Wednesday, October 31, 2018

New York Times Discovers Cyber Racism

There is a ton of ugly, nasty, racist stuff on the Internet, and it occasionally inspires somebody to tear himself away from his screen long enough to commit mass mayhem. And The Times is on it.

In light of the well-publicized eruption of Internet-addicted people who act out correlating with Trump's racist rhetoric, columnist Frank Bruni goes so far as to flatly predict that "the Internet will be the death of us."  

What a glittering dream of expanded knowledge and enhanced connection it was at the start. What a nightmare of manipulated biases and metastasized hate it has turned into....
The internet is the technology paradox writ more monstrous than ever. It's a nonpareil tool for learning, roving and constructive community-building. But it's unrivaled, too, in the spread of lies, narrowing of interests and erosion of common cause. It's a glorious buffet, but it pushes individual users toward only the red meat or just the kale. We're ridiculously overfed and ruinously undernourished.
It creates terrorists. But well shy of that, it sows enmity by jumbling together information and misinformation to a point where there's no discerning the real from the Russian.
Bruni fights disinformation not with truth, but with disinformation of his own. It seems that he either didn't hear, or chooses to ignore, those rumors of the premature death of RussiaGate - despite recent sheepish obits from some of its own proponents. We've all been ridiculously overfed on a red-baiting mystery meat diet of Clintonoid nothing-burgers from Bruni and his Times cohort for going on two years now. 

So now, they also want you to believe that it's not the past 40 years of Reagan/Clinton neoliberalism, aka government welfare for billionaires and corporations and austerity for everyone else, but the monolithic Internet which has been sowing all these divisions among people who otherwise would be feeling all warm and tolerant toward their fellow men and utterly satisfied with their own precarious lives. 

For all that liberals like Bruni decry the divisiveness sown by Donald Trump, they ignore the divisiveness sown by the most extreme wealth inequality in modern history, an inequality created deliberately by a political plutocracy that has since devolved into an oligarchy. 

Blaming "Russians" for all our ills is no better than Trump blaming Mexicans and Muslims for all our ills.

And since he has duly declared the Internet to be the root of all evil, Bruni has no solution other than to monitor/censor free speech and prevent people from talking to each other. Because "Democracy is at stake." And we're all gonna die.

Democracy, you see, has nothing to do with actual people. Democracy as defined by the Establishment is Capitalism. The truth that we are all more likely to die from climate-destroying neoliberal capitalism than we are from the Internet must be suppressed at all costs. Instead, we are urged to cling to our "common cause" without the necessity of such a thing even being defined for us.

My published comment:

About a year ago I Googled "Martin Luther King," and near the top of the list was a website called "Martin Luther King. org."
The site was/is run by a white nationalist organization devoted to sliming Dr. King.
This year, under pressure, Google finally adjusted its algorithm. The hate site isn't there any more, at least not among the first several pages of search results for MLK.
But it makes you wonder how many impressionable people, including kids researching MLK for school assignments, clicked on the site and had their minds poisoned.
Cyber racism has been around as long as the Internet. It's illegal in Australia, but not in any other country that I know of.
Meanwhile Google, in its newfound socially responsible zeal, has also started suppressing material from legitimate sites which it deems not to be "mainstream" enough.
This censorship is a double edged sword, throwing the baby out with the bathwater, to mangle a couple of metaphors. lt's like randomly installing spike strips on a freeway. Reckless drivers and careful drivers alike are indiscriminately stopped in their tracks. Many of the reckless drivers get away anyhow by finding detours, while many careful, responsible drivers become too leery even to venture out, lest driving "be the death of them."
Since (to use another cliche) you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, one solution would be to teach children, beginning at a very young age, how to think critically and to separate truth from lies.
Concentrating on Trump and such fringe-dwelling lowlife racists as Dylann Roof (who shot up an all-black South Carolina church in 2015) and most recently, Cesar Sayoc and Robert Bowers, also diverts public attention from the fact that police kill an average of three citizens a day, and that more black people are in prison today than were enslaved prior to the Civil War. The foreign victims of our state-sanctioned drone assassinations and undeclared wars are neither named nor cared about, not even on the Internet. Google and Facebook are helping see to that via their censorship policies.

The other side of cyber racism and cyber hate is the mass epidemic of media complicity and public apathy as it pertains to state-sanctioned violence. This attitude of complicity and apathy is beginning to change somewhat, but only because Donald Trump is president and he has dispensed with the dog-whistle racism and patriotic platitudes of "normal" presidents in favor of a bullhorn hybrid of Bull Connor and Benito Mussolini. Politicians and corporate media personalities are finally willing to call people like Sayoc and Bowers "domestic terrorists." Not because it is right, but because it makes Trump look bad and Democrats look good. 

You might remember that then-FBI Director James Comey heartily resisted calling Dylann Roof a terrorist back when the USA was so busily funding Al Qaeda terrorists in Syria and then entrapping/arresting American youths for "aspiring" to join ISIS.

Liberals in the Age of Trump are finally beginning to accept the fact that racist attitudes are not just limited to the "red state" South, but are as American as apple pie, and that the US is not, as Paul Krugman blithely posited during those epic Confederate flag tear-downs after the South Carolina church massacre, "a much less racist nation than it used to be."

Trump did not create neo-racism. He didn't invent American fascism. He just tapped into our pre-existing subterranean rivers, and sucked up the ancient polluted water, and spit it back out in words, actions, and more Trump-branded merchandise posing as political leadership.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Apocalypse Casts Shadow Over Midterms

***Dear Readers: Many thanks for your great response to my annual fundraiser -- not just for the donations, but for the many personal notes conveying your appreciation of my writing. This support makes me more determined than ever to "keep on keeping on." And for those of you who were unable to contribute this time, please feel free to use the handy PayPal donation gizmo any day of the year for any amount you can afford. And if you can't afford, not to worry. Times are tough for most of us. Thanks again for reading Sardonicky!***


Just when the whole country should be uniting and going happily to the polls to democratically choose between right-wing fascists and neoliberal corporatists, the damned freelance violence has to rear its ugly head and dampen the great American spirit that has always made this country so exceptional. 

And it's not just the typical shadow-casting like, say, the FBI director calling Hillary Clinton "reckless" about her private email account right before the presidential election in 2016. This time, according to The Hill online newspaper, a veritable cloud of doom is hovering over us.

