Category Archives: Elections

Early Voting, Long Lines, and Voter Suppression

November 3rd, Election Day in America, is rapidly approaching. However, early in-person voting has started in several states across the country and there are some concerning issues already coming to light this election year.

Videos by voters have been circulating on social media sites such as Twitter, showing extremely long lines and long waiting periods. The state of Georgia in particular had several videos circulating around with people claiming it took 11 hours to cast their vote. While big voter turnout numbers alone are not necessarily a bad sign, the long lines speak to something darker: a lack of adequate polling locations, a gutting of the U.S. postal service, and voter suppression.

Of course, it’s not the first time voter suppression has occurred in a major election, and it likely won’t be the last unless more active efforts are made to combat voter suppression and we demand better from our leaders.

Hiding in Plain Sight

It’s fair to wonder: what exactly is voter suppression? It’s not as if we are given a handbook on it when we register to vote and it’s often left out of political debates — but voter suppression tactics have been around nearly as long as voting itself. They have ranged from literacy tests to what we’re seeing now in Texas, with Governor Greg Abbott restricting the number of locations in each county where voters can drop off their mail-in ballots before the election.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was created to help combat voter suppression and while it is regarded as a significant change in voting rights, like most legislation created decades ago, it fails to cover modern voter suppression tactics and problems. Of course, provisions to the act have been created over the years, but it’s proving to still not be enough to completely stop voter suppression tactics.

One modern-day issue that has prevented who knows how many votes are more restrictive voting laws. Half of the states in the United States have strict photo ID requirements, limited early voting, and tough voter registration restrictions. These restrictions significantly affect POC, senior citizens, those with disabilities, and college students. And that’s not by mistake.

Voter suppression makes it difficult for people to pass legislation that actually benefits them as well as vote against the things that would directly harm their livelihood. And the people creating and utilizing these voter suppression tactics know that. Look at North Dakota, for example.

In 2018, the state passed a new voter ID law that required voters to have a current residential street address printed on their ID. This directly impacted the Native Americans living in North Dakota on rural tribal reservations as they typically use a P.O. box due to their homes being too remote for the Post Office to deliver mail. With this new law in place though, tribal IDs with P.O. boxes were no longer considered a valid voter ID.

While it is hard to say if this new law was directly responsible for the outcome of the North Dakota 2018 elections, it is worth noting that Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp lost her seat in Congress to her Republican challenger, Kevin Cramer.

More Than a Tweet

How can we start tackling this issue in an effective way? One option could be social media. While social media won’t change our voting rights laws outright, it can serve as a powerful tool to help spread awareness of this problem. Being active on social media and educating others about voter suppression is a start that could ultimately lead to real change.

Social media activism, as those at Maryville University put it, can promote social justice. They explain, “The use of social media to uplift voices and stories, create awareness, and build and strengthen relationships creates a space for organizations, activists, and citizens to demand justice.” A few examples of how social media can be used to combat issues such as voter suppression include:

  • Platforming Lived Experiences: Social media has a long and wide reach across the globe and as such, is able to amplify and share the issues impacting people. For minorities and underrepresented communities, social media might be the only way to have their voices heard and get their story out into the public’s eye. We’ve seen it already with the Black Lives Matter and MeToo movement, but there are certainly more issues social media can help tackle, including voter suppression.
  • Coordinating Community Responses: Not only is it important to bring awareness to social justice issues through social media, but it can also be a useful tool for creating online communities where people are able to find support and come together to fight against the issues that affect their lives.
  • Sharing Pictures and Videos: With most people now walking around 24/7 with a camera in their pocket, it’s a lot easier to record and document real-life examples of injustices and other concerns. Moreover, it’s a lot easier to share those videos and pictures thanks to social media platforms, meaning more people can see with their own eyes what is happening in the world and their communities.

Of course, social media can also be used as a harmful tool in the wrong hands. There are some who still struggle with digital literacy, meaning conspiracy theories, edited content, and outright lies can also be massively shared amongst communities. And while there are those who can tell if a video or post is credible or not, there are still a number of people who aren’t familiar with the online world and aren’t able to discern fact from lies.

Unfortunately, social media activism really only benefits those who have access to the online world. So, while it is an extremely helpful tool, it can still be limiting and should be used in addition to other concerted efforts.

Changing Our Perspective

Voters who deal with problems such as long lines and long wait times often get labeled as enthusiastic and committed to their civic duty. While that is certainly true, many voters don’t have the ability to wait in line all day to cast their vote — and they shouldn’t have to. Furthermore, by sharing “inspiring” stories of those who wait in line for hours on end, it puts voter suppression tactics in a more positive light rather than exposing it for what it is.

In order to start enacting change within our voting rights, we need to change our perspective. It should not be difficult to vote. As Americans, it is our right to vote and those who make an active effort to stop certain people from exercising their civic duty need to be held responsible. With the right tools, motivation, and determined efforts it is possible to rewrite the discriminatory voting system we know today.

The post Early Voting, Long Lines, and Voter Suppression first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Assistance, Not the Resistance

As Amy Coney Barrett is expected to be confirmed today as the next Justice to the Supreme Court, one might expect to see more news coverage of the multiple ways Congressional Democrats have tried to block her confirmation. Given the massive groundswell of anguish and fury over her nomination to replace the legendary Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the corporate media and top Democrats, themselves, have seemed strangely silent, as if early on, they had already surrendered to the inevitable. Why this silence and why a lack of options, when progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have called for using “every tool at our disposal,” and when Congressional aides are circulating a memo on Capitol Hill outlining multiple tactics for stalling this confirmation?

For the past four years, the US news media has been dominated by Trump and his daily atrocities. Always on edge and on call, the US public has become captive to what sociopathic and outrageous act he will perform next… what racist, sexist, or fascist scandal will befall the nation with each passing day. These daily scandals come like clockwork, and while terrible for the country, they have made the corporate media very happy. Since ratings (and profits) rely on click-bait, scandal and spectacle, Trump has provided the media daily fodder since before the 2016 primaries, and news outlets have been more than happy to give him the lion’s share of the news coverage.

These crises and spectacles dominating our mediascape also serve a more covert political function in our broader politics. Trump is the perfect foil and a classic villain– easy to hate based on his sociopathic personality, his multiple crimes (for which he’s never punished), and his inflammatory, hateful rhetoric that keeps the media wheels spinning 24/7. While Trump and his terrible minions are always on the main stage, the corporatists of both parties are working behind the scenes in relative obscurity. What becomes hidden behind the curtain of Trump’s daily scandals is the fact that both parties are entrenched in oligarchy. And as our nation’s wealth consolidates at the top and our national politics move further and further to the right, the media spotlight is always on the villainous Trump, and not the ruling elite of both parties who are starving the masses. The fact the Democratic Party continually fails to be a real opposition party to oligarchy or fascism is hardly a profitable news topic, and so it falls off the radar into darkness.

Any objective political analysis of Congressional dynamics could readily conclude that Democratic complicity is just as dangerous as Trump, and perhaps even more so, since so few people are paying attention to it. And since the corporate media hardly covers the failings of the Democratic establishment, it’s left up to us, the independent media, to shine a light on these systemic failings.

Trump’s Rise to Political Power

Even before Trump was elected, top figures in the Democratic establishment assisted in his rise to power. In late May of 2015, in a phone call with Trump, former President Bill Clinton “encouraged Trump’s efforts to play a larger role in the Republican Party.” Trump announced his decision to run for president in June of 2015, only a couple weeks after this conversation.

Bill was not the only Clinton to help legitimize Donald Trump as a viable candidate. The Hillary campaign elevated Trump in the media even before he had announced his candidacy. In an infamous memo sent out on April 23, 2015, Assistant Campaign Manager Marissa Astor suggested, “We need to be elevating the Pied Piper candidates so that they are leaders of the pack and tell the press to them seriously.” The news media was more than happy to oblige with this request, as Donald Trump was given more than $2 billion worth of free media coverage during his run.

The Hillary campaign doubled down on this Pied Piper strategy in a meeting on July 29, 2015, when they discussed, “How do we maximize Trump and others?” It was their belief that Hillary matched up better against Trump than against other candidates and therefore, it would be to Democratic advantage to push Trump as a legitimate contender. There was little or no concern about what would happen if Trump actually won, and a far-right authoritarian became president. Their strategy of elevating Trump succeeded in helping him secure the Republican nomination, but their estimation that Hillary could defeat him failed, as Trump won with 304 electoral votes while losing the popular vote by almost three million votes.

The Electoral College

Winning the popular vote while losing the electoral college is not new for Democrats. Democrats have won the popular vote in six out of seven presidential elections from 1992 until today, and yet have secured the presidency only four times.

Even though a recent Gallup poll showed that 61 percent of the US public supports abolishing the electoral college, the Democrats have not made any serious, unified effort to reform the electoral college since 1979. Given the threat to actual democracy that the electoral college represents, the Democrats’ reluctance to tackle this issue is baffling, especially given that they’ve had the power to do so multiple times, such as Bill Clinton’s eight-year presidency or during Obama’s Democratic (filibuster proof) super-majority during his first term. One might think that after the catastrophic presidency of George W. Bush — who oversaw more than a million casualties in the Iraq invasion and whose “War on Terror” has cost the United States some $6.4 trillion and displaced some 37 million people — the Democrats might be interested in reforming or abolishing the electoral college. After all, Al Gore actually won the popular vote by some 500,000 votes in 2000, but Bush’s victory was facilitated by a 5-4 vote on the Supreme Court to halt the recount in Bush v. Gore.

The fight to abolish the electoral college has now moved to the states, where the National Popular Vote bill has to be passed in states totaling 270 electoral votes in order for it to take effect. This is a much slower, more cumbersome process that could have been avoided had it been taken up by Democrats when they were in power.

The Judiciary

While Democrats won the popular vote in six of seven last presidential elections, the GOP has stacked the judicial branch with judges during Republican tenure and has appointed 14 out of 18, soon to be 15 out of 19, Supreme Court seats, if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed.

On March 16, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. This was almost nine months before the general election. Yet over this period, Republicans successfully blocked every effort to hold a hearing on Garland’s appointment. A key part of Mitch McConnell’s argument against holding hearings was the so-called Biden rule, which was based off a speech that then Senator Joe Biden gave in 1992, saying, “As a result, it is my view that if a Supreme Court Justice resigns tomorrow, or within the next several weeks, or resigns at the end of the summer, President Bush should consider following the practice of a majority of his predecessors and not — and not — name a nominee until after the November election is completed.” Even though their opposition left the court shorthanded, the Republicans presented a united front under McConnell and stonewalled the nomination.

Merrick Garland was by no means a progressive. He was a moderate who had bipartisan support from Republicans such as Orrin Hatch, Susan Collins, and John McCain, who all voted for him in 1997 when Clinton appointed him to the D.C. appeals court. McConnell’s choice to block the nomination was not about Garland’s ideology — it was about creating real political opposition for Obama. “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy,'” McConnell said.

Where was the Democratic opposition during these nine months? NPR describes the Democratic strategic thinking during this time: “So it was safer, in the judgments of spring and summer 2016, to let the Republicans look intransigent and unfair and hope somebody noticed. Perhaps the injustice to Garland would help Democrats win seats in supposedly blue states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and even red ones such as Missouri and North Carolina.” Rather than putting up any kind of meaningful resistance, the Democrats acquiesced and allowed Mitch to have his way, gambling everything on a Clinton victory in 2016. The failure of the Democrats to win the electoral college would later result in Trump nominating Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and likely, Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Mitch McConnell’s use of the “nuclear option” to confirm Neil Gorsuch, changing the number of Senate votes needed to confirm a Supreme Court justice from 60 to 51, was first employed by Democrats in 2013 as a way to avoid Republican filibusters. While it seemed politically expedient at the time, it eroded the need for bipartisan consent and allowed a simple majority to wield more power. Even after McConnell invoked the nuclear option in 2017 to confirm Neil Gorsuch, three Democrats voted in favor of the confirmation of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The 51-vote majority would later be used to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, though one Democrat also voted to confirm him.

