Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category



Death Wins All Wars front coverDeath Wins All Wars: Resisting the Draft in the 1960s, a Memoir, will be available in bookstores within the next week or so, and once the books arrive here at See Sharp Press world headquarters will be available for 50% off through the end of the month on our web site. (The e-book versions — ePub, Mobi, pdf — will be available on September 1.)

So far, two bookstore readings/signings are scheduled for Daniel Holland, the book’s author:

Thur. Sept. 12, 2019
7:00 pm
Moon Palace Books
3032 Minnehaha Ave.
Minneapolis, MN
612-454-0455
 
 
Wed. Sept 25, 2019
7:00 pm
Boswell Books
2559 N Downer Ave
Milwaukee, WI
414-332-1181

For more information about the book and the author, check out the Death Wins All Wars web site.

Yes, plural: linings, not lining. Let’s begin with the most obvious:

  • Trump has laid bare the racism that is the foundation of the modern Republican Party. Since the 1960s, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the partial demise of the Jim Crow system, the Republican Party has pursued a “Southern Strategy” that appealed to racist whites through both anti-black/anti-Latino actions (e.g., the “war on drugs” and mass incarceration) and scapegoating rhetoric. Until recently, that rhetoric was of the dog-whistle variety, the use of code words (e.g., “illegal aliens,” “food stamps,” “welfare queens,” “tough on crime,” etc.) that GOP leaders could (im)plausibly deny were racist. Now, the GOP’s racial bigotry is overt. With Trump, the festering racism that is the basis of the Republican Party’s strategy has oozed out from under its rock. In a way, it’s refreshing to see racists being racists, rather than hypocritically asserting that they’re not. (Some Republicans still make that pro forma assertion, but you can tell their hearts aren’t in it, and they don’t seem to expect any but the most willfully ignorant to buy it.)
  • One of the primary reasons the GOP got away for so long with its implausible denial that it’s a racist party is that the corporate media allowed it to. For over half a century, corporate outlets virtually always, under the guise of neutrality, balance, allowed Republican politicians and pundits to deny that their code-worded racist terms and rhetoric were in fact racist. (The way “neutrality” works can be exemplified by the following: “Some say the sun rises in the East. Others say it rises in the West. The controversy continues.”) Now, at least some corporate media outfits (e.g., AP, NBC, CNN) are calling the GOP’s racism “racism,” and some are calling Trump’s, and occasionally other GOP leaders’, lies “lies,” rather than “misstatements,” “erroneous statements,” or “untruths.” I don’t expect this to continue past Trump, but it sure is refreshing while it lasts.
  • Trump’s overt racism has laid bare the GOP’s claim to represent all of America, all of the people. By definition, racists do not represent all of the people, but rather one “superior” group. (While Trump claims to “love” his overwhelmingly white supporters, he, and the rest of the GOP. are cynically manipulating his ignorant, gullible, and mean-spirited followers, while systematically screwing them — consider Trump’s tax scam, his opposition to raising the minimum wage, and the GOP’s perpetual campaign to prevent universal healthcare, leaving tens of millions uninsured or under-insured, with tens of thousands resultant unnecessary deaths annually.)
  • Trump’s overt racism has laid bare the GOP claim to be the party of morality. (The same could and should be said about his sewer-rat personal behavior.) What’s moral about racism? What’s moral about supporting racists?
  • Trump’s racism has also exposed the gross hypocrisy of his evangelical base. Evangelicals claim to be the standard bearers of “family values,” yet Trump’s racist immigration policies resulting in deliberate separation of children from parents, children locked in cages, and U.S. Border Patrol and ICE agents literally ripping toddlers from their mothers’ arms, seem not to bother them at all. These theofascists vehemently oppose women controlling their own bodies, and they whine endlessly about abortion killing “babies” (“babies” including clumps of cells no bigger than the head of a pin), yet when Trump inflicts grievous harm upon actual babies and their parents, these hypocrites are silent, and continue to support the bullying, racist thug who deliberately hurts children. If you wanted to put the hypocrisy and amorality of the religious right under a magnifying glass, Trump’s racism has supplied that glass.
  • Trump’s racism has also exposed the sheer gutlessness, the utter lack of principles of virtually all Republican “leaders.” Since Trump took office, they’ve aided and abetted him in covering up his many and serious criminal activities, and now they don’t even have the guts to denounce his overtly racist statements and actions. Trump’s racism has shown the craven and contemptible nature of the GOP and its leaders.

