Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Every Race is the Master Race

The Trump victory in the presidential race has spawned a number of memes, all generated by the Democrats/liberals and their mainstream media allies – among which are (1) “fake news”, (2) the notion that the Electoral College is, somehow, now invalid because it came up with the wrong result, and (3) “white supremacy”. What these have in common, supposedly, is that without all 3 Trump would never have been elected. (In the case of “white supremacy” it's not that whites are actually supreme – heaven forbid! -- but that certain people either believe they are or want them to be.)

My answer to the “fake news” issue can be summed up as follows: The problem is that much of what is called fact-checking is merely the substitution of one person's (or group's) "facts" for another's. Bonafide fact-checking, if universally applied, would mean the end of politics -- which, come to think it, would not be a bad thing.

For what is politics, after all, but the art of deception? Some will say, no, it's also about persuasion, negotiation, compromise, and so on – but why are these things always accomplished at the expense of the truth? Or, as in the case of the Clintons, why are they frequently accomplished at the expense of the idea that there even is any such thing as the truth? In that sense, politics becomes a substitute for the truth, and “political correctness” is nothing less than a tyrannical way of inflicting one person's – or a small group's – reality on everyone else.

The current post-election political debate simply continues the one that has been raging for decades, namely: What is the core reality – the “truth” -- about America? Has it been a force for good in the world, or a force of evil? Or, in the long run, neutral, the good balancing out the bad? And on the domestic side, has our system served the people properly, or has it been intended, all along, to serve the elite, with everyone else having to be satisfied with crumbs? And each side in any of these debates has the “numbers” -- the statistics and the historical records – behind them to support their position (as with “global warming”).

You can be sitting next to someone on the bus, on any day of the week, who has as wildly different a view of this country and its history and politics as you would expect from someone who just landed from Mars. And yet they have the “facts” on their side, just as you have. So if one person's “facts” are another person's delusions, rumors, conspiracy theories, fantasies, etc. -- what does “fact-checking” mean other than the imposition of one set of opinions over another? Ultimately, each individual has to judge, for himself or herself, two things – what is truth and how can one know it? These are the classic philosophical categories of metaphysics and epistemology, and no amount of political maneuvering, propaganda, or media dominance can take anyone off the hook when it comes to these core issues. Another way of putting it is that “brainwashing” only works if there's already a hole there waiting to be filled.

In other words, I am responsible for my beliefs. No one else is, and I'm not responsible for anyone else's beliefs. Oh sure, I can do whatever I want to persuade others, but if I fail to convert them, too bad, and I have to grant them at least enough respect to allow them to hold on to their reality (and hope that they will eventually be converted by experience, i.e. by life itself).

As to the Electoral College, I've dealt with that already, and yes, it is a serious issue. It's in the Constitution, but that doesn't make it sacred, because the Constitution can be changed. What makes me suspicious is that the only people who ever object to the Electoral College are the ones who just lost an election. I'd like to see the winners try to get rid of it some time. But the current debate does provide a civics lesson for those who managed to sleep all through civics, AKA “social studies”, class. To wit, the U.S. is not a pure or absolute democracy, and never has been. We have a representative government for a reason, and an Electoral College for, basically, the same reason. And it boils down to who do you trust more, the masses or the “best among them”, which, presumably, describes elected officials. And yes, I know, more often than not our elected representatives seem to be, far from the best among us, the worst among us. (I often refer to the retirement plan for Pennsylvania state politicians -- “3 hots and a cot” in the state penitentiary.) And that may be sufficient reason to convert our system over to an absolute democracy – the idea being that the “wisdom of the people”, or of “the common man”, is superior to the inevitably corrupted thinking of politicians. The main problem with this is that the supposed wisdom of the common man is not always rooted in the traditional verities; it's more likely to be a product of whims, fads, delusions, and hysteria, all of which are whipped up and exploited by, guess who, politicians and their lackeys in the media. So – bottom line – if we put “the people” in charge, they won't be any more in charge than they are now. They'll have the illusion of being in charge, perhaps, but it will be only that – an illusion, just as the whole notion of “people's republics” under communism was, and remains, an illusion.

But the real point of this post is to “drill down” into the notion of “white supremacy”. Historically, this country was founded on, among other things, the implicit notion that, of course, the white – i.e. European, and preferably Northwestern European – race was superior, and fit for independence and self-rule, whereas other races might just be better off ruled with an iron fist. (This was back before “spreading democracy” became a meme in its own right.) In fact, the premise was that, even though we were, by and large, of English descent and America was a British colony, we were, somehow, just enough better than our relatives in the Old Country that we deserved to be free of their rule, supervision, and oversight. After all, we had the gumption to escape the close, claustrophobic confinements of the Old World and dare the rolling seas in order to reach the New World.  That alone endowed us with sufficient merit to justify any attempts at gaining independence.  

Add to this that the premise of superiority was also based on the notion that we had inherited the wisdom of the Greeks and Romans and pretty much everybody else worth reading or listening to in the meantime (provided, of course, that those purveyors of wisdom were our own kind – but who listens to the Greeks these days, in any case?). This formed the basis for (usually) implicit racism, ethnocentrism, and religious prejudice, and all of the discriminatory and oppressive policies that followed. And those policies had to be challenged and broken, one by one – and the process continues to this day. This is American history, folks – and it's really quite simple. On July 4, 1776 we entered into a dialectic, and that dialectic continues and is likely to continue as long as the Republic exists. It's inevitable, based on human nature, and on the fact what while history doesn't change, our view of it and of its significance does, and that's what counts (politically, at least).

And this dialectic keeps changing, evolving, and morphing – getting renewed and refueled with each newly-discovered “issue” (or impending “existential threat”). First it was about democracy per se – what it is, what it is not, is it a good thing or something to be handled with care, etc. Next it was the question of whether “the people” should be heard and earnestly listened to, as opposed to letting the elite (gentleman farmers, merchants, bankers, etc.) run things. Next came the slavery issue. And in the meantime we had the immigration issue, which continues to this day. Then it was about America's role in the world. Did we want to become a colonial power like the dominant European nations? Was it our job to bail out Old Europe and set things right? Was democracy such a universally good idea that it ought to be spread worldwide at all costs? (Note that this particular question is just about 100 years old at this point, and not settled yet.) Then on the domestic side, is it government's job to secure not only life and property, but to see that everyone is suitably clothed, housed, fed, educated, and employed? (See what I mean by the “dialectic”? Most of these questions are still being debated.)

But to get back to the issue at hand, the consensus among the talking heads of our time is that “white supremacy”, however defined, is always bad – that it's a bad, and in fact wrong, idea... that it's simplistic, oppressive, hateful... that it leads to oppression, discrimination, “hate”, bad politics... ad infinitum. It's seldom, if ever, even spoken out loud that identification with one's own race (or ethnic group, tribe, clan, etc.), accompanied by a certain amount of pride, is the most natural thing in the world among human societies, both historically and in the present day. An honest anthropologist will tell you, in fact, that without that sense of identity a society cannot even exist in a coherent and meaningful way – that there has to be an “us” and a “them” to, in effect, define borders and boundaries, both literal and figurative. The same honest anthropologist might also be willing to acknowledge that when one asks the members of any tribe what they call themselves, the word they provide simply means “people” or “men” in their language – the implication being that anyone else – the outsider, the stranger, the other – is less than a person... less than a man.

The irony here is that our commentariat has no problem whatsoever with identity politics, or with just about any form of group “pride” -- with the exception that when white people, and especially white men, do it, it's wrong. And this is based on the unstated premise that “pride” is something that has to be kept in reserve for the oppressed, for minorities, for those seeking upward mobility, their share of the “pie”, etc. Pride is the engine of their advancement, in other words – whereas the pride of the “oppressor class” is a way of uniting them in the effort to keep everyone else down.

But here's where it gets interesting. White non-Hispanic (add “heterosexual” if you like) men are now in the minority – so why don't they now have a newly-minted right to express racial/ethnic/gender/sexual identity along with everyone else? Well, it's because they were formerly a member of an oppressive majority, and in fact the oppression continues even though they are now in the numerical minority. This is the thinking (if it can even be characterized as such). Plus, they deserve to be punished, unto the third and fourth generation, if not beyond, for the crimes of their forebears. (This is the notion that karma cannot be allowed to just happen, it has to be enforced.)

You might, if you searched diligently enough, find a member of the commentariat who was willing to admit that racial/ethnic pride is a perfectly natural thing and not to be condemned per se. But then politics enters in, and that which started out natural becomes a weapon – either of revolution or oppression (or of revolution, then oppression). The liberal project of remaking human nature never runs out of challenges and projects – and the current one, which requires a much finer hand than any of them possesses, is to reward and reinforce racial/ethnic pride among “minorities”, and sexual/gender pride among other “minorities”, while condemning and punishing the exact same things among the (allegedly) dominant (non-) majority. I say it requires a fine hand – and that would be much finer than the knee-jerk habit of finding racists, sexists, homophobes, male chauvinists, etc. around every corner. It would certainly require something more than political correctness, one of the primary tools of the culture wars but which is brutal and ham-handed in its application – not to mention that it's one of the major means by which certain people gain and maintain power.

