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Posts Tagged ‘corporate’

Establishment Democrats and their Obsession with ‘Bipartisanship’

December 21, 2017 9 comments

As some of you might know- I am not a big fan of Christmas, and the holiday season in general, for a number of reasons. Firstly, I find this whole thing to be highly disingenuous given that it is clearly a consumerist holiday which pretends to be about something “higher”. Other holidays such as Halloween are far more honest about what they are, namely crass consumerism and drunk girls dressed like whores. Secondly, I detest any holiday which requires stores and restaurants to be closed for even a single day of the week. What is the whole point of a celebration if you cannot get a nice lunch or dinner at the restaurant of your choice?

Also, most public places seem to be filled with too many screaming kids during the holiday season. Then there is the issue of office buildings being subject to yet another round of poorly thought “upgrades” and “repairs” during this season. All in all, this is why I have not written posts on any profound topics within the last couple of days. And today will be no different, as this post is about a fairly mediocre topic that I had considered writing about a couple of times in the last few years. I decided to finally write about it because of the supposed opposition by establishment democrats to the blatant corporate giveaway aka the Republican Tax Reforms of 2017.

Some of you might say- “but, isn’t it good that establishment democrats were finally united in their opposition to this corporate giveaway by the republicans?” Well.. that is a superficial way of seeing things. A little digging under the surface reveals that more than a few democrats opposed corporate giveaways for reasons other than it being a bad idea. Rather, they seemed to be more upset that the bill passed today did not care about their input. In other words, more than a few establishment democrats would have been perfectly happy with supporting a similar corporate giveaway as long it was not that obvious and blatant. And this brings me to why establishment democrats are so obsessed with ‘bipartisanship’ for the passage of major legislation.

Conventional “wisdom”, aka bullshit spewed by paid shills in the mass media, suggests that establishment democrats care about ‘bipartisanship’ because they are “good and decent” human beings who care about maintaining the “civility” of discourse, due “process” and “dignity” of institutions. But is that really the case? Establishment democrats had no problem passing multiple rounds of corporate deregulation in 1980s and 1990s, welfare “reform” in the 1990s, opposing single payer healthcare in 1990s and 2000s, cheerleading for many “free trade” treaties and agreements, supporting the endless losing war on “terror” since 2001 and voting for any defense budget regardless of cost.

In other words, establishment democrats have been consistent and enthusiastic supporters of policies and institutions which immiserate the bulk of their voters. But what does this have to do with their obsession with ‘bipartisanship’? Well.. think about all the legislation and policies which the democrats did not pass because it supposedly lacked “bipartisan” support. Do you see a common theme running through such legislation and policies? In case you did not, establishment democrats most often talk about ‘bipartisanship’ as an excuse to not pass legislation or policies which would benefit the majority of their voters. A smaller, but still significant, percentage of ‘bipartisanship’ talk is also used to justify their support for pro-corporate legislation and policies.

But why is that so? Why do establishment democrats pretend to care so much about maintaining “bipartisanship”? What do they get from attempting to keeping up that charade? Who are they trying to deceive? The answers to this question start become obvious once you start looking the how the two main political parties in USA are funded. To make a long story short, there is almost complete overlap between the list of major financial contributors to both the republican and democratic party. While there a few standout exceptions, it is fair to say that both parties and their elected representatives are beholden to corporate and non-corporate financial backers who also provide cushy post-political jobs to legislators who further their interests.

While this explains why democrats are so willing to work with republicans on legislation and policies that screw over almost everybody else who voted for them, how does it explain them invoking ‘bipartisanship’ far more often than republicans? To understand that, we have to consider another factor- namely, the profile of those who vote for each party. Since the passage of civil-right regulations by democrats in the mid-1960s, they have not been able to win the majority of white voters in almost every national election and most regional ones. Now, we can spend thousands of words trying to explain the stupidity of many classes of white voters voting for republicans- but that is not the focus of this post. Instead, let us focus on who votes for democrats, especially establishment democrats.

To make a long story short, establishment democrats get most of their votes from the following constituencies: non-whites, poorer whites especially women, younger whites, whites with professional degrees and university education- especially women and truly well-off whites. As you might have noticed, the bulk of their voting constituencies stand to benefit from progressive legislation such as raising the minimum wage, single payer government healthcare, inexpensive tax-funded higher education, rules against corporate monopolies etc. Establishment democrats therefore have to at least put up a facade of being devoted to the causes of the so-called 99%. But how can they put up that facade and then weasel away from those promises- one election after the other?

