Tag Archives: Occupy

Requiem for a Lightweight

Trump did not win. Ms. Inevitability lost.  It was inevitable. The only surprise is that so many refused to see what was so obvious until it was too late. I saw it coming and said so; first in September, 2011, then in  June, 2013, and again in June, 2016.  However, there is a much more profound consequence of this election that remains ignored in the post-election ruminations of the media.  I will touch on that later, but first, the postmortem.

Did the Russians steal the election from  her?  No.  Whatever they may have done was minor to what she did to herself long before.   Hillary, paranoid of right-wing conspiracies long before Russian hacking became a national security threat,  dismissed security concerns when she was Secretary of State. She dismissed security concerns regarding her own personal server(s).  Her campaign dismissed security concerns as if they had no prior knowledge of her email vulnerability, and no prior exposure to ‘third rate burglaries’.  How much more damage could the Russians have done to her than she and her dream team had already done to themselves?

Did the leaked emails kill her?  Probably not.  If there were any smoking guns revealed, I’m not aware of them from what was reported in the press.  Most of it was a lot of embarrassing but petty, small-minded trivia erupting from her camp followers and hangers-on which reflected the shallowness and self-serving mentality that many of us associate with the political culture in general.

Did Comey and the Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight do her in?  She may be convinced that he did, but I would give equal credit to Willful Bill, who just had to stop by the AG’s plane to discuss grandkids for 45 minutes. That may not have justified Comey’s subsequent actions, but in the current take-no-prisoners climate, it must have upped his need to protect Number 1, not wishing to be Lynched for his boss’ poor judgement and not knowing her loyalties.  Between a rabid Congress and incompetent Justice, he didn’t have any good choices.  Only responsibility.

Hillary didn’t lose because of Comey. She didn’t lose because of the email server. She didn’t lose because she’s not likable enough.  She lost because she was an inferior candidate,  a fragile ego hiding behind a brittle mask of toughness, and unwilling to acknowledge her own weaknesses; a striver who could not calibrate her ambitions to the dimensions of her abilities; a closet Republican wearing the mask of a liberal; a chameleon  who struggles to blend in but only manages to stand out and irritate with every tone-deaf effort to justify herself;  a panderer to minorities who did not understand that elections are won by majorities; a self-styled political operative who failed to grasp that the ultimate election was the Electoral College and not the popular vote; a candidate so seriously flawed in image and limited in substance that her flacks had to re-brand  her every two or three weeks as the New, Exciting Hillary, only to experience serial failure.  All the Queen’s horses and All the Queen’s men couldn’t put Hillary together in the end.

But the real story of Hillary’s loss is not that she won by nearly 3 million of the popular votes.  It is that she didn’t win by far more and that she lost the ultimate race, the Electoral College, by so much and against an opponent as deplorable as hers.  Hillary’s real measure of loss is the votes that were cast against her and the votes that stayed home. If one adds the 4 million votes for Gary Johnson, most of which we can presume would have gone to Trump or stayed home, she would have lost the popular vote or been in a dead heat, and still lost the Electoral College.  Voter turnout over the prior election appears to have increased by at least 7 million.  Voter registration is reported to have significantly increased for this election.  If we assume that the Democrats were largely the beneficiaries of registration growth, but she only won by 3 million votes, what does that suggest about how much of her base eroded, like the out-going tide of public mood pulling grains of sand from under her feet while she stands at the water’s edge,  contemplating the view of the horizon, only to discover herself pulled out to sea by the undertow she didn’t know was there.

But it would be unfair to blame Hillary’s loss on Hillary alone.  It takes a village.  In this case, the Democratic party.  Consider that after her amateurish campaign against a relatively unknown newcomer in 2008, the Democratic Party is handed a victory that it  largely did not earn as a party, and then proceed to lose ground in two consecutive mid-term elections in which it should have built on momentum to solidify its gains, but basically left Obama to swing in the wind.  And now it has the temerity to insinuate, if not charge, that it lost 2016 because Obama ‘didn’t do enough’.  I hope that when Mr. Obama writes his memoir, he devotes a chapter of rebuttal entitled ‘The Audacity of Dopes’.

     *  *  *

This election has been a collection of ironies.

First, that Ms. Experience should be severely challenged by a virtually unknown quantity in Mr. Sanders for the second time in her illustrious career and survive not on her merits, but on her careful engineering of the backroom Democratic machinery in an undemocratic manner.

