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Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Say what you will about the mainstream media, they are still doing genuine reporting.  Take a look at this Washington Post story.  I will not try to summarize the central theme.  You would simply conclude that old Bob had finally flipped his wig.  One thing is clear:  the people caught up in this sort of collective fantasy are unreachable by evidence, logic, appeals to patriotism, religious faith, or anything else I can think of.  A sizable portion of this country's 330 million inhabitants are just plain bats**t crazy.  


Tom Cathcart said...

Hmm, maybe the founding fathers were right to try to protect us from too much democracy!

Chris said...

To counter this:

Ed Barreras said...

Chris, what could Obama have done to keep those steel mill's open? Could he have prevailed upon the factory owner's directly, as T***p did with Carrier? (And isn't it starting to look like that whole thing was just a prop, what with the CEO now saying the company plans to speed up the automation process?)

In fact, Obama proposed a jobs bill, an infrastructure bill, trade adjustment assistance, community college assistance -- all of which could have put many of those people to work, but these were blocked by the Republican Congress. Do you suppose those Ohio voters realize this? And if they don't realize it -- if they naively bought T***p's presumably empty promise to bring back steel jobs -- aren't they culpable for their ignorance. It may not be stupidity on the level of Pizzagaters, but still...

Links to articles about Obama's blocked programs:

Ed Barreras said...

Furthermore, that Van Jones CNN clip seems to illustrate the problem. The entire discussion was about how the voters *felt* about the two candidates. There was no policy discussion whatsoever. That woman said that Hillary didn't give her a positive reason to vote for her, but suppose Jones had thought to quiz her on even the superficial details of Clinton's policy proposals (which weren't hard to discover). Do you suppose she would have drawn a blank stare? I think she might have.

Which brings up Tom Cathcart's point. Here's a nice video presentation on why Socrates hated democracy (from the "School of Life" series on YouTube, which is generally wonderful -- they've got a good one on Marx!).

Unknown said...

Trump seems to view the trade issue as a one-way street: we are doing others a favor by opening their markets to us. That's true, but not the whole truth. Others opened their markets as well to the benefit of our exporters. If we don't comply with the agreements, others will react in kind, to the detriment of Americans whose work involves the export of goods or services.

But even this is a little bit backwards. It implies that we import in order to export, when it's really the other way around. We're also all consumers, and when we go shopping we "export" money and "import" goods and services Why would we want to increase our "exports" of money? Imports also give consumers more choice. What kind of car are you driving? Mine comes from Sweden.

A major problem we have is with our social safety net. We have a grossly underfunded adjustment assistance program for workers displaced by imports. Virtually nothing for those displaced by technology. Today an individual steel worker produces 5 times as much finished steel as a worker did 30 years ago. Digital photography destroyed thousands of jobs in Rochester NY, but no adjustment assistance was made available to those people. We spend about one-sixth of the OECD average for job retraining programs. The major reason for that is Republican refusal to fund the meager programs we do have, and to establish others.

We could learn a lot from post-WWII Germany. Unfortunately, we seem to be following too many of Germany's pre-WWII policies. Or perhaps we can go back further than that and asked if we've elected our Cleon.

Chris said...

Sander's has already detailed what could have been done to save the jobs, in his response to Trump's carrier deal. It's not rocket science.

Moreover, I actually think their feelings are just fine. You act as if just because a candidate has X as a policy therefore that policy stands some vague chance of getting passed. If a politician is spineless, easily swayed, naive, and constantly seeking approval, then their policies really aren't the be-all-end-all of the reason to vote for them. Policy alone is not a sufficient condition for making a vote, when character determines the degree to which those policies will be pursued or compromised.

As Wolff points in In Defense of Anarchism, we're really starting to see the degree to which the commentators here are more authoritarian and committed to rule without autonomy, then they are to the ideal goal of direct democracy. If you don't vote like me you're stupid and the problem, and should be controlled and denied rights. Great....

Chris said...

Just to be clear "If you don't vote like me you're stupid and the problem, and should be controlled and denied rights." - is NOT what I BELIEVE.

Anonymous said...

Eh, Clinton didn't really run that much on her policies, so it's pretty understandable why people would not know a lot about them. She largely ran on a platform that Trump is a really mean guy, and on the other hand she is a person who deserved to be president. I've been going back and reviewing her TV ads and they are astounding.

