In the previous post of this series, I pointed out that Micah Xavier Johnson’s (MXJ) profile was remarkable for being unremarkable. In other words, there is nothing about him which would predict that he was going to shoot up a dozen cops on July 7. In my opinion, the plainness of his profile is by far the most problematic part of that shooting since it raises the possibility that many (potentially millions of) other people in USA are capable of doing similar things.
As many of you know, the difference between fringe rebellions and full-blown insurrections is that those who do the former are far more ideologically driven than the later- which is a fancy way of saying that insurrections are usually done by people who are average in every sense of that word. The profile of MXJ strongly suggests that what he did is better categorized as part of a wider decentralized insurrection than due to membership of fringe group or belief in a fringe ideology.
And this brings me to the use of a bomb disposal robot by the police to kill MXJ. In my opinion, it was a terribly stupid idea to kill him with an explosive carrying robot. My objections to that action by the police are based in long-term consequences of such an action- both intended and unintended.
It does not take a genius to figure out that use of such technology, primitive as it is, in the USA opens the door to its use in far more routine circumstances. What is going to stop local police departments, filled as they are with “people” who feel they are above the law, to start bombing people in far more mundane situations? What about bombing innocent people living in some house that was incorrectly identified as the hiding place of some “suspect”? What about due legal process? Well.. you get the picture. However, cops killing people in USA is by the far the least problematic aspect of using bomb carrying robots.
The far more problematic aspect of legitimizing and normalizing such behavior by cops is the potential for serious and unending blowback. Do you think that people who are being killed by bomb carrying robots will not use similar devices and methods against cops? I mean.. what is now going to stop some black or brown guy from using an improvised robot bomb, remote-controlled device or even the suicide vests you see in the middle-east against them or their families? Think that is too far-fetched? Look what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan after the USA unsuccessfully tried and failed to occupy them. Do you really think it cannot happen here? How much money would bet on there not being a similar blowback in the USA?
It is well-known that people in Iraq and Afghanistan had no worthwhile history of using IEDs and suicide bombs against “soft” targets (non-active combatants and supporting civilians) prior to the invasion and failed occupation of their countries by the USA. As many of you might also remember, all that changed very quickly after the invasions and explosive devices (IEDS and suicide bombs) eventually caused more casualties among american soldiers and their civilian supporters/ helpers than pretty much any other weapon system. Then, as now, the american response was to increase harassment and murder of potential terrorist sympathizers and try to find technological fixes. We all know how that worked out or not. In any case, both occupations ended in american defeat- despite massive technological and material superiority.
Will write about some other aspects of this incident (especially the tone-deaf response of politicians and cops) in future posts on this topic.
What do you think? Comments?
I am sure that all of you have seen, heard and read a lot about the July 7 shootings that killed a few cops in Dallas. It is also not exactly a secret that this shooting has a peculiar linkage to a couple of extensively documented extrajucidial killings of two black men (Alton Sterling, Philando Castile) in the previous two days. As some of you know, more than a few of my previous posts have been about how the hubris associated with unaccountable power (or perception thereof) ultimately creates the conditions for the rise of its nemesis.
It does not take a genius to see that, throughout human history, institutions and systems that seem invulnerable at their peak inevitably implode under the strain of their hubris- which principally manifests itself through unaccountability, overreach and inability to adjust to the changing reality. Even systems capable of incredible levels of repression and surveillance over decades fail- frequently because of doing exactly that. It is also no secret that the status quo in the USA (especially since 2008) has more in common with a slowly imploding system than one with any chance of a better future.
Having said that, I will now make some brief observations about the July 7 incident.
1] The shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, was a black veteran. It is noteworthy that he had no worthwhile criminal record and grew up in a middle-class family. There is also no evidence to suggest that he was particularly shy, angry or had an otherwise unusual personality. In other words, there is nothing to suggest that he was destined to do what he did on July 7.
2] Ideologically, he did not seem to be especially partisan or religious. He certainly had an interest in black nationalist groups and was not exactly enamored by the behavior of white people (especially cops) towards blacks. Then again.. it is hard to blame him for having a fairly negative view of white cops in USA. However none of this rises to a level which would foreshadow what he did on July 7.
