Ideology

If Trump Wins, Don’t Blame Progressives. This Is on You, Centrists.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/05/2020 - 6:25am in

Biden denies he's 'hiding,' defends staying off campaign trail in ...

            The corporate conservatives who control the Democratic Party are suffering from cheaters’ remorse.

The DNC and their media allies (NPR, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Vox, etc.) subverted the will of primary voters, undermining initial frontrunner Bernie Sanders in order to install the worst candidate of the 20 centrists in the campaign.

Now the power brokers are worried that the befuddled Biden, whom they touted as the Most Electable Against Donald Trump, will lose to him. Rather than take responsibility for their idiocy and force Biden to pull out of a race for which he is obviously physically and mentally unprepared, the corporatist sellouts are preemptively blaming the progressives who warned them about this exact scenario.

Sorry, right wingers. Biden is on you. You made him the presumptive nominee. If Trump wins again, it’s your fault.

Just as it was last time.

Establishment panic over Biden is most palpable in the pages of the official party organ of the Democratic Party, the Times. “While [Biden] has held consistent leads in most national and swing-state polls, they have not been altogether comfortable ones,” the paper noted on May 15th.

If Biden is to squeak by Trump in November, he requires a comfortable lead now. “A CNN poll released on Wednesday found Mr. Biden leading the president by five percentage points nationwide, but trailing by seven points among voters in crucial battleground states…for some Democrats, the results of the CNN poll again raised the specter that Mr. Biden could win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College, as Hillary Clinton and Al Gore both did.”

            Historically, in May of a presidential election year Democrats need a lead of at least 10 points over their Republican rival in order to prevail in a general election. Republicans always close the gap during the last six months of a presidential race.

            The Times is pushing Biden’s candidacy via two lines of argument. First, lesser-evilism. As columnist Frank Bruni wrote May 17th, he’ll “take Biden’s confusion over Trump’s corruption.” (Of course Biden is corrupt too.) Second, they claim, Biden should be acceptable. He isn’t Hillary Clinton. Due to the coronavirus crisis, Bidenites say, their man is willing to pivot to the left. (Never mind that progressive programs need to be in place before a crisis, not ramping up a year after it begins.)

            The second argument is the easiest to shoot down. Biden has a decades-long track record of voting and governing to the right, including voting to invade Iraq for no good reason. Even now, as tens of millions of Americans lose their jobs and thus their health insurance, Biden refuses to join the rest of the industrialized world by endorsing single-payer healthcare. Progressives don’t trust Biden. They trust history. History proves Biden isn’t one of them.

            Bruni’s argument involves magical thinking too. “At the end of the day, Biden can be trusted to do what Trump didn’t and won’t: stock his administration with qualified professionals. He could compensate for any supposed cognitive deficit with a surplus of talent,” Bruni says. There is no evidence, none, zero, zip, that this is true. Biden could validate that argument by announcing his cabinet nominations now. But he’s not.

            Biden leaves progressive voters cold. That matters because the enthusiasm gap could decide the election. “Trump had a consistent edge over Hillary Clinton in enthusiasm [in 2016],” reported CNN’s Harry Enten. “His voters were 4 points more likely to say they were very enthusiastic in voting for him than Clinton’s were for her in the final ABC News/Washington Post poll, even as Clinton led overall. That enthusiasm advantage should have been one of the warning signals to the Clinton campaign. Trump’s current edge in enthusiasm over Biden is even larger. In a late March ABC News/Washington Post poll, 53% of Trump backers said they were very enthusiastic about voting for him. Just 24% of Biden backers said the same about their guy.”

            If anything, the enthusiasm gap might widen as billions of dollars of stimulus payment letters bearing Trump’s signature hit voters’ bank accounts and he wraps himself in the trappings of the presidency while Biden sits in his basement trying to figure out how to use his computer camera. If I were Trump, I’d be planning my second term.

            Let’s not forget how we got here.

            When Bernie Sanders announced he was running again, Democratic-aligned media outlets said he was too old. “Mr. Sanders would be 79 when he assumed office, and after an October heart attack, his health is a serious concern,” the Times said in its absurd editorial joint endorsement of Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.

            Then, when Bernie emerged as frontrunner for the nomination, corporate media presented him as an existential threat. Head-to-head polls showed he was at least as electable as his rivals, yet “journalistic” organizations stated, without evidence, that a left-wing Democrat couldn’t beat Trump. Headlines proliferated:

Can Bernie Be Stopped?”

Bernie Sanders Can Still Be Stopped.

