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The Muscovite Candidate

For those of us old enough to remember it, the original film "The Manchurian Candidate" was chilling. It was released in 1962, but it was based on a 1959 novel, and described its fictional events as occurring within the previous decade's time frame.

It played to the paranoia of the era, and it had just enough reality in its basic premise to pack a considerable hook. Some of the places where reality and truth blurred together included:

1. Developing technology shrouded in secrecy and complexity- we "knew" the experiments with psychoactive drugs and psychophysiological mind-alteration techniques were really happening- but would "they" tell us just HOW real the premise of the film was?

2. The power of propaganda- It was the early "Mad Men" era, when we were becoming aware of just how easy it is to manipulate popular opinions, actions, and decisions with a well-orchestrated PR campaign. Just how big and how harmful a bill of goods could we REALLY be sold?

3. The influence of fear and paranoia on the electorate- The Korean War was one of the early "proxy wars" of the long Cold War nightmare, and the McCarthy hearings, the blacklisting, the execution of the Rosenbergs, were manifestations of overblown public hysteria that had its basis in a very real threat.

In the decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, we've learned a good deal about where Cold War threats had some basis in fact and where they were a product of carefully-inflated and manipulated fear, by both the US and the USSR governments.

The various Initials agencies weren't really very good at the kind of spy-thriller hijinks depicted in the popular fiction of the time. You can go to some of the contemporary "spy paraphernalia" exhibits at museums and see what emerged from the real-life versions of "Q Section." They were ingenious advances in technology and miniaturization, but they weren't "Mission: Impossible"-level omnipotence.

The memoirs, declassified documents and analysis from source materials of the era paints a picture of espionage based more on mind games and less on mind control. The art wasn't necessarily to steal top-secret information... but to make the "other side" believe it had been stolen- and then manipulate and use the results. The tangled web provided cover not just for plenty of political and ideological motivations, but for venality, corruption, criminal activity, and internal politics within the Initials agencies on all sides.

The ultimate take-away, as formulated by scholars, analyists, serious journalists and intell students decades later, was actually revealed with stunning clarity in the 1962 film: The real danger lies not in the actual puppet created for the operation, but in the millions of unwitting puppets created by fear and paranoia, and manipulated with shadows, propaganda, and lies.

Today, we have the Muscovite Candidate: Manipulated over decades with shady financial transactions, deals, loans, influence exerted on his behalf, and I suspect plenty of psychological 'button installation' based on narcissistic sociopathic traits, potent enough to keep him being aware of how thoroughly he's manipulated.

But that's only half of the operation. You have only to look at the troll farms, cracker collectives, the organized crime webs leading back to the sticky ex-KGB spider's nest at the center, to realize just how long and carefully and systematically the other half of the operation has been prepared. And how justifiably it has relied on a vast network of unwitting fellow-travelers who see political and financial benefit to themselves in creating and fanning fear, paranoia, and authoritarianism.

So what's actually changed since 1962?


Ideology in the 21st Century: "Politically Correct" vs. "You're Not the Boss of Me"

In the 20th century, back when I grew up, the ideological spectrum that conceptualized social, economic, and political divisions was based on the old Left/Right, Liberal/Conservative, Progressive/Reactionary divide. The philosophical underpinnings went back two (or three, depending on who was reckoning it and what they included) centuries to the early Enlightenment ideas of Western Europe, refined in the American and French Revolutions, and pushed further in the crucible of capitalism in the Industrial Revolution.

The questions were profound and complex, the dialog and dialectics full of clamorous assumptions and disagreements. The experiment was long and bloody.

But on some level, it generally stayed focused on the notion of "How do we make it possible for an expanding human population to successfully organize itself, govern, divvy up resources, engage with one another, establish a set of shared understandings about interaction... even in the face of profound disagreements and competing interests?" It was never tidy, rarely consistent, and the further along the spectrum (to either end) a leader was, generally the more fervent and less flexible they were (there were always exceptions) but the more powerful and compelling their rhetorical appeal was, to followers.

It was group-based, movement-oriented. It was tribalism in the "us" versus "them" mode, written into the town squares, streets, border clashes, and jungle villages with bloody fury. The ripples pushed their way out to less literal, less wholesale slaughter in the forms of proxy wars, Cold Wars, and hardening internal partisan conflicts.

In the twenty-first century, as with everything else, the ideological spectrum has become "meme-ified," reduced to the crudely simplistic essence of tribalist appeal. It has become an intensely personal form of ideological identification, in which the individual, rather than searching for a group whose ideology provokes adherence and belief, merely searches for like-minded fellow-travelers whose beliefs reinforce their confirmation bias.

At one end, we have those who believe that the survival of the human race itself demands a set of more or less prescriptive rules that will apply to everyone, dictating how we treat one another in all kinds of public and private transactions, how economic activity may be undertaken with the least harm to the planet and the most broadly-shared benefits, how the individual may contribute to, and share in, the common good through compliance with the rules and investment in collective well-being.