Second, that the chief strategies of Hillary and Trump were to debate each other’s deplorability, and against all reasonable assumptions, she lost.

But the greatest irony is that she was defeated by a candidate who  attacked her for being a pawn of the elite, and who is proving day by day to be a more corrosive agent of middle class economic and social decline than Hillary would ever be.

How did this come to be?  The ultimate blame belongs to the electorate.  We pay more attention to sports, reality TV and the Kardashians than to the politics that influence our daily lives.  We are a society that embraces the cheap and easy  and frivolous at the expense of quality and durability, and it shows in our political choices as well as our clothes and food.

We don’t want a President.  We want Santa Claus, who will fulfill our every wish with no effort or sacrifice on our part.  Many of us, especially Democrats, expected the newly elected Obama to do it all, and we turned our back on him like yesterday’s meatloaf when  he couldn’t fix everything in the face of a Congress of indifferent Democrats and largely rabid Republicans led by the treasonous Mitch McConnell and the gutless John Boehner.

The American public, programmed by the media for cultural ADD and narcissism, turned on Obama for failing to meet its expectations and now turns to Trump with the same level of hope that it first projected on Obama, but hope resting on a dubious foundation.

I suspect, based on the anecdotal knowledge from my small sphere of acquaintances but with  no statistical foundation for the assertion, that many who voted for Trump view him not as a leader but as a hammer.  They have few expectations that he will  ‘make things better’.  Rather, they hope that he will ‘drain the swamp’ and break the system that they feel has done so much for so long to put their well-being at risk.  They are willing to take the risk that out of the rubble that Trump will create,  they can fashion a better life for themselves. That is likely an ill-conceived calculation.

Ironically, many of these people are professionals whose well-being is tied to the very system they hope Trump will dismantle.  They seem to embrace a detached sense of cause and effect, seemingly dismissing effect. Many of these people in my acquaintance are analytics in fields of finance and management and medicine and engineering where facts matter and have consequences, and image is to be viewed with professional skepticism. But they see the current system as beyond redemption, and in need of recycling.  I share the view that the current system is seriously flawed, but if Trump is the cure, I’d prefer the illness and a search for a credible remedy.

   *  *  *

There remains one critical question for the economic elite and their political gofers to contemplate.  When Trump’s masses discover in the next year that he is the Hillary they feared, what will they do?  When they discover that he and his wrecking crew have stripped them of the few remaining benefits and safeguards that the current political  order provides and they have taken for granted, what will they do.  Can Trump put back in the bottle the anger he has released, or will he be its next victim, but not its final victim? When the Tea Partiers and Occupiers realize that they are not each other’s enemy, but that they share a common enemy, what happens next?

   *  *  *

I voted for Hillary Clinton, much as I distrust her.  I deemed her less dangerous and destructive and more subject to control and containment than Trump.  I did not do so gladly, but I considered the option of not voting a dereliction of a citizen’s duty. Even among two genuinely lousy choices, one is usually less lousy than the other, if only by a hair’s width. I hope that this requiem for Hillary’s political life does not become a requiem for our great national experiment.

I am reminded of Simon and Garfunkel’s lyrics:

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
Going to the candidates’ debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Every way you look at it you lose

Bookends  1968.

Not much has changed.

But everything has changed.

Onward

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What Hath Business Wrought?

Or perhaps more precisely, what hath the Business Elite of the US wrought, specifically in the melt-down, (or is that conflagration?) of its political arm, the Republican Party, a.k.a the party of Business?

It is too early to write the obituary of the Republican Party. Remember, that has been done before; after the flame-out of Barry Goldwater, and the humiliation of Richard Nixon’s demise.  But what the Business Elite has unleashed through its political arm is more devastating to our national well-being than the collapse of a political party which can and likely will regenerate in a variety of ways.

It was supposed to be so simple.  After three decades of whittling away at government at all levels through various manipulations of elective and lobbying processes, covered by the benign visage of Ronald Reagan and Bush the Elder, and finding that economic power alone was not sufficient to complete the task, the Business Elite decided to go to asymmetric guerrilla warfare.  Agents such as Dick Armey and Karl Rove incubated and unleashed what became the corporate arm of the Tea Party.

It was supposed to BE the Tea Party, except, as with the Stuxnet  computer virus, it metastasized beyond intent…and control.  It sought to rouse the deepening dissatisfaction and cynicism of the white middle class and vector it like an explosive shaped charge against The Government. The anger that was building over a system that was failing the Tea Partiers on all fronts was supposed to deliver the final ‘democratic’ blow to ‘take back the government’ by destroying the government.