Anyone can see that what we are dealing with here is a form of genocide – not in the literal, physical sense but in the area of self-esteem. Make a good portion of the populace afraid of criticism and ashamed of just being alive, and you have, in effect, killed them off – wiped them off the map politically and culturally, and rendered their values (including culture, customs, habits, etc.) unacceptable and on the way to extinction. Make them non-persons and they become little more than slaves, and we are all too familiar with the charms of that state of existence.

This is, in fact, the program of the mainstream media, liberals, Democrats, academicians, and popular culture purveyors of our time – and what has them all upset is that their victims/targets have finally awakened and started to push back. The election of Donald Trump was their greatest victory to date, and the question now is, was that the high water mark, and there is nothing in the future but to lose ground and suffer further, and more severe, oppression? Or do we at the very least now have two visible and viable camps, with neither one about to go away? Well... I hate to say it, but we had a situation not unlike this prior to the Civil War. Let's hope that some other sort of accommodation can be reached this time around.

As near as I can tell, the overt “white supremacy” movement is the act of a small minority, and likely to stay that way. If there was racial/ethnic pride involved in Trump's victory it was, by and large, implicit and unstated – and even unconscious (and any true feeling of belonging ought to be, i.e. it shouldn't have to be asserted out loud at all times and on all occasions). But does pride in “my” group necessarily imply hostility or “hate” for all other groups, or for particular groups other than my own? I don't see why it should, and in fact it usually doesn't, as near as I can tell – any more than any given “diverse”, or “minority” group has to automatically dislike all the others.

I think what's more likely is that the Democratic/liberal program was rejected on its own terms, not because it was the property of “minorities”. The mainstream media narrative is that it was all about “hate”, but it's much more likely it was about a feeling of being left out – left behind. This is a feeling that has been building over the past few decades – let's say, for convenience, since the end of the Reagan presidency. It's nothing new, but this time around it found a voice. Do these people dream of taking over and oppressing minorities (again or for the first time)? I'd say it's more likely that all they want is respect, visibility, and a voice that will not be drowned out by purveyors of shame.

If bonafide “white supremacists” see an opening now, well, my guess is that they're in for a disappointment. For one thing, they're going to have a hard time getting people to distinguish their, let's call it, “coat-and-tie white supremacy” from the old KKK style – and the media are certainly not going to give them any help in this regard. And they're going to have a hard time getting people to distinguish legitimate pride from its poor country cousin. I think, in other words, that it's a dead end as a movement – and yet one can understand the roots and the causes, just as one can understand the rise of Islamic radicalism in the face of our endless meddling in the Middle East. A chained dog may be more dangerous than a free one once that chain is broken.

Friday, December 23, 2016

A G-Man for Our Time

It was enough to make you nostalgic for the days of J. Edgar Hoover. If Hoover had had as much on any president, presidential candidate, or pretty much anyone else as James Comey had, he wouldn't have talked about it, he certainly wouldn't have told Congress, and he would have kept it carefully hidden, to be used as blackmail material later on, should the need arise. J. Edgar was the great puppet master of his time, and he struck fear into the hearts of anybody and everybody who had any interest in getting, or staying, ahead in Washington, DC or in politics in general. He was, arguably, the most powerful man in Washington, at least in the later decades of his seemingly-interminable tenure.

But those days are over with, and now we're in the era of public spectacles, open accusations, open denials, and all the rest of it. Some will argue that this is an improvement over the old secretive, hypocritical days; I don't know. It could be argued that pretending is preferable to mucking about in the offal under the glare of the multi-media spotlight; at least it lent a slightly more dignified air to things.

And has corruption become worse, or is it just more public? It is certainly harder to keep secrets now, with the breaking of the old-time media monopolies and the rise of alternative information sources like WikiLeaks. The larger question as to whether increased exposure will noticeably alter human political behavior is as yet unanswered, but I'm not optimistic.

In any case, in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign came James Comey, an apparently scrupulous and honest man who happened to be working for, and within, a remarkably corrupt administration. So his life must have been an endless series of decisions, on an almost daily basis – do you please the boss by adhering to her suggestions and “guidance”, or do you follow the mission statement of the agency you're in charge of? In other words, do you do the right thing, and damn the consequences? The FBI is, I would say, more above politics than the average government department or agency, but can it possibly be totally above politics? Highly unlikely. So anyone in that position has to choose, and they have to fall back on their own principles on a regular basis. (Or, if they have no principles, fall back on politics.)

So what comes out of all this seems strange at times. Comey recommended that Clinton and/or her aides not be indicted, but then laid out an elaborately detailed case that made it clear that they could have been, except (implied) that his boss, i.e. the attorney general, would never have pursued the matter. And then three months later, after having effectively said (to Congress) “case closed” he comes back with new information – all in the interests of full disclosure, avoiding the appearance of a cover up, etc.

I think in the first case he knew full well that no indictment was ever going to come out of the Justice Department, so to save face (the agency's and his own) he declined to recommend it. But because he is an honest man, and wanted to “make a statement”, basically in defiance of the overall corruption of the administration, he laid out the case. So, on balance, were Clinton & Co. pleased or annoyed? They certainly acted pleased, but when someone hangs out a pile of your dirty laundry you're bound to be annoyed as well. Did Comey have any reason to think he was going to be fired by Obama/Lynch? I believe he had taken care of that matter by his recommendation not to indict – plus, he had to be aware of the long-standing ambivalence in the relationship between Obama and Clinton. It wouldn't be the worse thing in the world for Clinton to be in a bit of hot water, in other words; in some ways it would validate the fact that Obama had been nominated in 2008 and had won.

But did Comey have any reason to think he would be fired on Day One of the next Clinton administration, assuming that Hillary had won, which – up to that point – seemed like a certainty? It seems like he would have ample reason to think that – and so when the next avalanche of e-mails happened, he figured he had nothing to lose by not only notifying Congress, but by telling everybody that he had done so.

There is nothing more dangerous, in a sense, than a dead man walking – if that dead man still has some weapons at his disposal. And you'll notice that, although Justice put up a fight on this, he was not totally slapped down or fired. Perhaps they knew better, at least prior to the election – you know, “optics” and all that. Their real attitude would have become much clearer on Nov. 9, but we'll never know for certain.

I must say, though, that there is something particularly delicious about the fact that the entire second look at Hillary's e-mails started with an investigation into Anthony Weiner's “sexting” with an underage female. The karmic significance of this cannot be overstated. And to add to the deliciousness is the possibility that the attorney general held off on quashing Comey's letter to Congress because she had been compromised by her airside chit-chat with Bill Clinton, as explained in this article:

This has to be one of the “funnest” connect-the-dots puzzles in recent memory – especially when the picture that emerges is, not surprisingly, one of bottomless corruption spiced up with incompetence, grandiosity, and a towering attitude of entitlement. How often do we see people really and truly getting the comeuppance they deserve? It's a gift that just keeps on giving – and the reason it does is that the dead keep coming back to life, like in a B-grade horror flick. Hillary lost (1) the nomination in 2008, (2) the election in 2016, (3) the recount in 2016, and (4) the Electoral College vote in 2016. As Rush Limbaugh said, shouldn't we at least give her a participation trophy?

(And by the way, if Trump doesn't keep Comey on as FBI director, he's betraying the guy who may well have put him into office. In this respect at least, I agree with Hillary.)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Unholy Silence

Two quarters that we are hearing next to nothing from since the election are (1) Hillary and (2) Israel. Other than being in the cheering section and one of the prime supporters of Jill Stein's recount crusade, Hillary really has been remarkably silent, as have her minions. The explanation for this... well, it could be a number of things.

“Optics”: She may not want to “distract” from the pristine purity of a complete underdog – Jill Stein – going up against The Power, which is another way of saying she doesn't want to look like a sore loser. But why not? Isn't she finished in politics? Not a bit of it. I suspect the “Hillary in 2020” campaign is already being organized (the way the “Hillary in 2016” campaign was launched the day after the Democratic convention in 2008). So – let Stein look like a sore loser; she's expendable. If she succeeds, it will only benefit Hillary, and Stein will be thrown into the same dustbin as Bernie Sanders.

Hoping that Stein succeeds, and the campaign to bag “faithless electors” succeeds, Hillary might just wind up winning! -- or so she thinks. In which case, there is plenty of planning to do, but it has to be kept super-secret (not unlike HillaryCare) or she risks looking like a fool if Stein fails.

Plus, she doesn't want to be too closely associated with the Green Party, which – much to their shame, if they had any – is what the Democrats should be like rather than what they are like, namely one head of the two-headed monster that serves the Regime.