At the other end, we have those who believe that individual creativity, endeavor, and economic interest are the only potent engines of human survival and evolution, and that any attempts to control them for the chimera of 'the commons' are a threat to that survival and evolution, enabling irrational, inferior, unfit individuals to use the leverage of collective power to overwhelm the steady march of superior moral and creative individual endeavor, to the detriment of all concerned.

At the Politically Correct end of the spectrum, we suspect that the You're Not the Boss of Me ideologues are less interested in the steady march of human endeavor than they are in their own unhindered ability to get their own way and/or exploit the weak, or at least be able to indulge whatever personal pleasures they choose without social or economic consequences.

At the You're Not the Boss of Me end of the spectrum, they're pretty sure that our Politically Correct rhetoric is merely a high-sounding cloak for our authoritarian absolutist dreams, subjecting all individual freedoms and creativity to the soul-destroying conformity of faceless and totalitarian state control intruding in every aspect of personal life and personal choices.

And the level of discourse continues to degenerate...


Today was one of the most thrilling days of my life.

In 2008, I wanted to be sure that I had a record of voting for America's first African-American President. So I chose to request an absentee ballot, which meant the County elections office would mail me my ballot, to complete and return by mail. And I could make a copy of it, before I did.

I made that copy. I dated it, and signed it, and put it away.

A few weeks ago when I was cleaning, I found it again. There it was. "Barack Hussein Obama/Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.- President/Vice President." My ballot. My vote.

Today I filled in the little ovals again.

This time for "Hillary Rodham Clinton/Timothy Michael Kaine- President/Vice President."

Again I copied it, signed and dated it. My ballot. My vote.

And it occurred to me, that in a little more than three months, I will be watching America's first non-white President hand over the Executive Office to America's first non-male President.

And I am awed by the privilege of being part of this time, this history.


"Undecided" Voters: WTF?

Apparently there are still some "undecided" voters out there.

Leaving aside the miniscule number of individuals of voting age who've been in some form of coma since, oh, say, sometime around June and JUST awakened in the last couple of days and need a little time to catch up, I have to ask you:


You're "undecided"?

The very kindest assumptions I can make are a) You're not really undecided, you're just saying that because you want to get some attention from campaign workers, the media, whatever; b) You're not really undecided, but you can't possibly admit to family or friends who it is you plan on voting for, so you pretend you can't make up your mind; or c) You suffer from some grave physiological and/or intellectual challenge that has prevented you from doing your duty as a voter to inform yourself about your choices (also, you're not connected to the Internet, have no television, and no access to print media).

Seriously, those are the only marginally-kind excuses I can think of for your "undecided" state.

This is probably the wrong forum to be asking for enlightenment from undecided voters, but if anyone on DU has "undecided" voter friends/family, maybe you can do a little research and get back to me on these queries, because I seriously want to know.

What single piece of information or revelation do you need, in addition to everything that has been copiously provided already from Trump himself, his surrogates/proxies, media coverage, experienced analysts, the endorsements of those who pay close attention to how the Chief Executive functions and fits into the government of our democratic republic, to convince you that Donald J. Trump is manifestly unfit to serve as Chief Executive? More than that, that his election would constitute a positive danger to the security and economic stability of our nation?



What piece of information would do that? Please, tell me.

What ONE THING, that, if you learned it from a reasonably credible source, would make you say, "OMG, NO, that's too much, I can't POSSIBLY vote for this person?"

I'd really like to know.

What motivates someone to be "undecided" in the face of a contest between a candidate with decades of experience in both the Executive and Legislative branches of government, demonstrable competence, and a character and temperament of intelligence, moderation, and attentiveness to the well-being of the least-advantaged in our society; and a candidate with decades of experience in self-promotion, financial chicanery, cheating employees and contractors, assaulting women, and a character and temperament of willful ignorance, self-aggrandizement, and rabid, paranoid xenophobia against everyone but people like himself?

How can you NOT be "decided" by now?

What are you waiting for?

Please, share. This is important.


Tomorrow's RNC conference call: Paging Sophocles...

Twenty-four years ago, Bill Clinton committed the Ultimate Crime against the GOP Oligarchs:

He won.

Never mind that he was roughly aligned (ideologically) with the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party, prepared to 'reform' welfare, enact NAFTA, and create a Wall Street Paradise. None of that mattered. He "stole" the White House from a sitting GOP President with a term still to run.

It was unforgivable.

And it did not escape the GOPpie Oligarchs' notice that a key member of Bill's strategy team was the woman who'd helped him retake the Arkansas state house and build a solid political machine. A woman smart and tough enough to be trouble.

And sure enough, no sooner did she get off the campaign trail and into the family suite at the White House than she began making more trouble, pulling together a solid health care reform plan, pushing no end of irritating liberal agendas, working the back rooms and the wonk brigade.

A right nuisance, that Hillary.

Then she really pissed them off.

They had a plan to use Bill's mistakes against him to make him a one-term President- just the beginning of a fitting punishment for his crime.