3] It is now obvious (based on his journal entries) that he was planning to go on a shooting spree for some time. However, it is not clear why he chose to do it on July 7. While he was fairly systematic in planning the shooing, the motive is unclear. I mean, we know he hated white cops.. but why now? What was the final event which pushed him into action?
4] Unlike most spree shooters who prefer venues where people are unarmed, he chose to shoot up an area with hundreds of cops. Also he was pretty accurate for a spree shooter as only two protesters were hit by stray bullets and neither died. In contrast, he was able to shoot 12 cops killing 5 of them. Perhaps most interestingly, all 5 dead cops were white men- which is pretty impressive when you consider that particular police department has many non-white cops.
5] One of peculiarities of the July 7 shooting was his choice of weapons. Why would he use a SKS carbine as his main weapon? As some of you know, the SKS is an older, but rugged, semi-auto carbine chambered for the same cartridge (7.62×39mm) as the AK-47. This is especially odd since a person who was in the US army would be more familiar with using an AR-15 derived semi-auto carbine.
6] He knew how to milk the fear of potential IEDs to cause maximal disruption and fear among his opponents. I mean.. think about it- one determined guy with a SKS, handgun and basic bullet-proof jacket was able to make hundreds of armed cops take shelter behind cars, garbage cans and pretty much anything they could find. Even if you do not agree with his actions- that is a pretty impressive result.
I will write about other aspects of this incident in future posts on this topic.
What do you think? comments?
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the nomination process for the 2016 presidential election has been most unusual- for both the democratic and republican party. Based on how things look right now, it is very likely that Donald Trump will be the republican candidate for the presidency. On the other side- the officially anointed candidate (aka Hillary Clinton) will not be able to get the democratic nomination through elected delegates alone, IF it comes to that. Some of you might think that this situation is not that big a deal or things like this have happened before. Well.. things like this have not occurred before- at least not in living memory. Let me explain.
Ask yourself- when was the last time republicans selected a presidential nominee who had not previously been elected to any public office? Here is a hint.. he won the 1952 and 1956 general election. On the other side- when was the last time an independent socialist non-observant Jew was a serious and extremely popular candidate for the democratic party nomination? What about- never! My point is that the immense popularity of traditionally shunned outsider candidates in both parties at the same time tells us that something pretty fundamental about the american political system has recently undergone a major change. The successful candidacy campaigns of both these outsider candidates does however raise another important question.
Why has the establishment of both parties, including their coteries of supposedly “apolitical” gatekeepers and subservient presstitutes been so spectacularly unsuccessful at derailing the candidacy campaigns of Sanders and Trump?
Why do Trump and Sanders keep on winning primaries inspite of constantly negative coverage by supposedly “mainstream” and “respectable” media outfits? Why does every attempt by the establishment and media to concoct a narrative about how those campaigns get rebuffed by the results of the next set of primaries? Why has the cacophony of opinion pieces against both candidates by supposed “experts” and “professionals” made no worthwhile dent in their popularity, ability to raise money or the enthusiasm of their supporters? Why do mainstream media attack on these candidates result in an increase in their popularity, donations to their campaigns and ever bigger rallies?
Clearly, something about the established way of doing politics in the USA is no longer working. But what is not working and why now? Well.. as I wrote in my previous post, there are many mutually reinforcing reasons for this change. A significant part of this change has to do with the rapid and terminal decline in trust of the “establishment”, its “institutions” and their “experts” and “professionals” among the general public. Basically, today only older adults (above 50 yrs?) have a significant amount of residual trust in the old order. The rest, especially the younger ones, have seen and experienced too much to have worthwhile amounts of belief in the old order.
I will address the issue of people losing trust in the “establishment”, its “institutions”, “experts” and “professionals” as it applies to the current political environment in future posts. This one is, however, about a smaller issue peripherally related to that topic.
How can Bernie and Donald treat their respective party establishments with a mixture of open contempt and disdain? How can they get away with not playing by the “establishment” rules? How can they get away with basically telling their party establishments to go fuck themselves? Why are they not submitting to the rules and opinions of their party establishments- like every other potential presidential candidate in living memory? What makes them immune to the pressures of their respective party establishments?