Democrats crossing over to confirm Trump-selected judges has been a pattern throughout the last four years. In October of 2017, the Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The vote was 55-43, with three Democrats voting to confirm. Not only have some Democrats been complicit in voting to confirm even the most right-wing of Trump’s judicial appointments, but Chuck Schumer actually cut a deal with Mitch McConnell to fast-track many of these confirmations. In late August of 2018, just before the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, Schumer made this deal with the devil that gave 11 Trump nominees immediate approval and fast-tracked eight more for a vote. One of the judges that was fast-tracked in August of 2018 was Charles Barnes Goodwin, to become U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma. The vote passed 52-42 with six democrats voting to confirm. This vote is noteworthy because Charles Goodwin had received a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association.

During the Trump administration, more than 200 Federal judges have been appointed. “Of the 202 confirmations, 154 have been men, and 173 have been white.” Trump’s lifetime-serving, judicial appointees have been the youngest ever, with an average age of 48. This demographic “cemented the gross mismatch between the federal judiciary and the public.” According to Vice News, “Democrats vote to confirm Trump’s nominees roughly 39 percent of the time.”

The consistent ratcheting of the judicial branch to the extreme right has been underway for decades. As the US Supreme Court has become more and more a corporate-friendly, GOP partisan weapon fueled by dark money, we have seen catastrophic decisions that have dismantled basic democratic protections, like Citizens United in 2010, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and McCutcheon’s 2014 rejection of campaign finance limits. And with Amy Coney Barrett’s terrible record on labor rights, women’s and public healthcareLGBTQ and other civil rights, failing to effectively oppose an extremist, right-wing takeover of the US judicial system is a clear case of aiding and abetting fascism.

Emergency Border Security Funding Bill

In addition to their lack of opposition to judicial appointments, a majority of House Democrats have been passing legislation that supports Trump’s racist, xenophobic agenda. In May of 2019, the House passed H.R. 3401, a bill which gave $4.6 billion in emergency funding for border security. Included in this bill was $418 million for Immigrations Customs and Enforcement (ICE) operations and support. This is the same agency that has since then been revealed to have been forcing hysterectomies on detainees. Only 95 of 233 House Democrats voted against this bill and only eight of 45 in the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged House Democrats to vote for the bill, saying, “In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill.” These resources were earmarked for the very people who were separating and abusing the children at the detention centers.

Patriot Act

In November 2019, House Democrats passed an amendment to an appropriations bill that extended the Patriot Act by three months. Independent Congressman Justin Amash criticized this move, saying, “Democrats have highlighted Trump’s abuse of his executive powers, yet they’re teaming up to extend the administration’s authority to warrantlessly gather data on Americans.” Only ten House Democrats voted against this amendment. When the Patriot Act was once again set to expire in March 2020, the House came together to pass a further extension of these authoritative powers when they passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reform bill, which included extending provisions of the USA Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 until 2023.

In May of 2020, an attempt was made to amend the USA Freedom Act Reauthorization Bill to prevent the government from being able to conduct secretive warrantless surveillance of web browser history. This amendment required 60 votes to pass, but it came up one vote short. Ten Senate Democrats voted against it. Rather than fighting to prevent the Trump administration from having more tools with which to spy on US citizens, the Democrats have come together repeatedly to extend these bills and give the Trump regime additional powers.

Military Budget (NDAA)

The Democrats have repeatedly approved National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs) during Trump’s presidency — all of which have included increases in military spending. In December 2019, after the FY 2020 NDAA passed the Democratic controlled House with a vote of 377-48, Trump tweeted “Wow! All of our priorities have made it into the final NDAA: Pay Raise for our Troops, Rebuilding our Military, Paid Parental Leave, Border Security, and Space Force! Congress – don’t delay this anymore! I will sign this historic defense legislation immediately!” Everything that Trump wanted included a $738 billion price tag. Also included in this bill was continued material assistance for Saudi Arabia, after a failed battle to draw the line against further arms sales to the murderous regime. The US and Saudi-backed war on Yemen has killed some 233,000, with 60 percent of the dead as children under five. Eighty percent of Yemen’s population now relies on humanitarian aid, and Amnesty International cites 16 million waking up hungry every day. Nancy Pelosi released a final statement on the NDAA: “Democrats will always stand unified in support of a strong national defense For The People that honors our values, protects our security and advances our leadership in the world.”

Israel

Democrats have routinely come together in support of right-wing dictators and fascist regimes around the world, including the terrorist state of Israel. When Donald Trump moved the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May of 2018, Chuck Schumer called the move “long overdue.”

In 2019, Democrats came together overwhelmingly to support an appropriations act that increased funding for Israel to $3.8 billion. The only House Democrat to oppose this bill was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Nancy Pelosi explained her stance on Israel in March of 2019, when she gave a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), saying, “Israel and America are connected now and forever. We will never allow anyone to make Israel a wedge issue.”

The influence of pro-Israel lobbyists such as AIPAC is so strong that Joe Biden intervened in crafting the wording of the non-binding 2020 Democratic platform to make sure that the word “occupation” was not used in reference to Israeli troops in Palestine. Internationally known as a war criminal for expanding Israel’s illegal and brutal military occupation of Palestine, US Democrats have been more than happy to go to bat for Benjamin Netanyahu and his corrupt criminal regime.

When we step back and look at the Democratic Party’s deep enabling tendencies of not only Trump and his authoritarian rule in the United States, but also Democrats’ consistent political support and material assistance for murderous regimes internationally, we are led to conclude that corporate-funded political parties (both Democratic and Republican) align themselves first and foremost with ruling-class, colonial interests, and against the interests of the working-class and the poor, both at home and abroad. A 2014 Princeton University study declared the United States to be an oligarchy because “Congress supports the lobbyists and economic elites over the will of the people.” Given the Democratic Party’s ever-increasing allegiance toward the oligarchical forces operating inside the US government, it must also be noted that the Democratic establishment is complicit with this same government’s slide toward fascism.

Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and a whole class of corporate Democrats are so politically and economically aligned with oligarchy that they would rather stage false political protests as media ops than mount any kind of actual political opposition that could stop Trump’s increasingly fascist movement. At the end of the day, in order to mount real resistance to Trump, top Democrats would have to be willing to threaten their own cozy political and economic status with the corporations that fund and run the government. And that’s just not something they’re willing to do.

The post The Assistance, Not the Resistance first appeared on Dissident Voice.

US Presidential Campaign Spectacle:  Distracts from Essential Issues while Playing the Race Card

With the seemingly interminable US presidential campaign season mercifully drawing to a close, the buzz is about a possible coup. That would make the US one of the few countries in recent history to experience regime change not masterminded by a US embassy, because there is no US embassy in Washington.

There are other reasons why a coup is unlikely. Namely, most of the politically active public believe that they live in an exceptional democracy. This conviction is held despite the abysmal candidate choices they are given and the obscene mountains of money backing them. Surely, the ruling elites would not want to disabuse a quiescent citizenry of this delusion by allowing the naked coercive state to be exposed.

Symmetry of the two-party duopoly

So, we have a marvelous symmetry of contention. Republicans accuse Democrats of collusion with Antifa to establish a socialist tyranny. Democrats accuse Republicans of marching to a fascist dictatorship with the Proud Boys.

On the right, former Reagan sub-cabinet official Paul Craig Roberts has gone off the rails in an anti-Semitic and white supremist article: “Democrats Have Planned a Coup If Trump Wins Reelection.” John Daniel Davidson, political editor at The Federalist, sees: “Under the guise of planning for right-wing violence if Trump loses, Democrats are gaming out how to steal the election if Trump wins.”

On the left, the person that the inimitable Caitlin Johnstone calls “the closest liberals can get to speaking to the left’s manager,” Noam Chomsky, claims Trump is “worse than Hitler.”

The most compelling reason emerging to vote for Biden is that, if he loses, we will have to endure four more years of the increasingly unhinged rants by Democrats about Trump.

Partisans on either side of the narrow Washington consensus admonish that the other will mount a coup. This is a distraction. As long as the covert dictatorship of capital is accepted so readily, the ruling elites have no incentive to opt for an overt dictatorship.

Recall the angst of the Trump impeachment. Nothing came of it and not a word was uttered about it at the Democratic National Convention that followed. Impeachment was also a distraction. Hidden behind the spectacle of petty partisan rancor was underlying class unity on matters of import.

At about the same time the Democrats accused Trump of being the greatest threat imaginable to humanity, the same Democrats by super-majorities renewed the Patriot Act giving this president wartime powers in a time of peace, gifted the commander and chief with a record military budget, and passed the historic massive upward redistribution of wealth known as the CARES Act.

Presidential campaign spectacle distracts from issues with majority support

The presidential race, by mutual consent of the major contestants, is reduced to a single issue – Trump – at a time of unprecedented crises that call for solutions. Matt Taibbi comments in reference to the obsession with Trump: “Though most of our problems are systemic, most of our public debates are referendums on personality.”

Both parties of capital are united in opposing popular demands. Polls show 60% or greater approval ratings for these important issues (modified from Greg Godels) that the duopoly conspires to squelch by making this an election over a single personality:

  • Ending forever wars and sanctions while de-escalating the threat of nuclear conflagration. Sanctions against Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Iran, Syria, etc. – costing hundreds of thousands of lives – will continue whoever occupies the White House. Trump dutifully followed Obama’s pivot to Asia as both parties trip over each other to prove which is more Sinophobic. Trump extended Obama’s multi-trillion-dollar modernization of the US nuclear arsenal and is continuing US withdrawal from nuclear disarmament treaties. Meanwhile the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ doomsday clock has advanced to 100 seconds before midnight – “closer than ever.”
  • National healthcare program modeled after Medicare. In the unlikely event that Congress passes a healthcare-for-all bill, both presidential candidates are pledged to veto it. Meanwhile over 27 million people have lost their health insurance on top of around 30 million already uninsured. At the same time, health insurance profits boomed by what Forbes calls “staggering” amounts during the pandemic.
  • Opposition to the militarization of the police and preservation of civil liberties. Trump uses the Pentagon’s 1033 program militarizing the police, building on Obama’s 24-fold (2,400%) increase in armament transfers to local police. Those concerned about what Chomsky calls Trump’s “fascistic symptoms” that are “shredding the constitution” should also be vigilant regarding the friendly fascism of the Democrats. We may look back in terror to realize that in 2011 Obama nullified habeas corpus constitutional protections. Obama’s National Defense Authorization Act authorized the indefinite detention, without trial or indictment, of US citizens designated as enemies by the executive.
  • Reduction of income inequality, stronger anti-trust laws, and fairly taxing wealth. Biden promised Wall Street “nothing will change.” Trump doesn’t even have to make such an obvious promise. The financial bubble will only inflate, while unemployment, home evictions, and hunger exacerbate. Meanwhile the wealth gap between America’s richest and poorer families more than doubled from 1989 to 2016.
  • COVID safety over economic activity. In blue states as well as red, workers have been forced back to work without regard to safety. Rather than provide needed economic relief for those most impacted by the pandemic, the Democrats killed the Republican stimulus bill, after the Republicans skuttled theirs. Meanwhile the ever growing pandemic death toll in the US exceeds 218,000.
  • Effectively addressing global warming. Both parties agree that global warming is happening but differ on its causes. Nevertheless, they are united to continue fracking and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. Meanwhile the consensus of world scientists, represented by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, gives us ten years to avoid irreversible “climate catastrophe.”

The failure of either of the major parties to embrace issues of import to humanity let alone to working people is the problem. These are issues the majority of voters support.

The race card: choice between the good cop and the bad cop

CounterPunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair observes: “The genius of the Biden campaign is that there really is no Biden campaign.” With manifest unity on the major issues, the two parties of capital try to distinguish each other over their posture on race. But what the two parties really offer is the choice between the good cop and the bad cop.

Republicans are the designated party of white supremacy. Democrats, who for decades tolerated their racist Dixiecrat wing in the South – evidenced by Biden’s long partnership with segregationists – are the party of cosmetic identity politics, which is the lipstick on the pig of institutional racism. Senator Cory Booker, himself an establishment Democrat, correctly accused Biden of being the architect of the mass incarceration system disproportionately impacting people of color.

Trump’s reprehensible, racist dog whistles need to be put into perspective with Obama’s immigrant deportations, Clinton’s crime and welfare bills, and even Roosevelt’s internment of the West Coast Japanese in terms of impact on people of color and the poor.