Bottom line – Hillary has not given up on politics, and she hasn't given up on this election. She and her inner circle are plotters and schemers, and they never sleep. And she and Bill are, lest we forget, still in charge of the Democratic Party, which means they have an army of unthinking slaves, like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. You can be sure they're up to something, the only question is what.

Now we come to Israel, which is even more of a conundrum. Has Bibi phoned Trump to congratulate him, or Hillary to commiserate? Not that I'm aware. And after all, whose side was he on? He came over here in 2012 and campaigned for Romney – an absolutely outrageous act which should have caused great indignation, especially among the Democrats – but no one seemed to notice. The Republicans were glad to have the support, and the Democrats didn't dare criticize, because to criticize Israel or anything its leadership does is to be anti-Semitic, a Nazi, blah blah blah. So the Dems were tongue-tied, and it was a marvel to behold, since it happens so seldom.

But this time around? We know the Russians seemed to be favoring Trump, for some reason – maybe because they see him as a non-ideologue, and Hillary as just more of the same Obama-esque “cold war lite” nonsense. And in our time, anyone the Russians like will more or less automatically be disliked by Israel, except that things have been a bit icy between them and Obama, and Hillary would, as far as they knew, continue Obama's foreign policy with nary a bump. (My theory was that her foreign policy would look more like Bush's, which should have been just groovy with Israel.  But apparently they had their doubts.)

In any case, Israel didn't make a peep during the election, and hasn't made a peep since. I suspect they've adopted a “wait and see” attitude, since Trump is a bit of an unknown in many respects (unlike Hillary, who is all too transparent, which is one reason she lost). They figure once he takes office they can sit down and reason together, which is true – and yet their stony silence is nonetheless intriguing.

Unless they know more about this recount issue than we do; maybe they're hedging their bets. After all, their intel and spying apparatus is the best in the world by far, not to mention the fact that pretty much any Israeli teenager can hack into the CIA, NSA, FBI, etc. -- not to mention the Democratic Party, and who said that hacking them was the sole privilege of Russia?

(Note that there was a widely-circulated “conspiracy theory” among anti-Clintonites a while back that many if not all of the voting machines in the U.S. were either owned or programmed by, or both, Israeli companies. I never looked into this because I figure, they don't need to get down in the weeds that way, they have our politicians in their back pocket anyway, so why should they care who wins? But it was an interesting theory if only in that it reflected a common assumption that of course the Israelis wanted Hillary to win. But of course it could have just as readily been the other way around, and that's what Stein & Co. are obsessing about at this point. Not about Israeli involvement, I mean, but about the hackability of the American electoral system – which never seems to bother them when they win, needless to say.)

Anyway – these are, arguably, sidebar issues, but intriguing nonetheless. Hillary in particular is much more dangerous when she's silent and out of sight than when she's out in public. This, as I've theorized before, is the main reason Obama made her secretary of state, just so he could keep an eye on her and cut down on her scheming. And it did seem to work for a while, plus it gave her a chance to completely muck up our foreign policy, which, on some level, might have been quite satisfying to Obama -- “Aren't you glad you didn't nominate and elect her to the presidency?” (I suspect a similar mindset is behind Obama's silence regarding the outcome of the election. The possibility that he can out-scheme her and Bill must be pretty darn irritating to both of them.)

The problem with people who are entirely political in their motivation is, well, that they're entirely political. They have no loyalty. They will desert and abandon friends, supporters, and colleagues at the drop of a hat. There are countless buses just waiting for some Democratic politician to throw some other Democratic politician under them. It's a very primitive, brutal, dog-eat-dog world they live in. The Republicans are far more gentlemanly, which is probably why they typically lose political battles; they just aren't cut out for the way things are done in our time. And I'm sure that was a big part of Trump's appeal – here's a guy who doesn't even pretend to be a gentleman, or refined, or a diplomat. He's more like a Democrat than a Republican in that sense – which may be one reason why he appealed to the lusty, rough-and-ready portion of the electorate – you know, the people with their organs of reproduction still intact, unlike the army of eunuchs that currently comprises the White House staff and the DNC.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

December Surprise

It's the stuff that conspiracy theorists' dreams are made of – and it's happening right now, before our eyes! Hillary and her Stalinist army are trying to overturn the results of the election, while Trump & Co., plus a few resigned Republicans, are busy populating the next administration (with, by and large, hard-core neocons) and fleshing out their domestic and foreign policy without a care in the world. Are we witnessing the greatest political stunt in American history? Is Hillary playing rope-a-dope with the Republicans – pretending to give up when, in fact, she is doing just the opposite – gathering her forces for the mother of all battles? If so, she's going to catch them off guard because right now they are engaged in unparalleled triumphalist reveling, and not noticing the cockroaches falling out of every crack in the wall and skittering about on the floor.

And sure, the Electoral College comes up for criticism every time there's a close election but, funny thing is, no one ever does anything about it. Hillary herself has complained bitterly about it on previous occasions, but then never followed up. And it's hard to see why, because, after all, the Democrats are, as the name implies, democrats – that is, they believe in absolute majority rule, and never mind the federalist niceties of representative government. They did manage, a while back, to impose the popular vote on Senate races, which pretty much makes the Senate and the House indistinguishable except for length of term. And now they would love to do the same for the presidency because of all the surplus votes that go to waste in the “blue” states, whereas in the “red” states, every vote counts. What good does it do to have an overwhelming majority in the East and West Coast states, if a bunch of hayseeds in the Midwest and South can still snatch the presidency out of one's deserving hands? And you'll notice, every day there's a new headline announcing how much Hillary has gained in “the popular vote” -- as if it mattered! So we see that the propaganda campaign is in full swing, and a Constitutional amendment may, at long last, be in the offing. Once the Democrats regain control of Congress and the state legislatures, that is. 

Now, I say that Hillary & Co. are disputing the election results – but not always directly. Obama has apparently told them to cool it with the poor-loser crap, and I suspect that it's because (1) there really was never any love lost between him and Hillary; (2) he sees Hillary's loss as his own vindication, in that he won in 2008 whereas she might very well have lost; (3) he'd rather not have a fellow Democrat fouling up his legacy (which she would be certain to do); and (4) he doesn't want the last few weeks of his term marred by a “Constitutional crisis”, especially if he might be forced to “take a position” on the matter. So – my theory, of course – Hillary has turned over the heavy lifting to Jill Stein, who has mysteriously already collected over $5 million for the cause of recounting votes in three states. (I never knew recounts cost anything – at least not for the candidates. Live and learn!) And of course there are now “experts” -- mostly unnamed, of course -- who have provided statistical arguments in favor of the recounts. And – horror of horrors! -- the results don't match the poll numbers. (I guess in the future we can settle who's going to be president just by polling, and skip the election entirely, if poll numbers are so superior to actual election results.)

Another question that might just occur to someone who remembers what happened in 1960, and in countless other elections – national, state, and local – over the years, is: What happened to the big-city Democrat machine? This has traditionally been a kind of automat that dispenses extra votes, as needed, to put Democrat candidates over the top – and has operated primarily in large cities, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest. And look at the three states that Stein has targeted: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Two of those have old-time machine cities – Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. So wha' hoppen? Either the Dems are losing their grip on their traditional urban strongholds (possibly due, at least in part, to “white flight”, which was caused by “urban renewal”, which was a Democrat program – please ring the Irony Bell, thank you) or other parts of the country have gained just enough in electoral votes, which means in population, to tip the scales. But why has the South, for instance, gained in population? The terms “right to work”, “taxation”, and “cost of living” occur to me – and two out of those three are, once again, directly related to Democrat domestic and economic policy.

If all of this sounds a bit like karma, or “what goes around comes around”, it's no accident. And it shows how “agents of change” may get more “change” than they bargained for, or the wrong kind.

So much for the irony of the Democrats asking for a recount. Someone said, regarding elections, “if it's not close, they can't cheat”. What seems to have happened this time around is that it was close, and they failed to cheat – or they did cheat, but it wasn't enough. In any case, they can't complain – unless they want to repent and declare Nixon the winner, post-mortem, in 1960.

But wait! It's not too late, and, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “it ain't over till it's over”. What if they decided to hold off on the shenanigans on Election Day and during the initial vote count, but are now poised to pull off a coup d'etat in the recount? Wouldn't that take the Republicans by surprise, who are right now busy planning Inauguration Day festivities (or sitting at home sulking)? Is anyone keeping an eye on this? We're all used to the idea that the Electoral College vote is a mere formality, and that of course it can't possibly turn the results of an election around – but this is far from the case. We did not elect a president on Election Day! We elected electors, who may or may not be reliable. They may, for example, decide that "the will of the people” should be interpreted to mean the national popular vote, rather than the vote in their respective states. And if enough of them do that, Big Nurse will emerge triumphant, and Bill will be smirking non-stop for four years.

