Saturday, February 25, 2017

American Revolution?

Let's get one thing straight.  There has never been an American revolution.  Between 1775 and 1783 that was a rebellion that became a War of Independence.  It used to be called that--the War of Independence.  But for the last three-quarters of a century, for both domestic and international consumption, in pursuit of an eminently sensible, geopolitical agenda, the War of Independence has been recast as the American Revolution.

It's pretty harmless.  We did have a genuine Civil War, of course (which some of your more cerebral unreconstructed rebels used to try to call the Southern War of Independence).  But a revolution, like the Soviet Revolution or the French Revolution.  No.

Was there an ideological component to the American War of Independence?  No doubt.  The Founding Fathers swam in the currents of the European Enlightenment, provincial groupies and followers of various strands of Enlightenment thinking, chiefly the parts concerned with political organization, less so the social analysis.  When Franklin arrived in Paris, he played the hick beautifully because the role was such a good fit. But to turn those guys into the towering intellects of the 18th century is joke.

The colonists started as subjects of a hereditary king, governing with legislature consisting of a hereditary House of Lords and a Parliament elected by a very restricted suffrage.  The new nation emerged with an elected king and a legislature consisting of an upper chamber composed of oligarchs indirectly selected by their fellow oligarchs and a lower chamber elected by a very restricted suffrage.

Some revolution.  But, definitely, a successful war of independence.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Congress, America's Newest Death Panel

Repeal the Affordable Health Care Act?  Or, it's all about Freedom.  Your freedom to live* with or without health insurance.  Is that what it's all about?

Congress, America's Newest Death Panel.  That's the mantra, boys (and gurlz).  Stick with it,  Repeal Affordable Care.  Congress, America's Newest Death Panel.   A pretty good meme.  Or at least a good bumper sticker.

When worlds collide.  A lot depends on whether Paul Ryan and the Freedom Caucus have drunk their own koolaide.  And which flavor.  For a decade or so, they have inflamed their base with, on the one hand, the importance of balancing the budget, and, on the other, repealing Obamacare.  Well, take away the government health insurance subsidies for the middle class by repealing Obamacare and, guess what, you've made a big dent in the deficit.  At a cost of stripping health insurance from all those older angry white losers no longer under an employer's healthcare umbrella 'because their jobs moved to China' who elected you.  They can go naked or buy a policy that gives them a card but no coverage.  Unless they happen to have an extra $10k or so to cover next year's premiums.

Another step in the slow and painful process of people learning they need their government, and good government governing in their interest is better than bad government dancing to the oligarchy's tune.  The private sector doesn't have all the answers.  Free markets come at the cost of free men (and women).

It may not be the end of Days.  But it could be the end of ways.  A fork in the road.  Stick a fork in it.

* and die

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The New Jews?

“Be brave.”  Is what a mother about to be deported in a Denver immigration sweep ordered by the Trumpistas said to her children in 2017.  The family will apparently be broken, to make a political point.  I’m not sure why the children of this particular illegal alien aren’t being deported, as well, or why they don’t serve as anchor babies for her, but such detail relating to individual situations gets lost in the sweep of history.

“Human beings are sacrificed to abstractions; a holocaust of individuals is offered up to ‘the people.’  Is what a man named Benjamin Constant  wrote in The Spirit of Conquest in 1813.  I found that at page 218 in Hugh Honour’s book, Romanticism (1979), and he in turn was quoting the historian Isaiah Berlin in his Four Essays on Liberty (1969) at page ix.  So it’s fair to say that, despite an intriguing Wikipedia entry, old Benjamin Constant and his ideas haven’t exactly made a big or lasting impression on the global consciousness.

So, under the Trump regime, who will be the new Jews? Right now, the leading candidates, in my opinion, are the illegal immigrants and the Muslims.  If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the illegal immigrants, for a couple of reasons.

One is legal.  Islam is a religion, and religious groups have a wide variety of Constitutional and legal protection, ranging from hate crime legislation to the First Amendment of the Constitution.  And most Muslim immigrants in the United States are here legally.  As legal resident aliens, they have most (not all) of the legal protections of U.S. citizens.  So, Muslims are a harder target.  And bullies avoid hard targets.

By contrast, illegal immigrants are the furthest thing from a protected class under U.S. law.

A second reason is cultural.  You may fear and hate your enemies, but at some level you respect them.  I mean, Islamic terrorists did manage to bring down the World Trade Center, and, man, that's huge, just yuge.  Even if you’re tough enough to blow off the loss of human life, like when he mentioned the 3 trillion dollars the Iraq War cost but forgot to say anything about the cost in blood, the Towers of the World Trade Center were valuable New York real estate.  Gone.  Poof.  All that cash flow from all those leases.  Clearly Islamic terrorism is the most serious threat to the American way of life that the Republic has ever faced.  So let's use them to keep the country on a war footing and scapegoat somebody else.

