Sunday, October 21, 2018

Democracy In Action


As reported in The Hill:
"Polling continually shows that voters rank climate far down on their list of priorities. And although energy prices are lower than they were a decade or so ago, few lawmakers want to be responsible for significant increases in consumers’ costs or job losses that could accompany new policies.

Democrats, who are now favored to seize the House, have crafted their campaign message around issues like increasing working-class wages and lowering the cost of prescription drugs. They think the kitchen-table agenda will resonate more effectively, particularly in conservative-leaning districts where voters tend to be wary of the economic impact of climate legislation."

The first problem of course is basing your strategy on "polling" rather than any ethical considerations. I'm sure that polls would show me that Hugo Chavez was a dictator and that Saddam Husein was stockpiling WMD's. And that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs. Whatever. I am constantly told that as an organizer I have to "meet people where they are at" which is code for clueless, center-right, and incoherent. And yes, many folks are filled with wacky information, but they are probably also feeling anxious and abused and eager to hear something that might sound half-way candid and honest. And radical. There is no way I can know "where they are at" through some momentary, cursory exchange, much less through some cleverly worded poll.

So the second problem is that if these Dems, who have been wringing their hands about the "huge deficit", do in fact "seize the House", they will cave on climate. As they themselves will tell you, the only way to shrink a deficit is to grow the economy and to do that you have to frack and drill and mine and burn as "a transition phase" to a greener capitalism. And with their higher wages, the working class will be in no hurry to see anyone throw a wrench in the gears. With cheaper prescription drugs, us old people will say "I guess the system has self-corrected itself" and with our savings we can take a cruise ship to Jamaica.

So it is finally time for Extinction Rebellion
. Let's fill the jails (as a first step anyway) backed with the explicit threat of more drastic action.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Red Baiting

"You ain't done nothin if you aint been called a Red."

Trump's speechwriter published an op-ed in USA Today claiming "the new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America's economy after Venezuela." I wish! This type of red-baiting is standard procedure here in the home of the brave and you can just imagine the angst of the DLC centrist Democrats. "Government run health care is just the beginning..." The Donald warns in the time-worn "slippery slope" argument. Starts with some free aspirin and next thing you know you're in a Siberian gulag.

It would be the perfect moment to break out the guillotine and say "Damn right rich fucks, and we're comin for you first" but don't expect anything but snivelling denials and finger pointing from the Dems. The Washington Post put their fact checkers on the case, proudly de-bunking The Donald's absurd argument, but then felt compelled to add their own vicious slander, claiming: "Venezuela is collapsing after years of near-dictatorship and squandering of oil wealth..." Because kicking a poor Latin American country when it is down is how we roll in the land of the free.

Don't be surprised if they initiate something truly original like The House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Legitimacy

" It's a Show You Know- Not Always Entertaining But a Show Even So"

Jurgen Habermas wrote a book called Legitimation Crisis (I lost my copy at Jackson Hot Springs of all places) that describes the current conjuncture pretty well. I was listening to pundit/ law expert Marsha Coyle on PBS NewsHour answer the question: would the Kavanaugh hearings affect the legitimacy of the Supreme Court? ( notice the capital letters!) She answered that the court required the appearance of non-partisanship...then caught herself and said the court needed to BE non-partisan to retain legitimacy. I found the distinction intriguing.

There are scores and scores of articles and op-eds out now asking whether our precious "democratic" institutions have been damaged (de-legitimized) by the hearings, with liberals being the most exercised and nervous. One of the more painful was an interview of Francis Fukuyama and some ex-Ambassador now with the Brookings Institute. The ex insisted history was full of such moments and not to get our panties in a bunch. Fukuyama felt the future hung on "new leadership" (get out and vote). Neither mentioned climate change. Even after watching a psycho clown win the highest office and the Congress getting a 4% approval rating and the Supreme Court openly pushing the corporate agenda, they continue to insist the King IS wearing clothes, the sacred institutions are infinitely resilient and we should all relax and watch the ritual enactment with total credulity. The appearance is enough. Act as if you believe and you will. Put on a black robe and become the wise, impartial Supreme Judge.

A new question arises when we read the new IPCC report on impending climate disaster ( 12 years till we hit 1.5degrees). Will the Kubuki theater provide enough entertainment value that people will ignore the waves lapping on their living room walls? Will those sacred institutions maintain their legitimacy even as Our Leaders stare paralyzed by stupidity at the approaching collapse ( like a cow staring at the image of a cattle guard painted on the highway).

Expect Elizabeth Warren and Corey Booker to call for an incremental carbon tax and research into carbon capture technology. Expect the new Ill Duce of Brazill to pull out of the Paris Accords. And what of the Left? Will the local DSA continue to invade the offices of Republicans even as coal trains continue to roll through town each day? How about national DSA? Will they grab this opportunity to make radical demands or stay with their hope of winning elections?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Big Word Little Man

Poor President Trump. He learns a new word, a big complicated sounding word like "sovereignty", and then when he tries it out in front of the International Important People they just laugh at him. Not nice! The man is obviously not over-burdened by complex thinking and the ridicule will only make him start a new trade war, or maybe nuclear war.

Coincidentally, I happen to be reading a book that starts with a discussion of Hobbes and Carl Schmitt and their thinking around the subjects of sovereignty and Leviathan, "that Mortall God". I suspect Trump learned the word from his new buddy John Bolton, who is tired of seeing poor America get pushed around by The New World Order. See, America doesn't want to be part of this new globalist world order, cause everybody keeps asking for money and they want to send us to the international criminal court for shit we didn't mean to do, and they want us to cut our emissions but that will cut into our economic growth so screw them. America first. We're sovereign so shut up and quit laughing.

