Friday, November 15, 2019

Attacking on Seriousness Itself

"Our world” is neither sane or insane, good or evil. It just is.

Whether we like it or not, sanity and goodness are human concepts subject to constant redefinition and reorientation based on OUR related proximity, interdependence, and mutual obligations. Those mutual obligations transcend individual conscious apprehension, but not in a mystical way. Those mutual obligations stem from collective and institutional choices.

Some people, whether they admit it or not, are almost all about “the self”.

Others are more grounded in their immediate or extended family.

Then there are more abstract identifications or “sources of commonality” such as tribe, race, religion, nation, species, or common sentience (the ability to feel pain or exchange affection for examples). But given our proclivities for carelessness, self-destruction, and mutual predation, those commonalities can only be protected by the creation, shaping, and reshaping of laws and institutions.  Institutions are the imperfect human creations that can allow us to transcend pettiness, parochialism, opportunism, and savage forms of atavism.

That is what the trimpers are attacking whether they realize it or not. They are attacking the institutions of self-government and constitutional democracy. 

One of the fundamental ideas to arise out of The Enlightenment is that human freedom and decency is always imperiled by concentrated power unchecked by countervailing interests.  Starting in the 1600s, wealthy Europeans who were not of royal or noble descent worked hard to limit the power of government (kings and parliaments). These efforts grew out of efforts to constrain lawless robber barons and to end internecine slaughters fueled in part by misguided religious fervor. Yes, they did this to protect human freedom and decency. But also to protect their own private wealth. No human or human institution is entirely pure in their motivations or make-up.

The language used then and now about freedom and protection from tyranny are all focused on the power of the state, but tend to ignore the power of concentrated wealth outside of direct government control.

Corporate (ultimately “private” in today’s legal system) wealth now exerts undue influence over laws, institutions, and governments — and the results are the current ongoing circus cesspools of which trimp is just one vile symptom.

There definitely should be power centers outside of state control (no matter how “democratic” the government), but those power centers still need to be held accountable to other interests (workers, consumers, families, communities, the environment etc. etc). It may sound vague and unworkable but such structures of control and accountability are slowly evolving although their development may not be sufficient given the potential for major political, economic, and environmental crises that we can neither satisfactorily ignore nor contend with right now.  

All this is under attack from the trimpers.

The trimpers now have at their disposal one the the major established political parties in the US, still the most powerful polity and empire ever to have existed

The trimpers and the GOP have access to certain religious and mass entertainment sentiments that have been rudely cultivated over recent centuries coincident with the development of state capitalism. Other sentiments they have access to are racism, jingoism, and economic insecurity.  And, of course, they are able to exploit a source of resentment and frustration that all of share which all stem from the stubborn fact that no individual or institution is purely good or sane. Additionally, trimpers and the GOP have access to many institutionalized (habitual and class-based) techniques for exploiting these sentiments for the benefit of a tiny elite which has grown increasingly powerful and immune from political checks and balances.

It is this unchecked and unaccountable power of a tiny and irresponsible elite that animates trimpism and the current configuration of the GOP

It is this unchecked and unaccountable power of a tiny and irresponsible elite that animates the current attack on seriousness, the rule of law, and the institutions of self-government as a liberal constitutional democracy.

Seriousness and sanity are not guaranteed to us.  

They are for us to cultivate and to protect.

We may or may not be up to the challenge.

A recent popular film is entitled "The Joker." It purports to give a human dimension to a comic book super-villain famous for sowing chaos and destruction for the sole purpose of inflicting dismay on anyone who might imagine themselves to be "pure" or heart or, worse, "innocent".  I haven't seen that movie.

A movie which I have seen is Beatriz at Dinner. In this film, a jocular billionaire played involved in shady politics and callous depredations against the environment turns to the title character and earnestly says something to the effect of :

"We're all going to die. Everything is going to be destroyed.  Why take it too seriously?  Why not enjoy yourself to the extent that you can?"

Why take government seriously?  Why take evidence seriously?  Why take laws seriously?  Why take seriousness seriously?