There's still more than a week to go before November Sixth, so give them time to conjure up some actual thunder, lightning and rain. If we can just get past this manufactured debris-festooned buildup to our great manufactured ritual, we 'll soon safely return to our more normal violent programming of shootings, religious and ethnic intolerance, and mindless sunny entertainment.
 Marc Hetherington, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, expressed skepticism that the rhetoric will cool in the last full week of the campaign, even as the country remains on edge. 
I don’t think anything’s going to cool tensions,” he said in an interview with The Hill. “This, on both sides, has the feel of the apocalypse if they lose.”
Mere days after a steroid-pumped dude living out of a van decorated with Trump wallpaper was arrested in Florida and charged with mailing pipe bombs to the security personnel and other underlings employed by wealthy Trump critics, another loser emerged from his seedy apartment in Pittsburgh and shot up a synagogue, killing several congregants and wounding others before getting shot himself by responding SWAT police.

In a country riven by a record number of mass shootings in just the past year, you might simply be inclined to think that this has just been another typical psychotic week in America. But coming as close as these incidents do to the only democratic ritual we still have left, they become prime apocalyptic fodder for the pundit class.

Not only that: the two latest Travis Bickle imitators to crawl out of the zeitgeist are portrayed by the media as little hunks of lumpen clay ripped off from the main supply for the express pre-election kneading and molding pleasure of Trump, the whole Trump, and nothing but the Trump. No matter that only the pipe-bomb guy was the true Trumpie, and that the synagogue shooter didn't much like Trump because he isn't enough of an outspoken anti-Semitic fascist for his taste - these two men will go down in history, as told by establishment media, as brothers joined at the hip of hate. And it's all because of Trump, and not because of such things as evictions, bankruptcies, untreated mental illness, drug addiction, lack of a job.... or just because they've been evil nasty characters their whole miserable lives.

That's the narrative, and the media mavens are sticking to it. The first order of business, therefore, is to absolve both right wings of the Duopoly of the violent results of their anti-social, pro-corporate policies of the last 50 years. 

The Hill thus dutifully continues:
The chairmen of both parties' campaign arms in the House appeared jointly on a pair of Sunday talk shows, where they delivered a message of unity.
“We should come together as a country. This should not be a political response, but rather a response at how we can further bring us together,” Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) said on “Fox News Sunday.”
His Republican counterpart, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), expressed confidence that the midterms would not prove to be an obstacle in efforts to unify the country.
And then they departed from their own platitudinous narratives and accused one another's campaigns of being "sleazy" and "racist," which casts even more shadows of doom over Doomsday. Why oh why can't our ruling class racketeers just all get along for the next week or so as our whole country explodes around us? 

We really shouldn't fret. This staged hand-wringing feeds the suspense factor so necessary to keep us hooked and riveted in an orgy of binge-watching. Because the ruling class racketeers actually do get along most of the time. They only pretend to hate each other so as to foment more hate among various factions of the US electorate and encourage us to channel our hate at the voting booth. People are encouraged to vote against someone or something, not for someone or something. Fear and loathing are the only emotions that our corrupt finance-capitalized political system are willing to market to the vast majority of the have-nots. And that's true not just in the US, but throughout Europe, and most recently, in desperate austerity-torn Brazilians' "choice" of a right-wing strongman to lead them. 

Once our homegrown American candidates are safely re-elected (or win office for the first time), they can buckle down to the onerous task of fulfilling the needs of the bribing billionaires and corporations and weapons manufacturers and private prison investors. There will be no more shadows or clouds, only friendly smoke-filled rooms.  

Maybe Donald Trump can even take a break from his frenzied Nuremberg-style rallies and 3 a.m. tweets long enough to rehabilitate his own image by starting another war and thereby develop some real presidential cred among the movers and shakers of this very violent country. If you're disturbed about the relative lack of coverage in the mainstream media about his abandonment of the nuclear treaty with Russia, wait till after November Sixth. Right now, the manufactured apocalypse of electoral politics must take precedence.

Maybe regular people, stoked up on their free-floating anger, despair and apathy, will finally see through the toxic smoke and go on a general strike against the oligarchy and its political lackeys and censorious propagandists. All it takes is a spark, or a tipping point. And there are already enough of those to cause massive forest fires and avalanches.

To paraphrase Yogi Berra, it's always deju vu all over again. This, from 60 years ago:

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Problematics of Empire

If anyone gets hurt or killed by America's latest anonymous bomber(s), it probably won't be the liberal elites at whom the terror is directed. It'll be the public or private security guard, the personal assistant, the mail sorter in the corporate basement, or the federal workers who sort and deliver our mail.

It will be the servant class. I suppose the talking heads could always appeal to the bomber's sense of class decency but then again, if the guy or gal sending the pipe bombs doesn't even know that former CIA Director John Brennan (misspelled as "Brenan" on the package) works as a highly-paid consultant at NBC rather than at CNN, he or she probably also doesn't know that Donald Trump is scapegoating the "immigrant-loving" rich and famous precisely to feed the resentment of the less well-off. 

IThe cure for Trumpism, or at least a start to the cure for Trumpism, would indeed be encouraging social solidarity in the bottom 90% of Americans. During the time of Occupy, in 2011, a motley crew of libertarians, anarchists, antifas, liberals, progressives and socialists did join in common cause against the oligarchy for a few hopeful months.

This solidarity could not stand, and so the mainly Democratic mayors of major US cities joined together in their own grotesque solidarity, orchestrating a coordinated mass police shutdown of all the camps.

The ruling class racketeers have lived to gorge their appetites for another 
seven years. And since the politicians beholden to them have done absolutely nothing to ameliorate the abysmal living conditions and despair of an increasingly sick society, along came Trump.

But to hear the mainstream media explain it, Trump is simply exploiting the electoral divisions between red and blue states. While it is very possible and even likely that Trump is the direct inspiration for the Mad Bomber(s), the media are almost all concentrating on his hate-filled campaign rallies without putting his rise to power and his continuing popularity among a sizeable minority of the electorate into historical context.

Doing so might put some of the onus on the less rabidly right-wing half of the Duopoly, and that would never do, not when they are so frantically trying to divert voter fear and loathing in their blue corner.

Somewhat surprisingly, Democrats and their media sycophants are not yet pinning responsibility for the package bombs on the Russians. Perhaps, since even the Establishment-preening Politico has quietly warned liberals to start damping down their hopes for a Mueller indictment of Trump - because, they ruefully acknowledge, never has there been any evidence that Trump "colluded" with Putin to swing the election in his favor.

Meanwhile, leave to the New York Times's Charles Blow to try and redirect the fear solely at the corpus of Trump. While careful not finger Trump as the actual mastermind of the bomb delivery campaign, he writes:
But we can say without equivocation that Trump's stoking of fear and riling of anger is deeply problematic and indeed dangerous.
(We can also say without equivocation that the pundit class's overuse of the catch-all weasel word, "problematic," is indeed problematic.)

Blow continues, quoting Trump:
"Do you know how the caravan (from Honduras) started? Does everybody know what this means? I think the Democrats has something to do with it."
There is no proof that the caravan of Honduran immigrants traveling through Mexico toward the United States was instigated by the Democrats, and the claim is ridiculous on its face.
Well, yes and no. My published comment:
 "The White House" - no way was it Trump - has sent out a mass email pleading for national unity, as though his fascist rhetoric at his rallies has nothing to do with anything.
Talk about washing dirty hands.
And plenty of people have dirty hands, including the oligarchs and corporations who've benefited so handsomely from his tax cuts and assaults on democracy. But look out. Coupled with the dangerous fallout from Trump's incitements to violence is the plunge in the stock market, caused largely by his trade war.
 Capitalism on crack, combined with the crackpot playing at being president, simply is no longer sustainable. With Trump taking off the gloves in that inept and hateful way of his, the mask is coming right off the whole American system.
The refugee caravan from Honduras is the result of the 2009 military coup which ousted the democratically elected Manuel Zelaya, whom the US viewed a socialist troublemaker for instituting such dangerous policies as a national minimum wage, free light bulbs for poor families, and privileging subsistence farmers over multinational agribusinesses. The US then "legitimized" the coup by sending a group of GOP congressmen to monitor another election, "won" by a corrupt strongman with ties to organized crime.
Since then, Honduras has plunged further into poverty and violence. People are fleeing for their lives.
The US, with the history of genocide and slavery it has never reckoned with, now has Strongman Trump to reckon with.
Now, given the wrath apparent within the righteous Times commentariat during these last tense pre-Midterm weeks, it would have been problematic for me to name actual names - namely those of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton - who were, at best, the passive-aggressive backers of the coup, and at worst, its architects, with the usual ass-covering bipartisan help from those nasty old Republicans.  But I think that it is more important to engage semi-closed minds rather than enrage them, particularly in the aftermath of the assassination attempts on their heroes.

A post-coup Wikileaks dump revealed that Hillary did indeed actively campaign against restoring Zelaya to rightful power after the coup, in favor of a more oligarch-friendly right-wing puppet. She covered her ass by asserting that the coup was not really a coup, much as her recent insistence that Bill Clinton's abuse of a White House intern was not technically sexual abuse or abuse of power. 

 And although she did admit her State Department's involvement in the coup in the hard-cover edition of her "Hard Choices" memoir, this chapter was curiously missing in the paperback version, published in the run-up to her second presidential campaign. She scrubbed it, largely because Berta Caceres, the feminist labor activist heroine of the Honduran protest movement for democracy, was murdered by the more corporate-friendly regime supported by the Democratic administration. Also, Clinton had sent notorious neocon John Negroponte to do "advance work" for the State Department, only weeks before Zelaya was hauled out his house, wearing only his pajamas, in the middle of the night. 

Do you think that these omissions and excuses are just a wee bit problematic? Some Democratic Party operatives certainly thought so, because when confronted by reporters about Hillary's role in the violent coup, they chalked up the scrubbing to an unexpected paper shortage as the cheaper edition went to press.

No wonder that addressing climate change is way down there on the Democrats' legislative to-do list, should they win back Congress. The dirtier the water, the less visible is the blood on so many guilty, well-manicured hands.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Virtue-Signalers Gone Wild

The blue wave forecast to wash over Congress like the storm surge from a hurricane has just been downgraded to a torpid depression. Democrats, if they do take the lower House, will trickle in like a shallow babbling brook, while the Senate looks to be complete loss. Or so say the ever-unreliable polls.

Is this doom-saying simply a clever way to get voters, whether they be  disaffected or smug, to the polls next month? We'll soon find out, but in the meantime, those intrepid Democrats are doubling down on their phony moralizing as energetically as Donald Trump is doubling down on his mendacity about the Big Alien Invasion from Mexico. To hear him tell it, there are not only Hispanics in that caravan, but Muslims and rapists of all nations.

So you'd think, wouldn't you, that Democrats would react to opinion polls by offering to give people what they want, nice things like universal health care, decent jobs with good pay, and affordable housing and education.


They'll keep doubling down on how patriotic and virtuous they are compared to Trump. The fact that they're haranguing voters about "values" to the exclusion of actual social programs shows just how reactionary they have become. It used to be only conservatives who were so hung up on values. Republicans are so obsessed with values, in fact, that they hold an annual confab in Washington called the Values Voters Summit. So when Democrats try to beat them at their own right-wing game, they have no choice but to go further right themselves. Witness Donald Trump's own escalating neofascist rhetoric and policy agendas.

It's not that the Democrats don't recognize the trap they've created for themselves. Many liberal pundits are latter-day lackadaisical John the Baptists, drawling that the end is nigh and therefore "we" should stop obsessing so much over Trump and instead, cling to our American Values.

John the Baptist - Hieronymus Bosch

Take Charles Blow of the New York Times as a case in point. He led off his latest jeremiad with
One thing that I find profoundly disappointing about modern liberalism, particularly as it now stands in opposition to Trumpism, is the degree to which it is reactive, governed by what is being done to it rather than its own positive vision.
And Blow proceeded to fill the rest of the column with the usual laundry list of all the awful things that Trump has done this week, not least of which was slandering the Democrats as a "mob." 

You can almost see the smoke coming out of his ears as he types out the revolutionary words in the comfort of his corner office:

Well, count me among the mob, if that means people who stand in opposition to Trump’s degradation of the country in all ways. If the mob stands up for women and stands up to the National Rifle Association, I want in. If the mob hates corruption and loves the increasing diversity of this country, then it is for me. If the mob finds it abhorrent that during the same week that it became clear that a Washington Post columnist had been killed in a Saudi Arabian consulate, Trump praised an American politician who assaulted a journalist, then yes, yes, yes to the mob.
My submitted comment, which was rejected by the Times: 
How about single payer health care? Polls show that it is wildly popular among whole mobs of Democratic, Republican and independent voters. The main problem, of course, is that it's very unpopular with the wealthy donors who've already forked over record-breaking billions to fund the midterms. The rich get what they pay for, and they don't want Medicare for All.
This makes no sense.  Because if you want the hoi polloi to get all fired up about "liberal values", then you must first ensure that the voters are healthy.  On top of an estimated 30 million uninsured Americans,  there are tens of millions more with such junky insurance that they can still go bankrupt if they get sick.
Some economists predict that in another 15 years, health care costs will suck up the entire average household budget and actually surpass today's unaffordable housing costs. Are not the lack of a federal guaranteed housing policy and universal health care deliberate, immoral, corrupt and longstanding political decisions? Is it a liberal value that increasing numbers of people have been dying deaths of despair since the 2008 financial collapse?
What about joining a mob demanding that we divert those trillions of dollars spent on the bloated military toward improving the lives of our own citizens?
There was nary a mention by Resistance, Inc. of the Women's March on the Pentagon held over the weekend. 
Perhaps that's because war is indeed an all-American value, if only for the oligarchic mobsters who profit so handsomely by it.
Liberal pundit Paul Krugman, meanwhile, is following the Democratic script of just now noticing that Saudi Arabia is a bad actor because it murdered an important Washington Post columnist, an event which provides some much needed glue for elite journalistic solidarity and a box of verbal dummy bullets for their Resistance, Inc. movement of social justice for the moneyed professional class and their mutual hatred for Donald Trump, and only Donald Trump.

The president not only personally profits from the Saudi Arabian autocracy, he is lying through his teeth about the sales of arms being necessary to protect American jobs! It is downright immoral and unheard of!

You can almost envision the Cotton Mather brimstone setting Krugman's grizzled beard on fire as he pecks out these righteous words:

O.K., it's not news that the religious right has prostrated itself at Donald Trump's feet. But Trump's attempt to head off retaliation for Saudi crimes by claiming that there are big economic rewards to staying friendly with killers -- and the willingness of his political allies to embrace his logic - nonetheless represents a new stage in the debasement of America.
It's not just that Trump's claims about the number of jobs at stake -- first it was 40,000, then 450,000, then 600,000, then a million -- are lies. Even if the claims were true, we're the United States; we're supposed to be a moral beacon for the world, not a mercenary nation willing to abandon its principles if the money is good.

I suppose it's not really fair to accuse Krugman of abandoning the journalistic principles of fair-mindedness and putting things into context, because he is not really a journalist. He's an economist hired to parrot and preach the talking points of the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party.

I had better luck with Times censors accepting the following comment, although they did carefully hold it back from publication for seven hours, until the wee hours of this morning when all good and righteous people were safely asleep in their beds: 
Yes, Trump is a dishonest blowhard, but to present him as some sort of hypocritical outlier in the longstanding special relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia is a bit much.
Wikileaks revealed that although Sec. Clinton in 2009 had called Saudi Arabia the major backer of terrorist groups, including a Qaeda, this knowledge didn't prevent the Obama administration from selling these murderous autocrats $29.4 billion in weapons in 2016.
As Obama's Undersecretary of Defense, Jim Miller, bragged at the celebratory press briefing: "This will positively impact the U.S. economy and further advance the President's commitment to create jobs by increasing exports. According to industry experts, this agreement will support more than 50,000 American jobs. It will engage 600 suppliers in 44 states and provide $3.6 billion in annual economic impact on the U.S. economy. This will support jobs not only in the aerospace sector but also in our manufacturing base and support chain, which are all crucial for sustaining our national defense."
Wow. As the great I.F. Stone acerbically noted in 1968 during the mendacious U.S. war on Vietnam, "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out."
There's been a whole lot of smoking going on for decades, if not centuries, so it's gratifying, in a bitter sort of way, to finally have a president who lies so often and so ineptly that catching him out is virtual child's play.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Peak Voting Hysteria

If you're getting too enthused about Halloween, the World Series, or any other of life's little pleasures and diversions, the Duopoly is making sure that your mind remains stuck firmly on one track and one track only: the most important elections ever in the history of humanity.

The Republicans are spreading the ridiculous message that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are rabid socialists who want to give your health care away to the "illegals" who are marching up from Honduras to invade all our homes and steal all our wonderful jobs. The Democrats tell you that unless you vote for them, or more accurately, against Trump's GOP, then democracy and liberty are doomed. Specifically, they say that "American values" are doomed. Whatever that even means. They are but the blank slates upon which to pin all your hopes and dreams of status quo maintenance.

The cell phones of America have been hijacked in a frenzied series of robocalls and text messages from candidates in dire need of both your dollars and your votes. If you thought that Donald Trump's "presidential alert" message a few weeks ago was annoying, then you were not sufficiently prepared for the Duopolistic Deluge and the ensuing logjam on your thought processes and even on your sanity.

They don't seem to realize or care that their own intrusive political campaigning is what is really invading us and making a mockery of our "values, which include our rights to privacy and peace within our own homes.

In my own congressional district (New York 19) there's some particularly vile racist campaign rhetoric coming from GOP Rep. John Faso against his Democratic challenger, Antonio Delgado. Faso is telling voters that Delgado is "not one of us" -- not because he recently moved to the district from New Jersey and immediately announced his candidacy, but because he was a rap musician before going on to Harvard, Oxford, and Wall Street. Delgado is black.

Faso's racist campaign ironically seems to be working in the favor of Delgado, who is rising in the polls and even surpassing Faso in some of them. Voters who might have been suspicious of his carpetbagging status and his employment at one of the country's biggest political lobbying law firms are now tending to support him, despite his neoliberal policy proposals. He does not, for example, favor single payer health care. merely vowing to protect Obamacare and his constituents' "access" to medical services.

To make the situation even more fraught, there are several independent and progressive candidates running who might act as "spoilers" and swing the election to Faso. So if you vote for the Green candidate, or for the actress who used to play the D.A. on "Law and Order SVU" then you will allegedly be responsible if Faso wins another term.

To which I say - B.S.! If the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had not worked so diligently to bankroll an out-of-state neoliberal to run in what used to be one of the most progressive districts in the country before gerrymandering, we would't be facing this dilemma. The upshot is that in the grand scheme of things, the corporate Democrats probably wouldn't mind so terribly if Faso were re-elected. It would give them even more impetus to virtue-signal about their diversity and the racism of the Deplorables.

A somewhat similar situation is happening in Florida, where popular progressive gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is getting hit from both sides of the Duopoly. First, there's the racist campaign against him by Republicans. Second, there's the threat from Hillary Clinton to come to Florida, where she lost to Donald Trump, to campaign for him. As one of the most unpopular politicians in the country today, Clinton has effectively attempted to give Gillum the kiss of death.

And as reported by the Sun-Sentinel, Gillum himself has sent out nearly a million text messages to Floridians to urge them to sign up for early voting. Meanwhile, cell phone owners have been indundated by messages from his opponent, Ron de Santis, informing them that Gillum "may be" under investigation by the FBI.* Of course, you and I also "may be" under FBI investigation, but the chances of that are probably about a billion to one.

There are no specific laws which bar candidates and their operatives from harassing the citizenry - not, of course, that any such law would even be enforceable by the grossly understaffed and underfunded Federal Trade and Election Commissions. 

