Things are just the way they are. Most people believe that since we’re largely helpless to change even the most oppressive things about our lives, particularly the gigantic ones well beyond our influence, it’s best to simply develop a stoic attitude. It’s one thing to imagine a better world, it is a much harder thing to figure out how to bring about positive change to bring us closer to that imagined better world. Best to accept that this is just the way it is, we are powerless to change anything, however ugly and unjust some of the details of it might be. The best we can do is develop the serenity not to be tortured by injustice, we are taught.
Would the life of the average American be much more secure if nobody had to worry, on top of the fear over a life-threatening health challenge, about going bankrupt and becoming homeless if they get cancer or are grievously injured in a car crash? Sure, but IT’S SO COMPLICATED! Jobs lost, destroying lives, gigantic private companies out of business, almost two million jobs for health insurance middlemen and middlewomen lost forever… what if you like your doctor and a socialist death panel doesn’t allow you to see her? How will socialized medicine work? Who will decide? Won’t millions still die while waiting to see a doctor? Isn’t socialized medicine a disaster everywhere else in the world? I don’t want to die. I have good private health insurance, why should I jeopardize that, etc?
I don’t minimize any of these complications. Those two million people will have to be retrained, and paid while they learn new job skills. Some could probably be employed by the government administering the program that will be replacing their jobs. How to make the transition to a better health care system is a real discussion, it will take some hard work to find workable solutions to real problems. Is it unimaginable to live in a country where nobody has to make the unthinkable choice between losing their home and seeking treatment for a deadly disease? I don’t think so. Particularly since every other wealthy nation has that kind of system already.
I tend to put much of America’s pessimism about positive change down to the billions spent in the corporate media to convince us that the way things are is simply the inevitable result of freedom in a democracy. We are influenced by the often pernicious myths we are fed every day, in ads, in the way news stories are presented (what facts and voices are excluded from the conversation), by a skilled group of well-paid talking heads, speaking persuasively over corporate media, telling us how things actually are.
Listening to this stream of persuasion we come to believe things, Most of us succumb to this wall of inevitability that is presented to us. Things like: it is inevitable, of course, that the boldest and the brightest, if they work hard enough, will succeed. That the accident of your birth will be a huge factor in whether this is true or not will not be mentioned. Though there is, by objective measure, less social mobility here in the USA than in most other wealthy nations (born poor die poor and born rich die rich are pretty much the rule, with notable famous exceptions that can be cited to “disprove” this rule) we all prefer to believe that the American Dream is attainable by anyone who works hard enough. You can work very hard at McDonald’s, but the rewards will not be as great as if you are working very hard (or even hardly working) as the youngest executive at your dad’s billion dollar company.  That’s simply the way it is, the way it has always been, grow up and get over it, loser.
This quickly heating frog soup water we are all marinating in is, to a large extent, the result of irrefutable corporate logic. Corporations have armies of lawyers and lobbyists, as well as public relations geniuses, making sure that the law favors their profit-driven activities, for reasons the public can understand as philanthropic. If there is a regulation that will cost a corporation millions to comply with, a team of top shelf lawyers is sent to court to fight its enforcement. I have a friend who spent his legal career dutifully, and skillfully, fighting this army of lawyers in case after case in federal court. He went to court over and over to get a judge to order a US government agency to enforce its own laws, in each specific case he was forced to argue.
There was a regulation that stated that a corporation could not engage in this practice (that was destroying a habitat, dumping toxic waste, whatever) without first doing these other things that ensured certain protections for the rest of us. The corporation had not done these things, the facts made clear. The law was clear. So, at the end of litigation, were the loopholes uncovered by the army of corporate lawyers who’d proceed to drive the bulldozers through those loopholes.
We learn, because corporations, unlike us, have no feelings, no conscience, are incapable of moral judgments about anything outside of the best way to increase profits for shareholders, that it is futile to fight these monsters. Those of us who persist in these kind of draining, one-sided battles, insisting on our “rights” (the express limitations of which are, after all, excruciatingly spelled out in the corporately drawn contracts we are forced to accept) are considered by many to be masochists madly tilting at windmills. The corporation will almost always win. Getting the benefit of your bargain with them, if they are intent on shortchanging you, will require superhuman patience and resilience. Best to avoid! Take your screwing, go have a nice dinner, go watch a comedy.