Biden, not Trump, said, “We have predators on our streets…We have no choice but to take them out of society.” That was back in 1993 in support of what has become the carceral state, for which today he proudly takes credit: “I’ve demonstrated I care about my whole career … dealing with a criminal justice system to make it fair and make it more decent.”

White supremacy is unmistakably the seminal problematic of the American project. The Republican’s not so subtle white supremacy and the Democrat’s identity politics both serve to split and weaken the working class along racial lines; two sides of the same coin. The race card is used by the duopoly, not to achieve social justice as it should be, but to intensify discord and division.

Political economist Rob Urie notes: “When the Democratic-leaning press began (falsely) reporting on rising hate and racial backlash, and the CEOs of large banks and tech companies began stating publicly that white supremacy is the only problem in need of solving, the havoc that neoliberal policies have wrought quickly disappeared as a topic of polite conversation.”

Death of liberalism and the more effective evil

Trump is a symptom, not the disease, which is neoliberalism. Richard Nixon was the last liberal president. Jimmy Carter heralded the neoliberal order, which has three main components: austerity for working people coupled with welfare for financial capital; imperialism and endless wars abroad; and massive growth of the security and surveillance state. These components arc in a downward trajectory that converges with fascism.

The perpetual bad behavior of voting for Democrats as the lesser evil abets this downward trajectory to an ever more repressive state. Today, the Democrats – not the Republicans – are the main obstacle to reversing this downward trajectory.

With the death of liberalism as a viable political force, its inheritors are relegated to the role of legitimizing the right and attacking the left. The Democrats have emerged as the more effective evil by either coopting or, if that fails, crushing progressive alternatives.

The Democrats, not the Republicans, defeated the Bernie Sanders insurgency. Arguably, the ruling circles in the Democratic Party prefer to run such patently unattractive candidates as Clinton and Biden, risking a Republican victory, rather than run a putative progressive such as Sanders who espoused genuinely majoritarian issues.

Despite their hostility to the left, the Republicans were not the ones who have gone after the Green Party. The Democrats, as gatekeepers for the establishment, have attacked progressives such as Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins. The left – especially those who use their leftist credentials to legitimize voting for Democrats – is advised to understand who their friends are and who attacks them.

The ruling elites win regardless of the election outcome

Portraying the two-party duopoly through the lens of its extremist wings is misleading. This error more generally leads people to see the two major parties as more significantly different than they are, when, in fact, there is little daylight between, say, Romney and Biden. This is critical because Biden/Pelosi/Schumer rule the Democrats not Sanders/AOC. And the Biden buddies have birds of the feather on both sides of the aisle.

Biden is the preferred choice of most ruling elites with that ticket outspending Trump 2:1 and growing. The ruling elites know they win with either ticket but are putting the big money behind the Democrats, because the Democrats are perceived as better representing elite interests this time around. Biden will follow the money to the White House.

Trump may be defeated in the election. But the battle to win over the dispossessed, who are the victims of neoliberalism, must be the overriding objective of any left alternative. As the late economist Doug Dowd lamented, the left in the US was once composed principally of self-identified workers but has now largely lost that constituency.

The post US Presidential Campaign Spectacle:  Distracts from Essential Issues while Playing the Race Card first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How Biden Flubbed Town Hall Foreign Policy Question

Toward the end of Joe Biden’s October 15 town hall session, a Trump supporter asked Biden the only foreign policy question of the night. “So peace is breaking out all over the world,” the questioner claimed. “Our troops are coming home. Serbia is talking to Kosovo. And the Arabs and Israelis are talking peace, which I believe is a modern-day miracle, what’s going on. Does President Trump’s foreign policy deserve some credit?”

This question encapsulated all the smoke and mirrors that Trump has used to confuse the public and obscure his broken promises to end America’s wars, bring our troops home and build a more peaceful world. This was a fantastic opportunity for Biden to clarify the reality of Trump’s abysmal record and explain what he would do instead.  But he didn’t. Instead he endorsed some of the most deceptive elements of Trump’s propaganda, dropped some clangers of his own and, in a classic Freudian slip, laid bare his own enduring commitment to American imperialism.

In response to the questioner’s designation of Israel’s deal with the UAE and Bahrain as a “modern-day miracle,” Biden simply rolled over and said, “I complement the president on the deal with Israel.” What he should have said was something like this:

“The UAE and Bahrain are ruled by dictators with absolute, despotic power who represent neither their own people nor the Arab world, let alone the people of Palestine—who gained nothing from these deals. Since these countries were not at war with Israel to begin with, these accords have nothing to do with peace. They are more about flooding the Middle East with even more U.S. weapons and forming new military alliances against Iran. Yes, we need peace deals between Israel and its Arab neighbors, but they must be deals that truly bring peace, end Israel’s illegal military occupations and advance the equal rights of Palestinians and Israelis.”

Biden didn’t respond to the mention of the White House meeting between Serbia and Kosovo, but he could have explained that it had to be postponed when President Hashim Thaci of Kosovo was indicted for war crimes by an international court at The Hague. Thaci is charged with organizing the killing of hundreds of Serbian prisoners of war to sell their internal organs on the international transplant market under cover of NATO bombing in 1999. When the indictment was unveiled in June 2020, Thaci was literally in his plane on the way to meet Serbian leaders at the White House and had to make a U-turn over the Atlantic to return to Kosovo.

Twenty-one years after NATO dropped 23,000 bombs on Serbia and illegally annexed Kosovo, neither Serbia nor nearly half the countries in the world have recognized Kosovo’s independence from Serbia. Biden could have pointed to this as a case study in why the U.S. must stop waging regime change wars, organizing coups in other countries, and installing CIA-backed gangsters and war criminals like Thaci to rule them.

As for the critically important statement by the town hall questioner that “Our troops are coming home,” Biden claimed that there are more troops in Afghanistan now than when he and Obama left office. That appears to be incorrect, since there were 11,000 troops there in December 2016 and 8,600 U.S. troops as of September 22nd, despite the lack of confirmation from the Pentagon on further reductions that Trump had promised.

However, Biden could have simply compared the number of troops brought home by Obama and Trump, which would have been an impressive comparison. Obama reduced U.S. troop levels abroad from 483,670 in December 2008, just before he took office, to 275,850 by December 2016. If the latest figures from the Trump administration are correct, there are still over 238,000 U.S. military personnel overseas.

Obama reduced the U.S.’s overseas military presence by 43%, while Trump has reduced it by no more than another 14%. With Trump claiming he is “bringing our troops home” in every stump speech, why on Earth is Biden not trumpeting the fact that he and Obama brought home five times more troops than Trump has? Why is Biden running from that record? Is he planning to reverse that trend if elected? Millions of American voters would like to know.

A disappointing aspect of Biden’s response was his habitual readiness to take the low road, smearing China’s President Xi Jinping, criticizing Trump for even trying to make peace with North Korea, and repeating an unsubstantiated story about Russia paying “bounties” to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops. A better response from Biden would have been to fault Trump for not following through on the peace initiative with North Korea and for stirring up new Cold Wars with Russia and China, when the American people want their leaders to focus on existing threats like the pandemic, our devastated economy and the climate crisis.

But perhaps the most revealing moment of the evening was Biden’s Freudian slip about the imperial character of America’s relations with its allies and the rest of the world:

“You know, we’ve always ruled – (corrects himself) we’ve been most effective as a world leader, in my humble opinion – not just by the exercise of our power – we’re the most powerful nation in the world – but the power of our example. That’s what’s led the rest of the world to follow us, on almost anything.”

The U.S. did indeed rule an empire in the twentieth century, albeit a neocolonial empire in an anti-colonial and post-colonial world that had to be sustained by a whole web of myths and lies. But now we are standing at a crossroads in American and world history. America’s history of war, militarism and international coercion has reached its final stage in the terminal decline of an increasingly corrupt and decadent American empire. Yet most of our leaders are still hell-bent on preserving America’s imperial power at any cost: endless wars, climate catastrophe, mass extinctions, and the terrifying risk of a final, apocalyptic mass-casualty war – most likely a nuclear war.

But there is another path leading away from this crossroads, one that Joe Biden should embrace, which involves redirecting our country’s resources and energies away from unsustainable imperial power through a peaceful transition to a sustainable, prosperous post-imperial future.

It would have been inspiring to hear Biden say that his goals would be to put an end to U.S. efforts at regime change; to significantly reduce the threat of nuclear war and join the UN Treaty on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons; to free up hundreds of billions of dollars per year for domestic needs by right-sizing the Pentagon budget; and to put peaceful diplomacy front and center.

That would have been a paradigm-changing answer that would have motivated millions of Americans across the political spectrum—from leftists to anti-imperialist Republicans and libertarians—who long to live in a peaceful, just and sustainable world.

The post How Biden Flubbed Town Hall Foreign Policy Question first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Brilliantina and Progresso: The Roadblock in 2020

A sun-drenched day finds two lone figures strolling along a deserted beach, 10 feet apart and wearing masks, Brilliantina and her friend, Progresso.

Progresso: Have you voted yet, Brilliantina?

Brilliantina: No, I have not yet decided what to do. It needs a bit more thought.

Progresso: I was slow to decide at first, Brilliantina, but I decided on Biden — reluctantly since I disagree with most all of his positions.

Brilliantina:  That is strange logic, Progresso.

Progresso:  Well, I know that, and I don’t feel entirely comfortable with it.  But you know the argument – nothing is more important than ejecting Trump. The clincher for me came from another friend of mine, a leading leftie, who is “disappointed” in Biden but will nevertheless vote for him. In response to my qualms, he told me that voting for Biden was the “consensus” on the Left.  And therefore I should vote Biden

Brilliantina: ‘Consensus”?  But you pride yourself on thinking things through, Progresso. You very often praise an approach based on reason. Following “consensus,” despite your own convictions, seems like running with the herd or striving to be popular. Not at all like you, my friend.

Progresso:  I am not entirely happy about it.

Brilliantina:  Well I guess “consensus” sums up the last ditch argument for voting for Biden: Everyone in your circle is doing it. But you are not satisfied with that, as I expected, my friend.  So, let’s talk it through and maybe that will help us both decide.  What are the most important issues for you, Progresso?

Progresso: In foreign policy a peaceful approach in general but especially with respect to the major powers of China and Russia where conflict could evolve into war, even nuclear war. Kissinger warns that a conflict with China could lay waste the entire world even worse than WWI did to Europe. In 2016 Trump talked peace but his words turn out to be empty promises.

Brilliantina:  True enough. But Biden has been incredibly hostile to Russia, has he not, to the point of being the point man for the US/NED orchestrated regime change op in Ukraine. And on China he was on board with the 2011 “Pivot” to Asia which included transferring an astonishing 60% of the US Navy’s fleet to China’s vicinity, not to mention the economic assault called TPP designed to isolate China economically from the burgeoning East Asian economies. Worse than a trade war, I would say.

Progresso:  I concede that Biden is far from my cup of tea on foreign policy.

Brilliantina:  What about domestic policy?

Progresso: The big thing for me is Medicare For All. That is a program that is within reach now since the US public favors it and the need for it was made clear by the pandemic. It would be a major factor to remedy inequality not only in and of itself but also as a model for other programs. But very sadly, Biden like Obama has closed the door on that – emphatically.  He said he would never sign such a bill were it to come across his desk. And the chances for that desk crossing are those of the proverbial snowball in hell sans leadership from the Pres.

Brilliantina: So Biden stands firmly against both those dreams of yours, as does Trump.  Why then would you possibly vote for him?  In fact, on foreign affairs Biden might be considered worse than Trump since he is committed to lining up the “allies,” really vassal states, and getting them to gang up on China.  But China now has an economy 130% that of the US by the PPP-GDP measure used by the IMF, World Bank and even gracing the pages of the CIA World Factbook.  Many of the vassal states are tired of being kicked around and see an alternative and safe haven in China.  They are not eager to be cannon fodder for the ambitions of the US.

Trump wants to go it alone – with the same objective of bringing down China which is often euphemistically described as “containment” or crusading for democracy.

Progresso: You make sense, but what about reforming the Democratic Party?

Brilliantina:  My dear Progresso, you put an enormous amount of time and energy into the Bernie campaign only to see the Democratic Establishment destroy it and Bernie capitulate.  He did not consult with you about that capitulation, I will wager.  And this is the second time it happened, a repeat of 2016.  Fool you once, dear Progresso, et cetera.

