In the previous post of this series, I put forth the idea that HRC’s continued downward slide in polls against Trump is largely due to unanimous support of her candidacy by elites and their upper-middle class enablers. I also mentioned that widespread loss of public faith in elites and their flunkies is not unique to USA and infact is one of the major trends that has arisen throughout the west in the previous decade. You might remember that I first predicted the rise of Donald Trump in a post on Aug 31, 2015– when the vast majority of journalists, talking heads and other elite flunkies thought it was a joke or a ploy to get a new reality show. I also subsequently wrote more than a few posts about the factors that have made Donald Trump’s remarkable success possible.
And all of this brings us the inevitable question- Why is HRC such a remarkably unpopular politician? While more than a few of you will list a litany of reasons behind her lack of popularity, a close look at her public record and persona make her lack of popularity kinda odd. There is nothing about her public record or persona that makes her especially despicable compared to your average successful establishment politician in USA or anywhere else in the west. She is certainly not any more slimy or corrupt than other big name politicians such as Harry Reid, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, Bush43, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio.. well you get the picture. She also compares very favorably to hucksters like Ted Cruz and pretty much any other republican governor.
By all counts, her nomination as the democratic candidate and subsequent win in the presidential election should have been ridiculously easy. But as many of you remember, it has anything but easy for her to win the democratic primary against Bernie Sanders, a 74-year old independent senator from Vermont. Infact the DNC had to rig the entire primary process for her to “win” the democratic nomination. It is also noteworthy that Bernie Sanders was able to raise almost 250 million dollars in small donations from democrats and independents in order to campaign against HRC. So why were democrats and democrat-leaning independents willing to put so much money and energy to stop the coronation of a candidate who was not that much worse than other establishment democrat politicians and, at least on paper, much better than establishment republican politicians.
The establishment narrative and explanation for the remarkable fragility of her presidential campaign is based on the idea that people hate her because she is a woman. But is that really the case? Is her gender anything more than peripherally involved in her remarkable unpopularity among the democratic base and democratic-leaning voters? I should also point out that she was not always seen as an especially corrupt and dishonest politician. As late as 2008, she was seen as a very viable if moderately flawed candidate for the presidency. She also had far lower negative ratings during the 2008 democratic campaign than she has now. So what happened in the intervening 8 years? How did a reasonably well-regarded and fairly popular politician become somebody with extremely high negative ratings?
So, what changed?
Let us start by talking about what has NOT changed since 2008. HRC, you see, has not changed since 2008.. 2000.. 1996.. 1992.. who knows. She is acting like an establishment politician was supposed to in the early-1990s to early-2000s timespan. Her executive style and worldview are also deeply rooted in the late-1980s-early-2000s era when it was cool and very profitable to be an establishment neoliberal. Infact for most of the 1990s, many in the west seriously believed that neoliberalism was the only way. Moreover, the relative peace and high growth rates enjoyed by people in the 1990s (especially in the USA) were able to paper over the many systemic flaws and defects of that ideology. The first large-scale problems with the neoliberal status quo (9/11, Invasion of Iraq etc) only started becoming obvious in the early 2000s, but a credit and real-estate bubble was able to keep the lid on things till 2008.
But that by itself was not sufficient to make HRC, and others like her, so unpopular. I believe it was the response of the establishment (specifically the government) in USA to the 2008 financial crisis that put the proverbial ‘nail in the coffin’ for popularity of neoliberal politicians. As many of you know, Obama (and the democrats) promised a lot of reform in legally deniable language during the 2008 presidential campaign. We all know how that worked out for the 90-99%. The government in USA (and other western countries) used the 2008 financial crisis to bail out their financial backers and transfer the costs of doing so on everybody else. The post-2008 era has also seen corporations using “laws” and “rules” to speed up the financialization-driven exploitation of people in areas that were traditionally regulated or moderated to prevent that outcome. Furthermore, they also sped up the rate of replacing well-paying with low-paying precarious jobs often with no benefits- all thanks to various secret “free trade” treaties.
Consequently most people in USA (and other western countries) have increasingly come to view establishment politicians as irredeemable and incompetent liars who are incapable of improving the lives of the vast majority of those who voted them into office. While the public image of politicians throughout history has always been a bit sketchy, their voters did expect them to.. for the lack of a better expression.. not piss on them. Which brings us to the most important reason behind Hillary Clinton’s abyssal favorability ratings. Most voters, you see, expect her to renege on every single promise she made about making their lives better. They expect her to work only for her extremely rich donors (domestic and foreign) and further enrich them while pauperizing everybody else. It does not help that her lawyerly parsing of words, or as I call it “anodyne” communication, is now seen as one of the main indicators of systemic and irredeemable dishonesty.