The alternative? The new computer you bought does not perform one essential function? Call the company, speak to polite men in India, have them run the diagnostic tests on your computer. Wait for them to tell you that your computer has passed all the required diagnostics. The problem is not from the “hardware”, it is a “software configuration” problem that is expressly excluded from the warranty. They will provide a paid service to fix it, if you’d like to be placed on hold to learn more about this service. You can’t be told the price, because the corporation does not let the technicians at the “out of warranty” department communicate that information to the warranty department. Why is this feature out of warranty? We will send you the warranty, sir, you can read its 15,000 tiny words for yourself. Believe us, sir, we’d like to help, if we could. And as to the paid service, don’t worry, the paid service is “take it or leave it”, you needn’t pay anything if you don’t like the price.
If you are willing to endure however many hours will be required to solve the problem with your otherwise nifty new computer, you can learn, eventually, that the company was misstating their warranty policy for a brand new computer. As one would hope, everything about the computer, including the configuration of the original software, is under warranty for a certain period. No need to pay the $239 for premium out of warranty service, $169 for premium limited out of warranty service or even the $129 for a one-time fix. Not your financial responsibility to pay the company for fixing a bug that came loaded on to their brand new machine. No need to endure a long, aggravating hold to learn the fixed prices for this service!
Of course, the psychic price you will generally be asked to pay to learn this may be unreasonably high for most people. I wound up screaming in uncontrollable anguish near the end of an entire frustrating day, mostly on hold, listening either to an annoying loop of upbeat muzak or to endlessly repeated ads for the computer company. My life was temporarily ruined by my exertions yesterday, in a real sense. Sekhnet is not talking to so far me today. Even though the last call of the day came with good news. My complaint had been escalated, the computer will be fixed free of charge, nobody should have been put through what I was yesterday and the night before. Apologies all around.
Of course, I had to remember and deploy the word “escalate” before reaching this resolution. The last supervisor I spoke to, while empathetic and apologetic, was unable to really do anything for me. She regretted this and apologized again for her inability to be more helpful. Until I reached into my expanding corporate lexicon and pulled out the magic word “escalate”. Yes, that was something she could do, she would escalate my complaint. Shortly after my issue was “escalated” I got a call back from someone who could actually solve the problem. Like magic, after only a handful of hours of frustration. Just the way it is.
 My grandparents arrived in America twenty years before the Nazis wiped out everyone else in their families. Jared Kushner’s grandparents were in Europe during those nightmarish Nazi years and managed to survive and reach America. My grandparents worked very hard, every day. Jared’s grandparents also worked very hard every day. It would be impossible to say which couple worked harder. Jared’s grandparents started with two dollars between them, the unlikely story goes. A generation later: billionaire owners of a real estate empire. My grandparents, who I assume came with more than two dollars between them, died owning a one-bedroom apartment in Miami Beach and not much else. C’est la vie, baby.
When something is beyond the strictures of the popular imagination, a thing which is conditioned by a lifetime of mass media (and increasingly “social media”) consumption, it is unthinkable. We cannot even entertain unthinkable ideas because they are simply… unthinkable. Until they are thought, expressed, discussed, debated, formed into things we can now easily think about, talk about, make part of law and culture .
A quick thought experiment:
We presently have more than twenty political candidates from an opposition party, united in their determination to defeat a president who squeaked into power with a surgically engineered 78,000 vote margin in the Electoral College and has been stacking the federal courts with record numbers of ideologically pure lifetime appointees of the extreme far-right (thirteen more were confirmed by Moscow Mitch and his crew right before Congress went on holiday). He put a controversial, pouting, crying, angry partisan on to the Supreme Court, 51-49 — fair is fair! (Ain’t democracy great, folks?)