This is where the concept of “bipartisanship” becomes so central for establishment democrats. They can use that concept, again and again, to explain to their voter-base why they are incapable of passing legislation which would improve their lives. Increase in minimum wage.. sorry, we could not reach a bipartisan agreement on it, Medicare for all.. sorry, there was not bipartisan support for that idea, taxpayer funded university education.. sorry, there was too much opposition from republicans and so on. On the other hand, they can still participate in republican initiated gutting of the social safety net, repealing regulations and rules that hinder corporate excess and pretty much anything demanded by their corporate backers- because they are “common sense reforms” and the results of “bipartisanship”.

Readers might have noticed that this particular scam by the democratic establishment is not working as well as it used to, especially after 2008. A significant percentage of their voter-base now sees through this bullshit and has stopped voting in elections or switched their vote in protest. That is why the democratic party lost so many state level seats, governorships, house, senate and presidency since their last high-point in 2008. That is why a Jewish guy in his mid-70s came so close to beating the anointed democratic candidate of the establishment in 2016 democratic primaries. A similar process among the republican voterbase is key to understanding why Trump won the republican primaries and then the presidency in the 2016 elections.

So let us call ‘bipartisanship’ by its real name- collusion against the interests of the majority of their respective voterbases.

What do you think? Comments?

Propaganda and Advertising have Poor Real-Life Efficacy: 1

December 2, 2017 4 comments

The title of this post might, at first glance, seem almost counter-intuitive to whatever most of you desire to believe about the efficacy of advertising and propaganda. After all, why would all those super rich and therefore allegedly “smart” people spend tens of billions on advertising if it was largely futile? Or why would various governments spend even more money and devote a lot of personnel to create and disseminate propaganda. Surely, even semi-competent people would not spend that much money and effort on something of negligible efficacy. Or would they?

Let us start by talking about all the disastrous, expensive and ultimately ruinous wars initiated by “great leaders” and “highly trained generals” throughout human history, such as WW1 and WW2 and the present. Or think about all the giant multi-national corporations (Xerox, Kodak, Motorola, Blockbuster etc) that have failed because their leadership kept on making bad and ultimately disastrous decisions. My point is that there is no evidence that all those supposedly “smart” leaders of large corporations and nations (and their underlings) are even reasonably good at their jobs- in spite of being paid a lot of money and wielding much power.

If all that evidence doesn’t satisfy you, ponder a bit about how a mediocre reality TV star such as Trump won the republican nomination by steamrolling 16 “professional” life-long politicians and then defeated the darling of the neoliberal establishment, aka HRC, in the 2016 presidential general election. My point is that people who are supposed to be “elite” are, for all practical purposes, incompetent posers who just happened to get a lucky break or hit a lucky streak in their past. Their choices and decisions should not, therefore, be interpreted as evidence of deep thought, competence or efficacy.

But what about all those books you have read touting the amazing effectiveness of propaganda and adverting? What about all those documentaries made by Adam Curtis? What about all those books written by Noam Chomsky, especially this one? Surely, all these supposedly brilliant left-leaning “intellectuals” must have some wondrous insight into the power of propaganda and advertising that is not obvious to “non-experts”. Or maybe they want to pretend to believe in something which can explain their own impotence while simultaneously making a decent amount of money and fame?

To make a very long story a bit shorter, I shall now talk about a few examples of what are often considered to be best examples of success for propaganda and advertising to show you that the real reason why most people appear to go along with that crap is very different from what you are willing to accept.

Example 1: Propaganda in World War I

The attempts by all belligerent European governments to sell the idea of fighting WW1 to their subjects.. I mean citizens.. is sometimes seen as the first instance of governments deploying mass propaganda on a large and systematic scale. But was it really effective? Or were the other reasons behind the public support for war? Have you ever considered that the real reasons for public support for that war might have something to do with the expectations and mindset of people in that era?