Also, liberals turning on democracy after this election was pretty predictable, but certainly no less appalling for it.

Jerry Fresia said...

"...protect us from too much democracy...."

I wonder what group "us" is this time?

Here's my fantasy: take one of those "us" people and put her or him in a factory for 35 years with highly
developed time motion studies dreamed up by the "us" people replete with zero decision making opportunities,
zero opportunities to articulate anything or exercise her or his powers in any way, except with timely and dutiful expressions of obedience. And during that 35 year career trajectory, have that exploited rump of human nature scramble somehow someway to pay the bills as her or his wages remain not just pitiful but stagnant all the while the smart guys make up stories about the threat of Saddam, saving humanity in Libya, how voting is a right, how Jessica Lynch was really Audie Murphy, how the son that was wasted in Afghanistan died protecting his or her freedom, how his or her miserable life is a monument to US exceptionalism, how the Apprentice guy coming through the tube for 12 years represents the greatest qualities ever exhibited by a human being, and how the bat shit crazy news network, the most popular new source in all of America, is fair and balanced - oh, and how Hillary had arrived in the nick of time to save her or his ass.

If you take a stradivarius and use it as a tennis racket you won't get Brahms. But as the empire goes down the tubes, the "us" people will knowingly whisper, "It's the crisis of democracy."

Chris said...

Anonymous I agree. In order to find Clinton's policies I had to pro-actively go through her website, but even that changed a lot and so you had to compare various interviews, along with the internal mechanics of what her staff were and weren't saying in e-mails. The theme of her campaign seemed to be "breaking down the barriers" - wtf does that mean? "America is already great" - not a catchy slogan for the bottom 50%, and "stronger together" which still confused about.

Whereas Trump was explicit everywhere he went "the system is rigged, and they sold your jobs away a long time I'll get em back". Of course Trump sounds more attractive as a candidate, and he talked about his policies everywhere he went.

Ed Barreras said...



When I first watched that Van Jones clip it made me nauseous. I watched it again, and now it's everything I can do to keep from vomiting. I wish I could go second by second through that clip to point out everything awful about it. Suffice it to say that if this is the kind of facile, manipulative, whitewashing dreck that gets regularly featured on CNN, I'll count myself lucky not to have bothered to tune in in the past decade-plus. What's most disheartening is that it's from Jones, whose appearances I've liked (when I happened to catch them on YouTube). I can only guess that the package was edited according to the preferences of the TimeWarner overlords. If I were Jones I'd be pissed.

The family seems very nice, don't get me wrong. But hearing them talk you can feel the waves of palpable ignorance. Start with the fact that the father seems to actually believe that Hillary Clinton wanted to "take our guns away," by which he means, specifically, hunting rifles -- and how on earth will they eat when the economy goes bad?! (Jones managed to voice a timid correction on this point -- thanks Van!) And regarding the mother professing to being a lifelong Democrat who couldn't vote for Hillary because of "morals," I'll again note that Jones failed to do his investigative-reporter's duty by asking her to elaborate -- which alone makes this segment almost completely worthless. Had he done so, however, you just *know* she would have muttered something about "emails" and/or "Benghazi". I can't prove this, of course. But there's a huge clue in the sort of non-specific way she criticizes Clinton. The term "morals" in particular strikes me as especially buzzwordy, as if it were a stand in for every-conservative-talking-point-about-Clinton. (And I have to note that moral turpitude isn't a charge they level at Obama [they think he "represents love"] even though as far as I'm concerned Clinton and Obama, both technocratic centrists, are pretty much interchangeable).

Then there's the father complaining that Clinton "forgot about us" and "hurt us" (cue the maudlin keyboard soundtrack). This also went un-elaborated, though he seems to be especially galled by the fact that Clinton didn't personally visit their steel town to meet the people face-to-face -- a complaint that seems grounded in the somewhat narcissistic presumption that all the attention that's showered on them every four years must be a result of their being especially deserving, and not because they happen to live in a state that candidates need to visit because polls show it's toss-up. Guess what, Scott. Hillary Clinton didn't walk through the downtrodden urban areas of Los Angeles, either. And yet African-Americans and Latinos in those counties voted overwhelmingly for her. It could be that people in these areas have more sense, or it could be they just have less of a sense of entitlement.

