Saturday, December 19, 2015

Corn-Pone Hitler?

I had intended to write about ¡Trumpismo!, and given the comments to my last piece, now seems like a good time. I don't normally like to cover domestic politics, since it's mostly irrelevant to the "big picture" issues I like to deal with here, but I do think the alternative candidates running now do reveal something about the future, chiefly that the center cannot hold and things are breaking down. As I've said so often, sometimes countries just go crazy.

First, the obvious. Trump is running a right-wing populist proto-fascist campaign. His campaign is predicated on national decline and humiliation, and animated by white racial grievance. The current Neoliberal duopoly has basically painted a happy face on several decades of decline in living standards for the vast majority of people in the previously rich industrialized countries, along with widespread unemployment, corruption, a crisis in housing affordability and a gutting of social services.

Given that, how could we not expect some kind of counter-reaction to emerge? Sooner or later it was going to happen. It makes sense that the person able to break through the corporate-owned media's peddling of Neoliberal economic orthodoxy and consent manufacturing would be someone with both the financial means and media savvy to do so.

The mainstream parties offer no solutions to the problems named above. Neither does Trump for that matter, but at least he acknowledges the situation, which is more that can be said for the hapless mainstream political parties. Both parties have had their crack at bat over the last few decades with precisely the same result: they have both have failed to do anything substantial for anyone outside of the donor class. As I've said before, American presidents are similar to their former Soviet counterparts, presiding over and caretaking a system that has no future and is rapidly falling apart. Nation-states have ceded real power to do anything apart from enforce the Neoliberal consensus that the only real duty of governments is to manage international capital markets. The mainstream "safe" candidates have presided over a precipitous and ominous rise of hopelessness, despair and decline, coupled with an epidemic of fraud, graft and corruption at the highest institutions of society. Is it any wonder people are losing faith in institutions? The mainstream parties are the parties of the small circle of winners at the top of society - the financiers, the university presidents, the executive directors, the CEO's, the superstars, and all the grifters who are making out like bandits at the expense of the rest of us.

The Predictability of Political Extremism (Naked Capitalism)

To me, what's most fascinating about Trump is the degree to which he reveals how disgusted downscale white voters are with the party they have been fanatically supporting since Reagan. It is a constant source of wonderment from astute political observers the world over, that the white American working class consistently votes for a party that seems to want to destroy them based on their rhetoric and legislative aims. This is chalked up to a number of reasons, usually tied to the manipulation of racism and religious fundamentalism.

That's partially true, of course, but what I think is the case is that people vote Republican because it's their "team." That is, what the Republicans do and how they govern is largely irrelevant to the people who vote for them. For example, people are Packers fans whether or not the team makes it to the Superbowl or loses a few games. It's their "team," and  being a fan  is a par of your identity. People are loyal to their team through thick and thin, win or lose (just ask Cubs fans). Voting Republican is largely an exercise to affirm one's affiliation to a particular segment of the American population - uneducated, white, rural, religious, gun-toting, church-going and fetus-fetishizing. The Republican party has become the party of affiliation for the downscale whites who have been left behind by Neoliberalism; what I've termed the "rump." As it cynically catered to this demographic to gain political power, it soon adopted all their worst elements - their bellicose and hypocritical religiosity, their lust for war and violence and disdain for the arts and culture, their xenophobia and their hatred. The Republicans are the "team" of rural whites and the executive class. Strange bedfellows to be sure, and that difference is partly behind the recent internal Republican civil war and the rise of Trump.

At the same time, the Democrats are increasingly portrayed as (exclusively) the party of gays, women, and minorities. Inaccurately, in my opinion. I think that the Democrats have let themselves be tarred and feathered with the most extreme elements of the "New Left" at the same time as they abandoned their commitment to putting up even a token resistance to Neoliberal consensus. This is why they are seen as "anti-white." In defense of the Democrats, at the time of the Reagan "revolution," there were plenty of Democrats who were pro-union and opposed to deregulation, outsourcing, and mass immigration. But they pretty consistently lost, so they figured that since that rhetoric got them no votes and alienated the donor class, they might just as well abandon those opinions and start getting the corporate cheddar that was necessary to buy the airtime needed to win modern elections. That was how they survived as a party.

So let's talk about immigration.

Now, I don't think that mass immigration is part of any so-called "conspiracy" against whites in this country. It's all about the money. Cheaper immigrants have always been used to keep wages low and suppress the wages of native-born workers. Employers would hire genetically-engineered chimpanzees or aliens from Zeta Reticuli if they thought they could break the back of the working class, without giving two fucks about the Americans they were screwing over. If blonde, apple-cheeked Nordics were happy to wash dishes for a few bucks an hour, they would be displacing the native population too. The Market cares for nothing besides cheap labor; it has no loyalty to nation, race or class. As I've said before (and as Morris Berman has repeatedly pointed out), there is no loyalty or solidarity in American society; it is purely a competition between alienated individuals over who can rook over the next guy and end up with the most. As Berman writes, unremitting competition is not a social glue, its a solvent, so it's no wonder America is coming apart at the seams.

A century ago, it was immigrants from Central Europe, particularly Austria-Hungary and the old Hapsburg empire who fit that bill. And many of them weren't considered white at the time. They were too swarthy and too Catholic for that. Most immigration prior to that was from Western Europe, particularly the British Isles, along with some French and Dutch. But the new wave was the Central slice of Europe west of France and east of Russia, from Scandinavia down through Sicily: Germans, Austrians, Swiss, Poles, Italians, Scandinavians, Bohemians, Serbians, Greeks, Croatians, Dalmatians, Romanians, Moravians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Bulgarians, and so on, including large numbers of Jews along with Irish fleeing the famine. Milwaukee, where I live, is pretty much comprised of those people today; the descendants of the Central European peasants whose ancestors crossed the Atlantic to survive, in contrast to the Anglo-Saxon-dominated East Coast. My own ancestors were a part of that wave from what is today Eastern Germany (now Poland since the end of the Second World War). My great-grandparents never did bother learning English, getting by with their native Plattdeutsch.

And you heard the exact same rhetoric then as you do today - that the new immigrants were a threat to native workers, which was not entirely false, and that were more loyal to their homelands than America, which turned out not to be true. Now the great-grandchildren of those same immigrants are attending Trump rallies and demanding that the borders be closed.