Ok, let me ask you a question. What percentage of the population, including the “elites”, of that era could even imagine a war on such a gigantic scale going on for four years? If you don’t believe me.. read the correspondences of both soldiers and generals who fought in that war. It quickly becomes obvious that even 2-3 years into WW1, most of those involved in the actual fighting and planning believed that some new military tactic, weapons system or strategy would somehow magically translate into a swift and decisive victory.

Furthermore, the general public in European countries had not lived through such a large war on their soil, let alone one that could last more than a few weeks. Perhaps most importantly, the very high number of deaths and casualties in each participating nation, within even the first few months of that war, made it basically impossible for either the people of those nations or their leaders to settle for anything short of “total victory”. It was really about an uncontrollable and escalating cycle of vengeance at a time when contemporary culture was characterized by social darwinist thinking.

I would go so far as to suggest that the total absence of propaganda during that time would have no worthwhile effect on the conduct, length or outcome of that war. The sheer amount of wishful thinking based on past experiences in pre-modern societies based on social darwinism combined with the high number of children per woman and the second stage of the industrial revolution made every single aspect of that war pretty much inevitable. The government support of propaganda and advertising were, at best, avenues for creating patriotic sounding jobs for the sons of rich and connected people who did not want to risk their lives at the front.

Example 2: Militaristic Nationalism in Japan between 1920 and 1946.

Another important, though less commonly discussed, alleged example for success of propaganda concerns the rise of extreme militaristic nationalism between 1920 and 1946. It is, for example, common knowledge, that the Japanese armed forces fought bravely and often to the last man even in seemingly futile battles such those for Iwo Jima and Okhinawa. Then there are all those accounts of Kamikaze plane attacks and Banzai charges. By any measure, the soldiers and other personnel of the Imperial Japanese forces during WW2 were highly driven and ideologically motivated. But was it due to propaganda?

Many conventional historical accounts of 1920s-1930s era Japan strongly suggest, or just outright say, that the government- especially factions controlled by the military establishment put in a lot of effort and resources to inculcate a certain nationalistic ideology among the Japanese people. This extended from simple censorship of media to elaborate mock training of schoolchildren to fight in wars. But how much effect did any of these traditional and non-traditional avenues of propaganda have on the type of nation that Japan became in the late 1930s and really 1940s?

In my opinion- very little and here is why. Understanding the reasons which led to the Japanese people embracing an extreme right-wing nationalistic ideology predicated in their racial superiority requires us to put ourselves in the world as seen by the average Japanese person in the that era. Japan, you see, went from a medieval feudal society to a modern industrialized one within less than 50 years from the beginning of the Meiji period. By the beginning of WW1, and certainly by its end in 1918, its industrial, academic and engineering achievements had surpassed almost every other country but a few (USA, UK, France and Germany).

All these achievements and competencies had, however, not been helped it increase its global prestige, power or access to raw materials. In contrast, even third-rate European powers like Portugal, Netherlands and Belgium had large colonies in Asia and Africa. The treaty of Versailles simply confirmed that Japan, as an Asian country, would never be welcome as an equal in the imperialist white man’s club. At that time, Korea was the only real overseas colonial possession of the Japanese empire- and it was hardly a desirable one.

But it was a much bigger problem than diplomatic slights at the hands of white European nations. Japan had a large population but only a small part of it was arable or inhabitable. One unintentional, but somewhat welcome, consequences of the industrial revolution in Japan was that many millions of newly educated and skilled Japanese started moving to Korea, China and other East-Asian countries to make a living. There they encountered nation after nation of subjugated Asian people living in a pre-industrial era.

It is therefore not surprising that the idea of racial superiority was so readily accepted by Japanese people in that era. They could see that their country was the most developed and powerful country for thousands of miles in any direction. And yet, this did not translate into any material advantage for them. It is therefore not surprising that leaders spouting right-wing militaristic ideas about conquering and exploiting the resources of surrounding countries became popular in Japan. They were just saying out loud what everyone else was thinking.

In the upcoming part of this series, I intend to talk about why Nazi propaganda appeared to be so effective until the final year of WW2, why soviet propaganda appeared to succeed until the early 1970s and why american propaganda appeared to succeed for decades before entering its death spiral after 2008. Here is a hint.. in all three cases, people appeared to go along with the propaganda only as long as the underlying system provided at least part of what it had promised.

What do you think? Comments?