So... OK, as I said, this is red meat for the conspiracy crowd, and it will be even more so if Hillary, disguised as Jill Stein, succeeds and the election is reversed. It can't happen, you say? Well, neither could Trump have been nominated for the presidency, and neither could he have won. So much for “impossibility” -- which is akin to “inevitability” on the wishful thinking scale. (I should also add that the U.S. would never make a movie actor president – except that it did.) (Add “or a peanut farmer” if you like.)

But, should this come to pass, what happens then? I shudder to think, but it might just ignite a civil war. Please note that there is already a war on, with rioting in the streets and electors receiving death threats. But at the same time, many of the losers are holed up in “safe rooms” with teddy bears, blankets, and binkies. (And now they have to deal with the death of Fidel Castro! They just can't win.) I don't think the Trump crowd would take a loss – especially one this unprecedented -- quite so passively.

But why even worry about any of this, because it's not going to happen. It's impossible. Yep. No way. Just roll over and go back to sleep.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bad Prophet! No Sushi!

Well, I guess it's time to face the music. I can't put it off any longer. I have to, in the interests of “transparency”, resurrect my predictions from last February concerning the presidential election and provide, as promised (or at least implied), a final rating of my talents as a prognosticator. So here goes.

Prediction #1: Obama will nominate someone (not a “flaming liberal” but a “moderate” according to his frame of reference, who will seem like a flaming liberal to conservatives) for the Supreme Court.

Result: True! So I get one point.

Prediction #2: The Republicans will hold hearings (re: confirmation of the nominee)

Result: False! They at least had the cojones to resist all of that pressure, and Obama apparently felt that he had better things to do than threaten “the nuclear option”, i.e. a government shutdown, if the hearings didn't take place. Plus, he was confident enough that Hillary was going to be president that he preferred to toss the matter into her lap. No points.

Prediction #3: Whoever it is will be confirmed because enough Republicans will cave, fearing “voter rage” in the election and/or a “government shutdown” (and how that relates to the Supreme Court is beyond me, but the Democrats are already talking about it – and of course the Republicans will be blamed if it occurs).

Result: See Prediction #2. No points.

Prediction #4: Some of the Republican “base” will be annoyed and skip voting in the November election as a result, giving the Democrats even more of an edge than they already have.

Result: Hard to tell. What I should have said is that some of the Democrat base will skip voting. I underestimated the advantage Obama had in 2008 and 2012 by being a political rock star (and black, by the way). Apparently many of the Democrat stay-at-homes were black and were less than inspired by Hillary (and who can blame them?). No points (due to a minor semantic issue).

Prediction #5 (oh, this is a good one): The Republicans will NOT – repeat, NOT – nominate Trump for president. They would rather lose the election (they've said as much). They are almost as unlikely to nominate Cruz. There will be a “brokered convention” and the mainliners will put up someone they consider a “moderate” -- but who? Bush has dropped out, so that leaves Rubio, and maybe Kasich for VP.

Result: Well, you know. I think what happened was, basically, as follows. The Republican mainstream saw the handwriting on the wall – they had, basically, a mutiny on their hands – and it was easier to just let it run its course than try and fight it off. Plus, they figured that by losing (and they were positive Trump would lose, make no mistake – they were as much believers in Hillary's inevitability as the Democrats were) it would teach those populists – that rabble – a damn good lesson, and give them (the establishment) an excuse to banish them from the party once and for all. They never dreamed in a million years that Trump would actually win, and that his takeover of the party would be set in concrete for at least 4 years. (How he handles this windfall is another question. He could just kick all of the country-club types out and turn the party entirely over to his supporters, but that doesn't seem likely. What's more likely is an uneasy truce, with each side hoping to make gains in 2018.) No points.

Prediction #6: Bernie will be crushed to fine powder by Hillary long before the Democrat convention.

Result: True! Not only that, but it turned out (surprise, surprise) that Bernie was a dead man walking since Day One because there had been a conspiracy against him within the party all along. The dismay his supporters felt could only be exceeded by the fact that, within five minutes after Hillary's nomination, he got down on his knees and became her footstool. A man of principle, right... One point, for a total of 2 so far!

Prediction #7: Hillary will beat whoever the Republicans put up because she already has a solid base of nearly ½ the eligible voters.

Result: Well, I was right about her base. I said at some point that she had 47%, and guess what, she won a bit under 48% of the popular vote. What I failed to anticipate was that she would be unable to add much of anything to her base, i.e. to inspire very many independents or “undecideds”. Whether they switched to Trump, or voted third party, or just stayed home is another matter, but the fact remains that, when it comes to the rock star, AKA charisma, factor, Obama had it and Hillary... not someone you'd exactly want to cozy up to, right? (And Bill agrees.) I'm going to be generous and grant myself half a point on this one, because I called the solid base correctly. (Total: 2 ½ points)

Prediction #8: Once inaugurated, Hillary will dramatically pivot away from the Islamic world and from Muslims in the U.S. But it's unlikely she'll start World War III – for one thing, she and Putin are too much alike. Foreign policy overall will change little from Obama's, which changed little from Bush's.

Result: “Not applicable.” But while we're on the topic, Trump is sliding into the neocon camp faster than you-know-what slides out of a goose. What ever happened to his skepticism about America being involved in countless conflicts overseas? About the American Empire? I knew that kind of loose talk was over with when John Bolton appeared at Trump Tower. He never saw a proxy war he didn't like... and, for that matter, any other kind of war he didn't like. If you think we're already fighting a war on Islam, oops, I mean “terror”, wait until this joker takes the reins at State. No points.

Prediction #9: Domestic policy will be a seamless continuation of Obama's.

Result: “Not applicable.” But I don't think it's going be as radically different as all of the rioters expect. Trump is too much of a realist to go off on any wild pursuits when it comes to domestic policy. I mean, what's he going to do about entitlements? You can't un-scramble eggs, as they say. But we'll see what happens. No points.

Prediction #10: A bachelor pad for Bill Clinton will be built in the White House, with a secret door leading out to Pa. Ave. Also, the Clintons will bring back the furniture they took with them when they moved out in 2001.

Result: These could still happen, but it's unlikely. Especially the furniture part. No points.

Grand total: 2 ½ points out of 10, which would be enough to earn me a passing grade in the Chicago public schools. I think I deserve a participation trophy at least; don't you?

And BTW, is this so-called “failure” going to deter me from making predictions in the future? Surely you jest...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Throw Out the Clowns

Just about the time I thought mass hysteria was a thing of the past, they had to come up with the Evil Clown Scare. Now... (I hardly know where to begin on this)... on the plus side, it's the first time in, probably, decades, that clowns, or anything related to clowns, has been the least bit funny. So let's start with that idea. A recent newspaper article offers the following insight: “... an English professor at the University of Buffalo... sees [scary clown reports] as a symptom of clowns' shifting role from makers of mirth to symbols of fear. 'It's just further evidence of the fact that clowns as figures of fun and childhood are an exhausted phenomenon now. It's far more current to think of them as part of the pantheon of monsters and ghouls'.”

OK, fair enough, as far as it goes. But why the shift? I mean, who decided that it was time for clowns to morph from merry-makers to bogeymen? Some will blame it, at least partially, on Stephen King, and, no doubt, he is a master at making what was once comforting into something frightening. But the movies are full of evil clowns as well, and this goes back a ways, although I'm not enough of a movie buff to identify the first case. (I also note that the European clown tradition, going back to court jesters, presents a far more ambivalent picture, one of an at once comic and tragic figure, a combination of fool, wit, and wise man who can get away with saying (or doing) pretty much anything because he's considered a fool and thus not responsible for his own actions.)

But the term “exhausted phenomenon” strikes a chord. Why is it exhausted? There is certainly just as much “clown-able” material available today as there ever was – or so one would assume. But think back – you “boomers” out there – to the clowns of our childhood and youth (my personal favorite being Clarabelle on Howdy Doody, who was genderless to boot). What did they represent, in the “up tight”, buttoned-down, character-armored 1950s? Aside from appearance – insane outfits, bright colors, huge shoes, tiny hats, makeup, all sorts of props, etc. -- they represented more than simple fun; there are all sorts of ways to represent that. They also represented rebellion... puncturing bourgeois pretense and dignity... getting up in the face of The Man (to use slightly later terminology). They were disruptive... hyperactive... noisy (or eerily quiet)... had bad manners... were vandals in a minor way... and, to sum it up, anarchists. And yes, it's possible to be a social anarchist without being a political one, although the two are nearly always found in the same person, as with many characters out of Dostoevsky. Think of the Marx Brothers: One bonafide clown (Harpo), but they were all social anarchists of the first order – but I don't recall their work as having any particular political message other than broad satire, which could apply to pretty much any political system.

