Archive for the ‘Secular Religions’ Category

Some Initial Thoughts on the Likely Trajectory of a Trump Presidency: 3

January 28, 2017 23 comments

I had written the previous two post of this series (link 1, link 2) in the 2-3 weeks after Trump’s election on November 8. While it was tempting to write more parts of this series at that time, observing his actions immediately after assuming the presidency before writing the next part seemed to be a better idea. As many of you know, Trump has taken multiple and often conflicting positions on a variety of important issues over the years. Perhaps even more unusually for a politician, he has often done a 180 on his previous position on some issues- without even acknowledging that he took conflicting positions in the past.

For example- he is on record as supporting the right to abortion, being agnostic about it and opposing it depending on the personal benefit of taking one of those three position at a given time. Similarly, he is on record as supporting single-payer healthcare systems, supporting mixed private-public healthcare systems or defending complete privatization of the healthcare system- depending on the personal benefits of taking one of those three positions. In other words, it appears that Trump has few (if any) fixed beliefs about a large number of issues. More worryingly, especially since he is now the president, Trump seems to believe that his public perceptions about his past position on issues have no effect on his current position on them.

And all of this brings us to what Trump has been doing since he was formerly sworn in as the president on Jan 20, 2016. As many of you must have heard by now, Trump has been signing a shitload of controversial executive orders since he assumed office last week. They range from the hilarious (national day of patriotism), somewhat populist (withdrawing from the TPP), expected (mexico city policy on funding NGOs, approving new oil pipelines), plutocrat enriching (eliminating some rebates on mortgage payments), dangerous (starting repeal of ACA without an alternative plan, OK-ing the construction of a wall between Mexico and USA) to the batshit insane (banning entry of people from some Muslim countries, even legal permanent residents, into the USA).

Now, it is certainly possible to imagine that his executive orders are more theater than substance and might not survive legal challenges. However a lot of the concomitant rhetoric coming out of Trump’s mouth and tweets suggest that he is more than a bit serious about actually implementing those orders- especially the dangerous and batshit insane ones. I had briefly mentioned (in a previous post) that his positions on Mexican .. well.. actually all non-white immigrants and citizens has special potential to cause severe disruptions and unrest in the country. Events of the previous two days have added another issue to the list of those which have similar or even higher potential for disruption and unrest- albeit for different reasons than the “mexican” issue.

You might have heard that Trump has signed an executive order banning people from 7 predominantly Muslim countries from entering the USA- even if they happen to permanent legal residents. Curiously, people from these seven countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) have never ever been implicated in a terrorist act within USA. Furthermore, people from the two Muslim countries (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) whose residents have been implicated in almost every single Islam-inspired terrorist attack in USA are still free to enter USA.

To be fair, establishment democrats and their supporters had no problems in the past when Obama tried to overthrow the government in two of these countries + expanded “war on terror in the other five on that list. It is also no secret that the rise of organisations such as ISIL was aided and abetted by the overt and indirect policies of the Obama administration. In other words, there is more than a bit of hypocrisy when establishment democrats who were perfectly OK with bombing people in these countries and funding organisations bent on overthrowing their governments pretend to be shocked and angry at Trump taking their stupid policies to the next level.

Having said that, this latest move by the Trump administration is especially problematic- and not just in the immediate and widespread popular response against its implementation. As many of you realize, such executive orders and their implementation creates a new set of bad precedents. If you can ban the entry of people from countries accused of terrorism by the government, in spite of evidence to contrary, what is there to stop this (or a future) president from banning people of other religious, ethnic or racial groups from entering the country legally? Now some old and decaying american racists.. I mean jingoists.. might think that such actions have no consequence in international relations with other important and supposedly white countries.

As it turn out.. a lot! many of the supposedly important and white countries are no longer as white or important as they used to be in the past. Consider, for example that many west-european countries such as the UK, France, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland have a fairly significant minority that is not white or christian. Do you really think that Trump won’t sign future executive orders to ban Muslims (often second or third generation) from west-European countries from entering USA? Do you really think that implementing such orders would not cause serious problems in those countries? Do you really think that many countries in that position would not reevaluate their relationship with USA? Do you really think that there would no financial consequences (for both sides) of such actions?

