Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing

It is difficult for the ordinary voter to come to grips with the notion that a truly evil man, a truthless monster with the brains of a king rat and the soul of a cockroach, is about to be sworn in as president of the United States for the next four years....And he will bring his gang in with him, a mean network of lawyers and salesmen and pimps who will loot the national treasury, warp the laws, mock the rules and stay awake 22 hours a day looking for at least one reason to declare war, officially, on some hapless tribe in the Sahara or heathen fanatic like the Ayatollah Khomeini. -- Hunter S. Thompson, SF Examiner column, September 14, 1987, reprinted in Generation of Swine, Gonzo Papers Vol. 2, p. 281

It's a difficult thing to internalize what legitimately appears to be an impending catastrophe, and still go through your daily routine, your regular life, as if it will work according to plan. All the while knowing full well that the worst is yet to come, and in unpredictable ways at best.

More to the point, it's difficult to guess which will be worse -- the entirely predictable things to come (more voter-suppression tactics; national right-to-work laws; various authoritarian measures under the guise of "safety" and "security"), or the "black swan" events that are bound to occur (the most obvious example would be positing how far they'll go when the next terrorist attack or mass shooting takes place), and the reasonable assumption that they'll be underprepared for it and use it as pretext for something more awful (martial law). Let's just agree for the record that it's going to be pretty bad either way.

So far, it seems safe to say that this administration intends to "govern" the exact same way the scampaign was conducted. Its operational principle can be summed up in two words, stated as a defiant question, a dare: Or what? That is their default response to all the horrified plaints from the media and critics. "You can't threaten judges and reporters for being critical of you!" Or what? "You can't ban people based on their religion!" Or what? "You can't surround yourself with white supremacists and conspiracy theorists, and replace generals on the Joint Chiefs of Staff with your son-in-law and the alky editor from Breitbart!" Or what, motherfucker? What are you gonna do about it? Vote? Did you see how many millions of people out there are more than willing to line up and believe whatever I tell them, even when they know it isn't true, just because it pisses you off?

The first thing they will go after is your right to vote, especially if the early town-hall crowds we've been seeing gain momentum heading into the midterms next year. The pieces are already in place, simply by spreading the lie. When pressed for evidence, they just lie some more. Again, what the fuck are you gonna do about it, son?

The biggest truth to face that I don't think people give a damn whether the planet goes on or not. It seems to me as if everyone is living as members of Alcoholics Anonymous do, day by day. And a few more days will be enough. I know of very few people who are dreaming of a world for their grandchildren. -- Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country, pp. 70-71

The catchy boutique phrase is "fake news," but it would be phrased better (though less catchy) as epistemic closure. The gap between the average Clownstick supporter and the average Clownstick opponent is a widening impasse, a canyon at this point. And the gap is not political so much as epistemic. They are in their own universe of bullshit and agitprop, ad copy from the alt-right basement brigade designed specifically not to inform, but to enrage, to affirm misconceptions, to create and broaden a divide. These alt-right assholes will probably never understand that they too are being used, by a handful of bastards to regard the unwealthy as a lesser species in need of management, much like beef cattle on a feedlot, placidly awaiting a fate unknown to them until they head up the ramp, at which point it all happens with brutal alacrity.

The massive Harris Ranch sits astride Interstate 5 in California, about halfway between Sacramento and Los Angeles. The ranch is the largest west of the Mississippi, with hundreds of acres and tens of thousands of cattle. It is fully self-contained along the entire spectrum of turning a cow into hamburger meat, from breeding to packaging. The ranch is famously well-run, and the meat is very good, supplying the In-N-Out Burger franchises (as well as many other fast food franchises).

Being a lifelong resident of California, and having driven up and down the state along I-5 countless times over the years, I can tell you firsthand that there is nothing quite like the olfactory assault that lets you know you are approaching the ranch, miles before you actually see the crowded feedlots, packed with cattle awaiting their fate. The restaurant is excellent. They are extraordinarily good at what they do, which is using industrialized mayhem to produce something which is very good and nutritious in proper measures, but will eventually kill you if it's the only thing you ever consume.