Note that every spike in immigration is followed by an economic collapse. The supply of workers grows too large, driving down wages. The drop in wages depresses consumption and leads to an economic crisis in a capitalist system devoted to overproduction. The jobs then dry up and the crab mentality sets in. Competition for increasingly scarce jobs leads to xenophobic finger-pointing and scapegoating. In the past, however, the adults were in charge, and took steps to rectify the situation, keeping it from boiling over.

Not anymore.

The current wave is a bit different. They look a lot more like the original inhabitants of this part of the world we wiped out a long time ago. They know how to be poor, which gives them an inherent advantage in a contracting society. The big difference between this wave and the ones that preceded them is that the age of mass employment is over. This is very different from the relatively open country that the previous wave of immigrants found themselves in (many of whom ended up in a largely empty Middle America from Pennsylvania to Oregon). The other is that, since they did not have to cross an ocean and their ancestry is on this continent, there is a lot less pressure or need for them to assimilate. Plus it's a lot easier to get here and harder to close the border, since the ocean is not involved. Rather, America is changing to accommodate them. Sure, previous waves of immigration produced ethnic niche communities and material which catered to them, but they were eventually assimilated. In just a couple of decades, we have essentially become a bilingual society - you can conduct every aspect of life entirely in Spanish (not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion - Americans should learn to speak more languages).

This mass immigration is cheered on conservative websites that cater to the libertarian, business-oriented, anti-worker, think-tank-funded country-club arm of the Republican party--the ones funded by people like the Koch Brothers. I'm thinking of sites like Marginal Revolution and Bloomberg. "Left-leaning" economists like Noah Smith and "small-'L'-libertarian economists like Tyler Cowen are constantly beating the drum for more immigration, even as they freely acknowledge the death of the working class and the rise of automation. That mass immigration and unlimited free trade are good things is one of the few things that the mainstream corporate-funded Left and Right consistently  agree on.

The Moral Is the Practical (MR)

Does increasing inequality weaken the case for additional low-skilled immigration? (MR)

An Immigrant Won't Steal Your Raise (Bloomberg)

In fact, the Left and Right uniting against Neoliberal corporate rule is the elites' worst nightmare.
That's the reason behind the divide-and-conquer strategies that have been deployed so effectively by the wealthy and the media - to keep people from realizing their common enemy. It's an old tactic - Jay Gould quipped that he could hire half the poor to kill the other half. Today it would be rural gun-toting white Christian fundamentalists fighting Hispanic lesbian union activists or latte-sipping urban hipster professionals. Simple pie.

In fact, they've been so good at divide and conquer that they are tearing the nation apart for their own selfish ends. As long as people are preoccupied on racial/gender issues on so forth, they will never form a united opposition to the forces that are skinning us alive. The problem is that they've done it so effectively that the the country simply cannot function to accomplish any coherent goals at all. This power vacuum is good for powerful elites who can use their money to act as a de-facto government unto themselves. By cynically manipulating the fissures in American society, big business has successfully neutralized any opposition to its hostile takeover of the levers of power, but it has left a hollowed out country desperate for a savior in its wake. As Lincoln so aptly said, a house divided against itself cannot stand.
“Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal,” [Bernie] Sanders said in a wide-ranging interview with the website. “That’s a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States.” 
Sanders frequently targets the libertarian industrialists Charles and David Koch as unhealthy influences on American democracy — but he’s not the first to notice their support for an open borders policy. 
The conservative Breitbart and the white supremacist VDARE website each blasted the Koch brothers for sponsoring a “pro-amnesty Buzzfeed event” in 2013, and two writers for the Koch-sponsored Reason — former contributing editor David Weigel and current editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie — have always been supportive of immigration reform.
That’s at odds with what many Republicans believe, and Sanders told Vox that an open border would be disastrous to the American economy. 
“It would make everybody in America poorer — you’re doing away with the concept of a nation state, and I don’t think there’s any country in the world that believes in that,” Sanders said. “If you believe in a nation state or in a country called the United States or (the United Kingdom) or Denmark or any other country, you have an obligation in my view to do everything we can to help poor people.” He said conservative corporate interests pushed for open borders, not liberals.
Bernie Sanders explodes a right-wing myth: ‘Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal’ (Raw Story)

Note how it is couched in the rhetoric of "freedom." Footloose and desperate labor is a plutocrat's dream. As I like to say, if you see the words "Freedom" or "Liberty" in connection with "Economics," look very closely at where the money is coming from and who benefits for their proposals.

However, on the ground, Republican voters are not stupid. they are well-aware that if they hire workers to fix their pluming or install a new roof, those workers are all going to be speaking Spanish. They know that the kitchen staff of every restaurant they go to is filled with people straight out the beanfields of Mixoacan.  And they don't understand why those people can travel thousands of miles not speaking a word of English and have a job ready and waiting for them while their own unemployment benefits are running out and they are turned down for even the most trivial service job. They also wonder why their children are the ones populating urban schools and parks. And if you point this out, the corporate-owned media is eager to denigrate you with labels like "racist" and "nativist." Trump is largely a reaction to this.

Now, I don't think that immigrants are in any way "threatening" America's culture. Quite the opposite, actually. You cannot threaten American culture because there is no culture. America's only "culture" is making money. It is not so much a civilization as a business proposition. Its soul is hollow and empty inside, and there is nothing in it's back heart besides pandering to the lowest common denominator, Social Darwinism, and the eternal need for "more." You can't destroy what never existed.

What it will do it make it crowded enough that the uniquely American fantasies of rising living standards in perpetuity and social mobility will wither and die on the vine. Right now the generations who experienced those things are having an emotional tantrum and looking for a daddy/Santa Claus figure who will promise them all the goodies they think they so richly deserve, and Trump is all to happy to occupy that role in the service of his own ego. When yet another savior fails to deliver, there will be yet another meltdown, accompanied by all the same symptoms -  political extremism, class warfare, ethnic scapegoating and mass shootings of the poor by the poor. After a few centuries of madness, we may end up with a society more in line with a shrinking world and with a polity that can be trusted to make mature decisions not based knee-jerk reactions and fear.