Kind of reminds one of that famous line delivered by a military officer in the aftermath of the Tet offensive: “We had to destroy the city in order to save it”.  It is worth noting that that did not work either.  Nor will the act of destroying our governments at all levels and denuding our Constitution of its spirit and intent by straight-jacketing it with brittle meaning of a bygone era that doesn’t comport with today’s reality. (May Justice Scalia rest in peace, and the rest of us with his passing.)

But, back to Business. There is a double ruse at work here.  The Republican Party has mastered the meme of ‘perp as victim’, pretending to defend the Constitution against the ghost of the Warren court, while systematically disemboweling the very notion of a democratic society, aided and abetted by the Roberts court which, despite the best efforts of its liberal wing, has exceeded the alleged abuses of the Warren Court  in its interpretive manipulation of the spirit of that document.

It takes more than a flag lapel pin to be a patriot.  Eroding voter rights while championing Citizens United and Corporate participation are among the gems of their deceit.  Their rejoinder that Citizens United merely puts business influence on a level playing field with union influence ignores the success of the Business Elite in bludgeoning the union movement into irrelevance.  (In fairness, it must be noted that the union movement has done itself no favors in convincingly arguing its relevance, which should be self-evident in the asymmetrical warfare perpetrated by the Business Elite against workers at all levels of the food chain, but that’s a subject for another time.)

And so the Repugnantlan Party finds itself with a choice:

‘Do we play by the rules (a novel concept, don’t you think?) and let the ‘democratic’ primary process choose the nominee; or

do we trump Trump in the convention and engineer the coronation of a ‘true’ conservative;

or do we ditch this rusting hulk of a party and run a third-party candidate who is a true ‘conservative’.’

Note that in any case we’re talking about the vestiges of a party that is defined only in terms of which brand of ‘take-no-prisoners, no-compromise, Christian caliphate’ flavor of conservatism that The Force might choose.  It’s Trump (wing-nut conservatism); Cruz (Christian Caliphate Conservatism-Dark), Kasich (Christian Caliphate Conservatism Light with a smily face), or god only knows whom else can be dredged up.  The Huckster? Jeb, the Repugnantlan equivalent to Hillary’s political ineptitude and entitlement?  Marco, the flame-out hope of the Establishment that couldn’t sell the electorate on youthful Kennedyesque charm alone? (fill in the blank).

And who is the Force?  It is the widely reported groups of ‘Big Donors’ who have been meeting this past week to determine the Repugnantlan Party’s fate. And who are The Big Donors?  Well, they ain’t Joe and Jane Six-Pack of Union Local 13.  Safe bet?

They are the Adelsons, and the Koch Brothers  and Big Oil, and Big Hedge Funds, and Big Banks and other Big Corpocracies through various intermediaries to conceal their identity from the Little People where disclosure might be bad for the ‘Business Model’.

In one sense,  nothing has changed.  As in Watergate, Deep Throat’s advice still holds: ‘Follow the money‘.  But today, the stakes are so much greater; and the mechanisms so much more blatant; and the arrogance, insufferable, as evidenced in Trump who merely distinguishes himself from the rest of the Republican clown circus in his galactic audacity (because Earth alone could not possibly contain his ego).

The Business Elite have, as a group, succeeded in corrupting both parties so as to appear ‘impartial’ and politically neutral.  But the flow of money, to the extent that it can be determined, tells the truth.   It would be both unfair and myopic to suggest that the Democratic Party is less corrupt.  It is less dangerous merely because it is less organized and focused in its intent.  Democrats in Congress seem more concerned with saving their own individual hides than with submitting to a party discipline.  This is as much the cause of Obama’s troubles, post-2010, as is the treasonous Mitch McConnell and his minions in the opposition party.

But, perhaps this rant is missing the fundamental point.  What’s really bad in all of this?  Isn’t what’s good for business good for America?  Don’t our job creators know what’s best?  Aren’t we safer than we’ve ever been, thanks to the very same Military Industrial Complex that Eisenhower warned us about?  Don’t we have the best health care that money can buy in the world, thanks to the Medical Industrial Complex?  Don’t we have the safest food in the world thanks to the Agricultural-Industrial Complex that also gives hope to so many undocumented workers? Aren’t our pensions and other investments secure in the best free market system known to mankind? And wouldn’t all of this be so much better if business were just taxed and regulated less so that it could invest more in turning West Virginia coal miners into high-tech coders (which it would surely want to do because full employment makes for more robust consumer markets for cheap Chinese stuff sold at everyday high prices and lowest possible cost and quality (because quality is unnecessary cost))?