The problem with Trump and people who think like him is that they live in world which does not and cannot exist now. There was a brief period (between 1945-1949.. perhaps until the early 1960s) when the relative power differential between the USA and the rest of the world (especially non-white countries) was large enough for the USA to get away with some stupid shit. But that was a long time ago and things have changed a lot since the early 1960s. In 2016, the USA simply lacks the power differential to pull that type of shit without screwing itself in the process. Today everyone knows that the USA is not an exceptional country. Today everyone has seen the USA lose against insurgencies in even poor medium-sized nations and lacks the ability to win a war against any other nuclear power of consequence.

I think it is likely that this particular move by Trump will turn into his first real public relations disaster, very likely to due to internal protests and legal challenges. However, this “Muslim ban” also provides an interesting window into how Trump and people around him see the world. It is now fairly certain that Trump and his advisers inhabit a mental world where the USA is far more powerful than it is in reality. Therefore, I expect Trump (and his associates) to make similar moves in a number of other areas- from trade and immigration to internal issues such as “law enforcement”. Needless to say, it won’t end well for Trump, his associates, the republican party, average Americans and to a far lesser extent- the rest of the world.

In the next post of this series, I shall try to write about the panoply of problems (both obvious and not so obvious) consequent to Trump’s policies wrt to people of Mexican descent in USA- citizens, immigrants and undocumented. That is.. unless his recent Muslim ban causes even more unrest and problems which I then have to write about.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Opioid Overdose Epidemic among Working Class Whites in USA

January 24, 2017 15 comments

As many of my regular readers already know, I have long been a supporter for legalization of all recreational drugs. More than a few of my older posts have talked about issues such as the deliberate insanity of drug prohibition. I have also talked about the peculiar association between a certain kind of racism and the origins of the “war on drugs” in USA. It would be correct to say that the vast majority of official policies against recreational drug use in USA are based in racism and class-ism.

So why were such racist, inhuman and ineffective policies still popular in USA? Well.. because they appeal to the belief systems and worldview of a (if now slim) majority, who still exist in a previous era. To be more precise, anti-drug policies appealed to the white working class by allowing them to feel superior to non-white members of the populace. Furthermore, it allowed them to participate in (and often profit from) the systematic abuse, impoverishment and murder of non-whites. It would be fair to say that the “war on drugs” in USA is really Jim Crow version 2.0- and I am certainly not the first person who has made that comparison.

Now, I am not saying that ALL working class whites supported the “war on drugs” and other anti-drug use measures simply because they were stupid, petty and greedy racists. However even a casual study of trends in american politics during the 1945-2001 era show that support of anti-drug measures (including long minimum sentences, onerous plea bargains, increase in mass incarceration, cutting welfare and other “tough on crime” policies) was largely driven by white racism towards non-whites. It is also worthwhile to point out that support for such policies has little connection to actual rates of violent criminal behavior.

But systemic socio-economic and demographic changes have a way of permanently altering the playing field against those who benefited from the previous status quo.

And that brings us the post-2006 era. As many of you must have read and heard on multiple news outlets- opioid overdose (prescription or otherwise) now accounts for more deaths in USA than either automobile accidents or death by guns. It is also worth noting that the vast majority of those who die by opioid overdose are members of the white working class. Some recent studies have claim that opioid overdose kills more people per year in USA than HIV did at the height of the AIDS epidemic. There are even studies which correlate voting patterns in a given area during the 2016 election to the severity of the opioid overdose problem in that area.

While some want to blame the entire opioid overdose “crisis” on profit-seeking behavior by the pharma sector, it is clear that larger and more systemic forces are at play. Even a cursory look at the location of areas hardest hit by the opioid overdose crisis reveals that these areas were economically depressed for a decade or two before the crisis became noticeable. Furthermore, many states to contain some locales that have been heavily affected by the overdose crisis next door to others that have not been similarly afflicted. Clearly then, big pharma pushing opioid prescriptions to make a quick buck is at best a contributing cause to the problem of widespread opioid overdose.

In my opinion, the long-term social and psychological effects of prolonged economic immiseration are the main cause of the current opioid overdose crisis. It is not a coincidence that areas with high rates of opioid use usually also have high rates of recreational amphetamine use and high rates of alcoholism. The simple fact is that prolonged economic immiseration of areas through loss of well-paying jobs initiates a secondary and tertiary series of changes to the lives of people who still live in that area. These changes ultimately result in an environment which causes people living there to lose any sense of hope and personal agency.

