Rope A Dope, fascist style

Muhammad Ali coined the term “rope a dope” to describe his fight plan for winning a fight against a more powerful opponent.   He exhausted his opponent by laying against the ropes round after round, head and torso covered by forearms and gloves, goading the opponent and letting him take out his fury as Ali leaned back against the ropes, resting while he let his furious opponent exhaust himself and then, when the time was right, whuppin’ him.  Rope A Dope is a stalling tactic that allows you to survive round after round against someone who’d otherwise beat you like a drum until the bell rings.  In the end, if you are able to delay things as long as you need to, your opponent is exhausted and frustrated and you have a good chance to win the fight by the end.

While Bill Barr auditioned for his role as Trump’s gunsel, with a memo stating that Mueller’s entire investigation was “untenable,”  Federalist Society favorite Don McGahn, Trump’s then White House Counsel, was busy getting first Gorsuch, then Kavanuagh, on the Supreme Court.   Barr devised a Rope A Dope strategy for the serial obstructor of justice, the 45th president, advising him to assert unlimited, absolute, blanket protective immunity against any testimony or document release that could hurt the Unitary Executive in any way.  The president instructed his faithful to defy Congress, under this untenable legal theory.   

Barr knew in the end this overbroad assertion of limitless privilege was doomed, like Trump’s ridiculous all-inclusive, lifetime non-disclosure agreements that have now started falling in courts, but the main thing was to buy time for his boss, to run out the clock as Trump continued to work his magic for the far right.

During Mueller’s “untenable” investigation he encountered numerous attempts by the Polyp and his myrmidons to obstruct justice.   Trump flatly refused to answer the last question of the interrogatories he agreed to answer for Mueller, left it blank and there was simply no consequence for failing to provide an answer to the most potentially incriminating question.   Manafort and Stone, two of the most cynical and evil fucks on the scene, repeatedly lied to Mueller, which was no problem since they had pardons dangled in exchange for their obstruction to protect the man who would pardon them.   Quid pro quo, defiance, silence and lies in exchange for a pardon from their co-conspirator. 

In one instance of apparent obstruction of justice documented by Mueller, McGahn (who we recently learned collected and trashed every tip called in during the short sham FBI investigation of Boof Kavanaugh) refused his boss’s request to fire Mueller, tendering his resignation instead.   The following day Trump instructed him to write a memo for the record stating they never talked about McGahn firing Mueller.  McGahn, in an uncharacteristic show of integrity, refused.   He told the story to Mueller’s investigators, under the penalties of perjury.    When he was called to testify during the impeachment inquiry he cited the absolute privilege Barr had pulled out of his capacious ass and piously announced that he would abide by the eventual decision of the court.

McGahn’s public testimony would have been devastating to Trump.   As McGahn’s court case meandered through the courts the public never saw him (or any others) confirm the damning details they’d revealed under oath to Mueller’s investigators.   In the end the court ruled that McGahn must testify, but it was two years later, both impeachments were history.   When he did finally testify, he negotiated the rules for his testimony, including that he would not take an oath to tell the truth.   You can read the transcript of him cagily confirming the truth of what he’d told Mueller, but it is a purely academic exercise.  Rope A Dope works again.

The Democrats, a party firmly controlled by its corporate donors, are not known for the stiffness of their collective spine.  Technically they have a razor thin majority in the House and Senate, but they are being Rope A Doped and played by a party that has shown its willingness to embrace any tactic and any lie that will keep them in power.   Our government’s ability to pass needed laws is being held hostage by a united mass of 50 Republican senators and by two basically Republican Democrats, “moderate centrists” Manchin and Sinema.  If one of the two contrarian Democrats (both defenders of the “bipartisan” filibuster, naturally, and well-paid for their steadfastness) flips to the other party, it’s game over for Biden.   If one of the two holds fast against what 49 other Democrats vote for, it’s game over for Biden.  A lot of power for one contrarian to hold over their party’s policies

When Steve Bannon worked for his billionaire patrons the Mercers, they supported Lyin’ Ted Cruz, until Trump knocked him out of contention for the GOP presidential candidate and was the last turd standing.  Throwing their support behind the new GOP candidate they introduced the flailing Trump campaign to Bannon and Kellyanne “Alternative Fact” Conway.   The rest, as they say, is history.  Strategist Bannon is a thinking man’s fascist, straight up, he doesn’t even attempt to hide it.   The administrative state?  Enemy of freedom and of the people.    We need 20,000 shock troops for January 6 2.0 and I call for them now.  Jews, not for my kids. Bannon will say whatever he needs to in order to advance his radical right wing agenda of securing a one-party state eternally hospitable to the Mercers and their privileged ilk.

