Out Like Flynn

“Come at the king, you best not miss.” – Omar

President Trump came into office, promising:

From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.

It isn’t too hard to interpret his inaugural speech and his first flurry of appointments, executive orders and memoranda as an attack on the current regime, deep state, shadow government or whatever you want to call that combination of oligarchs, lobbyists, bureaucrats, media and spooks that run the government behind the scenes, and enjoys the lion’s share of the spoils.

Trump may think he is the king, but his close staff has to know that they are coming at the deep state, and can’t afford to look weak. Likewise, the deep state has to know that they aren’t going to get that many shots at Trump. They have one now, but is it good enough?

Trump lost in the courts, which may have been expected, but has had to ask Michael Flynn, his national security adviser, to resign, which he probably did not expect. Bill Moyers wants the government to investigate all Trump’s connections with Russia, as he writes in, We Must Know the Truth:

Why was nothing done until the media broke the story? And why did Trump lie? As the National Lampoon joked back during the Watergate era, rephrasing the crucial questions aimed at Richard Nixon: “What did the president know and when did he STOP knowing it?”

Is it possible Trump and Flynn had been talking all along and keeping it to themselves? Who authorized Flynn to speak with the Russian ambassador on Trump’s behalf in the first place? The president himself or chief strategist Steve Bannon? Or someone else? Was Flynn a lone gun? Who can tell with all the lies?

And another thing: if the White House has known what was going on for weeks, why was Flynn still attending intelligence briefings as late as Monday? …

Cenk Uygur thinks taking down Flynn is just a warning shot, and that it all boils down to that 500 billion dollar oil deal with Russia that was put on hold after Obama’s sanctions. Another theory is that Trump was forced to borrow from shady lenders with ties to Russia. In any case, the media is hitting the Russian connection hard, and we can expect to see Beck Bennett’s bare-chested Putin on SNL next weekend.

I ran across John Robb’s blog, Global Guerrilla, a few days ago. Robb is an Air Force Academy graduate, who has specialized in social networking and the future of warfare. “I spent last year working for the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff on his vision for how AGI (artificial general intelligence) and robotics would transform how the Joint Force fights in 2035.”

In a post called, Political Networking (how social networking is changing politics forever), Robb notes that Trump’s team leveraged what he calls an open source insurgency to win the election, but is having trouble adapting it to govern. The resistance (or what he calls the Orthodoxy) however, is well-positioned to attack Trump with it’s own open source insurgency, which:

  • arose out of the ashes of the political parties and is growing without any formal leadership.
  • is ALREADY firmly in control of nearly all public forums.
  • enforces opposition to Trump
  • uses social networking to exert pressure on people to accept the orthodox position (in this case: #resistance to Trump).
  • grows through peer pressure and disconnecting deviants from the network.  It doesn’t innovate.  It rejects, cajoles, and pillories.
  • is growing at an accelerated pace because Trump feeds the outrage that fuels it.

I can already see the peer pressure on Facebook and some blogs, but I also see it hardening support from Trump’s followers and increasing divisions between working and technocratic classes. Robb hopes for some sort of participatory network arising to overcome both sides, but believes we are actually prepping for a civil war.

Stumbling Through the Portal

When I was a kid, my mom, brother, sister and I watched a scifi B movie called The Time Travelers late one weekend night. Two university scientists, an assistant and a technician climb through an experimental time portal into a grim future, where the remnants of mankind are beset by starving, bald mutants who all wear the same ragged jumpsuits. The surviving humans have a fortified underground city where they are building androids and a space ship to escape an Earth devastated by atomic weapons. That wasn’t exactly an unusual premise for 1964. We loved it, especially the weird looped ending.

Comet TV showed that film a few weeks ago, followed by Beyond the Time Barrier, which was shot in ten days in 1959. In this grainy b&w flick, an Air Force pilot testing a sub-orbital jet somehow lands in a future where most humans are deaf-mutes hiding in a fortified underground citadel. They, too, are beset by angry, bald mutants, but in this case there had been a cosmic ray plague – resulting from nuclear weapons testing. My sister would have cried at the sad ending.