Ed Barreras said...


To me it seems clear that this is a family whose knowledge of politics doesn't go beyond horse-race sloganeering. In the end they were more convinced by Trump's commercials than Clinton's. (She's Coming For Your Guns! Emails! She Turned Her Back on You, the Little People! Her Morals are Suspect!) But isn't this is exactly what we should expect from policy-agnostic, horse-race-centric CNN (or so I remember, and so I've heard)? What was sold to us as a sympathetic insight into the mind of a Trump-voting family turned out to be one big, unenlightening reinforcement of the CNN "brand" of infotainemnt. And really, it's CNN who I'm mad at. For all I know I'm totally wrong about this family. Perhaps they did engage in a cogent discussion of policy, which ended up on the cutting-room floor. But if that's the case, then shame on CNN for deliberately neglecting to give any context whatsoever.

Do you suppose that this family knew that Obama -- after being prevailed upon by Al Franken, among others -- took measures to remedy the sharp downward trajectory of the US steel industry has suffered over the past two years? And he did it through executive order, of course, since the Republican Congress would be damned if they handed Obama a political victory. (Not a word about that unprecedented obstructionism.) Or do you suppose they knew that Clinton has addressed the recent plight of steelworkers and made proposals to help them? Did they know about Trump's use of Chinese steel for his buildings? The fact that NAFTA or China entering the WTO had virtually no effect on US steel production? That most of the steel jobs left thirty years ago? That the last three Republican presidents tried imposing tariffs on steel to little effect? If they didn't know any of this, maybe they've been watching too much CNN.

Finally, I can't resist mentioning the piece de resistance, which was the family being given a chance to absolve themselves of the stereotype of the foaming-at-the-mouth Trump supporter who hates Mexicans and Muslims. So if you're an average CNN viewer watching this, the most you came away with, substantive-wise, was that Trump supporters aren't racist (in fact, they help minorities!), that they just want to keep their guns so they can feed themselves, and that Hillary Clinton was so world-historically awful that all the wicked stuff Trump said during the campaign didn't (to quote the father) "add up to a hill of beans." Wow.

F Lengyel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
howard said...

There are sociologists who explain such irrational political behavior via charisma.
Charisma creates authority. Trump's particular form of charisma appeals to a certain element, who might not think rationally in a conventional way. They were ripe for his moment They contrive and conjure reasons to tag along with him and he knows the musical score that hits their sweet spot.
Charisma- some people think he's the coolest thing ever

Tom Cathcart said...

Jerry, you read an awful lot into my ironic comment. I don't really believe in Philosopher Kings. But I also don't think the Reddit crowd is the finest flower of democracy. (Nor is the elitist bad behavior you cite.) Maybe you're right that the guy who shot up the pizzeria on the basis of Internet rumors did so solely because he's a victim of social oppression. I don't know (though that sort of reductionism always seems suspect to me.) In any case, it's terrifying that both the pizzeria shooter and Gen. Flynn get their "facts" from fake news sites, and, yes, it is enough to make one fantasize about Philosopher Kings.

Ed Barreras said...

Tom, I knew you were being ironic. And surely this is a place where someone should feel free to state the obvious pitfalls of democracy. Referencing Wolff's book on anarchism, Chris posited that we are "authoritarians" for rueing the political power of the ill-informed (a word too polite for the Pizzagaters). However, it seems to me that the opposite is true: this is a perfect illustration of the tyranny of majoritarian democracy. It's *our* autonomy that's being violated by our having to submit to the authority of that colossal ignormaus who is now the president-elect (who wasn't even supported by the majority FFS!).

Jerry Fresia said...

Tom, you have a point and I should have been more careful in not personalizing my comments. I was intending to respond to the tendency among elites in our republic who fear democracy (from the Framers on down to Samuel Huntington) and who frame their anxieties and fears as the "crisis of" (read too much) democracy, and who also spread fake news themselves (Iraq) but then beat up on "stupid" types who believe in fake news that isn't first polished up and made palatable by media PR experts - which the smart people then gobble up with patriotic fervor. Concisely then: Sloppy fake news is bad and anyone who believes it is deplorable. Official propaganda is good (necessary illusions) and anyone who believes it is smart, professional, the adult in the room, and ought to have power.

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