The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Month: April 2017 Page 1 of 2

Was All the “Trump is Hitler” Rhetoric Right?

On October 17th, I wrote that demonizing Trump as fascist had consequences.

To most Americans fascist = holocaust, Hitler, and World War II. To be a fascist is to be the worst thing possible.

Popular culture is full of references of going back and killing Hitler before he became powerful. We bewail that no one did anything. We blame Neville Chamberlain for responding to Hitler’s provocations by making concessions.

It is generally accepted that trying to make peace with a fascist is foolishness.

Donald Trump is a fascist, so are many of his followers, and those who follow him but who aren’t fascists are still working to try and get a fascist into power. They must be stopped, and our culture believes violence is justified in stopping fascists.

That is the logic of the rhetoric.

I think it is now pretty clear that Trump is not Hitler reborn. He is not even Mussolini reborn. He was, at most, a right-wing populist, but he’s not even that. He’s just another oligarch who flirted with populist-right ideas, but has mostly not even followed through on those.

He was never Hitler. I didn’t think he was during the campaign, and said so.

And now we have polarization: antifas and fascists. People who didn’t exist on the public stage before they were vaulted there, and with that polarization, we have violence.

I don’t have anything in particular against punching Nazis (though I do have something for free speech), but these people have been elevated from cranks no one knew about, to somebodies.

Only one prominent Trump advisor can credibly be called something of a fascist: Bannon, and he is outweighed by people who are just standard, out-of-the-can neoliberals, like Trump’s daughter, and son-in-law, and, well, almost everyone else. There are a few nasty racists, like Sessions, but they existed long before Trump. There are climate denialists, but that’s a Republican party thing, and so on.

Trump’s not Hitler. He never was. There is not going to be a Reichstag fire in which he seizes power.

The fascist line, like the Russian pawn line, were simply anti-Trump political lines. Extremely dangerous, and in the case of the Russian line xenophobic and dangerous, but just propaganda.

And millions have fallen for it, hook, line, and sinker and are now basing their lives and identities around it, on both sides. This hasn’t weakened the “alt-right,” it has strengthened it, and it sure as hell didn’t stop Trump from being elected.

Skipping a few half million dollar a plate dinners and campaigning in the rust-belt? That might have stopped it. Not opposing a $15/minimum wage, that might have stopped it. Not trying to get “moderate” Republicans to vote Democratic and ignoring traditional Democratic constituencies, that might have stopped it.

Not Hitler, and calling him Hitler didn’t work.


I wonder if our next dynastic appointee, Chelsea Clinton, is even just a little more competent as a campaigner than her mother?

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Rentiers vs. Capitalists, Yahoo CEO Edition

We tend to think of rentiers as being property owners, but a rentier is anyone who uses control of position to extract monopoly profits. CEOs appoint boards, boards determine CEO compensation, and corporations can pay obscene amounts of money, even when they aren’t making a profit. Heck, even if they’re being taken over.

Corporate America prides itself on rewarding success and punishing failure. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer does not fit comfortably into that narrative. During her five-year tenure at the once-proud tech firm, user levels stagnated, ad revenue dropped, acquisitions cratered, layoffs accelerated, product quality floundered, and hackers stole the personal information of more than one billion users.

But when Yahoo’s sale to Verizon becomes official in June, with the restructured company renamed Oath, Mayer will walk away with $186 million, according to a regulatory filing released this week. That includes shares of Yahoo stock Mayer owned, stock options, and a $23 million “golden parachute” of cash, restricted stock units, and medical benefits. Mayer did relinquish $14 million while taking responsibility for the Yahoo Mail data breach, but she’ll get 13 times that amount just to no longer remain part of the company.

I should point out that the first part–“priding itself on rewarding success and punishing failure”–is pure bullshit when it comes to executives and CEOs, pure mythology. Ordinary workers may (sort of) live in that world, though they get little reward for success, but high ranking executives are compensated irregardless of how their companies are doing. The worst performing CEOs get higher compensation.

If you want to be well paid as a CEO, perform like shit. Science backs it up!

This is not capitalism. This is rentierism. The value of all the loans taken by pbulic corporations in the 2000 run up to the 2008 crash was equal to the stock buybacks made by public corporations.

Why? Because most executive compensation is through stock options!

It’s good to be the Queen/Duke. Ahhhhh…what a life.

And this, folks, is why you don’t have nice things: Because these people run your society and make most of the important decisions. To say that they are parasites is to be generous; many parasites shade towards symbiosis, these people make the economy and their companies perform worse than it would if they did not exist. Restrict compensation to up to seven times the median, fire everyone who earns more, and promote those below them and I guarantee that in ten years the economy would be much better.