What do you think? Comments?
One of the more interesting aspects of the 2016 presidential election is that Donald Trump is now either very close to Hillary Clinton, or beating her in battleground “swing”states, in multiple recent polls. Hillary’s widespread slide in poll numbers in September has caused much consternation and hand-wringing among establishment democrats and their financiers- not to mention many white middle-aged women with desk jobs living in coastal cities. The HRC campaign has been in full panic mode since the first week of September.. and that was before her collapse at the 9/11 memorial service. Her campaign is now trying desperate tactics such as sending the cast of the preachy “west wing” TV to campaign for her in Ohio, more pathetic attempts to appeal to hip millennials and appearing with Zach Galifianakis on ‘Between Two Ferns’.
Many democrat faithfuls are now openly starting to wonder why Hillary Clinton is almost tied in multiple polls with Donald Trump in late September, especially after supposedly besting him by 8-10% percentage points barely a month ago. I mean.. how can an intelligent woman with such a long history of “public service” and “policy experience” lose against a person who, in their eyes, has more in common with your used car salesman alcoholic uncle than anything approaching “presidential material”. Hillary’s supporters in the media, who are legion, have spent much effort trying to find factors for her seemingly irresistible downward slide in the polls. They have so far identified a number of potential culprits ranging from millennial idealism, Bernie Sanders, the low intelligence of the average american voter, white racism… you get the picture.
Now, I do not deny that some of these factors have had a negative impact on her poll numbers. It is however clear to me that her downward slide has occurred despite her campaign and supporters spending almost 250 million dollars (to date) on media ads against Donald Trump. It has also occurred despite HRC having almost unanimous support from the media in her campaigns attempt to denigrate Trump and simultaneously minimize the spread of negative information about her. In other words- massive amounts of negative advertising directed at her opponent AND the unanimous support of elites, mainstream media and pretty much every semi-famous person in good standing with the ‘system’ has not helped her poll numbers. Infact, this very high level of establishment support seems to have had a negative effect on her standing vis-a-vis Donald Trump.
But why is this happening? Isn’t the USA full of conformist people who blindly follow authority while pretending to be rebellious and individualists? Shouldn’t all these highly paid pundits, opinion manipulators, focus group experts and other assorted credentialed assholes be able to sell HRC to the american public- especially when the other option is supposedly a used car salesman who was lucky enough to be born to rich parents? And to be fair, while Trump has plenty of street smarts and media savvy- he isn’t exactly the brightest bulb in the room. Why are so many people willing to give Trump a chance? Conventional theories about the popularity of, and momentum behind, Trump are based on one or more of three core beliefs: 1] His supporters and perhaps half of the american electorate are racist and stupid- aka the “basket of deplorables” 2] HRC is a really bad candidate for the presidency, especially at a time when establishment types have become unpopular throughout the west. 3] Trump is a master psychological manipulator – aka the Scott Adams theory.
Personally, I think that Trump’s popularity is partly due to a combination of 1] and 2] plus economic insecurity. However the major part of Trump’s successes is due to a much larger phenomenon that has to do with general loss of trust in institutions and professionals both public and private that has been going on for previous two decades. This trend was barely perceptible even in the late-1990s, and it started becoming obvious only in the early-2000s. However, even then, it was not exactly a major trend. It started accelerating around 2005-2006 and has now become one of the dominant trends of our times. While there are many reasons for its acceleration and spread, especially the growth of the internet, the single biggest factor propelling its growth is that people can no longer ignore evidence that western elite are incompetent, fraudulent, malicious and supremely corrupt.
It does not take a genius to figure out supposedly useful, objective and trustworthy institutions from universities and schools to hospitals and large corporations are run by people who are incompetent, short-sighted and frequently malicious. Similarly it is obvious that supposedly respectable professions from teachers, professors, doctors to people running non-profits and governments are full of barely competent and incredibly greedy people- frequently with some version of the ‘god complex’. It is therefore no surprise that people distrust ideas and people supported by elites and their upper-middle class enablers. In other words, the waning of public support for HRC is mostly due to the fact that she is strongly supported by elites and their upper-middle class flunkies. The failure of her attempts to paint Trump as a dangerous idiot is largely due the fact that people simply do not care for the opinions of those they actively distrust.
What do you think? Comments?
Since it is almost September 11, let me ask an inconvenient but very relevant question. As many of you know, the government recently had to release the 28 (actually 29) pages redacted from the original 9/11 report. As many of you also know, the contents of the hitherto totally redacted pages strongly suggested that employees of prominent members of the Saudi royal family actively helped the perpetrators of 9/11. Indeed, available evidence suggests that people personally employed by certain prominent members of the Saudi royal family might have gone so far as to help conduct multiple dry runs of the 9/11 attack almost two years before it occurred.