Now Bannon, pardoned by the Polyp for ripping off the Polyp’s most loyal supporters in a fake “Build the Wall!” scam, is doing the McGahn Rope A Dope.   It may be a fanciful, even frivolous, claim that a man who hasn’t worked for Trump directly as a government official since the summer of 2017 is protected by Executive Privilege, but that’s for the courts, not the administrative state Bannon is devoted to destroying, to decide.   

The Democrats current plan is as practical and principled as the one the democracy supporters of the Weimar Republic employed to reign in Mr. Hitler and his top guys.   The law provides for criminal contempt penalties that Bannon can fight in court well past the 2022 election, at which time, Biden having passed no meaningful legislation, might have Trump as Speaker of the House.

The solution to this Rope A Dope doesn’t take much guts, but it takes seeing and fighting sworn lockstep marching enemies as the danger they are.  Congress has the power of inherent contempt which allows it to send marshals to arrest and detain any  contemptuous motherfucker who tells Congress to stick their subpoena where the sun don’t shine.    Send a couple of marshals to arrest Steve Bannon, and, while you’re at it, get his equally handsome autocracy-loving co-conspirator, The Orange Polyp, who has publically told Bannon and others to tell the illegitimate Congress to go fuck themselves.  Lock him up. 

The answer to someone who punches you hard in the face is not a careful study of the best way to react, it is an immediate, strong reaction to prevent another blow to the kisser. Unless, of course, a kingmaker like Manchin or Sinema gives the saucy thumbs down, with a wink to their equally compromised buddies across the aisle (not that either of these shitbirds have anything to say about what the House does to enforce its powers).

In other Rope A Dope news:

It goes without saying

Of course, mental health is not a question when it comes to people too poor to pay their rent, for police officers who’s job stress-related anger takes them over the edge, for wealthy politicians who don’t think your teeth, eyes and ears are part of your health.

Makes me wanna holler, it really does. Wealthy, merciless sociopaths rule. As for those too poor to afford a home? Fuck those crazy fucks…

Ongoing Hostage Drama in the Corporate States of America

New York Times headline today about the querulous Democrats, faced with a 50-0 GOP threat to filibuster debate and a vote on raising the debt ceiling to pay for some of the $7,800,000,000,000 the GOP added to the national debt in the last four years, to tank the US economy and hurt Biden and his party in the 2022 elections. (Note, this false “deadlock” over extending the government’s ability to pay its past debts is calculated to make the Democrats waste their one shot at reconciliation on keeping the government running, not on the Build Back Better bill).

Phew, perhaps our moderate president will appoint a commission to publish a report on this in six months or so, after all the new Republican districts are gerrymandered into being in thirty or more states for the 2022-2031 elections.

In fairness to the NY Times and Democrats, there is a brutal hostage situation underway here. The minority-powered GOP is demonstrating over and over that they will do whatever is necessary to regain total power in the US. The Democratic party, with the slimmest of majorities in the House and Senate, is hostage to the united GOP and two of their own.

Conservative Joe Manchin III (Joe Manchin II owned both stores in the small town Joe III grew up in, was apparently generous giving credit to impoverished coal miners) and narcissistic corporate-funded sphinx Kyrsten Sinema, for whom the “c-word” seems pretty apt (goes equally well for Joe Manchin III, actually, though at least he gives half-baked rationales for his positions) stand athwart several needed reforms favored by most Americans.

Truth and alternative-truth are seen as interchangeable, incoherence and non sequitar are no problem, and in a pinch, the argument that there is no truth anyway, outside of a version of Christianity that would make Jesus weep, is dottily trotted out whenever only winning, especially after you lose, is an acceptable outcome.

Yes, Trump was raised by an abusive psychopath, so were the Koch boys, so were many of our greatest and most implacably competitive American winners. The exemplar of this kind of person, and its unchallengeable will to dominate, is the legally created vampire of eternal life, the corporate “person.” In the context of the shocking revelation that Facebook has winked at promoting fear, hate and rage because those driving emotions generate clicks and it’s so damn profitable, that, you know, who could resist? (even after you make your first $100,000,000,000 on personal wealth) we have this:

So, if you think about this, the manifest unfairness of it [the collection and sale of detailed, personalized user data, the lack of filters to protect society from lying hate speech that goes viral and actually incites violence] is magnified by a corporate culture that says the only people that matter are shareholders. And if you think about it, optimizing for shareholder value is like — it’s the equivalent of saying, “I’m just following orders.” It forgives all manner of sins. And when Frances Haugen was talking about the moral crisis of CEOs who maximize profits instead of the public good, one of the challenges here is that, as a country, we have accepted this notion that corporations should only worry about shareholder value.