People didn't change. They grew into what they had always been. -- James Lee Burke, Light of the World, p. 407

You know who had Clownstick's number right from the very start was the late great Jimmy Breslin. The man who once infamously gutted Rudy Giuliani by characterizing him as "a short man in search of a balcony" knew that Clownstick was nothing more than a loud mouth in a suit, a braying jackass who would never be anywhere near as smart as he thought he was. He had many wonderful turns of phrase, Breslin did. He also noted that "media" is "the plural of mediocre," a beautiful understatement.

Breslin cannily saw that Clownstick was just sharp enough to get the media bozos to give him free publicity. Not much has changed since then, has it? Here's how it was back in the day:
Trump will call and announce his rise. The suckers will write about a heroic indomitable spirit. Redemption makes an even better tale. So many bankers will grab his arm the sleeve will rip. All Trump has to do is stick to the rules on which he was raised by his father in the County of Queens:

Never use your own money. Steal a good idea and say it's your own. Do anything to get publicity. Remember that everybody can be bought.

The trouble with Trump's father was that he was a totally naive man. He had no idea that you could buy the whole news reporting business in New York City with a return phone call.
These jamokes ought to be ashamed of themselves, but they are careerists at heart, and that's that. Some of them, such as Jake Tapper at CNN, have gotten woke, as the kids say, and are calling the lies for what they are. More will follow, and maybe it's not too late. But it will take work, because the lies are non-stop, and each demands attention, and people only have so much attention to give to them before they become desensitized to it all. Or in the case of your cult followers, the lies are a feature, not a bug.

The lies are strategic, not accidental. This is not at odds with the fact that Clownstick is a paranoid old man who doesn't seem to have any expertise or knowledge of anything other than himself. But you don't have to be all that clever to know how to manipulate people, especially if you have a reserve of money and name recognition -- and now power, and the will to use it as an insufferable authoritarian who cannot only not tolerate dissent, but can never even admit that he's wrong about basic empirical facts that are obvious to all. Again, there is a strategic element to that.

Another part of the strategy is to keep the media jabbering about the lies, spending time and bandwidth showing the homework and proving him wrong on the facts, while he has moved on to other things and taken his flock -- indifferent to facts and fate, bored except for the opportunity to vicariously drink the tears of pussy librul snowflakes in between infusions of whatever reality-teevee bullshit they're mainlining this week -- with him to the next pasture.

These are people who, for all practical purposes, have given up on the idea of living a self-actualized existence, because for them, self-actualization has been reduced to trolling people on the internets. This type of intellectual perversion is now the norm. If "facts" are not only in contention, but have stopped mattering, then there is no longer any basis for discussing ideas or policy objectives. "What happens if a massive tax cut is (barely) disguised as a plan for health care reform, and millions of people lose coverage?" Eat shit, beta cuck libtard faggot! Lock her up! Build that wall! Derp de derp! MAGAAAAHHHRRGH!!!1!1!!

The dangerous thing about arguing with morons is people might not be able to tell the difference after a while, because it's wearying and demoralizing to the one arguing with the moron. The moron loves it, they crave the attention. They refuse to do the honorable thing and jump head-first off the fucking Hoover Dam already.

It's a no-win situation -- engaging with them is a waste of time, but leaving their noxious bullshit unchallenged is not a viable alternative for a healthy society. And like many a catastrophically-ill person, we won't see the sheer scope of the problem until the patient is terminal, too late for treatment.

It may already be too late. The amount of destruction Clownstick's candidacy and election has already wrought is significant, and that amount will only increase. The problem with over-using words like "norms" is that they undersell the importance of the things they refer to. A better phrase would be "rules of conduct."

I like to think that I have a creative temperament, and as such, I tend not to have much use for rules and traditions and such like, unless they make sense have some utility. If something works, use it; if not, use something else. If it sounds good, it is good. That sort of thing. But there is always balance -- when I pick up my guitar, I play what I want to play, without worrying about whether it's "right" or not, but I took the time to acquire a working knowledge of music theory along the way, because balance and structure are important as well.