But Hillary didn't play along. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that her level-headed, strategic approach to the whole thing helped Bill pull out that astonishing upset in 1996.

That painted the crosshairs on Hillary's back.

Bill left office and it became clear that Hillary wasn't going back to Little Rock.

Yeah, she scared the crap outta them.

The plans were laid. Just in case.

How do you keep her from being a threat?

You make people hate her as much as the GOP Oligarchs hated her. You begin an unprecedentedly vicious, sustained, relentless campaign of vilification and slander, bolstering vitriolically-spun exaggerations with innuendo, conspiracy-mongering, and outright lies. You keep it up for DECADES.

The goal: Make her UNELECTABLE.

It didn't work in New York, obviously... those stupid lefty liberal New York voters just didn't get it.

(Never mind that she won plenty of solid support from the conservative upstaters... you can always blame Manhattan.)


You push her "unfavorability" ratings through the stratosphere with hate radio, yellowrag fear-stoking, and a full-spectrum bash-her-from-both-sides sustained offensive. You make her The Most Hated Woman in Suburbia.

Relentlessly ginning up every concievable accusation, pushing every narrative of sleaze, orchestrating every kind of mud for every kind of audience, you ensure that even though years of shameless pandering to Tea Party extremism has gutted your bench of any real talent to run against her, she'll STILL LOSE. No matter what.

Even though you've got no viable candidates left who aren't moronically empty suits posturing for the Useful Idiots, your party can't lose.

The gods love hubris like that.

And what more perfectly-crafted Samson to lean on those pillars and bring the whole temple of greed and callous indifference crashing down, than the Compleat Narcissist himself, the Nuclear Cheeto?

Sophocles himself couldn't have written it better.

I would pay a year's mortgage payments to a charity of Hillary's choice, just to hear that conference call tomorrow, and bathe in the sweet GOPpie tears.

But it probably wouldn't be good for my karma.

After all, there's a limit to MY hubris.


Female Trump Supporters who "Want My Country Back"

I've had conversations with a couple. And closely read and analyzed the coverage of others.

Because, damn, girl... what country IS that, and why the FUCK would you want it "back" if you ever had it in the first place, anyway?

I've reached a few depressing conclusions about such women. And while I don't claim that this particular delusion is at the root of all Trump's female support, I'm fairly confident it accounts for a big percentage.

The "country" they "want back" never really existed, to start with. But what, in their anxious, angry, wistful minds, did it look like in some misty "better time?" What would it have been like being them, "back then," and thus what are they expecting Trump will deliver, in the halcyon future of 'Trumperica'?

First of all, what do these women have in common? They're almost uniformly Caucasian.

Their imagined Shangri-La, then, was a place where not-white people were invisible, or at least in "their place," which was working as nannies, railway porters, etc., on their own damn' side of the tracks. A woman like her never had to encounter those skeery not-white people except when they were working for her or her husband in some menial capacity.

At which time they'd always call her "Ma'am" or "Miz >Name<" and act very respectful.

And never, ever, EVER would she have to worry about a not-white person sitting next to her child in school, or, heaven forbid, taking the designated job, college admission slot, or other benefit her children and other family members are entitled to. They can have their own not-white schools, colleges, even their own not-white businesses (on their own side of the tracks, of course.)

She's not a racist and she doesn't want bad things to happen to them. She wants them to be happy, as long as they're properly invisible to her and/or respectful. As long as they stay in their proper place, she's happy to grant them the right to do not quite as well as 'real' (that is, white) people, up to and including modest financial success and, of course, their own churches and other community institutions.

But how can she possibly imagine that, as a person with a vagina, Trumperica would be a good place for her to be? WTF is up with THAT?

ahhh... now it gets interesting.

Because, you see, this Trump supporter, this woman, she knows that back in the Good Old Days, a woman like her would be happy, because back then, men and women knew THEIR places, too. And a man's place was to A) Fall in love with a nice woman like her and marry her; B) Go out and Win Bread to provide for her social and financial security so that she'd never have to worry about those things; and C) Play Little League with their male children and loom jovially-but-intimidatingly over the young men arriving to take their female children to the sock hop.

Back then, only women who deserved it got cheated on by their husbands, and only bad girls got raped, and every girl could expect a truly charming Prince to be by her side at the end of the day (when she was serving his nice dinner, of course,) and she and "the girls" could play bridge while the menfolk were at work, and all was simply la-la-lovely!

A woman like her wouldn't have to worry about ending up broke, lonely, abandoned by creepy predator-guys (who are that way because of Obama and liberals, of course,) potentially homeless, threatened by all the terrific challenges of modern adult life, terrible decisions about getting teeth fixed or paying car insurance, and all the other anxieties.

Trump, who "tells it like it is," and shares her anger and frustration at the complete mess of everything the stupid liberals and Obama have made, will Fix Everything.

Of course she's voting for him.

Fortunately, she's a comparatively small and continually shrinking portion of the overall female population.



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