In short, Trump’s racism has shattered the facade of normalcy in America. It’s pulled back the curtain on many ugly truths. Decent people are repelled by the racism and viciousness of Trump and his followers, and that racism and viciousness have shown how necessary it is to oppose Trump’s “very fine people” in the streets and to crush them at the ballot box next year.

 


The British analytical group, More in Common (“founded in memory of [British MP] Jo Cox [murdered by a neo-Nazi]”), reports that the vast majority of Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture.

The study has design problems, such as considering no political positions to the left of “progressive activists,” and defining “PC culture” only in terms of language. (Obviously, it goes far beyond this.)

Still, the study has some value. Among other things, it reveals that a full 80% of Americans (including 75% of Afro-Americans and 88% of Native Americans) “dislike” PC language and consider it a problem. As well, the single group most likely to view PC jargon favorably — though only a third do so — is “progressive activists,” 8% of the total population, who are overwhelmingly white, earn over $100K per year, and are most likely to hold advanced degrees.

In other words, “the liberal elite,” those most likely to control “progressive” media outlets (such as, to fairly single them out, Alternet), and to indulge in the use of PC terminology.

And PC terminology is to all appearances not intended to unite the oppressed against the common ultra-rich enemy, but to give its users a warm feeling of self-congratulation on being enlightened, morally superior, above the rest of us. It’s in-group, self-identifying, and self-congratulatory jargon.

Think about it for a moment. How many people do you know who use terms like “woke,” “people of color,” “white privilege,” “privileged”? I’ve lived for nearly 30 years in a barrio where maybe 25% of the people are white, and I have never heard any of my Mexican or black neighbors, or my poor white neighbors, use these or similar terms. Never. Over damn near 30 years. Never.

“Progressive activists” are not speaking the language of the people. They may want to shame people into using their jargon, but they are not speaking the language of the people.

It’s time for the “progressive” left to stop patting themselves on the back. It’s time for them to stop using jargon that alienates people. (Try telling someone who’s making minimum wage, spending 50% of their income on rent, has no health insurance, and can’t come up with $500 cash to cover an emergency, that they’re “privileged” because of the color of their skin — see how far that gets you; see how far that goes in building coalitions to build solidarity, to improve life for all.)

The PC left is a curse, navel-gazers intent on proving to themselves how virtuous they are in comparison to us unenlightened plebes, especially through use of their in-group jargon. They’re an ongoing disaster.

If the left is ever to make real progress in this country, to make concrete policies to benefit all, it won’t be through using bizarre jargon that plays into the hands of Trump’s “very fine people.” It’ll be through talking about economic policies that benefit all of us.


A few days ago, an old friend I haven’t seen for some time dropped by for a shoot-the-shit session. We’ve never been especially close, but always enjoyed hanging out and, in the old days, did some home brewing together. He’s a smart guy, an ex-Army officer, and fairly progressive politically.

It was late afternoon, approaching evening, with a deep blue sky overhead, with a jet streaking to the northwest leaving a lengthy contrail behind it, with both of us sitting in the shade around the back-patio table. We were about two beers in, and as the contrail spread out and drifted straight above us, I pointed to it and drawled, “Chem trails!” thinking we’d have some fun talking about conspiracy theories and pseudoscience.

I was wrong.

He proceeded to vigorously expound the chem-trail conspiracy theory, but couldn’t provide anything approaching coherent explanations of why? how? — what’s the purpose? how’s it work? — who’s doing it (the government, of course)? or how could “they” cover up a massive conspiracy over a period of decades?