And, quite frankly, the 1950s and much of what the post-war era was, or represented, was badly in need of clowning... of court jesters... of the popping of balloons (real or metaphorical). But then along came the Sixties, and it didn't take long for clowns to become obsolete... or, more precisely, redundant. When you can't tell the difference between a professional clown and half the people you encounter on the street (or at Wal-Mart), it tells you that clowns have taken over, so who needs to hire them any longer? And notice that I said “the Sixties”, and that's 50 years ago, folks – and yet the normalization of clown-ness is still going on. We now have tattoos rather than (or in addition to) “psychedelic” clothing... crazier makeup than anything the hippie chicks ever sported... an entertainment industry overflowing with comedy, semi-comedy, tragicomedy, black comedy, “irony”, satire, and all species of foolishness and acting out. So again, who needs clowns? Or more precisely, who needs traditional clowns, if we're all clowns now?

But that's just part of the issue. What we'd really like to know is why clowns turned evil, and why do they seem to be haunting us today, popping out from behind every fence, wall, and tree? And this, I believe, relates to what is termed “the return of the repressed”. When society, through laws, customs, and – yes – political correctness represses not just certain behaviors but certain ideas and insights, those things can come back in a different form if they are powerful enough. They are not allowed to be seen or heard in public, and the brainwashing can even render people incapable of thinking about them, but that doesn't make them go away. They come out in odd ways, the way dreams can represent, in distorted, exaggerated, or symbolic form, thoughts and feelings that we “successfully” repress during waking hours. This happens with individuals, but it happens for societies as well. It's been pointed out by one writer, for example, that the legalization of abortion was followed very closely by a spate of “monster baby” (or even “monster fetus”) movies, implying that there's a connection. Not only is abortion permitted, but the realization of what it actually is is repressed to the point where it can only come back to the surface in an altered, alien form – a frightening alien, but still more acceptable than the reality.  If it's truly an alien, that enables us to maintain emotional distance while at the same time releasing some of the tension caused by what is an intolerable situation (I would identify it as a blatant violation of Natural Law).

So if the cultural revolution of the Sixties sucked all the oxygen out of the funny clown tradition, why were we left with evil clowns, and why are they seemingly making a comeback in our time? Another way of putting it is:  What is being repressed, and why is it coming back in this form? I think in the most general sense it's based on a combination of absurdity, helplessness, and infantilization. The absurdity part... well, let's get philosophical for a moment and reflect that, according to some writers of old, especially those of an existential bent, life without purpose is absurd, i.e. pointless. And for much of the human race in former times, their purpose, or the ultimate meaning of their lives, was a religious or spiritual matter much more than a material one. And yet we are often described as living in a “post-Christian era”, which really means a “post-religious era”. This is not to say that spiritual needs no longer exist, but they are no longer focused on structured, internally-consistent and coherent religious systems. You have, on the one side, the somewhat vaporous spiritual leanings of the New Age, in which (to borrow a phrase originally applied to liberals by G. K. Chesterton) the problem is not that they believe in nothing, but that they believe in everything. And on the other side, you have the vast portion of the populace that has “given up all that religion stuff” and resigned itself to pure secularism.

Ah, but if only it were that simple! If the religious urge truly is, as Freud contended, a form of mental illness, than setting it aside ought to be liberating – and it seems to be, at least on the surface. And yet no sooner does an individual, or society, disavow religion than it finds a substitute – communism, fascism... psychiatry... economics... evolution... global warming... and so on. And those substitutes have a way of not quite filling the bill; they are, let's say, failure-prone, they don't satisfy, and their idols have feet of clay. But this is not to say that the adherents realize this; if anything, they tend to double down on their philosophical errors, which only compounds the problem and, by the way, makes them even less tolerant of those with differing opinions. (Jail terms for people who “don't believe in global warming”? It's been seriously proposed.)

So if the religious urge is distorted, and we start to worship that which should not be worshiped – which is not worthy of worship – we are laying a seriously absurd groundwork (or anti-groundwork) for our existence. And at times, despite our best efforts, absurdity takes over; we get "outed" by our own unconscious.  And it takes many forms – witness the epidemic of depression in our society, and the epidemic of drug abuse (particularly of prescription drugs, many of which are intended to treat depression). And of course there's nothing new about “games and circuses” -- those perennial distractors from unpleasant truths.

There will be some who are painfully aware of all of this (existential philosophers and certain artists, writers, and movie makers), but most people are not – and yet they are living with it, and it's causing them serious harm. So what bubbles up out of the murk but a symbol of the absurd that is also dangerous – namely the evil clown?  Another way of putting it is that we see, on every side, evil disguised as good. So what better symbol to arise from the unconscious as good and evil combined in a grotesque way?

But we also have to deal with helplessness; this is a political, sociological, and psychological phenomenon of our time, and its symbol is big government. If our basic, if unstated (and unconscious), premise is that we are powerless and helpless, and that our only salvation is an all-encompassing government (AKA totalitarianism), this makes us, in my opinion, less than fully human. And one of the things that most "history" totally neglects is how things got to be this way. I suspect that the traditional American notion of “rugged individualism” is a bit of a myth, but its opposite – the totalitarian ideal of a great, gray, faceless mass ruled by unseen powers – is way more dangerous, not to mention dehumanizing. And yet that is precisely the direction in which we are headed, if painfully slowly compared to some more obviously revolutionary societies (the Soviet Union, Mao's China, etc.).

This process, for us, seems to have started quite openly, and commendably, even – with the government providing a “safety net” for the poorest of the poor... the most needy... and the truly deserving. But guess what -- when something is free the demand for that thing will rise precipitously. People who might have been self-sufficient before, but who feel overworked, are going to get interested... and people who are resentful or just plain lazy will beat a path to the door of whichever government agency is handing out the goodies that day. The result, in the long run, is a system in which the government is intimately involved with every aspect of life, down to the tiniest detail – and a citizenry that can't imagine things being any other way. (This, by the way, is the biggest single problem the libertarians have in convincing people of the merits of their position. Because the political/social/economic model they propose is so remote from the way things are, it sounds wildly unrealistic, the notion being that “you can't get there from here” or some variation like “you can't unscramble eggs” or “you can't turn back the clock”.) (Although it bears mentioning that society did turn back the clock on communism -- at least of the hard-core Soviet or Maoist variety.) 

And yet nothing is free, because the system – the Regime, if you will – extracts a price, and it is likely to include self-respect, self-worth, charity, independent thought, and much else... and that will, in turn, lead to denial (no one wants to fully admit to themselves how helpless they are, or feel). Now you have a contrast, on some level ranging from conscious to buried deep, between how your life is and how it ought to be, and that can, in turn, lead to hopelessness, despair, and, yes, a feeling of absurdity.

Finally, closely related to the helplessness problem is the infantilization problem. What, indeed, is more helpless than a human infant? And yet many able-bodied adults have descended to that level, at least in their own minds, and we have the current phenomenon of people living with their parents well into middle age (for other than purely economic reasons), and the other phenomenon of college students who insist on being quite literally treated like infants. Describing this situation as absurd is an understatement.

It seems that we have accepted, and repressed the awareness of, way more that is at once absurd, dangerous, and evil than would be needed to account for the clown outbreak. And yet most of these trends have been at work for many years – decades, even. So what put it over the top? One only has to look in awe upon the offerings of the two major political parties for election to the presidency. We could call them evil clowns – and many have – but it would be more accurate to say that the sheer absurdity of them and of their campaigns is being repressed by most of the citizenry.  It is being denied the way any Big Lie is denied; rather than face the intolerable and acknowledge it for what it is, they prefer to engage in massive denial. And yet the collective psyche, which searches for truth no matter how much the conscious mind tried to repress it, begins to hallucinate. It creates symbols – living nightmares – for what it cannot deal with in a rational manner. The Evil Clown phenomenon is a waking, living nightmare – but it's still preferable to waking up to the real nightmare of our political system and its mutant offspring.

(I'm not the first to point out the “coincidence” between the clown scare and the Trump vs. Clinton circus. I'm just not aware that it's been analyzed in quite this way. If it has, then it's obviously time to start an academic journal devoted to the subject.)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Sure Sign of a Winner

When I realized that I had a winning Powerball ticket, I was tempted to do what any other right-thinking person would do – namely, run around in circles babbling ecstatically... or treat everybody in the bar down the street to a round of free drinks, price being no object (you want a shot of Johnnie Walker Blue? Go for it!)... or at least pose for a photo with the entire South Asian staff of the Kwik-E-Mart where I bought the ticket. But a cooler head prevailed, and I consulted with a financial advisor who told me, gently but firmly, that dealing with an amount of that sort (four dollars) was below his pay grade. I must say I felt demeaned, dismissed, and belittled! Isn't my money as good as anyone else's? It just goes to show you what happens to the little guy in this power-mad society. He seemed to be saying “once middle class, always middle class”.