It is, therefore, not surprising that many people living in such areas turn to drugs which blunt their perception of pain and loss (opiates, alcohol) or make them feel happy for short periods of time (amphetamines). Incidentally, that is also why rates of drug use among blacks in certain inner cities have been historically quite high. There is a certain delicious irony in watching supposedly “respectable” members of the white working class turn to high levels of drug use for the same basic reasons as all those non-white people they used to look down upon.

The opioid overdose epidemic among working class whites should be seen as just another symptom of their progressive immiseration under the neoliberal socio-economic order. I should also point out that this class were once the biggest cheerleaders and enablers of the very same predatory capitalist practices and corporate behaviors that have now ruined their lives. It is somewhat funny to watch people go from lecturing others about pull themselves up by their bootstraps to overdosing and dying like the very people they used to look down upon.

I should also point out that the white working class in USA has been historically opposed to expansion of the social safety net and legalization of drugs- because they though it might help those “undeserving” non-whites. I guess they never thought that they would one day end up at the bottom of the barrel.

What do you think? Comments?

Comparing Income across Countries in USD is Detached from Reality: 1

January 20, 2017 6 comments

One of the most popular talking points of “public intellectuals” who support the CONServative or neoliberal position goes some like this.. the average income of some of the poorest states in USA is often higher than the average income of wealthy west-european countries. They use this bullshit argument to convince people that the american socio-economic system, as it exists now, is the best possible way to run countries. They also use this scam to pretend that the quality of life for the average person in USA is much better than in other affluent countries- when the reverse is in fact true. The rest of this post will show how the relationship between income as measured in USD and quality of life has completely broken down all over the world in the last thirty years.

Now, there are a number of reasons why a significant percentage of people in USA might have believed such bullshit in the past. As many of you know, people in USA did not (and still do not) travel to other affluent countries at percentages that are even remotely comparable to their counterparts in other developed countries. Therefore, in the pre-internet era it was easy to believe propaganda which told them that the USA was the best place to live in the world. This was especially true in the era between 1945-1999 when the economy in USA, despite occasional downturns, seemed to work reasonably OK for a majority of its people. It is also worth nothing that much of the cultural memory of Americans about the quality of life in other European countries was formed in the first 10-15 years after the end of WW2.

The course of events in the world, however, does not stop if you cease to observe them. Nor does the nature and speed of change to accommodate the beliefs and delusions of any particular group of human beings. My point is that saying or believing something to be true does not make it so- regardless of how loudly and frequently you say it or how many “credentials” you possess. But what does the futility of believing in comforting bullshit have to do with the already massive disconnect between proxy measures for economic well-being of average person in various countries? And why is believing in such bullshit actually dangerous to those who choose to believe in it?

Let us start by looking at the correlation between average incomes (measured in USD) in various countries and their average life expectancy- which is one of the better indicators of general socio-economic well-being. While median life expectancy and remaining life expectancy after age 65 are somewhat better measures of socio-economic, the average numbers are good enough for most purposes. So how does USA compare in that respect to other developed countries? Well.. have a look.


You will immediately notice that while the USA spends way more than similar west-european countries, it has by far the lowest average life-expectancy. The high per-capita expenditure on healthcare in USA, as compared to other developed countries, does not translate into better outcomes. Furthermore, bankruptcy and severe financial problems due to medical costs are basically unknown in the rest of the developed world. But it get’s worse.. much worse. A number of developed countries such as South Korea, Chile, Greece and Israel are able to achieve significantly higher life expectancy (than USA) for a fraction of the cost- as measured in USD. The life expectancy in Mexico is almost identical to USA though its per-capita spending on healthcare (as measured in USD) is about a tenth of that in USA.

Even countries as different from each other as China, Jamaica, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Tunisia whose per-capita spending on healthcare is 5% (or less) of USA have average life-expectancies similar to (or better than) early-1990 era USA. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the entire healthcare system in USA is more about rent extraction and job creation than providing.. healthcare. But that is best left for another series of posts- though I have made a brief version of that argument in a previous post. The point I am trying to make in this particular series of posts is that comparing income across countries in USD is delusional and potentially dangerous.