The Stop Sanders Movement Has Gone Public.”

CNN even compared Sanders to the coronavirus.

Remember all those “Can Obama Be Stopped?” headlines from the 2008 primaries. Me neither. When it came to Bernie, pseudo-liberal media didn’t pretend to be objective.

The DNC went after him like crazy.

Bernie Sanders won the key Iowa caucus but Democratic vote-counting chicanery cheated him out of the PR for his win. Party insiders believe that Barack Obama personally arranged for Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg to endorse Joe Biden the day before Super Tuesday. Speaking of which, Sanders won California, the biggest state—but the vote count mysteriously took days, denying him a big headline and an accurately optimistic delegate count in media coverage.

They’re still at it. At this writing party leaders are trying to prevent an embarrassing protest vote against Joe Biden in New York by fighting in court for the right to delete Bernie Sanders from the state’s mail-in primary ballots.

A Times headline from February 20th proved prescient: “Democratic Leaders Willing to Risk Party Damage to Stop Bernie Sanders.”

They got what they wanted.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie,” updated and expanded for 2020. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Two Peas in a Pod.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/04/2020 - 8:09pm in

These words were uttered today (13:17 AEDT) by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a conservative leader in the “centre-right, libertarian, conservative” Liberal Party of Australia and the first Evangelical to hold that job:

“There are no more unions or bosses. There are just Australians now. That is all that matters. An Australian national interest and all Australians working together and I thank all of those who are coming together in that spirit and that will be very important as we move to put in place the arrangements that we are for this jobseeker program and the many things that relate to that.”

While this was Neil Wilson, a well-known MMT enthusiast and self-described leftist, a few days back (March 29, 2020 at 14:06):

“Always worth remembering that bankers and capitalists are workers too. They work, earn and consume. And they also save a lot – which is part of the problem.”

You’ve heard the phrase “like two peas in a pod”, I trust.

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To be fair, neither Wilson speaks for MMT nor his claptrap was accepted quietly by other MMT enthusiasts (example: Jerry Brown).

MMT founders explain that MMT is neither left-wing nor right-wing, it can be accepted by individuals of either persuasion. This means one needs to keep in mind that characters like Wilson exist and exercise care before accepting their self-proclaimed leftism.

Yes, I also trust you know what the term “false advertising” means.

Reds Under Dutton’s Bed.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/03/2020 - 8:14pm in

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that's all.”

Call me paranoid, but I feel something disturbing is going on.


Last Monday 25, Mike Burgess, director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), highlighted the three most serious threats to Australian national security:

  1. Foreign interference/espionage.
  2. Fundamentalist Islamic terrorism (ASIO’s primary concern).
  3. A real and growing “threat of rightwing extremism”.

A low-tech terrorist attack (using knife, gun, vehicle) is “probable”, Burgess said, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

He also praised recently enacted laws giving security services search and seizure powers over computing and telecommunications hardware and unencrypted data and forcing communications services to assist such agencies. Federal Minister for Home Affairs and Burgess’ boss, Peter Dutton, has been a key proponent of such laws within the Morrison Cabinet.

Although I haven’t seen any comments about its legal aspect, the address was object of interest by commentators, because of the importance Burgess gives to rightwing extremism. Moreover the event itself is a first (ASIO is generally described as “very secretive” and journalists aren’t frequent guests at its headquarters).

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But it’s not just ASIO. The entire security apparatus of the State, under Dutton’s parliamentary portfolio, seems to have been very busy.

A week earlier (Wednesday 19) the heads of three other intelligence/law enforcement federal agencies gave an also unusual joint public address at the National Press Club in Canberra.

In that address the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), and Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) argued their case for yet additional surveillance powers.

It wasn’t Islamist terrorism or foreign interference, however, what concerned them; it was child sex abuse.

Used in messaging applications, end-to-end encryption enabled, they argued, “deviant and perverted offenders ... to evade law enforcement detection”. Therefore, new legal powers are needed to either decrypt those messages or force encryption providers to hand them their unencrypted content.

I’m sure criminals use end-to-end encryption, but journalists and their sources, among others, also use it very legitimately to protect their sensitive communications against State eavesdropping. What about them?

One would have thought that that would have raised eyebrows among journalists, particularly after the Federal Court dismissed the ABC’s legal case against the AFP. However, at least those present at the event (which was televised) seemed more interested in the AFP’s negative to investigate the case of federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor’s doctored documents.

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Then, on Tuesday 25, making reference to Burgess’ remarks, Peter Dutton (remember: the boss of those top cops and spooks) suddenly dropped this:

“If somebody is going to cause harm to Australians, I just don’t care whether they’re on the far right, far left, somewhere in between, they will be dealt with.

“And if the proliferation of information into the hands of rightwing lunatics or leftwing lunatics is leading to a threat in our country, then my responsibility is to make sure our agencies are dealing with it and they are”.

Readers can compare by themselves what Dutton left out from Burgess’ (and the other security bigwigs’) assessments. Here I’m interested in what he added to them.

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Like many police officers, ex-cop Dutton seems prone to hallucinate about dangerous red hordes lurking under his bed. Unlike most of his former colleagues, Dutton has a high profile job. Therefore, many noticed when he added “leftwing lunatics” to the list of threats and, as a consequence, asked him about that. Some went as far as calling his parliamentary office asking for clarification … with perturbing results.

Journalists, too, were intrigued. David Speers, the new host of Insiders, was the latest.

Dutton’s rather scornful answer boils down to this: He’s too busy to discuss semantics; “leftwing lunatics” were present all along in the top cops’ assessment, for Islamic terrorists, he adds, are nothing if not … leftwing (!?).

In other words, “leftwing lunatics” means whatever Humpty Dutton chooses it to mean – neither more nor less.

And, remember: he may not be the master -- yet -- but he’s pretty close to him.

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I am sure card-carrying members of the “sensible middle” feel the lunacy in Dutton’s “leftwing lunatics” remarks; many are even likely to find it all vaguely threatening. It’s not the first time the Morrison Government aroused such feelings.

Ultimately, however, most will probably shrug it all off: it’s others who should worry about that (by coincidence, I wrote about those others last time).

The reader, of course, doesn’t need to agree, but I, for what it is worth, think that attitude may be unwise. Given the plasticity in the labels Dutton uses for his targets, who’s to say the sensible reader him/herself isn’t -- to his/her utter surprise -- a “lunatic”? Your sanity does not depend on a clinical diagnosis, after all, but on Dutton’s let’s say idiosyncratic assessment.

If I were a journalist, I’d keep my eyes peeled.

Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 2:42am in

Image result for bernie socialism

            Bernie Sanders is currently the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. He and everyone else knows exactly how the Republicans will attack him if and when he becomes the nominee: old-fashioned redbaiting.

            China became communist in name only during the 1980s, the Soviet Union shut its doors in 1991, the Cold War is dead, and the 64% of Americans under age 50 have no memory of an actually-existing socialist regime. Yet Trump and the GOP have already broadcast their plans to hang the “democratic socialist” label around Bernie Sanders’ neck.

            Whether such archaic fear-mongering—against long-dead adversaries—will be effective even with elderly voters is anyone’s guess. Considering the fact that 40% of Americans consistently tell pollsters they prefer socialism or communism to capitalism, branding Bernie Sanders as a nefarious democratic socialist might have the unintended effect of bringing out people who don’t normally vote to support an ideology they’ve never had the chance to get behind before.

            On the other hand, only 76% of Democrats say they would vote for a socialist.

            One thing is for sure: the socialism thing will be Sanders’ biggest challenge. And so what? Every candidate enters the game with a handicap of some sort.

            Elizabeth Warren has acquired a reputation for deception and opportunism. Amy Klobuchar plays a mean girl on TV and behind closed doors. Pete Buttigieg is gay; only 78% of voters say they’d consider a gay candidate. He’s also inexperienced. Joe Biden appears to have been suffering from dementia for years.

            Political weaknesses are inevitable; what makes or breaks a candidacy is how his or her campaign chooses to address it. History’s answer is clear: take it on honestly, directly and credibly.

            Own your crap. Americans voters hate sneakiness and avoidance.

            Bernie has no one but himself to blame for this potential electoral albatross. As Paul Krugman of The New York Times points out, the independent senator from Vermont is not really a socialist: “He doesn’t want to nationalize our major industries and replace markets with central planning.” He is a New Deal Democrat indistinguishable from old liberal figures like Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern. The economic model Sanders wants to establish isn’t the USSR or even Yugoslavia, but the Scandinavian countries with their superior safety nets and enlightened penal systems. Capitalism as we know it would continue, albeit with reduced overall cruelty.

            Bernie is a social democrat, not a democratic socialist. For some unknown reason, however, he chose to label himself as a democratic socialist. “It’s mainly about personal branding,” Krugman speculates, “with a dash of glee at shocking the bourgeoisie. And this self-indulgence did no harm as long as he was just a senator from a very liberal state.”

            Now he’s going to have to explain himself and his beliefs to American voters who have been propagandized through education and the media to believe that socialism equals communism equals totalitarian dystopia.

            If he’s smart – and there’s no reason to believe that he and his staff are anything but—he will own the phrase and address those concerns head on.

During the 1960 campaign John F. Kennedy responded to worries about his Roman Catholicism that he might take orders from the pope in a speech that allowed anti-Catholic voters to take a chance on him. “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act,” Kennedy said.

            Aware that he was going to run for president in a few years, Barack Obama discussed his drug use as a young man, specifically the fact that he had tried cocaine, in his memoir and in an interview published ahead of the race. By the time he ran in 2008, the coke thing was old news baked into the politics of the time.

            “Democratic socialism” is a pretty meaningless term. Which is not necessarily bad. Because it doesn’t define an existing party or ideology in the real world, Bernie can imprint his own definition upon his awkward tabula rasa.

            Like every crisis, this is an opportunity. Voters want to know what Bernie stands for. Their confusion about democratic socialism (confusion caused by Sanders’ weird word choices) is his chance to explain himself and his policies.

            The one thing he should not and cannot do is to shy away from the S word. No matter how much he protests, Republicans are going to call him a Marxist, a communist, a socialist and worse. So there’s no point in protesting. “Yes,“ he could say, “I am a socialist. A democratic socialist. A democratic socialist is a person who cares more about you as an ordinary American than about greedy billionaires and corporations who pollute your water and lay you off at the drop of a hat.”

            Nothing neutralizes an attack more effectively than to cop to it.

            If nothing else, even if he loses, Bernie can rehabilitate socialism as an acceptable economic alternative. In the long run, that would be a greater accomplishment than anything Sanders could accomplish in eight years as president.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the forthcoming “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Christianity as a Religious Ideology

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/12/2019 - 3:33am in

Religions are ideologies. They are little different from something like capitalism, or Marxism, or the divine right of kings, or humanism.

That is to say ideologies are sets of statements about how the world and people are, and how they should be.

Christianity takes humans as fallen. We are innately bad, and we must be reformed by good education, including punishment. “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” This is different from classic Confucianism, which assumed that humans were essentially neutral slates, or the Confucianism of Mencius, which believed that humans were innately good, similar to Rousseau. The Chinese Legalists, on the other hand, assumed humans were bad, and the Imperial justice system tended to run on their ideas, not those of Mencius.

If you believe humans are bad, you must change them; fix them. Such ideologies tend to be punitive. If you think humans are good, on the other hand, you have to mostly avoid screwing them up, and such ideologies try to avoid punishment and negative reinforcement.

Christianity’s caused a lot of suffering down through the ages, a statement I hope isn’t controversial. A lot of that comes down to Christianity’s metaphysical beliefs for most of that time.

  1. The only way to go to Heaven is through acceptance of Christ;
  2. If you don’t go to Heaven, you will wind up in Hell. Hell is eternal torment.

The combination of these two beliefs means that, logically, anything is acceptable if it leads to someone becoming a Christian. Charlemagne once force-converted ten thousand pagans, then executed them. They died as Christians, with no chance to sin, doubtless they went to heaven. Spanish conquistadors would burn heretics, because they believed that would send them to heaven. Conquering a country to convert its people was not only moral, it was the only moral thing to do. To do otherwise would be to condemn everyone born there to hell, which is to say to torture which never ends.

Christianity is a form of hegemonic ideology. “Everyone should follow this ideology.” Democracy is another hegemonic ideology, “Everyone should be able to vote for their leaders.” Oh, there are exceptions, but they are minor. A country that is not a democracy, to a believer in democracy, isn’t ruled legitimately. Plenty of wars have been justified by hegemonic democratic principles, and plenty of non-democratic governments have been overthrown when democratic powers defeated them (Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, for example.)

But remember that, after the Napoleonic wars, aristocracy was re-instituted in France. The hegemonic philosophy of the day can differ.

Islam is also a hegemonic religious ideology: everyone is supposed to eventually become a Muslim. That’s the goal, although it’s sort of okay for the other monotheists to stick around.

Hegemonic philosophies which get traction change the world. They evangelize. They conquer. When they go bad, they go really bad.

Religious hegemonic ideologies have the extra oomph of “God said.” If “God said,” well then, you can’t override that, because obviously “God is right.” The best you can do is to say “Well, perhaps we misunderstood part of this.”

Non-hegemonic ideologies find hegemonic ideologies horrifying. Hegemonic ideologies breed fanatics, people who aren’t willing to say “it’s okay for other people to live differently.”

Don’t think this is always a bad thing: Our ideology may radically oppose slavery, for example, or starvation, or torture or rape, and say “No one should every do these things!”

Is that bad?

Well, is it worth fighting wars over? That’s really the question. Is it worse using violence to stop this? How much violence? At what point are the evils of the violence you’re using worse than whatever it is you oppose, or whatever good you intend to impose?

Christianity’s monster state ruled by crusades and inquisitions and insisting that women bear the children of their rapists–that sort of thing. This isn’t in question, because we have a lot of Christian history.

This doesn’t make Christianity uniquely monstrous, or more evil than many other ideologies, but it is baked into the set of beliefs required to be Christian (forced conversion, death to pagans and heathens) or is easy to pervert a hegemonic ideology towards (abortion is murder, murder is always bad, unless you’re murder a non-Christian to force conversion of their society).

Other ideologies have other monster modes. We’re beginning to see Hinduism’s right now. We’ve been seeing how Islam goes wrong for many decades now. Communism regularly gets vilified for its crimes and I trust people know the crimes of capitalism, though they tend to be understated–because it is our ruling ideology.

But religious ideologies are always particularly dangerous, for the simple reason that one cannot admit God was wrong, because God can’t be wrong. (The Hindu Gods, oddly, can be wrong. Pagans are usually pretty clear that gods aren’t always right.)

Beware the consequences of monotheism with infallible Gods, and beware the consequences of hegemonic ideologies.

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Killing Herd Animals

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/12/2019 - 12:43pm in

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Ideology, Religion

One of the great crimes and tragedies of our world is how we treat the animals we eat (or whose milk or eggs or other products we eat and use.) Factory farming keeps them in tiny enclosures, feeds them monotonous foods, and then when they’re slaughtered it’s a terrible experience: they’re terrified and die in pain.

There’s been a kerfuffle in Britain, where the Green Party leader said he’d bank Halal meats.

There’s an argument for this based on Nassim Taleb’s tyranny of the committed minority. If enough people simply won’t buy something unless it’s done their way, it makes sense for capitalists to just produce all of whatever it is that way. “Just butcher them all Halal.”

Halal killing is a cut to the jugular vein, and then all blood is drained. In part it’s fairly clear that the intent is to spare animals pain, same as it is in Kosher butchering, where the carotid and jugular and windpipe are all cut in one smooth motion.

So both these things seem good to me, but it seems that there’s a third style of killing herd animals that is even more painless: the Mongolian one. They make a small incisition in the neck, then pull out a vein. The animal dies quickly and painlessly (though it’s messy, as you’d expect.)

I have little respect for religious rules just because they’re religious, and that includes rules about how animals are treated. Animals, especially mammals, clearly have emotions and suffer. If you want to obey “God’s” rules yourself, knock yourself out as long as it affects no one but you. But when it effects other people, those rules get no extra points because “God” said so.

Both Halal and Kosher killing is better than what happens in most slaughterhouses. But if Mongolian butchering is painless, then that’s what we should use. It should be mandated by law, everyone who kills animals should be trained, and slaughterhouses should be inspected.

And if that means some Jews and Muslims (or anyone else) decide not to eat meat, they can go howl.

The point here isn’t really about slaughtering animals (though we should do it humanely, and yeah, I’m willing to see prices go up if that’s required and I’m poor enough that means I’d eat less meat), but about religions and ideologies and policies.

Religions are ideologies which claim special status. “God said”, usually.

Those claims are laughable. It’s not that God may or may not exist, it’s that there are too many religions all claiming “God” said different things.

Obviously most of them are wrong. Heck, they’re probably all wrong, even if God exists.

So that means they’re just ideologies: a series of assertions about how the world is, how the world should be and how humans should think, feel and act. As such they are due no more deference than any other ideology, whether capitalism, the divine right of kinds, the Pax Romana, or democracy. They are simply provisional sets of ideas, from a particular time, with a particular history, and they can be wrong, or more to the point, harmful. Some will be good, some bad, and so on.

As such they must be evaluated by the good they do, and the harm, and if better ways of doing things, in terms of the welfare of humans, animals and life in general are found, what some guy centuries or millenia ago said about what God wanted should be thrown out the window.

Religion, all religion, including yours, is just ideology in supernatural drag.

Treat it as such.

Some money would be rather useful, as I don’t get paid by the piece. If you want to support my writing, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

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