We are inherently neither sane nor insane, good nor evil.  We are not inherently serious nor are we by nature totally scattered and unaccountable.  What we feel to be sanity, goodness, and seriousness all require difficult, frustrating, and collective effort. There are understandable reasons why this effort can seem too overwhelming, too demanding, and too ill-fated. There are also those who idiotically profit (very short term and self destructively) from our loss of faith in laws, institutions, sanity, and seriousness. trimp is only one of those types of people.

We have choices to make, and we will get the institutions we collectively deserve. 

Joe Panzica (Author of Democracy STRUGGLES! and Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad's Mass.  He is currently working on his second novel I Wanna Be Evil.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Some Day Maybe We'll GET REAL about Healthcare

Some day (maybe) we'll get real.

Then we'll realize what has always been obvious: the BEST way to reduce healthcare costs is to TOTALLY eliminate the profit motive from the system.

That means ALL reputable (and certified) doctors in the US would work for state-certified community-based health care centers and nonprofit hospitals.

Drug development is ALREADY primarily directed by the federal government swishing finances through elite nonprofit research institutions (MIT etc). Drug marketing and distribution could also be handled by regulated nonprofits.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Socialized medicine” need not be run by “da Fedrul Gubmint”. It can be a widely distributed, multilevel system VERY accessible to oversight, checks and balances, and COMPETITION!!!

It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a generation to cultivate a vineyard or a forest. It will take a long time to get this right, and Medicare for All is not necessarily a false step any more than ObamaCare is (was?)

It would take a LOT LESS time if we would only stop deceiving ourselves with nonsensical neoliberal capitalist malarkey!

Yes, democrats are (for now) having the wrong type of debate. But this is the world we live in.

Right now we're allowing our healthcare delivery system to be overseen by an internationalized, profit ravenous, corporatized insurance industry. That's not unlike permitting a coven of vampires to run our emergency blood supply.

That's not to attribute malevolence to for-profit corporations any more than I would attribute malevolence to a pack of wolves dismembering a bleating Bambi, a scorpion stunning and then devouring a slug, or a silent owl swooping down to rip away from its cozy nest a screeching baby bunny rabbit.

We just have to get our minds and the incentives right.

Joe Panzica (Author of Democracy STRUGGLES! and Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad's Mass.  He is currently working on his second novel I Wanna Be Evil.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Fantastically Dangerous Course!

Yes, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are taking big risks.

It’s always dangerous taking on the rich and the powerful to support the ordinary, the struggling, the trodden upon, and the bewildered. One reason it’s so risky is that the people, whom true heroes fight to protect and to uplift, may be easily turned against them when they aren’t simply persuaded to stop their ears and walk away.

Yes, they are taking a big chance.

And so are we if we support them.

There is NO solid evidence that any true democracy has EVER worked, or that the majority of any population has what it takes to manage our own self-government in ways that don’t catastrophically lead to even more predation by the few upon the many.

Right now we have a “leader” with a genius for whipping our worst instincts toward predation, domination, and self-destruction. Elizabeth and Bernie believe we can do better - and THAT is a very risky course to take.

They are called dreamers. Fantasists!

But WHAT nightmares of emptiness do their detractors “believe” in?

Joe Panzica (Author of Democracy STRUGGLES! and Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad's Mass.  He is currently working on his second novel I Wanna Be Evil.

Monday, July 1, 2019


Democracy has ALWAYS been the enemy and EVER will be to the tiny oligarchies which have held sway in every civilization so far.

Democracy is even radically toxic to itself. Thus the treacherous, long, and uncertain STRUGGLE of democracy to control ITSELF through arduous processes of building internal checks & balances while ever scrambling to belatedly forge counterweights against emerging new forms of concentrated wealth.