It is also no secret that elected officials, both republican and democratic, worked tirelessly to suppress the content of those pages for over a decade. It is also very likely that their efforts were adequately compensated by the Saudis. Many of you might recall that the two countries invaded by USA subsequent to 9/11 had either no role in that incident (Iraq) or were at best peripherally involved (Afghanistan) in it. You might also remember that USA-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan turned out to be extremely costly disasters which led to further destabilization of an already unstable part of the world.
My point is that there is enough evidence to strongly suggest that elected officials in the USA deliberately ignored the very extensive role played by Saudi Arabia in the terrorists attacks of 9/11.
And this brings me to the preamble of my inconvenient question. How much money did the Saudi royal family pay both republican and democratic politicians, over all these years, to ensure that they would keep suppressing information about the extent of official Saudi involvement in 9/11? How many other non-elected officials in the government were ,directly or indirectly, the beneficiaries of similar compensation by the Saudis? Perhaps most importantly, how many electoral campaigns in USA subsequent to 9/11 were the recipient of Saudi largess? Did, for example, the participants in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections (directly or indirectly) receive campaign contributions to ensure that they towed their line?
All of this leads to my inconvenient question- Have either of the two major candidates in the 2016 presidential election (especially HRC) been the beneficiary of direct and indirect monetary contributions intended to keep them towing the official Saudi line?
What do you think? Comments?
As many of you might have heard by now, North Korea conducted another nuclear test explosion yesterday. Some of you might ask yourself- How can a country like N. Korea, which is supposed to be poor and largely isolated from the rest of the world, keep on developing nuclear weapons. Perhaps more importantly- Why is the USA, and the supposedly all-powerful west, unable to stop them?
Well.. here are the reasons.
1] The technology to develop nuclear weapons is not particularly complicated, especially if you are a sovereign nation with more resources and manpower than those available on a small island or archipelago. Regardless of what some pretentious white guys spouting technical jargon might make you believe, the technology and tools necessary to design and make a few viable nuclear weapons have been fairly commonplace since the late 1970s. Obtaining enough fissile material that is either enriched beyond a certain percentage (for U-235)or with impurities below certain levels (for Pu-239) is the single largest technical constraint.
Any nation-state with a decent level of industrial capacity and access to uranium ore can either enrich U-235 or build nuclear reactors to create Pu-239. It is therefore really about the willingness to do so..
2] Some politicians in the USA suggest that it is possible to exert pressure on North Korea through China. I however see this belief as an example of wishful american thinking. Think about it- Why would China care about what USA wants in this particular situation? What do they have to gain by playing along with such an american request? The reality is that China is too large and powerful a country to be bullied by the USA. Furthermore, there is an interesting precedent for their unwillingness to stop supporting the North Korean nuclear program. China, you see, is the single biggest reason for the success of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon program. It also goes without saying that a nuclear capable North Korea is no real threat to China.
In other words, ensuring that North Korea has a modest nuclear weapon capacity is far more strategically useful to China than towing the american line and pressuring them to stop developing nuclear weapons.
3] Most people in USA believe that North Korea is very isolated from the rest of the world, except for maybe China. While that is true- as far as most of its citizens/ subjects are concerned, the government itself is pretty pragmatic about having restricted mutually beneficial ties with certain countries. It is therefore not surprising that the North Korean nuclear and missile program have ties with equivalent programs in other countries such as Pakistan and Iran. Some of you might be aware that the missile program of Pakistan received considerable help and support from its equivalent in North Korea. It is hard to believe that such an exchange was one-sided, if you know what I mean. Similarly there is some evidence that the Iranian nuclear program did benefit from the assistance of North Korea and once again, it is unlikely that there was no quid-pro-quo.
To put it another way, the government of North Korea is not made up of ideologically driven nutjobs who lack any significant contact with reality. They may be evil, but they are not stupid.
4] There are many advantages for sovereign states possessing nuclear weapons. For one, it makes you immune from any serious military attack from other sovereign states, such as the USA. It is no secret that possessing nuclear weapon capacity is the best way to protect your country and the elite system within it. The elites in North Korea know that they have no future if they allow the USA to pressure them into capitulating before their populace. They know what happened to Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. They know that the USA would not have to be cause the current situation in Syria if that country possessed nuclear weapons. They know that Pakistan can get away with what they do largely because they have nuclear weapons. They know that USA would never be able to pressure Iran like it did, if it already had nuclear weapons.
Simply put, the benefits of having nukes far outweigh the problems associated with developing and having them- especially for the North Korean elites.
What do you think? Comments?
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?