Robert Reich has been touring the country promoting his latest book, and to his credit, he is one so-called leftists who tries very hard to understand the perspective of those who disagree with him. What he finds is that on the economic issues, there is surprisingly little difference between the so-called liberals and conservatives who are constantly played against each other:
It turned out that many of the conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers I met agreed with much of what I had to say, and I agreed with them. For example, most condemned what they called “crony capitalism,” by which they mean big corporations getting sweetheart deals from the government because of lobbying and campaign contributions.
I met with group of small farmers in Missouri who were livid about growth of “factory farms” owned and run by big corporations, that abused land and cattle, damaged the environment, and ultimately harmed consumers.They claimed giant food processors were using their monopoly power to squeeze the farmers dry, and the government was doing squat about it because of Big Agriculture’s money.
I met in Cincinnati with Republican small-business owners who are still hurting from the bursting of the housing bubble and the bailout of Wall Street. “Why didn’t underwater homeowners get any help?” one of them asked rhetorically. “Because Wall Street has all the power.” Others nodded in agreement. Whenever I suggested that big Wall Street banks be busted up – “any bank that’s too big to fail is too big, period” – I got loud applause.
In Kansas City I met with Tea Partiers who were angry that hedge-fund managers had wangled their own special “carried interest” tax deal. “No reason for it,” said one. “They’re not investing a dime of their own money. But they’ve paid off the politicians.”
In Raleigh, I heard from local bankers who thought Bill Clinton should never have repealed the Glass-Steagall Act. “Clinton was in the pockets of Wall Street just like George W. Bush was,” said one.
Most of the people I met in America’s heartland want big money out of politics, and think the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision was shameful. Most are also dead-set against the Trans Pacific Partnership. In fact, they’re opposed to trade agreements, including NAFTA, that they believe have made it easier for corporations to outsource American jobs abroad. A surprising number think the economic system is biased in favor of the rich. (That’s consistent with a recent Quinnipiac poll in which 46 percent of Republicans believe “the system favors the wealthy.”)
Reich goes on to describe the attraction of Trump to these voters. He couples the rhetoric and white racial affiliation of the Republican party with the pro-capitalist "everyone can get rich rhetoric," while mining the grievance of Americans who see the inexorable decay of their living standards and communities along with feeling like strangers in their own country. To some extent, he's doing what the Democrats did long ago - steal rhetoric from the other side that appeals to the marginalized middle. The Leftist views find no articulation of these views on the Democratic side save for Bernie Sanders. So why not vote for Sanders? Well, especially for the older white voters of Middle America who grew up during the Cold War, the constant demonization of "socialism" (and Bernie's Jewishness) are deal-breakers. But they can feel good about Trump.
I...began to understand why many of them are attracted to Donald Trump. I had assumed they were attracted by Trump’s blunderbuss and his scapegoating of immigrants. That’s part of it. But mostly, I think, they see Trump as someone who’ll stand up for them – a countervailing power against the perceived conspiracy of big corporations, Wall Street, and big government.
Trump isn’t saying what the moneyed interests in the GOP want to hear. He’d impose tariffs on American companies that send manufacturing overseas, for example.  He’d raise taxes on hedge-fund managers. (“The hedge-fund guys didn’t build this country,” Trump says. “They’re “getting away with murder.”) He’d protect Social Security and Medicare. I kept hearing “Trump is so rich he can’t be bought.”...
What I Learned on My Red State Book Tour (Robert Reich)

The Revolt of the Anxious Class  (Robert Reich)
A focus group of Trump supporters conducted by pollster Frank Luntz earlier this week revealed that, by and large, Trump's backers are pessimistic about the future of the country and passionately hate President Barack Obama and the mainstream media. They're wary of Muslims and steadfast in their support of their candidate, even to the point of being willing to follow him in an independent presidential bid if he leaves the Republican Party.

In September David Brady and Douglas Rivers of the Hoover Institution took a closer look at the demographics of Mr Trump's enduring coalition. They painted a picture of Trump supporters as largely older, less wealthy and less educated. They found that more than half of Trump-backers are female. About a third are over the age of 65. Only 2% are younger than 30. Half of his voters have a high-school diploma, but just 19% have a college degree. Just over a third earn less than $50,000, while 11% make six figures or more. Ideologically, Mr Trump's people are all over the board, with 20% identifying as moderate, 65% as conservative and 13% as very conservative. When the New Yorker entered the race, he pulled support from nearly every candidate in the field.

All of this raises what the Washington Post's Max Ehrenfreund calls a "fundamental, universal and uncomfortable" truth about Donald Trump and his now more than four-month run as the man to beat in the Republican primary. He spoke to a number of psychologists and came up with three key sources of Mr Trump's appeal. "We like people who talk big," he writes. "We like people who tell us that our problems are simple and easy to solve, even when they aren't. And we don't like people who don't look like us."
Who are Donald Trump's loyal supporters? (BBC)

In other words, the peasants that have been dutifully turning out and voting in radical right politicians over the last few decades are fully aware they're being screwed. They just don't see Democrats as a viable alternative, and who could blame them? And a true leftist movement which could articulate these fears and unite the diverse elements in American society who are usually at war with one another has been successively stymied to date. Trump says the things everybody knows are true, but cannot be articulated by parties dedicated to the pursuing policies demanded by the donor class. And unlike Sanders, Trump has enough celebrity to make past he media gatekeepers. He is fully aware that modern elections are a circus, and treats it as such. In fact, the media has been so discredited by parroting the Panglossian corporate rhetoric in the face of decline that they have undermined their credibility to such an extent that anything they say, even if it's true (such as there were not thousands of Muslims in New York celebrating 9-11, or that climate change is real), will be dismissed.

It's no surprise populism needs to be the "right-wing" variety in a country like the U.S. As I've said before, the Republican party is no longer a party, it is an authoritarian movement, and authoritarian movements need a leader. What's also interesting is the degree to which Putinism, a Russian nationalist authoritarian movement, is admired by right-wing Republicans in the US. I guess Russkies are OK as long as they aren't commies.

Donald Trump's Putin Admiration Is Completely Within the Political Mainstream (Gawker)

Note that the desire for a strong and decisive leader whom humiliated males emasculated by an economy that no longer needs them as workers or soldiers can live vicariously through is preciously the same sentiment that propelled the rise of politicians like Hitler and Mussolini, among others.