So what we might regard as the tedious sausage-making processes of governance are, in fact, structures established to ensure continuity. Presidents come and go, and each has their own management philosophy, but ultimately they all adhere to established procedural structure. Players retire, and committees tweak rules here and there for playability, but it's understood that they're all still playing football. Implicit in this is that breaching those norms too drastically would grant unintended powers to future occupants of the office. This is already a problem, as the Cheney regime breached some of those norms in plunging the Middle East into the abyss, and Obama was all too willing to use those expanded executive powers to step up drone attacks extrajudicially.

But the current team of loons and outcasts are much more transgressive; indeed, it's not an exaggeration to say that transgression is a strategy for them. They are not playing football, they are playing Calvinball, where the guy with the ball makes the rules up as he goes along.

Right now and for the foreseeable future, the ball is in the hands of a demented old man who poops his rage-tweets out to a captive audience in the middle of the night. The cult followers insist that the ordure is the finest of chocolate, but people with working noses know the truth.

And once Grampa Walnuts shuffles off the stage to smear his poop on his tacky marble walls, the system faces some hard choices -- do we continue with these new norms, stretched out in unpleasant directions, or do we agree to dial things back? The trend has been toward polarization for twenty years now, how do you think that question will be answered? The Republican party has lost its collective fucking mind, and if Clownstick sees through his term(s) and is succeeded by someone from his (newly adopted) party, they and their cult followers will simply see that as a ratification of the corrosive dialogue Clownstick has ushered in.

The Democrats face a much tougher dilemma, regardless of how things proceed. Let's assume for the sake of argument that Clownstick does not start designing his own military uniforms and declare himself caudillo permanente. He will leave office at some point within the next eight [fuck!] years. Let's further stipulate that he leaves office in one of the following scenarios:
  1. Early removal from office -- impeachment, scandal, run out of town on a rail just for being an all-around cocksucker.
  2. Voted out after one term -- Dems win in 2020.
  3. Retires after one term, succeeded by Republican.
  4. Serves two terms, succeeded by Republican.
  5. Serves two terms, succeeded by Democrat.
Only in the first scenario is it even possible that the Goopers might be encouraged to return to playing by the traditional rules, but even then it's a low-probability bet, as Merrick Garland can tell you. This is purely a risk-reward situation, and the only way they stop doing what they've been doing is if they get punished by the electorate.

As for the Democrats, thinking solely in game-theory outcomes, only the first two work to their advantage, and then they have to decide whether to engage in punitive retribution or reconciliation. Personally, I think a balance of both would be useful -- give the moderate Republicans a come-to-Jesus option and openly vow a return to some semblance of bipartisanship, while weeding out the hardcore cracker contingent, who are fucking useless and worthless as politicians and as human beings. Louie Gohmert, Steve King, Scott DesJarlais, that type. Put 'em up against the wall, figuratively of course.

That's what the Democrats should do in those instances. What they are most likely to do is adopt their usual spork-to-a-gunfight stance, offer to play nice (which under these circumstances is essentially punting on first down), and revert to their traditional role as the pawl to the Goopers' ratchet. It's what they know, and the adversarial pose keeps the money rolling in, and provides a great excuse for not actually getting anything done for working class Americans.

So far, they've done fairly well, letting the Goopers trip on their dicks and bluster their way into a corner. They understand that arrogance, stupidity, and incompetence are measurable physical forces, like gravity. They are letting gravity do its thing for now. They would do well to compose a more compelling narrative to sell themselves, not just as a "we're not them" option, but as an "I am voting for the Democratic candidate because ___________" option. Bringing Clownstick down is a net positive, but will not bring the cultists along at all, and may even set some of them off.

There has to be a reason why one side is better, rather than an ongoing teleology of how the other side is worse. Endlessly increased polarization of the electorate leads probabilistically to civil war of some sort; in a country as large and diverse as the US, it would likely take the form of ongoing terrorist-style attacks here and there, and the ongoing delegitimization of the electoral process itself (think of the natural consequences of Clownstick's "rigged" claims throughout October, had HRC won).

The problem with the police is not that they are fascist pigs but that our country is ruled by majoritarian pigs. -- Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, p. 79

One of the more annoying cultural trends here (perhaps it exists in other countries; don't know or care) is the empty longing of nostalgia. This is most aptly characterized by the slew of Facebook memes with inane proclamations such as "Share if you miss The Dukes of Hazzard!" or "Bring Back Bugs Bunny!"