Well.. it comes down to the fact they have no real reason to play by the rules. In the case of Bernie Sanders, who has been an independent since he entered politics, pissing of the democratic establishment carries no real consequences for him. He is in his mid-70s and a very popular senator from a state that likes politicians like him. Perhaps more importantly, he is not doing this to make tons of money and therefore has no vested interest in playing nice with the party establishment in case he does not succeed. His plan B is to continue being the Senator from Vermont.
Donald Trump, too, is also not doing it for the money. While he may not be worth over 10 billion, as he claims, he is still a multi-billionaire. His failure to win, therefore, has no worthwhile effect on his financial situation. He will still be filthy rich and famous. He also has no reason to play by “establishment” rules. Furthermore he knows the political establishment is full of greedy spineless critters who will come back begging him for campaign contributions in the future. In other words- he knows who is the driver’s seat and why.
Contrast the situation of Bernie and Donald to “establishment” politicians whose entire careers, fortunes and legacies are dependent on how well they play with whichever asshole or group of assholes is driving their party at any given moment. Do you think Hillary or Bill Clinton would be anything without the support of the “establishment” in the democratic party. What about Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Jeb Bush or even George W Bush? Do you think they would be anything without unfailing loyalty to whichever asshole or group of assholes is dominating the republican party at any given moment?
My point is that the outsider candidates in both parties are just not in a situation where the “establishment” of those parties can exert any worthwhile influence on them. Consequently, Sanders is very likely to go all the way to the end of the primary nomination process for the democratic party. Trump is also going to go all the way to the republican convention and any attempt to deny him the nomination WILL fuck up the republican party for many years- if it can survive in its current form past the 2016 election.
What do you think? Comments?
One of the more significant, but largely overlooked, change in the american political arena within the last decade concerns the obvious impotency and rapidly declining role of political strategists in wining party nominations and elections. It was not that long ago when names like Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and Roger Ailes evoked feared in those who ran against the politicians who employed them.
While a significant part of their fearsome reputations was based on myth and hearsay, it is also clear that their “dirty tricks” were somewhat effective in winning close elections. We all remember how George W Bush “won” the 2000 presidential election. But that was over a decade ago and the presidential elections of 2004 were the last major elections in USA where such political consultants were able to influence the final electoral results to any measurable degree.
Since then political consultants have been, by and large, unable to influence major elections at the national and increasingly the state and local level. Some of you might remember the very public humiliations and irrelevancy suffered by once feared political operatives like Karl Rove and Roger Ailes during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. You might also be aware of how Donald Trump destroyed the presidential aspirations of his far better funded and establishment rivals in the still ongoing race for the republican nomination.
So what is going on? Why are all the old and new “machiavellian geniuses” unable to influence american elections like their predecessors? Why do they seem to spend more time as TV pundits, Authors and make most of their income from job descriptions that fit the definition of a Sinecure? Why is somebody like Donald Trump winning the republican primary? Why is Bernie Sanders still competitive in the democratic primary?
Well.. there are many reasons for this change ranging from the still ongoing impoverishment of the average american to the (also still ongoing) post-2008 loss of public trust in all credentialed professionals and institutions. However the most important, and central, reason for the terminal impotency of political strategists is linked to the rise of decentralized, fast and structurally uncontrollable spread of information over the internet. And it does not work the way most of you think…
The conventional narrative about the effects of information spreading over the internet is based on a pleasant-sounding fallacy. Most people believe political change over the internet is almost exclusively due to people using it the educate themselves about the “facts”. While that is sorta true for objective “facts” like the stuff found in textbooks on physics and chemistry- it is not the case for information about subjective issues such as politics.
The biggest, and most important, effect of the internet on politics is that it makes pretty much everyone extremely cynical of the whole political process. The sheer amount of opinions supporting or denouncing any given position on any issue almost guarantees that most people will stick to what they believed in the first place. It is this widespread cynicism which more than anything defeats attempts to sway opinions through sophistic rhetoric, “dirty tricks”, advertisements and appeals to morality.