And good luck trying to find the source of the unwanted robocalls to demand they leave you alone. Google the number they called from, and you will be directed to myriad organizations and apps which promise to block the calls, either for a fee or for your willing relinquishment of your personal information, likely leading to even more marketing spam.

My own particular Luddite solution is never answering a call from someone I don't know, or at least blocking the number in case I do mistakenly pick up, and simply ignoring the text messages as best I can. 

Wouldn't it be something if the recipients of all this invasive messaging got so disgusted that they decided to (gasp!) sit out these midterms as a form of mass protest?

Not that such aggressive apathy will discourage the candidates in our fine, free and fair elections by any means. Because as soon as the Midterms are over, the Presidential Sweepstakes gets underway with an interminable vengeance. 

*Update: We now learn that Gillum has indeed been caught up in an FBI sting operation and apparently accepted pricey tickets to "Hamilton" on Broadway from an FBI agent posing as a property developer. So much for his flaunted progressive cred, accepting tickets to a neoliberal musical which glorifies bankers and capitalists in the spirit of "diversity." Whoever said irony is dead is crazy.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Commentariat Central: Fear and Despair Edition

The closer we get to the Most Important Elections Ever in History, the more the Duopoly is ramping up the fear factor. The end of the world is nigh, not so much because of the ongoing climate catastrophe, but because neither of the two corporate political parties we're stuck with thinks that more than a billion dollars in campaign contributions is enough.

A glance through your inbox gives you the impression that every day is a deadline of doom. The money-raking professionals are getting more brazen, going from begging to demanding, informing you that your payment is past due and that you only have until midnight tonight to fork it over.

And what if you don't? I really hate to tell them this, but the democracy repo man came and went decades ago.

So they'll try to scare you silly anyway. Always near the top of their bag of tricks to get you to fork over the cash before voting is the warning that "they're coming after your Social Security and Medicare!"  

Democrats say this of Republicans, and Republicans say this of Democrats (and also about "illegals" and welfare cheats.)

As is his convenient wont, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman limits his own critique of the continuing attack on the New Deal and Great Society programs to the Republican Party and to the deplorable Republican voters who get all their information from Fox News. That he again fails to mention that it takes two corrupt bodies to tango comes as no surprise, although I do happen to agree with him that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blatantly announcing his attack plan before the midterms was pretty shocking.

My published comment:
The timing of McConnell's threat surprised me too. The only explanation is that he so secure in his iron grip on both Kentucky voters and the Senate that he's willing to play "bad cop" for the duration.

The first step in this stale old routine is to gaslight and terrorize the sick, the old, and the poor. Demonizing people and calling them fraudsters works wonders in the divide-and-conquer department.

The Dems, as they have done before, might react to his snarling cruelty by offering to snip and slash here and there to save what is little is still left of our social programs.

Trump might even achieve the "Grand Bargain" with Congress that Obama and Boehner could not, thanks to the Tea Party faction insisting that the cuts weren't cruel enough.

He could accept slightly less sadistic cuts in exchange for the building of his nasty wall. Who knows? I wouldn't put any subterfuge past any of them. This is, after all, government of, by and for the oligarchs, who really comprise one political party unto themselves, the Pathocratic Party. Their unbridled greed to possess everything and to control everybody has reached truly pathogenic proportions.
 They need to go, and we need to make them go.

So let's tell the Democrats in no uncertain terms that we will agree to no more of their "pay-go" rules, aka robbing from the poor and working class to keep our social insurance on life support.

Stop the trillion-dollar wars if you want to tame the deficit. And soak the rich.
Now we come to Times columnist Michelle Goldberg's piece addressing the despair of women in the Age of Trump.  Her solution?  Get involved working for the Democratic Party, and do it for free! Or at the very least, chat with some party activists to cheer yourselves up. (That this advice column is directed at affluent women not having to work at multiple low-paid gigs is punctuated by the accompanying feel-good photo showing a Democratic candidate hugging an unpaid campaign worker in a room full of white people.) 

Goldberg writes:
There is, I find, only one thing that soothes my galloping anxiety, and that is talking to women who are actually doing the work of campaigning. The people who are knocking on doors and organizing rallies tend to be much more cheerful and confident than those who spend too much time on Twitter obsessing over each new poll....

 Now, part of the job of a good politician is projecting optimism. But again and again over the horrible months of Trump’s reign, I’ve found that spending time with the women who are working their hearts out against him is at least a temporary cure for despair. So if you, too, are scared, or furious, or despondent, find a Democrat close to you and go canvass for her (or him). “It’s the best way to feel good about the world and connect with people,” (Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen)Whitmer said.
Heaven forbid that you should storm your local social services office, go on a wildcat strike, or join Cindy Sheehan in the anti-war Women's March on the Pentagon on Oct.20-21!  If you're nervous or depressed from spending too much time stressing over Trump all by your lonesome, then put all your energies into joining others in fixating obsessively on Trump, and forgetting all about the toxic neoliberal system that created him. If you're affluent, you will benefit mentally under a more rhetorically tasteful Democratic majority and thereby save yourself all those trips to the therapist.

My comment, trying to gently change the subject from the "liberal women are emotional wrecks and victims of Trump" trope, with its artificially narrow emphasis on gender/reproductive rights, to the wider economic justice/class struggles that are so ignored by the liberal elites during this campaign season:  
The more that Donald Trump denigrates women, the more obvious it becomes that he is terrified of women the same way that a middle school pre-adolescent boy is afraid of girls. His rallies are fascist iterations of the Little Rascals' He-Man Woman-Haters Club.

We should treat Trump with all the derision we can muster. He is a weakling at his core.

We must treat the establishment which spawned him with equal derision as a balance to our well-placed fear. We should also recognize that this is essentially a class war. The Republicans under Mitch McConnell have made no secret of the fact that the next big item on their agenda is to slash Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, and Social Security. The citizens who depend the most on these programs are women and children.

Trump's tweets calling women names might sting and cause outrage. But the economic attacks on women's pocketbooks and pantries literally endanger our lives, if we are not so lucky to reside in the top 10% of income earners.

Rather than merely demand protection for the increasingly whittled-down social insurance programs we contribute to all our working lives, we must insist upon their enhancement. The Democrats have to do more than pay lip service to diversity and gender rights. We have to ensure not only equality of opportunity, but basic fairness of economic outcomes.

Repeat after me, ladies: Conservative men are afraid of you. Use the power that has been within you all this time. Make them even more afraid of you.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Damaged Dem Dames Distract From Climate Change

Two of the corporate Democratic Party's campaign narratives against Donald Trump have boomeranged right back at them this week.

First, their virtue-signaling about inclusive diversity turns out not to be so virtuous after all. Presidential contender Elizabeth Warren, like Julia Alvarez before her, fell smack dab into the identity politics trap when she revealed in a slickly-produced video that she does indeed have some remote aboriginal ancestry, dating back at least 10 generations.

 So not only did she fall into Donald Trump's race-baiting trap, she is, according to many critics, displaying her own colorblind racism by "appropriating" native lineage without informing or asking permission of the Cherokee Nation. And if that weren't bad enough, she is doing it right before the Midterm Elections and messing with her party's chances to win more congressional seats!

Former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, who later did the same job for David Cameron's conservatives in Great Britain, tweeted out:
Argue the substance all you want, but why 22 days before a crucial election where we MUST win house and senate to save America, why did have to do her announcement now? Why can’t Dems ever stay focused???
 Democrats cannot disown Elizabeth Warren fast enough. It's not so much her falling for Trump's trolling, it's the inconvenient timing of it, right at the end of their record-breaking season of fundraising. No matter that Warren herself has been a prolific fundraiser for the party. She has been declared non-presidential material.

My view is that her big announcement about her DNA results is more than a little bit passive-aggressive. Warren has been under pressure for years to run for president and for years she has resisted, until very recently. So perhaps her ham-handed video is her way of either deliberately or unconsciously sabotaging her own chances to ensure that she is pre-emptively forced out of the race so as to avoid criticism from refusing to run in the first place. She will be way more effective going after the corrupt financial system in the Senate, in my view. That is, if she even cares to remain in the Senate.

I once half-jokingly predicted (see the Salazar link above) that the Democrats are so into ethnologies and family histories that before long, candidates will be producing their DNA results along with their tax returns. The flaunting of one's genetic biology for the sole purpose of gaining political power is a kind of inverted fascism and hearkens back to the US eugenics craze of the early 20th century, which became the direct inspiration for Nazi race policies.  

So much for the inherent shallowness and cynicism of the Democrats' identity politics. Now we come to the Democrats' shallow, cynical, corporate version of feminism.

We all know, of course, that Hillary Clinton used her own Senate seat as a stepping-stone to her first presidential run, and her first presidential run as a stepping-stone to the State Department, and the State Department as a stepping-stone to her second presidential run, and her second presidential run as a stepping-stone to permanent martyrdom, big bucks in the speakers' and memoir circuits - and who knows, maybe even a third presidential run. Just think of the ratings and the billions of dollars in bucks for everybody concerned: churnalists, strategists, cable TV networks and corporate advertisers with all that hoarded untaxed money to burn.

Although the Democratic Party faithful became incensed during the 2016 campaign whenever Donald Trump's sexual predations were compared to Bill Clinton's sexual predations, and whenever critics noted that Hillary had hypocritically trashed her husband's female conquests and victims while standing by her man, even her erstwhile supporters can no longer ignore or stomach her hypocrisy.

Correction: they could stomach her hypocrisy extremely well, provided it was not on full display only weeks away from The Midterm Elections. Her grousing on national TV that Monica Lewinsky was not the victim of her husband's abuse of power, but a fully consenting adult, would be fine with them were it not so allegedly endangering Democratic fortunes. It kind of exposes the party's cynical appropriation of the #MeToo movement, and the party's campaign platform of "Donald Trump is a sexist pig" in all its shallowness and hypocrisy.

Shockingly, the very same liberals who so recently have been bending over backward for Hillary Clinton, and propping up her endless blame-game tour, and making her loss to Trump the prime focus of the Women's March movement, are now telling her to shut up and go away so that the party can "focus."

She has been relegated to that dreaded category of "distraction." I could almost feel very slightly sorry for her.

But, as the New York Times's Michelle Cottle puts it,

In these furious, final days before the midterms, Democratic candidates need to be laser focused on their message to voters. They need to be talking health care and jobs and other issues of intense, personal concern to their electorate. They do not need to be talking about impeachment, or about the results of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s DNA testing. And they definitely do not need to get distracted by unnecessary drama generated by comments from one of the party’s most iconic, and most controversial, figures.
And yet, there was Mrs. Clinton, in an Oct. 9 interview with CNN, sharing her take on the need for Democrats to — as Michelle Obama might have put it — go low with today’s Republicans. As Mrs. Clinton sees it, “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.”
She's a great woman and a great leader, says Cottle, but speaking her mind this close to Election Day is "problematic" for the party, which, she insinuates, would otherwise be dreaming up all kinds of wonderful new programs to benefit ordinary people. 

The Democratic Party sounds like it needs medication for its attention deficit disorder, which in my opinion is simply crass malingering to distract us from the fact that they are beholden to the oligarchy.  

My published response:
 "...this close to Election Day, discussing hot-button issues in national interviews is nothing but problematic for her party...."

Bingo! It's her party and she'll kvetch if she wants to. She has to go on TV to raise her visibility so she and Bill can sell lots of high-priced tickets for their tour. These TV spots, in their own turn, generate even more free press, as in this column. So what if it's bad press? It generates more publicity! And don't forget the ad revenue.

As far as Hillary's "distractions" from Democratic messaging are concerned, most of the campaign rhetoric I've been hearing is of the "we're not Trump" genre. A recent survey by "The Hill" of the ranking House Democrats reveals that their top priority, if they win, will be hauling cabinet officials before their committees. Then, they'll be "shoring up" Obamacare and protecting the weak Dodd-Frank bill. Not one potential committee chair voiced support for Medicare For All. Nor will House Dems put our endangered planet's climate emergency on their to-do list -- because, they say, why even try? "Resistance" has replaced a proactive progressive agenda.

The few times they do talk tough, they end up apologizing for giving the impression that they're inciting violence. Never underestimate their capacity to snatch defeat from the jaws of their victories.

Maybe if we ever get the $$$ out of politics, the media- political-oligarchic complex will stop treating elections like soap opera ratings bonanzas.
The Warren/Clinton hand-wringing is, of course, the corporate Democrats' way of saying how much they care about you. This pearl-clutching is in fact a distraction from the real scandal: that the party will do nothing to address the climate change catastrophe should they win back some power.  

While busily distracting us with the Dem dame duo who are doing so much damage to diversity, they're also very quietly damping down hopes for a climate agenda in the upcoming session. They are being very honest about it in the sneakiest way possible so as not to be accused of making promises they can't keep once they're sworn in. Maybe they figure that our immersion in the double boiler of propaganda and planet-death will keep us properly and rigidly fixated on Trump's latest tweet calling another woman a nasty name.