You can have lots of really rich people or a good economy; you can have lots of rich people or a democracy.

Those are the choices.

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Open Thread

Round two of shuddery-cold fever has me in its grip, so please use this threat to talk among yourselves, should you so wish.

Obama Starts Cashing In Directly for Bailing Out Wall Street

Not confirmed, at this point.

“What sources are telling FOX Business Network is that former President Obama, now less than 100 days out of office, has agreed to a speaking engagement during Cantor Fitzgerald’s healthcare conference in September,” FBN’s Gasparino said. “We understand that he is going to be the keynote speaker for the lunch, and he’s going to receive a fee of $400,000. We should point out that that’s in line with what Hilary Clinton got… we should point out that Cantor will neither confirm or deny.”

Politicians are owned, not because of campaign donations, but because they are taken care of once they out of office. For many (though not Obama), it’s also because, while in office, their friends and family are taken care of.

Other than this being domestic bribery, and legal, I don’t see a great deal of difference between this and Trump’s conflicts of interest. The bottom line is that Obama made sure the bailouts for Wall Street continued, and he is being rewarded for it.

This is corruption. It is evil. And millions of people suffered for it. Many died. Obama’s administration was very deliberate in not helping homeowners in any serious way (in fact, harming them). They didn’t help homeowners because they felt doing so would hurt banks. Millions lost their jobs, and the economy never fully recovered.

Obama wasn’t the worst president, but that’s because there is lots of competition. But he was a terrible wasted opportunity, is corrupt and did immense evil. The inability of many to recognize that people like Obama (and Bush, and Clinton, and Trump, and Harry Reid and…), in real terms, are far more dangerous to them than someone like bin Laden, is a very real and proximate cause of vast suffering.

There will be many who defend him, but this is indefensible, as was much of his behaviour in office. If you hate Trump, understand that, absent Obama’s failure to make enough Americans better off, there is no Trump as president.

And now, now he’s getting his pieces of silver. I hope they are worth what he sold for them.

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Macron vs. Le Pen in France

This is the final showdown. A reminder, Macron ran Hollande’s economic policy, and wants to do even more “liberalizing” of the French economy. A.K.A., more gutting of worker’s rights, wages, and so on.

The polls show Macron winning, but given the reliability of polls lately, who knows?

What I do know is this: Macron will swiftly be as popular as Hollande (meaning, in the doghouse), and the next election, if LePen doesn’t win this one, will be LePen’s to lose (and if she loses, it will be to someone like Melanchon—a left wing populist).

Britain needs LaPen to win. LePen is willing to take the pain to Frexit. She won’t be slowed down by the EU’s promises of pain–instead, she’ll pile it on.

This is what 37 years of international neoliberalism has brought, and bought, us.

(Oh, and Corbyn is Britain’s only chance to do Brexit in a way that isn’t an enema with a sledgehammer, but it looks like that’s what Brits want.)

Should be interesting, anyway.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

How to Think About Thoughts

I wanted to title this “The Thoughts Are a Lie,” but it wouldn’t be true. Not entirely. Some thoughts are a lie, some thoughts aren’t, many are half-truths.

To mangle a pair of modern metaphors, thoughts are context-sensitive help combined with auto-correct, and both are based on emotional charge and salience.

For example, my mind, on hearing or even thinking the phrase “My name is…” will automatically fill in “Inigo Montoya.”

In the 70s, when I was young, dinosaurs still—-I mean, scientists announced that cholesterol was bad, mmmmkay, and margarine became a thing. Not only was it “better for you” than butter, it was a heck of a lot cheaper.

The butter producers struck back with an ad, and as a result, whenever my brain hears “butter” it automatically fills in “tastes better, naturally!” (My search engine fu has failed to find a copy online.)

Thanks, Brain. (Also, as best I can tell, margarine is probably worse for you than butter, just like most artificial sweeteners are worse for you than just chowing down on sugar.)

This same process is at work with all sorts of stuff for everyone. (The following examples aren’t necessarily personal.)

At the personal level, we may see a friend’s face as cold if it passes over us and think he’s angry at us. On inquiry, he’s just having a bad day. A pack of boisterous young men may trigger non-verbal fear; or a black man. Or white men with buzz cuts, depending on our history and politics.

We may see someone with long hair and think “damn hippy.” Or we see a man in a suit and think “fucking suit” or have feelings of deference (or both). If you think most people don’t defer to men in suits, you’re quite wrong; I used to amuse myself by dealing with the same person dressed up and dressed down. Not only was the treatment almost always completely different, most of them didn’t even recognize that they’d dealt with me before.