This is not at all an aesthetic judgment, although it is indeed tedious in that aspect as well. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with either of these entertainments, nor anything else from that era. I don't buy into any SJW nonsense about the Dukes perpetuating racism because of the traitor slaver flag on the General Lee. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

What's annoying about these memes is that for the susceptible, they hark back to a simpler, "better" time, in the Those Were the Days sense. Cultural mores, expectations, and roles are inextricably tied and assigned, and woe betide the persons or groups who step outside those lines. It is an especially pernicious form of political correctness, one that (like its campus SJW doppelganger) stifles dissent with overt social pressure.

This is the social subtext of the typical Clownstick voter. If Americans (in the aggregate) were looking to time-travel back to the good ol' days, they overshot the imagined Elysium of their '70s-'80s childhood, and went all the way back to the 1930s. Clownstick presents himself as anti-establishment, which is a classic marketing technique, and the rubes buy into it, but he (and they) are anything but rebels or mavericks. They are counter-reformationists, antidisestablishmentarians, the squarest of the square, the most proudly regressive of all animals.

And in this particular social context -- the world on the cusp of generational crises revolving around refugees, religious fundamentalism, and water scarcity; declining economic stability and mobility in the wake of a supposed recovery; weariness and frustration with politicians who make promises and never follow through; entire communities of people who have simply given up -- the regressive squares seek the comfort of the myths they know and remember.

It doesn't take a genius to know that people would rather be lied to than ignored. The problem is that the path of empty nostalgia, reactionary isolationism, and revanchist demagoguery all lead directly to authoritarianism and fascism, a reflection of their desperate need to control reality simply by insisting that the delusion is real, and facts can be ignored or willed away.

We've become a land of fractal, selective narratives, but when all of those narratives and the political system are overtly controlled by the same club that pits us all against each other, how do we back out of the corner we've gotten ourselves into. Stability is predicated on norms and order, but these people use disruption and chaos as a strategy. Again, these things are not accidental.

He'd meant well, or at least he hadn't meant ill. -- Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake, p. 284

Larger-scale changes have been going on that not only underpin this recent sea change in the electorate, but will reinforce it in the coming years. The hollowing out of the Democratic Party, much of it self-inflicted, continues apace, with no bench at all at the national level and very little structural integrity at the state and local levels in most of the country. At least they are starting to apprehend the lessons that their Republican counterparts applied to Obama every chance they got -- obstruct and pontificate every chance you get, even if it's just symbolic; do not go along for any reason whatsoever.

I might complain about California every now and again, but there are very few other states -- like, fewer than five -- that I'd even consider living in, or even visiting. Most of them seem to be well into their toxic economic spirals. If I want to see towns full of clapboard destitution and angry morlocks putting the same inane tattoos on their arm fat, there are more than enough places throughout Cali to do just that.

Case in point: if we accept the premise that we are more or less in a perpetual campaign cycle these days, then it would behoove the Democrats to start their search for the 2020 candidate right away. So what nationally known Democrat looks like a viable contender right now? I do think Cory Booker and perhaps Kamala Harris have potential (and Kirsten Gillibrand seems to be sensing -- correctly -- that there's no time like the present), but we're talking now, like they need to start fundraising ASAP and be ready to throw in by summer 2018. Julian Castro also seems like a possibility, and was on the short list as a Hillary running mate, but it's noteworthy that you've heard nothing about him since. I don't even recall reading anything about whether he (for example) campaigned for her in Texas.

So it's looking pretty grim right now for the opposition, and their best hope for a comeback in 2018 and 2020 is that the Clownstick regime is as incompetent and mendacious as they appear to be. So far they are exactly those things. He and they can be counted on to be both arrogant and stupid, a combination that guarantees negligence and/or overreach. Whether it's another 9/11 or Katrina or attempt to privatize Social Security or Yosemite, they will find a way to fuck things (and by consequence, people) up.

But in the meantime, even larger dynamics than those are in play, gathering momentum, and will only heighten the contradictions. One is that there are simply more people than there are things for them to do, as far as careers and gainful employment go, and that's not going to change -- in fact, thanks to automation, commodification, and outsourcing, it's only going to get worse. And the rageaholics in their blown-out factory towns are going get it snapped off in their asses bigly.

Second, and just as worrisome, is that the corporate media (MSM, whatever term of endearment you prefer) is dying, and they know it, but they have no idea what to do about it. Caught in a merciless landscape of niches competing for the gnat-like attention spans of illiterate morons who no longer have any use for facts or information, corporate entities are basically being put in the position of having to go along to get along.

The Clownstick regime will be quite literally an existential dilemma for the press monkeys: on the one hand, all they have to do is follow the money, he's not even bothering to conceal the self-dealing and profiteering; on the other hand, they have to beat it home and make it stick, again for indifferent idiots and vengeful saps.

The press are finally starting to realize that he is not their fucking friend. But some in the press and in gubmint are still operating under the fanciful notion that "values" and "norms" and "checks" and "balances" will protect us all from the depredations of the caudillo. I'll be damned if I know what the hell these people are thinking. Again, when the autocrat tells you who he is, believe him.

It is reasonable to implore folks to Do Something. Some of those Somethings are easy enough to agree with -- for example, if there is an issue near and dear to your heart, you can and should write eloquently and often to your elected representatives, at all levels. That's their best barometer of how they're doing, and aside from their interactions with the donor/owner class, it's their primary source of contact with constituents and voters.

But the whole takin'-it-to-the-streets bit? Good luck with that. I can't think of a bigger pound-for pound waste of time and energy, statistically speaking. The only time people notice that shit is when someone gets hurt or killed. Or maybe you get arrested, and find yourself on the hook of the profiteering carceral state for a while, which is the real hidden future of what's left of our fair republic. Either way, your voice, such as it is, is effectively silenced. The media will not memorialize your principled martyrdom; whether it's forgotten while you're paying down a fine, getting raped in the showers at Rikers, or being buried in a potters' field makes little difference.

And for what? The longevity of any given "protest" means nothing -- how long did Occupy Wall Street sit there outside Goldman Sachs, only to be ridiculed by former GS staffers turned news-readers such as Erin Burnett? What was the eventual outcome of all the riots in Ferguson or Baltimore? The massive Iraq War protests across the nation and around the world in 2003? The post-election protests in November 2016?

In fact, you can count on a mathematical, directly proportional relationship between the length of a protest, and the likelihood of the media -- and therefore, the public at large -- to delegitimize the protesters, and by association whatever their cause is. It starts with the usual "don't these people have jobs to go to" jabs, then quickly degrades outright into the collective assertion that the protesters' supposed refusal to engage with a political system that openly and routinely neglects and ignores them, proves by the Axiom of Transitive Bullshit that they are not "serious" enough to be taken seriously.

I'm going to suggest that there are much more effective modes of protest that are infinitely simpler -- in fact, people literally don't have to get off their asses, and they can still make an actual difference. The trick is that there have to be enough people to do it.

For some years now, the ongoing "joke" has been that our two-party system is really one party (the Democrats), and a coalition of extremists and Jesus freaks all trying to get their pet obsessions legislated. There has been some truth to that, as far as it goes, but again, the 2016 election exposed some catastrophic flaws in the "responsible" party (depending, of course, on one's perspective).

Let's say for the sake of argument, that in a strictly operational sense, in the sense that a political party is an organized entity that advocates the interests of its constituents, that a party should reflect and fight for those concerns, that the United States of America has no true political parties as such. Rather, we have two organizations that pretend loudly to serve the interests of their bases, while quietly promoting and advancing the financial interests of the corporations that fund them.

More to the obvious point:  this is entirely a money game, and therefore you either donate enough to own a share of the system and its players, or you are just a spectator. This is a game played by millionaires, on fields owned by billionaires, and we're all just the chumps out there in the stands, with our fan cosplay and face paint and team swag, maybe the big wooden letter "D" and a few feet of picket fence. We think our cheering has an effect on the outcome of the game.