Of course the supply chains of all the giant AMERICAN corporations will still be globalized, we still want all that cheap labor and the sweet crude from our newly liberated Iraq (you're welcome). And it's not like we are on board with all those dirty hippies and anarchists that were marching against globalization in Seattle. This is different. This is patriotic. Like Brexit. We are saving our unique, white, national character and you can laugh all you want at his ridiculous hair and weird syntax and tiny hands. He is the sovereign.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Russian Interference

What's this about Russian meddling in our elections? My God, are they saying a country would interfere in another countries internal affairs? Would try to subvert the sacred democratic process and right of self-determination? Unheard of! Outrageous! We know America would never engage in such a nefarious process because we respect sovereignty. They are saying even the damn Iranians are trying to influence us; after all we've done for them!

As for this whole business around Trump and the pay-offs, The Donald clearly miscalculated big time. Had he simply started bragging about the flings with Stormy Daniels and the Playboy bunny, his poll numbers would have skyrocketed, he could have saved some money and his lawyer wouldn't be facing jail time. Sad. He was thinking like a loser.

Speaking of Trump, though it has admittedly taken longer than I expected, I think his writers must be on strike or on Oxy or something. His antics are beginning to bore and the whole sordid Spectacle has lost its entertainment value, to a point where the mainstream commentariat is getting nervous. And it's only season 1! His producers underestimated the difficulty of keeping slapstick/ reality engaging for a more sophisticated audience. The thugs just seem like thugs, there's no pathology. At least with Nixon there was some psycho-drama.

So what's the difference between humans and lemmings? Lemmings just kill themselves; humans try to take every living thing down with them. Soon we will see Global Warming Tours; where the caring bourgeoisie can visit disappearing eco-systems, see soon to be extinct species, have pictures to show their grandkids.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

"A Shift in the Structure of Experience"

I have been intrigued for years by this opening line in a poem by Anne Winters titled The Displaced of Capital (2006) It rang true in a way I couldn't quite articulate till recently learning about the "gaming community", about live streaming your life and about Twitch, phenomena that is only new to me thanks to my almost absolute ignorance of popular culture. But awhile ago I watched my grandson sitting on the couch watching a person playing a video game on-line and I was fascinated by his total involvement in this once-removed, virtual experience. At the time I thought it was just incidental, an oddity. Now I am seeing it is the future. I'm just not sure how terrified I should be.


"Unnoticed, the narrative has altered...down to the very molecules in my brain, as I think I'm thinking..." Winters captures the sense of remove, the "shift" which is changing everything, though not in the way Naomi Klein imagined. How then does this new structure, this voyeuristic anti-experience propel new capital accumulation? Apparently video gaming is now a multi-billion industry not just through direct sales but through gaming competition, Leagues, play-offs, superstars with coaches and promoters and lucrative sponsorships, in other words the whole "sports" apparatus now applied to shooter games. In a bizarre twist, as these gaming celebrities are being watched their fans can "chat" on forums like Twitch so that they can feel part of an "inter-active" experience and community. They subscribe and send other financial support and I'm sure they are advertised to. So plenty of exchange.

Then there are the IRL (in real life) professional streamers who have an army of obsessed fans watching them perform life. Their existence, however banal or contrived, is the entertainment for which their fans pay. These fans also have a chat community so that they might be indirectly involved in this reality as such.

Obviously we are dealing with a complex socio-political phenomena, but I start with two questions; Is Capital actually overcoming a barrier through this strange form of production? And who are these people with enough time on their hands to do the observing? The barrier I feel Capital is attempting to push through is the anomie, disaffection and alienation, the estrangement and ennui inherent in modern life. "Drama equals views equals money" is the livestream mantra and the "patch", however temporary, for what Marshall Berman termed the "perpetual disintegration...ambiguity and anguish" felt by so many. This modern milieu is transferred into what Berardi characterized as a "psycho-pathologic economy of ironic detachment", hence the vicious online trolling, the "terrifying digital mobs", a Purple Army of lonely chatroom geeks haunting the Web day and night. A new "spectre" poised on the razor's edge of this new "structure of experience".

Monday, August 6, 2018

Today's Capitalism

In an Op Ed titled "What Are Capitalists Thinking?" Michael Tomasky demonstrates his own lack of thinking. Or maybe he is paid to produce these kinds of apologetics? A good centrist liberal, he appears worried that
"today's" capitalist class is getting greedy and will spoil it for everyone. He is nostalgic for yesterday's kinder, gentler capitalism: "Back in the days when our economy just grew and grew, we had a government and a capitalist class that invested in our people and their future..."he tells us in a fuzzy bedtime story.

Tomasky gets this kind of trite jingoistic drivel published in the NY Times because it is how centrist hegemony is preserved and the Times is invested in exactly this project. Because just think back; you remember the awesome capitalism of the post-war years- don't you?( you're white, straight, male, middle-class aren't you?)

But now a handful of bad apples is going to spoil it for everyone. Tomasky recites the usual litany of abuses; the inequality, the mean-spirited gouging,the reckless gambling, as he puts it; "the kind of capitalism we have today" is driving all these young folks toward SOCIALISM! and as a good liberal it is his duty to send out a warning.

Funny thing; when mentioning the ills of "today's capitalism" he fails to mention global warming. But I'm sure his greener "capitalism with a human face" would have a solution.