So, lacking professional help, I was set back on my own devices. I had to think – what do winners do with their money? And especially, what do “nouveau riche” people do with theirs? My first thought was a Rolls Royce, but upon inquiring I found that the RR firm is back-ordered until 2020 -- I would have to wait in line behind a gaggle of triple-diamond Amway distributors. And on some level I realized that my modest winnings wouldn't even buy the ashtray in a Rolls Royce. In fact, they wouldn't even buy the ashes in the ashtray in a Rolls Royce (assuming that those ashes come from a fine Habana cigar).

But I didn't need that kind of negative thinking in my life, so I pressed on. How about a yacht? Surely there's a sheriff's sale somewhere liquidating the assets of some Russian oligarch who has fallen on hard times (like being in a Russian jail, assuming that qualifies as “hard times”). And after all, if you believe in trickle-down economics, an oligarch-level yacht is guaranteed to employ a few hundred people who might otherwise be selling potatoes on the streets of St. Petersburg. But it didn't feel right, somehow – I 've always wondered how those guys manage to do their yachts justice, since they spend most of their time making more money rather than relaxing. (I feel the same way about extra mansions, ranches, ski lodges, and beach houses, by the way. Really, how much time can you spend in each one? The staff enjoys them much more than the owners do.)

How about a private plane? The problem with that is that private planes have the annoying habit of falling prey to what, in the business, is termed “controlled flight into terrain”. Plus, the pilot would probably be a veteran of the Bay of Pigs debacle, and I wasn't sure I wanted to be associated with that sort of thing. Um... OK, how about jewelry? I love gemstones, and the first place I always go when I'm visiting the Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC is the gem room. But a lot of jewelry design, quite frankly, leaves me cold. It starts with kitsch and only goes downhill from there.

How about a Hollywood-style face lift? Well, at age 71 I'm frequently mistaken for someone who's only 70, so I decided that would be redundant. And when it comes to clothes, well... there was a time when I could have been a body (not face) model for Brooks Brothers, but those days are long gone. Why emphasize the obvious? I can just see the tailor breaking down in tears and dabbing at his eyes with the tape measure he wears around his neck.

So I was at my wit's end, and decided that I might learn something by studying photographs of past lottery winners (the ones who went public, that is). And that effort bore fruit – aha, at last! I have it! If there's one thing that distinguishes lottery winners from the rest of humanity, and which is a sure-fire sign of a winner, it's The Hat. No matter how else they are dressed, and how unfortunate their hair is, and despite having a weight problem, you can always count on them to be wearing The Hat. The minute the winning numbers are announced, The Hat seems to magically appear on the winner's head, as if placed there by a fairy godmother in a cloud of pixie dust. By the time they show up at lottery HQ to collect their beach towel-sized check, The Hat is already firmly in place, and destined to become a permanent fixture. And it doesn't always have to be a particular style, although Stetsons seem to be preferred (no matter what part of the country they're from – the natural assumption being that once you have a lot of money you automatically become a Texan); the main thing is that it be distinctive, and that it shouts (no, screams) -- “I've made it at last! I'm a winner! Look upon my newfound wealth, o ye lowly, and despair!”

So I went in search of The Hat – not just any old hat, but one that would be noticed – on the street, at the opera, the country club, the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders' meeting in Omaha... wherever. And I did find it, after much searching. And the price tag was, let's say, quite reasonable, considering what I was buying and its symbolic value. It came to $389, which would have been a tidy sum in my days of penury, but which was now a drop in the bucket. So home I went with The Hat in its own custom-made silk-lined box. Only later did I reflect that, taking the price and subtracting my winnings of $4, I wound up in the hole for $385. But it was well worth it. That brief moment of glory! Those fifteen minutes of fame (OK, fifteen seconds maybe)! (OK, fifteen microseconds, whatever.) But I had the symbol, and isn't that what counts? Now when I go down to the neighborhood bar, I won't be any more able to treat the boys to a round than I was before, but hopefully they will be awe-struck nonetheless. “Now there's a real winner! How do we know? He's wearing The Hat.”

Friday, September 16, 2016

I'm Not Alt-Right, Jack

My attention was recently called to a movement, or phenomenon, or whatever, called “Alt-Right”. As is often the case, this term is used not by the adherents themselves, but by their opposition – and, on a perhaps simplistic level, it seems to, basically, refer to “everyone that everyone else doesn't like”. In this, it shares a pedigree with terms like “fascist”, “reactionary”, “isolationist”, and so on – a way of categorizing, and thus setting apart, a certain group with a certain alleged mindset, and thus making them a handy target of political attacks (and thus a welcome distraction from the real issues of our time, like with a population of over 320 million, how did we manage to wind up with these two freakazoids as presidential candidates of the major parties?). On another level it describes people who feel that history, which is running at warp speed these days, has passed them by. And on another level, it describes the current group of people who have been, or feel they've been, neglected, demeaned, disenfranchised, ridiculed – basically declared non-persons and not welcome in the political arena, since they have nothing to contribute to the dialogue and no coherent (i.e. “progressive”) program. And on a more immediate level, it refers to Trump supporters – and as I've said before, assumes that the Trump phenomenon is something new under the sun... unprecedented... “un-American”... and dangerous.

The salience of this concept can be illustrated by the recent statements of none other than Hillary Clinton, whose “basket of deplorables” consists of those who are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic – you name it.” But she was right on target when she identified Trump supporters as “people who feel that the government has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change.” Every once in a while the truth slips out, even if it's Hillary who's speaking. Of course, in her mind, and in the minds of her supporters, those people don't count, because their grievances are only imaginary and characterized by “prejudice and paranoia”.

The “Alt-Right” is the basic theme of a recent essay by Thomas J. Main:

But his definition, if one can even call it that, is a bit of a crazy quilt. It's a hodgepodge, and winds up tossing people of markedly different (dare I say “diverse”?) types into the same basket. But one common element, at least, is that they are people who have been more or less asleep in the political sense but who have now awakened, and who find that the world is radically different from the way it ought to be, and the way they have always expected it to be. So in this sense it's an alliance (if that's not too strong a term) for the shocked and scandalized, but it's also a populist phenomenon of sorts, since pretty much everyone involved comes from the ranks of the people, as opposed to the elite. And by “the people” I don't mean the mythical “people” of communist/socialist/progressivist propaganda, but the real people, “warts and all” -- with all of their frustrations, resentments... hatreds, even. And the perennial paradox, as always, is that in a relatively prosperous society there are nonetheless frustrations, resentments, and dissatisfactions – as if all of the Utopian schemes forced upon the citizenry for over 100 years now have come to naught. Not only that, but the frustrated, resentful, and dissatisfied ones are not the usual suspects – officially-designated and approved minorities – but a class of people who have scarcely ever been on radar, to say nothing of being defined by the Regime. They seem, like all populist movements, to have come out of nowhere – but the roots are deep, and any suddenness about them is largely attributable to their discovery by the mainstream media. (When the faceless and voiceless acquire faces and voices, the servants of the Regime quake in fear.)

We know that “people's republics” serve anyone but the people... and that any “worker's paradise” is more likely to resemble Hell. The first refuge of political scoundrels is to declare that anything they advocate, or do, is aimed at the betterment of the “common man”... or “the people”... or “the children”... or “oppressed minorities”... or what have you. This is a mark of legitimacy that is embraced by anyone seeking office, and seeking power over others, and it sort of provides a protective shield – a Teflon layer, if you will – that insures that nobility of intent will be the sole criterion for merit. Not results, but good will... “ideas”. So whenever disasters befall a collectivist scheme, the excuse is that “we meant well”, and that the failures were not due to flaws in the program but to “resistance by reactionary elements”, and sabotage, and general human perversity and butt-headedness. (Oh yes, and “hate” -- the latest enemy of the thought police.) The Alt-Right, among other things, seems to be made up of people who question these premises, or – if they believed them at one time – have now awakened to the fact that it's all a scam.

Another alleged characteristic of the Alt-Right is that it's not confined to any one nation or society. Alt-Right murmurings (and more) can be detected (by the finely-tuned instruments of outfits like the Southern Poverty Law Center) in Europe – all the way from Ireland to the Russian steppe. I'm not aware of any particular Alt-Right activity in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, or the Islamic world, but fear not, if it's there it will be discovered and rooted out by the never-sleeping organs of the Regime. (In this sense, it, again, appears to be a phenomenon not unique to prosperous, “western” societies, but definitely found in abundance there.)

The problem the critics of the Alt-Right have is that there is no single organization they can put their finger on – no tower of power – no master control center. And in this it does resemble populist movements down through history. I mean, was there ever a Tea Party or Occupy “headquarters”? A single strongman dictating policy and political action? Not that I'm aware. This is not to say that, once a political trend is detected, there won't be plenty of people anxious to jump on the bandwagon and pretend to be in charge. It's just that monolithic oppression of any sort (political, economic, social, etc.) doesn't necessarily lead to monolithic opposition. What it does lead to is a reaction, if not an outright rebellion, and that, in turn, is based on, quite frankly, human nature. Just because a lot of people think the same thing at the same time doesn't mean that a “conspiracy” is afoot, any more than a famine creates a conspiracy of hungry people. People react a certain way because they are people – and the “out group” (to resurrect an ancient sociology term) reacts in a certain way to the “in group”, and this reaction tends to have common elements wherever it occurs.