There’s a great scene near the beginning of The Time Travelers. The technician has stumbled through the portal, then unnaccountably runs out of sight behind some rocks. The two male scientists call out, and then go looking for him. The female assistant scares off two hostile mutants with a fire extinguisher (not too believable). Then she goes through to warn the scientists that the portal is unstable. As the three of them head back, the portal suddenly implodes, and the camera lingers on each of their stunned faces as they process what just happened. And it occurred to me that I and a lot of other people probably looked just like that while we were watching the election returns last November. Because we can’t go back, either. We have crossed into the future.

We’re also beset by angry hordes, some of them the working class in this country, and some the displaced immigrants from countries that we have reduced to failed states, and some displaced immigrants from areas dessicated by the changing climate. Some of us live in cities where everyone seems to be happy, and prosperous, and where they are building robots to take us to a new future. We’re not deaf-mute, but we might as well be because we don’t listen very well. Like the humans in both flicks, we just can’t understand why the hordes are so angry at us, and we can’t imagine reasoning with them. We haven’t gone underground, but we talk about closing borders, building walls, banning protests and running over demonstrators.

I sometimes think we’re the mutants.

Rebuilding the Left

In a piece on 3QuarksDaily, Thomas R. Wells asserts, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS NEOLIBERALISM AND IT IS DESTROYING THE LEFT:

Wells begins with, “The first problem is that there is no such thing as neoliberalism. It exists entirely as a critique by the left. … Nobody ever describes themselves as “neoliberal”. The phrase is only ever an accusation.”

That’s a relief because no one ever self-identifies as a racist or misogynist, either, so it is good to know that there is no such thing as racism or misogyny.

Going further, Wells claims that the term is a flexible straw man that means whatever the critic wants to attack. The American Heritage definition, though, is fairly concise:

ne·o·lib·er·al·ism (nē′ō-lĭb′ər-ə-lĭz′əm, -lĭb′rə-)
n.
A political theory of the late 1900s holding that personal liberty is maximized by limiting government interference in the operation of free markets.

And Encyclopaedia Brittanica’s description is fairly precise:

By the 1970s, however, economic stagnation and increasing public debt prompted some economists to advocate a return to classical liberalism, which in its revived form came to be known as neoliberalism. The intellectual foundations of that revival were primarily the work of the Austrian-born British economist Friedrich von Hayek, who argued that interventionist measures aimed at the redistribution of wealth lead inevitably to totalitarianism, and of the American economist Milton Friedman, who rejected government fiscal policy as a means of influencing the business cycle (see also monetarism). Their views were enthusiastically embraced by the major conservative political parties in Britain and the United States, which achieved power with the lengthy administrations of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1979–90) and U.S. Pres. Ronald Reagan (1981–89).

Neoliberal ideology and policies became increasingly influential, as illustrated by the British Labour Party’s official abandonment of its commitment to the “common ownership of the means of production” in 1995 and by the cautiously pragmatic policies of the Labour Party and the U.S. Democratic Party from the 1990s. As national economies became more interdependent in the new era of economic globalization, neoliberals also promoted free-trade policies and the free movement of international capital. …

I suspect that what Wells is actually concerned about is the replacement of neoliberal globalism, the status quo, which has benefited his class, with something else. He raises the spectre of Trumpism, but I don’t think left-wing critics are advocating that we succumb to the alt-right, anti-immigrant, anti-global fervor that is sweeping the First World. What critics are pointing out is that neoliberal, free-market policies have been applied to mostly benefit an upper class of what Thomas Frank calls technocrats, and what others call a meritocracy, while the people that do, “most of the working and paying and living and dying,” have been pushed into the arms of the alt-right. The people in the upper class are literally being paid to not believe that anything is wrong with the current incarnation of liberalism.

I don’t agree with pundits that are trying to foment anger against the upper class, but I don’t think the meritocracy is at all sustainable, either. Especially if we engage in denial. But deciding on the way forward will not be easy.

In that vein, I ran across this podcast by Debbie Lusignan, who posts on Youtube and Facebook as The Sane Progressive. She is a social media version of that passionate neighbor that buttonholes you about politics while you are trying to trim your hedges.

Lusignan cited Lee Camp’s interview of Nick Brana on RT’s Redacted Tonight. Brana served as national political outreach coordinator for the Bernie Sanders campaign, and was a founding member of Our Revolution  – very much an offshoot of that campaign. Brana and seven others left Our Revolution after the election of Jeff Weaver as its President. Brana was hoping to draft Bernie Sanders to lead his new People’s Party, which would be independent of, and a replacement for, the Democratic Party. Citing a Gallup poll, he claims that over 14 million people have left the Democratic Party to become Independents. Looking at that poll historically, however, it seems that the percentages of identification with Republicans, Independents or Democrats have fluctuated up and down for years without any significant trend. At the moment, Democrats are one percentage point lower than they had been going back to 2004, but in the leaning chart, they are behind only 44 % to 43 %.

Lusignan noted that Sanders had already refused to lead the Green Party, and predicted that he would also refuse this offer, which he did the next day. She also felt that Sanders is being used as a sort of post-election sheepdog – outreach manager – to attract young voters back to the Democratic fold. He wasn’t given any real power or positions in the party – those went to Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Donna Brazile – but they have him out there making speeches, debating with Cruz over the ACA, and endorsing establishment Dems like Schumer.

There will be a lot of this Judean People’s Front sort of thing going on in the liberal/progressive wing, and eventually one movement will shake itself out. The more we participate, the more likely that we will see the type of movement we want.

I am not your enabler

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is doing away with its message boards:

IMDb is the world’s most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity content. As part of our ongoing effort to continually evaluate and enhance the customer experience on IMDb, we have decided to disable IMDb’s message boards on February 20, 2017. This includes the Private Message system. After in-depth discussion and examination, we have concluded that IMDb’s message boards are no longer providing a positive, useful experience for the vast majority of our more than 250 million monthly users worldwide. The decision to retire a long-standing feature was made only after careful consideration and was based on data and traffic.

The example James Pilant cited on his business ethics blog was that many IMDb members have effectively driven down the ratings of the new documentary film about James Baldwin. I Am Not Your Negro has been nominated for a Best Documentary Feature, has a 96/100 Metacritics rating, and a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but only 5.8 out of 10 on IMDb. When I look at the votes at this moment, some 585 have given it a perfect ten, 482 have voted it an awful one, and 300 or so members have voted at some number in between. Pilant’s source had the ones leading the tens about 400 to 300, but readers seem to have responded.

I will be sorry to see the boards go. I like to check on some old TV show like Sky King, or some actress who played a small part in The Time Travelers, and I usually learn some interesting tidbit. But it seems to be the rule that an interesting and informative core group will always be forced out by trolls and abusers. I like to peruse the videos on LiveLeak, but the comments section is a misogynistic, racist and jingoistic nightmare. I watch TYT Network, but the comments are infested by trolls who seem to either love or hate only Cenk or only Ana. And Gamergate, the anti-Social Justice Warrior movement came to light when women objected to being harassed on gaming sites.

I hear you thinking of suggesting moderation, but in my experience trolls are too smart to be held back by anything but a dedicated human moderator with nothing else to do. I like to read some comments sections, and I comment myself, but I’ve stopped feeling like I’m part of a community anywhere.

Oak Tree

James L Dolan is the CEO of Cablevision, Executive Chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company and MSG Networks, and thus primary manager of four sports franchises including the New York Knickerbockers (no one calls them that). Dolan celebrated Black History Month by having MSG guards eject a black former player that has dared to criticize him in the past.

Last night, former Knicks power forward Charles Oakley attended a game at the Garden between his former team and the San Antonio Clippers. I don’t follow pro basketball much, but I had heard of Oakley. While most legendary players get free seats, Oakley and his friends had to buy their tickets. His foursome’s tickets were in pricey courtside seating, on the aisle, near the Knicks’ bench, but apparently not far enough from Dolan.

According to the New York Times reporting, nearby spectators said Oakley appeared relaxed, even sitting for a selfie with a season ticket holder. They did not hear Oakley shouting towards Dolan, though he would hardly have been the only fan to do so, but some did see glances between him and a security guard standing several feet away. One said that Oakley appeared to speak to that guard as he walked by his seat. Then one guard asked Oakley to leave, Oakley asked why, and a scuffle ensued as he protested and was surrounded by guards.

Both John and Patrick McEnroe were photographed among the notables nearby watching Oakley being taken away, while the crowd chanted, “Oakley, Oakley!” Phil Jackson ran into to the tunnel to try to calm Oakley who was being taken to the ground and handcuffed by MSG security and police. Oakley told him Dolan was responsible. Police charged Oakley with three counts of third-degree assault and one count of criminal trespass, all misdemeanors, but he was released with an appearance ticket.

Most media outlets have run with the Knicks’ tweeted statement:

“Charles Oakley came to the game tonight and behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner, He has been ejected and is currently being arrested by the New York City Police Department. He was a great Knick, and we hope he gets some help soon.”

The Knicks also alleged that Oakley was drunk before the game, though no spectators have confirmed it.

According to ESPN, later Oakley told reporters:

“What happened is me and four friends went to the game tonight, to watch the Knicks and Clippers. We did sit down, trying to have a good time. Next thing I know I was asked to leave the building,” Oakley said at a New York restaurant after his release from Midtown South Precinct shortly past midnight ET. “I asked, ‘Why?’ and they said, ‘You have to leave because someone ordered you to leave.’ And I’m like, ‘I’ve been here four-and-a-half minutes.’

“I’m a Knicks fan, played here 10 years. I love the Knicks. I love New York. This is my heart. I wish them all the luck and success on the basketball court. I don’t know why I’m not welcome into the Garden.”

Deep Trump

In previous posts I have included some quotes about what an American Deep State might look like. Many thanks to Felicity for linking to DONALD J. TRUMP AND THE DEEP STATE by Peter Dale Scott on Who.What.Why. Part 1 is mostly about what constitutes the Deep State, and how at least two factions are in opposition:

… those who saw the election as a contest between outsider Trump and a “deep state” tended to give two different meanings to this new term. On the one hand were those who saw the deep state as “a conglomerate of insiders” incorporating all those, outside and inside the traditional state, who “run the country no matter who is in the White House…and without the consent of voters.”[8] On the other were those who, like Chris Hedges, limited the “deep state” to those perverting constitutional American politics from the margin of the Washington Beltway — “the security and surveillance apparatus, the war machine.”[9]

But both of these simplistic definitions, suitable for campaign rhetoric, omit the commanding role played by big money — what used to be referred to as Wall Street, but now includes an increasingly powerful number of maverick non-financial billionaires like the Koch brothers. All serious studies of the deep state, including Mike Lofgren’s The Deep State and Philip Giraldi’s Deep State America as well as this book, acknowledge the importance of big money.[10]

It is important to recognize moreover, that the current division between “red” and “blue” America is overshadowed by a corresponding division at the level of big money, one that contributed greatly to the ugliness of the 2016 campaign. In The American Deep State (p. 30), I mention, albeit very briefly, the opposition of right-wing oilmen and the John Birch Society “to the relative internationalism of Wall Street.”[11] That opposition has become more powerful, and better financed, than ever before.

It has also evolved. As I noted in The American Deep State, (p. 14), the deep state “is not a structure but a system, as difficult to define, but also as real and powerful, as a weather system.” A vigorous deep state, like America, encompasses dynamic processes continuously generating new forces within it like the Internet — just as a weather system is not fixed but changes from day to day.

In Part 2, Scott links the often-bankrupted Trump to lenders with ties to Russian financial interests, making a better case for Russian hacking of the recent election than I have seen elsewhere.

The existence of a Deep State is dispiriting, and makes me feel like a rat in a cage. It is one thing to talk about opposing conservatives, or electing progressives, but that seems like throwing rocks while the apparatchiks of the deep state are targeting drone strikes.

A Way Forward

During the recent presidential campaign, I noted that it was very obvious that the mainstream media (except Fox) and a good deal of the so-called new internet media were pulling for the multicultural globalist candidate. Even though having the media being so clearly in the bag for Clinton may have helped galvanize the support for Trump, it seems that the media are using much the same playbook to try to oppose the new regime. We see very funny skits on Saturday Night Live, impassioned awards speeches by celebrities, and sharp opinion pieces about the new administration. On the Sunday talk shows we see the same old news anchors and pundits that gave Trump free airtime during the campaign now trying to whip up an existential fear of his administration.

The same flimsy news sites that claimed Sanders would win over super-delegates, then that Stein would prove voter fraud, now offer up the false hope that Trump is just about to be impeached. Slightly more serious outlets claim that he is already failing and that our existing institutions will step up to stop him before he goes too far. So what are they waiting for?

The Democrats should be the first line of defense. But though they make some pretty speeches they haven’t, except for Gillibrand, shown the stomach for any serious opposition. Even if they did, they don’t really have the votes. Plus, they are still fighting over whether they are going to continue to be the party that attracts big donations from technocrats, or the party that could possibly attract young Sanders supporters.

In old black-and-white movies the people would be saved by the court system, but in our high-definition world, the Supreme Court will lean solidly conservative with my fellow GP alum Neil Gorsuch replacing Scalia. We’ve seen that attorneys-general can be fired, and that judges can be replaced. The Deep State has been cited, but many entrenched bureaucrats prefer to keep their jobs, and those that don’t are already being purged. Some articles even claim that the Republicans will eventually rein in Trump – though they’ve haven’t shown that ability so far.

No, if opposition doesn’t come from the people, it won’t happen. We’ve seen a lot of peaceful marching, but public protests also provide the stage for black bloc-type thugs to provide violent images for media. Unfortunately, violent opposition plays in to the hands of an alt-right that is already well-versed in violence, is well-armed (with all those guns that Obama was supposed to take away), and, according to the FBI, has infiltrated many local police departments.

Just marching will not be enough. A Counterpunch article, Class War, Yet? suggests an alternative, but it requires work and organization:

The way forward for progressives today, however, is becoming increasingly clear. A new book by George Lakey, co-founder of Earth Quaker Action Group, describes how such egalitarian societies have been formed in other developed countries. His book, “Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right and How We Can, Too” traces the mostly peaceful revolutions of the 1920’s and 1930’s in several Nordic countries, and how much further they went then our own New Deal.

In Norway, for example, workers formed a new “oppositional” party, separate from the existing ones controlled by the oligarchs. The new party established its own newspapers as well since the oligarchs owned the media too. There were strikes and mass actions, but ultimately the workers’ party won by running on a platform that emphasized jobs for all, as well as universal healthcare, free education and pensions for retired workers, all paid for by significant tax increases on the very wealthy. There were no “poverty programs,” vulnerable to cutting by the oligarchy. Basic economic rights were established for each and every citizen, and it became the basis for the culture of the entire society, as well as the source of Nordic pride.

In a recent interview I did with George Lakey, he explained how Norwegian workers came to understand their plight. The majority of the people realized that they had been living in a “pretend democracy.” Even though they had a parliament, free elections and choice of their MP’s, “it was the economic elite that made the main decisions and directed the economy.”

The effect of educating the workers led to a necessary “polarization” of public opinion. The workers “finally understood that there was an economic elite running things and that it opposed what the people wanted, getting rid of poverty. But poverty is just fine for the elite; they are doing great. So we need to polarize, we need to understand that this is a we versus they situation.”

While that sounds good, I doubt that the Norwegians had nearly as fractured a society as we do. We have large groups of European, Hispanic and African ancestry and significant groups of Jews, Muslims, Asians, and Native Americans. It has been fairly easy for the oligarchs to keep us at each others’ throats.