This is why all attempts by MSM to attack Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump have had virtually no negative effects on those who support their campaigns. Indeed, the scorn of the MSM and its paid pundits has increased, rather than decreased, public support for both outsider candidates. This is why Bernie and Trump rallies can easily get tens of thousands of enthusiastic supporters while mainstream politicians like Hillary or Cruz struggle to get a tenth or twentieth of that number.
Another interesting effect of internet driven cynicism is that the physical appearance of politicians is far less important than it was even ten years ago. People have now come to associate a “professional” look and grooming with dishonesty. In other words, people are now far more likely to trust (or not distrust) somebody who looks like Bernie or Trump than somebody who looks like Hillary, Rubio, Cruz or Mitt Romney. I had predicted something along these lines in one of my older posts- How ‘Anodyne’ Communication Destroys Societal Trust.
What do you think? Comments?
Readers of this blog might remember that, a month or so ago, I had posted a piece about how Bernie will almost certainly take the fight to the democratic convention in July to ensure that the public image of Shrillary (and the DNC) is damaged beyond repair. At that time, some of you thought that Bernie would either not take it that far or be too nice to go through with such a destructive plan. Well.. it turns out that “professional” journalists are now starting to consider the plausibility of that scenario.
Hillary Clinton needs to win 65.3 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to avoid a contested Democratic convention at which she and Bernie Sanders separately plead their cases to the Party’s 714 unpledged “super-delegates.” Democratic candidates in 2016 need 2,383 pledged delegates to win the Party’s nomination via pledged delegates alone. Barring Senator Sanders dropping out of the Democratic race prior to the New York primary, it is virtually impossible for Secretary Clinton to hit that mark.
Few can doubt that, from a practical standpoint, the stronger case at a contested Democratic Convention lies with Sanders — given that the purpose of any Party-sponsored primary race is to find the candidate most likely to win in a general election — but nearly 100 percent of mainstream media pundits predict that not only will Sanders not win a majority of super-delegates, but also that his case to them (above) is unlikely to sway more than fifty of the 714 total super-delegates (7 percent). If the two competing arguments above look like a 93 percent-to-7 percent Clinton win to you, congratulations — you don’t struggle with cognitive dissonance and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this July is likely to make perfect sense to you.
It’s possible that Sanders would do what Clinton did in 2008 if he loses the final pledged-delegate count. Campaigns, including Clinton’s in 2008, have a tendency to promise that they’ll fight all the way to the convention as a means of rallying supporters, but once the voters have finished voting, they call it a day. But Hillary Clinton in 2008 was a much different person than Bernie Sanders is in 2016. She was, and is, a party player, and taking her doomed fight to the convention in 2008 would have crippled her legacy within the party and her chances for running again in the future. Sanders, as the Clinton campaign likes to point out, is much less a party man, and he’s also in his mid-70s, meaning it’s highly unlikely that he would run for president again. What does he have to lose by contesting the convention other than the admiration of his peers, which he never had in the first place?
Democrats created superdelegates to give party leaders a final check over nominations after the reforms of the 1970s, in their opinion, gave too much power to primary voters. But the superdelegate trigger has never been pulled. Voters have always chosen nominees that the party deems acceptable, and it would destroy the party if superdelegates ever did overturn the clear preference of the voters. What superdelegates have done is dilute the pool of pledged delegates and make it that much harder for the leading candidate to compile a delegate majority solely from pledged delegates. That in turn gives someone like, say, Bernie Sanders a justification for extending his fight into the convention if he’s willing to shatter certain norms of intra-party etiquette. And as you’ve probably noticed, norms aren’t doing so hot in politics these days.
So there you have it. The presstitutes are now starting to consider the scenario which was simultaneously obvious AND beyond their willingness to imagine it. Then again, almost nobody in any position of power at the start of WW1 or WW2 thought those wars would last so long and have such profound and lasting effects on human history.
What do you think? Comments?
I recently came across an interesting article comparing Donald Trump to a famous roman populist/demagogue who was a contemporary of Julius Caesar. The author of the piece is trying to point out that unconventional and populist political figures such as Trump can be found throughout recorded history.