Which brings us to the Fascist part. In an intelligent article at Slate, the columnist uses Umberto Eco's definition of Fascism to point out that Trump's campaign first the bill rather nicely:
Part of the problem of talking about fascism, at least in American political culture, is that there’s nothing close to a common definition. ...Most often, it’s a political insult, usually directed from the left to the right, but often in the reverse too, always in service of narrow partisan points. This is too bad because fascist and fascism are terms that actually mean something apart from contemporary political combat and the particulars of early- to mid–20th-century Europe. And while that meaning is fuzzy, contested, and contingent, there are elements that scholars can agree on.
[Umberto] Eco emphasizes the extent to which fascism is ad hoc and opportunistic. It’s “philosophically out of joint,” he writes, with features that “cannot be organized into a system” since “many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanacticism.”
...A cult of “action for action’s sake,” where “thinking is a form of emasculation”; an intolerance of “analytical criticism,” where disagreement is condemned; a profound “fear of difference,” where leaders appeal against “intruders”; appeals to individual and social frustration and specifically a “frustrated middle class” suffering from “feelings of political humiliation and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups”; a nationalist identity set against internal and external enemies (an “obsession with a plot”); a feeling of humiliation by the “ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies”; a “popular elitism” where “every citizen belongs to the best people of the world” and underscored by contempt for the weak; and a celebration of aggressive (and often violent) masculinity.
How does [Trump] build favor with Republican voters? He shows bravado and “strength,” disparaging weak opponents. He indulges racist rhetoric and encourages violence against protesters. He speaks directly to the petite bourgeoisie in American life: managers, public employees, small-business owners. People squeezed on all ends and desperate for economic and cultural security against capitalist instability and rapid demographic shifts, as represented by President Obama. Elect him, Trump says, and he’ll restore your security and American greatness. “You’re going to say to your children, and you’re going to say to anybody else, that we were part of a movement to take back our country. … And we will make America great again.”
Why Fascist Is the Term That Best Describes Donald Trump (Slate)

Trump has also called for the mass detention and incarceration of individuals based on nothing more than their ethnic/religious affiliation.

Here's what I think. I think Trump is a narcissist and opportunist, and that he realized that the Republican party had become a right-wing authoritarian movement comprised of the downwardly mobile angry white temporary majority, and that furthermore it had built effective distributed institutions to catapult the propaganda and rally troops to the cause, but it lacked a single charismatic leader (with the long-dead Reagan as a stand-in). The organization was there, built by a diffuse group of unconnected plutocrats to get lower taxes and higher profits; it just needed someone to come along who knew how to wield it effectively and had no shame in pandering to its worst elements.

How Donald Trump courted the right-wing fringe to conquer the GOP (Washington Post)

Most of the evidence shows that many of the opinions Trump is spouting contradict things he himself said years ago. I doubt he believes half the things he says, but he realized that by articulating the things conventional politicians can't or won't say to avoid offending their donors, he can fill a vacuum in American politics. And if this rabble includes the most ugly racist and crackpot elements in society, who cares so long as it gets you more power and popularity? The only thing that matters is getting the votes to win, because winning is all that counts in a morally nihilistic society.

This article is by far the best analysis yet of the Fascist angle of Trump's campaign and the American ultra-right in general: Donald Trump May Not Be a Fascist, But He is Leading Us Merrily Down That Path (Orcinus) It's quite long, and you need to read it all. One thing it points out is that most of the popular definitions of Fascism are simply wrong:
What it’s decidedly not, no matter what you might have read, is the simple-minded definition you’ll see in Internet memes attributed to Benito Mussolini: “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” As Chip Berlet has explained ad nauseam, not only did Mussolini never say or write such a thing, neither did the fascist philosopher Giovanni Gentile, to whom it is also often attributed.

For one thing, as Berlet explains: “When Mussolini wrote about corporatism, he was not writing about modern commercial corporations. He was writing about a form of vertical syndicalist corporatism based on early guilds.” ...the term “corporatism” and “corporate” meant an entirely different thing in 1920s Italy than it means today...

Another thing that fascism decidedly is NOT is the grotesque distortion made by Jonah Goldberg, to wit, that fascism is a kind of socialism and therefore “properly understood as a phenomenon of the left.” This claim, in fact, is such a travesty of the idea of fascism that it functionally negates its meaning, rendering it, as George Orwell might describe it, a form of Newspeak. Indeed, it was Orwell himself who wrote that “the idea underlying Fascism is irreconcilably different from that which underlies Socialism. Socialism aims, ultimately, at a world-state of free and equal human beings. It takes the equality of human rights for granted. Nazism assumes just the opposite.” Fascism, in reality, is a much more complex phenomenon than either of these definitions...
Yet in many ways, Trump's campaign is quite different from the Fascist campaigns that have existed historically: we consider the attributes of real fascism, we also can begin to discern the difference between that phenomenon and the Trump candidacy. Fascists have, in the past, always relied upon an independent, movement-driven paramilitary force capable of enacting various forms of thuggery on their opponents...Trump, however, has no such force at his disposal.
 What Trump does have is the avid support not only of various white-supremacist organizations, as well as that of very real paramilitary organizations in the form of the Oath Keepers and the “III Percent” movement, many of whose members are avid Trump backers, but neither of which have explicitly endorsed him. Moreover, Trump has never referenced any desire to form an alliance or to make use of such paramilitary forces.

What Trump has done is wink, nudge, and generally encouraged spontaneous violence as a response to his critics. This includes his winking and nudging at those “enthusiastic supporters” who committed anti-Latino hate crimes, his encouragement of the people at a campaign appearance who assaulted a Latino protester, and most recently, his endorsement of the people who “maybe should have roughed up” the “disgusting” Black Lives Matter protester who interrupted his speech.
That’s a clearly fascistic response. It also helps us understand why Trump is an extraordinarily dangerous right-wing populist demagogue, and not a genuine, in-the-flesh fascist. A serious fascist would have called upon not just the crowd to respond with violence, but also his paramilitary allies to respond with retaliatory strikes. Trump didn’t do that.

That, in a tiny nutshell, is an example of the problem with Trump’s fascism: He is not really an ideologue, acting out of a rigid adherence to a consistent worldview, as all fascists are. Trump’s only real ideology is the Worship of the Donald, and he will do and say anything that appeals to the lowest common denominator of the American body politic in order to attract their support – the nation’s id, the near-feral segment that breathes and lives on fear and paranoia and hatred.