So is the Alt-Right just a variety of populism? Well, it might be, if we allow for populism to have more flavors than Baskin-Robbins. But there are so many manifestations, and so many sources of discontent, and so many grievances, that to call it a single movement (a “vast right-wing conspiracy”, if you will) is to oversimplify in order to facilitate dismissal.

Having said all that, let's look at some of the alleged earmarks by which (according to the article, which is, admittedly, a sample of one) we can immediately, and unambiguously, detect a member of the Alt-Right and thus annihilate them with some sort of death ray before they spread like the pod people in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. These are general impressions, of course; how could it be otherwise when the group is so ill-defined?

* Do they “... reject American democracy?” I'm more inclined to believe that they are the true democrats (with a small “d”). They don't see themselves as a minority, but as a sort of vanguard, and if the rest of the country would only wake from its stupor it would agree and join them.

* Are they “anti-Semites”? Well, it depends on your definition. I don't see them attacking Jews in the United States, or anywhere else, for that matter. What they might do, on occasion, is express skepticism as to Israel's policies in the West Bank and Israeli influence in American politics. So if this is anti-Semitism, the shoe fits – problem is, a lot of Jews in the U.S. and in Israel feel the same way. So are those Jews anti-Semitic? (Maybe they're just “self-hating” -- that's an easy out.)

* Are they “racists”? Who knows what's in their heart of hearts? But the label these days is typically applied either to the police (many of whom are black, which is odd) or to those who are skeptical about our immigration policies – said policies being fairly recent in the scheme of things. (A real (alleged) racist would still be griping about affirmative action and quotas, and I haven't heard a peep about those issues in a long time, although they are still very much with us.)

* Are they “protectionists” when it comes to trade? Well, so are a lot of businessmen, union members, farmers, etc. Can it be that they are all, therefore, “Alt-Right”?

* Do they oppose feminism? I'm not even sure what that would entail any more. The feminists have completed their long march through the institutions and have won every battle they have fought, except for the “mother of all battles”, namely the ERA. But when's the last time anyone, from either major party, mentioned the Equal Rights Amendment? That seems to have been relegated to “old news”, and besides, pretty much everything the ERA was supposed to fix has been fixed – either by the courts or through executive action and regulations. We now have women going through Ranger training in the Army, and I don't see too many people picketing the Army bases where that training is taking place. So what's left? The only major exception I can think of is the abortion issue, but is that synonymous with feminism? Someone else is going to have to answer that one. In any case, I suspect that Alt-Right adherents may oppose feminism as a concept or a movement, but there is, frankly, not much left to oppose in terms of actual law or policy, so how big an issue can it be?

* Do they oppose “diversity”? Well, as I've said before, diversity is more a fact than a movement – and, frankly, the promotion of “diversity” is, by and large, a scam. It's a way to get everyone, regardless of background and traditional loyalties, to sign on to a politically-correct, collectivist, gray uniformity. I'm all for genuine diversity the way I'm all for a four-season climate, but this faux “It's a Small World After All” diversity makes my gorge rise. In this case, I expect that, again, an Alt-Right type might oppose “diversity” as a government program even if they take it for granted on the practical level.

* Do they oppose “gay rights”? Possibly some do in principle, but in everyday life I doubt if it has a whole lot of impact unless you're in the wedding cake business. Overall, I suspect that Alt-Rights are a lot more into “live and let live” than any liberal.

* Do they oppose globalism? Not so much on principal but in terms of plain old jobs and wages. The steel worker whose job was moved to India probably has any number of gadgets, appliances, etc. -- not to mention a car – made overseas. It's only when it hits your wallet that it starts to hurt. Call it hypocrisy if you like, but there it is, and it's pretty ubiquitous.

* Do they oppose gun control? I doubt if they oppose all gun control, the way certain anarchists do when they pronounce themselves perfectly cool with toddlers with Uzis. What they do oppose is the gradual noose-tightening that is taking place, and what they feel is the government's agenda behind it, and in this I do not blame them. Rendering the people helpless against the government, and against criminal elements (assuming there's still a difference), is a major building block of totalitarianism.

* Do they oppose civil rights? That issue is, once again, pretty old news unless you're talking about the absurdities of school bathrooms and gay wedding cakes. Maybe if they just said they oppose “stupid” they'd get more of a hearing.

* Are they “white nationalists”? Well, this is pretty much the same as asking if they're “nationalists”, which is akin to asking if they're patriots. The United States, for good or ill, is a nation founded by, and for the benefit of, white people, and it continues as such if you consider not domestic policy but foreign policy. When we “project (military) power” to the four corners of the globe, what kind of power are we projecting? Black power? Hispanic power? Diversity power? No – it's the same old testosterone-laden white male power we've always projected. What is empire building (AKA “spreading democracy”) but a program for converting the entire world to the white American (Anglo-Saxon, even) way of thinking and doing things? In this, of course, we are failing miserably, and the intelligent thing to do would be to give it up, but that idea is one whose time has not yet come – and may never. The American Experiment might go gently into that still night the way Soviet communism did – but it may also end with a cataclysm.

This is the point at which Professor Main accuses the Alt-Right of being anti-American, which, for anyone with a sense of history, is a laugh. Racism has been with us from the founding – and it's still with us to some extent on the domestic front, but blatantly on the foreign policy front. Oppression of minorities, discrimination, persecution... all too American, if history is any indication. In the strict sense, it's globalism that's anti-American (and anti-nationalistic), and that may be a good thing, or it may not, but let's get real about our terminology and our history (and our heritage).

A broader question is as follows: Given that America started out “white”, and remained so right up to the 1960s (if we're talking about laws and about the dominant culture), does this mean that it should stay white (by and large), or just meld into the universal, global, coffee-colored planetary melting pot? (The same questions are being asked in Europe these days, with much more urgency.) My personal opinion is that what will happen will happen, no matter how any individual or organization (or non-organization) feels about it. One can protest, and resist, and carry picket signs, but there are certain trends that, historically, simply happen. No one can stop them; they might be able to slow them down at times, or divert, or redirect, but the inevitable is, well, inevitable. So in this sense it's a losing battle, which means that whoever is fighting it ought to focus their energies elsewhere. Besides, who knows, the results might turn out to be very interesting; there are many indications of this already. When you allow real diversity, rather than the NPR/PBS type, cool things start to happen. (And un-cool things start to happen as well. Is it worth the risk? I would say yes, overall – but the question is irrelevant since the process is well underway and cannot be stopped.)

Finally – and here's another laugh for you – he says that “The Alt-Right represents the first new philosophical competition to liberalism, broadly defined, since the fall of Communism.” Um.... I guess he hasn't heard of either paleoconservatism or libertarianism, which, arguably, although they had precursors before the 1990s, have come into their own as distinct movements since then, in response to neoconservatism and collectivism. And they are, unlike the Alt-Right, coherent points of view with an extensive literature (philosophical, political, and economic), known and respected leaders, and actual programs (workable if never allowed to be tried).

So I guess, for my money, I'll stick with my position, which is a hybrid of paleoconservatism, libertarianism, and traditional Catholicism. Although I sympathize with the distress of many of the Alt-Right crowd, and understand where they're coming from and why, until they come up with something more coherent and less half-baked I'll leave them to their own devices. But unlike Prof. Main, I don't believe they are “dangerous”. They are, after all, a minority and are likely to remain so – and they have no political power and no influence over those in charge. The Trump candidacy is an anomaly, and it will fade as the morning dew and be forgotten except as a footnote to history. The problems, grievances, and issues will remain, of course; there will always be those who feel left out, disenfranchised, and belittled – and that's just what happens when people gather together in large groups and start to abuse the concept of majority rule. There is always an out group; it's just a matter of who is out, and why, at any given time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

It's Our Party and We'll Die If We Want To

They could have stopped him, but they didn't. I'm referring to the Republicans and Donald Trump. There were plans afoot, right up to the convention and a day or two into the convention, to pull a fast one – enact some sort of change in the rules – whatever – anything to keep Trump from being the nominee. But it all collapsed; it became a non-story, a non-event, literally overnight.

And now, since that didn't happen, they are left with pathetic whining and empty threats to – at this point! -- choose someone else (to run on what ticket, pray tell?), or even to form a temporary third party. But this is all, in my opinion, an anemic attempt to save face – to basically say “Trump does not represent the Republican Party, even though he won its nomination (in accordance with rules which we could have changed, but didn't).” Well, fine – he may, in fact, not represent the mainstream or establishment Republicans, but he certainly represents all those who voted for him in the primaries, and they seem to constitute the majority of voting members of the party at this point in history.

