Friday, June 16, 2017

2020 Vision

It's not too soon to be talking about the 2020 election – I mean, the campaign started on Inauguration Day the same way it always does. Let's accept that (with weary resignation) as a given. But the 2016 election provided an exceptional number of “lessons learned” for both parties – or let's say it provided an exceptional number of lessons that might be learned, or lessons that will be ignored, or non-lessons that are mistaken for lessons.

I'll say it again – the 2016 campaign provided a rare juxtaposition of two varieties of populism, the traditional Bernie Sanders version (which was successfully quashed by the Democratic establishment, none of whom appreciated the irony of it all) and the Donald Trump version (piggybacking on the Tea Party), and the latter actually won against all odds, which shows that populism is not always doomed to defeat despite its track record of usually being snuffed out by the ruling elite. (Note that the last bona fide populist to run on a major party ticket was William Jennings Bryan, who managed to get nominated by the Democrats three times, and lost each time.)

So it could be claimed that the Democrats have, basically, given up on populism, except for buzzwords and “optics”. The blandishments of power – of being part of the establishment and of the ruling elite – have proven way too seductive. The Republicans, on the other hand, have more recently discovered populism, starting with Nixon's “Southern strategy” and extending through Reagan to Trump (skipping over Ford, Bush I, and Bush II, all of whom were too obviously products of the ruling class).

The problem is whereas populism used to come naturally to the Democrats, it still makes the Republican establishment uneasy; they don't trust the unwashed masses – “the people”, with all of their strife, demands, and impulsiveness. Much better to settle back into the comfortable country-club mode and hope that they can attract enough of the middle class to gain victory – said middle class being motivated primarily by fear of the lower class. (When Obama threatened those corporate moguls with visions of peasants with pitchforks, he was engaging in a bit of temporary nostalgia – referring to those golden times when “the people” put FDR in office in order to put the ruling class in its place, which, of course, he spectacularly failed to do, even though he was a master of what we now call “optics”.)

Trump, of course, is not a theorist, or an ideologue – and he never will be a politician, which is the ultimate offense. He simply refuses to play that game, and for people for whom that is the only game in town – nay, the only game in life – he represents an alien life form. And sure enough, the people in both parties who play that game, and their facilitators in the wider culture, are as eager to eliminate this thing in their midst as white blood cells are to eliminate bacteria.

So the battle that is raging right now is likely to go on until Inauguration Day 2021, or until Trump is driven from office – whichever comes first. And any arguments that Trump's election benefited the Republican Party fall on deaf ears; recall that, during the campaign, many members of the Republican establishment came right out and said that they would rather lose the election than see Donald Trump in the White House. Try reminding them that they won because he won, and they will erupt with indignation: “win” on his terms? That can hardly be called winning. And this is one reason, other than sheer habit, why they are as limp as wet noodles when dealing with the hard-core believers in the Democratic Party. “Turn the reins of government over to the likes of Schumer, Pelosi, Feinstein, and Franken, we don't care. We're in despair! We're taking our dolls and going home!” And yet this is the party that is dreaming of some kind of comeback in 2020? If the Trump administration crashes and burns like the Hindenburg (oh, the humanity, etc.) they will feel fully vindicated. But if Trump manages to pull it off, they won't be any happier. They will be campaigning for hope and change every bit as fervently as the Democrats. (The term “loyal opposition” only applies where there is a monarch on the throne, like in England. Over here it's an unknown concept.)

So let's entertain a few possible scenarios, shall we? Number one, Trump continues to be thwarted, blocked, frustrated, and filibustered at every turn, but remains in office, his administration fated to be judged a dismal failure, even when compared to that of Jimmy Carter, the very definition and exemplar thereof. This will obviously be a signal to the Republicans to go back to the tried and true, and nominate another bland nobody – a face in a suit – in 2020. Oh, you say that a party hardly ever fails to nominate a sitting president for a second term? I don't think that quaint custom is going to impress anybody next time around. But wait – what if Trump has as many supporters then as he had in 2016, or even more? That's the point at which the proverbial smoke-filled room will be resurrected from the dead. They will figure out some way to keep Trump from running for re-election, or from being nominated if he does run, popular support or no. For all I know, they'll take a page from the DNC play book and pull the same tricks on Trump that the Democrats played on poor old Bernie.

Number two, Trump leaves office for whatever reason, and Pence winds up as placeholder the way Ford did after Nixon was run out of town. He could wind up being nominated, just as Ford was, and wind up losing just as Ford did. But at least that way things would return to normal. (And by the way, I would be willing to bet that a good many of these pajama-clad “snowflakes” who wander around college campuses bleeding from every orifice because they feel “attacked” by Donald Trump think that if he were successfully impeached, Hillary would automatically become president. Um.... that's not how it works, kiddies. But hey, don't they all agree with Henry Ford who supposedly said “history is bunk”?)

Number three, Trump actually succeeds – not just by his own lights, but by general consensus of his supporters and some grudging acceptance by his opponents, who are legion, and are at the present time united in their hostility and resistance. About the only way this ever happens, historically, is if a major conflict starts and the U.S. is perceived as winning, or at least not losing. It has happened before. The problem is that once someone becomes a “war president” their fate is, from that point on, linked to that war; just ask LBJ. It's all about timing, basically. Men may make history when it comes to starting wars, but history turns around and unmakes men when it comes to ending them.

So, to sum up – and again, I ask your indulgence and that you ignore my previous hilarious mistakes when it comes to political prognostication. The Democrats will toy, once again, with populism but nominate, once again, a solidly establishment type, thus frustrating the populist remnant within the party – you know, those na├»ve folks who still believe the Democrats are the party of “the people”. The Republicans will nominate a face in a suit – who knows, maybe one of the countless 2016 contenders, and they will have about as much appeal to what remains of the Trump base, or of the Tea Party, as Hillary had to those who “felt the Bern”. And the republic will be, no matter who wins, back in the hands of the establishment – the ruling class – the globalist elite – and things will slouch on as before, as if the Trump era was nothing but a bad dream... an interregnum. The sane (allegedly) adults will be in charge again, and somewhere Dick Cheney will be laughing.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Whose Populism Is It Anyway?

I read a column in The Washington Times the other day that had me scratching my head. The topic was the already eagerly anticipated 2020 election, but what caught my attention was some of the terminology. Here are some quotes:

“... a Democratic Party that is tilting further leftward in a push toward economic-centered politics...”

“... President Trump's economic populism.”

“If Democrats are fighting for America's working families...” (quote from Elizabeth Warren)

“Her [Warren's] message of leveling the playing field for working families...” (quote from Nick Rathold)

“... the populist economic message that Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders are touting.”

“... the populist message of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders...” (quote from Adam Green)

The key words here are “economic”, “working families”, and “populist”/”populism”. So let's drill down a bit, since it appears that both sides are talking about the same issues and trying to appeal to the same people on those issues – not that this would be unusual in politics, but it doesn't get to the heart of the matter. If they're in so much agreement, why is there so much opposition and hostility?

The notion that the Democratic Party is suddenly enamored of economic-centered politics is a bit startling, since that is the only issue they have ever been concerned with. Way back in the Progressive Era, it was already about fairness... leveling the playing field... redistribution of income... and so on. It was, as it remains, more about outcomes than opportunities. Pretty much every domestic policy initiative by the Democrats over the past century or more has been aimed at equality of outcomes in some way, with a socialist nirvana as the ultimate goal. “Opportunities” are only a means to an end – and if they don't result in equal outcomes, then more opportunities have to be made available, ad infinitum. I'm not sure what the Democrats would be all about if it weren't for economics – foreign policy maybe? But they seem to consider that an annoyance, and something that has to be either minimized or ignored. Even foreign policy in our time is aimed, from the Democratic perspective, at equal outcomes on a global level – if the minimum wage anywhere in the world is lower than that in, say, Australia, there's a problem, and it has to be fixed (presumably by us).

How about “working families”? Oh, right – those folks who turned out in droves to vote for Trump. The Democrats have quite openly, and explicitly, chosen to eject and ignore working families in favor of a plethora of minorities. “Working men” (and women), AKA “labor”, finally caught on, and despite the pleadings and threats from their union leadership, chose to vote not only their pocketbooks but their basic values, which the Democrats have done everything to belittle and defeat. “Labor” cannot be counted on any more, and Trump's attracting the labor vote was similar to Nixon's “Southern strategy” -- just show people what is really going on and hope the scales fall from their eyes.

And when it comes to “leveling the playing field”, well, again Trump had it figured out. Get the government (as inspired by Democrats/liberals/progressives) out of the business of harassing, punishing, and persecuting honest working people and of attacking their culture and values. The government doesn't do this to the ruling class, and it doesn't do it to the comfortable upper middle class.. and it doesn't do it to the dependent class either. But it certainly has been sticking it to the working class, and again, their eyes have been opened (for the time being at least – and hopefully for keeps).

Then we have “populism” -- oy, where to begin? I've already commented (as have any number of other talking and/or writing heads) that the 2016 campaign was, for one brief, shining moment, a struggle between two varieties of populism – one represented by Bernie Sanders and the other by Donald Trump. So... what is populism, anyway? What, if anything, did these two campaigns in common?