The people who impressed me were the ones who treated me the same no matter how I was dressed.

Thoughts are conditioned. What has been impressed upon us in the past plays out in the present and the future, whether it is appropriate or useful. The worst of this is when the original conditioning was mixed. The word love is like this for most people. Their parents told them they loved them, then punished or mistreated them, sometimes horribly.

They love their parents, they also hate them, and they are scared, and love brings up all of these feelings and chains of thought which have nothing to do with the current relationship, and everything to do with the relationships where they learned to love.

Thoughts are, thus, best regarded as information before the senses, like any other information. The same is true of feelings. They may be true and valid, or they may be crap–prejudices or emotional battery from the past, completely inappropriate to the current situation.

The thoughts, and often the emotions, are a lie.

There’s a strain of modern “thought” which says that all emotions are valid. Well, they’re all real, they aren’t all appropriate or accurate. (That said, if you feel scared around someone, I’d generally obey that particular emotion and get the fuck away, especially if you aren’t sure you can take them in a fight.)

This is true on a personal level, and it is true on a political level. People’s political opinions are conditioned reflexes in almost all cases: They have not spent time carefully thinking them through. Someone they respect told them something, they identify with that person, they adopt that belief. Or they read it somewhere and never thought about it, or it’s the most common belief in their peer group, and if they want to be liked (and they do) they’d best say it; and after a while they believe it.

Heck, often immediately. If you like someone, you tend to accept their beliefs as valid unless you have strong reason not to. In fact, one of the core functions of being a friend is validating the other person. You may occasionally push back, but it tends to be occasional. (The sort of teasing relationships many people have don’t contradict this.)

Humans are bundles of conditioning, and we run with that conditioning most of the time, not thinking about it or challenging it. That conditioning manifests as thoughts and emotions (which are just feelings in the body), and we take them as valid–even true–most of the time, because they are our feelings.

But very often they aren’t. If they are, it’s by chance, we sure haven’t validated them.

Most thoughts don’t require us to believe them, and we’re happier if we don’t. In most cases, if we treat thoughts as if some random dude had just spewed them, we’d be more likely to judge them, or dismiss them, properly.

And, frankly, most people are happier that way.

One of the secrets of suffering is that you suffer for anything you identify with. If someone says “favorite politician is a corrupt bozo,” you only care if you identify with that politician. You’re only bothered.

You think thoughts are “yours” and you identify with them, and you suffer because of that identification, when if some random bozo said the same thing, you might well laugh it off.

Reduce your identification, don’t assume validity, and thoughts lose a lot of their power to harm you, to control you and to misdirect you. Given that most of your thoughts are just conditioned reflexes, from conditioning you did not choose, that is the correct way to treat them.

The same, in general, is true of feelings, with a partial exception for fear (if you fear someone in your life, you’re probably right and shouldn’t take the chance you aren’t, get out).

Treat thoughts and emotions this way, and you’ll be far happier, too.

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British General Election Called for May 8th

Oh joy.

Makes sense, however, Prime  Minister May’s Conservative party is up 17 percent over Corbyn’s Labour and she must expect to increase her seat count. In addition, there’s a good chance Corbyn is out, if he doesn’t get a lot more seats than expected. He doesn’t have to win, but he does need to beat expectations. Expectations are low, at least.

Corbyn being out is good for May because standard centrist-Labour leader X will not undo most of what a Conservative government does even if it wins, whereas Corbyn will undo everything and then kick it into reverse.

I, of course, will be hoping Corbyn does well, but it doesn’t look good. Even if he does better than expected, Scotland appears to be a write-off.

I will remind you that an academic study found that 89 percent of all newspaper articles lied about Corbyn’s position. He’s an existential threat to the current establishment, after all.

This is an awkward election overall, as May is positioning it as a referendum on Brexit, but Labour doesn’t oppose Brexit, the SNP is Scottish and the Lib-Dems (who do oppose Brexit) are violently distrusted by anyone with sense after they helped the Conservatives push through some of the worst retrogressive policies in generations.

Should be fun. This is one I actually care about a bit, so I’ll be hoping the polls are off and that Corbyn gets some wind.

(Given how absolutely cruel the Conservatives are, I will judge Britons who vote Conservative harshly–not that there’s any reason for any such Briton to care…nonetheless.)

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

Open Thread

I’m rather under the weather, so please use this post to talk among yourselves, if you so desire.

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