So let us now turn to the costs of housing in USA, especially as regards to what people get for a given amount of money (as measured in USD). While it is possible to make the case that houses in USA tend to be bigger than those in many other developed countries, that is only part of the story. Sure.. you can buy a large and relatively inexpensive house if you are willing to live 50-100 km outside the nearest city in pretty much any part of USA. But how many people want to willingly live in such places? Here is a hint, use google earth or maps to look at satellite pictures of distant suburbs and then compare them to locations near nearby cities. So let us be honest and compare the cost of housing (buy or rent) in desirable locales in USA to those in other developed countries. When you do that, it quickly becomes obvious that housing in many developed countries often costs a bit less and has significantly superior access to everything from shopping to entertainment.

And this brings to the issue of discretionary purchasing power. One might think that the average person in USA would have more discretionary spending power than his or her equivalent in other developed countries. But is that so? I mean, you are far more likely to see a tourist from a west- or east- European country in USA than the other way around. Not only that, people in European countries tend to dress better than their equivalents in USA. So how do those who defend the american system based on income as measured in USD explain all of this? Well.. they try to distract you by lots of hand-waving and sophistry.

Then there is the issue of education or more precisely the cost and quality. While the cost and quality of K-12 education in USA is somewhat close to its equivalents in other developed countries, it still leaves much to be desired. The situation of higher or post-secondary education in USA is however far worse. As many of you know, the cost of obtaining higher education in USA is far higher than in other developed countries. But is the quality any better? In other words, is an engineer from some large and well-known university in USA really better than his equivalent from some German or Japanese university? Or is a doctor from a large and well-known american university any better than his equivalent from some French or British university? What about other areas of higher education? My point, here, is that the american education system (especially its post secondary component) provides incredibly poor value for money and is far more about obtaining credentials from a shiny-looking university. That is why most international students in american universities are from developing countries, rather than other developed countries.

In the upcoming part of this series, I will show you how the average quality of life for ostensibly middle-class people in USA has more in common with their equivalents in other developing countries rather than developed ones.

What do you think? Comments?

Russian Hacking Story as a Sign of Overt Elite Intellectual Bankruptcy: 1

January 14, 2017 5 comments

A few years ago, I wrote a two-part series (link 1 and link 2) about how objective evidence throughout human history has repeatedly shown that the so-called elite (irrespective of their era, ethnicity or country) are never actually clever or competent. As I have said in more than a few of my earlier posts (link 3 and link 4), the elite of any given society are almost always greedy con-men and con-women who just happened to get especially lucky at some time in their lives or were born to lucky con-people. The hold of any particular group of elite on power is, therefore, largely linked to continuation of the underlying circumstances which enabled their rise in the first place. A change in underlying circumstances will always push the existing set of elite out of power- irrespective of how secure their hold on power might seem to be.

Readers might be aware of how WW1 and its immediate aftermath destroyed multiple long-lived monarchies and empires- and the elites who supported them. Or consider the rise and fall of communist party elite in USSR and other eastern European countries during the five decades after WW2. Or consider the still ongoing fall in general power and influence of elite from UK and their WASP-y counterparts from USA since the 1970s. I could give you tons more examples- but you get my point. Many cliques of so-called elites have risen and fallen throughout recorded human history. In almost every single case, former elites were never able to regain their previous status in that society. Even worse, the circumstances surrounding their demise always revealed that they did not possess even a small fraction of the ability, power or control they pretended to possess.

But what does elite exposure and failure caused by changing circumstances have to do with the current hysteria about alleged “russian hacking of the 2016 election” which is sweeping establishment democrats and republicans in USA? As it turns out.. a lot!

In the first two paragraphs of this post, I pointed out that changing circumstances always expose inadequacies of the then reigning set of elites- which ultimately results in them being discredited. However, there is often a gap of some years between the first serious exposure of their utter incompetence and their final fall from power and relevance. So what happens between the first widespread public exposures of their incompetence and their ultimate fall? Well.. a lot. For one, the exposed elites will almost always double and triple down on the attitudes and behaviors which were responsible for their initial rise to power. They do so for two reasons. Firstly, they believe that public shows of resoluteness, unflappability and ‘business as usual’ will somehow enable them to weather the ongoing current crisis of legitimacy. Secondly, many of them are actually incapable of thinking or acting outside the box of limited possibilities which they are familiar with.