There’s no question these supporters bring a singular, visceral energy to the limited universe of the GOP primary, though I don’t know anyone who expects that such a campaign can survive the oxygen and exposure of a general election. Indeed, it is in many signs an indication of the doom that is descending upon a Republican Party in freefall, flailing about in a death spiral, that it is finally resorting to a campaign as nakedly fascistic as Trump’s in its attempts to secure the presidency.
 Trump is not fascist primarily because he lacks any kind of coherent, or even semi-coherent, ideology. What he represents instead is the kind of id-driven feral politics common to the radical right, a sort of gut-level reactionarism that lacks the rigor and absolutism, the demand for ideological purity, that are characteristic of full-bore fascism.

That does not, however, mean he is any less dangerous to American democracy. Indeed, he may be more dangerous than an outright fascist, who would in reality be far less appealing and far less likely to succeed in the current milieu. What Trump is doing, by exploiting the strands of right-wing populism in the country, is making the large and growing body of proto-fascists in America larger and even more vicious – that is, he is creating the conditions that could easily lead to a genuine and potentially irrevocable outbreak of fascism.

Recall, if you will, the lessons of Milton Mayer in his book, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945 – namely, the way these changes happen not overnight, but incrementally, like the legendary slow boiling of frogs... It is by small steps of incremental meanness and viciousness that we lose our humanity. The Nazis, in the end, embodied the ascension of utter demonic inhumanity, but they didn't get that way overnight. They got that way through, day after day, attacking and demonizing and urging the elimination of those they deemed their enemies.

And this is what has been happening to America – in particular, to the conservative movement and the Republican Party – for a very long time. Donald Trump represents the apotheosis of this, the culmination of a very long-growing trend that really began in the 1990s....All of which underscores the central fact: Donald Trump may not be a fascist, but his vicious brand of right-wing populism is not just empowering the latent fascist elements in America, he is leading a whole nation of followers merrily down a path that leads directly to fascism.

Consider, if you will, what did occur in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s remarks about “roughing up” Black Lives Matter protesters: Two nights later, a trio of white supremacists in Minneapolis invaded a Black Lives Matter protest there and shot five people, in an act that had been carefully planned and networked through the Internet.

What this powerfully implies is that Trump has achieved that kind of twilight-zone level of influence where he can simply demonize a target with rhetoric suggestive of violent retribution and his admirers will act out that very suggestion. It’s only a step removed from the fascist leader who calls out his paramilitary thugs to engage in violence.

America, thanks to Trump, has now reached that fork in the road where it must choose down which path its future lies – with democracy and its often fumbling ministrations, or with the appealing rule of plutocratic authoritarianism, ushered in on a tide of fascistic populism. For myself, I remain confident that Americans will choose the former and demolish the latter – that Trump’s candidacy will founder, and the tide of right-wing populism will reach its high-water mark under him and then recede with him.
Trump seems to be sort of a Rorschach test, people see in him what they wish to see, which is obvious from the divergent views in the comments. This is a quality that the most successful politicians need to have in order to succeed. Everyone sees in him their own fears and their own needs.

Personally, it's hard to take the hyperbolic rhetoric, mugging for the camera and shock of comical orange hair seriously as some sort of threat to civilization. But then again, I'm sure a lot of people made fun of Hitler's spittle-flecked speeches and silly-looking mustache and cowlick too. But the joke was on us. It wasn't so funny anymore in the prison yards of Dachau or the ruins of Berlin circa 1945. My guess is that Trump is nothing so sinister, and I hope that's the case. But I guess we'll have to wait and see.

P.S. More evidence of the dieoff: Drug overdose deaths in the US reach record levels (BBC)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Other Dieoffs

Last week I realized that there were a few subtleties left out of my (rather depressing) topic. I argued that America was doing more than just throwing its working class under the bus; it was actively trying to eliminate them. Meanwhile, the media, especially that tailored to the richest twenty percent of news consumers, is consistently waxing ecstatic on how this is the "best, richest, most peaceful time, ever," because Facebook, even though most of us Americans are living in communities that are in an advanced state of decay, if not outright collapse.

The point I wanted to make is that the dieoff is happening not only at the end of life as we saw last week, but also at the beginning. By this I mean that it's simply too expensive to have kids anymore.  Lowered birthrates are a sort of "stealth dieoff" among the lower classes, and the upper ones too.

Now, lowered birthrates is certainly something I can get behind, but I would rather it have come from choice rather than economic necessity. I realize that not everyone is like me, and for some, the desire to breed is unstoppable. The rich are perennially complaining that the poor are having children they can't afford, a very Anglo-Saxon complaint that goes back several hundred years. Of course, the poor will continue to breed no matter what because a child costs nothing to produce, and if their ancestors hadn't behaved the same way after all, they wouldn't be here. The idea that poverty will stop the poor and indigent from breeding has a poor track record, especially with the numbers of poor and indigent consistently rising. All it means is that more children will be born in poverty, and we now know that there are a host of behavioral and epigenetic consequences of that. Most certainly, the fallout from that will once again be placed on individual failure rather than social circumstance.

Scientists Find Alarming Deterioration In DNA Of The Urban Poor (HuffPo)

The number of kids in the US would be shrinking if it weren't for immigrants. Americans are castigated for having children they can't afford, with entire communities, especially rural ones, bereft of well-paying jobs. Meanwhile people in these communities see a massive influx immigrants with huge families working in all the blue collar occupations that they used to do. Is it any wonder that anti-immigrant demagoguery is a political winner in decaying Middle America? Corporate America felt they could keep a lid on this situation forever, even as they cynically stoked this reactionary fervor to delegitimize the very idea of the common good to gain tax benefits and hide the stealth takeover of government. Now they cannot control the demon they have unleashed. The nihilistic philosophy purveyed by the Right of every man for himself has reaped a whirlwind that even they can no longer control. It was only a matter of time before someone hijacked it and used it for their own personal ends.