The man who ultimately brought down the system was a wealthy and ambitious nobleman named Publius Clodius Pulcher, a populist demagogue who refused to play by the rules. Clodius had always been eccentric and unpredictable in ways that both shocked and amused the Roman populace. As a young man, he had incited a mutiny among his brother-in-law’s troops. Then, when pirates captured him, he took deep offense at the small ransom they accepted for his release. Nothing was sacred to Clodius. The more audacious his behavior, the more the public loved him for it. In Rome, for example, Clodius, a noted ladies’ man, committed sacrilege by dressing up as a woman and infiltrating the female-only religious festival of the goddess Bona Dea, with the aim of seducing Pompeia, Julius Caesar’s wife. The scandal led Caesar to divorce Pompeia, and gave rise to the famous quip that Caesar’s wife needed to be beyond suspicion.
After the elite rebuffed him, Clodius began breaking every rule in his quest for power. He gave up his standing as a nobleman and officially joined the plebs, positioning himself as the leader of the angry Roman working classes. Using his natural charm, fiery rhetoric, and keen sense of how to play establishment politicians against each other, he rammed through legislation establishing the first regular handout of free grain in Western history. This provided him with a huge following among the common people, especially those who had lost their jobs in recent economic upheavals. He became the king of the Roman streets and unleashed a populist uprising unlike anything the Republic had ever seen. Rome’s ruling classes had no idea how to control Clodius, whom they continued to despise. If the Republic were going to be destroyed, the famous orator and establishment politician Cicero lamented, at least let it fall by the hand of a real man.
My take on it however a bit different and darker. I see Clodius Pulcher as the almost inevitable consequence of a fundamentally unstable socio-economic system. It is reasonably well-known that the transition of Rome from a medium-sized republic to a full-fledged and multi-ethnic empire (200 BC- 50 BC) was frequently less than positive for most roman citizens. Multiple empire building wars, conquest of new lands and importing slaves was however extremely profitable to the oligarchs (and wannabe oligarchs) who pretended to run Rome as a republic. It is therefore no surprise that levels of internal unrest in Rome rose alongside the expansion of its empire. The continuous infighting and scheming among various shifting factions of the oligarchs also made Rome far less governable than when it was a regional south Italian republic. All of these changes and related neglect of the needs of average romans resulted in high levels of discontent among the population.
Clodius Pulcher was certainly not the first to exploit generalized public discontent of romans with their supposedly “elected” leaders. Nor was he the first to use wars and other crises to bypass republican limits on individual power. He just happened to be an especially skilled demagogue and politician. Pulcher’s biggest and especially relevant innovation was his grasp of the of popularity of social welfare programs in combination with organised strong-arm tactics which were previously the domain of oligarchs. He understood that most average romans were just not buying into all the ideological bullshit that most other oligarchs of his time assumed. Clodius Pulcher also, correctly, figured out that manipulating and humiliating other elitist oligarchs greatly increased his popularity- in addition to discrediting his opponents. It also helped that he was in the right position at the right time. History may not repeat itself perfectly, but it often rhymes.
What do you think?
I was going to complete and post this article a few days, but decided to wait for reasons that will be more obvious when you read it further. Well.. as many of you have read or heard in the last two weeks, many presstitutes and media personalities in the main-stream media have been busy peddling their allegedly original opinions about how Bernie Sanders cannot win the democratic presidential nomination. You might have also seen articles about how he should (or soon will) “gracefully” step aside and participate in the DNC-led anointing of Shrillary. I, for one, think that the course of events might take a rather unexpected turn- and it is not what most of you are thinking.
To be clear, Bernie’s Plan A is to win the democratic presidential nomination. However, I strongly suspect he has a Plan B- specifically, one that involves damaging the electability of Shrillary in a general election to a point where she will lose to most potential republican candidates. The beauty of this Plan B is that it runs in parallel with Plan A and does not make Bernie look bad or vindictive.