But that is precisely the point. Trump won the primary race thanks to a populist insurgency -- a movement which he, basically, inspired. Where were these people before Trump came along? They were out there, clearly, but they had no voice – they were the forgotten, the disenfranchised, the ignored, the mocked and ridiculed (by the media and the liberals), and the generally shat-upon. So Trump became, literally, a rabble-rouser, and it was that rabble that temporarily took over the Republican Party by sheer force of numbers and energy. There's nothing like the politics of victimization to turn the powerless into the (temporarily) powerful – and since the Republicans are traditionally the party of non-victims, this was something the establishment did not foresee and had no way of dealing with once it occurred.

Now, I hasten to add that this particular populist demographic was not, and should not be confused with, the “Tea Party”, although there might have been some overlap in personnel. The latter was, basically, a conservative movement within the party; it made the country-club types uneasy, but they were willing to tolerate and work with it. The Trump crowd, on the other hand, makes the country-club types hold perfumed hankies up to their patrician noses; they really are beyond the pale, and “not our kind”. If the Tea Partiers were the county clubbers' churchgoing cousins (you know, the kind with wrinkled suits and big hair), the Trump crowd are all the black sheep of every Republican family rolled into one. They're the equivalent of Cousin Mike, who shows up at the family reunion on a Harley with a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon strapped to the back seat.

And the reasons are not hard to understand. The Republicans have been, as long as anyone can remember, the party of the contented... the complacent... the smug... the satisfied... the party of those who've made their pile and thus want nothing more than to hold onto it and keep it out of the hands of the unwashed masses. You can call it “conservatism” if by that you mean keeping things just the way they are – with, perhaps, an occasional bone thrown to the underclasses in order to keep them at bay (or at least confine them to the Democrat-operated inner cities where they belong). (And who says that it's only the Democrats who “need” the inner cities with their captive constituents? The Republicans need them too, the same way they need jails – to keep the proletariat contained.) But this is conservatism with neither compassion nor principle; it's a holding pattern, and it's phobic whenever confronted with actual ideas (which is why the Tea Partiers were regarded as being a bit out of control – because they actually had what amount to ideas in these times of conceptual vapidity).

And then along came Trump and his rabble army – and when you think about it, they didn't necessarily even have to be Republicans. After all, Trump and Bernie Sanders probably have more in common than Trump and the mainstream Republicans. But aside from that, Trump is not, after all, a man of ideas or of principles – to say nothing of “theory”. He is, when you get right down to it, fairly pragmatic in his goals, if vague as to the means of achieving them. He's not much for slogans, and is certainly not interested in demagoguery of the typical liberal/Democrat type, or bland speechifying of the typical Republican type. Heck, he doesn't even talk in rhymes like Jesse Jackson, or put on different accents depending on his audience, like Hillary. If you get beyond the offhand remarks and quips (AKA “gaffes”, according to the MSM – and why is it that when Biden says crazy stuff, he's just good ol' Uncle Joe, whereas with Trump it's taken as evidence of madness?), you find a lot of common sense – and that is, in fact, what his supporters are looking for. They've had the lifeblood sucked out of them by people with “ideas” for decades now, and are just looking for someone who “gets it”, as Trump seems to do. (And I don't mean “getting it” in the “I feel your pain” sense, a la Bill Clinton, because it was obvious that he didn't feel anyone's pain, and even if he had would not have cared.) Plus, Trump has the added quality of being politically incorrect, to the maximum extent possible without being literally driven out of town (although he has come close at times). And this is something that naturally appeals to anyone who considers themselves a victim of political correctness. The old-time radical goal of “├ępater le bourgeois” -- shock the middle classes – has taken on new life, and from an unexpected quarter at that. Now it's not so much the middle classes per se that need shocking (although that's also true) but the complacent subset represented by the Republican Party mainstream. (And their complacency is particularly puzzling considering that they have long since lost the culture wars and most of the big bucks are going to the Democrats. Which causes one to wonder, what's left? What do they stand for, anyway? (I think the answer should be clear by now.))

So with all of this in mind, why is Trump so anathema to the Republican establishment? Why are they openly plotting against him – openly hoping he loses? Well, it's because he, basically, stole the nomination – snatched it right out of their pale, limp, lifeless hands. But they let him do it, and why was that? It was, basically, to teach those populists – that rabble, that doesn't belong in the party anyway – a damn good lesson: This is what happens when you try to turn the party of complacency into some kind of “people's” party... some kind of rag-tag outfit that talks about change, and reform, and all that radical stuff. Another way of putting it is that Trump is trying to turn the Republican Party into a Democratic Party for the white working class – and that can't be allowed to happen. (And yes, I know, the Democratic Party represented the white working class for many years, but they decided at some point that their fortunes lay more with the “rainbow coalition” -- a multiplication of aggrieved minorities under the supervision of “intellectuals”, academics, and media and Hollywood trend setters. So the traditional Democrat constituency became orphans. Some of them were corralled by Nixon with his “Southern strategy”... others by Reagan... and now it's Trump's turn.)

The problem with all of this is that the Trump camp is a minority within a minority. Not only do they not belong in the Republican Party, but they are a minority in terms of power, influence, and resources – even if they managed to exert themselves sufficiently to get Trump nominated. And the Republicans, in turn, are a minority party on the national level, simply because we have gotten to the point where the takers outnumber the makers – the tax receivers outnumber the tax payers. (And I don't hesitate to place myself in the former category, since I'm on a civil service pension – although I also pay taxes.) We have become, in short, a nation of minorities, most of which are aggrieved, rebellious, and militant – and thus easy pickings for the Democrats, who promise everything but deliver next to nothing (but that doesn't seem to matter since it's the “ideas” that count, and the Democrats are nothing if not the party of ideas – invariably wrong, but ideas nonetheless). (You can see this in the fact that while Obama has done so much for race relations – ahem! -- all that really counts is his being “the first black president”. And all that will really count for Hillary is being “the first woman president”. Results? Let's not get all hung up on that issue.) Ideas are fine things except when they trump (no pun intended) reality.

So the demographics are against any Republican candidate for president, even if they are not against all Republicans in all Congressional districts, state houses, etc. The Republicans could have nominated pretty much anyone to run against Hillary, and they would, by now, be dead men (or women) walking, as is Trump. And that's only pure demographics, and doesn't include the big-city machines that have myriad ways of delivering votes to Democrats – their age-old tactics now in overdrive with the advent of computer-based voting machines. (If it has always been true that it doesn't matter who votes, but who counts the votes, it is more true now than ever.) (At least in the old days it took some considerable physical effort to steal votes; now all you have to do is be in charge of the software.)

The Republicans can “fight back” by concentrating on Congressional races, governorships, state houses, etc. -- and they are, after a fashion. Of course their default platform when it comes to domestic policy is “we're almost as compassionate as the Democrats” -- a sure-fire winner. And when it comes to foreign policy, everyone is pretty much on the same sheet of music across the spectrum – although Trump has come out against “nation building”, which is sure to win him very few fans among the neocons who control the Republican party and have great influence with the Democrats as well. (This may, in fact, be his greatest sin as far as the Regime is concerned – that he seems skeptical about the desirability of expanding and maintaining the American Empire.)

The most recent candidate who represented a true choice among the entire Republican-Democratic array was Ron Paul, and his ideas are either 100 years behind the times or 100 years ahead; time will tell. Rand Paul was a pale imitation at best; he got some things right and other things as wrong as anyone else. Basically, he's a good man but not an idea man, and if anything is going to smash the two-party monopoly (which means a single ruling party with two subdivisions) it's ideas – and not just the usual pap, but real ideas with real consequences.

I should mention also that a prominent argument against the idea that the Republicans allowed Trump to be nominated so that he'll lose and discredit “right-wing populism” once and for all is the Supreme Court issue. Put Hillary in for 8 years (she'll get re-elected in 2020 even if she has to campaign from a hospital bed) and we'll wind up with an iron-clad liberal Supreme Court for the rest of the century, or something. (And BTW, if the rumors about her health are even partly true, is she really going to last eight years? Will I be putting up a blog post entitled “Citizen Kaine” at some point? Time will tell.)

But when it comes to the Supreme Court argument, well... for one thing, look at the success rate of Republican presidents when it comes to Supreme Court appointments; most of them take about five minutes after they don those heavy black robes to wander off the reservation. But the main point is that the Republicans knew – just knew, with absolute certainty – that they couldn't win the presidency this year. So why not try and salvage at least some advantage from what is shaping up to be a debacle? Why not teach those populists a lesson and get rid of them (blaming them for losing the election, of course), and drive them back into those trailer parks and mountain shacks where they belong? Then the “nice”, well-behaved people can take over the party again, and... what? Continue to suck up to the Democrats, even when they are in the majority in Congress? Probably. It's what they do best.