As The Hill reports,
With President Trump in the White House and Republicans favored to keep the Senate next year, climate legislation would face stiff headwinds, and pushing it could spark backlash from the right — both now and after the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Considering those “constraints,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Democrats should “focus on the practical and the opportunistic” to make short-term progress while fighting for bolder measures — “the aspirational goals” — over the longer term. 
“It’s going to be, I think, more of an opportunistic strategy, where, in various pieces of legislation, across the board, we’re going to insert measures that address climate change,” said Connolly, a leader in the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition.
"Aspiration Not Inspiration" might make a catchy campaign slogan for the 2020 horse-race, don't you think? It sure beats "Expiration Not Aspiration," which would be a real downer. It might put a real damper on firing up voters if they honestly just announced that all living things are going to die premature deaths because of their failure to address the climate emergency, as both corporate parties continue raking in all those polluting Koch Brothers and Exxon-Mobil dollars and continue to exempt the trillion-dollar military machine from even the mild emissions rules that are attached like a flimsy bandage to a suppurating wound.

It's almost as bad as believing that Republican "headwinds" are more powerful that the Category Six hurricanes that climate scientists predict will blow the place apart and dampen the earth to epic flooding proportions sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Other F Word

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we are all f***ed. The question is whether Trump-style fascism is shafting us, or whether neoliberal capitalism is doing the job.

As Henry Giroux posits, it's both: a deadly hybrid combined into a humanity-destroying racist, sexist, xenophobic greedzilla of doom. Or, as Black Agenda Report's Glen Ford views it, it's the modern Democratic and Republican parties acting as two bickering factions of the same fascist regime.

I've been reading a lot of books about fascism lately in preparation for a blog post, only to discover that I've amassed enough material to write another book about it. And I'm still not done. And I still have more questions than I do answers.

What I can say is that there are two main categories of books about fascism. The first set includes scholarly volumes of history, psychology, sociology and politics, written long before Donald Trump ever arrived on the scene.  The second set belongs to the new genre of alarm-bell fascism, which either is arriving fully formed on our shores in the person of Donald Trump all dressed up as Hitler, or is still only kind of scary-ghosty, with Donald Trump secretly wearing his swastika armband high enough on his fleshy arm so nobody can see it, even when he's playing golf.

The best example of this genre has been on the bestseller list for months. It's called Fascism: A Warning" and its author is Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. You might remember her as the Clinton official who told CBS that the price of half a million Iraqi children dying of starvation as a result of US economic sanctions had been "worth it." She doesn't delve, in her version of fascism, into one of its main tenets being expansion of the nation into the far corners of the earth. But that's not her point. Her point is falsely equating Donald Trump-style fascism with Hugo Chavez-style socialism and trumpeting the need to vote Clintonite Democrats back into power before Russia takes over and the New World Order goes kaput. You see, "liberal interventionism" killing is not the same thing as conservative imperialistic killing.

And now that the midterm elections are nearly upon us, the liberal media itself is getting into the Albrightean act with a vengeance. If you won't accept that we're either living under Nazi rule or about to, you're part of the problem. Be very, very afraid. And get out there and vote as though your lives depended on it!

The Huffington Post got into the act over the weekend with a banner scare headline announcing that a white supremacist hate group had invaded New York City. This was slightly misleading, given that at most, about a dozen alt-right "Proud Boys" beat up an antifa protester outside a Republican club which had just featured an alt-right dude as its featured speaker. The HuffPo has since removed the scare-mongering headline of its piece.

Another example of the genre is a video editorial posted in the New York Times on Monday. The star of this show, which is preceded by a Democratic Party campaign ad, is a Yale philosopher and fascism expert named Jason Stanley. He provides us with plenty of easy evidence showing that Donald Trump talks the fascist talk and walks the fascist walk: his ultra-nationalistic, racist and xenophobic rhetoric combined with the relentless repetition of Goebbels-style lies and the well-televised Nuremberg-style campaign rallies for his hordes of besotted fans and greedy cable infotainment outlets. After the good professor explains to us that too often, politicians resort to calling one another fascists as an all-purpose insult, his talk becomes replete with graphics showing Trump  dressed up as Hitler, and lots of video of the real Hitler, and even a clip of a Madison Square Garden Bund rally from the 30s.  

After spending his allotted few minutes explaining why fascism is so awful, and that we should be very afraid of both it and Trump, he runs out of time before he can explain just how this ideology can gain national power in the first place, and what we can do about it other than simply running out to vote for the allegedly lesser evil Democrats.

My published comment:
While Jason Stanley correctly describes the techniques of fascists like Trump, he ignores the situations which permit fascism to rear its ugly head in the first place.

The previous major outbreak occurred in the aftermath of World War I and the worldwide depression. Combined with pre-existing anti-Semitism and the weakness and corruption of liberal democracy and the mutual hatred of both the right-wingers and the "liberals" for communists, it allowed Hitler to step into the vacuum.

Despite the Depression, fascism didn't similarly catch on in the US as a mass movement because first, the war had been fought across the ocean, and second, FDR enacted the New Deal under pressure from a then-vibrant left wing, aka socialists. The Nazi rallies in Madison Square Garden soon became a thing of the past.

Fast forward to Trump. Decades of neoliberal capitalism have created severe wealth inequality, with most Americans not even having $200 saved up for a household emergency. Only the poor and working class fight in our endless wars. Politicians from both parties are beholden to the rich.
So yes, we should be very, very afraid of fascism while acknowledging that a form of it -- corporatism - has been suborning democracy for quite some time now. We cannot expect to defeat Trump and the GOP without transforming our government into a force for good for all the people, not just for a handful of oligarchs.
Otherwise, the next fascist leader will make Trump look downright benign.
So far, anyway, Donald Trump is simply an aspiring fascist leader, spending most of his time tweeting and flailing about in the Oval Office as the derogatory leaks from his staff are nearly a daily occurrence. At best, he is only a semi-successful fascist leader. He commands no mass movement. He has not shut down any TV stations or newspapers nor thrown any reporters in prison, despite his dangerous rhetoric about them being enemies of the people. That big military parade in his honor has been called off indefinitely.

But he's getting there. His imprisonment of migrant children in holding pens and tent cities is a step up from the Obama administration's draconian deportation crusade and  "family detention centers," which at least kept mothers and kids together and therefore were not subject to widespread criticism by liberal pundits and the Democratic Party faithful. The fascistic tendencies of Obama and his predecessors were of the sort called "friendly fascism" or what the late Sheldon Wolin termed "inverted totalitarianism." 

And of course, if you are a black person in America, you have indeed been living under de facto fascism for probably your whole life. Three out of every 10 black males are imprisoned at least once during their lifetimes. Three people, mostly black, are killed by law enforcement in the United States every single day. Michael Bloomberg, the "moderate" mayor of New York City who is now contemplating a challenge to Trump on the Democratic ticket, instituted a policy of Stop and Frisk directed against all black men. This thuggish practice finally got overturned by the courts, just as many of Donald Trump's own anti-immigrant and racist policies have been.

And, since under the Obama administration the longstanding law known as Posse Comitatus was overturned by Executive Order, we've all been living under technically fascistic authoritarian rule for the past eight or nine years, whether we've been blissfully unaware of it or not. If enough of us ever take to the streets in unsanctioned mass protests, the military now has the authority to turn against its own rebellious citizens by whatever means necessary. It is even deemed technically legal for our government to assassinate us by remote-control predator drone, should the rights of the ruling class to ownership and control of everything become seriously threatened.

So insofar as Trump is a fascist, he inherited the fascism, and has remade it into his own brand.

Meanwhile, the term "fascism" is so hard to define precisely because it is inherently self-contradictory. It is both radical and reactionary. It picks and chooses among several "isms," discarding its beliefs and policies willy-nilly, and does the same thing with its leaders and supporters, as the need arises. Its main requirement is a constant state of crisis, whether real or manufactured, alongside maintaining a permanent mythic core leading to a new revolution growing out of the old order. (Make America Great Again. Drain the Swamp.)

As Roger Griffin writes in "The Nature of Fascism," 
On susceptible people, it has the almost magical power to transmute black despair  into manic optimism and thus enable a party that promotes this vision to win a substantial mass following. It promises to replace gerontocracy, mediocrity and national weakness with youth, heroism and national greatness and put into government outstanding personalities instead of non-entities. If the times are ripe, the vague or contradictory implications of the policies proposed to realize such nebulous goals do not diminish their attraction because it is precisely that mythic power that matters, not their feasibility or human implications.
Hope and change, We are the ones we've been waiting for. Yes, we can! America is already great, because America is good. We are the One Indispensable Nation. 

(Griffin doesn't consider Trump to be a bona fide fascist, by the way, simply because he has not met the strict requirement of ordering or even advocating for the overthrow of democratic institutions. But does he really have to, when staffing them with incompetents and corporate infiltrators does the job just as well, if not better?)

Arthur Koestler writes in The Ghost in the Machine that our human brains have not kept pace with science and technology, which have at least partly replaced religious belief in modern civilization. Thus has come the rise of ultranationalism, because people still desperately need something to believe in, especially when economic times are hard.
In the case of fascism, its core myth of the regenerated national community led by a revolutionary elite calls a priori for an act of identification, a neurologically based mischanneling of the human drive for self-transcendance. This engenders a paranoid, dualistic mindset conducive to boundless idealism and fanatical devotion toward the embyonic new nation, coupled with ruthless violence directed at its alleged enemies.
In Escape From Freedom, Erich Fromm noted of Nazi Germany and other fascist regimes that although many people were able to take advantage of the freedom engendered by industrial progress, others felt increasingly unmoored and thus turned to authoritarian leadership to avoid an all-pervasive loneliness.

For the past half-century, we have been living under the regime of neoliberalism, or corporatism, where all lives are defined or dominated by market forces, and in which we are judged primarily on our ability to earn and consume. When people lose these abilities, as they have in vast numbers since the 2008 financial collapse and the transfer of 94% of all that "lost" household wealth to the moneyed elite, they become depressed, confused, and insecure. Millions of them have turned to Donald Trump, who alone among the other presidential candidates at least addressed the unfairness and corruption, albeit only for his own nefarious and self-interested purposes.

Roger Griffin lists four pre-conditions for the rise of fascistic leadership:
1. the presence either of native currents of ultra-nationalism, or of fascist role models to build on.

2. Adequate political space in a "modern" society is undergoing a structural crisis, for example, after an economic collapse and costly war.

3. An inadequate consensus on liberal values. Fascism can only break out of the lunatic right when society is struck by a crisis. Even then, the  seizure of actual power is doubtful.

4. Favorable contingency. Chance or "destiny" comes into play. A charismatic leader with a flair for propaganda and self-advertisement and co-option of human psychology, emerges.  The "elective affinity" with fascism is experienced by every individual involved in it, from the leader to the most lukewarm fellow traveler, is the product of unique psychological predispositions which are reducible to tendencies, patterns and types. The "chance" factor also relies on the vagaries of the electoral system.
Taking this list of requirements into account, there is a case to be made for Barack Obama as the charismatic "friendly" proto-fascist, whose cult of personality swept him into power. After all, he did win the "advertiser of the year" award after his first campaign. His sellout of his voting base to corporate interests, ironically juxtaposed with the pre-existing "native currents" of racism in this country, paved the way for the decidedly uncharismatic Donald Trump, whose very loathsomeness is his paradoxical attraction for the cynical as well as for the desperate. He also profited by the "chance contingency" factor of the archaic Electoral College system, winning the office despite massively losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.

As a bundle of inconsistencies, he simply represents the vicious, built-in contradictions of fascism which make the term so hard to define. But since he is not a fanatical ideologue, and since we still live do in a putative democracy with three branches of "checks and balances" government, and the Constitution remains more or less intact, Trump is no Hitler.

Maybe Mike Pence can be more successful, especially since he is the one who filled the White House with all those oligarchic enablers, and since he is the one who is a true believer in the subversive Prosperity Gospel and hardcore Christian fundamentalism. Perhaps he will strive to become the leader of a full-blown fascist theocracy. Cue The Handmaid's Tale.

And of course, don't rule Hillary Clinton out just yet, despite her and Bill embarking on the lucrative paid speaking circuit. If Trump has accomplished anything, it is showing that you can still win high office despite shady financial dealings.

As Wikileaks revealed (and as even the New York Times reported) Hillary certainly fills the fascistic requirement of unlimited brute-force national expansionism:
When she became secretary in 2009, she posed a question about China to an Australian leader: “How do you deal toughly with your banker?” In the Goldman transcript, she suggested that she had answered her own question when sparring with the Chinese over its claims in the South China Sea.
“I made the point at one point in the argument that, you know, you can call it whatever you want to call it,” she said. “You don’t have a claim to all of it. I said, by that argument, you know, the United States should claim all of the Pacific. We liberated it, we defended it. We have as much claim to all of the Pacific. And we could call it the American Sea, and it could go from the West Coast of California all the way to the Philippines.”
 (my bold.)

So, what is fascism anyway? The answers are still as varied and as confusing as Hillary Clinton's American Sea is wide.