To understand what Bernie is trying to pull off, you have to first look at this from his viewpoint. First a little history and context. As some of you know, Bernie Sanders is no newcomer to electoral politics and has been involved in it at various levels for over three decades. Secondly, he always ran as an independent- even though he could have made far more money and wielded much more power if he had joined the democratic party. So, it is clear that the guy has a pretty good understanding of the political system and what he wants as a person. In other words, he knows what he is doing..
Some people think that he entered the 2016 race with the naive expectation that he would not face a very determined PR campaign against him by Shrillary, her legions of flying monkeys (media personalities and presstitutes) and the DNC. Some also think that he underestimated the support of the establishment for Shrillary. But is that really so? Do you really think a guy who has been successfully elected (and re-elected) to the house and senate is that naive? Do you really think he underestimated the support of the political and corporate establishment for Shrillary?
So why would a worldly 74-year Jewish senator from Vermont decide to seriously run for the democratic nomination against Shrillary? And why in 2016? And what does he intend to achieve in case he cannot get the democratic nomination? Why is he not taking corporate donation? Is it just out of principles or is he trying to achieve something that is not that obvious? why does he keep talking about the ‘revolution’? What is the ‘revolution’ really about? And why is he acting as if the DNC does not exist or matter?
The short answer to these and other questions lies in a peculiar convergence of electoral rules, demographic realities and the general mood of people in the country.
The somewhat longer answer is as follows: As some of you might remember from 2000, the president of USA is elected by a majority of votes by the electoral college rather than a simple majority of voters. For a large part of american history, it was possible for candidates of either party to win a significant number of states- irrespective of which candidate had won them in the previous election. To put it another way, there were many more ‘swing states‘ in the past than there are now. Starting in the 1990s, polarization of the electorate in most states reached levels that rendered most of them noncompetitive for one party or the other. Consequently, presidential candidates of each party can be fairly certain about which states they will win or not before a single vote is cast.
You might also have noticed that the swing states for the last few elections have a peculiar geographical distribution and demographic profiles. For the 2016 election- we can consider Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida to be definite ‘swing states’. Did you notice that the major swing states (except Virginia) are somewhat poor and full of working class whites with an increasing number of Hispanics? And what does any of this have to do with Bernie’s Plan ‘B’?
As it turns out.. a lot.
Bernie has figured a way to use Shrillary’s greatest weakness, her visceral unlikeability, against her in a way that does not make him look bad. The easiest way to pull that off is to drag Shrillary and her supporters through a series of contested democratic primaries in all 50 states, but especially in those ‘swing states’ where she desperately needs a high turnout of white democratic voters. He also knows that Shrillary and her backers will do all the things that a conventionally successful political campaign will do to win the democratic nomination. He also knows that all of those things will dramatically increase her unfavorability ratings among the white working class voters she so desperately needs later in the year.
Bernie is trying to reduce the potential democratic voter turnout for her in ‘swing states’ during the 2016 presidential election.
But why take this somewhat circuitous route? And what is he really trying to achieve by making her lose the 2016 presidential election? Well.. for starters- attacking her directly at this stage might make her look more human and actually reduce her unfavorability ratings. Remember that most people felt sorry for Shrillary all through the 1990s- when she was a relative political unknown and under constant attack by republicans. The best way to defeat and degrade Hillary in a conventional political setting, as Obama demonstrated in 2008, is to get her (and her backers) to attack you.
But that still does not answer one question- why now (in 2016)?
Well.. for one major but non-obvious reason. Bernie knows that the corporate-owned DNC, not Hillary, is the biggest impediment for any real change. He also knows that the machinery of the DNC will not stop (or even slow down) as long as it is regularly fueled by its corporate backers. So how do you cut off or reduce the flow of corporate money to the DNC? The answer is.. make sure that democrats do not control the presidency, senate, house of representatives, most state legislatures, most governorships and the supreme court. Corporations do not pay political machines that lack political power. As it turns out the democrats have already achieved most of those goals- on their own.
Losing the presidency (and not regaining the senate) in 2016 will basically finish of the current incarnation of the democratic party. Of course, winning all of them might finish of the republicans via a different mechanism- but that is a discussion best left to a future post. In short, Bernie is trying to destroy the DNC by pushing it to make that one big final mistake.
What do you think? Comments?