The prolonged hysteria about “russian hacking of 2016 election” displayed by establishment democrats and republicans falls into both categories. Firstly, their absurdly hysterical reaction to the obviously manufactured allegation is a fallback to an era where “red baiting” was somewhat successful in discrediting other insurgent politicians. It appears that many of establishment critters actually believe that most people in USA are still mentally stuck in the mid-1950s to mid-1980s era. Secondly, and perhaps even more worryingly, it is very likely that they have been unable to come up with a coherent critique of Trump which does not simultaneously expose the fallacy of their neo-liberal belief system. The increasingly strident and absurd accusations by establishment types about Trump being elected because of “russians hacking the electoral system” are therefore only a symptom of a much larger problem- namely, that they are rapidly losing popular legitimacy.

So let us now talk a bit about what actually happened during the 2016 election that is making all these establishment types throw fits of conniption about “russians hacking the election”.

As many of you remember, WikiLeaks was responsible for posting many thousands of emails from key staffers of the democratic national committee (DNC) and later the personal gmail account of John Podesta. While the sources of both leaks are still not definitively known, many believe that east-european hackers were the sources of one (or possibly) both hacked email archives. Of course, it is also possible that the DNC leak came from an insider who was unhappy with how the DNC was run. In any case, these leaks were extremely embarrassing to the upper ranks of the DNC and many powerful establishment figures in the democratic party. The leaked emails revealed, among other things, that the DNC was colluding with the HRC campaign to rig the democratic primary against Bernie Sanders. They also revealed the contents of some of HRC’s infamous paid speeches and the close links of her campaign with important figures in mainstream media.

These revelations, which were largely ignored and buried by the MSM, found a large audience on social media site like FaceBook and Twitter. Now it is an open question if they actually swung the results of the election to any worthwhile extent. As many of you already know, the contents of those leaked emails were not exactly earth-shattering and simply reinforced the already negative perceptions about HRC among the general population. Then again, she was running against a reality game-show host/celebrity with zero experience in any electoral office and even higher negative ratings than her. My point is that the leaked emails should not have been anything more than an interesting sideshow, and we would have seen them as that if HRC had won the election. But she lost the election to Trump, for a number of reasons which I have talked about in some of my previous posts.

HRC and her surrogates were pushing the line that Trump was being helped by Putin even before the election, they have only doubled and tripled down on that meme after his victory. While we can certainly speculate on the possible reasons behind that decision- two stands out. Firstly, it allows them to transfer the blame of losing the presidential election on a mysterious external force and escape personal culpability and the need for self-reflection. Secondly, it gives them an excuse to continue their attempts to de-legitimize Trump after his electoral victory. It is interesting to note that their actions, to date, do not match their stated beliefs. In other words, I would have expected them to lead an actual insurrection against Trump IF they really believed that he was a treasonous puppet of Putin. But their unwillingness to actually stop Trump from becoming the president strongly suggests that establishment democrats do not actually believe what they are shouting from every rooftop.

On a more personal level, the constant attempts by establishment democrats to blame Putin for the rise and victory of Trump are almost comedic. I mean.. isn’t it funny to watch establishment politicians from the allegedly only superpower ascribe such capability, competence and foresight to the leader of Russia- a country which they, as late as last year, dismissed as a “large gas station with some nuclear weapons”. I find blaming establishment republicans Putin for HRC’s loss in the presidential election oddly similar to illiterate villagers in the middle ages blaming the Devil and witches for bad harvests, plagues and other misfortunes. There is also more than a passing resemblance between nervous children seeing monsters under their beds and establishment democrats seeing the hand of russian hackers in everything from occasional power failures and poorly manged TV broadcast streams.

What do you think? Comments?

The Rise and Ongoing Demise of Black Neo-Liberal Media Personalities

January 9, 2017 9 comments

Let me begin by telling you that I first considered writing this particular article a few months ago. However, I decided against doing so at that time because its conclusions would have been seen as controversial- even by the standards of what I usually write about. The social media environment at that time was, also, especially toxic for posts like this one. Since then, things have gotten a bit more normal and the major controversial prediction in the current post is starting to come true.

So what series of events inspired me to consider writing this post in the first place? Well.. there have been many over the years, but one set stand out. Many of you might recall that in 2016, a then largely unknown senator from Vermont known as Bernie Sanders came very close to becoming the democratic party’s candidate for president. Were it not for the democratic party establishment (especially the DNC) rigging the democratic primary in favor of HRC, he would have been the democratic nominee and almost certainly won the 2016 presidential election.