Progresso: So what is to be done, Tina?

Brilliantina: Let me suggest a new way to look at the Democratic Party and Joe Biden.  I suggest that it is profoundly counterproductive for someone with your views to vote for Biden.

Progresso:  Counterproductive, Tina?

Brilliantina: Yes.  Consider what will happen after the election if Biden wins.  You will be working again for a peaceful world and Biden will be peddling the opposite, no matter how he tries to gussy it up.  But as happened after the Obama election, your fellow progressives will be crying “Give him a chance” or “You are endangering the Democratic majority” or “You are jeopardizing the majority in House and Senate” or “You are opening the door to a Republican comeback.”  Remember that Obama won on a vague promise of peace, and the antiwar movement largely fell silent while he continued Bush’s wars, ‘surged” in those wars when he could and gave us five new ones!

Progresso: I understand your point, Tina. It was a sad betrayal.

Brilliantina: And let me ask you, does your experience with the Bernie campaign lead you to think the Democratic Party can be reformed?

Progresso: Unfortunately, no. In fact, it is pretty clear that the Democratic Party Elite, who are firmly in control and cannot be dislodged, are a barrier to all that I have hoped for.  They are like a giant bolder sitting in the road.

Brilliantina:  A roadblock — good way to put it, Progresso. If that is the case, Progresso, is not job one the removal of the roadblock so you can move forward? It seems that the demise of the Democratic Party would clear the way.

Progresso:I guess the best way to accomplish that would be to vote for Trump, hand the Democrats a resounding defeat and proceed with the roadblock cleared.

Brilliantina:I admit that your logic is sound in this case, Progresso, unexpectedly so.  But it overlooks the morality.  Given the Republican Establishment’s thirst for war and disdain for decent universal health care, it seems hardly moral to back the Republicans either.  So morality would seem to override that conclusion.

Progresso: But what is to be done?  I lean to staying away from the polling place and the mailbox altogether.  But I am not sure yet.

Brilliantina: That certainly is a logical option.

Progresso: But what will you do?

Brilliantina:  For me, Progesso, the overriding concern is peace in the world.  If we have a nuclear war, then all else means nothing.

Progresso: So what will you do?

Brilliantina:I have yet to decide.  But I am quite lucky given my main concern.  There are two Parties that are noninterventionist, the Libertarians and the Greens.  The Libertarians are the third largest Party and the Greens the fourth largest.  In 2016, the year of great discontent after 15 years of the Bush/Obama wars,  the Libertarians won 4.5 million votes and the Greens 1.5 million votes.  I am a bit confused, because the Libertarians are the largest and have the most appeal to the American voter, but the Greens have taken the most explicit stance against Launch on Warning although not as strong as is required.

Progresso: You know in the past I was warned that a vote for the Greens would damage the Democrats.  But from our discussion of the Roadblock, I see that is exactly the points.  I wonder why they do not embrace that?  Not only is it a great selling point but it adds a bit of the feistiness that they need so badly.

Brilliantina:  Well, it has been an illuminating discussion, Progresso.  Let us leave matters there and resume our discussion at another time.

Progresso: Take care, Tina.

The post Brilliantina and Progresso: The Roadblock in 2020 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Memories of Voter Suppression

Back in July 1962, when, according to Donald Trump, America was “great,” I was in the Deep South, working to register Black voters.  It was a near-hopeless project, given the mass disenfranchisement of the region’s Black population that was enforced by Southern law and an occasional dose of white terrorism.

It all started in the fall of 1961, the beginning of my senior year at Columbia College.  My roommate (Mike Weinberg) and I, both white, had joined the campus chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and participated in a few of its New York City projects.  The real action, though, was in the turbulent South, swept by sit-ins and Freedom Rides that demanded an end to racial discrimination and, especially, the right to vote.

On an evening in the spring of 1962, Ronnie Moore, a Black CORE Southern field secretary, brought the news of the Southern freedom struggle to our Columbia CORE meeting.  Having headed up desegregation efforts in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Ronnie and three other students at Southern University, a historically Black institution, were out on bail on “criminal anarchy” charges.  The laws under which they were charged and imprisoned, which provided for a penalty of ten years at hard labor and a hefty fine, dated back to the state’s early twentieth century repression of union organizing among Black and white timber workers.

Stirred by what Ronnie told us, Mike and I went up to him after his talk and asked him how we could help the cause.  Looking us in the eyes, he said, smiling: “What are you boys doing this summer?”  In reply, we explained that, inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, we would be driving around the country.  “Any chance that you’ll get to Baton Rouge?” he asked.  “We could manage it,” we said.  “Well, do it,” he remarked, adding: “Maybe we could arrange to get you arrested!”  We all had a good laugh about that.

That July, as Mike and I drove along Louisiana roads enveloped in an atmosphere of racial segregation, racist remarks, and unbearably hot and steamy weather, the venture no longer seemed quite as amusing.  Nor, after arriving in Baton Rouge, was it easy to find Ronnie, for the Congress of Racial Equality wasn’t listed in the phone book.  But we did find a Committee on Registration Education, and figured that, with the same acronym, that must be his group.  It was.  The state authorities had obtained a court order to shut down its predecessor.

When we arrived at CORE’s tiny office, Ronnie was delighted to see us and, together with his coworkers, took us to an all-Black hangout for coffee.  In his view, and ours, the only safe people in the South were Black.  As for local whites, we considered them all actual or potential Nazis, and stayed clear of them and their institutions.  Whether they would stay clear of us remained uncertain.  Mike and I slept on the Moore family’s entry hall floor, where local residents had been known to fire bullets into it through the front screen door.

Although most of the voter registration campaign Mike and I worked on in Baton Rouge was rather mundane, one evening was particularly exciting. At dinner time, Ronnie suggested that we drive over to Southern University, from which he and the other CORE activists had been expelled for their “crimes.” As we entered the all-Black dining hall, students started yelling: “It’s Ronnie!  It’s Ronnie!”  Hundreds of students swiveled around and cheers rent the air.  Leaping onto one of the tables, Ronnie made an impassioned speech about the freedom struggle and, then, announced that he had brought with him two movement supporters from the North.  “Get up here, Larry and Mike!”  So we jumped up there, too, and did our best to deliver strong messages of solidarity.  We had just about finished when someone rushed in, warning that the campus security police were on their way and that we had better get out of there fast!  We did while students ran interference for us.

One day, Ronnie suggested that Mike and I drive him to Jackson, Mississippi, where a region-wide CORE-SNCC conclave would be held at the local Freedom House. Accordingly, after dinner, we hit the road through northern Louisiana (where a local gas station operator threatened to kill us) and, then, through Mississippi to Jackson.  Here, in an abandoned building taken over by the movement and around which police cars circled menacingly, we joined dozens of CORE and SNCC activists from the Deep South.  At night, they had lengthy political discussions, in which they expressed their bitterness toward the Kennedy administration for its failure to back civil rights legislation or to protect movement activists from racist violence.

During the days, Mike and I joined Luvaughn Brown, a Black activist recently incarcerated at the county prison farm, going door to door in a Black Jackson neighborhood and encouraging its residents to register to vote.  This was a tough job because people feared retaliation if they dared to exercise their voting rights and, also, because they would almost certainly be rejected. At the time, Mississippi used a “literacy test” to determine if a citizen was qualified to vote. A voting registrar would ask a potential registrant to define the meaning of a section in the lengthy state constitution.  If you were Black, the registrar announced that you had failed the test; if you were white, you passed.

Voter registration work was not only frustrating, but exceptionally dangerous.  The following summer, Medgar Evers, head of the local NAACP, was murdered in Jackson by a white supremacist for his leadership in a voter registration campaign. The next June, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—participants in the Mississippi Freedom Summer voter registration project—met a similar fate.  Although rattled by our fairly brief Southern venture, Mike and I escaped with our lives, as did Ronnie.

Mike and I kept in touch, and were delighted when Congress responded to the scandal of Southern voter suppression with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed the discriminatory voting practices of the past and established federal oversight of any new voting procedures in the offending states.

Imagine, then, our sense of sorrow, mingled with disgust, when, in 2013, by a 5-4 vote, the Republican-dominated U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act.  This opened the door for numerous Republican-controlled state governments—many but not all Southern—to implement mass purges of their voter rolls, closure of polling places in minority neighborhoods, government ID requirements, felony disenfranchisement, and other barriers that deprived millions of Americans of the right to vote.

I wonder how Republican leaders can live with themselves when they betray the most basic principle of democracy.  Of all the things they have done during their time in power, this is surely one of the most despicable.

The post Memories of Voter Suppression first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Another Capitalist Market Brand: Brain Death

America and the world are suffering a crisis of capitalism like no other in recent history. With an economy teetering on a mountain of incredible debt without which it could not continue, and a virus threatening the globe but with the highest death toll in America and even a president leading in gross ignorance about it testing positive, stresses and strains are created that, while showing positive awakening among some to systemic rather than personal problems, also creates negative descents into fantasy among others that make immaterial religious mythology seem like critical examinations of material reality.

Approaching a national election which will, as usual, have nothing to do with criticizing the system but only that it be run in more or less polite if continued murderous fashion, the American minority which will elect the captain of the Titanic long after it has hit the iceberg is torn apart over which side of the coin should win when we need an entirely new currency based on the value of humanity and not the market forces of private profit.

A historically honest president, if more blatantly arrogant, egotistical and pinheaded than usual occupants of the subsidized housing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, was found intolerable by ruling power and a sign of them losing some of their control was his election to run capital headquarters in the USA.  Constantly called a liar by mind managers whose employers are freaked by his obvious display of what this country is — obnoxious, menacing, rich and dumb — his open honesty is intolerable in a government atmosphere which not only demands insistence that this is a special, wonderful, faultless nation, but rhetorical behavior that is able to call mass murder democracy and the reduction of more of the population to near and real poverty the expression of magical market forces.

The new virus, a product of market-dominated nature, is still poorly understood among a medical scientific community in America devoted, as is every other aspect of the economy, to creating private profit before rather than after, if ever, public good. But critics of the severe reactions on the part of some authority sincerely working in the dark but trying to cope with something never encountered before, has led to accepting tales of the innocently bemused and confused, along with more serious and problematic claims from allegedly sophisticated but often bordering on psychotic types, about all manner of lies, plots, conspiracies and manipulations of public consciousness previously unknown to those who’ve been napping for more than this century and have missed the distortions, misinformation, mind management and consciousness control exercised by market controllers of news, and other aspects of what are called democracy at the universal mall.

Thus, the virus is a plot organized by the elders of Zion in league with Google, or an American disease created in a lab in China, while the Chinese were all out eating fried rice, taking naps or shopping for wind chimes, or, a pharmaceutical arrangement to make money – in stark and shocking contrast to any and every other capitalist endeavor in history! — or just regular madness. This, while Russia and China are allegedly interfering online with American’s messages about their lunch, dogs, gossip, elections and other stuff on anti-social Internet sites like bankbook, insta-brain-mash and flip-flop. They are sending subtle political ads that favor one or the other major party candidates in an attempt to subvert a cherished national democracy which has never existed for a microsecond let alone elected a majority president in the nation’s history.

And these mental, physical and even spiritual fantasies come from sources deemed left, right, neo-liberal, neo-conservative, intelligent, thoughtful, deranged, clinically insane, formally educated on the internet by YouTube, or informally educated at colleges and universities. Spreading the fears of capitalist fascism — while excluding the capitalist part — and socialist Marxism while understanding neither, has become the alienating job of a tiny minority whose only definition of either menace is that it is bad and they don’t like it because authority told them it was bad and they shouldn’t like it. This form of voter education has worked in the past to bring us the present crowning achievement of lesser evil politics providing a choice between cancer and polio which assures the disease continues, and that, as always, lots of people profit from it but even more will not. They will become critically ill, die or be driven to extreme actions for survival the longer ruling power of a wealth-beyond-belief minority is allowed to remain enthroned while we are reduced to arguing over whether transsexuals of color or disabled agnostics or Hispanic atheists of no color should be part of the crew of our sinking ship.