This article is from the British newspaper The Guardian, but is just as relevant to the United States:
These hurdles to the world of adulthood continue to be a great source of sadness and anxiety, and I’m not alone. For swathes of people in their 20s and 30s, who largely thought they would be at least a bit sorted by now, achieving the adult lives they want seems a distant fantasy. Spiralling property prices coupled with the fetishisation of housing as an investment – expressed through buy-to-let properties and often poor rental conditions – means secure housing is off the table for many of us as we continue to subsidise our much richer landlords...The recession, unstable and unreliable unemployment, low pay compounded by a pensions shortfall and an ageing population, have all led to a situation in which many members of my generation feel not only short-changed, but helpless when it comes to building some semblance of a stable family life. While our generational predecessors, the baby boomers, reaped the rewards of free university education and affordable property prices, we have been disproportionately affected by austerity... 
Jealousy towards baby boomers is an everyday occurrence. You’ll be sitting in a bar with friends and hear them lament the fact that their parents had bought a house by the time they were 27. .. Generation Y – or millennials, if you must – are still often portrayed as existing in a state of perpetual kidulthood; we’re Peter Pans who never want to grow up. Yet many of us are desperate to do so. 
Unaffordable housing and living costs are often portrayed as a “London problem”. “Why not simply move?” detractors say, as though career opportunity, family ties or personal finances are not an issue. Yet I spoke to people in their 20s and 30s from all over the UK, and many felt the same way: that their chances of getting to the point where they are stable enough to settle down and have children are slim to none. Many of them feel great sadness about this, not only because they look to their parents’ generation and see opportunities they’ve never had, but because a gulf is opening within our own generation – between those who can start a family or whose parents can help them get on the property ladder, and those who can’t.... 
The more people I spoke to, the more apparent it became that this is not just about generational divides, but about class. Interviewees were forever mentioning friends or acquaintances who had been privileged enough to buy, while those from low-income backgrounds lost out.
'Babies? An impossible dream': the millennials priced out of parenthood (Guardian)

The decay of America's working class is often chalked up sort of a moral turpitude, and this is depicted as something that emerged as a fallout of the permissive 1960's, despite the fact that it more exactly coincides with the shuttering of factories all over the country than the flower children. The lower classes are consistently depicted by the media as stupid and lazy, and thus deserving of their plight. Meanwhile, the wealthy are depicted as increasingly hard-working and morally upstanding, constantly either studying for another certification or working to the point of exhaustion, and pushing their sheltered, overprivileged children to study hard and get into a good college so they can keep up with the Joneses. Yet at the same time, these poor, working class white Americans are held up as moral exemplars of the nation; the "Real Americans," in contrast to the swarthy, godless, libertine city-dwellers living it up on welfare. Middle Americans get the mixed message that they are morally superior than the lazy, dark-skinned masses in the cities (where most of the economic activity takes place), at the same time as their communities are being overtaken by violence, family breakdown and chronic drug abuse. It's a rather schizophrenic view, to say the least.

I recently read this comment on Disinfo :
Viewing this site without Adblocking software is quite the experience. Right now, I've got two professional wrestling ads and an ad for Kohls up top. Down at the bottom: 
"The way Kim Kardashian lost her virginity is disgusting!"
"25 sexy girls who don't hide that they're bisexual!"
"14 selfies taken right before death!"
"20 unseemly moments caught on Walmart security cameras!"
"24 stars who forgot to wear underwear in public!"
Something about ultimate female fighter Ronda Rousey. 
It's like the server is emanating from "Idiocracy," targeting the oh so coveted "13 Year Old Boy Who Jacks Off 23 Times a Day" demographic. 
When I click on the banners, I'm brought to a site running so many simultaneous video ads that my computer freezes. "Gee, thanks! Say, could I perhaps buy something from you?"
This is in reply to a Matt Taibbi article, America is too dumb for TV news.
It's our fault. We in the media have spent decades turning the news into a consumer business that's basically indistinguishable from selling cheeseburgers or video games. You want bigger margins, you just cram the product full of more fat and sugar and violence and wait for your obese, over-stimulated customer to come waddling forth. 
The old Edward R. Murrow, eat-your-broccoli version of the news was banished long ago. Once such whiny purists were driven from editorial posts and the ad people over the last four or five decades got invited in, things changed. Then it was nothing but murders, bombs, and panda births, delivered to thickening couch potatoes in ever briefer blasts of forty, thirty, twenty seconds. 
What we call right-wing and liberal media in this country are really just two different strategies of the same kind of nihilistic lizard-brain sensationalism. The ideal CNN story is a baby down a well, while the ideal Fox story is probably a baby thrown down a well by a Muslim terrorist or an ACORN activist. Both companies offer the same service, it's just that the Fox version is a little kinkier.
And this coming not long after "Black Friday," in which we are treated to scenes from all over the country of herds of people camping out outside in the freezing cold on one of our few holidays outside the blank, cinderblock boxes of suburban wasteland, so that they can trample themselves to death to secure a new big-screen TV, video game or juicer.

It does seem like Idiocracy, which was theoretically a parody movie, is increasingly an accurate depsiction of our society right now. We currently have a reality TV star running for president. What else is Donald Trump but our very own President Camacho?

Idiocracy is now. How much further can society plummet?

On this news website, chronicling just one area (upstate New York), every article was a depiction of the horror show that Middle America has become:

Mother hid dead body of 11-year-old daughter missing for over a year in freezer, police say

Rome police: Teen shot girlfriend's baby after trying to stand with loaded gun

Man checks into Syracuse hospital with gunshot wound, but won't say what happened

Armed Arizona man threatens Islamic community in Upstate NY

In Louisiana, a 'picture-perfect' family of 4 is dead in murder-suicide

Mississippi Man Guns Down Waffle House Waitress After She Asks Him Not to Smoke (Alternet)

Citing mass shootings, Upstate NY sheriff urges citizens to carry guns

This is not the sign of a healthy society. This is a society in the grip of madness. This is the other dieoff.

America is one giant tapestry of scam artistry. From pedophiles in Congress, to hedge-funders jacking the price of drugs, to shaking down taxpayers to fund sports stadiums for billionaires, to gutting finance laws, everywhere you turn there is a scam where someone is either trying to rip someone off, or is getting ripped off. And those who are getting ripped off are busily looking to get in on the hustle where they take advantage of someone else below them. It's a society of predators and prey. And we think this is somehow normal. How much longer can a society like this last?

Isn't it time we start acknowledging that this is what capitalism is. I mean inherently. It's the law of the jungle. It's every man for himself. It's the "survival of the fittest." It's everyone jockeying for some sort of advantage, every minute of every day, morality be damned. It's a society dedicated to nothing else besides getting every last dollar from the next guy by any means possible. It's appealing to the lowest and basest instincts in humanity. Yet we're told that "naked self interest" is natural and is the sole engine of prosperity, and that extreme inequality drives us to "achieve" by the pseudoscience of economics, and most of us appear to believe it.