This Electoral College president has done many cruel things, attacked countless foes, lied thousands of times and demands complete loyalty from a rotating cast of mostly unqualified sidekicks who are each busily doing maximum damage in their appointed spheres. Picture the climate disruption denier-in-chief removing the US from the Paris Accords, itself a fairly weak attempt to avoid a deadly climate refugee apocalypse, and restoring the federal death penalty so as to, hopefully (they hope) execute Julian Assange, for a quick whiff of this guy’s style.
What do we do here in America in the face of this? What we always do. We begin the presidential election campaign a year and a half before the election and make every fart and hiccup of it daily news for months and months and months. We hold a competition, a popularity contest, and put all the contestants to unseat this disastrous president (if they qualify by raising X millions in campaign funds) into a game show format where they fight it out on live TV until there is only one candidate standing.
Think of it as Political Survivor, a zero-sum gladiatorial contest won by brute strength, cunning and sheer determination to be the last one alive. The spectacle gets great ratings, like the Hunger Games in that thinly veiled depiction of our dystopian society where the majority of citizens don’t have the $400 they need to avoid an immediate crisis, or homelessness. Everybody tunes in, everyone has an opinion about who won, who lost, who sucked, who sucked worse. Advertisers line up to buy a spot during the most heated contests.
Unthinkable thought: instead of this contest have well-spoken representatives of various factions in the Democratic Party (or the Republican, or any party, really) sitting around a table making their best, crispest case for what their party stands for, ironing out a unified party platform that whoever their eventual candidate is will put into action once in office. How about a few nights of televised debates as follows:
Night one, a presentation of the many problems caused by global warming, a tight ten minute slide show, showing the scope of the problem, its causes, describing why we haven’t been able to make much progress (and here discuss Exxon-Tillerson and the Koch’s well-funded, exceptionally American ‘climate skepticism’ movement) then set goals and talk about the best way to move toward them.
If you like the “America’s got Talent” or “Dancing with the Stars” format, add realtime on-line voting about the propositions being discussed. Run the numbers as they discuss various ideas, to add excitement and immediacy to the discussion of policies that will decide the fate of the planet and all life upon it.
“Oh, look, Dolores, that chyron shows 89% of Americans watching actually believe drought and flooding and heatwaves and wild fires are getting worse every year and it’s the government’s job to do whatever is necessary to slow this looming catastrophe down!”
“Look, Ed, 91% think the government should regulate the polluting industries that put the most CO2 in the air. 58% support a carbon tax. 72% support regulations requiring more efficient automobiles that emit less CO2. Who knew Americans were so smart?”
The next discussion would be health care. Then poverty. Then education, then the ongoing, silent crisis of American military veteran suicides, and so on. A week after each show the party would present its platform on that issue, published on line, its essence delivered in a five minute prime-time spot. Whoever becomes president from our party is committed to this set of principles. Let Americans know what we actually stand for, exactly what we will fight for once in power.
As it is now it’s up to the individual who survives the Darwinian winnowing process and emerges as the candidate to decide exactly what she or he is going to do as president and leader of the party. If so, what’s the point of having a national party at all? What’s the point of that party putting its considerable thumb on the scale during the nominating process? (As it did when it decided in 2016 that Hillary Clinton had waited long enough for her turn and made her the candidate in a rigged primary system — she started the games with a several hundred ‘super-delegate” lead).
There are, of course, several reasons why this kind of thoughtful public policy party platform discussion is unthinkable.
The first is that Americans are not used to it and might very well hate it. We prefer exciting bouts where one person punches out the other and we raise the winner’s hand and everyone cheers. We are used to gladiators. We crave the excitement of blood sport. How boring would it be to see a bunch of thoughtful people agreeing that the present administration has done these specific disastrous things and, when elected, we will do these specific things to fix the deepening problems these cynical hucksters have exacerbated? Who would watch two hours of that? Where’s the drama?
Instead we have an animated squabble between vying contendets, egged on by celebrity moderators, about whether Medicare for All must eliminate the many private health insurance companies in business now or not. Few Americans (unless they work for a health insurance related company– and millions are likely in this category) give a rat’s ass one way or another what entity helps them pay the cost of needed medical care. The real debate is “do Americans have the same right as the French, the Japanese, the Germans, the British, Canadians, Iraqis under Saddam, for fuck’s sake, to decent, affordable nationalized health care?”