The spectacle of an alleged debate between the candidates of the capitalist party with two caucuses, which would have made Beavis and Butthead blush, may have convinced more people of the problems we face which cannot be dealt with by its creators. The fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans did not view the ugly farce is a credit to the consciousness of the truly silent majority, as a near deranged minority of fake left and phony right mobs follow the lead of their minority mind managers and shriek in horror about a fascist attack from white supremacists or a socialist Marxist subversion into mass murder which is likely to result if one or the other lesser evil is not led, carried or wheeled into the oval office. The serious language molestation has led to use and abuse of words like fascist, genocide and white supremacist but they join the criminal use of words like democracy, equality and humanity to cover the direct opposite of those when we rely on vicious combat among individuals in order to put food on the table, roofs over our heads and clothing on our backs. Nothing is free at the temple of the free market.

As this is written the incumbent has tested positive for what he, in his infinite ignorance, calls the China virus. He has his own radically mad interpretations of reality and has not heard the incredibly brilliant notion that the U.S. created the virus but did so in Chinese labs, un-noticed by any of the one billion four hundred million Chinese, especially their allegedly total authoritarian ruling power that controls everything they say or do. Or believe, if you’re an American who, under 24-7 brain molesting by major and minor anti-social media is worried about foreign intervention in our sacred electoral hypocrisy. According to polls, this is the belief of an overwhelming majority of innocents answering to the name “democrats”.

Creeping crackpotism is no longer confined to wacko legions of a pseudo right, which is mostly composed of abused citizens with no place else to go. Presently liberal legions are swept up in fanatic beliefs that make some right wing fantasies almost seem thoughtful. The hope for the future is that the overwhelming majority of Americans who are totally unrepresented by what passes for a supposed left and right will eventually, after not voting for either of the servants of Wall Street, the Pentagon or Israel, demand and take part in the creation of a new party to represent, for the first time, a majority of American people. We need to hurry that process before the tiny ruling minority bring on more friction and unbridled hatred among their larger minority of those most susceptible to derangement because of the deranged mental state inflicted by ruling mind managers and consciousness controllers.

A nation fairly obsessed with mental problems of a trivial nature, all dealt with by a psycho-neurotic marketplace in which some cannot decide what to eat for lunch until they’ve spoken to a therapist, needs to become far more concerned about physical breakdowns occurring with increasing frequency, but we also need to take much better care of our collective mental state, which, under increasing and more irrational by the minute conditions now comes close to reducing the nation to a mental health crisis center.

Whatever the outcome of the November national election, the best news will be that a majority of the electorate, as always, will be sound enough of mind to not vote for the winner or loser, and that soon after, because earth as well as the USA is running out of time, a transformation to a new order will take up more speed and bring about real democracy and a new nation as part of a new world that offers a future for all and not just some of humanity. Remembering, or learning for the first time, that we are all members of the one human race will help us move in the direction of acting as such. Not only our mental health will improve but more importantly the physical foundation on which it depends. That was obvious to our primitive communist ancestors and we need to learn to emulate their cooperative means of survival in modern democratic form. Fast!

The post Another Capitalist Market Brand: Brain Death first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Nobody for President: Voting Legitimizes a Fraudulent Democracy

Here’s a bit of food for thought about why you should not, we repeat, should not, vote for anyone in November. Now, unlike the rabid pro-voters, there is no intention on our part to “vote-shame” those that choose to vote. If you really feel that strongly about voting, that’s fine and that’s your prerogative, have at it. However, we think there are a number of valid reasons why one should not participate in yet another spectacle of presidential elections masquerading as democracy.

No Individual Can be Trusted with That Much Power

The first consideration is the moral or ethical dilemma. Both Trump and Biden are war criminals due to the immoral and illegal warfare they’ve waged all over the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa, and many other nations. Why should anyone willingly vote for a murderer? Why should any single person be trusted with that much power? Does that make any sense whatsoever? Now, one might quite correctly bring up the fact that through our individual resource use and consumer lifestyles we are complicit in this system; therefore we are all killers to one degree or another.

However, the difference is that most of us are coerced into this system at birth and have never really had a chance to democratically vote or change the nature of this capitalist-imperialist system. Think about this.  Have we ever been given a choice to vote on whether the office of the presidency should still exist? Perhaps the idea of one person wielding immense military and economic power over 330 million citizens in addition to the world at large isn’t the best idea, and should be viewed as an antiquated model birthed in an era when slavery was legal and only white, property-owning men could vote.

So, the question remains.  Why vote to put in charge either of these two narcissistic, self-indulgent, sociopathic, blood-drenched psychos who will only exacerbate the festering sores of wealth inequality, imperial warfare, ecological devastation; and are guilty of crimes against humanity and the planet? You wouldn’t have voted for Al Capone or Pablo Escobar for president, and Trump and Biden are directly responsible for far more death and destruction than either of those gangsters. The candidates are institutionally and socially-approved gangsters serving capital and warfare, carefully vetted to never sway from their masters.

It’s not just that there are two bad candidates, but that they are sitting on top of a system that is undemocratic by design: a country that started out as a top-down social hierarchy that uses genocide and has never stopped murdering people for land and resources. At no point since then has there ever been a sea change. It’s always been more of the same with retuned euphemistic language. We live in an oligarchy, plain and simple, and no one person should have as much power centralized and consolidated into the office of the presidency.

To make a pop culture analogy, the presidency functions as the “Ring of Power” from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series. When we place so much power in one individual it inevitably leads to a situation where whoever holds the presidency is instantly corrupted by the desire of the “one ring to rule them all” and no longer has control over their own behavior. The power dynamics of capitalism block, preclude, and corrupt whatever good intentions any president might have. Even the most pure of heart would be tempted to use the immense power of the presidency and “commander in chief” for unseemly and malicious deeds.

The reason why centralized power inevitably becomes treacherous is that when faced with the challenges of maintaining itself, one will have to use authoritarian force including physical domination or the threat of it; otherwise people wouldn’t follow in lockstep. The leader can never see the externalities of their sweeping mandates and every action taken to try to fix the externality will have other unforeseen negative externalities within capitalism’s dog-eat-dog zero-sum model. It’s similar to the exponential relationship with telling lies, where every lie you tell you must tell more lies to cover all pesky details that don’t add up from the first lie told.

What Democracy?

Another question we can ask is: when did the country change from a non-democracy to the shining beacon of freedom we hear so much about? It certainly wasn’t before 1865 when slavery was abolished. It certainly was not before 1920 when women gained the right to vote, and certainly not before 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed. And certainly not today when African Americans are killed with impunity in the streets, where mass incarceration disproportionally affects people of color, where private for-profit prisons are built on former slave plantations and contract with the largest companies in America for what is essentially modern-day slave labor.

The fact is that both Trump and Biden are true believers in the system. They both will spin all sorts of bullshit in their own ways about American exceptionalism and the US being the “indispensable nation”, or a “global force for good”. The major commonality between them is they act as unquestioning goons for empire, and the least bit of doubt or skepticism about their murderous and criminal endeavors continually escapes their fragile and addled minds. They peddle bullshit but unlike the average con artist, they actually believe in their own con.

Pivoting towards the environment, it’s worth pointing out that sustainability can really only be achieved in a post-capitalist world. There cannot be political democracy without economic, social, and environmental democracy. The granular details of what that would look like are open to debate, but what’s not is that even most of Europe, more advanced politically and environmentally than us with varying forms of social democracy, is not sustainable either due to capitalism’s imperative for endless growth. According to numerous studies if the world consumed as much as the average European, we would need three Earths to sustain us all. The number is five Earths for the average American.

Elections are a Distraction from Deeper Community Work

We know what some might object to here. Voting only takes a few minutes, so how is it interrupting and impeding the local organizing which is also necessary and more vital to securing a democratic future? Well, for one, the average diet of consuming media in regard to the upcoming election, and the fact that the campaign seasons start earlier and earlier every cycle, means that tons of time, energy, and brainpower are wasted on debating, promoting, canvassing, and setting up infrastructure for campaigns. Many voters are hypnotized and anaesthetized by the immense spectacle of a campaign that lasts well over a year and has devolved into a horse-race/personality contest where actual policy takes a backseat to identity and culture war issues.

It obviously isn’t the act of voting itself, but the emotional and intellectual investment in a system that is bound to fail time and time again that becomes a distraction and saps time and energy from more important local community work. All the work that goes into state and local campaigning, canvassing, and phone banking could be much more productively spent advocating for increased funding for local projects, donating to important charities, fighting homelessness, and countless other issues.

Glorifying power and unequal class hierarchies only serves to reinforce the current system and its ways of thinking. Taking part in empire and the destruction of the planet by being restricted to a binary choice for most elected officials isn’t a functional or caring democracy, it’s one based in Orwellian language selling empire.

The Left Case against Voting: Elections Prop up a Collapsing System

There are various socioeconomic and psychological features which allow the system to maintain a veneer of legitimacy. At the most basic level voting pacifies the masses and provides a sense of contentedness. Even if a proto-fascist authoritarian like Trump is elected, who babbles about “law and order”, things aren’t as bad as those other countries (the poor and brown ones, so the racist and classist thinking goes) where there is no legitimate vote. In those nations, law and order is represented by an iron fist, yet here in the US somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that the velvet glove around the iron fist makes things that much better.

Voting functions as a release valve for social and economic tensions that have been bubbling under the surface. This will now boil and spill over as the US runs headlong into collapse no matter who is elected, unless fundamental change is initiated by mass movements. Electing professional liars who have been bought and sold from the get-go and running a sham democracy inevitably has the effect of tricking millions who feel that “their voice has been heard”.

If the Democratic Party had any courage, and wanted the progressive and radical vote in order to win decisively, they would be pressuring Biden to promote things like a Green New Deal, free college, an end to student and private debt, universal health care, and a host of other policy proposals. If you want the vote, you have to offer the electorate policies that will help people’s material conditions.

Unfortunately, it is totally predictable that the professional-managerial classes (PMC) who run for office and manage elections for both parties have been the most ideologically brainwashed, and therefore unwilling to offer economic democracy to the people. They believe the propaganda and their own lies, just like Trump and Biden. The more educated (and thus the more wealthy) are more likely to vote, but they are actually less intelligent when it comes to how politics affects the working classes and the poor. The PMCs have become a class of educated fools, court stenographers and apologists for the system.

The PMCs are true believers in the system. This was pointed out by Noam Chomsky and Edward Hermann in Manufacturing Consent. Also, both parties’ political campaigns focus on cultural issues at the expense of economic benefits to the masses, which is a huge disservice to the American people.

Michael Parenti points this out, skewering conservatives in particular for their use of “wedge issues” whereby issues like gay marriage and abortion rights act as cultural signifiers and allow reactionary and culturally conservative forces to virtue signal their supposed moral superiority. As Parenti explains, the name explains it all: a “wedge” functions as a way to divide and thus conquer the populace by splitting liberals and conservatives, instead of allowing for class consciousness to expand and coalesce.

Mainstream, establishment liberals have picked up and run with this type of polarizing and divisive politics, siloing left-of-center and progressive sub-groups into smaller and smaller single-issue, narrow, and shallow ways of thinking and organizing. This is commonly referred to as “identity politics” and led by “social justice warriors” (SJW), a term used by the right wing to disparage liberals who supposedly act perhaps too sentimental, hysterical, or irrational for those with conservative sensibilities.

However, it is not the liberal stereotypical activist SJW or even the faux-populist “moral majority” conservatives who are in charge; but rather global capitalism which is the driving force behind the shallow and vapid policy debates as well as the neoliberal model of Biden and the reactionary, arch-authoritarian “law and order” model of Trump. These two political models are totally predictable outgrowths of capitalism’s need for endless economic growth and commodification of the entire planet.

Biden and Trump are the two perfect candidates for capital because they distract from material issues and allow the media and the public to frame every issue as differences in temperament and personality, which allows fringe issues surrounding the “culture wars” to dominate political discourse. At this point talking about voting for either candidate and debating the merits of each without a real anti-capitalist alternative amounts to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Cognitive Dissonance Regarding the Vote

One of the main reasons people vote in the US is to feel better about oneself; or conversely, to not feel a sense of guilt if one decides not to vote. However, we never ask ourselves why we don’t feel guilt for voting for a president/elected official after he/she makes some enormous blunder or disastrous choice which lead to immense death, suffering, or what have you. If one accepts the premise that we are a democracy and the people are the government, then the voters are responsible to a degree for the psychotic policies of their dear leaders. Yet, as citizens who vote we never really do that. We don’t take responsibility, just as politicians don’t; and we’re all passing the buck on to someone else, making scapegoats out of everyone.