And besides, who’s really complaining about the role of business, besides some spoiled little brats who are too incompetent to find a good job and don’t want to pay off their college loans accumulated while taking gender studies and lit classes?   Most people are happy.  They’ve got the newest technology.  They can  watch Hunger Games and Game of Thrones on a big screen at home or in their car, or on a mobile device.

Access to Hunger Games and Game of Thrones and House of Cards on mobile devices is particularly useful in the migration from foreclosed McMansion to homeless shelters.  It maintains continuity of distraction from the real hunger games and games of thrones and house of cards going on around us as our infrastructure crumbles, our rule of law crumbles, our way of life crumbles, our civic institutions and sense of shared destiny crumble, our self-esteem disintegrates.

I suspect that at some point, Tea Partiers and Occupiers will converge by necessity if not by desire, in homeless shelters and other venues of need.  Circumstances will force them to look at each other as people, and not caricatures of The Opposition.  They will discover that they have more in common than they ever imagined; that is, they’ve both been screwed by the same forces.  And when The Government has been reduced to a point of institutional incompetence and impotence as to be rendered irrelevant and no longer a plausible ‘enemy of the people’, they will begin to ask the questions that should have been asked thirty years earlier: Who is the real enemy of the people? And why?

And when they begin to ask those questions, the Business Elite will learn belatedly that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were the least of their concerns.  It will be a bad day for Business. It will reap what it has sewn.

*     *     *

There will be voices in the business community who will object to this rant and protest that its observations are not reflective of all people in ‘business’.  That is of course true.  No generalization is ever universally applicable.

But it is also true as in many movements that an assertive minority that presumes to speak for the majority, in effect speaks for all in the majority’s silence (remember Nixon’s Great Silent Majority?) .  In a majority’s silence, the majority has made a decision, be it subliminal or conscious; be it for agreement or fear of consequences or apathy.

If the Business Majority chooses to remain silent to the actions of the Business Elite for whatever reasons, it is an endorsement.  If significant members of the business community or the Republican party are troubled by the course of their institutions toward regressive and repressive government in  the perverted guise of ‘conservatism’, and choose not to speak and act in opposition, then they are accomplices to the consequences.

Or to borrow a line from the Sixties protests, ‘if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem’.

Onward.

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Dis-Integration

“You know the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip-slidin’ away”

Paul Simon

It was all supposed to work so nicely. The world would be tied together by the Internet, free trade, free music. The ‘bad guys’ in Moscow and Beijing would become good capitalists and stewards of something remotely resembling democracy. Growth would be forever, and business cycles would be banished from our economic Garden of Eden.

Except it hasn’t, and it isn’t, and it likely won’t for another …? Let’s just say that nirvana has been indefinitely postponed until further notice.

The Internet, its many benefits notwithstanding, is a battleground of deception, invasion of privacy, and other more serious forms of warfare and cyber-mugging.

Global free trade is hostage of escalating economic, environmental and sociopolitical uncertainties.  Somalia is no longer the poster child of failing states. It is now in competition with Syria, Egypt, Libya, Greece, Italy, Pakistan, and Japan.

The economic juggernaut that is China is at risk of suffocating from its collateral environmental excesses.

The kleptocracies that have replaced the dreaded Communism in Russia and rendered it a mere brand name for garden variety totalitarianism in China, may merely be temporary place-holders awaiting the next devolution.

At street-level, societies are rapidly pulling apart.  Civic institutions are in decline due to aging populations, a lack of civic engagement under the pressure of economic trauma, and a fundamental distrust in civic and political institutions across the political spectrum.

While gays are now marrying in record numbers, heteros are declining or deferring marriage in greater numbers in several economically developed countries, creating a demographic wild-card.

At a time when our capacity to generate information is unprecedented, our distrust of that information is growing apace.

And did I mention the environment? It too is morphing in a thousand ways. All of our institutional and informational capabilities have not yet found a way to distill its disparate trajectories into a net assessment of consequence and consensus for action.  But fundamental natural forces are subtly wearing away at the assumption of human dominance.