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The Supreme Court, ever more openly corporatist, long ago ruled that corporations have only one mandate: to increase shareholder profits. American courts give tremendous deference to the “business judgment rule” which means if a business decision has any kind of rationale in the quest for increased shareholder profits, courts will not second guess the right of the business to make its profit-driven decisions, absent a showing of TREMENDOUS harm to society, beyond externalities like pollution, unemployment, global warming, a kerfuffle at the Capitol, etc. Here is multibillionaire Mark Zuckerberg’s one-time mentor:

ROGER McNAMEE: So, the thing here is there are two basic problems that we’re dealing with. One is the culture of American business, where CEOs are told to prioritize shareholder value at all costs. And it’s a little bit like the excuse “I’m just following orders,” right? That it absolves, essentially, all manner of sins. And that’s a big part of the problem at Facebook.

Essentially, think about the business this way. Advertising is the core of their economy. They get that through attention. And Facebook created a global network where people share things with their intimate friends. And what happened was, Facebook was the first medium on Earth to get access to what I call the inner self, the characteristics of people they would normally only disclose to their most intimate partners, friends, family. And in marketing, that stuff is gold. And the thing is, it’s not just valuable to traditional marketers. It’s incredibly valuable to scammers and people who are doing things that would otherwise be illegal. And if you think about what Facebook did, by connecting the whole world, it brought the world of scams into the mainstream.

So, when Mark says something like, “Well, you know, our advertisers consistently tell us they don’t want to be by hostile content,” the problem with that is that some of their biggest, most important advertisers are the actual people who spread dangerous content. So, if you think about “Stop the Steal,” that was an advertising campaign. If you think about anti-vax, those people are advertisers.

And so, the issue here for Facebook is they’ve created this network that is essentially an unpatrolled commercial place that preys on people’s emotions, because the best way to get people’s attention is to trigger fear or outrage. And so, the algorithms don’t sit there going, “I’m looking for fear or outrage.” What they do is they’re looking for things that get you to react. And it’s simply a fact of human nature, of human psychology, that fear and outrage are the most effective way to do that.

And that’s why Frances Haugen’s testimony is so devastating, because she is an expert in algorithm design. She is completely credible on this issue. And the stuff that she shared was not stuff that was her opinion. It was research created by the best people at Facebook at the direction of Facebook’s management. And so, when Facebook comes out afterward saying she only worked there for two years and she wasn’t in any of the meetings, none of that is relevant, and it’s sort of classic deflection by Facebook. And I would argue that Facebook’s responses yesterday really built Frances Haugen’s credibility, because if you sat there after that hearing, just ask yourself: Who did you find more credible?

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McNamee went on to make a larger, more fundamental point about our corporate culture:

But my perspective on this is, if I could get into that room with them [Congress], I’d say, “Listen, Facebook is the poster child for what’s wrong today. But the real problem is that in the United States we have abdicated too much power to corporations. We’ve essentially said we’re not going to regulate them, we’re not going to supervise what they’re doing. And in the process, we’ve allowed power to accumulate in a highly concentrated way, which is bad for democracy.”

But, worse than that, we’ve allowed business models, and, as you just described, surveillance capitalism, this notion of using surveillance to gather every piece of data possible about a person, the construction of models that allow you to predict their behavior, and then recommendation engines that allow you to manipulate their behavior — that that business model, which began with Google, spread to Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, is now being adopted throughout the economy. You cannot do a transaction anywhere in the economy without people collecting data, which they then buy and sell in a third-party marketplace. And that is, in my opinion — and I think if you ask Shoshana Zuboff, she would agree with this — that that is as immoral as child labor.

And if I could sit these members of the Senate down, I’d say, “Listen, guys, you’re mad at Facebook today, but the way to solve the problem for kids, the way to solve the problem for democracy, the way to solve all of these problems” — and Jessica, I’m sure, is going to talk about the civil rights aspects of this, because they are humongous — “but the way to do that is to end surveillance capitalism, because if we can’t protect the rights of individuals — if you will, our human autonomy — what do we have?”