The reason we don’t take responsibility and feel such pride in our unjust government comes down to psychology. Multiple studies have shown that cognitive dissonance is at the heart of the problem as to the reality and the perception of voting. When one votes for a candidate and then is faced with the negative actions and reality of nothing fundamentally changing, dissonance occurs.

What voters do to ease their mental tension is to rationalize the elected officials’ mistakes and explain them away as less severe and negative than they really are; which allows people to become numb to the scales of our problems and forms a sort of hallucinatory collective amnesia.

This is a coping mechanism for mass society which stems from a natural part of human psychology which allows us to adapt to a “reality principle” regarding social situations and pressures; however, in this example cognitive dissonance is a predictable reaction which happens to people facing “surplus repression” and enduring trauma and abuse from our leaders, our government, and our economic system. Thus the country operates in a collective form of Stockholm syndrome and every four years narcissistic, sociopathic politicians gaslight the public all over again into convincing us voting for them.

The Dumbest Election in History

We’ve all heard that this is the most important election in our nation’s history. Yet there are quite objectively a whole lot of reasons to abstain from this election if we take into account how unjust and systemically fraudulent it will be. The most obvious being that we are stuck with an Electoral College system which is at its core undemocratic. So one’s vote really only has an impact in a swing state. That is a crucial issue that the establishment has never been able to explain away. Why participate in something that flies so fundamentally in the face of popular will, where artificial state boundaries take precedence over common sense. To be proud of a system that is so arbitrary and to willingly engage in such nonsense is a fool’s errand.

Another reason not to bother voting involves the mail in ballots which will likely take weeks to count after November 3rd. By this time the nation will be so polarized and gridlocked that it isn’t even likely every vote will actually be counted, which will actually work in Trump’s favor.

If the election is contested it gets even more insane. Republican governors and legislatures could choose to invalidate the Democratic electors and replace them with their own hand-picked Republican electors. The Supreme Court could get involved as in 2000. Or Congress could decide by voting as state delegations which is called a “contingent election”. Again, there is no common sense involved and very little democracy, just a bunch of Byzantine procedures and political artifacts which should have no bearing on how to determine a government in the 21st century.

There are many other issues to consider. An electronic voting machine can be hacked quite easily and going back to 2000 there is evidence of vote tampering in every presidential election cycle. The difference between exit polling and the actual vote count in numerous states, which happens every election in our country, would be cause to call elections fraudulent in many other nations. This has happened many times in recent history all over the globe, but apparently these quite obvious discrepancies are no cause for alarm in the good ole’ USA.

Undemocratic with Bad Faith at Every Level

Biden and really any neoliberal establishment candidate can promise a lot of things, but can any of them deliver? Not really, in an antiquated bicameral legislature where all sorts of procedural delays and tactics can be used to kill legislation that can actually help average people. The Senate is undemocratic inherently; being disproportional in terms of population and continually upholds the privileges of the rich, white, older men who dominate it. The Supreme Court will probably have a 6-3 conservative advantage if Trump’s appointee passes the vote before the 2020 election. The federal and appeals courts have been packed with right wing ideologues masquerading as judges who intend to block substantial challenges from progressive causes within the legal system.

So in every way, any politician who actually wanted to do some good within the system would be completely hamstrung at every turn. The hurdles are too high and the legislative and judicial branches are dead-set in preventing any uprising against the rule of capital and private property.

Another problem that occurs is the inevitable swinging of the political pendulum after every election. All the blame of the countries’ ills goes to the incumbent, and the incumbent blames everything on the predecessor. Conversely, the incumbent takes all the credit for the good policies of the previous administration due to the lag-time of economic effects in response to policy changes.

Politicians are certainly greedy, power-hungry, out-of-touch narcissists, but they also make excellent scapegoats when things go wrong, and get to function as heroes when things are relatively well. The truth is they are essentially puppets and figureheads of the real ruling classes; the billionaires, owners of multinational corporations, and real-estate barons who squeeze a little more from us commoners every year.

The US Government is Not a Force for Good in the World

No matter who is put in charge the situation is going to go from bad to worse. Our economic and military empires are collapsing. The ecological and climate crises are intensifying. Now, certainly Biden would be an improvement over Trump considering he actually believes in global warming. However, Biden does not support a Green New Deal, which is already a compromised framework for addressing climate change. He supports continued fracking. He is not going to dismantle the 750 billion dollar a year military empire and its 900 military bases around the globe, which relies on absolutely absurd amounts of fossil fuels. For instance, in 2017, the US military burned through 5.5 billion gallons of oil. That’s higher than three quarters of the nations on the planet. Is Joe Biden going to take a substantial chunk of our defense money and move it towards renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions? No.

Our history is absolutely blood-soaked; even a casual glance at our post-WWII actions globally confirms our worst fears without a shadow of a doubt. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan are the most obvious cases of our imperial and genocidal intent. There are numerous covert actions, coups, and installation of dictators our country is responsible for which easily can put a death and casualty count into the hundreds of millions of people in the past 75 years. So expecting either Trump or Biden to somehow reverse that trend of untold human and environmental suffering is beyond comprehension. They simply do not have the mental capacity to understand the scale of destruction our nation was and is involved in; and they certainly aren’t smart or courageous enough to fight against it.

We often hear liberals haranguing non-voters that voting Democrat will lead to “harm reduction”. Yet one cannot disentangle domestic policy from foreign policy, and one of the under-reported reasons that Trump was able to carry the Electoral College in 2016 is that he sometimes came across as the less bellicose candidate compared to Hillary Clinton, landing heavy blows to Clinton for her support of the second Gulf War in Iraq. Of course, we know Trump is a complete hypocrite and expanded the drone war. The fact remains if Biden wanted to court undecided and independent voters, he could easily position himself as a more peaceful candidate. Yet he can’t even be bothered, because as we all know he was a proponent of Obama’s covert drone and Special Forces warfare model. He voted for the Iraq war and stated that “NATO got it right” for bombing Libya into the Stone Age.

We all know politicians lie. We all know we can be fooled by good actors. Yet every election season politicians give promises they never deliver on and fail to solve easily solvable problems like food insecurity and housing, and every election season the poor get poorer and the rich richer. There is no way that ends, as long as our system is structured the way it is now.

Further, any legislation or international climate agreements can be undone or rolled back by the next Republican administration. Action on global warming needs to be rapid and iron-clad so future presidents can’t simply undo and unravel renewable energy policies that are essentially to our survival as a species. The Democratic establishment is so incredibly feckless, cowardly, corrupt, and ineffectual that it can’t even back the two most popular liberal proposals: a Green New Deal and universal health care.

A common refrain among democrats is that a Biden presidency would represent a return to normalcy and, again, lead to harm reduction. This is certainly possible although the evidence for this is slim. One has to reckon with the fact that the vote for the prior president (Obama) and his failures and ineffectual leadership led directly to Trump. Trump’s base is not going to go away; the worst tendencies may dive under the surface but the Pandora’s box of right-wing brutal authoritarianism and post-truth Orwellian leadership has been opened and is here to stay. Only anti-capitalist resistance can change that.

Letting go of a Toxic System is Necessary for Real Change to Occur

The fact that our system is dependent on brutal social hierarchies and divisions of labor dividing the rich from poor, the bourgeoisie from the proletariat, should dissuade most sane rational people from active participation in the criminality our system structurally imposes on each other and the world. And to a good degree this is already true. About half of the voting age population makes a choice not to vote. Not choosing to vote is still a choice.

So every four years, the runaway winner for president is nobody. The people quite literally want neither candidate for president. The multitude might be incoherent as to how their arguments are formulated and might not wear suits and have fancy degrees to plug their commentary on TV and in the mainstream media, but this is undeniable.

The fact is that the poor are much more likely to not vote than the rich. There are, of course, myriad structural reasons for this, as in lack of access to nearby voting and inability to secure time off work, but mostly the poor and working classes do not see much difference between the two parties. For the most part they are right to conclude this. It really is basic common sense, and only smug chattering class and elite interests (both liberal and conservative) try to convince people otherwise, that the poor and uneducated are, in fact, too stupid to see where their own interests lie.

Having to compromise every four years in a two-party system is ridiculous, especially when other examples like ranked-choice voting are better models for voting. Further, the Electoral College thwarts the democratic will of the people in such a fundamental way that people just check out. Only accepting the basic illegitimacy of the system can allow for a new governing model to spring from its ashes.

Money Equals Power

Absolutely no one believes the average voter has as much influence as the average billionaire, and even further, not many believe the average millionaire has as much influence as the average person with 10 million dollars. Money buys power and influence in our system, everywhere from lobbyists writing our laws, to corporations having the rights of individual free speech in order to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns, to corporate vampires deregulating public institutions, to think tanks churning out policy agendas, to private groups such as the NRA manipulating gun laws, to billionaires like the Koch brothers who fund far-right organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, the Federalist Society, the Cato Institute, etc.

When banks and nation states control the money supply, creating artificial scarcity among the vast majority of the population while a few elites profit tremendously, this creates wealth and power inequalities and creates class division. Corporate and capitalist propaganda obfuscates class distinctions and uses a divide and conquer strategy to split up the electorate based on race, gender, culture issues, and peripheral socio-economic issues such as minute changes in taxes rather than questioning the entire structure as a whole.

How can a system based on capitalism be democratic? It’s fundamentally impossible. One can’t have political democracy without economic democracy. Society can only progress and evolve with democratic control of the means of production. It’s absolutely stone-cold that simple.

Our political system will continue to devolve into a 21st century fascism which may be softer in some ways than the original version, but the similarities are obvious. A techno-feudalistic society is already forming with absurd monopoly control in nearly every industry and sector of society, and the populace pushed further and further into debt with various forms of rent that must be paid to landowners, corporate utilities, rising food costs, insurances, and taxes and fees to Uncle Sam who offers very little in return.

All societies that use money have inequality and war as core, primary features. There are no examples of long lasting peaceful societies that use money. The more centralized control is lessened and the more ideas of sharing are incorporated the better chance they have of not quickly becoming authoritarian. It’s an eventuality that wherever money is used, unnecessary suffering will be sure to follow.

The sad truth of the matter is that the vast majority of us are servants of the whimsical, parasitical and ravenous appetites of the rich. An authentic way to think about escaping from this colonization of our minds, bodies, and souls is to picture it as a prison break. Are you going to petition the warden and the guards to allow for a vote on whether you and your fellow prisoners should be free? Especially when you’re allowing the warden and prison employees to vote, and they use all violent and coercive methods at their disposal to dominate the conversation while punishing you and your fellow inmates when you attempt to talk amongst yourselves and organize and agitate for freedom.

No, if you want freedom you have to take it and keep it. Petitioning the lords of the manors while we toil as serfs and give away our labor for a pittance while the super-rich parasitize off of a system that reinforces their socio-economic privileges ultimately will lead to fascism at home just as colonialist and imperial policies have been in place abroad for centuries.

Again, we must ask: who holds control over most of the money? Banks and nation states do. So if money is power and the banks and nations states do, in fact, have primary control over what money is allowed to do and who has the most of it, then how does capitalism translate to democracy?

The idea of living without the thing that is killing us all, meaning money itself, seems fanciful to capitalists and most minds in modernity. Much like ending war does, or quitting meth at the height of a prolonged binge. Ending the addiction isn’t on the table as a possibility, just managing the addiction while scheming ten different ways to score more of it. If there were a global trail map of emotional health the “you are here” marker would be planted on the addicted-self indulgent-narcissist campsite.

The use of money will always mean security is needed to guard the money. Someone will always attempt to steal it and/or use it to manipulate other people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do in a different type of society. If an authentic society based in love instead of competition is what we want, then it makes a lot of sense to start to try to see if we can live without money.

Ending money is just the start, though: the end of money would only allow for a more authentic relationship to form, and we don’t have much of those now. So if we were to end money and allow for a rebirth of the human social contract, we would prioritize real “pro-life” stances where we treat nature with respect and dignity.

