to win elections steps forward to lead. He’s an old man, and nobody else can do what he’s done, but we’re simply not ready to take him up on his offer. We won’t get another chance.

Oh, the Humanity!

August 7th, 2015

You might have heard whining recently over the inhuman character of this or that mass murderer. What you never hear is any suggestion that the murderer’s violence may not be an aberration but an integral part of the human condition.

We like to think we lapse into violence, overcoming innate inhibitions that are as natural to us humans as our opposable thumb. A hundred thousand years of history and prehistory suggest that it’s the other way around: the innate drive in homo sapiens is to violence. It’s hard-wired in us. We wouldn’t be here otherwise.

Note that a hundred thousand years ago, there were at least three varieties of intelligent, tool-making primates wandering around. We think of the others as having disappeared, but, given the bloody, hypercompetitive experience of the last couple of millennia, it seems more likely that they were exterminated by homo sapiens, what we call modern man.

The survivors–you and I–are the race that conquered all. We are the issue of generations of successful killers, the less violent of us operating always at a competitive disadvantage and gradually dying out.  Mass murderers are us. We have discovered ways to keep from killing one another, but they are deliberate adaptations that, like all rules, standards and values, restrain expressions of our nature.

Jesus Christ certainly recognized the difficulty with which humans keep their violent streak at bay. Imagine the act of will it must have taken to turn the other cheek when struck. Too much for most of us, if reports from fact and fiction reflect reality. The innate drive to respond with violence is too strong to be overcome in most of us, Jesus’ instruction notwithstanding.

Violent entertainment may be a staple because it is in our nature to crave it. We don’t have to learn to love violence. Our predilection is the product of generation after generation of conquest by violence, directed at other humans as at other animals. We take this for granted, even pretending to believe that warfare is honorable or that a horse enjoys having a piece of steel between its jaws,  200 pounds on its back, and bootheels jammed in its ribs. On the other hand, if our ancestors hadn’t been able to subdue their neighbors and their animals so brutally, we wouldn’t be here.

On the occasion of the next mass murder or commemoration of such, we might find it profitable to stop pretending that mankind is a peaceable race. Maybe we should count up the toll of institutionalized violence, calculate the cost of warfare and entertainment and social oppression and take a lesson from it. Maybe do that on a regular  basis. Maybe we should ask what it is about us, homo sapiens, that could be disinhibiting them, the inhuman mass killers that walk among us. Maybe if we conceded our predisposition to violence, we could begin to control it.

Aid and Comfort

March 31st, 2015

Unlike my friends, my enemies are selected with great care and the utmost discrimination. There was a time when I credited the orders of my commanders on questions of hostility, but I know better now. Today, even the declarations of a president or secretary of state don’t persuade me, and I have a tendency to oppose people who want to choose my enemies for me.

Take the case of Yemen (conveniently, an anagram of  the word “enemy”). Airplanes from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has a common border with Yemen, are dropping bombs on its capital city as I write.  From what we read, it’s not clear exactly what the Saudi princes are trying to accomplish by killing a lot of Yemenis, but one thing is perfectly clear: Saudi Arabians are friends of the USA, and anybody they drop bombs on is our enemy.  And if I don’t happen to support their bombing and killing, I’m giving aid and comfort to an enemy my government has selected for me.  More and more, it’s becoming a knee-jerk reaction for me to take the side of the assigned enemy.

One big problem is the record of the people who have been trying to persuade me. In my name and with my money over the course of decades, they have shed oceans of innocent blood to punish “enemies” who have been, without exception, illusory. In my lifetime, no foreign country, no competing culture, no religion, no organized group of any kind has posed any threat to the USA. Only a fool would believe it was necessary to kill millions of dark-skinned people thousands of miles away to accomplish this, and most people don’t believe that.  So degraded is our reputation in the world that the sympathies of most people are with our enemies.

Another big problem is logic. Iran has been selected as an enemy, a status it’s held for over 30 years.  It poses no danger whatsoever to the USA. For hundreds of years, its relations with its neighbors have been peaceful. It has a reputation for mutual tolerance among the various religious and ethnic groups that make up its population. Other than political differences–Iranian leaders are notoriously (and justifiably) critical of European and American involvement in North Africa and the MIddle East–there is no logical reason for Iran to be an enemy.

Adding to the confusion is the complicated character of the interactions among opposing forces. Iran’s our enemy, and it’s also an ally of Syria, which has been engaged in a bloody war with a group that we call “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” ISIS, for short, which is itself at war with the US-supported government of Iraq, which has aligned itself with Iran in opposing both ISIS and the Saudi Arabian bombing of Yemen, contrary to the pro-war policy of the US government, which is currently negotiating with the government of Iran an agreement that will be fiercely opposed by our close ally Israel, whose intelligence services are known to carry out espionage against the USA as if it were an enemy and not an ally and which, along with Canada, is known to provide material support to ISIS.  You try to isolate the enemy of peace in all this, and what you come up with this: It’s US. We know it. The world knows it.

If the enemy of peace is my government, then I’m obliged, on principle, to oppose that government when it assigns enemies. When my government tells me to revile Palestinians, as it does, I take their side.  When my government tells me Russians are evil, I’ll be rootin’ for Putin. I’m with the Yemenis that are under the bombs of the Saudi jets, and I have nothing but admiration for Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Ho Chi Minh.  I don’t believe my government can ever regain credibility with me, and I decline to accept its enemies as my own.

It’s not likely that my skepticism and insubordination will give much aid or comfort to its enemies.  On the other hand, it’s a certainty that worldwide revulsion and rage at US brutality are of immeasurable value to its adversaries.