The subsequent mistreatment of Bernie supporters by the democratic party establishment combined with Wikileaks exposing the democratic establishment conspiracy against him almost certainly made enough potential democratic voters stay home (especially in the Midwest) resulting in Trump winning those states and the electoral college in the presidential election. Now many partisan democratic voters, especially of the astroturf type, still maintain that Bernie would have lost against Trump in the general election. While I would like to destroy the many versions of that particular myth, doing so is best left for another day and post.

This post shall instead focus on the identity and motivations of one specific subset of media personalities pushing various versions of that argument. I am talking about black media personalities- both in traditional media as well as “new” media. To be clear- the loudest pushers of this myth have always been white establishment democratic operatives. Having said that, it is also fair to point out that many black media personalities were also very active in pushing this myth- and some are still busy doing so.

It is no secret that some of the most public critics of Bernie Sander’s candidacy were black. Most of you have heard names such as Joy-Ann Reid, Jamelle Bouie and Don Lemon or pseudo-journalists such as Donna Brazile. But perhaps more interesting was the unusual prominence of certain black print journalists and new “media” types such as Yamiche Alcindor, Imani Gandy, Marcus H. Johnson and a number of black bloggers who wrote anti-Bernie sanders hit pieces for a wide variety of online media outlets.

I initially considered the possibility that all of this negative reaction to Bernie’s candidacy by black media personalities was due to latent antisemitism with certain parts of that community. I have heard more than a couple black comedians remark that Bernie reminded them of their (Jewish) landlord. However reading the contents of these increasingly numerous hit pieces made me consider a different possibility- namely that is was due to greed rather than simple antisemitism. Here is why..

Firstly, almost every single black media personality who criticized the Sanders candidacy was also full of effusive praise and unconditional support for HRC. It is well-known that the ‘get-tough-on-crime’ policies of her husband (Bill Clinton) resulted in the single largest increase in rates of incarceration for the black community. His other trademark policies, from ‘welfare reform’ to ‘free trade’ also caused disproportionate damage to the black community. Moreover, all of this occurred during the 1990s- less than 20 years ago. So you can see why all of that praise and support for HRC by black media personalities (who criticized Sanders) sounded so.. odd.

Secondly, the general themes for criticism of Sanders by different black media personalities (at any given time) were almost identical. Even more telling, the shift in themes for such critiques changed almost simultaneously across multiple media platforms. It was as if they were on the same mailing lists. The criticisms leveled against Sanders were also peculiar. They ranged from outright lies and misrepresentations to saying that he only represented the white working class to a lot of academic sounding bullshit talk about ‘intersectionality’. It was almost as if all these black media personalities were parroting talking points written up by people working from a certain office in Brooklyn.

But why were they doing that? Why were so many black media personalities (especially of the ‘new media’ kind) so enthusiastic about supporting a candidate as untrustworthy and reviled as HRC?

Now.. I am sure that a few well-known black media personalities were financially (and otherwise) compensated for their efforts by the HRC campaign. However it appears that the vast majority of ‘new media’ types did not receive any worthwhile financial compensation for their efforts. So why did they do it? What was their motivation? Some of you might think they did so due to group-think or personal stupidity. I think otherwise. While the willingness of people to work for free might seem irrational to most people- it is not so to those who actually believe in neo-liberalism.

Neo-liberal ideology, you see, is like a religion- albeit a secular one. And like all other religions and ideologies, it is a pyramid scheme requiring an endless supply of suckers willing to slave for others so that they may, one day, have the chance to do the same to other newer suckers. Isn’t that why so many white university-educated “millennials” slave away in long and unpaid internships at otherwise profitable corporations? Or consider the number of young, and largely white, people who try their luck in the entertainment industry each year. My point is that actions of black media personalities who dissed Sanders and cheered on HRC during the democratic primary make sense if you assume that they are true believers in the neoliberal way.

Some of you might say.. So what? Aren’t all these black media personalities just doing what their white counterparts have been doing for much longer?