On the other hand, if you consider the attitudes towards illegal immigrants voiced by Trump, it is the contempt of a hate spewing nationalist for sub humans.  They illegals are criminals.  They are rapists.  They are filthy.  They spread disease.  Their cartels have tentacles across the civilized world.  Their very presence soils the fabric of our community and corrupts the purity of our Nation.  Anyone who can’t hear the echoes of a Central European Jew baiter from between the World Wars is tone deaf.  I mean, does someone have to invent the Protocolos de los Jovenes de Cuszco to connect the dots?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

El Caudillo de la Basura Blanca?

Or the Fuehrer der Lumpenproletariat?  And Who is the White Trash?  What is the Lumpenproletariat?

Figuring Donald Trump as a political figure requires covering some ground that's been left fallow since the triumph of the now fraying international neo-liberal consensus, celebrated in much of the Western World as an occasion to stop thinking hard about things and instead pretending to be public intellectuals, think tank pundits,  cable TV talking heads and right wing radio talk show entertainers.  (I leave out bloggers only because I don't want to be splattered by my own back splash.)

I have been calling Trump, the political actor 'El Caudillo de la Basura Blanca'', not as a term of respect, of course, but as an accommodation to his own conception of himself.  Not being fond of the Hispanic influences on American culture (my main reason for chosing to say it in Spanish), Trump would translate it as Strongman of the White Trash, though he'd probably use a term like 'real Americans' instead of White Trash.  Now, people who use their identity as white native-born American citizens to feel superior to other people, to intimidate all the Others, and to claim special privileges in defining the national culture or at least owning guns, can be called a lot of things, and White Trash is as good as any.

So, for me, as far as the term El Caudillo de la Basura Blanca goes, the question isn't about the 'Basura Blanca' part, it's about the 'Caudillo' part of it.  Now Francisco Franco was the archetypal Caudillo of the twentieth century.  Juan Peron wasn't too shabby, either.  Both of those guys had a political cunning and will to ruthlessness than leaves The Donald in the dust.   If Trump were to build his wall using the slave labor of his surviving political opponents after having bathed the country in blood, he'd be worth comparing to Franco, building the Valle de los Caidos in the 1940 and 1950s.  Given the president's track record so far, that doesn't seem likely.  He lacks the leadership abilities, the strength of personal character, the myriad political empathies, the technical expertise, etc., etc.  If he is replaced from the Right, maybe his successor will have that necessary mix.  If he ends up propped up as the front man for some beta test of a future, dystopian version of the American presidency, the whole idea of 'leadership' goes out the window, and he's just a pawn in somebody else's shadowy game.

Which brings us to the idea of the Fuehrer der Lumpenproletariat.  For those of you who learned to hate communism without bothering to learn any Marxism, the lumpenproletariat is probably a foreign concept.  I'm not a Marxist (and if I were, I'd be an American Marxist, who were never much to write home about, anyway), but here goes, the 'lumpenproletariat' is the alienated, antisocial, parasitical, deviant, corrupted, quasi-criminal elements of the lower social orders.  Most of Trump's core supporters would probably object to be described than way even more than to be called 'white trash' (which in some tobacco chewing, wife beating, Confederate flag flying circles can be a perverse badge of honor).

Now, a rabblerouser or a demagogue can be a leader (which is all a fuehrer is) without having the skills necessary to govern.  In the American War of Independence, Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams were good examples of gifted speakers, rabblerousers if you were a Tory, in the Patriot Cause.  But no one every accused either of them of strong management skills.  More recently, Mussolini reputedly said of himself and Hitler that Hitler was the second rate leader of a first rate nation while he, Mussolini, was the first rate leader of a second rate nation.  So, maybe fuehrer fits better than caudillo.

But, viz., my rather pallid reference to Hitler and Mussolini,  it is precisely the swift descent into the foetid swamp of internet Nazi comparisons that keeps me from using the word 'fuehrer' in connect with Donald Trump.  Who wants to wade through that fascist sewage?  Leave that particular f-word to the likes Newt Gingrich with his PhD, Rush Limbaugh with his pill problems, and all the other right wing talking heads.  And fuck'em.

So, in the interests of civility and good manners, and have due respect for my enemies and their feelings, I think I'll avoid 'fuehrer der lumpenproletariat' and stick with 'el caudillo de la basura blanca.'  After all, as Marx himself said in reference to the two Napoleons who were Emperors of the French, the first time tragedy, the second time farce.  Hopefully, the progression in Caudillos, from Franco to Peron to Trump, will be a similar descent.

But, the White Trash, the lumpenproletariat, the workings of class in American, now there is something to consider, and not exclusively from the perspective of simple economic determinism (though will a little layering economic determinism will prove useful).  Something for another day.  Not until after Realism. Art. Politics.  But someday soon.