The framing we have, and the jibing, sniping “how you gonna pay for it? how you gonna pay for it?” (a question never asked about endless, unprovoked war) make a serious discussion of how to move forward almost impossible. It’s like Reagan, cheerfully slamming Jimmy Carter over and over with “there you go again!”. “I know you are, but what am I?” “Keep talking, spongey gums, it tickles” It’s a long gotcha contest where candidates wait for their star-making moment to distinguish themselves as the most poised under attack, the most stylish with a put-down.
As always, there are specific reasons why intelligent non-adversarial discussion is unthinkable. First, it’s simply not the way it’s done here. They go at each other in a robust debate, no holds barred, and we pick the one whose style, whose courage under attack, we like the best. Elizabeth Warren turned to a fretful “how you gonna pay for it?” naysayer on the stage with her the other night, attacking her idea for redistributing 2% of vast, largely hereditary, wealth in a way that would benefit most Americans, and asked him who “goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for?”
Personally, I loved that answer. Full disclosure, I’ve loved Elizabeth Warren since I first saw her interviewed by the great Bill Moyers many moons ago, when she was still teaching law at Harvard, talking about her idea for a federal consumer protection agency.
Second, everything in America must be paid for, we all know that. TV time (supposedly publicly owned, remember) is very valuable. If you don’t have viewers, no advertisers want to buy ads. The network loses a ton of money. That’s one reason Trump was so good for business. Not every candidate can eat 50 corndogs, then bite the head off a live chicken and claim, bloody lipped and covered with feathers, that his vicious, lying opponent did the disgusting deed. He was great for ratings. You never knew if the zestful flag-humper was literally going to take a shit on stage. The man was made for TV, reality TV, that carefully scripted alternative fact world so many Americans crave. If we run thoughtful discussions about real, pressing problems and how to best solve them– we’d be fucking CSPAN, nobody would tune in. No profits for anybody.
Third, the mass media is run by advertising dollars. Les Moonves, former CEO of the company that owns CBS, (before he was “disgraced” over his non-consensual sexual practices and forced out with a gigantic golden parachute) said, during the lead up to the Trump presidency, that he didn’t necessarily like the man or what he stood for, but, by God, he’s making us a shitload of money! More than one network showed the empty Trump podium, while bad for business Bernie Sanders addressed another huge crowd, uncovered by the cameras, after yet another improbable primary victory. “We’re still waiting for Trump, he’ll be out in a minute to say something explosive (or possibly even take a dump on stage)! Please stay tuned, we’ll return to his empty podium right after this important message.”
Fourth, in America it’s all about the Benjamins, baby. We live in a profit-driven culture. If you have a net worth of fifty billion there is no shame attached to an ambition to double that wealth — go for it! The people we admire the most, as a culture, are the biggest winners. In America we call these money-crazed oligarchs “philanthropists” and give their opinions about problem solving the greatest weight. They have the money to form giant non-profit companies to put their ideas into practice. Their ideas carry great weight because they are clearly brilliant, since they have amassed billions as a result of their obvious genius. Even if they are born to their great wealth, they’re better than most people, in a materialistic culture that values only acquisition.
Fifth, the political parties themselves, and all of their candidates (with a few notable individual exceptions) are dependent on Big, Dark Money, corporate and personal, and lots of it. Corporate lobbyists/colleagues/lobbyists are a big factor too, you can’t snub your old friends, and the powerful causes they represent, and expect to survive in the marketplace of “donations”. Everybody seems to like this horse race model of electoral campaigning, keeps the money flowing.
Down through all the rest of the numbers here, the answer is the same. People make money, a shit ton of money, from the way things are arranged here in our “free market”. The mass media is run for money, every political debate is a source of revenue for multiple corporations. We run our elections like the Super Bowl, a parade of the world’s most expensive and ingenious advertisements, made by the greatest advertising minds, vying for the coveted title of best Super Bowl advertisement. If you have a billion to spend on your political ad campaign, versus an opponent with only ten million, chances are excellent that you win! Money is speech, baby, Supreme Court said so, loud as hell, in Citizens United. If you have a billion you just get to speak louder than a punk with a puny $390,000. Freedom, you dig.