The paradox of populism in America is that this country was, allegedly, founded to foster and preserve individual rights – i.e., the rights of the people. And this is still a key component of our self image, our iconography, and our various secular liturgies, litanies, and memes. And yet, mysteriously, the notion of government “of, by, and for the people” keeps having to be re-asserted, as if it's a delicate and fragile thing, and easily suppressed or ignored. But why is it, seemingly, always on the defensive? After all, we have the same Constitution now that we had back in 1789. There have been no revolutions, and we have never been conquered by a foreign power. So what's the problem?

The opposing forces to the interests of the people have been seen differently at different times, but there are certain common themes. One is uncontrolled immigration – not a new topic by any means. Another is industrialization. Then we have capitalism, banks, and big business (or businesses of any size which involve management vs. labor, wages, and profits). (The current buzzwords “Wall Street” and “crony capitalism” are subsets.) And then we have – depending on one's perspective – either too many laws and regulations, or not enough, thus the perennial pendulum swing in labor law between preference for capital and preference for labor. And we also have that new bugaboo, “concentration of wealth”, which is not all that new but keeps getting renamed and redefined. (It was “concentration of wealth” that stimulated the establishment of the income tax, lest we forget, and that happened more than 100 years ago.)

Interestingly, two things which are never mentioned in polite company as being opposed to the interests of the people are personal debt and war. And yet, in terms of draining the life out of an economy and out of its citizenry, it would be hard to find two more obvious candidates. Perhaps it's because these are the two leading weapons of the Regime to enslave people and nations, and they have structured the discussion in such a way that these things never come up (or if they do, the people who bring them up are immediately labeled as nut cases).

Perhaps our discussion of populism could profit from defining precisely who “the people” are, and what the forces opposing them are alleged to be depending on one's prior political position. If we insist on using the term “populism”, we find that political movements and organizations of violently opposing sorts have each used the term, or at least not objected to being described that way. The same is true if we merely talk about “the people as opposed to _____” (select from the list of offenders above, or add your own). But if we dig down a bit, and ask precisely who these “people”, so-called, are, we can get some clarifying answers. The old populists were, of course, for the “working man”, whether on farms or in factories, not unlike the target group for the Bolsheviks. The middle class was already being viewed with suspicion (in a shout-out to the French Revolution and Marx), and the ruling class was, of course, beneath contempt and the perpetual enemy. When the New Deal rolled around things were pretty much the same, but it should be noted that, although white ethnics were part of the picture, it had yet to reach out and embrace blacks... and Hispanics were still way down the road (or across the Rio Grande). And let's not forget that the first great populist-style program of the Kennedy administration was the War on Poverty, which initially focused on, guess where, all-white Appalachia. Whites elsewhere, and blacks, had to fight to get on the A-list.

So far, so good. It seemed that everyone calling themselves a populist, or preaching in favor of “the people”, was in basic agreement as to who “the people” were. One group that was more or less ignored in all of the discussions was white Southerners – and that was the basis for the “aha!” moment for Nixon. (He really ought to get credit for one of the greatest political coups of the 20th Century – right up there with Trump's victory.) He found a group that had been left out of the political process on the national level; it was a large group, and worth courting. And thus was created the great divide/bifurcation/schism of “the people” for political purposes. (It's worth noting that there had never been anything like solidarity between the white and black working classes, or between the white and Hispanic agricultural workers, but those differences didn't have any discernible impact on mainstream politics of the populist variety – unless you include 1960s folk singers, of course.)

Even more remarkable, all of a sudden there was a subset of “the people” who were actually loyal (albeit newly so, and probably not without some misgivings) to the Republican Party. But that's not the same as saying they were “conservative” in the William F. Buckley sense... and they were certainly not libertarian in the Ron Paul sense... and the Tea Party had yet to manifest itself as a semi-organized force. Despite all of this, the phenomenon of card-carrying “people” being Republicans, or at least voting that way, was revolutionary. Suddenly the party of country clubs, business, Wall Street, and the bourgeoisie had to make room for the (relatively) unwashed – and yet it was the key to success, not only for Nixon but also for Reagan and Bush II (Bush I having basically ridden in on Reagan's coattails and stayed for a while), and now for Trump.

The consequence of all of this was that the meaning of “the people”, and of populism, became totally contingent on who was using the terms, and to what purpose. Having written off the white working class, the Democrats' definition of “the people” was limited to minorities – albeit enough of them to constitute a majority. The Republicans, on the other hand, gradually morphed into champions of “the people” of different sorts – white, mostly working class but lower middle class as well (assuming there's even a difference any longer), and basically anyone with a grievance against the liberals/Democrats/progressives and their “people”. So “the people” were divided (so much for “e pluribus unum"!) into camps, grievance groups, voting blocs, and gangs.

And yet the perennial struggle persisted – that of “the people” vs. anything that oppresses them, either intentionally or accidentally, with new issues added on a regular basis. For the Democrats, it was post-Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts “residual racism”, as well as anyone held responsible for the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, and later on came to include pro-lifers, “homophobes”, anyone opposed to open borders, and a host of other real or imagined enemies. For the Republicans, the new villains included government programs which eroded, or directly attacked, gun ownership, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion, as well as excessive taxation and the regulatory burden. Add ObamaCare and you have a perfect formula for a political (mostly) civil war, which the 2016 election certainly was, and which its outcome continues to be. And yet this civil war, just like the original one, is “people vs. people” as much as the government or ruling elite vs. the people. People on both sides consider themselves to be more real... more genuine... more representative of American values... more entitled to be heard... etc. You could stand up at a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren rally and ask every “real American” to raise their hand, and I daresay more of those in the room would. Try it at a Trump rally and you'll get the same result.

So yes, the great divide – or the most recent great divide – in American politics is between “the people” on one side and “the people” on the other. “Economic populism” sounds like something the Democrats would be all in favor of, and yet it's attributed to Trump. Is this because he's an insincere, hypocritical demagogue who only pretends to favor the people's interests? But the same can be said for pretty much any leading Democrat at least since World War II. “Economic-centered politics” could be a characteristic of the Trump administration, but no – the Democrats seem to have a monopoly on that particular semantic nuance. And as far as leveling the playing field, well... has anyone asked, recently, when affirmative action is going to cease as a government policy? The answer, of course, is never, since even if we did somehow manage to equalize outcomes there would still be the question of reparations, and when reparations cease is a totally political question, since there is no possible objective criterion for when enough is enough. (Another way of putting this is, at what point can blacks be considered to have been “paid back” for slavery? From the karmic point of view, the answer really is “never”. Politically, it's debatable, but the debate has yet to occur.)

I guess what I'm trying to do here is not only clarify the meaning of words, but point out the forces behind their non-clarification. After all, if everyone's a populist, no one's a populist, right? The term loses all meaning. If everyone is equally for “the people” then that term cancels out and we'd better start looking for some new descriptors. And as for “leveling the playing field”, no one really wants to do that, do they, any more than anyone wants truly “equal rights”. That would be bad politics. What people want is preferences... advantages... whether enshrined in law or as a side benefit of other laws, regulations, or the economy in general.

Again, we are up against human nature – not only that of individuals, but of groups, parties, factions, what have you. Everyone wants an “edge”. It's not enough to just go out and seek one's fortune in the world and its many and varied marketplaces. You have to have that ID card that lets you in the door ahead of the rabble and the undeserving (not to mention the "deplorables"). Combine this with the ebb and flow of politics and the cynical manipulation of words and of people, and you have what we have now – a state of perpetual war that in its sheer intractability is not unlike that which our foreign policy has fostered. One could point out the massive waste of human and other resources that all of this entails, but that would seem wonkish compared to the unstoppable energy and self-centeredness that is a part of fallen human nature.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Troubled Teens

In all of the discussion of LGBT etc. issues with regard to young people (AKA “minors”), I have yet to see a certain issue discussed. And no, I'm not talking about bathrooms and locker rooms, which have been dealt with at exhausting length and which, along with proms and dress codes, have brought public school systems to their knees (so to speak). And I'm not talking about traditional moral issues... or about the age-old nature vs. nurture debate, i.e. the question of whether people are “born that way” or become that way through environmental factors – upbringing, various forms of abuse (physical or emotional, or both), the influence of the media, friends, non-friends, bullies, rock 'n' roll, fashion, what have you. These are all worthy topics, but I can't add anything to what's already been discussed.

I am, however, talking about a political issue – but not about elections or candidates, or their “positions” with respect to the issue, or who they are counting on to vote for them. My concern is with politics on the “micro” level, and the response not of skeptics or of people who are “agin” the whole idea, or of people who would rather not talk about it and who hope the whole thing will go away. I'm talking about the response of what I will call the “well-meaning” community, and specifically of those in authority – which means, in the case of minors, parents and public school personnel, by and large (although I suppose this could be extended to include coaches, teachers, and instructors outside the formal education system).

The problem is not one of acceptance; let's take that as a given. I'm talking about too much acceptance – or acceptance of the wrong kind. And the motivation for this seems to be less purely humanistic than the perennial tendency to categorize, classify, and pigeonhole people in order to simplify life and make it easier for the Regime (however manifested at this level) to deal with and accommodate individuals – to, in effect, apply the rules of identity politics reinforced, as needed, by “psychological testing” and other practices of questionable merit. Another way of putting it is that the minute a certain group of individuals starts to manifest a certain trait or behavior pattern, they are no longer treated as unique individuals but as part of a class (which may be newly-minted for the purpose). They are provided with a ready-made label and earmarked for special treatment on the assumption that sexual orientation or sexual identity is like quick-drying cement – once it solidifies, it can be counted on to stay put, remain stable, and not bother anyone – and that the individuals involved are, once and for all, to be counted as members of a certain group, and never mind the complexities of the human psyche, and especially never mind that the human psyche, in all of its myriad manifestations, is subject to change – sometimes drastic change – particularly in the early years. At that stage of life, everything else is fluid and evolving; why shouldn't this be as well? But that's not good enough for the collectivist/totalitarian mind set, where labeling is paramount and essential to the pursuit of political ends.

For what is identity politics? It's a power game based on the premise that certain traits not only define an individual, but constitute the most important – perhaps the only important – thing about them. If you're black, you're black; nothing can change that, and that will define your class for life – and heaven forbid you should do or say anything that constitutes wandering off the reservation (as witness what happens to “black conservatives”). The situation is likewise if you're handicapped in some way (and pardon me for using what I consider to be a still-useful term). But these are things about which it can realistically be said that a person is “born that way”, or in the case of some handicaps, becomes that way and there is no turning back. But is this true of sexuality – of sexual identity? And, in particular, is it true of the sexuality or sexual identity of minors?

Put it another way. Does it make sense based on what we know about human psychology to jump on some early signs of sexual identity or “preference”, slap a label on the individual, and then expect them to somehow live up to their newfound “identity” -- to conform within the bounds of a certified non-conforming group (those bounds being pre-defined by the Regime)? Again, it's this societal compulsion to pigeonhole people and thus avoid all the messiness and complexity of having to deal with them as unique individuals. A grade-school boy starts playing with dolls or expressing an interest in fashion design. Leave him alone? Not a bit of it. He has to be “encouraged”, and reinforced, and directed along the path that the authorities have decided is his fate – his destiny in life. And if he sticks with it, all is well. But what if, a year or two later, he tosses the dolls into a box and quits drawing dresses, and develops an interest in football, auto racing, and guns? Woe is us! Oh, the humanity! Now he's a “problem”, and no one can quite figure out what to “do” with him (as if there is a compelling need to “do” anything). Or turn it around – football, cars, and guns first, then at some point dolls and fashion take over. Again, woe is us (but not as bad as the former case)!

Apply the same thing to girls. Today's “tomboy” might become next year's prom queen – or again, vice versa. Or – a kid develops a “crush” (another old fashioned term) on someone of the same gender. Is that the same as waving a flag which reads “I'm _______ and proud of it!” And this is just about observable behavior. Do we know what's going on inside the kid's head? We might ask, or they might tell us – but again, is this already set in stone or can it evolve? Do we care? Well, the system cares, because it depends on labels – on classes – on setting one group against another, because only in that way can the system step in and save the day, imposing a kind of deadening peace (AKA “diversity”) upon the populace. I've commented before – as have others – that “diversity”, while appearing to honor individual choices, is really a program to enforce a stifling conformity on another level – conformity to the system, and submission to all of its varied mechanisms for categorizing people. True diversity is not the flesh-and-blood equivalent of the “It's a Small World” ride at Disneyland; it's accepting human nature in its entirety, with all of the complexities and ambiguities that entails. On some level, we are all nonconformists simply because we're individuals – but this is the very thing that society does its best to stamp out.

I suppose that part of the problem is that adults in general have already forgotten (or suppressed) their own childhood and youth – how fluid things can be, and how ambiguous. They have also forgotten how overwhelming “peer pressure” (in whatever direction you like) can be – as well as the impact of fashions (in the broad sense), fancies, and fads. Kids really are a lot like Silly Putty – highly malleable, able to be bent and stretched every which way, and apt to take on impressions from their social environment. The growth process brings with it uncertainties and insecurities; this seems pretty much inevitable. A maturing person is not only a stranger in a strange land, but they are strangers to themselves as well. What they need, above all, is time – and not this bogus instantaneous “understanding” or “support” or advocacy that attempts to force them into a given identity, class, or category – or force them to stay in one that they may have adopted only for a season. And granted, it's a delicate balance. I think the key is to support the individual as an individual, rather than as a member of a class that they may or may not truly belong in, or even be interested in.

It was not that long ago that boys were naturally expected to take up the occupation or trade of their fathers – and that girls were expected to do likewise vis-a-vis their mothers, who were typically homemakers. Biographies are full of stories of young people who “rebelled” against that system; it seems that many interesting people did so, which is probably why they wind up having biographies written about them. And while conformity on that level is pretty much a thing of the past, at least in Western societies, what we are faced with now is a new conformity which is focused (the way the old system never was, or at least not explicitly) on sexual identity. And it's gotten to the point where people not old enough to drive, or vote, are being encouraged to undergo hormonal therapy or even “sex reassignment surgery”. I consider this an egregious form of child abuse. Not only has the labeling process become a major industry (in the political sense), but it is being translated into permanent, irreversible physical alteration – all, of course, with the total “support” and encouragement authorities and of society in general.

And there is no denying that, for many young people, this is precisely what they want, and what they think will solve their problems and make their life better. But again, we have the judgment issue – why trust people of a tender age to make a life-altering decision when we forbid them from making other decisions of equal (or even lesser) import? Why should the first adult “right” granted to children be the right to change their genitalia? It makes no sense.

I predict – and there are precedents for this – that we will eventually see lawsuits by adults who went under the knife (or had drastic hormone treatments, or both) as minors, but who realized later on that they had been exploited. If someone who is already an adult decides that this is the path they want to take, that may be a matter for discussion and debate, but at least the person is acting from a position of legal and, hopefully, psychological maturity. But to impose the same expectations on a person who is immature in pretty much every respect goes way beyond disservice; it's setting them up to be a victim of a political agenda that they have no notion of. Growing up, and life in general, leaves enough scars without offering young people up as sacrifices to a world view that doesn't value their rights and uniqueness as individuals.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

And Now For the Good News

Good news if you're a Trump supporter, that is. And I admit, it's paradoxical, but what is politics but the kingdom of paradox? Whenever you start to think that things are making sense, you can assume you've been deceived.

The good news is that Trump hasn't (yet, and hopefully never will have) sold out to the opposition – which means, in the most broad-brush sense, the globalists. I've referred to this previously – the idea that the power and energy behind the unstinting rage and hostility toward Trump and his administration (and his family as well) comes from the globalists, whose octopus-like arms reach into every corner of the globe (never mind that that makes no sense in geometrical terms), but whose power base is in Western Europe with the U.S. as a semi-reliable partner.

We need to shake off, once and for all, the romantic notion that the opposition to Trump is a grass-roots, popular (vs. populist, which would be bad), “people's” movement. It's supported, encouraged, and funded at the highest levels of the globalist empire, George Soros being the most prominent but far from the only source. Those on the ground, or in the streets – the by-and-large non-bloodied cannon fodder of the globalists – may not always realize it, but they are being exploited, used, and duped by people for whom they are no more than insignificant insects – inert bodies of value only to aid and abet a political/social/economic agenda. In other words, it doesn't matter what they “think” they're doing out there on the street, or on the Internet, or on TV, the truth is that they are mere tools, deftly wielded by those far above them on the social and economic scale. They may not “feel” like a mob, but that's what they are.

What is my evidence for this? That is, for the notion that Trump hasn't sold out yet? It's not only the continual and accelerating hostility and resistance from all quarters, but the fact that they all say the same things about the same things at the same time. This gives the game away. It's as if they get up every morning, check their phone messages or the Internet, and receive their marching orders – figuratively if not literally. And along with those marching orders are provided “talking points”. This is why the media are all of one mind, and their mind is a perfect match for the mind of the Democrats in Congress, and a perfect match for the minds of the “entertainment” industry (which has ceased to be about entertainment, but is now only about propaganda). So there is a central control unit... a single source. How can it be otherwise? Surely that many influential people can't have the exact same thought at the same time, and use the exact same words to express it; that would be way too much of a coincidence. What this says is that they're all working for the same master – they are all clones, basically... serfs, slaves, parrots. And shameless as well! There might have been a time when they were willing and able to think for themselves, but that time is long past. Now they are taking orders from a single master in as mindless a way as the mobs who threaten, intimidate, and terrorize the rest of the citizenry in any totalitarian society – Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, and Kim's North Korea all being good examples.

So if the sheer volume and ubiquity of hostility toward Trump is “good news” in this sense, what would be bad news? That would be if a truce were called – if the hostility ramped down, cooled off. If the Democrats decided to “cross the aisle”. If the “entertainment” media went back to entertainment rather than non-stop propaganda. If the media started to publish or broadcast some good news about the Trump administration and program. This is the point at which you will know that the fix is in – that Trump & Co. have capitulated... buckled under the pressure... decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em... etc.

So anyone who is seriously supportive of Trump and his program had better be on the lookout. The minute a soft spot in the opposition appears, that's a sign of trouble. Better for the hostility and rage to continue unabated right up to Inauguration Day 2021, if not beyond. Because that will indicate that Trump is not only a “different animal” but that he continues to be, and is not willing to compromise – that he remains defiant. For there is, truly, no compromising with the globalists. The old liberal/progressive/Democratic dream of turning the U.S. into a people's republic is a thing of the past now. At this point the best the U.S. can hope for is to become a citizen of the world – to assume the posture of a beached whale, and to have its resources divided and scattered among the countless warring and contending tribes that inhabit the globe. It's only fair, after all, since we are ultimately the source of all their troubles and complaints (or at least that's what Bill Clinton and Obama always claimed). America needs to be liquidated – and who (or what) better to do that than the EU, George Soros, and the rest of the globalist cartel. We need to be put in our place – not necessarily through war or combat (although Vietnam certainly planted the seed for this whole idea) but through gradual erosion, through instruments such as open borders, “free trade”, political correctness on a global scale, unilateral actions regarding “climate change”, “foreign aid”, and so on. Uncle Sam has played Uncle Sucker for long enough – it is now time for the coup de grace.

Don't get me wrong – I've preached against “American exceptionalism” and the American Empire any number of times, and against this notion that our moral superiority gives us not only the right, but also the obligation, to be the world's policeman. I know that there are many varieties of colonialism that are much less obvious than in the old days, when European colonial empires spanned the globe. Empires in our time are economically-based, and rely on a technological and informational superstructure. You don't need planes, drones, bombs, warships, and troops to create and maintain an empire any longer – although we still seem to be wedded to this idea because... well, basically, it's more traditional, more masculine, and, doggone it, more fun. But anybody can see that nerdballs like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg wield way more power than any fleet or army ever did. So there has to be a wedding – or at least a rapprochement -- between the old ways and the new ways. Fair enough – empires, and the ways of empire, evolve just as weaponry and technology do. If Facebook is the Bofors gun of our time, more power to it – but it doesn't make it any more benign, or the empire it helps build any more of a boon for humanity. The new collectivism doesn't involve things as crude and obvious as driving the peasantry off family family farms and into factories and communes, but requires the creation of a uniform, globalist mind – a point of view characterized by amnesia when it comes to the ancient values (family, land, ethnicity, faith) and a sense of “belonging” to the world at large. And the word “belonging” is appropriate, since we are becoming the property of the globalists – a world-wide serfdom trapped in a new class structure with the technocrats at the top. It is, truly, “the revenge of the nerds” -- but is it sustainable when all of the connective tissue that harmonizes with human nature is being systematically cut away? There are signs of rebellion everywhere – newly-rediscovered nationalism and patriotism, as well as ethnic pride, not only in Europe and the U.S. but elsewhere in the world as well. Perhaps the struggle has just begun.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Trump -- The Legend Continues

I'm getting to an age that, when I look out across the political landscape, I can pretty much, in most cases, say (or think), “Oh yeah, I've seen that before” -- or “Here we go again” -- or “What else is new?” or some such. There is no more fruitful source of deja vu than politics, unless it's fashions in clothing, which predictably recycle like clockwork every few years or decades. When I talk to younger people about current events, and find them puzzled/disoriented/confused, and mainly upset, I can always go back to the Sixties as my baseline of reference for real political strife – real alienation, real violence, real generational and cultural gaps, and so forth. There was a civil war going on back then, folks, let's face it. You can call it a “cultural revolution” if you like, but in any case it was a high water mark in the age-old story of rebellious youth vs. the Establishment. Nothing that's happened since, and nothing that's happening now, even comes close, I will say – in a manner that is meant to assure whomever I'm speaking to that all is not lost, and the world is not coming to an end. In other words, there is nothing new under the Sun, as far as I'm aware... and as far as my personal experience goes.

And yet here we are in the Age/Era/Season of Trump, and it seems like genuinely new things are happening – both quantitatively and qualitatively. And for a long time, it seemed a puzzlement... but now I'm starting to understand, or at least I think that I am. But before I explain, let's go over a few salient points.

Yes, Trump is a character – and a bit of a loose cannon. He has unconventional hair and a perpetual tan, he talks like a New Yorker, and not an especially high-class one either. He's in constant fighting mode, and has yet to learn what's worth fighting over and what should simply be ignored. (In this, he shows his marked difference from the average politician, who seems to have remarkably thick skin. Or, at least, they can freely choose what to get offended about, and not be constant victims of what's in the morning paper or on TV or the Internet.) So all of these things scream “outsider”, and Trump accepts that label and is justly proud of it. Compared to previous “outsiders” who have reached the very peak of American politics, he's way more of one than, say, Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan. They had at least attended the school of political hard knocks for a season – although in Carter's case, it's hard to see what good it did. No, in Trump's case it's more like he got selected at random from William F. Buckley's proverbial phone book. And he's not even a typical businessman or a typical billionaire; he's apparently atypical and an outlier in pretty much every respect. In fact, his hair may be the most normal thing about him.

And, although not an ideological conservative, his program, when you get right down to it, contains goals which, up until recently, would have been considered common sense, and not all that unrealistic. But he is no absolutist, and his proposals to date seem ripe for negotiation, except that he has taken on the burden of making certain campaign promises which he actually intends to keep (again, in a blatantly non-politician way), so he's going to be in hot water with those who voted for him if he starts getting too squishy. The “deplorables” who voted for him tend to see things in a black-and-white way, and they are notoriously impatient with business as usual in Washington, which is all about wheeling and dealing, compromise, and cutting one's losses – and mostly seeing to it that the ruling elite remain so, for their exclusive fun and profit.

Plus, he has picked for his administration a group of quite level-headed and experienced individuals, which is atypical in that it defies the usual custom of picking donors, supporters, cronies, and hacks. (Have you ever wondered what some of these political types would do if they weren't working for the government? One answer is that, once out of office, they tend to disappear, although a good many transition smoothly into lobbying organizations or NGOs. Some of then hang around Washington in hopes that they will eventually be again called upon to donate their skills and knowledge – such as they are – to a new administration.)

In contrast, Trump's people actually seem to want to get things done, and they have the knowledge base and skills to do it – or, at the very least, have demonstrated that they are fast learners. They enter the fray as high achievers in other areas (military, business, etc.), which is another point of contrast with the career politician, who is basically a one-trick pony, the trick being "getting elected to office". In this, they are, again, superior to pretty much any group of high-level political appointees I can recall over the past 50 years or so (unless you want to consider JFK's “best and brightest” successful for getting us into a war in Vietnam, or Henry Kissinger successful for aggravating the situation in Southeast Asia, among many other lousy ideas). (Please note that Kissinger was, and continues to be, the ultimate globalist.)

But none of this apparent reasonableness and moderation impresses the opposition, because since Election Day they've been in the streets, and on the airwaves and the Internet, screaming and turning purple, and having psychotic breakdowns right in plain sight, over the “fact” that Trump is not just another Hitler, but that he is Hitler, reincarnated in some mysterious way. And if he is Hitler, as they all seem to believe, the glory days of the Nuremberg rallies are long gone, and he will never enjoy being chauffeured victorious through the streets of Prague and Warsaw. No – he is already hiding deep in an underground bunker in the middle of Berlin, shaking in fear every time he hears the muffled thud of bombs going off overhead. His movie is almost over; he's in the last scene, like Edward G. Robinson in “Little Caesar”. (“Is this the end of The Donald?”) And his followers are paralyzed with fear, and busy plotting ways to save their skins once the administration collapses (any room on a slow boat to Argentina?).

This is what passes for conventional wisdom among the media and commentariat these days. Trump is on the ropes, he's washed up, and his people are scattering like the proverbial rats from a sinking ship. And of course, what little in the way of governing they manage to eke out is quickly snuffed, neutralized, and canceled by the efforts of the embedded bureaucracy (now called “the Deep State”) which consists entirely of holdovers from the previous administration who, for some mysterious reason, cannot be removed because, among other things, they can't even be found. (This is also, please note, a departure from politics as usual, where the long knives come out the day after Inauguration Day, and someone from the new administration shows up with “a little list” like the guy in “The Mikado”.)