We have entered a stage of massive Dis-Integration.

Disintegrate?  Or Dis-integrate

Again, I turn to the stalwarts at Merriam-Webster for some grounding in accepted usage before presuming to go off on my usual tangent.

Disintegrate:

“To break or decompose into constituent elements, parts, or small particles”

“To destroy the unity or integrity of”

But before we explore this term, and its mutation for this post, dis-integrate, let’s also define its root.

Integrate:

“To form, coordinate or blend into a functioning or unified whole.”

“To unite with something else.”

“To incorporate into a larger unit.”

Disintegration is often an unintended process, the result of ambient forces in the natural or social or economic ecology. Wind and water and other elements disintegrate shorelines, and monuments and masonry without any pre-meditation or purposeful agenda. Staff turnover disintegrates organizational continuity, competence and cohesion. Technological change disintegrates sustainability of media and data integrity. Market forces disintegrate product viability and customer loyalty.  These may be directed or coincidental to other influences.

But we are seeing now a mutation of the term with decidedly different consequences: Dis-integration, or what I will define for this discussion as the conscious and concerted dismantling of a structure or state of being. This is a more forceful and focused form of the term.  In the case of the US Congress, the Republican Party generally, and its Tea Party malignancy specifically, the term ‘virulent’ might be more appropriate.

We have entered an age of dis-integration, following approximately sixty years of intense integration since World War II.  This is an international, national, local and personal phenomenon. It is cause for concern. But what is the cause of the phenomenon?

It is the major failure on multiple fronts of integrative processes and relationships which have fostered profound doubt about the wisdom of the whole. That is one reason, primarily at the grass-roots level.

And then there is the more sinister level which finds opportunity in chaos, known more popularly in business circles as ‘disruption’;  and attacks constraints in integrative structures which are perceived by the Dis-integrators as inhibiting their ‘rightful’ freedom of action, consequences to others being inconsequential to their calculus.

A Darwinian sociology is taking hold at all levels of the food chain. At the individual level, it is often a concerted retreat from social and economic structures whose benefits are now doubtful, but whose impositions are becoming burdensome and blatant.  At the institutional level, political and economic, a concerted drive to disrupt, divide and conquer is shredding the social fabric. It is consolidating power at the cost of systemic social resilience.

Much of the institutional disruption has been perpetrated by corporations through political processes.  An article in the late 80’s suggested the rise of the supra-national corporation, an entity that was essentially stateless and defines its objectives independent of and superior to any particular nation-state.  This, of course was most pertinent to US corporations which were among the largest at that time, and were mutating into multinational and trans-national organisms. Such institutions have steadily challenged, co-opted, eroded or simply ignored US governmental strictures, steadily increasing their influence and freedom of action.  The rise of the 1%ers and concentration of power is perhaps the clearest collateral indicator of this movement.  It is most manifest in Silicon Valley, Wall Street and the energy sector where concentrations of power have achieved sufficient critical mass to bend the political process to their will.

Throughout history, institutions and nations have risen in the pursuit of power, and fallen in its failed exercise.  In the twentieth century, power has been aggregated through a conscious architecture of management, and has often been expanded not only by force of arms, but by reason and pursuit of social logic and stability.

But our management processes have too often failed us or betrayed us, and the social logic which has been the glue of our integration is dissolving in frustration and anger. The Tea Partiers (not the corporately propagated sect, but the natural mutation) and the Occupiers come from opposite ends of the sociopolitical spectrum to share a common distrust of ‘the System’. Voters are retreating from political parties; workers from unions. Citizens are moving to rural areas to escape the demands and problems of urban/suburban life. States and counties are talking of secession.  The phone companies want to abandon the cord of reliable service, and Congress is waging an assault on the Postal Service that goes beyond reform to decimation. Multiple attacks are being launched against public education, one of the critical glues of social advancement and cohesion. Privatization of government services, ostensibly to save taxpayer dollars, is as often a boondoggle greater than the disease it was supposed to cure, but it further erodes the stature of government at all levels, and the continuity and public oversight that is possible, if not always executed to intended effect.

We are now retreating within our individual and tribal caves, electronic and otherwise, as if to seek safety from the elements, cyber and otherwise. It did not work for our ancient ancestors. It will not work for us.

When the first settlers landed in the strange new world of North America, they died one by one.  They only survived when they figured out their priorities and learned to work together.  Here in the Brave New World, there is a lesson to be re-learned.

Onward.

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