Joseph Natoli – Joseph P Natoli http://www.josephnatoli.com Gulliver's Takes Sun, 24 Nov 2019 09:37:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3 Once Upon a Time – Shots in the Hyperreal (on Tarantino’s New Film) http://www.josephnatoli.com/once-upon-a-time-shots-in-the-hyperreal-on-tarantinos-new-film/ Sun, 24 Nov 2019 09:37:03 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1878 Published on http://www.brightlightsfilm.com   “Hey, you’re Rick fucking Dalton. Don’t you forget it.” – Once Upon a Time – in Hollywood “And so art is everywhere, since artifice is at the very heart of reality.” – Jean Baudrillard  * * * The same weekend in which there were four scenes of shootings in the U.S., I went to […]

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Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time

Published on http://www.brightlightsfilm.com

 

Hey, you’re Rick fucking Dalton. Don’t you forget it.” – Once Upon a Time – in Hollywood

“And so art is everywhere, since artifice is at the very heart of reality.” – Jean Baudrillard

 * * *

The same weekend in which there were four scenes of shootings in the U.S., I went to see Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Once Upon a Time – in Hollywood. One real, the other hyperreal. And yet there’s a hyperreality to the shootings and an everyday reality to the movie.

In a first calculation, the shootings are horrific/shocking/frightening beyond any real understanding. They are loaded with an incomprehensible hyperreal dimension. Tarantino’s movie is, on that same, first-approach level, very everyday real stylistically for four-fifths of its 2:45 running time, and then we get a Tarantino take of what was real and yet hyperreal violence in 1969 – the Manson family on the night of its killing spree.

In a deeper calculation, what we can see is that there’s a disturbing mixture of the real and hyperreal in the Walmart, Dayton bar, and garlic festival shootings. Shopping, beers, and garlic festival– the everyday real. Similarly, the whole ambience of 1969 Hollywood on-set and off-set life, Hollywood boulevard cruising, life on the fringe of acting and stunt work, up on the roof fixing a TV antenna is full of jumps to the cinematic reel footage of former Western TV star Rick Dalton’s episodes in the limelight. The everyday real is already interrupted before the Manson family violence scene with this comical hyperreal footage, from Dalton doing the twist to flamethrowing Hitler’s Bund.

Intermingled with common life pitfalls, traumas, fears, and frustrations, namely an acting career heading toward oblivion, are the confusions of melding a shaky everyday life and identity with a collapsing TV hyperreal identity. Rick Dalton is a TV hero of a “once upon a time” West that never was real in any way shown in any movie or TV episode. Whatever the reality of Rick Dalton may have been, it has slipped into simulacra. And the slippage from that to a Has-Been reality evokes dread, fear, and trembling. There’s pain in hearing: “Hey, you’re Rick fucking Dalton. Don’t you forget it.” If he was someone other than the Hollywood “Rick Dalton,” that someone is forgotten, and tragically what happens to a has-been is that he does become forgotten.

Clint Booth – stuntman, friend, sidekick, and gofer – is neither entering nor leaving the hyperreal but more than literally on the roof fixing the TV antennae and looking around. He’s into the flux of real time, fixed in everyday life, in time and reality off the Hollywood set, off the set of the hyperreal. He makes a dent in the hyperreal – literally a dent in a car he has thrown Mike Moh as Bruce Lee into. The action also stands as a dent in the Bruce Lee legend, a legend in which the difficulties Lee faced as an “oriental” star within Hollywood’s long tradition of giving Asian parts to Caucasians has been glossed over with the hyperreal. Here in Tarantino’s film, Bruce Lee is a reality, a man who in 1969, four years before his death, is still going through dark battles in the hyperreal. “Bruce Lee” is a hyperreal identity, like “Rick Dalton,” and Tarantino plays him against that identity. Ironically, the fight scene with Bruce and Clint in this “once upon a time” world touches the grounds of the real, and yet we resist that and hold the portrayal to be false and disrespectful of the mystique the hyperreal creates and we find ourselves living within.

Tarantino

In the scene at the Spahn Movie Ranch, Clint Booth barges into the hyperreal on a quest to establish one real thing, to answer one real question: Is his former acquaintance George still alive? He doesn’t know that this is the place where Manson has settled his communal followers, tripping on nothing more than his madness, but Clint cuts through it like a restraining orderly in an asylum. His is a hyperreal immunity, a dog-loving, quiet force who makes a living in the hyperreal but isn’t of it. In his second and final encounter with mayhem-seeking Mansonites, Clint and his dog, Brandy, rip through this mess once again, resisting and crushing an invasion of an everyday reality by the distortions of the hyperreal.

When you’re in the hyperreal, you lose touch with the real, but you don’t get away without injury. Rick Dalton is not at an equilibrium point where Clint is; rather, he is at the edge of breakdown the entire film. It’s comical/sad but rather more hyperinflated as all things in Hollywood must be to give ticket buyers a sense that they are escaping the humdrum real. No one goes to the movies to see their own deflated lives. Not only lives but everything around us must be cast in a hyperreal setting, a surround that Tarantino captures in such extended, minute detail because the appearance of this time and place doesn’t stay outside. That outside impresses itself in our minds, shapes thoughts and feelings so deeply that there is no boundary between us and the world. And because there is so much simulacra all around us, the simulacra – like plastic bags, with which we are filling our world – also goes inside. It’s that we do not escape.

Viewers are filtered by the surround of the film, but in the film itself, characters are filtered by the 1969 world they are in while that world comes into being through the characters. Each is dispersed into the other, and so there is no character without world, no world without character. Indeed, a human life world is what we humans make of this third planet in our solar system within the Orion Arm of the Milky Way. Such “worlding” is what we humans alone do, and some of it is real – that is, correspondent with what is – and some hyperreal. In Tarantino’s films, we walk or drive through both, as the characters do.

Sharon Tate, the “rising star” at the threshold of entering a hyperreal image of herself, strolls through Hollywood in the white plastic boots of ’69, shopping, browsing, going into the Bruin Theatre in Westwood, dancing wildly at the Playboy mansion, cruising around with Roman Polanski. Clint Booth drives the 1966 Cadillac DeVille leisurely through Westwood, down Hollywood Boulevard, and then drives his own Karmann Ghia in a fast-driving lengthy shot heading to his mobile home behind the Van Nuys Drive-In playing Lady in Cement. What we are getting here is the pulse of real time and place, both essentially different than the hyperreal.

But we conventionally hold reality and time to a non-Tarantino standard, by which I mean that he is, firstly, ignoring what authorities have established as real accounts, and, secondly, playing the everyday real into the hyperreal. His standard is to be at play with history, most clearly seen in Django Unchained, Inglourious Basterds, and The Hateful Eight. And in this, Tarantino films at the core of our post-truth whirlwind. What happens in time is less subject now to what such authorities say and more subject to our personal passions, our personal knowing. We live at a time when both time and reality are subject to what we euphemistically call our freedom to choose but are in truth merely our private passions that we now have the freedom to release in cyberspace. Or at the end of an automatic weapon.

In 1969 and throughout the ’60s, the mantras of a self-empowering personal choice, of “doing your own thing,” of choosing what you wanted in ways that could not be discounted by the Establishment have lingered in the American mass psyche. They have done so because this hippie spirit melds nicely into a background of a fierce American spirit of individualism, of living free of any hierarchies; in the beginning, those of Europe, but in 1969, any authority that challenges “my own intuition.” This is an individualism that also, paradoxically, imagines all the people coming together, living in peace, an unthought, blind search for communality that Charles Manson could evoke as easily as Herbert Marcuse. Mad, hyperreal communes are more likely to occur in the hyperreal than ethical or utopian socialisms.

Tarantino is not of that moment, either of Hollywood or hippiedom, but he shares their spirit in the same way all Americans are awash in the illusions of personal autonomy, of personal choices checkmating reality. But while we feel that every story told around us, everything that comprises the mise en scène of our lives, really doesn’t permeate the inner core of our reality, Tarantino shows us that what is outside fashions what is inside, that our “personal” is always a product of the stage set. He is personal and subjectivist in this approach to time and reality, but for him, the personal is immersed within both, not above or beyond. His vision is caught within time and place and his characters are also. This is a filmmaking technique but also an epistemology and an ontology.

We are infiltrated by Hollywood dialogue, by Madison Avenue jingles, by brand signage, by TV reruns, by car, cigar, wine, beer, food, sports erudition, the flotsam the hyperreal makes of reality. Who you are is when and where you are. There is no “you” outside a set. In a world that has become increasingly hyperreal, it’s a Hollywood set, a fabrication, a “once upon a time” set. Time and reality are back projections to our lives and our lives our back projections to time and reality.

Tarantino

This is the iconoclastic spirit we see in all Tarantino’s movies. He’s in free play with time and reality, but he also conveys to us the sense that time and reality are at play with us. Not all or very much of what he represents as Hollywood 1969 can pass a fact check, but what remains true is that the setting is as much a protagonist as Clint and Rick are. On a simple level, it’s a sentimentality and nostalgia, a sensibility drawn to characters in a certain world and time frame, though one he is not objectivist about in any way. On a more complex level, which we always deny Tarantino’s movies, his are always portrayals of being-in-the world and therefore ontological. And because he is careless with known historical accounts and his reality is a Tarantino reality – that is, playful, violent, fetishy stylized in speech and character – we overlook the value of his work in helping us understand how our hyperreality works. Including the violent and their violence. Including the contributions to the hyperreal our president is now making.

In short, viewing a Tarantino movie is a heuristic experience, one that offers a way to see into the dark matter of now.

We have a bipartisan understanding that President Trump prefers his own understanding of reality to any other and that the power he has to assert that understanding has already created his own “once uon a time” story in which we are all living. His “understanding” is not empirically or rationally verifiable, but is indeed his own Tarantino kind of understanding. Both measure and shape the world to their own dimensions. However, while world is always a constructing force that characters are immersed within in Tarantino’s movies, world – that is, time and reality – is in President Trump replaced by ego, by an amour de soi that cannot be breached by time and reality.

Tarantino

Public domain photo of Donald Trump, 2017. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The power of personal will is strong in the president, and the power he has to assert it is strong. Ironically, although no choices other than his own matter he holds the choices of others to account as if they were efficacious, although he denies their effect on him. In this conundrum, he represents a way of being that is not his alone. We want to hold others to standards of accountability, hold their choices to consequences while at the same time denying the existence of any authority that can hold our choices to account. We live now on the threshold of both a quickly vanishing reality and a quickly emerging, totalizing hyperreality.

The hyperreal saturates all minds, although ironically, once again, we hold our minds to be unsaturated by anything not personally chosen by us. Everything, therefore, must be a personal act without attachments to time and reality. In order to keep personal control of the world, the world must be ignored. Thus, that guns in America are a part of a frontier mythos, one that Hollywood perpetuates; that a narrative of masculinity in a male-dominated society is wrapped up in guns; that there is a reason why there are no women mass shooters; that the whole country is taxed to buy weaponry; that the most popular video games are shooting guns; that our answer to guns is more guns – all this reality must be ignored.

A zero-sum, competitive economic system can have it no other way. Both chance and the shaping factors of time and the real conditions of the world cannot be allowed to overpower the illusions of personal choice and individual autonomy. This state of affairs defines a hyperreality that has been nurtured and expanded by the liberation of all personal choices in cyberspace and the probability of every personal assertion – regardless of how lunatic and fact poor – of finding confirmation and support.

What Tarantino does is show us the pulping process in which he brings the hyperreal to the screen in a way that exposes its difference from time and reality. This is a violation of the hyperreality we are in offscreen, something that should not be done if the illusions of the hyperreal are to remain, like the emperor without clothes, unobserved. Offscreen, we have pulped reality into a hyperreal that we no longer have the means to control by any commonly accepted rules of discrimination and judgment. In this situation, the hyperreal oversees and regulates itself according to its own rules, which are hyperreal, rather like allowing Boeing to decide when the Boeing 737 Max 8 is safe enough to fly.

Tarantino’s constraining the personal within time and place, his dispersal of self into the world and world into self, is instructive when we face the most startling productions of the hyperreal.

Tarantino

Vigil for shooting victims, Dayton, Ohio, August 5, 2019. Photo by Victor Grigas. Licensed by the photographer through Wikimedia Commons.

For instance, there has been 248 mass shootings as of this writing in 2019. There were 4 in 1969. Rather than seeing the shooters of our mass murders as multiplying as our hyperreality pans wider and wider, we see every shooter as autonomous and self-willed, as most likely, in President Trump’s view, mentally ill. The illusion held in this hyperreality that you can do whatever you wake up wanting to do, and that what you choose to do strengthens your sense of liberty and personal freedom, is no longer a derangement alert. It is, in fact, a foundational belief held in the American mass psyche.

Either deranged individuals in 1969 and before who acted irrationally had no access to guns or were confined in institutions, or the narratives of indiscriminate mass shootings didn’t fill the surround and thus had no shaping influence. By the time we get to the new millennium, people are being born into these stories routinely. They are stories evoking fear as well as, for some –already blighted in a winner/loser culture – the possibility of notoriety by killing, and killing in a gamelike way, going for the highest score.

There’s the allure of spectacle involved in this mass pathology of mass shootings but also the deep immersion of self within these stories themselves. The hyperreal is no longer innocent, like merchants of cool branding Sprite or the Baconator, and no longer a cool exuberance of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. Our hyperreal has the dark side of indiscriminate mass slaughter. The notoriety of murder magnetizes as the platforms for magnetizing invade what was previously our one dimension, our analog dimension, of reality, a hierarchically, curated space that, like Pandora’s box, once opened, once liberated, cannot be closed. The liberation needed was never one in a digital, alternative reality but in reality itself.

The notoriety of slaughter hits the print media, but its real conduit is cyberspace, its social media and its website expressions of every passion, far outweighing rational expression. There is more Manson than Milton in cyberspace. The apostles of a true democracy in cyberspace are like the apostles of conservatism, a spontaneous order of cooperating individuals in market relations, both held deep within the illusions of the hyperreal.

Tarantino

When you can only choose within the range of stories you are born into, what is previously inconceivable becomes conceivable only through representation. When choices are not prior to the presence of the world’s representations but subject to them, where and when we are – time and place, 1969 or now – construct choice.

Our hyperreal is now replete with what was formerly inconceivable, with representations that are indeed the Hollywood Boulevard our being drives through and lives within. We are also at once deeply ontologically on the roof with Clint fixing a TV antenna or verifying an irascible Bruce Dern’s George’s continued real existence. In Tarantino’s “once upon a time,” we may be with Clint and Rick watching reruns of TV’s hyperreal, but we are also in a real/hyperreal-infused world more cast by the everyday time and reality of our surround than the illusions of hyperreality will allow.

 * * *

Unless otherwise noted, all images are screenshots from the film’s trailers.

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The Self-Unravelling Trump Cannot Avoid http://www.josephnatoli.com/the-self-unravelling-trump-cannot-avoid/ Fri, 22 Nov 2019 14:12:18 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1872 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org I. The Dangers of Autocracy Back in the Watergate hearings, I was rivetted by them and welcomed the distraction from writing my dissertation. These 2019 House impeachment hearings are just as riveting, and because I got that dissertation done and proceeded to teach courses like radical American thought since the Watergate days, I’m bringing a […]

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Self-Unravelling

Self-Unravelling

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

I. The Dangers of Autocracy

Back in the Watergate hearings, I was rivetted by them and welcomed the distraction from writing my dissertation. These 2019 House impeachment hearings are just as riveting, and because I got that dissertation done and proceeded to teach courses like radical American thought since the Watergate days, I’m bringing a lot more background to what I’m seeing. Nixon was a kind of self-torturing, vengeful, twisted mess that in the end became something of a tragic figure. But he panged the mass moral sense so deeply that President Ford’s pardoning of Tricky Dick smeared Ford and brought the Sunday school teaching Jimmy Carter to the presidency.

Donald J. Trump eats up the stage clownishly, his cathartic value slight, someone Dante would place in the Malebolge, the evil ditches of the eighth circle in hell. He is not a protagonist in any sort of tragedy but is rather that rough beast determined to make America a tragedy. He’d rather rule in a country he destroys than serve any will but his own. Our Executive in Chief.

Our Constitutional balance of powers democracy has its Achilles heel in the executive branch. There was always the chance that someone not representing “We, the People” but rather “I, Myself” or a nest of oligarchs could make it into the White House. A proper model was always there for the Founding Fathers: it’s far easier to remove a British prime minister than a U.S. president. Attend to Boris Johnson’s fate.

A powerful Congress could be a preventative but only if the lobbying efforts of oligarchs hadn’t taken over that body, or at least enough of it to muddy the waters of any oversight of an executive who wanted to go full tilt autocrat.

“We, the People” could also by watchful voting recognize and deny entrance to candidates whose lives reek of undemocratic values, but only if those values had not already been corrupted within the electorate. If, for instance, much of what an autocrat in the making advocates regarding immigrants, asylum, the intelligence agencies, Congressional oversight powers, the importance of the press, and his own claim to absolute power is supported by a significant percentage of the electorate then elections cannot prevent or stop autocratic power.

The takeaway here is either that the dangers of autocracy to this democracy are not understood or they are understood and not seen as dangers at all, autocracy being preferred.

I suggest two reasons why it has taken so long – 243 years – for an autocrat to become president of the U.S. First, has to do with the movement of the culture from an Enlightenment sense that truth can best be found by empirical and rational methods. Once established, there would be a common rationality eradicating the irrational. A certain authority is thereby extended to both the methodologies and the conclusions of all this. The scientific method stands at the apex of such investigations. A post-truth climate offers opinion and personal paths to both reality and truth as superior to any other manner of processing or concluding. The result of this: the vacating of common understanding of anything.

In our post-truth world where everything indeed melts into a vaporous dew and no center can be found to anything, those who initiated the Mueller investigation and those who initiated the impeachment hearings have a 50/50 chance of being criminalized.

The second reason has to do with the messaging apparatus or platforms in digital parlance. Never kill the messenger, except in situations where the messenger is making a straight run into the post-truth mind with a bomb blast of opinions from that very same post-truth mind. The congruence of minds seeking truth and reality from within their own thread spinning abdomens and posting those in a communicative universe of others doing the same is a brand-new event in human history. The confusion of every voice speaking a different tongue broadcasting from the Tower of Babel was not a good thing, but rather a curse.

The almost sudden appearance of both these factors – commonly recognized road to truth and reality, and uncontrollable cyberspace confusion — has brought an autocrat into the White House.

The only reason there is an impeachment inquiry going on in the House of Representatives right now is because shards of both rationality and the holding on by their fingertips presence of news sources still printing that rationality persist.

II

“The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

– Alice

After two days of these hearings, the repeated call to “We, the people” made by the senior Republican on the Intelligence Committee is that these hearings should be stopped at once. In short, any investigation into Trump’s presidency by the House should end because there is no way Trump would be found guilty in the Senate of any charges made in the House’s Articles of Impeachment. The Republican owned Senate finds no impeachable offenses, either presented now or by Mueller.

There is a confidence now that all facts mustered as evidence leading to determinate conclusion can be spun the other way, that we are no longer dealing with rational arguments or cases made but with “narratives,” stories that compete for our attention, drawing upon our passions, not our reason. And we need to see ourselves in the storyteller, who, like us, sees and says the truth of things. This personalization of epistemology hasn’t been on the human stage since the British Romantic Revolution, and now it is uniquely American.

As I listened to CSPAN coverage in which phone calls are split on Republican and Democratic lines, it became clear that for Republicans no one’s testimony was credible, that the event was staged by Democrats and the Deep State, that no mind was open to listen, no less consider the possibility of being persuaded. Republicans argue that the case against the president is based on hearsay, on second and third- and fourth-hand testimony. There is no direct evidence. It rests, secondly, on The Whistle Blower, who, in Trump and his minions’ view, is an operative of the Democrats, just another Never Trumpist.

The response to the first is quite simply the transcript of President Trump’s phone conversation with President Zelensky. If you can comprehend what you read and arrive at the meaning of words, the President’s words are Res ipsa loquitur evidence, meaning the text speaks for itself. Testimonies creating a context as to what the President was up to and what lengths he took, through Giuliani and his associates, to get all obstacles out of the way in order to turn all of U.S./Ukrainian relations toward his own personal needs as he seeks a second term in office comply with and confirm the meaning of the phone conversation text.

The response to the idea that some deconstruction of The Whistle Blower’s words or some destruction of his or her credibility should put an end to the impeachment ignores the confirmation of his words by the many witnesses testifying before the Intelligence Committee. If, as illustration, the boy who cried wolf has been totally discredited but the wolf appears nonetheless, do we now discredit the existence of the wolf?

In short, The Whistle Blower triggered the impeachment proceedings, but that exposure has exposed what we are now busy examining. He turned over a stone and the snakes were there. But as in the Mueller investigations, attention by Trump’s defenders is not on the crimes exposed but rather on why and how they were initiated. Consider if every criminal who is indicted could form a defense questioning who, why, how and when they were indicted and thus prosecute the prosecutors and not themselves. Ludicrous but not to Fox & Friends.

This all amounts to a scary state of affairs, especially since Donald J. Trump would be a tough individual to argue passed the Pearly Gates. This is an image I’m putting out there because this is a country that brags about its Christian worthiness to all those faithful to an unworthy Islam or an atheistic Communism. But Trump is a capitalist Winner, and whether he’s a racist or disrespects God, Man and Country, worshipping his own orange image like a Golden Calf, doesn’t matter because he’s that guy with the most toys who wins in the end. This materialist god draws every materialist in the country to his feet.

III. 2020 Electoral Odds

Trump may lose the 2020 election and either go peacefully or after the Secret Service drag him out of the White House. And there may be riots in the streets if he loses. I suspect that surfing the web and Facebook addictions may cut any of that disturbance short and attentions will go elsewhere. Keeping American tending their apps has a way of drawing them away from the “off-line” world. The boredom level now of “We, the People” is at Trump’s level, he finding interest only in scattergun tweeting.

We can be certain that what brought Trump to the stage won’t dissipate. The Democrats would have to win it all in 2020 — the presidency, the House and the Senate – in order to move legislatively toward salvaging the country and the planet.

If a moderate Democrat wins, he or she would have to borrow a great deal from Warren and Bernie to move the country a bit beyond the plutarchy it was in when Trump was elected. Buttigieg’s background with McKinsey management consulting firm as well as his favorite son status with the financial sector would indicate that the plutarchy is in no danger from a President Pete. Whether the Dividend Class will feel safer with Biden than with Trump is a 5 to 8 odds bet.

If Warren or Bernie were to be elected, their politics would do more to exacerbate than heal the factionalism already existing. Besides rousing a Trump Forever army against them, they would have the beneficiaries of Market Rule as it exists now – bullishly in their favor – standing against them. Algorithm and investment lobbies would lay down a hard rain on those candidacies.

Victories by middle of the road candidates like Biden, Mayor Pete or Klobuchar might calm both the Never Trumpers and the Market Rule crowd but would do nothing to bring the Trump Forever 40% happy.

Trump didn’t create the conditions on the ground that brought him there, though he certainly has made them worse. He took advantage of them, the way any confidence man would. And for those conditions to be amended requires a strong attack on the economic system creating the obscene wealth divide. But at this point, the Trumpians are way beyond economic healing. They have joined Trump in a desire to mindlessly bring down all the institutions that have served everyone but themselves.

If your passions set you against everyone who pushes for gun control, thinks abortion, same sex marry, trans gendering, granting asylum to illegal immigrants, pushing for welfare and not work, and not allowing Trump to make America great again then economic and political talk do not calm you down.

The Democrats have a 50/50 chance of a presidential victory, but the odds are not as good when it comes to their success after the election, especially if that candidate is savaged during the campaign or policies, like Warren’s, keep the battle hot. Thus, it’s important to launch a candidate who is shielded by his very nature against savagery and who once again offers the country some common sense that puts out fires. I’ve written previously that Senator Sherrod Brown meets the needs here, but the DNC has made no effort to enlist him, nor has the wealth donors come forward to support this “dignity of work” candidate.

IV. A Triumphant Trump

What if the Senate doesn’t convict Trump and he celebrates the victory of his own ego above all obstacles, adopts a winner take all, realizes that there are no longer any obstacles to his will to power?

What if Trump wins the 2020 election and now knows for sure that he can shoot any son of a bitch on any street and be celebrated for it?

This is not a difficult exercise of the imagination. Trump is not assembled to change, to modulate his behavior, to make amends, to correct what he has savaged. It’s a surer bet that a re-elected President Trump would seek vengeance on everyone who spoke against him in an impeachment trial. The Whistle Blower has cause to conceal his or her identity. Trump will go after him or her. With the help of his Attorney General Barr, Trump can make a case against Biden, Hillary, Mueller, Schiff, Pelosi for collusion, obstruction of justice, intimidation, bribery, treason, abuse of Congressional power, contempt of the Presidency, and violation of the emolument clause. Trump and the lackeys and top presidential footstools he has put in office will turn all charges against him against the Never Trumpers and “the human scum” that get in his way.

A triumphant Trump will thus make the next several impeachment hearings and trials very clear presentations of what even his most avid supporters would no longer be able to support because in a culture of the hyperreal, his tweets and actions and failures to act would have the magnetic force of Game of Thrones or The Wire.

No one is better able to get the attention of “We, the People” than Trump himself. Place him on a second term stage and sit back and watch. It would be like watching Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny (1954). Leonard Pitts in The Baltimore Sun in September compared Trump’s performance before the UN to this scene: In a pivotal scene, Bogart vividly etches the captain’s mental disintegration, rambling on the witness stand about strawberries and tow lines and the supposed lies of his subordinates. All the while he toys, ceaselessly, unconsciously obsessively, with a handful of ball bearings.

Nothing will bring Trump’s own egomania and mental disintegration more dramatically into public view than victories in the impeachment trial and in the 2020 election. To all the Never Trumpians, this sounds like diabolical counsel but unfortunately this man is the sort of beast that must be allowed full rein to the driving obsessions of his will to power, to self-destruct in public view. The divisiveness of the nation has long ago overstepped the traces of reason while Trump dwells at the very center of it like a fueling fire.

It is a dark remedy filled with so much risk in all those areas Trump has already fatally endangered. Nevertheless, this man is himself our way out as only his public disintegration, brought to a trial in which the case against him can be universally understood and the verdict unopposed, can heal a deep fracture in what is now a least perfect union that rivals that of our War Between the States.

If, however, the country’s exit from Trump and his disruptive legacy is in fact Trump himself, his public mental disintegration, his megalomaniacal nature gone wild for all to see in acts we can only now dread, then such can occur at any moment.

Being exonerated by the Senate in its impeachment trial may be enough to swell the sense of personal triumph in the president and lead him to outrageous violations of presidential power. Impeached yet again and, if needed, yet again, until either on one occasion Articles of Impeachment clearly determine a guilty verdict, or, the combination of repeated impeachments and a growing list of Articles of Impeachment clearly determine a guilty verdict.

If this becomes the case, there will be no Trump victory in 2020 to fuel a swaggering, elated ego and thus ignite any number of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which his nature, like that of the scorpion who must sting, cannot bar. Our president has no self-restraint, which is not unusual in either capitalist or cyberspace culture where we are all encouraged to dominate and self-advertise. Donald J. Trump is most certainly an outrageously inflated version of both.

Postscript

President Trump has been unravelling before our eyes, but half the country believes what they are seeing is a heroic man under attack by the other half of the country. However, an exoneration by the Senate of charges brought against him by the House will certainly push his self-inflation and strong man “will to power” to dramatic levels, on national, international and personal matters that, like Captain Queeg before a jury, will preempt any serious defense.

Will the Republican Party, which serves as a foot stool to Trump, attempt to hold on to Trump’s supporters, and, if so, how? Will it attempt to return to its former globalized neo-liberal politics? How will the appointed and elected Trump attack faction transform themselves? They may disappear into corporate and academic posts, no need to escape to Brazil.

Without the almost instantaneous support of so many “Yes” men and women, Trump could not have materialized in the autocratic way that he has. It’s a mystery as to what motivates a subservience to a man so transparently low on any scale upon which we judge the twisted timber of our humanity. What we can see clearly, however, is that those who devote themselves to making Trump’s arbitrary and capricious whim and will defensible, to making his impulsiveness and irrationalism presentable, enwrap themselves in a worse karma than the president’s own.

Trump the real estate player found himself president, a mystery to all, but clearly the kowtowing of so many plus a growing sense that with each victory he could take all he wanted with impunity brought him to this first impeachment moment and will surely bring him to one eventually that a Senate will need to uphold.

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In the Looming Shadow of Civil War http://www.josephnatoli.com/in-the-looming-shadow-of-civil-war/ Wed, 20 Nov 2019 18:08:09 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1869 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal,” – Donald J. Trump, tweet “The mood of the country has been more poisonous that this; at the time of […]

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the Looming Shadow

the Looming Shadow

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

“If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal,”

– Donald J. Trump, tweet

“The mood of the country has been more poisonous that this; at the time of Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia in 1970, and again in the run-up to the Iraq War. Worse, yes; but it has never been crazier.”

– David Bromwich, London Review of Books, 24 October 2019

I. The Combatants

The President of the United States urges Republicans to get tougher and fight an illegitimate impeachment. It seems we may soon have to choose which side we are on in our deep cultural divide. The President’s long game may be to take the whole issue to the Supreme Count where another Gore/Bush decision will come down. Much will fester during this wait.

But if a civil war were to come if Trump wins or if Trump loses the election or a Supreme Court battle, this war wouldn’t have a casus belli anything like ending slavery. Never Trump and Forever Trump are very sad casus belli, although they would feed the ego of Trump. Given that, it would still be a humiliating and disgusting episode in American history, were that to come.

What brand of Republican would be fighting what brand of Democrat? Or would it be the Trumpians rebelling against the tyranny of the Never Trumpians? Perhaps it would be a religious war: those fighting on the side of abortion and LGBTQ rights lining up against those who have made Jesus their personal savior?

Reasons, not forthcoming, aside we can yet see the battle lines joined on a level of passions. Liberals retain the old tax and spend/baby killing on demand profile, taking from working Americans and giving to lazy shirkers and on the way killing babies. The profile grows darker: gay marriage, gender choice, LGBTQ rights, amnesty to illegal aliens, open borders, confiscation of guns, cars, cattle, Jesus, Robert E. Lee and white privilege.

The “extreme Left” and Progressives have a thinner profile: Communists.

Republicans have not been labelled so colorfully by Democrats because both share a deep respect for the continuous growth of profit. The differences regarding what to do with the consequences of a rapacious economic system have not been sufficient for Democrats to paint a damning portrait of Republicans. That’s been the case until Bernie Sanders, a class warrior not silenced by those who have made this label synonymous with traitor, terrorist, Communist.

The splinter Trump faction now both tormenting and keeping the Republican Party alive is colorfully stereotyped by Liberals and Progressives. Donald J. Trump led them to this profile simply by being elected the 45th President of the United States. What sort of voter would vote for a man who during the campaign aroused anger and hate, racism, bigotry and misogyny, who had 25 women accusing him of sexual misconduct, who refused to pay hundred of workers, who nastily ridiculed his opponents?

The profile then of the Trumpian placed both ignorance and stupidity at the top of the list, followed by racist, bigoted, misogynist and homophobic. In brief, if you voted for Trump, you were a troglodyte with a gun.

For these two stereotypified factions to clash, American culture would have to stop pulsating like a nerve end on opioids. Because we interface in cyberspace to a greater extent every day and that alternate reality makes second by second change its métier, we cannot expect a passionate clash now will remain in our digitalized memory banks.

Although there is no clarity to what might be the casus belli of a coming civil war, there is clarity to the history taking us to where we are now.

It deserves to be summarized if we are to position ourselves reliably in our 2020 election decisions.

II. The Journey to Where We Are Now

The Dow Jones didn’t cross the 1000 mark until 1972. Savings accounts paid 8% and so no one was pushed into the stock market. The market climbed when Reagan replaced a reliable income based on wages with speculative investment, which spurred the growth of the financial sector.

Working for wages and savings accounts with reputable returns were replaced by investing in a stochastic market and pipe dreams of a bottom 40% starting a business. Profiteers of Viet-nam with loads of money to invest in the tax friendly environment that Reagan created replaced the now diminished “working class hero,” the lunch pail, GI Joe who with the help of the G.I. Bill, the unionizing victories of John L. Lewis and Walter Reuter, among many others, shaped a middle class.

Economic theory set up market rule as the horse driving the cart of egalitarian democracy. It drove that cart right into plutarchy. Labor failed to set up its own political party and suffered the consequences, until by the time Bill Clinton was in office the assaults on workers and wages meant very little in a Democratic Party focused on leaning into neoliberal economics and soon into multicultural and identity politics. At a time when wages hadn’t gone beyond 1973 levels, Democrats were concentrating on bathroom rights.

By 2004, the effects of market rule, of making interest and dividends from investment a fulfillment of the American dream as money compounded into ever increasing amounts of money, siloed from any injurious taxation, some 80% of the population were hurting but also befuddled, rather like someone in a dark closet being hit but blind to who the hitter might be.

Obama’s “Yes, We Can!” met the emotional needs of this suffering class, which like the big skies of Montana do not pay the grocery bills. It was as passionate an attachment to voters as Trump was to achieve 12 years later, the passions though being diametrically opposed. Obama was at first not aware of the conditions on the ground, of the battle he was in but when awareness arrived, he leaned into the Clintonian affinities with neoliberalism. He put all his eggs into health care, a consequence of something and not the root cause, a symptom of an economic travesty he failed to recognize.

When it became crystal clear after the Great Depression of 2017 that a runaway financial sector had played a long grift on the whole country but paid no price, both Dubya and Obama assuring that no felon would be indicted, the price to be paid was forwarded to the present in the shape of this 40% who want that whole whatever it was that wrecked their lives to be taken apart.

The failure over the course of eight years of a Democratic presidency to focus directly and totally on market rule’s demolishing of a middle class that buffered the country from a fall into plutarchy made the country vulnerable to an autocratic takeover. It should be no surprise that the American version of an autocratic demagogue would be some sort of spin, spectacle and glitz celebrity, perhaps a Reality TV celebrity, a clown in orange wig and makeup, the American version of an autocrat. We go hyperreal as naturally as tides follow the moon.

Some 80% of the population has been in various stages of demolishment since Reagan and they have solid reasons for messing with the Democratic/Republican order of things, something that Trump does to his followers’ cheers.

Sixteen years of Clinton and Obama did nothing to end this travesty: Five Americans have as much wealth…. It’s an astonishing failure. Wages sank beneath inflation as corporate decisions not to raise them faced no challenge by diminished unions or Republican legislatures. Clinton and Obama adopted the same view of unions as did the Republicans: they were run by gangsters and impeded economic growth.

Our politics pretends to be pitching from two different directions but it’s not.

It’s been a profits first, Market Rule one party system since Reagan. Until Bernie Sanders came on the scene, there has been no attack on unbridled capitalism that was launched by Democrats, who have a New Deal behind them while the Republicans have Reagan’s Voodoo economics.

The DNC undermined Bernie’s chances to win the 2016 Democratic Primary because his platform touched a third rail that they share with Republicans. Bernie dared to attack capitalism. Elizabeth Warren has more cleverly planned her attack now, admitting she is a “capitalist to the bone,” by which she means a foundational capitalism and not the politically uncontrollable Devourer Demogorgon that it has become.

III. Where We Are Now

We should, by now have reached the point in the road in which we try to avoid the worst in us being encouraged or elected into office. We should be able to recognize when we’re being incited to riot, to hate, to drown out other voices, to be ready to do “whatever is necessary” as if there was ever a justifying end.

Passions are not reasons, but actually devoid of reason. And, as passions do, they have a short fuse life span. Volatile emotional responses must be rekindled, stoked and fired up, sometimes with a tweet in the early morning hours. Buttons must be pushed and re-pushed in a society that effervesces at nano speed.

Donald J. Trump has obliged this need, although it’s clear that he’s digging what he calls the Losers into a hole they can only get out of if they don’t respond to all the buttons of irrational response.

And we must admit that some productions of our reptilian brain, of the darker devils of our humanity, the twisted tree of our nature from homophobia and racism to misogyny and every variety of ethnic and religious prejudice have deep roots. Neither Marx nor Adam Smith have cured the disease at these roots; neither the Bible or the Koran, Sophocles or Shakespeare, prosperity gospel preacher, Paula White or Lao Tzu, Jeff Bezos or Pierre Joseph-Proudhon. A political or economic solution to the worst in us is itself a kind of hubris.

We have been deterred and detoured from reaching that point in the road where we recognize how democracy has moved to plutocracy, and how the White House is now occupied by a man who broadcasts his vileness on Twitter.

Detoured from reason, perhaps, because our Market Rule pushes the same buttons while ridiculing and extracting efforts to educate, to inform and critically think, politics is not going to follow the path of rational dialogue, but those advertising, marketing and branding practices that pitch low to reach the many.

Confused and confounded, perhaps, because we spend so much time in a cyberspace alternate reality in which all our blindness and stupidities, all our thoughtlessness and baseless opinions find a welcoming home. Errant minds can easily find there other misguided, errant wanderers in a digital world, a confused, tangled world, curated in soundproof silos.

It’s a space new, except to those who have been born within it and the “off-line”world, and so how it affects our politics is something we are in the process of learning. Our elections. Yes. The President’s hold on his followers. Yes. The rise of neo-fascist/white supremacist groups. Yes. The failure of 4th and 8th graders to pass reading comprehension tests. Yes.

My assumption in this last tragedy is that social media, texting and tweeting and posting photos are productive if the goal is to reduce the cognitive faculties of a mass of people scheduled for extinction axiomatically by techno-semio capitalism. In this scenario, the Smartphone is a handheld soma tablet.

We would not be urged to just read the transcript of Trump’s phone conversation with Zelensky in order to conclude with the President that it was a “perfect” call if the American public were able to find meaning in words resistant to spin and alternative meanings. Or, more precisely, we are at a place where words mean as Humpty Dumpty said they mean: “What any speaker says they mean.” Speakers in position of power, as our friend Humpty presumes himself to me, want words to bend to their will.

But all is not spun and manufactured in spite of the fact that we live in a morass of mindless opinions.

In our present looming shadow of war among ourselves, there are legitimate grievances, anger and worn out patience, a lingering sense of having been cheated that has been in search of some relief since Reagan activated a collapse of a middle class and headed us toward a new Middle Ages. So many have been in search of a personality who could make them feel good about themselves again. I say personality and not ideas because America personalizes, it doesn’t theorize.

Donald J. Trump filled that role of watchable personality but remember passions not reasons led a forever unknown number of the 40% of the population to him. A red hat with a slogan does not necessarily mean racist or even “un-woke.” It doesn’t mean Burke style conservative or Friedman style neoliberal or Clinton style globalist. We have warring camps of not ideas but red baseball hats and rainbow flags.

Another unknown portion of the Republican Party has reasons to stay with Trump, dollars and cents reasons. One has to allow that very many Democratic portfolio holders who shout “Never Trump” will in the privacy of the voting booth vote for dollars and cents reasons.

The portfolio dividend class, which spans both parties, will have thought deeply about what, say, a President Elizabeth Warren will do to their stock portfolio.

Perhaps, their perception that this man, President Trump, is a very low form of life and that another four years of him will put the country where the climate is, that is, on an irreparable road to ruin, propel them to vote for a woman who has a plan to reverse what Ronald Reagan did in two terms as president, i.e., fashion a Winner/Loser culture, serfs and peasants/aristos and moguls and schedule the middle class for extinction. As the saying goes, I wouldn’t hold my breath for this.

There is only one way most likely that would bring the portfolio class of Trump supporters over to Warren’s side: a promise not to mess with their wealth amassing arrangements.

Warren won’t do this and neither would Bernie. For all the rest, notably Biden and Buttigieg, they have to signal that, except for a few tweaks, the sort of “free enterprise” that has made five individuals more prosperous than 50% of the entire population will be preserved. That order of things, which suits a top 1% and the next 20% meritocratic/professional class that serves them, can go on relatively undisturbed.

Mayor Pete, after all, is a perfect product of this chosen meritocratic means to preserve our egalitarian democracy. Sarcasm aside, it’s a terrible means given the fact that our societal level playing field is about as level as it was in France before their revolution. For every American born into the bottom quintile who rises up the meritocratic ladder and avoids imprisonment, there are multitudes who compost right in the lowly digs where they started.

It doesn’t matter if in the next quarter century, the middle class changes from white dominant to race-plural if reading levels of African Americans and Hispanics remain the same. And judging by the direction education is taking under DeVoss, but more significantly, the way in which investors see education as a new marketing frontier, a race-plural middle class will not climb the meritocratic ladder as Mayor Pete has.

The circumstances that enabled his rise cannot become a template and neither can a product of such arrange the change that is needed.

Middle Class Joe Biden is also for the portfolio class a tempting alternative to Trump.

If Biden were a race horse, you could pedigree him this way: Biden out of Obama out of the Clinton’s out of Third Way out of neoliberal economics. Third Way is what an FDR kind of Democratic Party collapsed into once they decided a Democratic had to lean into the Republican political party and give capitalism its head, no pulling on the reins, otherwise the whole foundation of globalized supremacy would collapse.

Biden would be in a dead heat to out trump Trump in the key rust belt states, but if he did win, the country would wake up to find they were in the same place they were before Trump came along. And that means some new version of Trump, like Nero succeeded Caligula, is in the wings.

One problem with one or the other of these middle of the road candidates is that they won’t do much to allay the fears, hatreds, bitterness, confusions and a revolutionary’s sense of being cheated, over and over again.

A Democratic president at this time would be like a shot fired at Fort Sumter. Amend that: Elizabeth Warren would be that. The others would be Roman candles.

No moderate Democrat can moderate the furor resulting from a Trump loss, especially if he rallies his followers behind “Fraud at the Poll!”

The immediate relief a President Warren would give all the Rust Belt states is by taking away their employee and union medical benefits and asking them to queue up at the nearest Social Security Office where a Federal Government they have learned to love and trust will call their number in several hours. If they are aware of this on election day, Trump will get his second term.

Thus far, none of the Democratic candidates have a “gone viral” on YouTube celebrity status, a requirement now for our hyperreal politics as hyperreal entertainment. None now seem likely to out bluster and bullshit Trump in any debate.

Unfortunately, the candidate who has the presence and especially the gravelly, many roads travelled voice — Ohio’s Senator Sherrod Brown — to win over the rust belt demographic, and also charismatically school Trump in any debate, is not running. The crime here is that the DNC made no all out effort to induce him to run.

A party pitching its tent in choosing a candidate who represents every form of diversity of the population is as interested in a 66 year old white, heterosexual male candidate as they were interested in a socialist candidate in 2016.

Unfortunately, the states needed for an Electoral College win – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – may not be as attracted to a diversity candidate as the Democratic Party is. They also continue to be not overly interested in candidates who base their politics on the working class and their fall from honored or even reputable status in the U.S. It’s their identity Brown focuses on.

The only reason why we’re talking about Biden and not Sherrod Brown early on is name recognition. And that can be traced to a portfolio class’s uninterest in supporting a labor candidate. Buttigieg, who had less name recognition than Brown, seems to have no trouble pulling in funding from the financial sector, which in itself should be a warning.

IV. Over and Over Again Impeachment

Regardless of the obtuse and lackluster Democratic field, the portfolio Republicans may chance a bet on any Democrat but Warren simply because they know another four years of Donald will most certainly mean another House impeachment.

For the preservation of our balance of powers democracy, it doesn’t matter if Mitch McConnell dismisses the Articles as soon as they are brought up. What matters is getting the House’s reasons for impeachment on the record. This President was impeached but not convicted. The House doesn’t have to wait for the election. They could bring another round of impeachment charges, all those in the Mueller report as well as all those out of Trump’s own mouth.

Once Trump is not convicted in the Senate, he will not only take a victory lap, he’ll push ahead with even more flagrant abuses of executive authority. Because he is only familiar with his own understanding of anything, he remains capable of abuses that more historically savvy and informed autocrats, some as equally vile but not as ego swollen, of the past would hesitate to commit. Trump shows no signs of hesitancy; Twitter reversals are made as boldly as Twitter declarations.

How many times can Republicans dismiss all the Articles of Impeachment the House of Representative sends to them before their moral nerve is touched, when the occasion for a moral review materializes?

Actually, if there were a moral sense floating around in the Republican Party, dollars and lobbyists would guide its expression.

“Moral hazard,” for instance, is not faced when a legislator shills for a transparently mad, bad and dangerous to know president. Nor does it kick in when you survey the Trump Twitter Archive  which eventually will fill a Trump Library as a terrible lesson never to be forgotten, a visit to a Holocaust library.

It’s ironic that those who have been crushed beneath “supply-side/Laffer Curve” economics look to a rich, unscrupulous capitalist as their savior. Ironic, yet again, that those who vote based on their moral obligations adhere to Trump’s “grab them by their pussy” beatitude. But irony doesn’t ring when the Reptilian brain is directing traffic.

Most of the country that David Brooks toured to gauge where The People were at regarding impeachment didn’t seem much interested. If Trump wins a second term, they will most likely remain uninterested, more interested in climate change, especially if fire, drought, flood and wind has ruined their homestead. (The New York Times, Oct. 31, 2019_

Where Donald J. Trump will take the portfolio class, the throng in red hats, the gentrifiers, the Coastals and everyone in “fly over” America in his second term will probably be where a gone wild autocrat unchecked by a Congress or by a “fake news” press or by his own intelligence community or by any of his acting cabinet appointees or by his trophy wife or by Ivanka and Jared takes him and them.

Adam Schiff may find himself under arrest; Pelosi cellmates with Hillary; Bernie and Warren held on treason charges; Bezos’s holdings shut down; The New York Times building a victim of eminent domain; the Congress abolished. And so on.

As long as the market grows and preserves the wealth of the top 20% and as long as second term President Trump entertains his followers with new targets to hate, most Americans can continue to be uninterested in the crimes committed against themselves and their country.

Winning control of the Senate and retaining control of the House is more vital in the 2020 election than who becomes president.

In that way, the inevitable abuses of power that President Trump commits in that second term will not go without impeachment and conviction.

If the second Civil War begins then one could conclude that Trump’s followers’ anger has segued into war, that passions had a sustaining force that thought could not interrupt.

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The Dialogue of Divisiveness http://www.josephnatoli.com/the-dialogue-of-divisiveness/ Tue, 05 Nov 2019 09:08:06 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1863 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org “If we tell that story [that the president committed an impeachable offense] with simplicity and repetition, the American people will understand why the president must be held accountable.” – Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, quoted in The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2019 “The only real connective tissue I see is the almost preternatural isolationist […]

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Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

“If we tell that story [that the president committed an impeachable offense] with simplicity and repetition, the American people will understand why the president must be held accountable.”

– Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, quoted in The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2019

“The only real connective tissue I see is the almost preternatural isolationist impulse that he [President Trump] invariably seems to revert to when left to his own devices internationally.”

– John P. Hannah, quoted in The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2019

There is, of course, no fruitful dialogue in extreme cases of social and political divisiveness. Mikhail Bakhtin writes of “basic conditions governing the operation of meaning in any utterance” and as these conditions change, meaning changes. Meanings interact, each conditioning each. Right now, we have no commonly accepted basic conditions and so the meaning of any utterance, say, a transcript of a phone conversation, or a White House chief of staff’s utterance at a press conference, is subject to divided explications. And because we are so deeply divided, we don’t interact, our meanings stay polarized, each in their own silos. Dialogue, then, is preempted, prevented.

Bakhtin offered us the idea of “dialogic” wherein instead of working our own side of a dialogue, we worked into opposing voices and carried on our side with that knowledge. Instead of proceeding oppositionally, as in a debate, we absorbed the fire of other voices into our own and they did likewise, proceeding then to a kind of melting point where each had taken on the identity of the other, those identities different than at the beginning.

It seemed stupid to assert a position without having already vetted that position by the opposition and without also confronting what a position ignored. And so, you considered how your utterances would come to meaning within the conditions governing meaning held by another, a political opponent.

For instance, the Democrats want to slow down their inquiry until they can take “the American people” along with them in their understanding of the need to impeach President Trump. “Just the facts, baby,” Representative Jeffries exclaims. This is a debate position, one that ignores the fact that no fact now stands in the same old respected factual way. Nor does it recognize that the transparency of President Trump’s phone conversation with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine remains opaque to Trump’s c.40% base:

 I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. . . . There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.  I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost. ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.

Explicating or defining what these words mean is simple, provided you are literate and not encrusted with a blind faith that cannot be penetrated, and if that is not the case, then in our conventional sense of dialogue we can’t see how the words can be brought to a greater simplicity. Supplementation with other words leaves us in the same quandary we are in with the original words. However, if we consider that other conditions are at work here determining meaning – social, political, historical, economic and so on – then what is transparent inheres not in the words themselves but is subject to surrounding conditions.

This seems abstruse but the implications are instructive, bogged down as we are in a seemingly unbridgeable divide that seems likely to take to the streets.

Continuing to hold that transparency of meaning is external to our divide over what anything means, somehow outside the conditions in which that divide has placed us within drastically different conditions is a well-worn path to continued divisiveness.

We have seen little movement away from the defense of the President by Republicans and no movement by a base of about 40% of “the American people,” a tag that leads us to think “The People” are now one, united because they exist within identical conditions, conditions without a common base and therefore not basic.

Slowing the movement toward writing Articles of Impeachment to allow those who do not at this point recognize the transparency of the President’s abuse of power, obstruction of justice, profiteering by illegal emoluments and conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws thus makes no sense. Unless worlds are changed which give any words or actions transparency, it doesn’t matter how slow or how fast either side repeats its bullet points.

Neither does it make sense to keep impeachment simple so that “the American people” can focus on the one issue of abuse of power in Ukraine. Simplicity of indictment doesn’t affect in any way the complexities of reception in a society grounded within different worldly positions. We don’t amend this situation by simplifying its dark consequences. We cannot do so because we wish to regain the basic conditions of a constitutional democracy as a common grounding, but we need to do so despite the plutocratic turn from such that has gone on since Reagan.

We are then not submitting to our divided state but attempting to hold onto commonly accept basic conditions by which we bring our society to a constitutional democratic and not autocratic meaning.

We are not involved with a prosecution of Al Capone wherein we’re willing to jail him for tax evasion when his crimes were greater and many. What is at stake here is expressed clearly by Charles M. Blow: “Trump is a stress test on our system and constitutional government and we dare not fail. Trump must be held accountable not only because his corruption dictates it, but also because we must demonstrate that accountability is possible.” (The New York Times, October 21, 2019)

More expansive is Elizabeth Drew on what is at stake here if we preemptively constrict our Articles of Impeachment:

To limit the impeachment process to the most blatant presidential misdeed yet discovered would leave in the dust — unresolved for history, setting dangerous precedents — the possibility of holding accountable a president who routinely enriches himself at the expense of the taxpayers and flouts the Constitution’s emoluments clause, lies so persistently that we’re far from the democratic concept of transparent government, usurps the role of Congress by unilaterally holding up funds or using them for other purposes than it has approved, bullies private businesses by threatening a tax increase or a significant raise in postal rates (as Mr. Trump did to Amazon, whose owner also owns The Washington Post), tells intelligence alumni who openly criticize him that he’ll suspend their security clearances and fights the law that allows Congress to obtain his tax returns. The New York Times, Sept. 30, 2019)

If the impeachment position is one that already assumes the Senate will not vote to convict, there is no reason to limit the Articles of Impeachment, but rather there is a real need to establish for the historical record, a complete and honest array of charges. Such would place Senate members in the position of denying the transparence of not one but all violations of our constitutional government.

A complete indictment would be a stress test of every Senate member’s attachment to a president who is “mad, bad and dangerous to know” in a way that far exceeds Lady Caroline Lamb’s description of Lord Byron.

We also cannot assume a position opposing those who oppose conviction without ingesting in our position our opponent’s reasons and/or incitements.

Fear and hate seem to be the leading incitements. Republicans fear the army of loyalists devoted to President Trump. Those loyalists share Trump’s vendetta against The Deep State, which I presume to say they describe as a governmental order that has sapped middle class prosperity and passed it on to illegal immigrants, welfare frauds, and the un-American.

What the President’s vendetta is I presume to say has more to do with personal challenge and obstruction of his own will, which the record now shows is arbitrary and capricious but dangerous, as he holds the highest office in the land.

Neither the President nor his followers have a clear declaration of vendetta, the President’s being riddled with a personal psychopathology and his followers being riddled with monumental confusion and contradiction.

For example, while it’s clear that a wealth divide greater than what France experienced before their revolution has cornered political power at the highest income level and that revolution and vendetta have their causes, it is not clear why a rich man who reneged on paying his workers, who provides tax relief for his wealth class, who deregulates industries with resulting harm to those financially unable to get out of harm’s way, and who mocks everyone but those who win by having a lot of money would be the revolutionary leader, the Zapata to overturn a class and a regime of which he is a fixed part.

Hatred, in all its forms, is blind for the simple reason that it is selective in a thoughtless way or in an obsessed way emerging from some dark packaging of the hater. In a culture that has long replaced thought with spin, spectacle, and opinionated passion and which has the technology to megaphone all of that all the time, it’s easier for a political campaign to be built on hatred and fear than on any reasoned approach.

The first part of this has been endemic in politics. The second part, the cyberspace broadcasting, is not only new but powerful enough to move our politics more totally into the “crooked timber of humanity,” out of which, Kant, tells us, no straight thing was ever made.

Thus, if Donald J. Trump is a more crooked manifestation of the presidency than ever before, it has much to do with a whole culture having devolved more deeply into what is worse in each one of us. Trump’s presence in this light, or darkness, is explicable.

How are the Democratic candidates for the presidency adapting to, or assimilating these conditions of both their rivals and the culture itself? Are they recognizing the briefs against their own and proceeding with those responses packaged in their own briefs?

I see little sign of that.

“We’re going to impeach the mof***ker” is a shout out against Trump and, implicitly, against those who are solidly behind him.

Perhaps it’s not supposed to be an assault on Trump’s supporters because it’s recognized that 16 years of Democratic presidencies saw the rise of those economic conditions and a resulting growing wealth gap that those presidents did nothing to correct. There’s little sign of that recognition.

Republicans have checked off all that devolution of some 80% of the population as “creative destruction.” They are ideologically bound to such; the Democrats are ideologically bound to being, as Elizabeth Warren puts it, “capitalists to the bone.” Because it is precisely that runaway form of capitalism, taking its axiomatic course to rewarding some and disregarding many, that is the foundational problem we face, we must conclude that both parties have been incapable of staunching the blood flow created by Market Rule.

President Trump is indeed a problem, perhaps the most severe problem ever housed in the White House, but the root causes of his presence there lie in the 64 or so million American who voted for him. There’s a problem feeding the life of a problem. But those 64 million are the products, unfortunate creations of an economics that has displaced democratic power. In their anger, their feelings of being cheated, their sense of being discarded while they’re still alive, their frustration over not reaching into a dark, bureaucratic system and striking back, their situation is Kafkaesque. They can’t accept the obvious condemning indictments against them but neither can they know what they are and who is making them.

Trump has appeared as a force who has gained entrance to a regime of forces set against them. He champions them in an arena that no election except this election has given them, through him, entrance to.

In short, he is grasped the conditions within which everything comes to meaning. No small accomplishment.

They are not willing or able to see him kicked out of that position, regardless of what an order of things that has never worked before on their behalf presents as reasons for impeachment. And the presidential election of 2020 is not one he can lose in any way if the same rebellious feelings of some 64 million Americans vote for him.

If all the factors which brought them to where they are now and then brought them to Trump remain undigested by the Democrat challengers, then Trump will hang on or another Trump will emerge.

Thus, the way to end his presidency is not to campaign as if he were a sui generis problem nor to campaign against those sticking to him as a last stand rebel leader but to address the reasons that bring so many to see this willful charlatan as a last stand rebel leader.

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The Battles Now http://www.josephnatoli.com/the-battles-now/ Thu, 10 Oct 2019 07:10:28 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1856 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org “Now we are engaged….” – Lincoln, Gettysburg Address One real battle we are in now – human caused global warming – is a battle we realized very belatedly we are in. The other – the political one – is, in a President Trump retweet, heading toward “a Civil War like fracture in this […]

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The-Battles-Now

The-Battles-Now

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

“Now we are engaged….”

– Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

One real battle we are in now – human caused global warming – is a battle we realized very belatedly we are in. The other – the political one – is, in a President Trump retweet, heading toward “a Civil War like fracture in this nation” and is a Mad Hatter sort of battle in which both sides see the other through a shattered looking glass, and hear each other through a madhouse Twitter echo chamber.

The battle in which we are fighting for survival on this planet is a battle with ourselves, though the economics we have constructed now seems to lie outside ourselves as an unimpeachable reality.

Our political battle, the one in which the President prophesies war if he is impeached or if he loses the 2020 election, is an accessory to our survival battle in that an economics driving our politics is at work here also.

Trump is in office now because we have, since Reagan, been on a long road to emptying the lives of many while aggrandizing to the point of obscenity the wealth of the few. That has not been a battle but an exploitation and confounding of the anger of those whose well being has been eroded so that the causes of such destruction are not brought to light.

Battle ensues when exposures, such as the Mueller report and now the whistle blower’s account of the mafioso nature of the “art” of Trump’s deal making as president, wound the President’s amour de soi.

We are all slowly realizing how we need to take on this battle of survival but the political battle, the one in which democracy has turned to oligarchy, the one in which great wealth and the great power that attends it in both private and public domains, has reached a high intensity point but not an equal level of clarity established by a common way of knowing and therefore understanding.

We now have not even a consensual agreement as to any authority outside our own opinionating, an abysmal promoted and exercised in our Twitter “discourse.”

In the private sector, neither intellect nor imagination is a greater means to profit than the possession of money itself. Money is the medium of making money as the financial sector extinguishes production of anything but money and IT feeds monied investors with more opportunities to invest.

In the public sector, you can’t represent The People unless you have the wealth to carry your message via a profit-making delivery system. You could say that the wealth and elite standing of the Founding Fathers has been successfully carried through to the present. Now our delegating our politics to the casino like play of the market has, as in the last hours of a Monopoly game, bankrupt many. At the throw of the dice.

This is not the battle we see ourselves in. We do not see ourselves in desperate and dangerous peril created by our throw of the dice economic system.

Not everyone on Wall Street believes that the financial times are hopeless, nor particularly anguishing. Those active in gentrifying Brooklyn, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and elsewhere feel empowered, financially, to change their environment to suit them. Desperation and endangerment are so defeated by a meritocratic elite upscaling of their immediate surround.

Not so with that bottom 50% income level whose combined income is equal to that of three individuals and so have become attuned to living as, our economics have left them, horses of no value. And so, they feel neither desperation or endangered because the possession of hope and solvency, of living in neighborhoods where their lives are not endangered is faint or totally unknown.

For some, we are in desperate and dangerous times because anti-fascist protesters are “planning to kill every single Trump voter, conservative and gun owners.” (Quoted in the NYTimes, Oct. 1, 2019.)

We are, within this mindset, on the edge of another Civil War, a “total war” in which Americans loyal to President Trump will take arms against the “Deep State.” Just as the southern states felt the north was encroaching on their state’s rights, particularly their rights as slaveholders, Trump’s followers see encroachments on their freedom to enact their religious beliefs and on their right to bear arms.

Their sense of individual freedom is everywhere being violated, but not by Trump. He plays at sharing their anger regarding what power the Federal government has over them, or regarding what they can say without censure, or who they can exclude for whatever reason, racist or not. The President exemplifies for them how government power can be fought, curtailed and ignored, and how whiteness, heterosexuality, xenophobia, as well as a distrust and mocking of the press are all consistent with what has always made America great.

In another wording of danger and desperation, “Trump’s ugly and armed mass of white nationalist Amerikaners” plus the useful idiots and subordinate flunkies that historically flock to autocratic demagogues are taking arms against a Constitutional liberal democracy.

Everyone on this Trumpian, “illiberal” side of the civil war has lost the ability to interpret what words mean, has replaced fact with “alternative” facts, has replaced the authority of rational and empirical methodologies with personal opinions, has confused conspiracy theories with fact based evidence, and has lost the attentiveness to read beyond a tweet’s 240 characters.

Everyone on the Trump side is drowning in spin and spectacle while also being beaten senseless by the barrage of memes from the mouths of Generals Kelly Anne Conway and Stephen Miller, all of this found, by the illiberals, more entertaining than Elizabeth Warren’s thoughtful disquisitions on problems and solutions.

The “Anybody but Trump” army without AR-15s was waiting for the Mueller report to drop like an atomic bomb on the enemy and is now waiting for the House to bring to the Senate articles of impeachment that will make it difficult for the Senate to vote against. This is a hurry up and wait army hoping that the Senate will convict by trial and eject Trump from the presidency.

The same faction is waiting for some Democratic Primary candidate for the presidency to hit the limelight, become the standout Democratic presidential nominee and go on to win the presidency in 2020.

When no one hits the limelight, Joe Biden will do.

I feel sorry for those who expect Biden will heal the wounds of a Trump residency, or even reduce the wealth divide, get solidly behind the Green New Deal, and take Bernie’s hard line on the destructiveness of our cherished capitalism. There is little reason why neoliberal Republicans wouldn’t feel safe with a Biden nomination.

Elizabeth Warren is their nemesis. She has plans to engage in our survival as well as our political battle. The problem is neoliberal Democrats fear her as much as neoliberal Republicans. For those who expect Warren’s plans to sail through Moscow Mitch, we can predict a wait for the 2024 election to consume her tenure. Unless, of course, Mother Nature moves us closer to the survival battle than now predicted.

A longer wait is for all those male, blue collar workers in the Rust Belt and elsewhere to become extinct, replaced by the meritocratic elite, their merit displayed in finance, pharmaceuticals, health insurance, hospitals, doctors (not nurses), energy alternatives, and AI and robotics.

This civil war won’t happen because one side is all about waiting and not engaging and the other side doesn’t have to fight to continue to hold their beliefs, gripes, and threats. They can air them on social media, a defusing mechanism its one virtue.

This civil war won’t happen because neither side can do something not in the interests of an economic system that has set up this divide. The stochastic distribution of capital, our casino capitalism and its kin, meritocratic gentrification, go on regardless of how hot each side gets because it’s an antagonist unrecognized, rather like Iago in Othello’s life.

We are not divided over the wealth gap the most severe in 50 years, or the fact that Wall Street looted the country in 2008 and was paid by the Federal government for doing so and are now ready to do it again, or that both parties swear allegiance to capitalism regardless of how it has turned this country into an oligarchy.

But most significantly we cannot go beyond the brink of war, can’t fire a gun at whatever either side sees as a Fort Sumter, because we are all spinning in a sea of diatribe, opinionating babble and twaddle that doesn’t touch ground today and evaporates tomorrow.

It is not in the profit-making interests of our Market Rule to push us beyond deferring our differences from today’s post and tweet to tomorrow’s. Being held always in a moment of fevered response and “crushing” attack, a condition our cyberspace alternate reality provides, is the condition of our post-millennial, post-truth hyperreality.

Our politics is in a constant state of waiting just as our economics awaits tomorrow’s return on investment.

II

“All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”

– Karl Marx

Only the Living Dead now ask us to wait.

The Living Dead are the ones who stoke the flames of a profane divide and silence all talk of the dire consequences of global warming.

I see the fascination for zombies in our culture in this, for as long as global warming has threatened us, we have sensed that the living dead, in every position of power, private and public, threaten our survival. All the catastrophes that climate scientists project as probabilities are ignored by those who calculate they will not be alive to suffer such events. We can all defer and wait until investments no longer matter to dead investors.

We’re already beyond the 2 degrees Celsius (3.5 Fahrenheit) that would have kept fires, flood, rain bombs, droughts, food and water shortages, zombie pathogens from melting permafrost, survival migrations and increasing population of insect pests to 2019 levels. The dark prophecy is that by the century’s end we will be in a true dystopic world: a mixture of emergency declarations, either by the president or the military, followed by periods of martial law, scattered high altitude, walled domains of private wealth and power, and Coastal governmental power rivaling presidential power. Food, drinkable water and petrol will be either in hoarded supply or non-existent.

Others, the Bullish Players, foresee that by century’s end carbon capture technology, the elegant paradigm of market rule, the power of globalized transnational companies, and a 1% ruling class serviced by a professionalized meritocracy of 20% would once again dominate the blind forces of Nature.

In short, the country is divided between those, mostly the young, who disavow capitalism and are searching for a planet friendly economics, and those who want to double down on market rule and thus maintain the success such rule has already given them. We can “grow” the economy and bring the Winners along with the planet into spacious, gentrified digs.

Democrats who take a moderate path are, bottom line, taking a moderate path with capitalism, retaining, a basic faith in capitalism, as basic as upholding the Constitution and classical liberal philosophy.

The logic here escapes me. We need to protect capitalism from its own axiomatic movement toward something disastrous to any society, say, three people having as much wealth as 50% of the population, or, the planet itself become uninhabitable by humans.

The illogic here does not escape sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, who, at the UN Climate Action Summit, made it clear where this protection of capitalism will take us:

We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

A survivalist course cannot be for a tempered, moderate course of action, just as we can’t moderately go about not drowning or falling off a cliff.

I think we can say that any path that preserves our basic faith in “eternal economic growth” will lead us to a dystopic 2050, although clearly those experiencing mudslides, floods, hurricanes and fires place that dystopia now.

The crises of mounting global warming will muscle the “freedom of capital” out of our politics, whether the denial policies of Trump or anyone else linger.

Mortality also will push current market winners and political decision makers off the debate stage and back into Nature’s undominated cycle.

Ms. Thunberg and all her fellow young who gathered throughout the world demanding action be taken will, within the probabilities of mortality, be inheriting the consequences of political decisions made now, decisions made by those who, within the same probability calculus, not be around.

The scowl captured on Ms. Thunberg’s face as President Trump walks passed her tells us that she knows who the enemy is in the dark scenario of the future she clearly foresees, and beyond that, who is her and every young person’s executioner.

At the same time, anyone who has fossil fuel stock or Big Pharma stock and so on doesn’t want even a moderate reduction in return. Similarly, the financial sector doesn’t want their buying, selling, trading, investing of capital in order to grow more capital to be deemed illegal activities, contributive to a growth of the economy that will, if it goes on, make life uninhabitable for humans.

The battle whose forces we are hyped and spun not to see is set against any responses to our own mass extinction. And that subversion can only end with the subjection of the present economic hegemony.

We are beginning to engage in that battle as the House moves toward impeachment of President Trump.

You can anticipate that Speaker Pelosi will move the House like a Roman legion on the march toward presenting articles of impeachment to the Senate that will make a vote not to convict transparently corrupt. Such a vote would be the last nail Trump has driven into the Republican Party, already having shattered the grounding ideological principles of that party, which are, in truth, nothing more than “Let Markets Rule!”

Republicans can, however, break the chains binding them to Trump by voting to convict and thus eject Trump from office.

Such an action would be a first step in saving that Party in the post-Trump world, a world that will come whether the Senate votes yeah or nay to the impeachment articles. Given the instant obsolescence of any front-page story (remember Jeffrey Epstein?) Trump loyalists will remain loyal in Twitter time, which is not for long, time being yet another servant of not today’s returns but tomorrow’s.

The vanishing of the Trump regime and the possible reconstruction of the Republican Party may or may not put us all behind battling to prevent our own extinction on this planet.

Republicans might regain their Ayn Rand neo-liberal tenets, or they may have to bend those once again to suit a Trump clone propelled on the national stage by those who see no victory in Trump’s impeachment nor in a politics prioritizing a battle against global warming nor in a battle to redistribute wealth from the top down.

Nevertheless, even with a failure of a post-Trump Republican Party to re-examine its faith in Market Rule, and a failure of the Democratic Party to seize the moment and not defer, we would be closer to the real battles in which we find ourselves.

I say this because the future can only be brighter without a president who impedes our own survival and because Mother Nature, each day from now on, will force us to see clearly the real battle now.

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The Vox Populi http://www.josephnatoli.com/the-vox-populi/ Thu, 19 Sep 2019 16:30:43 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1848 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org “President Trump touched something inside me. He speaks like me and he talks like me.” – Fayetteville, NC Trump rally “Make Empathy Great Again” – T-shirt voice Donald J. Trump won the presidency partially because of his already existing Reality TV celebratory status. Audiences got used to his dealing tactics and he became […]

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the-vox-populi

the-vox-populi

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

“President Trump touched something inside me. He speaks like me and he talks like me.”

– Fayetteville, NC Trump rally

“Make Empathy Great Again”

– T-shirt voice

Donald J. Trump won the presidency partially because of his already existing Reality TV celebratory status. Audiences got used to his dealing tactics and he became proficient in reaching those who enjoyed — perversely at a time when layoffs were rampant in the land — hearing “You’re fired!” That segment of the population aided him in discovering the nature of the current populism. As president he has put into play what he learned: bigotry and prejudice to the point of racism has populist appeal, so too does a ridiculing of any authority, whether political, scientific, legacy media, academe, the EU and all Western agreements.

He responded to a Vox populi instinctively and in turn shaped a Vox populi that responds to him instinctively.

There is an authenticity to the Vox populi, which means it’s genuine and real and cannot be ignored. This doesn’t mean that the Vox populi is true or authentic in the existentialist sense that it is not permeated with a false consciousness or deceived within the American hyperreal which infects politics as well as everyday life. Neither is its voice reliable, rational guidance but rather only a signaling of what transfixes the cultural consciousness as well as the mass psyche. Because this voice is layered in both dimensions, there is no transparent meaning to the expression but rather only the expression which nonetheless permeates. It is authentic but not transparently meaningful.

Think of a baby on a crying jag or your dog or cat or goldfish showing signs of malaise or, on a whole other level of illustration, a lone gunman opening fire on a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada, killing killed 58 people and wounding 422, with the ensuing panic bringing the injury total to 851. (Wikipedia)

We can attribute the same authenticity on the collective level as we do on the individual level. There are occasions when we can be anti-populist and ignore the Vox populi because we cannot accept a collective, social, national evil that is recognized as the voice of the people, say, for instance, the voice of slaveholders or sweatshop entrepreneurs or champions of a cleansing genocide. However, denying the authenticity of its expression does not free us from its populist power.

The only reason that Donald J. Trump, as presidential candidate and as president, speaks with the voice of the people, is a self-declared chosen one of the Vox populi, is because that voice had no previous representation in either political party and because he learned and mimics Vox populi “speak” masterfully. We add to that a plutarchic restructuring of the U.S. that has allowed that Vox populi to degenerate to a level at which a confidence man has easy access.

Even though Trump or someone other demagogic huckster, some other confidence man, was bound to pop up, the conditions of a particular time and place brought him forward. The stage has been set for Trump for a long time, the set being a society deeply entrenched in the hyperreal, voters across all parties believing in their own illusionary self-empowerment and being in a full revolt against any authority, whether of reason or reality, opposing that self-conferred freedom to choose.

Twitter made the aptness of Trump’s presence at that moment internationally and repeatedly known. You need to imagine Trump without Twitter, Trump without a means to instantly transmit the impulsiveness of an erratic mind. Difficult to imagine because there are no reasons to expect cyber communication to vanish or that they will be less effective in their access to “followers.” We can expect that we will be even more deluged with misinformation, confidence games and flimflam gambits. The Vox populi fractures into a Babel of voices as the means to winnow the chaff from the kernel vanishes. Resistance is futile, in a Borg expression, because every voice drowns out every other voice. In short, we cannot expect that the “education” of our impulses and our worst instincts will not be nurtured by future con artists on any future Twitter-like “engine of the democratization of all voices.”

Trump’s presence in the White House tells us that voices do rally when called from “the vasty deep.” In the same fashion that the lowest level of almost everything rises to prominence in our hyperreal culture, the worst devils of our nature are, we observe, more speedily and widely advanced than what philosophers term the Western Rationalistic Tradition.

The terrible shape U.S. and British democracies are in right now has much to do with the eruption of a Vox populi not in the streets but on the highways of cyberspace, a Vox populi whose only foundational authority is its own voice, a voice unfortunately either drowning in the churn of all voices or flocked together by Influencers and bullshit artists, Donald J. Trump and Boris Johnson filling these roles.

Trump rolled into view in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession, a recession that brought economic collapse as well as fear and trembling to the 80% but rescued the 20% at the top of the economic chart quickly and in fact maximized their wealth as they were positioned to turn crises into profit. Many more were angered and anxious than “bullish” by the event. A populist response developed in a space left absent by both political parties. And so too does this populism become a workable political frontier when so many feel they are disregarded and excluded by the political order of things they experience.

Trump or a Trump clone is late on the stage following this because someone else, Barack Obama, put his finger on the first emotional responders to crises – hope and all its Hollywood/Disney hyperreality. Instead of the Vox populi screaming revolt in the streets, storming the Bastilles of Wall Street (not setting up “occupying” tents) the hyperreality of a hope, totally by 2008 unsupported by the destroying consequences of an obscene wealth divide and by the bold looting practices of the financial sector, attached itself to the personality of Obama and his confirmation of the illusions of a personalized “Yes, we can!”

However, the “We” was already divided against itself. But not equal forces of division. One side knew how to defend its privilege within the economic system and the other didn’t know how to position itself outside that system or that privilege. Shouting “Empathy!” is not a knock out punch to “Send her back!” That situation remains.

Populism and the Vox populi then, didn’t’ arise from within this mess but outside it. And that’s where Trump has positioned himself from the start.

It’s possible to think of the presidency of Trump as a kind of detour from an upheaval we can expect when bread, circuses and the enchantments of cellular technology as well as the soma of endless live streaming run into the reality produced by a 20% “democracy” that has no plans to recuperate the lives of the 80%.

And because the Democratic Party has not yet been able to present a presidential candidate who has a finger on the impulses of our worst nature in the way Trump has, all rational calculations of the 2020 election remain unbinding. That was proven in the 2016 election when systematic analysis turned out to be worthless. No part of the reptilian brain of humankind reveals itself in polls.

Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are spot on in analyzing what the problems are, but that analysis and their proposed solutions are not as easily digestible as the dog whistles and outright calls to gut impulses, never inspired by “love thy neighbor” but rather “beware of the stranger.” Who and what to be beware of is a daily Twitter feed of President Trump.

All plans to elevate the Vox populi above its present level and to do so by extending economic security to that populace are either deceitful and fraudulent, referring here to the Trump administration, or deemed too radical not only in the eyes of those whose economic hegemony would be threatened but also in the eyes of those who stand to benefit by what is tagged as “too radical.”

The confused and misguided anger of the Vox populi won’t fade when Trump fades to vanish because the turbulence of a cultural consciousness and a mass psyche cannot fade to vanish. They cannot because they have been exploited by Trump, but not resolved or remedied.

If we think of resolution, remediation, elevation simply in terms laid out by an economic system that has created this confused but targeted, misguided anger, then we haven’t stopped digging the hole we are in. The rise and fall of the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 are the benchmarks of the malefactors, the benchmarks of an order of things in which few rises and most perish, including the planet itself.

Are there any signs of an elevation of the Vox populi?

We are in an emergency crisis with global warming, not with Mexicans, Central and South Americans sneaking across the southern border. That may happen if the ravages of global warming put all the southern hemisphere on a migratory rush northward. We don’t stop that with The Wall but rather with mitigating climate change policies.

Trump is working in reverse, which means he believes that he’s representing the populist view. Whether there are enough voters in the nether regions who fear brown skinned, Spanish speaking “invaders” to confirm Trump’s position here is at this point not known. Racism speaks louder in the privacy of the voting booth than in public, especially when confronted with accusations of racism.

Education to the rescue? An educated populace is essential to keep a fragile democracy from being overthrown by a demagogue who can appeal to a winning block of voters.

This has already happened. The person of Donald J. Trump may vacate the White House but the country that put him in office, all the knowns and unknowns that put him there, to repeat, remain. We have been here before with Ronald Reagan, a presence that turned from an egalitarian mindset to a plutocratic one but left us bitterly divided as to whether this was a heroic change or a destructive one. The aftermath of Trump’s reign is not so clear simply because the forces that brought him to power and the design of his appeal remain more accessible to a psychiatric rather than a logical scan by Commander Data.

Similarly, the way we can probe the Vox populi is through prejudices, passions, and perverse instincts which, judging by social media, script the libretto of this voice. What we have is the logic of advertising and marketing brought into politics: you can sell fat burgers, sugar pops and salt chips simply because the nutritional Palette populi is at the lowest nutritional level. Americans don’t choose obesity; they choose what they like and what they like they are branded to like.

Cyberspace is where the young seek their education but what we get in cyberspace is a swarm of messaging appealing to every conceivable identity, loco to compos mentis, a kind of chaotic smorgasbord for a culture obsessed with the illusions of personal choice. As troubling as this is are the proposals addressing the challenge of an invasive illiteracy by a privatization of public education, the market’s turn to public education as the new profit frontier.

That debilitating, degenerating force is supplemented by tuition costs so high that student loan debt is now greater than credit card debt. Students must choose courses that will lead them to the biggest return on investment, that is courses and programs leading directly to jobs our economic system privileges, course that will pay off the tuition investment.

It’s clear that we are expanding the ways of instrumental reasoning and knowing, and marketable erudition required by the narrow fields of business and technology, narrow in the sense that the messiness of our human nature at work in politics, including presidential campaigns and elections, overspills the scope and methods of business and technology.

In short, the Vox populi doesn’t become more learned and astutely critical when and if it is educated within the instrumental fields of profit making. If this was not the case, Donald J. Trump would not be in the White House right now nor would we be facing a 2020 election in which there is an arguable case to be made that he will win again.

All this being said, there are forces in play that can create a Vox populi effectively focused on one issue: global warming. A kind of survival wisdom will cry out in the streets, push a politics of survival that will trump all other warring issues, including Trump himself.

The Vox populi screaming for survival and the ways to achieve it respond to the education our bodies and minds have achieved in the long evolutionary movement away from extinction toward survival.

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A Voting Calculus http://www.josephnatoli.com/a-voting-calculus/ Sat, 07 Sep 2019 09:18:01 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1844 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org “Reality is not always probable, or likely” Borges tells us, but we are yet, presumptuously and foolishly, driven to find a logic and its calculus, especially regarding U.S. presidential elections. And so: Immigration: “If the number of voters who do not want to discourage but welcome the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to […]

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Voting Calculus

Voting Calculus

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

“Reality is not always probable, or likely” Borges tells us, but we are yet, presumptuously and foolishly, driven to find a logic and its calculus, especially regarding U.S. presidential elections.

And so:

Immigration:If the number of voters who do not want to discourage but welcome the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore outnumber those who want to make immigration to the U.S. as hard as doing time n Rikers, then any Democratic candidate who wins will be representing you on immigration.

Global warming: “If the number of voters who feel that time is running out and that we need to pull out all stops in order to keep the global temperature from rising 3 degrees centigrade outnumber those who don’t want to pull out any stops for an event that might not be catastrophic and will happen after they’re dead, and those who won’t drop their fossil fuel portfolio until their alternative energy portfolio is producing an equal return, and those who hope to make a profit as the new frontier of global warming effects drives an explosion of IPA’s, then it’s not clear what Democratic candidate running for president will represent your view.

Wealth divide: “If the number of voters who feel that great wealth in too few hands leads to power in too few hands and that the resulting plutarchy must be eroded at every point by an egalitarian spirit and resulting legislation outnumber those who have no problem with the wealthy and hope to be in their place if they make the right choices, and those who already have great wealth and enough power to persuade in an inside as well as an outside game that only socialists attack wealth and the wealthy, and those who see great wealth as a great fulfillment of the American Dream, then either Sanders or Warren are the winners.

The Meritocratic, gentrifying elite: “If the number of voters who enjoy the income benefits of an expensive professional education and the benefits of assortative mating of professionals, one of which is to elevate the real estate prices of a neighborhood to the point that only the meritocratic, gentrifying elite can afford to live there, outnumber those who are outside such benefits either because they were born into circumstances that in a severely wealth divided society they cannot overcome and/or they have not the inherited or learning l capacity to climb the rungs of the meritocratic ladder then you can vote for either a Democratic or Republican candidate for the presidency.

Nationalism/Globalization: If the number of voters who connect nationalism with nativism and nativism with a return to white middle-class greatness outnumber those who are positioned to receive the financial benefits of globalized, transnational investments then Donald Trump will win the 2020 presidential election.

Health Care: If the number of voters who want some form of tax funded government paid health insurance including governmental regulation of pharmaceutical, hospital and doctor costs outnumber those who are already content with their union or employer proved health care, and the number who have the financial resources to pay their own health care costs or choose the private plans that give them the full array of care they want then the only choice is between a governmental plan that allows Medicare for those who want it and one that mandates it for all.

Socialism: If the number of voters who believe that socialism in the U.S. would manifest itself as a Scandinavian type socialism without uniformly high taxes on all classes, and totally disassociated in the American mass psyche from the disasters of socialist/communist countries such as the former Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela outnumber those who believe that the word “socialism” always involves loss of personal, political and economic freedom then either Warren or Sanders is your candidate.

Universal Basic Income, aka Basic Income Guarantee: If the number of voters who believe that robotics and AI will replace a significant percentage of the work force thus creating an unemployed class that the small percentage of owners of and investors in robotics and AI need as consumers and do not need as an angry, threatening fury in the streets outnumber those who feel that UBI is an undeserved governmental handout paid for by taxing the Winners and Workers and that the threat here is a moral hazard resulting from any form of welfare then UBI is a winning platform in the 2024 presidential election, not 2020.

Donald J. Trump: If the number of Republican/Conservative/Free Market Globalist voters decide that they’ve gotten all they can get from Trump’s presidency and at this point: 1. He will bring down the financial markets along with a societal stability essential to investment; 2. Destroy a transnational goods, services and investment flow by conducting international business relations and diplomacy as a mano a mano real estate deal; 3. Cripple the economic well-being so badly of even his most ardent followers that an unrest threatening the lives of the Winners will follow; and 4. He will undermine long standing Western/EU coalitions of defense against the Russians, Chinese and North Koreans and thus increase the threat of those countries to U.S. globalized free enterprise outnumbers those who believe that President Trump is a “stable genius” who will in his second term make that America, which wasn’t made great again in his first term, great again then any Democrat will beat Trump in 2020.

Joe Biden: If the number of voters who feel they need a long period of R&R after the Trump presidency, a long release from mad, manic and twisted Tweets, outnumber those who relish the source of continued amusement, witty, dark satire, the erraticism of the Mad Twitter in Chief – namely the presidency of Donald J. Trump – and will go into withdrawal if he is removed from the national scene, then Joe Biden will be elected president.

There are factors outside any calculus of issues.

For instance, the Trump activated conversion of the Republican Party to a populist party raises the question of the durability of populism. Voters in the populace are increasingly grounding their opinions on what or who draws the most Likes on social media and therefore is the most popular and thus establishes populism as a potent voice commandeering a political party. At the same time, what is quickly becoming antiquated and antediluvian is a refusal to equate the popularity of people or ideas with their essential worth derived from critical examination.

Social media, whether weaponized by the Russians or others, or as a ready to hand vehicle of falsity which these media cannot eliminate looms, like Kim Jong-un, as a threat we can’t seem to handle.

According to a Pew Research Center study “[m]ore than making people believe false things, the rise of fake news is making it harder for people to see the truth.” (David Graham, “Some Real News About Fake News,” The Atlantic, June, 2019) In 2018, MarketWatch reported that on “Twitter  false news stories are 70% more likely to be retweeted than true stories, and it takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it takes for false stories to reach the same number of people. . . A congressional investigation found that fake bots spreading inaccurate or false news reports was a key tactic used by Russians attempting to sway the 2016 election.”

There is no reason to assume that this fake news dissemination on social media will disappear in the 2020 election. Rather, it seems that a more severely divided electorate will be further narrowing their reading habits, excluding whatever confounds their beliefs.

Arguments stating that propaganda and misinformation have always been around and that the only difference now is in the platforming ignore the foundational differences in that platforming.

First, social media is simply publication of views without any review of the matter or authority of the author. Secondly, these un-referred views are not published in small runs but have astronomical reach, millions of retweets. And since false stories almost always beat out the truth on Twitter, “penetrating further, faster, and deeper into the social network than accurate information.,” the platforms of social media are a millennial new (no Twitter before 2006; no Facebook before 2004) and lethal virus on the political scene. (Robinson Meyer, “The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News,” The Atlantic, March 2018)

Lastly, try to calculate whether Donald J. Trump will oppose and contradict a losing vote, regardless of what the final numbers are, and whether he will continue to have blind support in those efforts.

There is no reason to assume that President Trump will graciously accept a loss in the 2020 election. Even if an Electoral College win doesn’t once again make him a winner, the popular vote could easily have multiple sites of questionable, missing, delayed, damaged returns, allegations of Russian intrusion and so on giving Trump the chance to stop any electoral closure or curse a new presidency with a fraudulent ascension. And Twitter would be his dominant weapon of offense. Thus, the 2020 presidential election may not have the next morning concession speech ending that we are familiar with. There is no reason to assume that Donald Trump will follow that tradition.

There has been no calculus representing this man and this presidency.

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Something Wrong http://www.josephnatoli.com/something-wrong/ Fri, 02 Aug 2019 13:53:42 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1837 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org Ask yourself how somebody like Donald Trump ever gets within cheating distance of the Oval Office in the first place. – Pete Buttigieg, Second Democratic Debate, Detroit, July 30, 2019 Mayor Pete asks us to think about what history could have brought Donald Trump to the presidency. Elizabeth Warren has also remarked that […]

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Something Wrong

Something Wrong

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

Ask yourself how somebody like Donald Trump ever gets within cheating distance of the Oval Office in the first place.

– Pete Buttigieg, Second Democratic Debate, Detroit, July 30, 2019

Mayor Pete asks us to think about what history could have brought Donald Trump to the presidency. Elizabeth Warren has also remarked that something must be being seriously wrong with our country because we elected Trump.

The observation resonates as true to some and seriously wrong to others.

If something is seriously wrong, we need to correct it and Warren has a plan for that. On the other side of the street, we find Americans who feel Trump himself is the change that was sought in 2016 and that change has been good, or at least good enough to re-elect him. Obama’s counsel that we are the change we seek has been altered first to extract Obama from the “we” and unite Trump with The We.

Some feel that Trump is better than the change that The Squad wants to see. Or, if you don’t go along with Trump’s identification of his Democratic opposition for presidency being represented by The Squad, he can extend it to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, both labeled “socialist,” a triggering word in the lexicon of the American mass psyche.

If Trump remains in office for another term, some of The We – your gentrified neighbors and your unionized neighbors (no one really has both) – do not have to worry about what’s wrong. Trump’s re-election would mean that what could go wrong, i.e., a “socialist” elected, has been prevented.

A combination of a zealous faith that Trump can remedy anything wrong or prevent “socialists” from destroying a plutarchy, aka democracy, would be enough to terminate any investigation as to what is wrong with this country. Those who assert that something is wrong should be investigated.

Still, a generic “You” would have to agree that something is wrong with the country if right now we can imagine that if Trump loses, that loss won’t be accepted, either by him or half the country.

.

We should imagine that possibility right now.

Russian interference might be less of a problem than home grown Americans refusing to accept electoral results. The election might wind up in the Supreme Court, where a precedent for such has been set. We’d be relying on the swing vote in that Court, Chief Justice Roberts, something like relying on Mueller to render a summary judgement on Trump. But crazier.

As certain as the climate heating up, the country could run amok as the never-ending story of the 2020 election runs on. The Congress could call for security to frog walk Trump out of the building. They could subpoena him if he didn’t comply. Maybe Congressional subpoenas will have some teeth in them by then. Probably not. Someone at some point will have to declare martial law to keep the streets in all the Trump strongholds safe for The Squad and their Twitter followers.

As a sidebar: It might be a good learning experience if The Squad hung around those strongholds and assessed that the country was a great distance from being brown and gay and that whites, though racially privileged, were poor too, that poverty has no color. Those same whites should also have a learning experience, namely that The Squad was, in the full flush of their youth, trying to save everyone from the eminent disasters of a planet getting too hot for everyone while at the same precarious moment, trying to resurrect a diverse, egalitarian democracy out of the plutarchy of privilege we’ve become.

Trump, who refuses to leave office, probably wouldn’t declare national emergency and martial law by executive order. Let’s imagine he’s outside the White House gates with his one allowed box of desk memorabilia. And tweeting his loyal followers in fragmented syntax. But the Congress might be forced to go for martial law, and we’ll all wait, the military standing down, until the Supreme Court decides, waiting to see which way the Chief Justice swings.

If Kellyanne Conway is still running loose and dismissing subpoenas from the House Oversight Committee, we can all imagine her citing alternative numbers, both popular vote and Electoral College, to whatever numbers signifying a Democratic victory.

Optimists believe that if Trump wins and the market continues to bullishly move along, all will be well with the top 20%, regardless of how personally – but not financially — disgusted they avow Trump makes them. Cynics believe that votes of this top 20% always follow the money. If Trump wins, his disciples will remain loyal and celebratory. Liberals will leave behind talk of micro-aggressions and defend against real aggression. Optimists, once again, would expect that the politics of survival would be kicking in when floods, fires, droughts, and starving migrant hordes would grab everyone’s attention.

The generic “You” looks backs and observes the conditions that brought alternative facts to life and attended the wisdom that “truth isn’t truth.”

The generic “You” observes that something is going very wrong in our regime of order.

The problems raised in The Federalist Papers regarding how to keep the populace from voting what they liked into existence had not emerged as troublesome problems because Everyone really didn’t have a voice that could be heard. The Vox populi spoke only to bathroom mirrors.

Our Founders felt that what the populace, aka The Mob, liked was passion and not reason driven. The populace should be instructed as to what to like for the Republic to survive and Mob Rule avoided.

That hasn’t happened. I refer to “instruction.” The liberation of everyone’s voice in cyberspace has secured the liberation of everyone’s passions. We are at the threshold of seeing that and coming around to the view that one of sanity’s defenses has always been that only your psychiatrist hears about your passions with the hope of converting them to sanity and sense. The blessing of not hearing what everyone’s passions are has unfortunately been defiled on-line.

We are reminded of Madison’s words: “In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason.” Ambitious demagogues are always lurking to play on the viscera of the cerebral cortex, which of course doesn’t have that.

In the present American clime, we have both tsunamis of Twitter passions and a narcissistic, “I always win/You always lose” zeitgeist. We’re a representative democracy, one step removed from Mob Rule, but our representatives need the votes of the many, not the few, which of course re-introduces the Mob. And as Fox TV has shown, passions can be orchestrally conducted in a way that neither aristocratic privilege could succeed in doing nor the preventatives set in place by the Founders now seem able to do.

The writers of The Federalist Papers signed as “Populist”, but they were being ironic and perhaps sarcastic. They envisioned the members of the Electoral College to be up to the task of voting rationally. Here’s Hamilton:

It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.

In short, these Electors would base their votes on reason, their powers of reasoning easily identified by their fellow-citizens. We are no longer in that ball game. We’re in a “Trump tells the truth…as he sees it” and no one has quite figured out what he sees but human reason and logic are not involved. Some believe our Electors are discerning and judicious and so on because they enabled Trump’s victory.

For those who judge on the evidence of that victory that something has gone wrong, they are obliged to point out who, when, how, and where reason is being abused, where illusions and delusions are confounding both reason and reality.

But all sides now have to go into cyberspace and hurl our grain of sand into the whirlwind of crackpot deliberations, injudicious rants, the self-informed discernments of selfies and vile opines that pass as analysis. If we’re not of the temperament to jump into that mosh pit, we can feed at the gazillion places that feed us what we want to hear. We can hear our enemies mocked and “crushed,” saving us our own confrontation with views other than our own. We can get packaged into a bag of wrongness that is truly incredible but one, nevertheless, whose causes can be traced.

What went wrong is a concatenation of events, like those creating a perfect storm, in which an American illusion of personal autonomy and the power of personal choice joined with an alternative reality medium – cyberspace – in which any idiocy could go viral and reach millions. And that marriage happened in the hyperreality of a society of spectacle and celebrity serving a ravaging economic system easily unmasked if commonly accepted paths to knowing anything had not been themselves exposed as adaptable constructions of a will to power.

A statement attributed to Karl Rove way back in Dubya’s reign expresses the swerve: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Great genius is not needed to see that wealth and power build an empire in which thinking itself preserves and protects that empire, an empire that shapes the dimensions of reality, of our realizing what anything is to mean.

We are deep now in such a reality constructed by plutarchic power. And we are thinking without a compass, or with millions of compasses each pointing to their own True North.

We could engage in some recuperation but escape and dis-entanglement are first required.

To rescue the Vox populi from Mob Rule, we could eliminate or at least mitigate the power of passion to wrest the sceptre from reason, actions performed in ways James Madison could not foresee.

Begin with Fox TV, initiated by Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch, who both proved that transmitting passion and not reason attracted eyeballs. Providing what a consumer wants and not what you think they should want or what a “fair and balanced” view of anything would provide is a ticket to profit. Before Fox, all venturing capitalists were shy of treating news coverage as just another widget to market. Strong and wrong proved more attractive than Probing/investigative which is always attention demanding.

And just as Ailes and Murdoch seized the opportunity to make fortunes by reaching the populace at the level the populace was at, Donald J. Trump seized Twitter as the most effective means of reaching that portion of the populace for whom passion had already wrested the sceptre from reason.

It is not personal privacy that is the danger of social media. Every post on social media is an exposure of your private life, a willing, self-generated exposure. It’s naïve to think that what you willingly offer will not be used by owners in a search for profit. It’s also naïve to think these owners will give up their paths to profit.

The real danger of the social media is that it posts and retrieves an overwhelming amount of words, images, videos that are not vetted, curated, classified or examined at the gates, prior to entry. Rather than fear hordes of un-scrutinized immigrants crossing our southern borders, we should fear the mess of messaging traveling across the cyber-borders of cyberspace. There are no gatekeepers, no refereed posts, no watchdog equivalent of Académie française.

That last sentence is of course a proud declaration of independence of Cyberspace, a proud Libertarian declaration of the freedom of Cyberspace. And yet, clearly, we have democratized that domain whose democratization is leaving us victims of “alternative facts” and has led us to a pre-developmental mind as U.S. President.

We have leveled the hierarchies of mind into a field of mush, denying the slow and deliberate development of thought, to educate and thus bring out our thinking from an early to a mature stage. All Men [sic] are created equal” Jefferson writes but he, especially, did not include all thought.

Right now, Google is storing and allowing us to retrieve our new encyclopedia knowledge within a system of retrieval, a PageRank algorithm, which prioritizes within a technocrat’s order of things. There is no Roget or Jefferson or Herbert Putnam (created the Library of Congress classification system) behind Google. Only an algorithm which makes a multitude of responses returned in Nano seconds. Regarding learning anything, time and volume are meaningless.

If we go down to the root cellar, the very bottom of the foundation upon which something wrong in our society has been built, we can certainly find a fractionalizing economic system that has placed the Winners in commanding positions. But we can also find corrupted ways of knowing, corruptions of rational/empirical interpretation to science’s own rigorous methods of explanation. These corruptions preempt our realizing in common that something is wrong and certainly preempt a common understanding of how we are to proceed to correct this something that is wrong.

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Gaming the Climate http://www.josephnatoli.com/gaming-the-climate/ Fri, 19 Jul 2019 16:01:52 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1830 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org The greater divisiveness of the various warring factions in Game of Thrones places our own national divisiveness on to small, less frightening screen only because our divisiveness does not include White Walkers and their Army of the Dead. The Thrones is a world of all against all far more confusing than our own […]

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Gaming the Climate

Gaming the Climate

Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

The greater divisiveness of the various warring factions in Game of Thrones places our own national divisiveness on to small, less frightening screen only because our divisiveness does not include White Walkers and their Army of the Dead. The Thrones is a world of all against all far more confusing than our own U.S. war of all against all. Or is it?

An on-line questioner asked: “When did all this happen?” Another asked: “Does Game of Thrones use CGI?” I am led to think there is indeed confusion in fictional and real worlds but most certainly in the minds of perceivers. One of the great difficulties we have in deleting irrational narratives, formerly referred to as arguments, and thus discarding illegitimate claims to our attention is the fact that our ways of knowing have been confounded.

Believing that dragons and the walking dead were filmed on location or that the historical setting for Game of Thrones can be found in any number of texts in the Library of Congress suggests that we’ve slipped away from reality. I supposed when the Babel of cyberspace is a preferred “reality platform” than reality itself, much that can’t exist and much that can’t be reasonably said does exist and is said.

Our slipping away from reality does not mean that reality has given us a pass. Quite the contrary. Right now, we are facing our own Army of the Dead and we have mustered it into being. I refer to the way the planet is slowly heating up, an invasion of heat, flood, drought, starvation, disease, extinction.

Survival will return to the entire planet as motive. All else, from the rise or collapse of the stock market, whether America becomes white again or brown, gay and socialist, how many Twitter followers you have, whose “woke” and whose not, whether government is the problem or Tech the answer, whether Executive privilege will crush Congressional oversight, and on and on….will not matter.

But what will matter regarding the crucial issue of humanity’s survival as the army of global warming heats the Earth to disastrous levels is whether the current president gets another four years in the White House. Nothing but his own survival means anything to this 73-year-old man who knows nothing of mortality, his, his family’s, ours or the planet’s. He denies the existence of this existential threat to life on this planet.

We humans are a confident, cocky bunch, relying on a record of dominating and conquering Nature to pull us through. The “real excitement is playing the game” as our President attests, the clever gaming systems that to which others bend the knee. But Nature is not a system that bends to our knee.

This arrogance and stupidity in the face of a future that scientists are clearly warning us to prepare for can be detailed more descriptively than as simply an ideology or wealth divide. Consider the investment, meritocratic, and technocratic mindsets. And then consider a fourth, an isolated number, much larger than the others, not a mindset or attitude contingent but one solely determined by pain. Consider those in pain, on every level a human can experience pain, those who the President has thus far been able to draw into his own self-worship. But pain is not a mindset but a vacating of mind and an installation of itself, pain, as the only determinant. It is masterless.

The players of the investment class are determined to look upon any crisis or catastrophe as a buying opportunity. The attitude expressed by a Goldman-Sachs VP during the 2008 crash seems not to have become extinct as we face our new global threat: “The whole building is about to collapse anytime now…Only potential survivor Fabulous Fab[rice Tourre.” A rotting amour de soi which can never recognize a threat to itself.

The meritocratic/gentrifying elite are determined to assert the power of their own privileged personal choices to overcome any disaster, to put up privacy gating between their family, stock portfolio and luxury possessions and the ravages of global warming. They are self- assured that they cannot fail to choose the higher, safer ground. Illusions of autonomous choosing misjudge the power of external forces.

The technocrat billionaire entrepreneurs are determined to come up with a technocratic solution involving AI and robotics, one in which The Singularity melds human with machine, a robotic existence in which temperature, food, water, oxygen are no longer needed. This technophilia is itself the root cause of the threat we face to the life of the planet.

Those in pain are determined by their pain, both of mind and body, and thus the threat of a warming planet is a pain far off, a pain meaningless to those living so close to the edge of apprehending nothingness that a planet heated to the edge of human extinction means nothing.

But the brash attitudes in which our personal choosing to win under any circumstances brooks no objection are frightening. We are programmed in our technophilic age to think that we won’t come up with a hi-tech/AI/robotic solution to global warming just in time. The Nerds will do it just in time. Doesn’t production now run on a “Just-in-Time” schedule?

It’s almost impossible for the Wall St. player of spectacular returns on investment to foresee a time when crisis cannot be turned to profit. It is almost impossible for the meritocratic elite to recognize that global warming is not a test they can personally score high on and thus rise one more step up the ladder.

And for those in which such presumption and arrogance has had no opportunity to enter their lives, those in whose lives pain rules, that pain makes rational consideration of anything impossible. For those who are not capitalism’s players, for those who have never entered the meritocratic contest, the last thing needed is to put worry about something that might happen in the future alongside worries that are causing real pain now.

And yet….

“If all of Greenland’s ice were to melt, it would raise sea levels 23 feet, submerging some coastal cities.” (Aylin Woodward, “Greenland is approaching the threshold of an irreversible melt, and the consequences for coastal cities could be dire,” Business Insider, April 23, 2019)

“The world is on track for around 3 degrees of warming by the end of the century if it doesn’t make major reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. It could breach 1.5 °C sometime between 2030 and 2052 if global warming continues at its current rate.” (Jeff Tollefson, “Limiting Warming to 1.5° Celsius Will Require Drastic Action, IPCC Says,” Scientific American, Oct. 2018).

“My view is that 2 degrees is aspirational and 1.5 degrees is ridiculously aspirational” said Gary Yohe, an environmental economist at Wesleyan University. “They are good targets to aim for, but we need to face the fact that we might not hit them and start thinking more seriously about what a 2.5 degree or 3 degree world might look like.” (Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, “Why a Half a Degree of Global Warming is a Big Deal,” The New York Times, Oct. 2018).

In Game of Thrones, Jon Snow, the Bastard, believes that if he captures one of the zombies in the Army of the Dead and brings it to Cersei Lannister, ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, she will put aside all enmity toward everyone and join in a defense against the Army of the Dead. She’ll join the coalition, adhere to the agreement. In current terms, she’ll rejoin the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and make the reading of all climate change assessments of The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) mandatory in all schools.

None of this happens in the HBO show, just as dragons don’t happen in real life.

What this ruler does on the show is deny the existence of an Army of the Dead threat. When she is confronted with this threat, she agrees to a truce and a joining in the defense. But only idiots, in her view, would honor that pledge. What’s smart in this ruler’s calculation is for the others to fight the Dead, for others to assume the cost in treasure and lives.

I cannot but see President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change as a Queen Cersei move. Let the other countries fight to mitigate global warming. Meanwhile, the kind of winning, hard nose capitalism the President admires will continue without abatement in the U.S.

He’s very likely not alone in this self-interest and thus in this calculus. He has the technophiles, “My choices rule!” gentrifying, self-empowered, and the “Crisis is Opportunity!” investor-philes on his side. Illusions such as believing disaster boosts your investment return, or that planet destroying technocracy is itself the remedy to that destruction, or that a 23-foot rise in sea level won’t happen if you personally choose it not to happen are pre-Trump illusions. They are deeply rooted in the American cultural imaginary, as is his presidency a natural product of that imaginary.

The numbers are not with these contingents but rather with the many in pain, the many, who in a constitutional republic/representative democracy should rule in elections. Because, however, their pain dries up interest in anything but the pain, makes them impatient for quick relief, leaves them vulnerable to quack and quackery, we cannot expect much attention given to a future crisis, one which their President says is quackery promoted by quacks.

If you add to this the army of lobbyists, hucksters, paid stupefiers and confounders employed by plutocrats intent on protecting their privilege from electoral power, you can see that millionaires will probably flood the Congress and a huckster will get into the White House.

The fact that this 215 year old republic has run a 2016 election which led to the presidency of a man whose presence has a hyperreal dimension to it that makes it more unbelievable than any horrifying character in the fictional world of Game of Thrones warns us that we don’t have a democratic, constitutional order of things that can save itself.

And yet, our elections, which we now see as so vulnerable, must be won by those who will engage our own Army of the Dead, the devastations of increasing global warming.

We can say that the Russians hijacked the election, or that Hillary hijacked Bernie’s chances, or that the media followed Trump from the start because his bullshit boosted ratings, or that social media flooded the American brainpan with so many mind-numbing posts and tweets that reasoning couldn’t break through. But we need to own all this because our democratic structure, such as it is, contained and represented all of it. What is truly exceptional is our belief that our democratic processes were invulnerable to the assault of a Caliban and to the so-called “democratization” of all voices that break loose when, as Margaret Thatcher affirmed, “there is no such thing as society.”

Our system, our resident order of things, has given four years of rule to a Caliban, a “wicked dew” that has covered the whole country in slime, and that same system may give him another four years. Unless reason takes political control, disasters, that Trump and most in Congress will not live long enough to see, will be our destiny.

The following words revealing the incoherence of a darkened Mad Hatter mind were nonetheless repeatedly interrupted with loud applause:

 A politician that hears somebody where we’re at war with Al Qaida and sees somebody talking about how great Al Qaida is. Pick out her statement. That was Omar. How great Al Qaida is when you hear that and we’re losing great soldiers to Al Qaida, when you see the World Trade Center gets knocked down and you see the statements about the World Trade Center all the death and destruction. I’ll tell you what–I’m not happy with them. And it’s very easy to say oh, gee, well, it’s OK. If weak politicians want to say and the democrats in this case if they want to gear their wagons around these four people I think they are going to have a very tough election. Because I don’t think the people of the United States will stand for it.

Whether the underneath of our “exceptional” democracy is as dark and fractured in its syntax as this man’s mind, and thus in need of all the remedy measures proposed by the “Leftists,” young and old of the Congress, we cannot judge with certainty. We can be more certain that the disruptions to Nature engineered by the ambitions and presumptions of human reasoning and now unaddressed by the blight of our present rule darken all horizons.

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Can Trump Be Beaten, Regardless? http://www.josephnatoli.com/can-trump-be-beaten-regardless/ Thu, 11 Jul 2019 16:09:12 +0000 http://www.josephnatoli.com/?p=1825 Published on http://www.counterpunch.org “[B]reaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age…” – Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, 1966 During this too long Democratic presidential campaign season, we will […]

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Published on http://www.counterpunch.org

“[B]reaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age…”

– Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, 1966

During this too long Democratic presidential campaign season, we will be talking about immigration and the inhumane confinement of immigrants, asylum “reform,” restructuring capitalism, Medicare for all, who’s enjoying economic advance, free college education, the LGBTQ community’s rights, what to do about Iran and North Korea, alternative energy, Jared Kushner’s “pay the Palestinians off” peace plan, reparations to African Americans, whether to break up Big Tech, guaranteed minimum income, Congress vs. Trump, impeachment, and in the week before the election so what hashtags and videos go viral.

What we won’t talk about is what’s been increasingly on display since Trump became president. He stands before tanks, alongside military leaders, under a sky filled with jets performing at his command. He’s been on his way to autocratic rule and the Congress has been pitiable in its efforts to stop him. They can’t exert enough power to see his tax forms or get their subpoenas to be respected. It didn’t take much to show us the great fragility, the great vulnerability of our tri-partite, Constitutional based checks and balances democratic republic.

It only took one man who respects nothing but his own will to blow through long established respected informalities, customs and traditions, ways of communicating and behaving that only stood because we wanted them to stand. We now have a president who is, with each defiant tweet, showing us that it’s not the Emperor who has no clothes but our presumed, inviolable, not merely informal but rather legislated order of things.

This president has no such interest in preserving anything he can smack out of his way. His first assault was against any representation of truth and reality that was not his own representation. Those, like the free press, Federal judges, and the House of Representatives, offering a challenge had to be ridiculed, exposed as purveyors of fake news, and brashly denied any authority. The “wild profusion” that a charlatan needs to avoid exposure is now upon us. Consider that alternative facts are announced as having authority, and truth, we are told, isn’t truth, idiocy that has been absorbed as constructive memes.

Followers now merge with the President as the Magister Ludi, achieving a Oneness of identity. How do you beat this? How does one election vacate what continues “long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age. . .”

We are post-truth now, a development that precedes Trump but which we all share. But we are also divided between those who are post any truth the President doesn’t accept as truth and those fumbling to hold on to or even find the certain determinacy of that old time, evidentiary Truth, the “ordered surfaces” we cannot seem to recreate. So many don’t want to be post-truth, but it happened.

What we won’t talk about is the growing fear that our exceptional, longest running democracy was always so only in the way houses of straw and twigs seemed good enough but in fact would always fall if the wolf came along. Trump has come along and taken possession of the Justice Department, the Attorney General, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the Republican Party and now this Fourth of July is showing us all that the military is his as well. And we cannot leave off the fact that he owns the minds and hearts of some 45 million Americans who would continue to support him if he went out and randomly shot someone in the street.

We see that Everyday Americans, to use Hillary’s euphemism, have a thin, weak understanding of politics in America, a disinterest bred by decades of middle-class contentment and the invisibility of the suffering on the margins. Not enough political acumen was shaped in American education to enable enough voters in 2016 to see through the masquerade of a bullshitter wanting to be president.

But alongside this, we must recognize that America itself has a thin, weak hold on defending itself from the rampaging of that same bullshitter as autocrat, that the defenses and inherited structures of our constitutional republic can be rolled over like a panzer division through France.

Right now, about half the population is looking for salvation in a Democratic presidential candidate who can beat Trump. This is reminiscent of expecting Mueller to deliver the country from Trump, like a one-shot immunization. We see now that we can’t even immunize ourselves from measles, no less a mad president.

The President’s campaign to take the Iron Throne of lifetime rule is in your face obvious, not cleverly sly, not masterfully Iago but nevertheless we seem to have no challenge, no defense as direct and forceful as a Trump tweet. Getting on that battlefield in the first place was a mistake because it’s a field in which the long, discursive response that is required to explicate the complexities that have brought Trump to the presidency and are needed to extricate him – all this, like a long, periodic sentence – can no longer be tolerated. Not only have we lost sight of what establishes truth, but we have lost the attentiveness necessary to deal with the “wild profusion of existing things.”

There is now no communicative space within which the complexities of the “conditions on the ground” determining how and what we can think can be communicated. In the place of this what we focus on is a one individual solution, a version of a classic realist battle between good guy and bad guy, a fatal solution at a time and place where we can have no consensus as to what is good, bad, true, false, real, hyperreal.

Perhaps if Joe Biden makes it through the primary gauntlet, beaten up but still standing, we can expect President Trump will go after him like Jake La Motta in the 13th round. Perhaps Mayor Pete or Kamala Harris will convince the un-meritocratic populace that they speak the language of the Everyday American; or Warren or Bernie can convince the 35% moderates in the country that it’s too late for moderation, that a mass psyche that felt an ACA public option was a bridge too far, that loves the signifier “private” and cringes at the signifier “public” was ready for a Federally run health care system.

While we are focused on a one individual, super hero to replace the mad King, a web of complexity that has no one agent solution persists.

For instance, the fact remains that if the Democrats do not take the Senate but win the presidency, Mitch McConnell will do to President Buttigieg-Harris-Warren-Sanders what he did to Obama.

What President Democrat Super Hero will do with the disciples of Trump who, most likely under tweet direction from an ousted Trump will do everything but what President Pete quantitatively and qualitatively analyzes should be done.

What their response will be to President Warren’s new IRS investigating unit trying to find out how many yachts, Picassos, Lamborghini and precious stones the wealthy have so a wealth tax can be imposed on them stretches the imagination. This is a president who would punish you for having more than the other guy? Is that American?

Whatever President Sanders restructuring of capitalism turns out to be it won’t be tweeted as a victory for personal freedom but something like the breadline socialism implanted in the American mass knowing.

President Biden is least likely to upset the Trumpians, Wall Street or the Midwest but treading water from 2020-24 is a stupid strategy to adopt as flood waters rise.

Regardless of how all that may play out, it may not be “Grim Reaper” Mitch McConnell or the Trumpians or The Squad that President-elect Democrat must deal with but the self-appointed life time president, Donald J. Trump.

There are fifty ways to leave your lover but also fifty ways Donald J. Trump can throw the results of a 2020 election into a churner that will make the 2000 Florida chad fiasco look like a well-ordered July fourth picnic.

All it takes is a will to turn election results upside down and we now have both the man and the times in which that can be done, we have the man and the conditions to continue “long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age. . .”

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