It was like trying to nail mucilage to a door. He retreated into a cloud of ever-vaguer (hence harder to debunk) claims, and eventually withdrew to the ultimate conspiracy-theorist position: “You can’t prove I’m wrong. Prove it!” Never mind that the burden of proof is on those making claims, especially extraordinary claims.

I then asked him where he was getting his information from. Guess, just guess. It was all on the ‘net of course, and the first site he mentioned was — wait for it — Infowars. I took a deep breath and asked him, “You don’t look at The Guardian, CNN, NBC, New York Times, AP, Al Jazeera, El País [Madrid daily, which has a great online site], or any of the other normal news sites?” Nope. They’re part of the “cover up,” and he only trusts Infowars and other sites that are “consistently accurate.”

At that point, I said something to the effect of “You’re out of your goddamned mind!” “No you are!” etc., etc., until we decide to have another beer and switch topics, to something we could agree on, such as that Trump is a cancerous polyp lodged in the colon of humanity.

My pal’s immersed in an alternate-reality bubble that’s hermetically sealed, and that confirms his faith in the reality of “chem trails.” Oh dear! Sigh.

The chem trails “theory” (a bad misuse of the term “theory”) sounds fairly harmless, but it isn’t. Why? Once you abandon rationality and evidence-based decision making — i.e., the scientific method — in any area, you’re totally adrift, vulnerable to emotional appeals, and with no even remotely reliable means of determining the real from the imaginary.

Thus, medieval clerics believed that witches caused thunderstorms, contemporary religious fanatics insist that a mass of cells smaller than the head of a pin is a human being, others insist that the world is ruled by a cabal of Jewish bankers, and still others insist that a mean-spirited sexual predator and con man who’s never done a day’s work in his life and began receiving a $200,000-a-year allowance at the age of three, is somehow on the side of the working man.

All of these irrational beliefs and conspiracy theories have obvious, real-world consequences.

So, how do we debunk conspiracy theories? Critiquing them and presenting massive contrary evidence seems, by itself, to have no effect. Just look at the Trump personality cult. Trump openly bragged that he could murder someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and no one would care. It’s probably more extreme than that. As I’ve mentioned previously, Trump could probably strangle a puppy and then sodomize its corpse live on national TV, and his sycophants would excuse his behavior as “Trump being Trump,” “a different kind of president.”

Trump flaunts this immunity by resorting to ever more blatant lies, lies that a third-grader should understand as lies, and that demonstrate his hold over his followers. A recent example is his claim that China will pay the tariffs he imposed on Chinese goods. It would take an absolute moron or a totally subservient, brain-washed cultist to buy this obvious denial of reality. Yet, millions of people apparently do buy it.

So, what to do?

Regarding Trump’s goose-steppers, they’re only 26% of eligible voters (in 2016, Hillary got 28%, minor party candidates 5%, and fully 41% were so disgusted they didn’t even bother to vote), and once economic reality hits them in the face — especially the upcoming recession [my guess, mid to late 2020] and ever-increasing medical bills — some will abandon him. Most won’t, but some will.

In a broader sense, cultists are almost unreachable. Until physical reality smacks ’em in the face, they’re unreachable — and even then most will cling to their Glorious Leader and his scapegoating, turning their hate on the helpless and near-helpless.

We need to reach those who haven’t yet fallen into the clutches of cults and those who are wavering.

How?

One of the most important ways is the teaching of science and critical thinking skills in grade school and high school. Give people these tools early, and they’ll use them to safeguard themselves, their friends, and their families. (It’s no accident that the leading dissidents in the USSR were scientists.)

Another way is through ridicule. Irrational, cultist beliefs are invariably absurd, and often harmful, when held up to the light of day. Ridicule won’t reach brainwashed cultists, but it will reach the young and those with doubts. We need a legion of George Carlins and Christopher Hitchens to tell the scathing truth (honorable present-day shoutouts to Jim Jeffries, The Onion, and The Satanic Temple).