This is the society we've made for ourselves. Are your proud of it? So is it any wonder there's a backlash, whether from religious fundamentalists or radical political ideologies like Trumpism?
...on the free market it is legal and customary to instrumentalize our fellow human beings, violating their dignity because our goal is not to protect it. Our goal is to gain personal advantage, and in many cases this can be achieved more easily if we take advantage of others and violate their dignity...What is decisive is my attitude and my priority: am I interested in the greatest good and the preservation of the dignity of all, which is something which affects me automatically and which I benefit from as well, or am I primarily interested in my own welfare and my own advantage, which others might, but will not necessarily draw benefit from? If we pursue our own advantage as our supreme goal, the customary practice is to use others as means to achieve this goal and to take advantage of them accordingly. 
If we must constantly fear that our fellow human beings will take advantage of us in the market as soon as they are in a position to do so, something else will be systematically destroyed: trust. Some economists say this doesn’t matter because the economy focuses completely on efficiency. But such a view must be disputed, for trust is the highest social and cultural good we know. Trust is what holds societies together from the inside – not efficiency!..The interim conclusion to be drawn is radical: so long as a market economy is based on pursuit of profit and competition and the mutual exploitation that results from it, it is reconcilable with neither human dignity nor liberty. It systematically destroys societal trust in the hope that the efficiency it yields will surpass that achieved by any other form of economy.
10 Moral Crises That Have Resulted From Unfettered, Free Market Capitalism (Alternet)

This comment to a Barbara Ehrenreich piece at Naked Capitalism describes one major reason the white working classes, especially who have bought into the "rugged individualism" ethos, are being skinned alive by this economic system.
I believe this analysis is missing a very important component. True, historically poor whites have experiences somewhat more privileged conditions than minorities (admittedly even today they still do), but that traditional privilege has simultaneously caused them to be somewhat more fragile, less resilient than other oppressed groups. Poor whites are more atomized, isolated people in America. They do not have, nor have access to, the same cohesive social structures that have tended to develop among minorities as a survival mechanism against white oppression in the past. 
I don’t say that as a theory, but rather as experienced reality. In the trailer park my family still lives in minority groups tend be gregarious and social among themselves (and honestly among others as well if one were inclined to invite himself as I often was). From my experience they were mostly psychologically stable and had a good ability to roll with the punches. The poor whites on the other hand were near universally drug addicts and thieves, and even when they did (or do–they’re still there I mean) form (weak) social bonds they’d nevertheless steal from each other or rat each other out to the police regardless. This was something I never saw happen among minorities (though I’m sure it does happen; I just didn’t see it at all).
Anyway to continue on, I believe that our economic system is in decline across the board, and that everyone’s wealth and prosperity are taking a hit on average (and the poor are getting the worst of it, as is common in collapsing societies–as I believe I understood from Jared Diamond’s work as well as a Sciencedaily anthropology article I read a while back). This being the case, I put the two together and come up with the idea that poor whites simply do not have the social frameworks, that were previously forged by oppression among the minorities, required to survive a declining society–and thus are dying off.

Which coincides with my observations.

Of course there are no social bonds in a society where it's every man for himself trying to gain personal advantage. Humans were not meant to live like this. The endgame of such a society is Colin Turnbull's description of the Ik in Uganda, also brought about by a rapid onset of scarcity and deracination. We're doing the elite's dirtywork ourselves. They don't have to massacre us if they can get us to massacre each other.

Meanwhile, among the "meritocratic elite" winners, things are not looking so rosy either:
The rich middle- and high-school kids Luthar and her collaborators have studied show higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse on average than poor kids, and much higher rates than the national norm. They report clinically significant depression or anxiety or delinquent behaviors at a rate two to three times the national average. Starting in seventh grade, the rich cohort includes just as many kids who display troubling levels of delinquency as the poor cohort, although the rule-breaking takes different forms. The poor kids, for example, fight and carry weapons more frequently, which Luthar explains as possibly self-protective. The rich kids, meanwhile, report higher levels of lying, cheating, and theft. 
One of the two major causes of distress, Luthar found, was the “pressure to excel at multiple academic and extracurricular pursuits.” ...From their answers, Luthar constructed a profile of elite American adolescents whose self-worth is tied to their achievements and who see themselves as catastrophically flawed if they don’t meet the highest standards of success. Because a certain kind of success seems well within reach, they feel they have to attain it at all costs—a phenomenon she refers to as “I can, therefore I must.” Middle-class kids, she told me, generally do not live with the expectation that they should go to Stanford or earn $200,000 a year. “If I’ve never been to the moon,” she said of middle-class families, “why would I expect my kids to go there?” The yardstick for the children of the meritocratic elite is different, and it can intimidate as much as it can empower. 
The second major cause of distress that Luthar identified was perhaps more surprising: Affluent kids felt remarkably isolated from their parents.... 
Since Levine wrote The Price of Privilege, she’s watched the stress in the Bay Area and in affluent communities all over the country become more pervasive and more acute. What disturbs her most is that the teenagers she sees no longer rebel. A decade ago, she used to referee family fights in her office, she told me, where the teens would tell their parents, “This is bad for me! I’m not doing this.” Now, she reports, the teenagers have no sense of agency. They still complain bitterly about all the same things, but they feel they have no choice. Many have also fallen prey to what Levine calls a “mass delusion” that there is but one path to a successful life, and that it is very narrow. Adolescents no longer typically identify parents or peers as the greatest source of their stress, Levine says. They point to school. But that itself may suggest a submission of sorts—the unquestioned adoption of parental norms.
The Silicon Valley Suicides (The Atlantic)

One of the reason the children of the elites feel such a sense of anxiety is by design. We've made sure that anyone who doesn't make it into the "cognitive elite" now lives a life of persistent humiliation, desperation and scarcity, constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the debt collectors and predatory law enforcement. And now they can't even afford to have a family, as we saw above. Add to that the fact that the social safety net is being gutted every day because it is "unaffordable," even as the pool of jobs is inexorably shrinking. Is it any wonder they're being driven to neurosis, even to the point of taking their own lives?

It's yet another dieoff.

So who exactly is thriving in a society like this? Because I can't find anyone. Yet we're constantly told by economists that this is just the "natural" evolution of society, as inevitable as the phases of the moon or the law of gravity. There is simply nothing to be done but stomp down on the pedal of more growth and innovation. Really?