Well.. it is true that black media personalities who shill for rich white oligarchs are just following the footsteps of their white counterparts. Also, I am not suggesting that members of one ethnic group should hold itself to higher standards than those of another ethic group. My critique is that black media personalities who shill for rich white oligarchs are not getting remunerated for their work at rates approaching their white counterparts. Furthermore- white media shills.. I mean media personalities, seem to be far more successful at turning their poorly paid shill gigs into reasonably OK, if mediocre, careers. Black media personalities, on the other hand, can seldom transform their sucking up to the elite into decent careers.

To be clear, this has nothing to do with their relative competence. But it has everything to do with how the democratic establishment sees black people- even those who help them win elections. As far as the democratic establishment is concerned, blacks exist largely to vote for them in elections and thereby make them look better than republicans- at least to themselves. Once the elections are over, they see blacks as a group to be aggressively policed, heavily incarcerated and otherwise ignored. There is a reason that cops legally murder as many black men in states and cities governed by the democratic party as its republican equivalent. That is also why democrats talk a lot suppression of black voters by republicans but do precious little to fix it.

I am guessing that the rise of Obama during the previous eight years might have provided some false hope to aspiring social climbers in the black community. It is likely that many of them believed that towing the establishment neoliberal line would translate into a decent chance at getting the kinds of gigs and careers that their white counterparts used to get. Well.. that is definitely not going to happen now as HRC lost the election. But I think it would not have occurred even if she had won the election as throwing average black supporters under the bus after the elections is second nature to the Clinton family and the democratic party establishment.

What do you think? Comments?

The Democratic Party, in its Current Form, has No Worthwhile Future: 4

January 5, 2017 7 comments

In the previous and third part of this series- I pointed out that the democratic party, in its current form, is highly dependent upon continued support by the professional (and wannabe professional) class. In that post, I also talked about why this particular socio-economic group has such an outsize influence on the actual policy positions of democratic party. To quickly summarize: a number of overlapping factors such as their geographic distribution, co-localization with other groups of reliably democratic voters, importance in fund-raising, filling the lower ranks of their party apparatus etc make them an especially important category of likely voters for establishment democratic candidates. It is worth mentioning that the professional (and wannabe professional) class also benefit and profit from their association with, and their support of, the democratic party.

The level and depth of support by this class of the democratic party does however bring up another seldom asked question- Why are members of the professional (and wannabe professional) class in USA so likely to support, and vote for, establishment democratic candidates? I mean.. why are people in the top 10-20% of the income distribution scale, at least on the national scale, so supportive of a party which still brands itself as pro-working-class? Now some of you will point out that not all people who make a decent income tend vote for democrats.. and that is true. There is however a big difference between people who make a upper-middle class level income for 5-20 years of their life and those who are part of that class.

A working class person with a decent paying job (cop, electrician, tradesman or some other blue-collar type) is not part of the upper-middle class even if they, in some parts of the country, make an almost upper middle-class income for a couple of decades in their life. On the other hand- somebody born in a family where both parents, and frequently close relatives, have post-graduate degrees will almost always end up as part of the professional (and wannabe professional) class. Curiously people born into that class tend to remain part of it even if they are not as financially successful, at least in the short-term, as their parents. So while the kids of a professor, doctor or lawyer might not end up in occupations similar to their parents, they are rather unlikely to end up as electricians or plumbers.

But what does our brief discussion on socio-economic class in USA have to do with future electoral prospects of the democratic party? As you will see in the remainder of this post- a lot!

To better understand what I am going to say next, ask yourself another simple question- What is the idealized self-image of the professional (and wannabe professional) class? Who, and what, do they see themselves as? What do they aspire to become? At the risk of making an over generalized statement, it is fair to say that this particular class sees itself as the truly deserving elite- though most of them would never admit it loudly in public. But why would they think like that? Well.. because it is kinda true. All highly unequal and pyramidal wealth distributions owe their continued existence to the striving of those in the levels immediately below the uppermost level of the social order. To put it another way, it is the professional class who do all the hard work that keeps the status quo going- which benefits the rich elites far more than it benefits them.

And this brings us to peculiar relationship between the professional class and the rich elites. The former, you see, want to become the later. There are however only two pathways for them to realistically achieve that goal. They can either replace them through violent revolution or ingratiate themselves further to the elites. If you have read enough history, it becomes obvious that ingratiation is by far more common than outright replacement- largely because most members of the professional class are clever but spineless creatures who are better at being courtiers than warriors. The professional class therefore spend a lot of effort imitating the moneyed elite. Such mimicry ranges from the fairly harmless copying of their masters tastes in food, drink, dress, mannerisms and leisure activities to the far more insidious process of adopting their worldview as their own.