Not only that, but Trump has an ex-president living just up the street, sharing an upscale house with his most loyal staff members, and they are in charge not only of the Deep State but of a shadow cabinet, which is ready to take back the reins of power as soon as the pretender can be ejected from his throne. And not only that, but – most dangerous of all – he has the entire national security/intelligence apparatus arrayed against him, and how is he supposed to conduct foreign policy (including military operations) if they won't tell him anything he needs to know, or if what they do tell him is designed to deceive, misdirect, and sabotage? Any notion that the intel community, along with the military, is on the conservative side of things has now been proven quite wrong. If it were ever true, is no longer is. And it's no real surprise, since, like anyone else in the system, they are attracted to power and tend to gravitate toward it and toward politicians who are willing to grant it. And in this, I might add, both parties are guilty of giving away too much power, but the consistently totalitarian tone of Democrat policies and programs gives them an edge, and a greater claim on the loyalty of the intel types. What better purpose for a world-wide intelligence apparatus combined with a vast mercenary army than to establish and maintain a one-world government?

So what we have here is, basically, an interregnum – a person who is president, at least for the time being, and who is nominally in charge, but who, in fact, has no power and who is opposed by virtually everyone in Washington and in the media, the Internet, Hollywood, etc. In other words, everyone hates him except the people who voted for him, and I suspect that some of them are starting to have their doubts. So he is flailing, and everyone around him is flailing, and it's hard to see how they can do otherwise. At least – once again – this is the conventional wisdom. But there are data to back it up, and I have to note that the only thing Trump has managed to do in a decisive way so far is toss a few dozen cruise missiles at Syria, for the simple reason that the only area of government where the mythical Congressional “checks and balances” do not apply is in the area of starting and perpetuating wars.

Strange, isn't it? Congress supposedly has the sole power to declare war, but whoever came up with that phraseology forgot that you can make war without declaring it. This modern spin on things started with Korea, and continued with Vietnam, and now here we are with the perpetual, endless “War on Terror”. (And don't bother mentioning any of these pathetic “war powers acts” by Congress when they occasionally regret their cowardice. The attitude of whoever is president at the time is typically akin to Stalin's -- “How many divisions does Congress have?”)

But if Trump doesn't have any power aside from this, where does the power lie these days? With the Republicans, who, despite their majorities in both the Senate and the House, never seem to know what to do with power, and who, on any given day, would probably really rather they didn't have any? No – the power all lies with the minority, so-called – with the likes of Schumer, Pelosi, Franken, and Feinstein. They're still pulling all the levers, and they can because they are, in effect, the chief operatives of the Deep State, with Obama at the top and Hillary Clinton as empress-in-waiting. (And by the way, if you don't think Hillary is planning a comeback long before 2020 rolls around, think again. She can spot a weakness the way a vulture can spot an animal that is on its last legs.) Apparently this cabal even has the power to shut down the government, although they are in the minority in both houses of Congress – thus another unfathomable mystery when it comes to the American system.  When the Democrats are in charge, they're in charge.  And when they aren't in charge, they're still in charge.  Figure that one out if you will.  

But wait – I said at the beginning that some things had developed that were truly new and unprecedented. But isn't all of the above fairly typical, and differing primarily in degree from prior episodes? There are always political holdovers throughout the bureaucracy. The media always take sides, and prefer one president over another and one party over another; the same holds true of the academic community, Hollywood, the Internet, etc. And as far as street demonstrations go, nothing these days can hold a candle to the action back during the war in Vietnam. Hasn't every presidential administration from, say, LBJ on, had to deal with non-stop opposition from the first day to the last? There are no longer any good losers in Washington, even though there are occasionally good winners.

The answer, of course, is yes, it's all happened before – but that's not where the difference lies. One difference is in the sheer magnitude of the opposition – the fact that it is not only non-stop, but is at a fever pitch day in and day out, with no let-up. This hostility informs and infects virtually every story that emanates from the mainstream media; it's headline news each and every day. And as far as academics, Hollywood, and the Internet are concerned, I don't think even LBJ had to deal with the white-hot psychotic hatred from all quarters that Trump (and his family, note) have to deal with.  At least he could wave the Civil Rights Act in front of them, and dazzle them enough to make them temporarily forget the debacle in Vietnam.  

So yes, it's a matter of degree, but it's also a matter of kind, or of content. When I described the Trump administration and its policies above, I was not, it seems to me, describing anything that could ever set off this level of hostility and violence (both verbal and physical, including the threat of physical) . Most of these policies, if they had come from some other – any other – administration, of either party, might have set off some controversy and opposition, but nothing like what we're seeing here. And when I go back and look at Trump's fabled first news conference on Jan. 11, and his Mardi Gras speech to Congress, and pretty much any public pronouncements that have emanated from the White House since, I have to keep asking, why the outrage? Why the hatred?

One clue is that, when you listen to, or read, the protests, no matter the source, you will find that the verbal content has very little to do with the actual programs or goals of the administration. The subject matter may be the same in some cases, but the sheer paranoia and wild exaggeration, fantasy, delusion, and – yes – fake news makes that all beside the point. In other words, the protests are not about what is actually taking place, or what is intended, but about fantasies – an army of straw men. The advantage, if I can call it that, is that if delusion and fantasy are what is feeding into all of this, there is no satisfying it. Nothing can be done to make it “OK”, because there are no objective criteria; Trump has to go – period, full stop. Trump has become the ultimate scapegoat for all that is wrong in America, a mere three months into his administration – some kind of record, if records of this sort were being kept.

So if it's not about the program per se, or Trump's being an outsider per se, what is it about? Where does all this negative energy come form? What is its source of fuel? At least in the Sixties, it was easy to see what people were protesting about, and it was real. The government was doing genuinely terrible things both here and overseas, and so the protests made sense; it would have been shameful if there had not been widespread protests. But now there's this mismatch, both in quantitative terms (magnitude, volume, violence) and in qualitative terms (the mismatch described above). So what sustains it?

There's clearly much more going on here than most people think – and it's not just about the “Deep State”. (And I'm sorry that term has been expropriated to describe something as temporary and dull as Obama holdovers in the bureaucracy. I liked it better when it was another word for the Regime, AKA “the people who are really in charge”, which has nothing to do with civil servants, political appointees, or even presidents. Now we'll have to adopt another term – like “Deeper State”, the way Trump came up with “very fake news”.)

I said that Trump was an outsider, but he's clearly more than that. I've already presented my theory about incoming presidents, how they get “the talk” from representatives of the Regime, at some point between the oath and the Inaugural Ball, that basically lays out, in no uncertain terms, what their options are and what they had better not fool with – or if they do, it will be at their peril. What's happening right now is evidence that Trump did, in fact, get “the talk” at some point, but basically told whoever was delivering the message to stick it where the sun don't shine, and to go back and tell whoever sent them to do the same thing. So he declared war, and now he's at war; how could it be otherwise?

Now, what is the main agenda of the Regime? All evidence is that it's pretty much synonymous with what's called globalism – and guess what, Trump is the first president who has ever explicitly come out against globalism as not being in the best interests of the American people. I suppose the last true presidential anti-globalist, if there had even been such a concept back then, could be said to be Calvin Coolidge. Every president since then has been, to some degree, a globalist, either explicitly or implicitly. A turning point – a tectonic shift – came when the U.S. ceased to be the obvious and inevitable leader of the globalist movement, and I would put that, at the latest, at the time of our defeat in Vietnam. Someone at that point decided that globalism was too important a project to be left in the hands of the stumbling, bumbling U.S. Since then, foreign policy (ours and everyone else's) has been in the hands of an anti-nationalist, globalist elite, most likely centered in Europe, but not synonymous with the EU by any means. They issue orders, and we follow; it's as simple as that. Everything else in foreign policy and in military activity is noise level.

So if this is Job One of the Regime, and they run into a president who is unwilling to cooperate, what do you think is going to happen? They will call all of their resources into play, and this will include (1) already-brainwashed (thanks to the public, i.e. government, schools) college and university students (the “snowflakes” being the most readily manipulated, and no more than cannon fodder to whoever is running the show); (2) Hollywood, which has been signed on to globalism for nearly as long as it has existed; (3) the mainstream media, ditto; (4) liberals/Democrats/Progressives, ditto; and (5) mainstream Republicans, who have been globalists starting at least with Eisenhower's administration. (Who talked about a “new world order”? A Republican! I doubt that Trump has much use for that idea.)

Now let's review. Who is wedded and dedicated to globalism, along with all of its ancillary features like anti-nationalism, world government, open borders, economic leveling, social leveling, socialized medicine, government educational monopolies, totalitarianism of all sorts (especially with regard to information and law enforcement), and “diversity” (which is a hoax and an actual stalking horse for total conformity)? And who is completely energized and going completely mental about Trump? The answer: The same people. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with Trump as a person, or with any of his associates, or his administration, or its programs, policies, and plans – with the exception of any that come into conflict with the globalist agenda (and let's admit that the attack on Syria may have been a way of walking back, to some extent, Trump's prior “reckless” statements in opposition to globalism).

The apparently missing link is between the Regime and the vast army of protesters, demonstrators, mass hysterics, and everyone else who is on the verge (or past it) of a nervous breakdown about Trump. After all, the Regime is “up there”, and only comes out in public for occasional confabs like Davos. But like any military organization, it has a structure, and a hierarchy, and resources, and – most important of all – ways in which orders get efficiently passed down from the top to the foot soldiers. How else do these mobs of protesters appear out of thin air every time there's a person, or a meeting, or some other event that is considered worthy of protest? (If only SEAL Team Six were that responsive!) Why do all mainstream media outlets parrot the same “talking points” at the same time, using the exact same words and phrases? Why do the Hollywood, entertainment, and Internet types erupt pretty much simultaneously whenever the most minute issue or event attracts their attention? Clearly there is a single source of orders, instructions, guidance – call it what you will. The opposition can no longer be described as an aggregate of individuals (assuming it ever could); it is now behaving like a single organism – a great steaming blob with millions of hands, eyes, and voices, like something out of a horror movie.

And there also has to be a source of funding; start with communications staff, and transportation to and from the demonstration du jour. And let's not overlook the fact that, although many of the demonstrators are activists and amateurs (i.e. unpaid) there is invariably a core group of professionals – the ones dressed all in black, with face masks. They're not there for their health; they're there because they're paid to be there. And where do these funds come from? It's not because the protesters hand around foam cups to collect contributions. The Regime includes any number of extremely wealthy individuals who are very good at scattering resources where they will do the most good.

And this is not to say that many of the street protesters, and many of the hooters and hollerers in the media, Hollywood, etc. aren't sincere in their delusions. The mistake they're making is in assuming that they are acting independently and spontaneously, whereas the truth is that they're being manipulated and exploited. They are – to use an overworked term – the “useful idiots” of our time, the middle-class reincarnation of the lumpen proletariat of a bygone era.

Plus, please note that among the most intensive areas of operation of the Regime are in foreign intelligence (CIA, NSA) and immigration – both foreign policy matters. When it comes to strictly domestic matters, they could not care less, although issues such as Obamacare are useful in that they tend to mobilize the opposition.

It all makes perfect sense, when you think about it – and it's not even all that controversial. We know that globalism has been a trend going back to Wilson (for us) and the Bolsheviks (for the USSR). We know that the trend was accelerated during FDR's administration, which segued into World War II, which segued into the U.N., which was the first successful (as opposed to the League of Nations) explicitly globalist organization. Every U.S. administration has signed on, and pretty much every European administration as well – at least since World War II. But then along came Brexit on their side of the Atlantic, and Trump on our side – and the parallels between the two have been drawn out in great detail, so I don't need to add anything. And Brexit was only the most obvious case of resurgent nationalism in Europe – you know, that oddball trend that the globalists invariably describe as “fascist”, and their leaders as “Hitlers” and “Nazis”. (Did Hitler really give nationalism a bad name for all time? It appears so, because there can be no other reason for it – or so the opposition says – than a burning desire to return to the glory days of the Third Reich. Fire up the ovens! Get the cattle cars back on the tracks! Der Trumpmeister is in charge, and can't wait to lead the master race to victory.)

So it appears that what was weird and mysterious has now become simple and almost obvious. There are many nuances and subtexts, of course – and many points of debate. And Trump is not the perfect anti-globalist by a long shot. (Ron Paul would have been.) His blind pursuit of the already-failed War on Islam, oops, I mean War on Terror neatly fits into the globalist agenda. For one thing, it requires massive resources in order to support perpetual war, which in turn impoverishes the economy in other areas and makes people more dependent on government, which makes government more powerful and accelerates the trend toward totalitarianism. Mission accomplished! For another thing, it makes the Euro-American-Israeli Regime more cohesive (despite minor annoyances like Brexit) by defining a perpetual enemy – the ultimate “Other” -- namely, Islam/Terror. So we're off to war to defeat a religion and a feeling – wow, it makes most other wars seem downright sane and just.

But if the American Empire – its care and feeding – is symbiotic with globalism, resurgent nationalism, especially of the economic and cultural sort, is not. And in fact, the American Empire is not American at all, but is a subset of the globalist military empire, except that we have been duped into doing all of the heavy lifting (and most of the dying). It's one thing to have a dull-witted servant at one's beck and call, but when that servant starts to get funny ideas about national pride and autonomy, it's time to put him in his place.

And by the way, speaking of brainwashing – this newfound reverence for Islam and Muslims amazes me. It was not that long ago that, as far as nearly all Americans were concerned, Muslims, and especially Arabs, were the lowest of the low... the scum of the earth, basically. The notion of them some day having any “rights”, or claims, would have been considered absurd – and by no one more than the same college/university students (or the same types, anyway) who are now falling all over themselves to provide what amounts to affirmative action for Muslims. This is nothing more than an instance of brainwashing – and you can bet that if the people in charge decided to turn their hordes of flying monkeys back into haters of Muslims, they could do it in no time. Why is it so easy? Because there are no principles involved, the same way “principles” of any sort are no longer part of the curriculum in nearly every institution of “higher education”. If everything is political, and everything is arbitrary, anything can be changed at the drop of a hat for any reason, or for no reason. (One has only to recall that the USSR turned on a dime when the glory days of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact ended abruptly with the Nazi invasion of Russia.) This is one of the great blessings of the value-free culture that the globalists, among others, have concocted for us over the years – with the full cooperation of all the usual suspects.

I would say that, as a general rule, the more people you see freaking out about something that is just in their fevered imagination, and the more severe the freak-out, the more likely you are to be seeing the product of brainwashing. The current round of demonstrations reminds me of nothing more than what goes on all the time in North Korea, or what went on in China during the Cultural Revolution. And the people involved, far from having any steadfast principles, are infinitely malleable; this is what makes them so useful to the controllers. Political correctness is, by definition, political... and mob rule is the end result of the devolution of a political system into nothing but politics. Political processes are supposed to serve a greater good – but when politics is the only good, it becomes a destructive force like no other.

It's small consolation, I guess, but one thing about mob rule that people tend to forget is that the mob can turn on its controllers; it has happened before, any number of times in history. Today's demagogue, being carried on the shoulders of the adoring masses, can tomorrow be on the way to the gallows. (Just ask Georges Danton.) And revolutions do have a way of cannibalizing themselves. Occasionally justice will out – or at least karma will set in. But there has to be a lot of discomfort in the meantime.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The New Proletariat

Class consciousness – class warfare – the mainstays of Marxism, but also essential to the teachings and activities of American liberalism, are a foundational element of the Democratic Party. There was a class system in colonial America, which naturally resembled that in Europe, although the boundaries were, partly by necessity, much less rigid and more fluid (for one thing, no hereditary titles). There was never an official American royalty, but there were certainly landowners and grant-holders, merchants, craftsmen, peasants, laborers, and, yes, slaves. This class system, so natural to any human society, did not seem to overly offend anyone at the time, because, after all, it was what they were used to. It was the way the world worked, wasn't it? And anything else was unimaginable. (We tend to forget how radically different our world view is from that of our colonial ancestors.) And what probably helped was that all were united, more or less, against the offenses being committed by the mother country, i.e. Britain, and its king. But then came the founding documents, with “all men are created equal”, and so forth – implying that class was an illusion, or an unfortunate accident, and that it might soon be done away with (or so was the fond hope). But the American Revolution was a political one, not an economic one. Landowners remained landowners, merchants remained merchants, peasants remained peasants, and slaves remained slaves – at least for a time. Before long, Marxism had taken hold in Europe, and real political revolutions had occurred (1848 being a critical year) – plus the Civil War brought out class divisions (in both North and South) in sharp relief. (Basically, the North's upper classes sent the North's lower classes out to defeat the South's lower classes and thus to render the South's upper classes powerless and bankrupt). So class consciousness, while it is always with us, grew from a taken-for-granted state of affairs into a political cause, and we had, later in the 19th Century and into the 20th, a rise in both immigration and anarchy – not a coincidence, since many of the immigrants were from areas where the new consciousness had taken hold, particularly the animus against hereditary rule – kings, czars, and emperors. (The immigrants came here in part because things were moving too slowly back home – and the minute they got off the boat, they started to agitate for the political, social, and economic changes here that they had longed for in their places of origin. And let's admit, their optimism was well-founded, at least up to a point. Where Old Europe had failed, America became the great testing ground; the American Experiment was taken over from the WASPs by the teeming masses from Eastern and Southern Europe. But this effort only succeeded up to a point; we became, for all intents and purposes, socialistic, but balked at becoming a people's republic, a failing which continues to irritate the hard left to this day.) Plus, we had the rise of Progressivism, not the very first manifestation of populism (forget not Andrew Jackson) but one with many more long-term consequences. Then came the Russian revolution, and yesterday's anarchists became, almost overnight, today's totalitarians – and at this late date, we can say, with confidence, “'twas ever thus”. Put populism and Bolshevism into a stew pot, stir for a while, and you have – ta-da! -- the New Deal, which, in most any way that counts, we are still living with.

So the question is not – nor was it ever -- “do we, or do we not, have, or want to have, a society defined by class?” Every society is, to some extent, defined by class – by social status, hierarchy, pecking order, what have you. Any honest anthropologist will admit this. It's such a universal phenomenon that it might almost be described as “natural”, or “all too human”, or even “instinctive”, except that it's the very people who are always longing for a “return to nature” who are the most opposed to the idea. And collectivist/totalitarian propaganda reflects this. Who carries on the most about “a classless society”? The very people whose ideal social structure is a ruling political class, or nomenklatura, supported by the military, and a mass of faceless serfs (peasants and workers) on the bottom, with a conspicuously missing middle class. This is the way it always turns out with communism – no exceptions! The only thing that seems to stand in the way is the existing middle class, unless you're talking about a society that is so primitive that it hasn't yet developed one – and when it is eliminated or suppressed things tend to deteriorate, particularly in the economic sector, and no one can figure out why. After all, the “bourgeoisie” are dull, boring, conventional, rigid, wed to tradition, and, basically, politically hopeless – and the answer is to declare them superficial and unnecessary, and then to either kill them off or impoverish them to the point where they are no longer distinguishable from the proles. And yet, the occasional honest economist will admit that, in a proper economic system that is likely to succeed, the middle class is a needed element; it is, in effect, a go-between, connective tissue between rulers and serfs. Imagine even a small town with a mayor and village council, and everyone else either a subsistence farmer or factory worker. What's wrong with this picture, and why do we never see it borne out in real life?

But of course, economic “success” is a matter of definition, and in our time it's clear that it takes a remote back seat to things like “equality”, “fairness”, and “diversity” -- that it's better to fail as an economic system than to commit the sin of “unfairness”. (This has been an explicit meme throughout the Obama administration, for example.) And yet, paradoxically, the more government tries to remedy the many offenses of the traditional class system, the more it's forced to create a new class system whose job it is to enforce sanctions against the old class system. This does not eliminate class, or hierarchy, or anything of the kind; it only substitutes new types of people at the various levels. So under the old American system, you might have had bankers and industrialists at the top, then politicians at the next level to serve their interests, then merchants, craftsmen, farmers, laborers, and so on. Under the more recent American system, you have politicians at the top, then the bankers and industrialists who must defer to the “people's representatives” and conform to a heavy burden of regulations, then merchants, craftsmen, farmers, laborers – with the bottom layer populated not by people suffering the abject poverty of the Third World because they are supported by the state. But this is only in theory, understand, because in reality the bankers and industrialists are still in charge, but cannot show their colors in as blatant a way as they did back in the “robber baron” era. Politicians can still be bought and sold (and amazingly cheaply at that), but the money spends more time under the table than on top of it. And the ones who suffer the most are the ones caught in the middle – the storied bourgeoisie, or middle class, whose resources and political power are eroding day by day. And much of their suffering is not in terms of their financial straits per se, but in the total lack of respect they receive from the other sectors of society. They are, by and large, sufficiently fed, clothed, and sheltered, but at the same time treated as lepers by the dominant culture.

Any economic distortions caused by big government will result in winners and losers, and the losers of our time are the middle class. Call them the people who earn enough to be taxed, but don't earn enough to avoid taxes, and who earn enough to miss out on entitlements. They are, in a sense, the only self-supporting class we have, and are thus ripe for the picking. Is it any wonder that they have come around to the notion that no one is on their side – and they they flocked to Donald Trump, who at least said that he was, although it remains to be seen how this plays out.

But – you might say – if the middle class is an essential element of an economically successful society, why would those in charge want to eliminate it – or at least bleed it dry? Call it short-sightedness, ignorance of economics and history, or just plain greed, but it's clear they just don't care, any more than the guy who cut down the last tree on Easter Island cared. (This is from “Collapse” by Jared Diamond.) Rare is the man, even at the very pinnacle of world power, who looks beyond his own life span. “Apres moi, le deluge.” (This is one of the many reasons why concentration of wealth and power is bad. The people who wind up with it are still just as human as any of the rest of us.) And this is just on the material side; you also have the theorists, who still subscribe to the Marxian orthodoxy that the middle class is an artifact of an intrinsically unfair and unjust system, and that only by eliminating it can we make any progress toward universal liberation.

I've been saying for quite a while that the American middle class has a very large target painted on its back. The liberal/Democratic agenda is to hobble, humble, and ultimately eliminate the middle class from the American scene, and they are quite open about it. The Republicans are not in quite such a hurry, but they aren't doing anything to reverse the trend either (although one wonders where their support is going to come from if the largest part of their base vanishes – there just aren't enough country-club types to so the job). It seems like every time a Republican is elected president, the middle class breathes a sigh of relief – they have a new lease on life, and have been spared from the ministrations of the executioner for a while longer. But then along comes a Democrat, and the ax is raised higher. The rise and victory of Donald Trump has been called many things – and in a way it resembles the peasants' revolts of ages past, or the relatively more recent revolutions throughout Europe... or the “softer” revolts of populism, Progressivism, and the New Deal. Except for one thing – those were all revolts of the lower classes against their rulers and oppressors, and, occasionally, against the middle class as well, as in the cases of France, Russia, and China. (Revolts against oppressors are typically fueled by brutality, starvation, and hardship, whereas revolts against the bourgeoisie are typically fueled by Marxist theory, which is the reason they are a relatively new phenomenon, although it must be admitted that the French Revolution was pre-Marx.)

The Trump phenomenon is something truly new under the sun for America – a revolt of the middle class (as foreshadowed by the Tea Party). And as such, it's a revolt against both the ruling elite and against the dependent class, AKA tax receivers. But it's shocking, and this is the main reason why the establishment and the media (and Hollywood, and academics, etc.) are so thunderstruck. “Never before has a boy asked for more” said a character in “Oliver”. Likewise, never before has the middle class done anything even remotely resembling a rebellion – and yet here it is. It happened, and they won. Or, at least their chosen leader won.

See, here's the real problem. The middle class is not supposed to revolt. They're not supposed to complain. They're supposed to be polite, passive, submissive, and take whatever comes their way like bobo dolls, and come back asking for more. They're supposed to be complacent, satisfied, and if not politically apathetic then at least non-activist. These qualities have defined the middle class for generations, or even centuries. The idea of them actually standing up and defending themselves is... well, it goes against theory, for one thing (Marxist theory and all of its derivatives). And it's disruptive to the political economy, which demands some sort of balance between doers-to and the done-to. One might even say that as the lower classes have gained political power and social and cultural influence, society in general started looking around for a new out-group, and it found one.

It seems that the middle class has been unleashed, and this is what has everyone upset. That, and the growing realization that Trump is not a politician, and not an ideologue, and neither a conservative nor a liberal. This has turned the political world upside down, and violated rules we didn't even know were in place until someone violated them. Who knew that political etiquette was such a fine-tuned thing, and that so many people would be so sensitive to its breach? One might even say that Trump has united the country after all – or at least the “chattering class”. They are unanimous in their hostility and resistance to who and what he is, and everything he stands for – which is why this is, if only for a season, a time for those who have been voiceless for so long to find a voice. In fact, it may be the last chance for the middle class to have a voice. Judging by the reaction against Trump, if he runs again in 2020 and is defeated, it will be the signal for the long knives to come out, and the life expectancy of the middle class will suddenly be shortened, possibly to a drastic extent.

Another way of looking at this is that even with all the (largely non-violent) egalitarian uprisings of the past in this country, the middle class remained more or less intact, and it was not targeted per se. (This, again, in contrast to France, Russia, and China.) The lower classes wanted a piece of the pie, and the perception was that the ruling elite owned that pie and had to be forced to divvy it up a bit; the middle class was more or less ignored and left to its own devices. This time around, we have a relatively pacified lower class (yes, despite the war between them and the police – the new opiates of the people being sex, drugs, and rock and roll), and an unheard-of, up until the Tea Party phenomenon, rise in consciousness among the middle class. Another way of putting it is that the middle class is now less satisfied than the lower classes, despite any statistical advantages they may have in terms of income, quality of life, and so on. Satisfaction is, as we ought to know by now, not an absolute. No one compares their lot to some Platonic ideal. It is simply as follows: Satisfaction = Results minus Expectations. The middle class expected this society to be a certain way, and they are grossly disappointed and disillusioned. The lower classes, on the other hand, being more resigned and fatalistic, had expectations, but they were not as high (despite “Hope and Change”), and the contrast between those expectations and the reality are not as stark.

As I said, the election of 2016 and the Trump administration may be the last hope of the middle class. And by that I mean not all of the self-consciously middle class, but those who don't feel guilty about it, despite decades of shaming on the part of the media, the entertainment industry, and liberal politicians. There is another group which I will call the self-hating middle class, and that includes not only the so-called “snowflakes” -- the most obvious subgroup – but also what have been referred to as “guilt-ridden liberals”. They are the products of public schooling, for starters – but also of both public and private collages and universities, and, above all, of political correctness (which was amplified and fine-tuned by the likes of Hillary Clinton). And in a way, it's easy to understand. If we are really brought up to believe that “all men (or whoever) are created equal”, but at the same time shown, on a daily basis, overwhelming evidence of inequality of outcomes, that's going to cause some cognitive dissonance. And the reactions can vary widely. One might be simply that “those people” (the “underprivileged”) are lazy, apathetic, and uncooperative, and therefore deserve what they get (or don't get). Another reaction is that even if this is partly true, it's not their fault, because they are victims of “the system”, of institutional racism, prejudice, etc., and therefore deserve at least a helping hand; this is the affirmative action level of liberal social policy. But there are plenty more possibilities, including the radical notion that all differences in outcome, for whatever reason, are intrinsically unfair and have to be done away with – and this is the point at which the middle class finds itself on thin ice. What “right” do they have to have more – to have a higher standard of living – than anyone else? This is obviously a serious problem, and only liberals/progressives have the solution. So over time, the middle class is subjected to the death of a thousand cuts, and while the masochistic among them might welcome this (“snowflakes” again) the rest are puzzled, dismayed, and eventually become angry. And when it gets to the point where they have little enough left to lose that they might take a chance on revolt, if not outright revolution, we have phenomena like the election of 2016.