Children separated from their desperate parents, kept in filthy conditions in privatized child prisons? Nobody is paying us for soap and water for these stinking little bastards! Fuck you, Commie. These kids are evil, illegal, alien. You can do whatever you want to them, they have no rights, no humanity. We’ll fight you to the death against charges that we don’t care about children, are deliberately cruel to deter these pricks from sneaking in to ask for asylum. How fucking dare you? Why have a bully pulpit if you can’t be a bully? Suck my ass while I tweet about your ass-sucking, loser!
Unthinkable, really, to have intelligent people of different points of view squarely facing the most difficult actual challenges of our lives here– climate catastrophe, intergenerational poverty, massive American despair, rage, violence, addiction, untold American deaths from preventable diseases, suicide — and hammering out the best ways to improve things.
Better for everybody to just let our most charismatic and well-funded gladiators hack each other’s arms off for our amusement. Let the fucking games begin! Anything else? UNTHINKABLE!!!
 A short list of long-time unthinkable ideas:
Constitutional abolition of Constitutionally protected slavery (1865)
alcoholic beverages made illegal in every state (1920)
alcoholic beverages made legal again (1933)
universal women’s suffrage (1920)
federal regulation of child labor and creation of the 40 hour work week (1938)
$15 minimum wage (adopted in many states and municipalities)
legalized recreational marijuana ( currently the law in eleven states, see map)
Constitutional right to same-sex marriage in all states (2015, but 5-4, watch out my gay brothers and sisters)
“pre-existing condition” right to refuse health insurance coverage abolished (2010)
Democracy is never perfect, of course, even in a majority-ruled society of twenty people somebody is always going to be unhappy with the final vote. On the other hand, ideally, the minority gets a fair chance to persuade the others of their point of view, influence the conversation so that compromises can be made to protect their interests before the final vote. An important element of democracy is protection of the rights of minorities, those who lose the vote. Democracy is not supposed to be a zero sum game where 51-49 always wins and those with the 51 votes get everything and the side with 49 votes gets to simply suck it, losers. That’s democracy by schoolyard bullying.
Rule by the people, in America, is done through elected representatives who are supposed to advocate for us. It is far from a perfect system, we know. In New York City, where I live, a billionaire who was mayor for the first eight years of the decade decided he wanted four more years. In NYC mayors are limited to two terms by law. This super-wealthy businessman turned politician was intent on a third term. He enlisted key ambitious city politicians to overrule the will of New Yorkers that mayors be limited to two terms, a will expressed twice in recent years, so that he could run for a third term. It was to be a one shot deal, special for him, because of the Great Recession of 2008, a steely billionaire genius of business was needed, he argued. He outspent his Democratic opponent $108,371,688 to $9,352,416 and narrowly won his third term.  Money talks, bullshit walks, it was the rich fuck’s own money, nothing to see here, freedom of speech, blah, blah, blah.
Democracy, as it is explained in American civics class, is rule by the majority respecting the rights and needs of the minorities. Democracy is an imperfect and messy system, as prone to corruption as any, but in theory and practice it is superior to having a king, a dictator, military rule.
Sadly we have some very privileged people, born into obscene wealth and believing, no doubt, their high birth reflects the will of God, who have worked hard and shrewdly the last forty or fifty years to change our political system, to move it away from democracy and toward something else, a system that protects their super-precious liberty above all else. They have moved America toward a system that actively and increasingly protects the liberty of a few to have everything, to destroy the earth itself in pursuit of even more wealth, the liberty to do whatever they want with nobody to tell them no. An end to government coercion and tyranny, so-called health, safety and environmental regulations that kill the initiative of our most valuable citizens, the “job creators”.
After all, poor people who do dirty and dangerous jobs have taken on the risk themselves– liberty! Assumption of risk! Why should a coal mine owner be forced to pay if a careless miner is dismembered? Liberty. Same goes for so-called health regulations — everyone has the liberty to guard their own health. Drinking water, the tap water piped into your house is unsafe to drink you say? Have bottles of it flown in from Fiji, that artisanal water is said to be the best in the world. As for the earth, it is ours to do with as we please, in the name of liberty and unlimited profit, just as Jesus himself drew it up.
These ultra-wealthy “libertarians” have been organizing and spending pallets of money to advance their extremist views, with increasing success in recent years. In addition to spending billions on electoral advertising they have formed numerous “think tanks”, some of which have become prestigious, funded academic programs, created a corporate entity that writes laws for state legislators (ALEC) established a nationwide, ideologically pure right-wing business network for law students and prospective federal judges (The Federalist Society) and taken dozens of other intelligent steps to influence public policy. The fucking Koch Brothers, the main architects of this political revolution, have recently crawled out from under their $100,000,000,000 rock to take a few victory laps before they die (they are both around 80).
I have to touch up this piece about the history of their movement, with its roots in the lunatic fringe John Birch Society (Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Commie, so was the Republican Earl Warren) but you can get more details of their successful long game here.
I encountered this great quote from one of our incompetent president’s most manifestly incompetent cabinet secretaries, Betsey DeVos. The controversial Ms. DeVos won confirmation as Secretary of Education by a single vote — the tiebreaker cast by fellow Christian zealot Vice President Mike Pence.  51-50, fair is fair, Ms. DeVos, who gave so many of her family’s millions to extreme right wing causes over the years, got her reward. She is currently in charge of the educational policies of our great nation. Here is what she said about her family’s political generosity (from Wikipedia):
The Atlantic noted that DeVos had indicated in a 1997 op-ed that she expects results from her political contributions. “My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party. I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence,” she wrote. “Now I simply concede the point. They are right.”She also stated in the op-ed, “We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues … We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican Party to use the money to promote these policies and, yes, to win elections.”
Her expectations have certainly not been disappointed, even though she supported first Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina, before switching to another Republican loser Marco Rubio. As the Wiki on this fine woman points out, she may have hesitated for a moment, before throwing her support to the candidate the Republicans eventually chose in 2016:
In March 2016, DeVos described Donald Trump as an “interloper” and said that he “does not represent the Republican Party”.
But now Trump is the Republican Party. Look, Betsey, you get what you pay for. She’s not kicking, she and her husband are currently saving tens of millions in taxes every year and she is in charge of American educational policy, 51-50, fair is fair. Plus, they got Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, two extremely conservative Catholic lads from the finest Christian prep school in the nation. Not bad! Soon poor women may not be able to get abortions in America anymore. Won’t Jesus be happy!
 Juan Gonzalez, Reclaiming Gotham, Bill De Blasio and the Movement to End America’s Tale of Two Cities, 2017, p. 154.
As expected, there was a 50–50 tie on the final vote, with all Democrats and independents, along with two Republicans (Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski), voting in opposition to DeVos, while the other fifty Republican senators voted in support of the confirmation, including Senator Jeff Sessions, who himself had been nominated by the Trump administration for the post of United States Attorney General. Republicans scheduled Sessions’s confirmation vote after DeVos’s so that he would be able to cast his vote in support of DeVos. Had his confirmation vote been earlier than hers, he would have been forced to resign from the Senate, therefore losing a vital vote for the Republicans on the confirmation. Since there was a tie, Vice President Mike Pence had to step in to decide the vote as the President of the Senate. He cast his tie-breaking vote in favor of DeVos to officially confirm her as education secretary. This was the first tie decided by a vice president on any vote in the Senate since theGeorge W. Bush administration.
There is an ongoing federal lawsuit in Alabama, brought by the NAACP and others, over restrictive voter ID laws in the state that the plaintiffs claim are voter suppression measures disproportionately targeting black and Latino citizens. Here is a short description of the lawsuit from the Alabama Public Radio website (in other news, did you know W.C. Handy is known worldwide as the Father of the Blues?)