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Doomed Democrats in Disarray!

The headlines in corporate media put the focus for our political dysfunction right where it belongs, on Democrats, with a razor thin margin in the Senate and two implacable Senate “mavericks” raking in corporate generosity with both hands not voting with the other 49 to make a simple majority for “reconciliation” (and both are also filibuster supporters), are being humiliated, almost dead of self-inflicted wounds.

The New York Times, our journal of record, ran an alarming doom story Friday under a headline something like “Democrats in disarray, humiliating defeat for Biden Agenda” because an arbitrary deadline for a House vote on an overdue human resources and climate catastrophe prevention bill passed without a vote. This happened because of massive pressure, from lobbyists and mainly two obstructionist Senate “centrists” Sinema and Manchin, with their threat to vote with the 50-0 Republicans, to pass the smaller bipartisan bill first. It happened, according to mass media, because, unlike the disciplined, even lockstep, Republicans, Democrats are not united in supporting desperately needed legislation that 70% of Americans favor.

The problem, according to corporate media, apparently has nothing to do with the lack of even a single “reasonable, traditional, moderate” Republican of principle, like the highly principled Mitt Romney, for example, having any problem with their party holding a nuclear device to our collective head, traitorously threatening (50-0) to destroy the US economy and let the nation plunge into financial disaster to block anything the Socialist, Chinese Communist-controlled Democrat (sic) party is struggling to impose on this once great nation.

“Raise the debt limit, like you dumb Democrats voted to do three times under Trump? To pay for a national debt increased by almost $8 TRILLION (25% of our total debt), under our leadership? FUCK YOU, LOL!” You can hear Mitch McConnell chuckling that mirthless laugh and drawling on about how much more defaulting on our debts and tanking America’s credit rating is going to hurt the Democrats and their beloved Replacement Voters, those mindless brown and yellow and red voters with their “entitlement mentality”, semi-Americans who are not obscenely comfortable, who will be the first to cry when the economy hits bottom again.

The problem also, of course, if you go by the NY Times and the rest of corporate media, has nothing to do with one of our two major parties being literally hostage to the incoherent, illegal demands of an enraged madman. His childish refusal to admit defeat, attempt to thwart the peaceful transition of power, his ban on allowing non-alternative facts into any discussion, his reflexive ability to create ever bigger, more infuriating lies and his proven ability to deliver on his ugliest personal threats (delivering on policy proved to be a lot harder than blowing up agencies he controlled, cowing the ‘disloyal’ with threats of primary challenges, or publicly berating and firing anyone who crossed him) is the soul of the now thoroughly autocratic Republican party, the party of bosses. This GOP is the culmination of literally six decades of hard, organized, well-funded extreme right wing work to overcome liberal democracy and “majoritarian tyranny”.

Charles Koch and his well-born ilk have mobilized a collective trillion dollar fortune (largely inherited, except in the case of Koch, who parlayed a measly $100,000,000 inherited business into a vast fortune) to spend a tax deductible fortune to defeat all government regulation, all democratic initiative, all government effectiveness. The Koch-network learned as it went, engineering a brilliant, if dark, secretive and unethical, plan to influence public opinion to deregulate, privatize and ensure that America’s wealthiest keep an ever greater share of national treasure as the earth itself is destroyed by unregulated, extractive business practices.

It kicked into high gear when a half black man (only in a racist country is a biracial person automatically considered a member of a despised race) was elected president with promises of Hope and Change. Birtherism begat the Koch-network funded, totally spontaneous national Tea Party which begat a wave of enraged Koch-powered obstructionists announcing an intention not to allow a Democratic president to exercise his powers to the extent they could prevent it. The legislative workaround of Executive Action, common under Dubya Bush and Cheney, was, in the hands of this illegitimate black puppet TYRANNY.

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has presented a clear, horrific picture of exactly how this network succeeded in regulatory and judicial capture, spending hundreds of millions directly in order to guarantee that protecting the rights of corporations and the wealthiest are given top priority by our Supreme Court. I will try to summarize his presentation on The Scheme (delivered in the Senate in discreet parts over the course of several months) in a future post. For now, they are numbered, 1-7, and you can see the first one HERE.

Biden’s response to the accusation that Democrats are in distressing disarray, while the Republican party is marching forward with purpose and unity, was pretty good. Here it is: