17 March 2017

WHO ARE THE FASCISTS?

“Fascism” is second only to “racism” in the canon of political epithets that get tossed around these days. It has become a kind of catch-all phrase for describing behavior or even just an attitude someone doesn’t like. But who actually are the fascists? At this stage of history one would be hard pressed to find a genuine Fascist anywhere, at least since Il Duce got strung up during World War II. Fascism actually was an Italian social-political movement based on extreme nationalism, corporate statism, improvised claptrap, and black-shirt bully tactics against opposition and in the pursuit of power. It is really only this last tactic that still resonates, and the main reason the term is still in popular use. Thus, when someone says so and so is a “fascist,” the most they can mean is that they are behaving like a fascist. 

Fascism was considered to be of the “right” primarily because of its nationalistic component, but the collectivism, top down organization never was. The Nazis added genuine racism to the equation, but always called themselves national socialists, which tells you something. Strip away the nationalism and these actual movements have more in common with communism, due to things such as dictatorship, party monopoly on power, the use of violence, repression, political and state control of everything, that is characteristic of leftism.  

Nevertheless those on the left still like to perceive themselves as being involved in the struggle against “fascism,” which can include just about anything they don’t like. People they disagree with are categorized as “fascists” in order to dehumanize them beyond the bounds of civilized discourse. But most other people understand it to primarily mean the use or threat of violence, mob actions directed towards intimidation and silencing of political opponents. Now since there is not a shred of evidence that the people so targeted are engaged in any of these tactics, it ought to be crystal clear that these soldiers of the cause are themselves behaving like fascists. 

They are the fascists when they frequently prevent people from speaking on American university campuses. The intimidation, blocking of passage, and physical threats they use are directed against not some fringe right political movement, but mainstream conservatives, and even public officials. They can get away with this because college administrations and faculty are either sympathetic or too intimidated to resist them, and their targets are generally soft intellectuals. They can get away with this because there is currently no countervailing group on hand to deal with them. There has not been a single instance of a left-wing speaker being attacked by a right-wing band of “fascists.” That is a fantasy. 

Thus it is easy to be brave in the struggle against “fascism” when there are no Fascists around. The longer term danger for them is that there is a vast reservoir of people, currently peaceful, who can easily physically overpower them, lean right, and are well-armed. If these people, or even a sliver of them, were ever to become mobilized it would be over for the Left. 

But for now the fascist tactics are being employed by one side with impunity in a playground environment of soft targets. They are having their way in an artificial environment that is out of touch with reality. The time is overdue for the government to begin enforcing standards on pain of eliminating funding from institutions that have destroyed any semblance of a civic culture. 


The obfuscation of terminology should not delude as to who the real fascists are. For as Churchill once predicted, the fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.

02 March 2017

THE RUSSIANS, THE DEMOCRATS, AND THE MEDIA

There was a time when Russia was the enemy, back when the Russian people suffered under the communist yoke. Then opposition to the Soviet Union was the right position, while many on the Left were outright communist sympathizers or treasonous pawns of that evil empire. The Russian people were never the enemy.  The enemy was the odious regime that murdered millions of its own people. But the Soviet Union is long gone and communism belongs in the dustbin of history. 

Russia has come a long way, and today under Putin is anti-Bolshevik.  Is it democratic in the way of the west? No, but it is an infinite improvement over the communist regime. When the Russians were behind the expansion of communism there was reason to consider them the enemy. But the Left instead was reliably anti-anti-communist, ever promoting “peaceful coexistence” and understanding where none could be had. But today the new theme of the Left, and the Democratic party in the US, is anti-Russian. Perhaps they mourn the old Soviet regime and resent its replacement, no longer of the “left,” but one that has restored Russian tradition, culture, and religion. This is not meant as an apology for the Russian government, which in many respects is mismanaging the country to the detriment of its long-term interests, and with its low tolerance of opposition, but these are self-inflicted wounds. 

Today the Democratic party in the United States has gone totally off the rails in its delusions about Russian involvement in our elections and government. At this point it is pure hysteria, not even so much because of anything the Russians might have done but that it might be used to undermine the Trump administration. This is unadulterated hatred seeking a target aided by a compliant and partisan media. 

If you were skeptical of the criticism of the media in the past, the current kerfuffle over Attorney General Sessions supposed contacts with the Russians proves the point. From Democratic operatives the word was passed to the media that Sessions met with the Russians twice and didn’t mention it in his Senate testimony. But what were these meetings? The supposed contact with the Russian ambassador consisted of questioning him with other senators in a hearing, and an otherwise casual and trivial passing conversation at a reception; both routine experiences shared by many Democrats.  To any objective observer this is nonsense, and a truly honest media would have passed it over or concluded that there was nothing there. Instead we have a bogus “scandal” without substance that most people can parse out on their own. The only real offense of Sessions is being a southern white man; talk about prejudice and hatred!

Now they are finding, or rather looking for Russians everywhere under the bed without a shred of evidence. A responsible media would stick to the facts, but they have degenerated into a partisan opposition, relying on embittered holdovers from the Obama administration. 

This Russomania is going nowhere. It is the last gasp of scoundrels who have nothing left in their arsenal. Their only objective is to undermine the Trump administration. It isn’t just the Democrats, but the Bush-league Republicans who failed miserably when in power. These old cold warriors have now made common cause with the new cold warriors of the Left and have lost whatever relevance they might have had. People are tired of the rancor  and can see for themselves what the new administration has already accomplished. In the complete absence of factual evidence and endless innuendo, the net effect of all of this is to drive more and more people into the Trump camp. 

25 February 2017

THE DEATH OF HOLLYWOOD

Once there was a time when Hollywood provided millions of people with an escape from the travails of daily life in America and around the world. The objective was nothing more than to provide mass entertainment to a wide audience without any further pretense. In the days of the great studios patriots like Louis B. Mayer ran a tight ship. But eventually due to ill-advised government anti-trust proceedings and the rise of television the studio system broke down, and in that vacuum power was grabbed by sleazy agents. The glamour days persisted through the 1950s, but eventually the great stars passed on and were never really replaced. 

Hollywood stood for entertainment, and as long as that was the case it was appreciated by everyone. it was something we had in common. No matter what political divisions there might have been in the outside world they seldom were manifest in entertainment, which was there for everyone, despite their differences. In the 60s things started to change due to sharp political divisions, and stars, untethered by studio common sense, became overtly more political. But then there was still some balance, and for every Jane Fonda there was a John  Wayne, but all still behaved professionally. Jane Fonda won her Oscar at the pinnacle of her political radicalism, but even she, when accepting her award, did not go off on a political speech, but instead, to her credit, said that there is a lot the say but this isn’t the time or place to say it. 

How things have changed. Now too many feel the self-indulgent necessity to make political statements, taking advantage of a public moment in the spotlight they were provided only because of their entertainment work, not for their political insight.  It isn’t just the “talent” that feels compelled to behave like this; it permeates the whole industry from the very top, as the industry leadership is of one mind politically. Anyone taking not just an opposing viewpoint, but simply wanting to remain apolitical is subject to pressure and hostility. 


But the end result is that they have killed the Hollywood that once pleased everyone. They have alienated half the audience and have gone a long way towards turning “Hollywood” into something of an epithet by abusing a platform that exists only because of the achievements of old Hollywood, not this pale echo, this decrepit residue, of what once was. The more this goes on the less audience there will be for various award shows, and this will likely be the case with this year’s Oscar ceremony. The decline will continue thanks to these unbridled egos. The Grammy’s at least provide a great deal of straight entertainment. The Oscars are worse than a bore, they are an irritant and I, and millions of others wont’ be watching. 

21 January 2017

EMOTION AND POLITICS

Much of the rancor one sees in political life is basically rooted in emotion, and therefore irrational in its fundamental state. Ideology stems from the same root, which is also not rational, and hence the more ideological things become the less reason prevails and the more susceptible people become to nonsense claims, usually about the other “side.”  Now since the response is emotional it is also personal, which frequently involves projecting personal concerns or deficiencies out onto others, or society. That being the case it can never be ameliorated as long as that false understanding prevails, and so such people are never happy, and seemingly always angry about something someone else is doing. 

There have been many academic studies purporting to explain irrational political behavior, but it is always ends up as characterizing only the right, thus betraying the left-wing bias of their world view, especially in fields like psychology. For while there is an emotional basis for ideology, it applies to both sides, and in fact there is arguably more intense emotion on the left. This is evidenced in the remarks of an actress suggesting that the new President hates “foreigners” among other things, irrespective of the fact that he is married to one, thus attacking a yahoo straw man that does not exist.  It was a perfect example of an emotional argument making absolutely no sense. The angry response was also beneath the dignity of a President, along the lines of: you attacked me so I’m going to attack you.

Nevertheless, the emotional component is far more prevalent among those on the left. They are forever trying to shut up and silence anything they don’t like, or preventing others from speaking. Failing this they will attempt to organize boycotts that never gain any support, and indeed often provoke a reaction that is the opposite of their intent. They will also threaten and blacklist, i.e. entertainers who have the temerity to try and appear at a presidential inauguration. If they can’t get their way directly they will try and get in indirectly, i.e. by trying to boycott advertisers on a medium they dislike. It is true that corporations have folded with this kind of pressure from the left, though whether that will continue in the age of Trump is another question. There is thus a disturbing totalitarian proclivity to shut others down, cause them to lose business, or even to ruin their lives. 

Surveys also show that those on the left are three time more likely than those on the right to “defriend” someone on Facebook over political matters. The reason for this disparity stems from a world view, unique to the left; one that believes that all aspects of life have a “political” dimension, and are therefore fair game for political action. That vast array of activities and circumstances that exist for most people in the private sphere are an inconvenience for them. If something is not perceived as political they will politicize it, and obsessed with symbolism, they will seek removal of the most innocuous  item that offends their sensibilities, even if totally innocent of their mischaracterization. 

This does not necessarily apply to true “liberals,” at least to the extent that they are true to liberal principles regarding freedom of speech and thought, although they are more likely to cave into the hard left when it comes to unreasonable demands. But this totalitarian tendency to threaten or force others to behave or think a certain way or eliminate what offends their sensibilities has to be vigorously resisted. Failure to do so undermines the legitimacy of  liberalism itself. 


Thus the more ideological the perceptions the more emotional and irrational the attitude the outlook and behavior. This does not characterize all emotional responses to things, i.e. empathizing with suffering, a swell of patriotic feelings, listening to music, etc. but rather emotional reactions that underly ideology and that are political in nature. Anyone whose world view leaves them constantly miserable and compelled to make political statements needs to engage in some honest reflection as to why they believe what they believe with such intensity, and the consequences it has for their personal life. It means perhaps recognizing that personal needs are being projected out onto society. Finally it means examining why political perceptions are so intense, and how they can cloud what truly exists in the present moment. Quo vadis.

16 December 2016

THE RUSSIAN HACKS

According to US intelligence services there is little doubt that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computers. But as President Obama made clear today that is old news, something he confronted Putin about months ago. He further stated that after that it stopped. I share his puzzlement as to why it is an issue in the media now. 

Hillary Clinton now says that this was a factor in costing her the election, though it is unclear how that could have come to pass since there is no evidence anyone tampered with the electoral process itself. Mrs. Clinton seems to be confusing the DNC hack with her own problems with her personal email server, which is a completely different issue. Her negligence in that case, and her violation of various rules is what damaged her, if anything did. The DNC hack produced no information of any consequence, and the Wikileaks buildup was a total bust. Not a single thing detrimental to Hillary Clinton was revealed in the Russia-to-Wikileaks dump so it could not possibly have affected the election. The more salient reason why Hillary lost was the fact that she spent little or no time in places like Wisconsin and Michigan. 

Nevertheless this kind of security break ought to concern everyone, especially in Europe where there are upcoming elections. The US cannot tolerate this kind of interference, or potential interference in our electoral process and measures to correct this ought to be taken. However, in terms of damage or influence, there was none apart from some embarrassment on the part of people whose emails were hacked. Nothing of any real interest to anyone was revealed, so for the parties involved it was a waste of time. Going forward, we need to be prepared to resist this sort of thing, and if our servers are breached at this point it is our own fault. 


12 November 2016

THE 2016 US ELECTION RESULTS

Donald Trump is going to be the next President of the United States, and no matter what your feelings about that, his achievement is astonishing. A more improbable candidate is hard to imagine, yet he managed to defeat 16 good candidates for the Republican nomination, and, against all odds and expectations, then went on to win the general election. He managed to do this without the full support of some in the party, without an extensive ground operation, and in spite of a hostile media, elements of which went so far as outright collusion with the Democratic campaign. He was vastly outspent and virtually the entire establishment was aligned against him. As a result, he will enter office unencumbered by obligations to special interests and  unbeholden to anyone other than the people who elected him. 

His victory was a stunning rejection of elites across the board, as he was propelled to office by people who have lost faith in major institutions. The establishment that gravitated towards Hillary Clinton and the status quo was soundly rebuked in an election where the change candidate came from the right. The Democrats and their media allies, concentrated on the coasts, completely missed the undercurrent of anger and despair across most of the rest of the country. What little credibility the mainstream media had left has evaporated. They got it all wrong. 

Some of the losers are putting forward a ridiculously dark picture that is never going to materialize. Those who opposed Trump should realize that his election is not the apocalypse. The opposition expressing fear and anguish should understand that if the government finally succeeds in addressing long-standing problems everyone benefits. That will now possible as gridlock finally ends given that the Republicans now control the House, the Senate, the Presidency, and most state governments. They must produce now, as there can be no excuse for failure. But they should also not make the same mistake the Democrats did with Obamacare, when they completely froze out Republicans. Major legislation that seriously changes things can only come about if it comes from consensus and involves the other party to assure continuity. The new administration and congress must accept the mantle they have been given with humility. 

The notion that a slight loss of the raw, popular vote makes the new administration illegitimate is ridiculous. Democrats had no problem with the Electoral College as long as it gave them a huge big-state advantage starting out. In addition Republicans won the congressional elections by three million votes and clearly have a mandate for change. Ironically incessant speculation about the collapse of the Republican party prior to the election now clearly applies instead to the Democrats. In the worst case, if the radical left now stirring gains control of the party they will be out of power for a long time. 

We are all exhausted by the endless campaign that culminated in the results on election day. The way elections are conducted in the US needs serious reform as I have argued repeatedly. At a minimum we must limit the campaign season along the lines of how elections are conducted in Great Britain. Nominations and campaigning should be limited to a few months, not two years. No one wants this kind of electoral process to continue save for the media which benefits from it immensely in terms of advertising revenue as well as “news” coverage. 


In terms of international commitments nothing is going to change that radically. Trump simply wants a better deal. He is a dealmaker, which means he is not an ideologue since making a deal necessarily involves give and take or compromise. I believe this will be his approach across the board and seemingly extreme statements are more akin to establishing a bargaining position. The US is not going to withdraw from the world or start a trade war that would benefit no one, and I believe that mutually beneficial trade deals will continue to be negotiated. At this stage it would behoove everyone to do as both Hillary Clinton and President Obama suggested- keep an open mind.  

28 October 2016

IS THE SYSTEM RIGGED?

When we hear the “system is rigged” what “system” are we referring to? The idea that there is any kind of overall “system” is a nebulous concept that went out with Marx. It is like saying that life is rigged. That is not to say there are not particular systems, such as the political system or electoral system, so the question at this time is really whether those are in any way “rigged.” In the US there is no overall national control of elections; nor is there even much in the way of state control. Elections are organized in a myriad of localities, each with its own system so that they cannot possibly be controlled by anyone anywhere. No one can rig that system. This does not mean there is no electoral fraud in some jurisdictions, but it is not widespread enough these days to throw an election, due to so many safeguards and vigilance on both sides.

What about other factors, such as media influence? Here there is clear and obvious bias against Trump, evident no matter what your political persuasion, and to a lesser extent against Republicans generally. This may be unfair but it isn’t rigged.There is definitely a herd mentality, not by any design or collusion, but ideological sympathy, and, more importantly, reliance on the same news sources. There is no question that the execrable New York Times regularly performs front page political hatchet jobs, so when the Times breaks (or fabricates) a “story,” most major media pick up on it because that is where they get much of their news from, especially in New York, still the media capitol.  These days reporters are more likely to be reading the Times than going out and actually finding news themselves. While that may be annoying to the right, the Times has little legitimacy beyond the left and the notion it is the “newspaper of record” is a joke, especially when there is free open competition and something like Fox News can draw more people than the other networks combined. 

But if these things are not exactly rigged, it does not mean the situation is not fair; it isn’t. But life is not fair. Most establishment institutions are against Trump, and elites are virtually united in their opposition to him. This includes those normally associated with the right, such as conservative intellectuals, as well a wholesale desertion of corporate backers not seen since the Goldwater candidacy. Thus the entire establishment is almost completely aligned with Hillary Clinton, whose campaign is flush with cash. So yes, the deck is stacked in this sense, but this is not the same as rigging, or conspiring to steal the election, for the process itself is largely immune to tampering.

Things are going well for these people, who believe they are part of a “meritocracy” and deserve to be where they are, but the only real merit system that exists is in professional sports, and to a lesser extent, science. Instead, these elites are more often people with good social skills, such as sucking up, connecting, networking, and playing the game rather than necessarily being the best at what they do, as well as just plain luck. This conceit also makes them largely oblivious to those who feel the “system” is no longer working for them. 

For what the elites are missing is the depth of the alienation of the working class along with a substantial segment of the middle, who increasingly have lost faith in established institutions, and no longer recognize the country they are living in. They have responded to Trump, who has managed to channel this sentiment  in spite of material provided by the elites, who are baffled by the seeming imperviousness to critical information by a substantial portion of the population. This “revolt of the masses” and Trump’s candidacy meanwhile threatens to delegitimize the whole process and Trumpism, or right-populism, will not disappear after election night. Indeed a more gifted politician could potentially take it over the top, for whatever the election outcome, Trump has succeeded in rattling the system to its core.