A third and important way is to present factual, well documented information. For decades, this was the only approach used by rationalist and atheist groups, and it’s clearly inadequate. But in combination with these other approaches, it’s invaluable.

There are probably other good ways to combat conspiracy-theory/cult beliefs, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind.

Please add your ideas in the comments section. I’d love to hear them.

 

 


All right. I’m bracing myself for blowback from the identity-politics wing of the Democratic Party — that part that’s more concerned about patting themselves on the back, demonstrating their virtue, and shaming their more pragmatic brethren, than defeating Trump.

Think I’m talking about Joe Biden. Wrong! Biden is a corporate sell-out hack with no discernible virtues. He backed the Clinton “tough on crime” measures in the ’90s that helped increase mass incarceration; as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the run-up to the disastrous Iraq War, he not only voted in favor of that disaster, but avoided calling expert witnesses who would have called Bush/Cheney’s blatant dishonesty into question. He actively abetted that crime against humanity, helped sell it, because he almost certainly thought it would be to his political benefit to do so. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he totally screwed Anita Hill at the Clarence Thomas hearings — and helped saddle us with extreme-right authoritarian Thomas — by refusing to hear Hill’s corroborating witnesses about Thomas’s gross sexual harassment of Hill.

As VP, he enthusiastically supported Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s war on whistle blowers (thus criminalizing exposure of war crimes, while letting war criminals off the hook).

He also supported Obama’s decision to save the banks while screwing the millions of people who lost their jobs and/or homes who voted for Obama, the master bullshit artist, who betrayed us en masse. (Yes, I voted for Obama in 2008, hoping that his “hope and change” promises weren’t complete bullshit, complete dishonesty — I was wrong.)

Biden also supported Hillary Clinton’s engineered Libya disaster (with no exit strategy in sight), which she thought would make her appear “tough.”

And, of course, he used his VP shoulder to prop up the Obama/Clinton/Biden policy of support for “ISIS-with-oil,” the murderous Saudi Islamic regime.

Joe Biden is a complete fraud as a representative of the working class, and a symptom of everything that’s wrong with the Democratic Party.

Most recently, however, he was ambushed by Kamala Harris on day 2 of the Democratic debates. He was like a deer in headlights.  Notwithstanding that Harris’s attack was simplistic and borderline dishonest (yes, Biden did repeatedly praise racist ubermensch John Stennis), and completely missed the point, Harris did Trump a major favor.

It’s always the same with conventional identity-politics liberals, such as Harris: they pose a false dichotomy. In this case, that the “choice” was between forcing white kids to be bussed to shitty, predominantly black schools an hour away from their homes, or be “racist.”

This totally misses the point: Why are some schools shitty, with damn near no money, and others aren’t? Unequal funding!

The bussing “solution” to this is to maintain unequal, shitty schools in black areas (and around here Mexican areas), but to subject some white students to them as well to subject most black students to them, and to give a few black/Mexican students access to better “white” schools.

Can you think of a better way to set black and white (and Mexican) working people at each other’s throats? Why not equal funding across district lines? Or, better, across state or federal lines.

Why not? Why not equal funding? The status quo is called “artificial scarcity.” It’s how they manipulate us.

It serves the interests of the powers-that-be very well. Divide and conquer.

No one — not a single one — of the Democratic candidates, not even Bernie Sanders, had the guts to point this out. Not a one had the guts to point out that the very obvious solution is to get away from property-tax funding of schools and to turn to equal state (better, federal) funding for every damn school in the country.

No one called Kamala Harris on this. No one called her out on playing the false-dichotomy, racial-division game.

All successful improvement programs (notably Social Security, Medicare), are universal. They benefit everyone. To do less, as Harris (and Biden, and Clinton, and Obama) did is to set us up for division along racial lines — perhaps deliberately. Which plays into the hands of the GOP racists/enemies of humanity.