So are we seeing a true sea change in the political history of this country, or only a four-year stay of execution?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Doom at the Top

The Trump people are already feeling the effects. There is an easy assumption that all you have to do is get elected to the presidency, appoint key subordinates (including cabinet-level posts), get your agenda rolling, and extend your span of control far and wide throughout the bureaucracy and to the farthest corners of the earth, and a new day will dawn. But no – the people at the top generally prefer to stay at the top, where there is sunshine and fresh air, and innumerable “perks”, and either cannot or will not dig deep into the heart of the bureaucracy in order to detect and weed out hostile forces.

Compare it, let's say, to buying an old, rambling, broken-down house with countless rooms, wings, basements, attics, stairways, secret passages, closets, and hallways leading to nowhere – a veritable hive of inactivity, or of activity of the wrong kind. This would pretty much match what happens when a political appointee takes over a government department. And you can move into this house, title deed in hand, assuming that because you're there, your mere presence will suffice to turn things around and cure all the inherent ills. But this is not the case. It's the same house that it was the day before you (ill-advisedly, perhaps) bought it – and unless you hire an army of exterminators to get rid of all the rats, mice, cockroaches, parasites, hangers-on, and subversives, you might as well not even be there... and it will become a source of endless frustration and, ultimately, a tarnished reputation and political defeat.

I have first-hand experience with this. I've seen political appointees come and go. Some of them are just passing through – day trippers on the way to bigger and better things – and they seldom make waves or bother anyone down in the trenches. They are political animals, basically – ambitious, but superficial – lacking a theoretical base of any sort. Smiles and handshakes, and the occasional briefing, are their legal tender, and as long as they can be “large and in charge” they're happy. And this, by the way, holds true no matter which department or agency we're talking about; it's a universal syndrome. No part of the government, no matter how exalted, is immune from this problem or from these people.

And then there's the other kind. Two kinds, actually. The first is relatively benign – they show up with ideas, a program, an agenda, which may involve “draining the swamp” but is more likely to be limited to “good words” about efficiency, cost-effectiveness, eliminating waste, leadership, good management, serving the interests of “customers” and “stakeholders”, and contributing to the accomplishment of the stated mission of the department or agency (assuming that it has a stated mission, and that anyone can remember where they put it). These people can, on rare occasions, do a bit of good, but they are more likely to disrupt things by imposing management fads, leadership theories, and endless surveys and get-togethers for the rank and file (which, by the way, are typically viewed as good things because it's time off work). They may show up in person at some of these confabs, attempting to cajole, inspire, and set an example of good grooming and appropriate business attire. And they may feel that they're doing good, but eventually it dawns on them that nothing has changed – the bureaucracy is every bit as entrenched, rigid, ossified, and inefficient as it was the day they arrived. So they move on, with much waving of handkerchiefs -- “Well, he (she) wasn't bad, he (she) tried, but you know how it is.” -- with a faint smile and chuckle. Back to business as usual!

The second other kind is another matter entirely. It's the most dangerous, vicious animal in the jungle. I'm talking about the political appointee who somehow manages to wind up heading up a department or agency, but who, in fact, hates it and all that it stands for, and therefore hates all the people who work there. How these people get appointed has always been a mystery to me. Are they appointed on purpose, by a president or official who shares their outlook? I think more often it's a matter of their expressing an “interest” in whatever it is – the mission – and also having some sort of alleged “expertise” or at least experience in the area in question. (It would be like a wolf expressing an “interest” in the Department of Sheep.) But their true agenda comes into full bloom on Day One, and it's as if they're wreaking vengeance on everyone for some real or imagined slight or offense. (Think of the stereotypical 90-pound weakling suddenly being put in charge of an agency full of all of the bullies who have ever kicked sand in his face.) And of course you can count on them to bring along an army of, basically, goons and hit-men (hit-women) to aid in the pursuit. (These latter are the true mercenaries and sociopaths in the system. They are allowed to run amok for a time, and when they have wreaked a suitable level of destruction they move on to other pursuits, either elsewhere in the system or in the private sector, leaving scorched earth and a battlefield strewn with bodies in their wake.)

But does the bureaucracy take whatever these people dish out lying down? Not a bit of it. They may shrink from open defiance, but they do have ways of coping – many of which resemble the behavior of the slaves of old, who would bow, scrape, and flash smiles at their master while at the same time plotting ways to thwart his every wish and, in extreme cases, exterminate him. And believe me, the meek and lowly are tuned in to the foibles and weaknesses of their oppressors, and do not hesitate to blow whistles or drop dimes when the time is ripe. The slightest sign of vulnerability is a signal for the peasant revolt to begin.

So what this adds up to is that a political appointee who is magically placed at the top of a very large pyramid may have good intentions, evil intentions, or see it as a mere stepping stone, but in all cases the lowly serfs down in the trenches will go about their business as if he (she) doesn't exist – which, on any given day and for all intents and purposes, they don't. And yet it's these people – the army of faceless serfs – that has a lot more to do with the operations of the organization, and its success or failure, than the member of the privileged elite at the top of the totem pole. They are masters in the art of passive-aggressiveness, for one thing – throwing the occasional monkey wrench into the works so that things go somewhat wrong, but no one can be singled out for blame. They are studied practitioners of the great slowdown, or of working to the letter – doing the minimum (or even less, but appearing to do the minimum) – not enough to earn a bad rating or reprimand, but enough to make the operation at least temporarily grind to a halt.

And the motives for all of this are many and varied. There may be genuine resentment toward “that political type who doesn't know anything about what we do here”, or it may be a more global, baseline resentment toward a stifling system – one that offers job security in exchange for, basically, giving up all self-respect and ambition. (“Hope and change” would be the least appropriate motto possible for the government bureaucracy. I question whether it's even that realistic for political appointees. There are way too many people hanging around Washington looking for a plum job, and way too few plum jobs to go around, even though the bureaucracy expands each and every day.)

And so far I'm just talking about systemic issues. If you add political considerations to the mix, things get even worse. For starters, the bureaucracy is staffed with, guess what, human beings. And those human beings, as dull and listless as many of them appear to be, nonetheless have political leanings, loyalties, and points of view. And this tends to be correlated with the department or agency in question. Nor surprisingly, people who work for the Department of Labor, EPA, and HUD tend to be on the liberal/progressive/activist side, and people who work for defense and the intel agencies tend to be more conservative, although this is by no means guaranteed. (I'm sure you can come up with many other examples.) Now, when the political appointee who takes over at the top is from, let's say, Party A, and he (she) takes over a department or agency whose employees are more or less in synch with Party A's platform, things go along fairly well (with all of the caveats described above, of course). But let a Party A appointee take over a department or agency staffed with Party B types, and you can expect passive-aggressive behavior nigh unto gridlock. And it may not even be the case that the appointee is one of the “slash and burn” types – they may merely be trying to redirect the mission and efforts of the department more in the direction that their political convictions dictate. (In the case of defense, the Republicans will tend to favor weapons system acquisition, combat training, and readiness, while Democrats will tend to favor social experimentation and providing jobs.) (I note that actually winning wars has become passe as a motive for pretty much everyone.)

With all of the above in mind, the miracle is not that the bureaucracy is as wasteful and ineffective as it is, but that things aren't worse. Like the few righteous men in Sodom and Gomorrah, there is a modicum of competence and conscientiousness in the bureaucracy, particularly among those who are able to largely ignore politics, power struggles, infighting, and game-playing. (They must also be self-motivated and have self-esteem independent of their circumstances.) Any government agency has a few people in it who just want to get things done, and they are typically swimming against the current. Others may be more or less neutral -- “paper pushers” -- neither adding nor deleting value (other than encumbering a position and collecting a salary). And others may be “part of the problem” -- creatures of the system who have been conditioned (through a distorted array of rewards and punishments) to seek their own interests and undermine the interests of others -- to play a zero-sum game at best, and more often a negative-sum game.  I used to wonder if these “types” could have ever worked anywhere except in the government, where there is no profit motive, where it's nearly impossible to fire anyone, and where “process” typically takes precedence over “product”. One might as well ask if drug addicts are born that way; I think they are created, and that the system creates bureaucrats. They could have been some other way, but that fork in the road has receded into the mists of time, so here they are... and anyone who comes in at the top had better take them into account, because on any given day they are the ones who are really in charge.