But the outcome of the game is completely irrelevant, except insofar as we are fans of one or the other of the participating teams. I've been a fan of the Oakland Raiders for over forty years, since I was in second grade, and it's nice to see them back in the playoffs after more than a decade. But they could win the Super Bowl and it won't put a dime in my pocket, unless I happen to be involved in helping them build a new stadium (the cost of which then gets amortized throughout the community for the next generation). Money still changes hands all over the place, from ticket sales to parking fees to concession stands to jersey kiosks to television revenue packages. But 99% of the money exchanged amounts to an upward transfer, from fans to owners, in various ways.

Now, if a sports franchise consistently puts out a shit product, there are direct consequences. Fans simply stop buying tickets and swag and NFL Sunday Ticket packages, and the revenue starts drying up. The team and the league have to be responsive, or continue to lose money. This provides a useful model for real political protest, especially now that the pelf-grubbing Clownstick regime is coming in.

Take, for just one example, the reality teevee shitshow "Celebrity" Apprentice, the vehicle by which Hair Fuhrer kept his public profile since 2004. The show will now of course be hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, but Clownstick will retain an executive producer credit, meaning he will still earn money from whatever entertainment value is to be had from watching "Snooki" and other washed-up has-beens and never-weres try to run a taco truck or whatever. So what would happen if enough people got together and collectively boycotted every company that advertises on that fuckfest, and emails those companies and tells them precisely why they're boycotting?

Or take Mark Burnett (please), the limey asshole who created the Apprentice, as well as Survivor, The Voice, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader, and many other lesser-known contributions to lowering the lowest common denominator. Burnett has made a career of turd-mining; his content model seems to almost literally be to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. And it's all shit.

So Burnett is bad enough simply because he's made an impossible amount of money somehow finding a way to make American television even worse than it already was. He also makes shitty Bible features, perhaps as some sort of atonement (even though simply going the fuck away would be acceptable). Informed speculation in the closing weeks of the election had it that Burnett was sitting on any number of inflammatory Apprentice outtakes that had Clownstick saying the n-word, the c-word, and more. Not that it would have mattered, but the fact is that Burnett is an admirer of Clownstick, and closely aligned with him. So what about boycotting as many of the companies that advertise on Burnett's various bags of fertilizer as possible?

Look. There is a practical limit, thanks in no small part to various levels of vertical integration, to how much you can boycott and still lead a normal life. But the beauty of it is, you don't need to hit all of them, just one or two. They're herd animals; even the shadow of a lion will empty out the watering hole with a quickness. Just pick the top three companies on Burnett's top three shows, and let them know. That last part is key; I wasn't watching any of his fucking crapfests anyway, but I buy stuff, and so do you. These programs exist solely to put butts in seats and sell cars and pharmaceuticals and cell phone plans. If a million people tell Toyota and T-Mobile that they'll never buy their products again because they're buying time with someone who has actively participated in ruining the nation on cultural and political levels, they'll listen.

We're all still a little bit shell-shocked from the last eighteen months, and bracing ourselves for the shit tornado brewing on the near horizon, heading straight for our collective trailer park. Beyond the usual name calling and partisan sniping, the hate toward the Berniebros and the idiot pollsters and the prevent-defense candidate that lost to a reality-teevee clown, and on and on. Maybe the unspoken source of anger and frustration on the part of Hillary voters is finding out the hard way that your country isn't what you had thought and hoped and believed it was....or perhaps worse yet, realizing that it was, in the end, exactly what you had feared.

Truth is, both of those things are true. It's a big fucking country, obviously, 325 million people and counting. By the law of averages, some of them are assholes. What still holds true is that everyone has the right to be wrong and to be asshole about it. And each side considers the other assholes -- except, of course, some of them are friends or relatives, individuals we actually know and respect and care about. But civility may be out the window for some time; there is clearly nothing gained by taking the so-called higher ground, and in fact there is something cathartic about sniping at them, at him. Just as the occupant before Obama was never referred to by his given name, and certainly not with the P-word, I will never refer to Clownstick by his given name, or by his acquired title. It may be petty and futile, but that's all we got at this point. Knowing that he would be annoyed by it makes me smile, and those are going to be harder to come by until these fuckers are gone.

Better yet, give their bullshit right back to them -- when they pulling their fake-tough nonsense, respond with Or what?

No comments: