Yes, Warren Is a Lying Liar Who Lies, But It’s Time To Get Back To Beating Joe Biden.

by Russell Dobular

If you’re a Sanders supporter, you’re probably furious with Elizabeth Warren right now. If, like me, you’re a Sanders supporter who’s been going out of their way to say nice things about Warren, you’re probably a little embarrassed too. And if, in spite of her long history of stretching the truth, you’ve been looking the other way, you might feel like you should have seen this coming. I know I have all those feelings, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been responding to her fundraising emails with the kinds of comments that are likely to drive the poor bastards manning her campaign’s info@ box to double down on the Xanax and re-evaluate their life choices. But it’s time to take the win and move on.

What win am I talking about? Well, in case you haven’t noticed, the fallout here has been a victory for the progressive movement on every level. Let’s start with the corporate media. We always knew that if and when Sanders started leading in the polls they would pull out all the stops to blunt his momentum. It was my hope that they would go so over the top in their efforts that it would shred whatever credibility they had left with all but the most dedicated worshippers at the Holy Shrine of CNN and the most devout devotees of the Cult of Maddow. That happened a lot faster than I expected. And we owe it all to CNN and its horrendous debate. The questions were so slanted, and the hostility to Sanders so pronounced, even Mika Brzezinski wasn’t buying it.  And when you can’t convince the corporate shills at Morning Joe that you ran a fair debate, you know the mask is slipping in ways that are hard for the average viewer to miss. That’s probably why #CNNistrash and #CNNisgarbage have been trending on Twitter for the past 48 hours. Progressives have been asking for a long time, “When are people going to wake up and realize this is all propaganda?” Looks like the answer is: now. They’re waking up now. I’d say to send Wolf Blitzer a fruit basket, but no one needs that kind of scrutiny from the FBI.

To understand how epic this fail was, for both Warren and CNN, one only has to look at the numbers. Sanders broke a record for real time debate fundraising in the first hour, with 15,000 donations. That’s 250 a minute, amounting to 43% of total Act Blue donations. Keep in mind that this was at the exact same time that moderator Abby Phillip pulled her now infamous hack move of ignoring Sanders’ denials of Warren’s claims to ask Warren how she felt when “Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election.” There was a time when a signal like that from corporate media would have tanked your campaign immediately, as poor Howard Dean (the Bernie Sanders of 2004) discovered when he had the temerity to scream awkwardly on an open mic. They broke that man so hard with their constant mockery and replays, that he’s a pharmaceutical lobbyist now. He used to be for single-payer health care.

But 2020 is a long way from 2004. Between WMD’s, 2016, Russiagate, and Beto-mania, they’ve lost all credibility with most of the public, and, as usual when it comes to assessing the mood of the body politic, they seem to be the last to know. Sanders has gone on to raise $4M since the debate, from 200,000 contributions, including 25,000 new donors. And he undoubtedly owes a lot of that to Warren’s desperate tactics, combined with the sheer awfulness of CNN.

The other win is the damage that Elizabeth Warren has done to her own campaign. In the end, even if you were well-disposed to Warren, you knew she needed to get out of the race in order for Sanders to consolidate progressive support. Yes, she mostly attracts white, well-educated voters, but we know from polling that around 31% of them will end up with Bernie when she drops out.  I’m expecting that number to decrease in the coming days. Why? Because a lot of those voters are Bernie to Warren voters, who are going to jump ship early and come home to Bernie now. And we owe it all to her campaign’s brilliant decision to launch an identity politics-based smear against the politician with the highest favorability ratings in the Democratic Party. All she’ll have left at that point are the folks who are privileged enough to prioritize her gender over her integrity. By the time the dust settles, she could be under 15% in Iowa. Not even enough to get delegates.

Sure, we’ve had our fun over the last few days, from the Biblical plague of snakes dropped onto Warren’s Twitter feed, to the inundation of Act Blue with requests for Warren donor refunds. And it’s not like Warren didn’t ask for it. In spades. But to keep this going is only going to turn off voters who might otherwise support Bernie when Warren drops out. ‘Cause a lot of those people don’t like Bernie, but they really don’t like Joe Biden. Given a choice between the two, many will come over. Unless we get their backs up to the point that they decide to vote Biden out of spite. Warren will be out of the race before Super Tuesday. But Joe Biden will still be there. Let’s not waste our time on a sideshow when the main event is still to come.

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There’s No Privilege Like Class Privilege – Which is Why We’re Not Allowed To Talk About It.

by Russell Dobular

“You are kept apart that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings. You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both.”-Tom Watson, Georgia Congressman, 1892

It’s a strange time to be a white guy from the American underclass. In a moment when the cultural conversation is being defined by educated elites as one about the inordinate privilege of white people generally, and white men specifically, it puts poor white people in the very odd position of getting “called out” by folks who usually come from far more exalted backgrounds than themselves. It’s kind of like if the villain from Karate Kid grew up to be a social justice warrior and started telling Ralph Macchio to check his privilege. What are you supposed to do with that? These richies have always been around, and they’ve always found reasons to look down on the working class, but in the past they at least had the decency to stay in their lane; if you weren’t part of their world of sports cars as graduation presents and hefty donations securing their slots at Ivy League schools, you didn’t hear from them much. You drank beer on the corner, while they drank cocktails in Daddy’s den, and rarely did the twain meet. Sure, a few daughters of the suburbs, usually the ones with particularly aloof fathers, would make their way to your part of town looking for someone to play Patrick Swayze to their Jennifer Gray, but they never stuck around long. For this new generation of rich white kids though, economic privilege just wasn’t enough. Now they want to virtue signal too.

The thing is, a poor white person and a poor person of color have a lot more in common in the kinds of experiences they’re likely to have, and the kinds of attitudes and values they’re going to cultivate as a result, than either one of them do with someone in the upper 20% of income distribution. Understanding society as a thing that’s been designed to keep you and yours down, seeing the police as enforcers of an unfair system, and the cultivation of a reputation for generosity and reliability among your own, (cuz when you can’t buy your way out of trouble, you never know when you’re going to need help from your network), are attitudes that all poor communities hold in common. I’ve always related to the people I’ve met in jail a lot better than I ever have to the people I’ve met in college. Because of systemic racism, I’ve usually been the lone white dude in the cell on those occasions, and I am not in any way suggesting that POC don’t face a huge, glaring, extra obstacle that poor whites don’t. But I am suggesting that class has more to do with your way of seeing the world than race does, making any discussion of “white privilege” that treats white people as a monolith absurd in its contradictions. By way of example: a friend told me that white people don’t have to code-switch. But if you get me drunk or angry, I sound like I just walked off the set of the Sopranos. That’s my most natural way of speaking. Try getting taken seriously in a university setting speaking that way. When I went away to college, I had to suppress it. I’ve been code-switching since the day I left home. I still slip once in a while, dropping “Lookit ‘dis fuckin’ guy ovah heyah,” and such, in mixed company. I bet Michael Herriott, whose great piece on Pete Buttgieg went viral recently, could relate to that. I definitely related to his story of growing up the book smart kid from a poor neighborhood, who got to go to college. Yet, Herriott describes himself as an expert in “whypipology,” as if those kinds of experiences are exclusive to POC. I don’t know what to do with that either. When everyone wants to deny the reality of your experience, because it doesn’t fit neatly into their preferred narratives about race and class, it can feel like your entire identity is being erased in service to a narrative.

But all ‘whypipology’ aside, I’ve never actually had a working-class POC accuse me of white privilege, probably because people from the lower-classes have a certain way of handling themselves that’s easy to spot if you know the vocabulary. I’ve only ever heard that from other white people, all of whom had it a lot better than I did growing up. That’s because being naïve is a privilege. So’s being an asshole. Poor people can’t afford either, so they usually size up who they’re dealing with based on their actions and aren’t all that quick to jump to conclusions. When you don’t have money, relationships are your most valuable resource. There’s no reason to write off a potential ally in a world that’s stacked against you, until you get a sense of who they are and what they’re made of. When poor people say “ally” they don’t mean a straight person who marches in the gay pride parade to show their solidarity. They mean someone you can call at 3AM from central booking to be there in the morning with your bail. ‘Cause when you’re poor, those things happen. And when they do, you’d better hope someone out there owes you a favor.

Aside from the deflection from their own class privilege that drives wealthy virtue-signaling white people, the phenomena is actually just a new twist on something that’s as old as the country; the cultivation of resentment and mistrust between poor whites and poor blacks, in order to keep them from uniting. In the past this was always done from the white side, meaning it was the poor white people who were flattered and exalted by society’s elites, by way of keeping them from making common cause with poor blacks, and indeed that tactic is alive and well on the political right. But that’s not a tenable approach on the so-called “left,” so instead, elites are exalting POC and denigrating poor whites, which, in the end, has the same effect of keeping them from getting together and fighting against their eternal common enemy: the rich.

There have been both white and black leaders who have attempted to challenge this divide and conquer strategy, from John Brown, to Fred Hampton, to MLK. They all got whacked. Huey Newton, Kwame Torre, Louis Farrakhan; they all made it to a ripe old age, in spite of their fiery and often violent anti-white rhetoric. And Malcolm didn’t get taken out until he re-evaluated his views on black separatism. Stoking racial resentment doesn’t threaten to overturn the apple cart. It actually helps to maintain the status quo. But when you start trying to bridge racial divides by focusing on class solidarity, now that shit is dangerous. That’s one of the reasons Bernie Sanders is so terrifying to the establishment. Old and white though he might be, his views on race and class are dangerously Marxist, and were he to become president, he’s going to be talking a lot less about micro-aggressions, than he will be the macro-aggression to all non-wealthy people that is the capitalist system. They’d much rather have you talking about glass ceilings that people who start life in the basement are never going to encounter, and who is and isn’t allowed to wear a kimono, than to develop a real class consciousness that brings the entire American underclass together under one banner.

So, does this mean we should ignore the reality of “white privilege?” No, of course it doesn’t. I lived in Harlem throughout most of the Bloomberg administration, and I never got stopped-and-frisked once. That honor was reserved for black men on my block, who I would often see getting a pat down on the corner for no good reason at all. To live in a black neighborhood is to see up close and personal that the nightmare police state that only exists for white people in dystopian sci-fi films is the actual lived reality for much of the black population. When white people fret that Trump will bring fascism to America, what they really mean is that they’re afraid Trump will bring fascism to them. Fascism is already here for POC, and always has been.

But woke virtue signaling isn’t going to solve these problems. If it could, they’d have already been largely solved, or at least ameliorated, by now. Since the 50’s, we’ve gone from ‘negro’, to ‘black’, to ‘African-American’, and back to ‘black’, and through it all, the actual economic conditions of blacks in America have barely budged, and actually worsened in some areas, over the past 50 years. Given that the incarceration rate in the black community has increased 16x in that same period, largely as a result of the racially motivated “war on drugs,” you could make the case that things are worse today in some respects than they were 50 years ago.

Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 9.08.47 AM

If language policing and feel-good symbolism had any meaningful real-world impact, why would that be the case? And if rich white people really cared about the underlying causes of poverty, wouldn’t they be spending more time freaking out about the fact that we’ve re-created slavery by a different name through the carceral state, and less time trying to cancel people on Twitter? The truth is, they really don’t give a fuck about POC, and they never have. They only care about preserving their privileges and feeling good about themselves while they do it. POC are used simply as props, in order to deflect attention away from any examination of an economic system that favors those who already have over those who have never had and, in all likelihood, never will have.

So, by all means, let’s keep talking about “white privilege.” It’s real, and it’s important. But lets not weaponize it, and most of all, let’s not allow the concept to divide working people by race the way they always have been in America, going all the way back to indentured white servants and the black slaves they worked alongside from the earliest days of the colonies. Let’s always consider the realities of class and how much impact it has on outcomes and opportunities for people of all backgrounds. And lets not forget that policies aimed at helping working people, like Medicare-for-All, a living wage, and free college, are going to benefit all of us. The struggle for those things must not be derailed as it has been so many times in the past, by internecine fighting over race. When that happens, the only people who benefit are the same wealthy elites that have been keeping us at each other’s throats for the past 400 hundred years. It doesn’t really make a difference if they’re doing that by convincing white people that blacks are inferior, or if they’re doing it by portraying all poor whites as ignorant racists; the end result is always the same. We waste our energies attacking each other, while nothing really changes. If we want to do something truly new in all of American history, we should try not to fall for it this time.

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Who Are Joe Biden’s Supporters? One Op-Ed Writer Accidentally Breaks It Down.

by Russell Dobular

Melissa Henneberger, a regular contributor to the KC Star, and the political editor for the Huffington Post, recently published an article in USA Today that explains the unfathomable in a way that no other pundit has managed to do: who the fuck are these people keeping Joe Biden at the top of the polls month after month? Whether they’re progressive, centrist, Republican, what have you, I’ve never talked to a single person who actually wants to see Joe Biden become the Democratic Party’s nominee. At best, I’ve spoken to a few who have swallowed the “electability” narrative. But an enthusiastic Biden supporter is virtually impossible to find in the wild. We owe a debt then to Ms. Henneberger for voicing her full-throated support for Biden in a column that reflects not only her worldview, but, in all likelihood, the worldview of a lot of these mystery voters who think a man whose every public appearance is a nerve wracking, suspense filled exercise in waiting for him to say something horrible, is the best person to run against Donald Trump.

So, lets start with the headline:

“Joe Biden is my Harvard, not my ‘safety school.’ He really is my favorite 2020 Democrat.”

So, listen Mel (can I call you Mel? I feel like if I’m going to break this down we should get comfortable), I know that a Notre Dame graduate such as yourself who earned her degree in European Studies (of all things) in frikkin’ Belgium (of all places), is probably completely incapable of understanding the class implications of this headline, but as soon as you wrote it, you lost most of the voters who are going to decide the next election. Those would be the same voters who decided the last one: blue-collar workers in the Midwest who are living in third world conditions right here in the United States of America. They don’t have “safety schools,” and they generally don’t go to Harvard, or know anyone who has. Their choices aren’t so much between Harvard and Notre Dame, as they are between food and insulin. Really, if we consider your age (61) and correlate it with this headline, we could stop right here with a pretty good understanding of where a large portion of Biden’s support is coming from. But I have the morning free, so lets continue.

“I keep reading that no one — not even Jill Biden — actually prefers Joe Biden to the other Democratic presidential candidates. Supposedly, he is a front-runner who is solely supported, with tiny sighs and great regret, by those too fearful to follow their hearts. My friend Walter Shapiro has written that Biden is the “safety school” of Democrats — regarded fondly, but the first choice of nobody.”

Okay, so to be fair, apparently you didn’t start this whole “safety school,” thing. You wrote this article in response to your friend Walter’s article. I’m sure you and Walter had a delightful discussion about all this over drinks at some famous Washington watering hole favored by pundits and Senators, after your response went live. But, listen Mel, and this is just a suggestion; maybe if you want to really understand what’s happening in the country, you need to stop taking your cues from folks like Walter, and start spending a little more time with average people. ‘Cause this is starting to sound like a private conversation between two rich assholes that somehow spilled out into the public sphere.

“Early admission: He’s my Harvard, OK? And I do not favor the former vice president because I think he has the best chance of winning, which may or may not be true.

Instead, if the contest were tomorrow, I’d vote Biden because I think he’d do the best job if we did manage to grab the wheel away from a president who reminds me more every day of “Vinny the Chin” Gigante, a mob boss who used to go around New York City in his bathrobe and house shoes, babbling to himself. (Vinny might have been faking madness to stay out of prison, but the guy currently faking sanity to stay in the Oval Office does a pretty good Vinny imitation all the same.)”

Again, with the Harvard. Okay, I guess you’re kinda locked into this conceit now, but Jesus. And, Trump, bad. Got it. So, why exactly do you feel Biden would be the best person to undo the Trump era? Do you have any policy positions of Biden’s that you particularly favor, or any past accomplishments of Biden’s that you can point to as evidence of his exceptional gifts? I’ll wait.

“So how is it that everywhere I go, I meet Biden supporters who don’t know they’re settling? And how is it that only we nonexistent Joe enthusiasts seem to be able to see each other?”

Well, since you’re asking, Biden polls around 28/29%. That means about two-thirds of Democratic voters don’t want him. The ones who do want him, tend, like yourself, to be over 60. So, it’s probably just that you don’t really speak to anyone outside your older, wealthy, white demographic, and that ends up giving you a warped impression of his level of support. Glad I could help.

“At a wedding in New York, changing planes in Washington, over coffee in Boston and on my porch in Kansas City, what I hear from pro-Joe Democrats is hardly resignation. Nor is it some complicated, defeatist calculus about how appealing non-Trump-loving Republicans might find him.”

Sigh. Okay, Mel, breaking down this article is kind of like watching someone shooting arrows all around the target, hitting every spot but the bullseye. You keep on answering your own question. Most people are lucky if they get to take a vacation once in a year. They aren’t gallivanting all around the nation attending weddings and grabbing coffee. Honestly, it sounds nice. But maybe having that lifestyle and surrounding yourself with people who also enjoy that lifestyle has made you completely useless as a political journalist, if the measure of usefulness is to actually understand things.

“Don’t underestimate Biden: He knows what America needs and how to get it done.

A childhood friend in Illinois talks about how blessedly comfortable Biden makes her feel — and if you think “comfortable” means meh, you must have slept through the past three fun-filled years.

His authenticity and experience are exactly what the country needs now, says a former colleague in Florida.”

We get it. You know at least one well-connected rich person in every state, and you’ve polled all of them. I know this is an opinion piece Mel, but even by op-ed standards this is pretty lazy writing. You again offer no explanation as to why Biden is the best choice for the current moment, and your sources are a childhood friend and a former colleague, who themselves have nothing meaningful to say about Biden. He makes one feel “blessedly comfortable,” and another admires his “authenticity and experience.” Might I ask if these friends of yours already have high quality health insurance coverage? If the answer is “no,” I promise to meet you for coffee in whatever East Coast city you happen to be gathering the opinions of upper-class professionals in at the time, and offer you a face to face apology for this entire misunderstanding.

“And best of all, he would have no learning curve, so he could get right to work undoing the damage caused by what’s-his-name, says a therapist in North Carolina.

“He’s a good, honorable, smart, decent, civil man who has dedicated his entire life to public service,” says Morna Murray, executive director of the Rhode Island Disability Law Center and former senior counsel to Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. “He was a great senator and vice president, and I’m pretty sure it does not get much better than that!”

More state-name dropping, more professional class friends who also like Joe Biden, and more vacuous quotes. BTW, Morna, speaking of vacuous quotes, are we talking about the same “great Senator” who made it impossible to discharge student loans in bankruptcy, voted for the Iraq War, and whose crime bill was instrumental in incarcerating a generation of black men? Lemme guess; you have no outstanding student loans, no one close to you had to serve in that war, and you have no experience of the criminal justice system except through your work as an attorney (GW Law, Class of ’86). IM me if I’m right.

Joe Biden isn’t the boringly reassuring candidate Democrats were hoping for.

It’s early in the campaign, and I’m not even trying to win converts; love who you love, and I will, too. But pundits, please stop insisting that nobody is excited about Biden’s candidacy, or that he’s the head-over-heart guy who appeals only to those making a bloodless, Vulcan and strictly strategic choice.”

No, Mel, you’re right. If nothing else you’ve convinced me that he’s the passionate first choice of elderly elites. Point taken.

An empathizer with a giant heart.

Really, have you met Joe Biden, people? I ask because if you’ve glimpsed him at any point over the past 40 years, you may have noticed that his biggest selling point is his giant heart, and the way that after multiple tragedies, he walks through the world as the compassionate consoler and messy, highly emotional and ever-ready empathizer we do need most right now. It’s strange for those of us who appreciate these qualities in him most of all to then be told that we shouldn’t be so passionless and practical in choosing a candidate.”

Privilege is . . . having the luxury of prioritizing personal demeanor over actual policy. Here we are coming to the end of this article and your “big pitch” for Biden. You still haven’t mentioned one way that Joe Biden has made the country better in the course of his decades-long political career, or one policy he’s put forth that will make it better going forward. Your idea of a qualification seems to be, “He’s a nice guy.” I’m sure he is a nice guy one-on-one. He’s also made it harder for families to declare bankruptcy and made it easier to send people to jail for drug crimes. The performance of empathy and the practice of empathy are two different things, Mel. Where the latter is concerned, Biden has used his power in a way that’s downright sociopathic. Why would we want to give him more of it?

“It’s so painful to watch Biden being Al Gored, with every utterance shorn of context in service to the narrative. Then, it was that Gore exaggerated. And he did, but the planet is considerably worse off today because we were saved from that nightmare. Today, of course, it’s that Biden is gaffe-prone. And he is, but by getting stuck on Biden gaffes as we did on Gore exaggerations, the planet will be worse off.”

Gaffes are when you mean to say, “I love it here in New Hampshire” and you say, “There’s a pink elephant in my boat.” In other words, if it’s a gaffe, it doesn’t actually reflect your worldview – its just a random slip of the tongue. Biden classics like this description of Barack Obama, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man,” and the more recent suggestion that black parents don’t know how to raise their children, “Social workers help parents deal with how to raise their children. It’s not like they don’t want to help, they don’t know what to do,” are not “gaffes.” They’re the views of an old, white dude whose idea of what it means to be “liberal” was formed in union halls circa 1975. If you’re comfortable electing someone with those views, you do you, but to suggest these are simple misstatements that don’t reflect Biden’s true feelings is a stretch.

“Now, maybe this is not completely unlike that day in fourth grade when our teacher Miss Wiswall said, “No one in here still believes in Santa Claus, do they?” and I put my hand up and said, “I do.”

Not because I didn’t know the other kids would laugh, and not even because I believed in Santa Claus, but because I wished I did, and wanted to stand up for innocence, or maybe just contrarianism, and against being told what to think. What if some other 9-year-old was sitting there crushed at the news? But back to Joe Biden … Him I do believe in.”

Well, what can I tell ya Mel: one person’s idyllic vision of a simpler, more innocent world, is another person’s crushing lifetime student loan debt, Iraq War induced PTSD, and/or draconian prison sentence. Like Joe Biden, I’m sure you’re a very nice person one-on- one. If we ever do have that coffee, I bet you’ll pick up the tab. But, also like Joe Biden, I don’t think you really give a meaningful, flying fuck about the real problems that real people are facing. I think you like to think you care. But you don’t want to do the work that caring would involve. Like, for example, spending five minutes considering Joe Biden’s record before writing something like this. Or spending an additional five minutes considering the impact those policies have had on people outside the coffee in Boston/wedding in New York set. I mean, you’ve been a professional journalist since the late 80’s Mel. You certainly have the training and resources to figure all this stuff out if you really wanted to. The fact that you haven’t suggests that you don’t. So, listen, the next time you see Walter, tell him I said, “Proletarier aller Länder vereinigt Euch!” It’ll probably scare the shit out him, especially coming from you, but I’m sure its nothing a few cocktails at Bullfeathers won’t resolve. Oh, and also, please for the love of God, and for the sake of the nation, stop cranking out this dreck. I promise you, as I sit here at the writing desk that I rescued from the trash some ten years ago, and which now resides in the bedroom of my fifth floor Harlem walk-up, it ain’t helping the situation. Not even a little bit.

Sincerely Yours,

The Unwashed Masses

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Star Trek vs. Aliens: Which Future Will We Have?

by Russell Dobular

Sci-fi writers have a long history of predicting future technologies and social transformations. From Jules Verne and H.G. Wells predicting the submarine and the tank, respectively, to Philip K. Dick describing CGI, and Isaac Asimov foreseeing the self-driving car 50 years before Tesla began experimenting with the idea, science fiction authors have an uncanny track record of nailing the future. But aside from tech predictions, the heart of most great sci-fi lies in its vision of social and economic arrangements. In cinema, these visions are generally dystopian and/or apocalyptic, although in literature there’s a more balanced ratio between positive and negative imaginings. For every 1984 nightmare, there’s a Stranger In A Strange Land, projecting a future in which humanity overcomes it pettiness and learns to live in peace and prosperity.

But in film, setting aside Mad Max-type post-apocalyptic scenarios, there are two distinct camps: worlds in which corporations have essentially become governments unto themselves, and, well, Star Trek. One of the reasons the franchise is so enduring and beloved is that it’s one of the only positive visions of humanity’s future to ever come out of Hollywood. In Blade Runner, Tank Girl, Code 46, Resident Evil, the Aliens franchise, and a host of others, corporations have either entirely displaced the government, or become so powerful that governments are essentially working for them. Ripley and her crew of salty Marines aren’t fighting for flag or country. They work for “the company,” as a private mercenary force.

Star Trek, on the other hand, presents us with a Marxist utopia, in which technology has provided so much material wealth that the need to earn a living has been eliminated, leaving humanity with nothing to do other than to self-actualize. In a world of “replicators” that can produce food on demand, unlimited clean energy, and advanced, largely automated, medical technology, capitalism just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It may not seem like it with Donald Trump in the White House and corporate power over government a lot closer to the Aliens scenario than Roddenberry’s utopia, but both futures are at hand, and a lot of the social turmoil of our historical moment boils down to a battle between them.

Capitalism, as we’ve known it, can not survive without the need for human labor. The economic collapse of former manufacturing regions gives us a case study in what will happen to most of the country when AI comes for not only blue collar jobs, like truck driving, but service industry jobs like customer service, receptionist, sales clerk, waiter, and cashier and then goes on to displace white collar occupations like paralegal secretary, and medical assistant. In the next phase, even highly skilled professionals like doctors and architects will be displaced by AI’s that can do their jobs more cheaply and with less room for human error. At that point, capitalism can only be maintained in one way: with the use of force. Its no accident then that fascism is on the rise in America. Only a fascist state will be able to preserve our current economic system, even as more and more people fall into poverty and wealth becomes increasingly impossible to attain for anyone who isn’t a media celebrity, a politician, or an heir.

Seen in this context, the fight between Sanders-style progressives, and Donald Trump’s GOP, represents two different responses to the same underlying reality: the center will not hold, and a future in which jobs are almost impossible to come by, is going to be shaped by either socialism or fascism. In other words, its going to either be Star Trek or Aliens. We’re either going to be getting a UBI check every month and going to the doctor free of charge, or we’re going to be living in a corporate-owned police state in which dissenters are labelled “terrorists” and indefinitely detained. Neoliberal capitalism is no longer on the menu, and those who think we can return to a “normalcy” that could only have existed in an economic context that is further deteriorating by the day, are like the 19th Century royalists who desperately tried to preserve a feudal system that could not possibly have survived the industrial revolution, as demands for democracy erupted all around them.

This then is the fight of our times: not neoliberals vs. progressives, or “moderate Republicans” vs. Trump. In the end the real fight is between socialism and fascism. The economic arrangements and assumptions of the last century are simply no longer tenable in the face of rapid advances in AI and automation technology. If you’re still arguing for “good capitalism,” at this point, all you’re doing is throwing up white noise and getting in the way of society having an honest conversation about our most realistic options. The best thing you can do right now, is pick which of these two futures you want, and fight for that future with everything you’ve got. ‘Cause you’re going to be living in one of them either way. Personally, I’m for the one with UBI and transporters.

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Donald Trump Was Just Impeached. Why Don’t Voters Care?

by Russell Dobular

Corporate media is a helluva drug. Its single-handedly kept Democrats chasing one Trump scandal after another for the past three years, without ever telling them how little actual “resistance” to Trump’s legislative agenda there’s been from the same Congress that’s impeaching him now. Even as Pelosi and Schiff were straight out claiming that Trump was a Russian agent, they were simultaneously voting to expand his spying powers. Then they went on to vote for his military budgets time and time again. They gave him an extra $22 billion just this past week, even as they were preparing articles of impeachment. That’s on top of the $108 billion in increases they’ve already given him over the past three years. Democrats in Congress also joined with Republicans this past June to approve a $4.6 billion no-strings attached border bill, that included continued funding of ICE, even as children were being put into cages (more on that later).  These are very peculiar votes to take if you believe the president is a Russian agent, and/or that he’s dangerously unfit for office. But you’ll rarely hear about that on CNN, or read about it in the pages of The New York Times. Just like if you’re a FOX viewer, you won’t hear much about Trump admitting to charity fraud. In the end, these are business decisions. If you tell people what they don’t want to hear, pretty soon they’ll stop watching. This kind of “siloed” reporting, as Matt Taibbi calls it, produces news consumers who are so ignorant and propagandized that not only don’t they know what’s actually going on in the country; they actively resist knowing. Information that doesn’t fit the script goes right down the memory hole or gets branded as somehow “Russian.”

Meanwhile, Trump is enjoying his highest approval ratings since March 2017,  and because of the carefully curated information they have to work with, most Democrats have no idea why. If pressed, they’ll usually offer some variation on the “deplorables” argument: most of the voters are stupid and uninformed. Not knowing the rare pleasure of Jake Tapper getting into high dudgeon while interviewing a Trump administration official, they just don’t know what’s really happening. One of the most Orwellian manifestations of this mindset was the rash of articles and social media chatter after the 2016 election, claiming that the people who voted for Trump need to be “educated.” As if you could just send them all to Camp Neoliberal where they would slowly learn that the decimation of their communities over the past forty years is a good thing, because after all, the stock market is doing great and Ellen is on TV. As to why this nation of deeply racist and uneducated voters elected a black man with the middle name “Hussein” twice, they have no real explanation to offer. If pressed, they’ll often posit that 2016 represented a backlash against that same President, never considering how little sense that makes, given his re-election. If it were a backlash, wouldn’t that backlash have come in 2012, when all those racist deplorables had the chance to vote against him directly? But these are logical arguments, and rarely effective in the face of what is essentially a religious dogma, with its core mythology of light vs. dark and good vs. evil completely impervious to rational considerations. You might as well debate the trinity with a devout Christian. The Maddow doth offer the daily absolution, and yay it shall be received.

The smug arrogance of assuming that voters rank impeachment near the bottom of their list of concerns, with only foreign policy ranking lower, because they’re too dumb or intrinsically foul to “get it,” is pretty typical of the charm offensive that Democrats have been waging against the general public for quite some time, with predictable electoral results. The problem the party is running into selling impeachment is the same problem they run into in most elections; they’ve spent several decades alienating their most natural allies, from union workers, to the working poor, to the middle-class and POC, with policies that completely fucked over those same communities, and as a result, no one likes or trusts them very much. When you’re starting with that kind of trust deficit, rallying the troops is a tall order. Rallying them for an impeachment based on arcane process questions, which themselves can’t be explored without exposing the kind of nepotism in regards to Hunter Biden, that Washington insiders may consider a simple perk of the job, but the average person understands as the legalized corruption that it very obviously is, is nigh unto impossible. Imagine you’re a voter whose once stable middle-class job evaporated with NAFTA, and now you’re working three degrading low-wage jobs just to keep your head above water. Now imagine a Congress made up almost exclusively of millionaires tells you that the thing you really need to be concerned about is the fact that the (maybe) billionaire who won the last election threatened to withhold military aid to a country you couldn’t find on a map, if that country didn’t look into why the son of another millionaire who now wants to be President, got a $50K a month gig with a foreign energy company, without having any relevant qualifications. If the politician who told you that was standing on your lawn, you’d probably beat the living shit out of them on the way to your minimum wage delivery gig at Pizza Hut. I know I would. And so would you. So would anybody. The problem is people with that story have left the party, and the people who remain don’t even know anyone with that story.

The answer you’ll get when you raise these kinds of concerns is always, “But what about the GOP?!” What about them? If you’re the kind of person who cares deeply about whether or not a religious baker has the right to refuse service to a gay couple, the GOP is giving you something. Its not much, but its something. The Democrats are offering them nothing but Russian conspiracy theories and complaints about Trump’s demeanor; a demeanor which, if you’ve grown to hate the Washington establishment, isn’t a bug but a feature. The punditocracy losing its shit with every rancid tweet and every fresh assault on taste and decency, keeps his voters warm at night. Which is important when the heating bill is three months past due.

This is not to say Trump shouldn’t be impeached, or that he hasn’t committed a wide variety of impeachable offenses. As our erstwhile publisher Keaton has suggested, children in cages would have been pretty good grounds. Smart too. Try defending children in cages. Good luck with that. But it’s hard to impeach a president over something that you’ve provided the funding for with full knowledge of exactly where the money was going. So, like the Bad News Bears of politics that they are, and with the total lack of moral clarity that is their calling card, the Democrats have honed in on the one thing you could impeach Trump over, that can’t be discussed without dragging the cokehead son of their former VP into the spotlight. The sheer political stupidity of that choice becomes increasingly evident as the impeachment process drags on, and with it, Donald Trump’s poll numbers go up. Pelosi, in a rare demonstration of political insight, never wanted to do impeachment, and now she’s wisely trying to get out of a Senate trial by demanding things from Mitch McConnell that she knows he’ll never agree to.  That’s about the best anyone can do at this point; dump this turkey and move on to talking about things that are relevant to people in a country where 63% say they couldn’t afford a $1000 emergency. That’s the country Anderson Cooper couldn’t find on a map, although I’m sure he could find the Ukraine pretty easily. The millionaires running the Democratic Party don’t know much about that country either. And it shows.

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Fascism, Intellectualism, and the Liberal Class: Why Centrists Hate Democracy.

by Russell Dobular

No sooner had Donald Trump won the Presidency than centrists launched an all-out assault on every external force they could think of that would deflect responsibility away from themselves and their anointed candidate. Russia, racists, and third parties were the preferred boogeymen, and the number of reassuring articles written in the first six months after the election blaming one, or all, of these factors for Clinton’s loss, was truly staggering. But no matter what cause that in no way involved Clinton’s missteps, DNC rigging, the failure of neoliberal policies leading to the hollowing out of the middle class over several decades, exploding Obamacare premiums, low black voter turn-out, etc., any given pundit chose to explore, the theme was always the same: people who didn’t vote for Clinton were dumb, and people who did vote for her were smart. Those dummies out there off the coasts had either been duped by Russia, seduced by white supremacy, or maybe worst of all, been perverse enough to vote for candidates like Stein and Johnson who had no chance of winning. Nowhere outside alternative media did anyone stop to consider the idea that in a country where 63% of the citizens say they couldn’t afford a $500 emergency,  a lot of people decided that given a choice between a candidate who not only defended the status quo, but explicitly ran on the promise of maintaining it, and one who at the very least would function as a big “Fuck You,” to an establishment they had grown to despise, enough people in enough key swing states found the Fuck You option irresistible to make Donald Frikkin’ Trump the President.

In the years since the election of doom, centrists have gone on to launch a rabid campaign against non-establishment voices and figures, from the suggestion that the Democratic Party should change its rules to not allow independents like Bernie to run as Democrats,  to the suppression of alternative media through the use of draconian algorithms on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Google, to the oh-so-effective tactic of attacking third party voters and politicians. All of these suggestions and methods are aimed at suppressing free speech and limiting participation in democracy in order to achieve a desired outcome – that outcome being the triumph of the smart people.

It’s truly bizarre to see liberals, who have traditionally been sympathetic to the idea of supporting unpopular speech and tolerating, if not appreciating, third party voices, turn towards what are essentially fascist solutions for limiting opinions and political activity. But in the end, it’s the inevitable outcome of a worldview in which you believe that all the smart people hold similar opinions within a very narrow spectrum of acceptable beliefs, and that anyone whose beliefs fall outside of that spectrum is stupid. If you believe that the only reason your side loses elections is because too many of the stupid people get to participate in democracy and that a lot of those people are also too stupid to see through Russian propaganda and Kremlin-influenced alternative media (in this paradigm, all alternative media outlets are an arm of Russian intelligence), then the logical solution is to suppress that media and narrow the intellectual landscape of those voters. In this view, Bernie’s voters don’t support him because he’s offering solutions to long-standing problems that appeal to them; it’s because they’re too stupid to see that their government is far too broken and inefficient to ever deliver any of those solutions. The “smart people” understand that the best we can hope for is a “pragmatic” neoliberal centrist who wants universal healthcare deep down in his or her heart, but will settle for a reduction in prescription drug costs, because that’s how the system works. If in the course of waiting to enter the Valhalla of a permanent demographic majority that’s always just around the corner for Democrats, you happen to be bankrupted by illness, well, that’s the fault of all those stupid people who vote for Republicans. If it wasn’t for Republicans after all, Nancy Pelosi would tell her donors to piss up a rope and go full Norway in an instant.

The thing that liberals are missing in their newfound zeal for the undermining of free speech (ie, protecting the “stupid” people from Russian propaganda) and the accompanying lionization of our intelligence services (after all, they’re protecting us from the Russians) is that they’re helping to build a fascist police state that will turn on them the second it comes into power. From the Patriot Act’s elimination of Habeus Corpus, to the ubiquitous presence of surveillance cameras on city streets, to the way every aspect of our online activities are being tracked and monitored, we’ve already set up all the infrastructure required for a fascist government to exert a level of control over the population that the Nazis could only have dreamed about. Liberals stayed silent as Democrats in Congress supported all of these threats to our most fundamental legal protections,  and now they are the loudest voices arguing for the suppression of third parties and online speech that they disagree with. Just as with the other assaults on democracy that they’ve supported over the years, the potential long-term ramifications seem to escape them, even now that the thing more sober-minded and less MSNBC-indoctrinated people warned of as Obama was busy expanding the surveillance state has come to pass: a fascist is in the White House, and he’s inherited all the NSA toys we gave him.

Right now there are still too many functioning vestiges of divided government for Trump to make full use of the terrifying powers we’ve imparted to the state since 9/11, but one major terrorist attack on US soil, or the outbreak of a serious war, and its only a short step to indefinite detention for activists and opponents of the regime, many of whom will be the same liberals who cheered the arrest of Julian Assange and want to see Edward Snowden put on trial. And thanks to the Patriot Act, which Congress quietly renewed last week,  as long as the government labels the detainees “terrorists,” it will all be perfectly legal.

Sinclair Lewis is often cited as the source of the famous observation, “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and waving a cross.” But the cross and the flag have never really represented the animating spirit of the country. A better formulation for our times would be: “When fascism comes to America it will be holding an iPhone and waving a credit card.” Capitalism and consumerism are the things that drive us. Its no accident then that we’re building our prison one Amazon purchase and Google search at a time. Its also no accident that W’s response to 9/11 was to tell the American people to go shopping. He was never as dumb as advertised; W understood the dangers of harnessing the great desire for civic and community engagement that bubbled up in the wake of such a great national tragedy. When people get together and start helping each other, pretty soon they start asking questions about why the people they’re helping need the help. They start organizing and trying to improve conditions. They become politically engaged. They begin to notice the great gulf between what they’re being told the country is and what it actually is: a white supremacist shopping mall where a few people benefit while most people struggle. Consumerism keeps us all siloed off behind walls of greed, desire, and superficial differences in taste. Better to have them go shopping then, than to have them try to do anything that might connect them to their fellow human beings. Ultimately, fascism is nothing more than an unholy alliance between capitalism and nationalism, combined with a lack of meaningful civil rights and the scapegoating of an “enemy.” As long as you aren’t the enemy, its easy to go along with. So, liberals mostly go along.

But there are other reasons why neoliberal centrists are even more hostile to democracy than their ostensible foes on the right.  One is that they mistake their social justice positions (the only positions they hold that can be reasonably construed as “left”), as inherently anti-fascist. This is because our idea of fascism has been almost entirely shaped by the version of it that arose in Germany. But there’s no reason that the “enemy” in a fascist state needs to be a member of a racial, or religious minority. The suppression of ideas is paramount; the way that you get there is negotiable. It doesn’t really matter if you’re ruling certain ideas and speech out of bounds by labelling them “Jewish,” or ruling them out of bounds by labelling them “Russian.” The end result is the same; the dehumanization of certain classes of people, under the pretense of protecting the state. This is why liberals remained silent even as Chelsea Manning was being tortured for revealing American war crimes in Iraq. The fact that Manning is also transgender reveals the hollowness of even the identity politics that liberals claim to care so deeply about.

The other reason centrists are so supportive of anti-democratic policies is pretty simple: they don’t think the black hoods and the zip ties are ever going to be used on them. Centrists are centrists because the system is working for them. It always has in most cases. They can’t imagine a world where it doesn’t. It’s easy to give away protections and freedoms that you believe you yourself will always continue to enjoy. Just like its easy to support Medicare For All as an abstraction to be achieved at some point in the distant future, if there’s no chance your own family is ever going to be financially wiped out by an illness. Quite simply, they believe that no matter what happens, they’ll always be spared the worst of it.

One final update to the classic formulation then: When fascism comes to America it will holding an iPhone, waving a credit card, and be wildly popular with the liberal class, just so long as the stormtroopers are diverse and their targets have “Russian” ideas.

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Why Sanders is Going To Win Iowa and New Hampshire

by Russell Dobular

Most corporate media horse race coverage focuses in on traditional metrics; donations, money on hand, endorsements/institutional support, and polling of likely voters. It always worked before 2016, and in an industry where the Chinese adage, “The nail that sticks up, gets hammered down,” is the guiding editorial principal, careerist journos are slow to change their methods even in the face of overwhelming evidence that those methods are outdated and useless in the face of a rising populist wave. It’s a big part of the reason that they never saw Trump coming, and it’s the reason they underestimate the very real possibility that Sanders will take Iowa and New Hampshire. Here’s why:

1. “Likely Voters” and Endorsements

Sanders probably has anywhere from 3%-10% support that doesn’t show up in polling of “Likely Voters.” That’s because for polling purposes, “Likely Voters,” are defined as those who have voted in the past. That’s fine for measuring the support of Joe Biden, who sure as hell isn’t going to motivate anyone who hasn’t voted before to start voting now, but it’s completely inadequate for measuring the support of populist candidates, whose pitch is essentially, “Yes, you’re right, this whole system is rotten, and if you vote for me, I’m going to take it on.” That appeal is aimed squarely at turning out people who have given up on the political system and therefore don’t generally vote. Because they don’t vote, they’re invisible in most of the polling. That’s why in 2016 Sanders repeatedly outperformed his poll numbers, most notably in Michigan, where polls showed him trailing by 20 points, while he went on to win the state by 1.5%. This reality also flips the “endorsements” metric on its head. For a candidate like Sanders, an endorsement from Nancy Pelosi would be the kiss of death. For his purposes, the more antipathy he receives from the party establishment, the more non-voters and independents he’ll be able to turn out.

2. It’s The Small-Dollar Fundraising, Stupid.

In the past, measuring the money race meant measuring corporate donations and the haul from high-dollar fundraisers. Even at the beginning of the 2020 cycle, a lot of corporate media coverage focused in on Harris, Beto, and Buttigeig’s traditional fundraising prowess. That was fine when Democratic party voters were still bowing their heads to party leadership, and, more or less, following their signals about who to support. Until 2016, a primary in which actual voters were allowed to participate was a formality; the “shadow primary” in which big donors, and party big wigs made up their minds about acceptable candidates long before the Iowa caucuses got underway were paramount. This process reached its logical conclusion when, in 2016, party insiders decided they didn’t really need the illusion of a competitive primary, and anointed Hillary Clinton alone to be their candidate, with disastrous results. Sanders changed all that, not only by challenging Clinton without the blessing of ‘The People Who Matter,’ but also by going on to out-raise corporate-funded Clinton with an army of small-dollar donors. To make matters worse, in the course of doing so he was impolitic enough to point out the obvious: corporate donors aren’t writing big checks because of their altruism – they expect a return on investment. As a result, traditionally funded candidates like Biden are between a rock and a hard place. With policies that are far too centrist to inspire much devotion from the kinds of people who would donate online, they’re forced to rely on corporate donors, which in turn opens up an easy and effective line of attack for populists like Sanders. Relying on large donations also puts a candidate at a strategic disadvantage when they’re running against a small-dollar funded candidate. Once a donor has maxed out at $2700 (the legal limit), they can’t give again, while millions of people donating small amounts can just keep on giving. That’s a big part of the reason why Biden’s fundraising numbers have plummeted, even as Sanders’ have held steady.  Thus, the important metrics in a post-2016 world aren’t the number of successful Wall Street fundraisers held by a candidate, but the number of individual donors, the overall amount of money raised, and the cash the campaign has on hand. Sanders not only leads in all three of those categories; in the first and arguably most electorally important, he more than doubles his next closest competitor, Elizabeth Warren.

3. Enthusiasm and Volunteers

Sanders has so far held the biggest rallies of the campaign, both overall, and specifically in Iowa.  Not only does this reinforce the case that there’s a hidden Sanders vote on the ground that doesn’t show up in the polls, but it also demonstrates that Sanders’ base is the most likely to actually put in the effort to vote for their candidate. If you’ll drag yourself to a packed rally and stand on your feet through several hours of speeches, chances are you’ll drag yourself down to the polling station and wait on line when it comes time to vote. This is especially important in a caucus state like Iowa, where voting isn’t a simple matter of pulling a lever, but an all evening affair of not only supporting, but advocating for your candidate. Aside from all that, Sanders hit his target goal of 1M volunteers by the end of February. That number is likely to be considerably higher now. No other candidate has anything even roughly comparable to Sanders’ volunteer operation and that’s going to make a ‘yuuuuge’ difference in GOTV efforts.

4. Mayor Pete & Deval Patrick

The conventional wisdom is that Mayor Pete’s rise in the polls will hurt Biden. That’s true to a degree, but the person with the most to lose from Buttigeig’s recent surge is Elizabeth Warren. Although Sanders and Warren are usually lumped together in the public mind, they’re actually drawing from very different pools of voters. Sanders’ voters are more diverse, more working class and younger,  while Warren and Buttigeig are most popular with college-educated whites.  Consequently, a lot of Warren’s base are open to considering Mayor Pete, while Sanders voters soundly reject him. This dynamic can only help Sanders and hurt Warren going into Iowa. To make matters worse for Warren, with Deval Patrick running, some of her neighboring-state-advantage in New Hampshire will be blunted. Patrick’s entry is also bad news for Biden, given the former’s close relationship with Obama, and the widely held belief that he got in the race with Obama’s blessing. That’s going to peel away some of the establishment Democrats for whom an Obama endorsement is something akin to a Papal Bull. With an already shaky, low-enthusiasm campaign, and Patrick’s support coming largely at his expense, its hard to imagine a scenario where Biden takes either of the first two states. With Warren wounded and Biden bleeding, Sanders probably comes out on top.

There are other, less tangible factors that I haven’t explored, like the fact that the Democratic party electorate seems to be growing more disenchanted with its leadership every day, and the way that the more that leadership panics at the prospect of even a Warren victory, much less a Sanders one, the more strategic blunders they seem to be making, like throwing yet more candidates at the problem. It’s really like watching a long-despised aristocracy that’s been far too removed from the public for far too long to understand its mood, trying to justify its own existence, but having no idea of how not to add fuel to the fire with their every utterance. The parade of billionaires, including soon to be candidate Bloomberg, going on TV of late to argue the virtues of unrestrained capitalism, feels something like watching Louis XIV argue the case for the Divine Right of Kings, circa 1788. All this will benefit the Sanders campaign greatly, at which point, if you think the establishment is freaking out now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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