But why is the false consciousness of the professional (and wannabe professional) class in USA so problematic for the future viability of the democratic party? And why now?

To better answer this question we have to ask ourselves: has the class composition of decision makers and their flunkies in the democratic party (aka the establishment) changed over the decades? As many of you know- the answer to that is a big fucking YES! The democratic party establishment, right upto the early 1990s, represented a far wider range of social classes than in 2016. My point is that, while the party establishment then was just as (or more) corrupt and hierarchical as it is now- it was not the near perfect echo chamber of ideological conformity we see in 2016. But why is having high levels of self-imposed ideological conformity in an organization dangerous for its future? I mean.. didn’t state communism in eastern European countries last for decades under similar levels of self-imposed ideological conformity?

Which brings me to the real reason why extensive support by the professional class is so damaging to the future of the democratic party. Rigid ideological conformity, you see, works pretty well as long as external conditions don’t change too much. Think about using cruise control on a car.. it works great as long as you are driving on a road (and under conditions) similar to the one under which it was turned on. However you cannot keep on using the cruise control setting you turned on a straight and uncrowded stretch of the freeway once you reach its more crowded sections or exit onto a smaller road with different speed limits. And you certainly cannot drive on a snow-covered road like you would do on a dry road in southern California. In other words, keeping yourself on the road requires you to adapt the way you drive according to prevailing road conditions and traffic.

Similarly large human organizations such as political parties have to adjust their mode of functioning and strategies to the prevailing conditions. But how do they “know” about changes in the political and socio-economic climate? In a democracy, elections are supposed to provide such a feedback. But what if they are unable to do so? What if the entire electoral process is so rigged and gerrymandered that most incumbent candidates of either political party keeps on winning “fair and free” elections until the whole underlying system is literally about to collapse? What if a political party is capable of consistently winning elections in certain parts of the country regardless of their policies and performance in office? In case you didn’t realize it- I was talking about the electoral process in USA.

Anyway.. my point, here, is that elections are basically unable to effect any real change in the policy directions of established political parties. Any change in that area (short of the public losing all faith in the system) has therefore to come from people inside the establishment of political parties. We already know that “leaders” and other high-ranking officials in any political party will never change their ways or accept the need for such change. And this brings us to the loyal rank-and-file of political parties. As far as the democratic party is concerned, its loyal rank-and-file = professional (and wannabe professional) class. To put it another way, the loyal rank-and-file of the democratic party is basically a large echo chamber which supports and vigorously defends the interests and worldview of rich elites.

That is why the democratic establishment and its loyal supporters have been able to consistently reelect their repeatedly unsuccessful leadership. That is why they keep on acting as if they were not badly defeated in 2016. That is why they keep on nominating mediocre insider presidential candidates like Dukakis, Gore, Kerry and HRC. That is why all the electoral reverses of the previous eight years had little to no effect on their political strategies. That is also why they are busy blaming everybody but their own strategies and policies for their electoral setbacks. That is also why they are so interested in getting the votes of “moderate” republicans rather than increasing their turnout among the working class.

To make a long story short, establishment democrats will very likely continue on their disastrous trajectory because everybody who has any real say in making that decision believes it to be the only path. Perhaps more troublingly, they will continue to win enough elections in certain populous parts of the party to keep them relevant as a national party and thereby allow them to dismiss (or stifle) emerging internal dissent in the party. Unless some combination of persons and events discredits the current democratic establishment and their flunkies, in the near future, to an extent which makes it impossible for them to be seen as a credible national political party- they have no worthwhile future.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Reddit Group: r/LateStageCapitalism

December 30, 2016 5 comments

Some time ago, I came across an interesting Reddit group about the ongoing social, moral and ideological decay inherent to unrestrained capitalism- but more specifically its currently popular neoliberal incarnation. It contains a lot of interesting posts and links to contemporary examples of the commodification and marketing of services and things that no society with a desire to survive should allow to be commodified or marketed. Posts in the group also seem to have a strong focus on the need to break the current socio-economic status quo and create a more equitable and less fucked-up world.

Here is the link: Capitalism in Decay

Enjoy! Comments?