Summing Up

The old rallying cry from every campaigning politician ever is that this election is the most important in history, and we don’t disagree this election may be one for the books, you are about to see the most corrupt utter farce of an electoral process you have ever witnessed, with the two most sold-out politicians ever to run against one another.

The US is just another outgrowth from the principles installed long ago in Western civilization. Arguably we are the most disastrous nation ever. This system was always a demeaning master-servant system. It once featured conduits to gods as its rulers, or at other times supposed the divine itself was anointed to power. If a great amount of inequality exists, it’s because groups of people are intentionally being put in a lower class where they will build and do things that serve the interests of the rich. In our “free system” the people are free to think of their own creative ways to serve the rich, where the rich don’t directly dictate what the people are to spend their time doing, only partially so. Only a small segment is free to creatively find new ways to honor and please their masters.

Would anyone say that this way of life is based in love? Meaning that by having these institutions and nation states that they make us more loving, more courageous, or more creative? We would argue it’s not based in cultivating love or human connection. Rather it’s based on the principle that “work will set you free.” Serve your masters endlessly and they may reward you with enough currency that one day you won’t have to be a slave for money. They make money from nothing, and then command people around after we’ve been made desperate for it.

Money literally buys the earth in our system, and the people who create money are holding the planet hostage. Anywhere money is accepted as exchange means you can own that area and tell everyone else to get the hell off. We are taking part in an election for people who think it is okay to own people, animals, and the planet. Does this election not seem rather irrelevant in light of the fact that the foundations of the beliefs of this society cannot continue if we are ever to see a better day?

Domination and control for the sake of a vengeful, vain, egotistical drive for more is no way to run a planet. We are the furthest thing from being good stewards at this moment. The sentiment may be out there for many but the reality is that cycles of abuse and despoliation of the planet are intensifying. This is mostly happening abroad which leads many affluent suburban and metropolitan Westerns into a very naïve framework of how real change can be instituted.

The truth is no one is really evil in a metaphysical sense, and no one is beyond hope of redemption or engaging in some meaningful act to atone for the grievous injustices done in the name of serving our country or capitalism. However, there are a lot of people, mainly capitalists but also authoritarians of all stripes, with emotional inertia behind them that would find it difficult to quit hurting others because it materially benefits them.

The only way this cycle ever ends is when the people demand not for our captors to change, but that we stand up to them, reclaim our collective agency as equals, and demand centralized power step down. We’ve seen enough. Only by understanding the trap can we avoid falling into it directly again, and it’s quite intricate because the teeth of the trap lie buried within our own collective psyche. The transition will not be easy and the path will be treacherous, but relying on voting and asking nicely for our dear leaders to change has gotten us nowhere. So we’re going to have to escape this trap we find ourselves in, let it go, and choose a new way of being based in love, local community, and cooperation.

The post Nobody for President: Voting Legitimizes a Fraudulent Democracy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Reflections on white elections

In less than four weeks a nation that loves nostalgia will be entertaining an election not unlike those a century ago. The election on 3 November 2020 will be fundamentally a “white man’s election”, the penumbra of protest notwithstanding.

Donald Trump captured the Republican nomination and the election four years ago by appealing to the populist elements that were opposed to what can actually be called the Bush-Clinton gang in the GOP. With the necessary money and a salesman’s astute sense of how to hawk, he overwhelmed the GOP establishment candidates and placed himself on the wave of those who rightly hated Clinton and certainly had no love for Obama.

Neither Hillary Clinton’s horrid personality nor her legacy could possibly appeal to anyone except party diehards, gravy train parasites and the academic faux gauche; i.e., those who bought the synthetic brand Obama in 2008 and became addicted to the product.

Mr Trump’s unexpected win — although not surprising for those who had a sober view of Clinton — caused considerable upset in the Establishment. As I have noted, but apparently few others have, while Donald Trump is unsurprisingly rich, he is, in fact, the first POTUS to be elected in at least a century who was not previously a senior civil servant, military officer or professional politician. That, of course, means that he was not “trained” how to behave or instructed as to who really makes decisions for the White House. Although the mass media have focused on his business career and his wealth, they conspicuously ignore the fact that he is also the first person in the White House since 1980 not controlled by the Bush family!1

Since in the US no one likes to talk about power as it is really exercised and by whom, four years have been spent attacking a mediocre New York real estate gangster for stage performances that were largely spoiled by the crew behind the curtains. Never mind any virtues or defects of Donald Trump’s ostensible program or policies since these are not really important. The most serious problem has been that there was a policy and program adopted prior to his election that Ms Clinton was supposed to represent and failure to elect her meant this policy and program had to be pushed without her– against Mr Trump, if necessary.

Donald Trump’s failure to cooperate with those who, in fact, make policy was manifest in the frequent changes to high office appointments. Since the only power Mr Trump actually has had — not unlike Jimmy Carter — is to appoint and dismiss cabinet officers and some other senior bureaucrats, this is what he did. Although his appointments did not give him more control over the relevant departments, they did cause considerable irritation throughout senior echelons of the federal bureaucracy. The most obvious disruption arises when people whose careers have advanced by following certain superiors in a given structure find that they have a new boss and perhaps even that they are transferred to some part of the organisation less favourable to their future promotion. For outsiders these changes are scarcely noticeable but for career civil servants at the higher management levels such disruption is taken very seriously. The programs that were dependent for their smooth implementation on continuity from the Obama-Clinton management were now subject to administrative delays or even budgetary obstacles. Thus layers of official Washington had reasons to aggravate the obstructions and contribute to the attack on Trump.

As the impeachment proceedings finally demonstrated, the principal objections to Donald Trump were nothing more than his frustration of the Establishment program to which the Bush-Clinton gang was committed. Every effort has been made to show that Donald Trump as POTUS is neither entitled nor competent to exercise executive authority. Nor is he allowed to change Establishment policy (in the form of initiatives under his predecessors). Yet the US Constitution does not name failure to adhere to the policies of a previous administration as a violation of the law or an impeachable offense. None of those who claim that Mr Trump is the “worst ever” POTUS seem to have any recollection of George W Bush, a semi-literate son of the ruling dynasty, re-elected by blatant election fraud with at least one illegal war to his credit, not to mention the demonstrable corruption in office. No matter how mediocre he may be, Donald Trump’s record is snow white compared to that of his predecessors.

Failing impeachment and removal from office, the immediate effects of the 2015 pandemic plan were then turned against Mr Trump in a last ditch attempt to show that he is incompetent, if not the cause of the faux pandemic.2  Clearly a project, which under Ms Clinton would have been launched earlier (no doubt to profile her “leadership”), was now implemented in the hope that it would foil Donald Trump’s re-election chances. However, that was not sticking either.

A serving POTUS rarely has to seek party re-nomination for a second term, the micro-convention held by the Republicans was therefore a formality. For years,  however, the Democratic Party has had to contend with its dissident left wing (in the US sense of the word). Again Bernie Sanders was let into the bullring to take a few stabs at a Trump effigy to keep the restless in their seats until a suitable nominee could be appointed.

The lockdown — apparently supported mainly by Establishment jurisdictions — was bound to create a variety of social tensions. Hence the situation was ripe for some creative counter-insurgency work. It is no secret that police officers, especially — but not only — in urban forces, perform contract murders frequently for those who run the drug business in the area. It takes little fantasy to imagine that Mr Floyd was assassinated for propaganda reasons. The rather unusual spread of simultaneous demonstrations following his murder was quicker than even the Ferguson or Charleston killings several years ago could trigger.3 Moreover careful attention to the locations and the composition of the demonstrations ought to have raised suspicions.

The demonstrations in predominantly white cities like Portland, while forty years ago perhaps sensible venues, were selected for media-effectiveness. White folks demonstrating in cities, where Blacks form an insignificant portion of the population, that “Black lives matter” also makes sense. It is comparable to the US motivation for dropping atomic bombs on cities that had not yet been attacked. These demonstration venues also have advantages: The absence of any other distracting activity made the demonstrations the easy focus of cameras. There were no embarrassing Black neighbourhoods to film and maybe raise questions that did not fit the script. The scope of Black issues could be carefully defined without any real Blacks involved.

One of the tactics of counter-insurgency developed and refined from the Phoenix Program is the creation of armed propaganda teams that appear and behave like the enemy. BLM is such an organisation, as is Antifa. Remarkable about the conduct of these two groups — exhibiting traits of CANVAS coaching — is that they perform a mirror of what whites thought they saw in the 60s.4 The propaganda team composed the language by borrowing heavily from “white” depictions of the Civil Rights movement protests. The point of the operations was not to mobilize Blacks — on the contrary. The primary aim of the operation is consolidation of white votes for the Democratic Party. Instead of dressing like the Klan to intimidate Blacks, they are costumed like Civil Rights protesters to intimidate Whites who might vote for Trump.

There is another aspect of this campaign that is even more provocative. As the escalation of sexual identity/ gender based politics has overwhelmed nearly all other opposition issues, the classical and wholly unresolved issues of economic justice, the plantation prison system, housing and education, not to mention the militarism that drives US foreign (and domestic policy) have been obscured. If one considers the positions taken by arguably the most radical Black American of his day, Malcolm X, there is nothing in any of his speeches that would justify or promote the conduct under the banners of BLM and Antifa.5 Ironically — but I believe intentionally — the excited attention given to Black Lives Matter and its allies actually serves to suppress the fundamental issues of white supremacy upon which the US is based and that people like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King consistently raised.

Historically elections have been fought for marginal shifts in the allegiance of white voters. Since the 50s these shifts were occasionally magnified by whether Blacks were able to vote or not. One could say that Black votes became the “swing” constituency in presidential elections. This was always a source of conflict within the historically racist Democratic Party. The mobilisation of Black voters was so contentious that it had even split the party.

Barack Obama conspicuously avoided mentioning King’s name in any of his speeches during the 2008 presidential campaign. Yet his speeches were saturated with subliminals that surely triggered the name in the heads of liberal listeners. (I frequently had to show people the speeches afterwards to prove that he had never said “King”.) This practice continued throughout his two-terms. Surely he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize so quickly to consecrate his election as if he were “Martin Luther King”, without being him. At the same time the “right Black man” was finally given the prize.

Black Lives Matter consortium was invented and funded to promote virtual Black protest with subliminal messages aimed at white voters in the same way the Obama campaign was contrived. In the view of the Establishment, real Black Americans are too offensive to whites and too unreliable politically. Moreover there is a standing policy in the Democratic Party not to mobilize Blacks except under the most controlled conditions. Ideally these are the conditions under which what Black Agenda Report calls the “Misleadership Class” can manipulate them. So what we have, in fact, is the product of a long-standing practice of the historical Democratic Party, a Black movement without any Blacks. The core of this armed propaganda has modernised the minstrel show in a violent and destructive manner.

These Democratic Party covert operations are designed to smear Donald Trump without staining the Democrats themselves. It is another strategy for capturing the “swing vote” without any obligation to serve the constituency whose ballots it needs. It aims — like in elections a century ago — to stuff the ballots for a Southern racist (Biden) against a carpetbagger (Trump) and, regardless of who wins, leave everything else just as the Establishment wants it.

  1. This author contends that essentially from the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 until 2016, the Bush family has directly or indirectly controlled the White House. GHW Bush exercised this control as vice president for two terms, as POTUS for one. Bill Clinton was essentially co-opted into the Bush gang while governor of Arkansas when the state was being used as a hub for drug running by CIA assets. GW Bush then served two terms and was relieved by Barack Obama, a person with a long and intimate relationship to the US intelligence services with which the Bush family also enjoys a historically strong connection. Hence “bipartisanship” in the US has been based upon domination of both major parties by an alliance of the Bush family and the Clinton couple. However, were the same configuration to be identified in another country; e.g., the Soviet Union/ Russia, the conclusion would be reached immediately that the intelligence agencies or even criminal syndicates have undue control over the executive. For example, it has been commonplace to identify Russian President Vladimir Putin as a former KGB officer. It was very rare that US President GHW Bush was introduced as a former head of the CIA. By treating the entire US system as sui generis there is virtually no analysis of power relationships and structures pertaining to the USA in categories or concepts that permit comparison with other regimes. This is deliberate and not accidental, another aspect of so-called “exceptionalism”.
  2. Although the extent to which prior planning exercises occurred and public statements were made by various prominent individuals suggest that the conditions for the so-called pandemic in 2020 could have been man-made, any culpability remains deniable.
  3. On 9 August 2014, Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a town in Greater St. Louis. On 17 July 2015, nine parishioners were murdered in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, including the senior pastor, by one Dylann Roof.
  4. CANVAS, the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies, is the successor organisation to OTPOR, a Serbian consultancy specialised in training for revolutions. It played a major role during the NATO war against Yugoslavia, coaching civilian opposition to the Serbian government.  Also see The Revolution Business.
  5. Malcolm X delivered a speech at the Oxford Union, 3 December 1964.

The post Reflections on white elections first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Morning in Hell

It’s the proper morning to fly into Hell.
― Arthur Miller, The Crucible, 1953

One of the greatest delusions of the average man is to forget that life is death’s prisoner.
— Emil Cioran, On the Heights of Despair, 1934

Increasingly, I think, the American public operates in a mild dissociative state. I wrote about it here (my blog). It is almost as if people are afflicted with a kind of PTSD — only one where the trauma is generalized, relatively low grade, but ongoing.

Any of us who have questioned the Covid narrative have had to put up with an inordinate amount of hectoring, name calling, ridicule, and ostracism. I remember when I signed on the artist appeal as part of the Milosevic Defense Committee, and the abuse and anger I faced whenever this topic came up. People who had no history with the region, knew little of the political landscape, would nonetheless wax irate, furious and near tears that I would hold such outrageous positions. Now a over a decade later two members of that committee have won Nobel Prizes (Harold Pinter and Peter Handke). You would think that might cause people to take a moment, reflect, recalibrate their thinking on the topic. But alas, it rarely does.

The Covid narrative has generated the same near hysterical indignation. The narrative, as it has been constructed by the WHO, CDC, and more likely a dozen or so billionaires (including Bill Gates) is so rife with contradiction and illogic that one might think cracks would begin to show. That many who accept the word of authority in general might, at this point, start to question why none of this story makes sense. But no. Not in America anyway. (or rather, to be more precise, there is a pushback, but it keeps to a low profile lest the little Cotton Mathers of the haute bourgeoisie put one in the stocks). Leave it to America to make the flu into a morality play. However, there are clear signs of people waking up. In Europe certainly.  See here and here.

And not only Germany, doctors and health care professionals in Belgium, too. But the governments are sticking to the story they were handed. In Norway here I still cannot drive to Sweden. Why? Who knows, there is no reason provided. The PM uttered something about better safe than sorry, and staying the course. Everything is discussed this way, in infantile baby talk, gibberish and slogans. Anti-democratic edicts delivered as if by a kindergarten teacher.

Someone wrote to me on social media the other day and said “Not everyone gets to live in Norway. Here we are surrounded by death”. Now he lives in Los Angeles. In a nice west-side area. He is not surrounded by death. Or rather only in his hallucinatory inner theatre of the mind is death present, surrounding him. But this language has a quality I associate with Hollywood. It’s kitsch image making. Never mind it’s literally not remotely true. But this is a version of something that I think happens all the time now. This man is in his own private movie. It is a movie made of diverse parts; there is something from all the various post apocalyptic zombie films (and TV, think Walking Dead).  There is something of Norman Rockwell in there, or even Thomas Kincaid.  There is Dr. Phil and Oprah and the cheapening of emotion. The snarky pedestrian thoughts of a Bill Maher, too.

This is what has come to pass for public intellectuals and intellectual discourse. All are almost impossibly banal. There are parts from a dozen disaster movies, too. I mean literally all the way back to Towering Inferno. And there is, perhaps most significantly, a quality that is harder to define or outline, but which I associate with JJ Abrams and Joss Whedon. It is a quality of comforting superficiality, of controlled threat in worlds of generic cheeriness. Interestingly both were born in NY and are only a year apart in age (mid-fifties). Both have a background in animation and computer generated affects. Both came out of a comic book sensibility and have, more than anyone else in contemporary media, helped to shape the manufactured nostalgia for a fantasy of America. It is the creation of a longing for a past that never was. But both have established a universe of whiteness and equilibrium where the threat is from without. For it cannot be from within because there is no ‘within’. In that sense these are the anti-psychoanalytic purveyors of a youth culture for adults. A comic or cartoon world view in which the sentimental plays an enormous role. It is a world without tragedy or real suffering. And just beneath the surface but always implied, is a respect for authority. It is also a world where one is encouraged NOT to grow up.

The Covid story takes place in a universe of Whedon and Abrams, with parts of The Hunger GamesBreaking Bad, and the films of John Hughes. (Hughes was really the precursor for both Whedon and Abrams). Covid is taking place on the streets where Breakfast Club was filmed. In people’s heads anyway. Covid, the virus, is an overdetermined symbol — and one that only makes even a tiny bit of sense if it is located in these personal streaming sites in your brain. (and I recommend Jonathan Beller, The Cinematic Mode of Production). There is a tendency toward fetishization, too, and hence the ubiquitous appearance and opinion of celebrities. It’s bordering on surreal much of the time: Hip Hop moguls are asked about climate change, Silicon Valley billionaires voice opinion on overpopulation or vaccinations, soap opera stars offer thoughts on stem cell research. Nothing is investigated, really. It is all driven by whatever is most lurid or sensationalized. The ruling class has clearly encouraged, if not mandated, a certain line of thinking on the pandemic. The ruling class has profited enormously from the lockdown, and is quite happy with a semi permanent state of crisis. In fact, it is likely that this was at least partly all planned. I mean what does one think those billionaires at the Bilderberg meeting talk about? Or at DAVOS or the like? The ruling elite anticipated crises in Capitalism, and the lockdown certainly provides cover for massive plunder of pensions, real estate, and really, most everything.

But the system, to some extent, does the work for the ruling class without instruction at this point. For revenue is generated by blood and violence, and secondly by sex. The template has already been put in place. (If it bleeds, it leads). Although something has happened to the ‘sex sells’ dimension of the Spectacle. People seem less and less in the throws of passion or lust. The societies of the west are declining into some form of neurasthenic bloodless onanism. The consumption of porn is up, but I’m pretty sure sex acts are actually down. And the allegorical dimension of the Covid narrative serves as both substitute gratification and as a symbolic purification ritual.

This week Trump announced he had “tested positive”. He had been campaigning for the previous week and felt fine. Then he tested positive and is described as having flu-like symptoms. That this is part of a strategy I have no doubt, but I also could not begin to describe that strategy. But the magical appearance of symptoms the minute he tested positive echoes the overall magical thinking involved in this entire narrative. There is a veritable mania, now, concerning testing. And yet even the NYTimes admits the tests are virtually meaningless. But no matter. We must test more !!

(Just one aspect of the testing problem.)

Magical thinking permeates the climate discourse, as well. Never in history, or never since the Enlightenment, have so many people pretended to know so much. For the educated thirty percent (white and reasonably affluent) it is the era of the TED talk. Nothing dare last longer or be more demanding than a quick (and entertaining) ten minutes. The fires in California have come primarily from downed power lines (badly out of date and rarely serviced), but exacerbated by homeless encampments (rarely mentioned) and fireworks — and, of course, the drought that has extended backward a decade. California has always burnt. It was part of the ecosystem to rid the hills and forests of dead shrub and trees.

Climate is clearly a part — snow-pack is down, and summer heat has dried out shrubbery. But much of what is dried out is shrub not native to California (stuff like cheat-grass, a native of Asia and parts of Africa, and notoriously invasive) whose forests are overstocked anyway. Infrastructure in America is rotting, and per California, the wild areas have been neglected for almost a hundred years. But that is not a part of the narrative. The narrative must be about the rebellion of Earth itself and population. And population matters only in terms of who can afford to over-consume. The problem is that the most obvious pollution issues (militarism and the packaging industry) are never addressed. US imperialism is the cause of most of the suffering in the world. Most of the instability. But the infantile anthropomorphizing of much green discourse is just more baby talk. I often hear “we are waging war against ourselves”. This is a dangerous bit of mystification. (Note that this riff goes all the way back to the Pogo comic strip in the 1960s}. It’s more simplistic sloganeering and like most such chestnuts, class analysis is absent. I have written a good deal on the psychological appeal of certain hi-tech fantasies, the seductive aspect of AI, and yet the world is more proletarianized than ever.  See here and here.

The issue of the seducing aspects of tech…from my blog.  See here and here.

Yes, people, in a very general sense, can be seen as self-destructive. It’s one of the most troubling byproducts of the habituation to screens, the loss of literacy and numeracy and the loss, really, of an ability to think critically. But this cultic hysteria is driven by the increasing precarity and desperation in contemporary life. The loss of unions plays a part, the absence of a real left party, a radical Marxist party. For all the terrific work activist groups do (prison abolishment groups, criminal justice reform, and stuff like the Innocence Project) there remains a vacuum in terms of electoral politics. Perhaps that is just going to be the way this goes. Maybe the entire electoral apparatus is dead. And maybe that is a good thing.

There is a quality of suffocating sameness and emptiness that permeates daily life. People don’t look at each other on the street, they look at their phones. One is walking, all the time, among the pod people. America’s mental health is in a dire state. The U.S., and really this is increasingly true in Europe, too, but not nearly to the same extent, is an excruciatingly lonely country. People have lost the ability to make, and more, to sustain friendships. And how the role of social media plays into that is an open question. Or media in general.

So while, yes, the marketing of technology serves to manufacture an appeal, on one level there are troubling numbers of people who seem, all by themselves, to *want*, to desire, ravishment by our robot overlords. Android sex is a thing, and it’s growing. And it’s not just men who want “pleasure model” androids (okay, for now they have to settle for this), but many want to not just fuck androids– but to get fucked *by* androids.

The engine is capitalism.

A number of world leaders have contracted Covid. Much as many get the flu. There is something curiously similar in nearly every one of these cases. Boris Johnson, Bolsanaro, the fascist interim President of post coup Bolivia Jeanine Anez, Mikhail Mishustin of Russia, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire, and India’s Amit Shah, the #2 strongman behind Modi, and also in India, Pranab Mukherjee, former President, who subsequently died (age 84) from the virus (no, actually he died from a blood clot on his brain). I only mention this because I experience an unsettling vertigo when trying to parse all this and make it into something comprehensible. The way Covid tests work one might well think everyone on the planet has the virus.

Already there has been significant psychological harm done to children.  See here.  The clear lesson is to fear the other. That humans are contagious and potentially lethal. Intimacy is officially discouraged. I cannot imagine that message were I fourteen or sixteen. Growing up in the sixties the idea was to promote intimacy, feelings, and to exactly *not* fear emotional openness. The English speaking west has gone from Paul Goodman to Theresa Tam. The resurgent Puritanism is not restricted to odd ducks like Tam…. Even bourgeois pundits are noticing. This is Zoe Williams in The Guardian:

There remains, in public life, a rich seam of puritanism that you notice only when times are so bleak that you could really do without it. A sense that frivolity is immoral, even if it is 95% of your economy; a feeling that they had it coming, all those people dedicating their lives to the generation of fun. Puritans tend not to announce their disapproval except in the most roundabout ways, so you can rarely pin it on them. But standing on the precipice of a year that ends without dancing, bears, dancing bears, playhouses, ale houses, music or Christmas, all I can think of is how happy Oliver Cromwell would have been. It is like all his cancelled Christmases come at once. He would be dancing (not dancing) in his grave.

This is a lament from the privileged class, but perhaps that’s actually a good sign.

The ruling class don’t wear masks or have travel restrictions imposed on them.

There is no longer even a pretense. The rich are entitled to special treatment. The rich deserve a clean depopulated world where they can cavort on the green, frolic in elysian fields by murmuring brooks, and to not be troubled by darkies and riffraff. Remember it was a mere hundred years ago that Belgium brought Congolese from their African home, to be paraded in human zoos. Those they hadn’t already murdered.

Covid is the final act in the transference of wealth to the top 1%. And culture is being destroyed along with everything else. Cinemas are closing, permanently, theatres, too, permanently, and museums. Galleries and other art spaces are shuttered, likely to never reopen. Something like 30 million jobs have been lost. There is an acute desperation across America.

Who survives? Amazon, Netflix, Google, Comcast, Facebook, et al. Those who control the screens control the world. It is a new morning in hell.

The post Morning in Hell first appeared on Dissident Voice.