And let’s not even start on “reparations.” The fundamental assumption of this is that things are basically okay, but for racial disparities. Really? What reality are you living in? What about the Mexicans who the border crossed? What about the Native Americans? What about the illiterate European immigrants who died working in abusive, exploitative conditions (e.g., one of my grandfathers — an otherwise horrible excuse for a human being — who died from from silicosis after working for decades in awful conditions in a foundry — I remember at five, in the 1950s, watching him hurl his lungs up on my parents’ back porch, and then die, strangling before my eyes.) Yeah, I’m “privileged.”

Please. Stop dividing us. Please stop patting yourselves on the backs for how “woke” you are, and please shut the fuck up — please get over yourselves, stop getting in the way of real change. Real change means betterment for everyone.

Unless Kamala Harris stops playing the identity-politics card, unless she starts talking about and emphasizing measures that will make life better for everyone (regardless of race and gender), she’s playing Trump’s game.

 


It’s easy enough to dismiss Trump as a buffoon, a moron, but he has lessons for us:

  • A frighteningly high percentage of Americans want a wide, blubbery butt to kiss, and once they straighten up (somewhat) and wipe the drool from their lips, want a wide, blubbery, bouncing butt to goosestep behind, so as to feel proud, one of the elect, entitled to screw over anyone and anything (including the Constitution) in their way — to put it briefly, they’re morally and ethically retarded, and will remain so;
  • Religious fanatics compose a very high proportion of those goose-steppers/butt-kissers, who comprise a frighteningly high proportion of white voters;
  • Those Christian religious fanatics are every bit as hard to reach as ISIS religious fanatics; they’re just as convinced that they’re right and righteous as the beheaders;
  • Just like those monsters, they’re convinced that the ends justify the means, and the ends are power over all of the rest of us — gerrymandering, voter suppression, whatever it takes — democracy and fair play don’t even enter into the picture;
  • They’re also deludedly convinced that they are the ones being oppressed, despite their receiving over $70 billion per year in tax breaks and near-universal obeisance to their dictates; the “freedom” they want is the “freedom” to oppress, especially our LGBT brothers and sisters;
  • Critical thinking is an endangered species in the U.S. — no one with even a sputtering bullshit detector could possibly buy into Trump’s transparently dishonest b.s., nor into the fundies’ dead-guy-walking-on-water-who-endorses-the-most-vicious-parts-of-the-Old Testament program;
  • The “concern” about life of the “pro-life” forces is hypocritical bullshit — they back corporatists whose environmental policies guarantee millions, probably tens of millions of deaths, many in the near term, especially via the unfolding climate catastrophe;
  • They also back the caging of children and healthcare neglect that have led to deaths of infants and children; they also back murderous regimes and murderous military interventions (e.g., the Saudies in Yemen) — real children? They don’t care — it’s all about controlling women’s reproductive choices;
  • The corporate, do-nothing Democrats’ mantra that “everything is okay; let’s get back to normal” is complete bullshit. Why was trump elected? Because everything was okay???
  • Identity-politics “solutions” based on race and gender will further drive the white working class into the arms of their corporate overlords — any and all progressive policies must benefit everyone, not a select relative few based on race or gender;
  • The corporate Democrats’ message that “nothing will change” (Biden said this literally, recently), and that things will get back to “normal,” is not a winning message. People stayed away from the polls in droves in 2016, in large part because Clinton ridiculed progressive ideas and promised that nothing would really change — people wanted major change, and she promised not to deliver it, as does Biden today;
  • The percentage of eligible voters sitting on their hands (41% in 2016), plus the 5+% of those voting for minor party candidates, dwarfed the votes for both Trump (roughly 26% of those eligible) and Clinton (roughly 28% of those eligible);
  • People are desperate — especially those 41% who didn’t see the point of even bothering — for something to vote for;
  • We very much need candidates who will provide an inspiring alternative to Biden’s do-nothingism and Trump’s monstrousness — again, we need something to vote for;
  • We’re extremely fortunate that Trump is so personally loathsome and incompetent — if he were a better demagogue, we’d be totally screwed;
  • Don’t let Biden and the other corporate Democrats deliver us into Trump’s hands.