In the Post WWII attack against social democracy and liberal institutions, the “neoliberal” enemies of democracy pretended market forces would inevitably make democracy superfluous by some combination of meeting all our needs AND by making all organized resistance totally futile. But the oligarchic enemies of democracies do not put their trust in contrived or abstract historical forces. They use their vast resources to employ “the best & the brightest” to rig every game for their own narrow idiotic benefit. This goes back to well before Plato, but for recent examples, serious democrats would do well to peruse two well written and well researched popular articles in The Atlantic and The Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America is by Lynn Parramore. Her article in is a review of historian Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains. It describes the work and influence of James McGill Buchanan, a lynchpin and major architect of the right-wing libertarian “brain trust” most associated today with the “gravy rich” Koch brothers but also thickly supported by “Shell Oil, Exxon, Ford, IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank, and General Motors”. According to Parramore, Buchanan:

“was incensed at what he saw as a move toward socialism and deeply suspicious of any form of state action that channels resources to the public. Why should the increasingly powerful federal government be able to force the wealthy to pay for goods and programs that served ordinary citizens and the poor?”
Sound familiar?

Buchanan was instrumental in developing the theory of “public choice” as another weapon against democratic efforts to use the power of government as a check against wealthy corporations and individuals. His books, including “The Limits of Liberty” and “Property as a Guarantor of Liberty” elaborated on his view of a society where a tiny band of Galtish “makers” are besieged by insatiable legions of “takers”, “parasites” and “predators”.

What can these heroes do - except use every tool they possess (including the Republican Party) to engage in:

“Suppressing voting, changing legislative processes so that a normal majority could no longer prevail, sowing public distrust of government institutions— all these were tactics toward the goal. But the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.”?
Make no mistake this is the revolutionary agenda that Shell Oil, Exxon, Ford, IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank, General Motors and other corporations CAN be forced to disavow, but which they will pursue to its deadly limit if permitted. Make no mistake, the attack on democracy is serious, concerted, dangerous, and extremely effective. Popular faith in democracy and its liberal forms is declining all across the western world.

Corporations were a medieval European institutional development designed to conduct monumental projects (like cathedrals) which required immense resources and multiple generations to complete. They were also employed to codify and protect the rights of free citizens to govern themselves in towns and cities with some insulation from the power of feudal lords and monarchs. Later they were used by sovereigns to bestow monopolistic privileges and other protections for risky capital intensive commercial endeavors. These included building local toll bridges, canals, and highways but also massive imperialistic enterprises involving varying combinations of commerce and conquest. Think of the British and Dutch East India Tea Companies, but also remember how many of the original 13 American English colonies were organized under corporate charters. If you live on the East Coast, it’s quite likely you’re sitting in territory once claimed by the Virginia or Massachusetts Bay Companies.

Adam Winkler in 'Corporations Are People' Is Built on an Incredible 19th-Century Lie details how, in the years following the Civil War, a small number of sharpies were able to subvert the 14th amendment, written to protect the rights of newly emancipated blacks, and transform it into a legal tool still being used to attack democracy and the Constitution itself.

Advocates for democracy need to focus their attention on how the corporate form has been subverted to become a potent weapon for idiocy and oligarchy. Corporations need to be held accountable via multiple legal and institutional mechanisms to workers, consumers, and levels of community (from local to international). Concentrations of wealth and power need to be justified by their service to the public good as defined in multiple contending forums. And WE need to raise ourselves to arduous challenges which extend far beyond harnessing and domesticating these power centers. WE need to cultivate in ourselves the abilities to keep all manner of institutions functioning in ways that do not ever again give unlicensed power to an irresponsible few. That means education for the knowledge and habits of mind required for democracy to govern itself as well as for multitudes of other more specialized skills.

The price of liberty, as one slaveholding founding father was right to point out, is “eternal vigilance”. But the rich and powerful have the time and money to not only wait for us to become cloudy and drowsy, but they also have the resources to lull us into self-deceptive versions of “moderation” or to incite us into self-defeating spasms of “extremism”. They can always hire more interchangeable “brains”. They can afford to wait and make mistakes.

Joe Panzica (Author of Democracy STRUGGLES! and Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad's Mass for which he is seeking an agent . . .)