Can there be any doubt after reading stories like those above, that something is seriously wrong? for those of us who don't live in gated communities, or the rarefied communities in Manhattan, Washington D.C. or Los Angeles where all of our media originates, we can see this with our own two eyes. We see the dysfunction around us. Yet the media constantly denies it. It's dedicated to stoking our fears and insecurities to push product. Can there be any surprise that people in this frightened and decaying nation are turning to someone like Trump who ignores the economists and promises to "make us great again?" It was only a matter of time before someone did it.

Now, you might accuse me of cherry-picking the sordid and sensationalist stories above. I collected them last week entirely by happenstance intending to write about them, but in the interim, something else happened that you may have heard about. As cynical as I am, even my breath is constantly getting taken away.

I once wrote that mass-shootings will become so common in America that the media won't even bother to cover them anymore. One remarkable thing about the massacre in San Bernardino was that it managed to completely obscure the other gun massacre that took place on the very same day! And it pushed coverage off of the religious fundamentalist massacre at an abortion clinic less than a week before. In other words, there are so many gun massacres that the media cant even cover them all!
Of the 30,000-plus people killed by firearms each year in the United States, more than 11,000 of those are homicides. That means there are more than 30 gun-related murders daily. 
The San Bernardino massacre marked the 353rd mass shooting in America this year alone, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which defines a mass shooting where at least four people are either injured or killed. 
“You have 14 people dead in California, and that’s a horrible tragedy. But likely 88 other people died today from gun violence in the United States,” Everytown for Gun Safety’s Ted Alcorn told the New York Times. 
In 2015 to date, according to the Gun Violence Archive, 12,223 people have died as a result of gun violence in America, while another 24,722 people have been injured.
“We’re having a mass shooting every day, it’s just happening under the radar,” Jon Vernick, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Centre for Gun Policy and Research, told
New York Daily News front cover divides America: ‘God Isn’t Fixing This’ (
Legislation that was unobjectionable to the George W. Bush administration—laws that would simply prevent people on the FBI’s consolidated terrorist watch list from buying guns or explosives—are voted down in Congress. A physician, running for president, say,  “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” And 185,345 background checks to buy guns were processed on Black Friday alone—a new record. According to the FBI, “The previous high for receipts were the 177,170 received on 12/21/2012—a week after Adam Lanza killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.” Mass killings turn out to be extremely good news for the gun industry. 
Beyond the frequency and the brutality and the futility of effecting changes, maybe this is a statistic worth noting. As Joshua Holland writes: “Perhaps the most frightening thing we know about gun violence comes from a study conducted by researchers at Duke, Harvard, and Columbia that was published earlier this year in the journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law. It found that almost one in 10 Americans who have access to guns are also prone to impulsive outbursts of rage. Among this group are almost 4 million people who carry their guns around in public and say they ‘have tantrums or angry outbursts,’ ‘get so angry [that they] break or smash things’ and lose their temper and ‘get into physical fights.’ ” This is not about mental illness; it’s about anger, violence, and fear. And in no small part because of mass shootings, we become more angry, violent, and more fearful all the time. 
And while we read the same articles, and make the same phone calls, and buy more guns, and grow more frightened, one other thing does change. Our schools go into lockdown. More and more. Thursday in Denver (“reports … of an armed person at the school”). Thursday in Pleasant Grove, Utah (“after a student reported another student with a gun”). Thursday in Chicago. Thursday in Palm Beach, Florida. Thursday in Dallas. Thursday in Savannah, Georgia. Thursday (and two other days this week) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Friday in Philadelphia. Wait, what? Kids bring guns to schools? In what universe does this surprise us? For our children, a world of daily shootings and daily lockdowns is the way they will have been raised. For them, as a friend who lives near one of Thursday’s lockdowns puts it, “It’s not if. It’s when.”
Mass Shootings are Changing Us (Slate)

The irony is that, when it comes to real resources, America is one of the best placed societies in the world. We waste upwards of forty percent of our food and energy on a daily basis. While we do import oil, this is mainly due to our profligate ways rather than true scarcity or "need." Our population density compared to land area is the envy of Europe, much less places like India, China and Nigeria. We have the resources to give people a much higher standard of living in an industrial decline situation than much of the world, it's just that our frontier growth mentality and bootstrap ideals dictate that life must be a hard struggle, and that allowing the rich to accumulate massive fortunes is somehow not only morally, but also practically, ideal.

I feel somewhat fortunate that I understood from an early age that the American lifestyle is toxic just be observing the lives of people around me. I never bought into the bullshit, and it seems like the people who did are the ones who are struggling, particularly mentally. My circumstances are somewhat similar to this woman from the article cited above:
Some might argue that expectations are now simply too high. Thea, 26, certainly thinks so. “I come from a working-class background, so, while I have had some financial help from my parents when I’ve been desperate – I’m talking a couple of hundred quid a month – the onus has always been on me to achieve and get where I want to be in life. I’ve not had anything ‘handed’ to me, like a house or substantial amount of money that would help me settle down in future.” 
But it doesn’t bother her too much. “My upbringing and background have helped me accept my current situation. Despite not having much money as a kid – we never went abroad, for example – I never felt I missed out on anything. I do think my expectations of what constitute necessities – foreign holidays, owning a house or car – are lower than those of some of my peers who had more middle-class upbringings.” 
Thea has never wanted children and, as an only child, knows that she will inherit her parents’ house when they die. “I think the country, as far as wages, property, poverty and my generation actually being able to build secure finances, is in an absolute state and something undoubtedly needs to be done. But I also think part of the problem is that so many people go to uni now: it devalues a degree (I don’t have one) and doesn’t guarantee anyone a job. So you’re left with broke, unemployed twentysomethings in debt.”
In my office context, I saw countless examples of people pursuing the "American Dream" of going deep into debt for a fancy degree, clawing their way up the career ladder by working 80-hour weeks and hitting the links, marrying someone from a suitable class background, pumping out the babies immediately thereafter, and moving out of their cozy, walkable neighborhoods to a bloated starter mansion out in the distant exurban wastelands, with the requisite hour-plus commute to be in a good school district (and moving another ten miles out with every raise or promotion). This is the good life? Really? I had no intention (or even opportunity) to get into the competition of who has the bigger house, or whose kids have the best SAT scores, or any of that nonsense. Being born on the bottom with no family has its advantages. You don't have to be a hermit to not buy into this society's bullshit, you just have to think for yourself, something most people are conditioned never to do, because if they did the whole thing might fall apart.

But then, again it's all falling apart anyway.

UPDATE: Apparently there was a hostage/shooting situation in Wisconsin today.