Here are legal papers from the lawsuit itself, plaintiffs responding to the Alabama Secretary of State’s motion to have the case dismissed for lack of triable issues of fact.
Trial was set for September 11, 2017, according to the APR piece, but it seems the trial is now set for February, 2018. Oh well. Here is a recent op-ed by a guy who heads a church group fighting the Alabama voter suppression measures. He does not even mention Alabama’s closure of more than thirty DMV offices where many voters could have secured the newly required photo IDs. Nor the closure of some voting sites in majority black and hispanic precincts.
Fortunately we live in a land of law, (he said sardonically). Here is one shining example of the Supreme law of the land in the land of law we live in:
When a man has emerged from slavery, and by the aid of beneficent legislation has shaken off the inseparable concomitants of that state, there must be some stage in the progress of his elevation when he takes the rank of a mere citizen, and ceases to be the special favorite of the laws, and when his rights as a citizen, or a man, are to be protected in the ordinary modes by which other men’s rights are protected.
(from the Civil Rights Cases, 1883)
You may have to wait ninety years or so for your taste of justice, as these special favorites of the law had to, starting 18 years after the end of the Civil War, but doesn’t that just make it taste sweeter?
(Rhetorical question, no answer required.)
In a closely contested election, the more votes of your opponent you can cause not to be cast, the better your chance of a narrow victory you can call a mandate. It’s tempting to say, looking at some of the in-your-face racist bullshit that puts on the finery of American law in our great post-racial society, that this country is doomed. Think about it, though. We are probably no more doomed than the rest of the world that the powerful psychopaths at the helm are so heedless about destroying.
They’re doing a hell of a job, Brownie, hell of a job.
I’ll say this for the right wing, when they are in power they march in a straight line, consistently toward making America great again, for our greatest Americans.
How’s this for a straight line? In the lead up to the last presidential election Facebook ran micro-targeted, personalized anti-Hillary ads that were seen by over 120,000,000 Americans. In an election The Donald won, by about 70,000 votes in the five states that put him over the top in the Electoral College, those 120,000,000 hairy eyeballs Facebook ads provided were probably a factor. Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3,000,000, which caused him to claim widespread national voter fraud and establish a commission to collect the voting data for every American. Fortunately, he loses interest in shit like this almost as fast as he comes up with it.
The internet– to regulate or not to regulate? The current rule is that no internet provider may give privileged, fast-track access to any website over any other. This is called “Net Neutrality” and it has always been the rule and custom on the internet. You get the bandwidth you purchase, period.
President Trump, among his first orders of business, appointed a corporate attorney from Verizon to oversee things, and be the swing vote, at the Federal Communications Commission. The attorney/chairman’s first order of business at the FCC is to overturn the internet’s long tradition of democratic access by creating a high speed lane in the internet toll road for the wealthiest purveyors of internet fare to roar down, drowning out the curses of the rest of us as we slog along in the heavy traffic that is the lot of poor bastards.
Look, we get the justice we can afford to pay for, that’s just the way it is here. Always has been, too. After all, even our sainted founding fathers, those of Scalia’s “Original Intent of the Framers” fame, allowed that in areas where great fortunes were to be made, certain compromises, if artfully enough written into the margins of our Constitution, could ensure the continuation of such lucrative economically advantageous arrangements as could be sensibly, subtly, compromised over in penumbral yet binding clauses in otherwise unrelated paragraphs.
It would take ninety years, in The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, until moral prigs (and whichever other such persons should have good cause to complain thereof) began agitating loudly enough for the abolition of one such compromise, the Peculiar Institution. Then there was a national slaughter, and more slaughter, terrorism, lawlessness, law and some more slaughter. You can read about it and weep, crybaby. USA! USA!!!!
Rachel Yehuda, among many excellent points in her talk with Krista Tippett, asked a very good question: who would you rather have with you in a war zone, an experienced fighter or a cultured philosopher who has never faced a murderous enemy? This question was answered “fighter” by many Jews after the Hitler regime, determined never again to be quiet victims of mass violence. Being eternally tough and ready to kill can lead to overkill, certainly, but it is an understandable enough answer when the question is survival when an entire army is determined to kill you.
In my quiet life I may feel pacifism is the best option in human affairs, and mildness the best choice when dealing with others, but I would certainly not feel that way faced with an army of murderers intent on killing me and everyone I love. I’d want an experienced killer next to me to show me how to kill the motherfuckers who were after us.
I was thinking of the same thing in regard to electoral politics and influencing public policy in the USA. Would you rather have millions marching in the street in protest of evil done in our names, or legislators strategically placed in state houses and Congress to vote in blocks to pass actual laws and give the official nod to secret horrors?
A few years back, a movement of right wing zealots, funded generously by billionaires, formed a “grass roots” organization called the Tea Party. This rag-tag army of staunchly conservative patriots got tremendous publicity and, with a shit-ton of money, managed to move the Republican party even farther to the right. They made the party more extremist by “primarying” moderate Republicans out of office. The Koch brothers and their ilk looked on approvingly, funding the campaigns of these radical reactionaries, sponsoring this group of servile champions of the already powerful, making the current crop of Republican legislators move to the right or lose their jobs. Once in office these Tea Party true believers literally held the government hostage, at one point even shutting it down by refusing to fund government programs at a budget deadline. That’s how you make policy, if you are a ruthless motherfucker intent on changing the world to reflect your worldview, and have the monetary clout, and organization, to do it.
It turns out not to be a matter of right and wrong, who rules, even in a democracy. The fiction is that our elected representatives act on our behalf. In the real world of winners and losers they act on behalf of those who pay for their campaigns and keep them in office. It is not much of a choice on election day, in most cases. It’s Lewis Black’s two bowls of shit and you’ve got to pick one.
Might makes right in the Darwinian jungle of electoral politics. If your party controls Congress you can tell a popular sitting president who won in a landslide to shut the fuck up. You can simply deny him his constitutional right to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, nothing he can do about it. You can do everything but outright call him a nigger, even though you’re free to insist he’s a lying Kenyan Muslim and an illegitimate president and doesn’t mean shit. That’s the power of organized lobbying and the leverage a loud-mouthed celebrity can exert if he is given a big enough public platform via the mass media.
A stage full of Republican hopefuls in a presidential debate– not one can admit outright that humans evolved from apes, or that the climate is changing in dangerous ways, or that human activities, driven by unchecked greed, are destroying the planet. That’s the co-opted Jesus and fossil fuel lobbies, respectively. The Democratic party is not quite as bad, but it is also an incorrigibly corrupt machine oiled by the money of those legally created psychopaths, corporate “persons”, and their human counterparts who expect their will to be done. Both parties serve their masters in a society based on the bottom line, and in this case, anyway, the customer is truly, always right.
The bottom line here — was the Bernie Sanders campaign a one shot novum, never seen before in America and never to be seen again? Or could a candidate with principles and a convincing analysis of why there is so much poverty, misery, desperation and rage in our wealthy nation, funded by small donors (Obama bragged of the same kind of support, but took the bulk of his money from corporations and wealthy folks and opted out of the campaign finance law designed to limit the influence of these forces, and outspent his opponent two to one — and he, uh, ruled accordingly) actually win an election that was not otherwise rigged?
On one side, a slickly marketed, relentlessly publicized, opportunistic demagogue, saying whatever was necessary to keep angry people enraged, greedy people salivating about all the luxurious things they could buy with their even greater wealth, on the other side someone actually analyzing the legitimate causes for rage, despair, the logical consequences of heedless greed, our nation’s greediest protected by laws they bought and paid for.
The second candidate never even made it on to the ballot, since his opponent in the primary was supremely qualified, wealthy, politically connected, corporately funded, anointed next in line and the party had an immense thumb on the electoral scales before the primary even started.
All I can say is “motherfuckers”. Makes me want to run for office, but without at least one cocksucking billionaire to fund me (not to mention politically inconvenient skeletons cavorting in my closet, and right here, openly, in the room behind me as I type), I may as well try to start a successful non-profit organization to help poor kids prove they are not disposable pieces of shit. In the greatest, most exceptional nation the world has ever seen.