Thursday, 2 March 2023

You’ll Need a Neck Brace To Prevent Narrative Whiplash

Remember when it was a “conspiracy theory” to question the natural origin of Covid-19, to dare to suggest that a lab leak might have started the epidemic that killed millions of people? You could get thrown out of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and your own family for promoting such a totally wacko, fat-redneck-knuckle-dragger theory.

Well, lo and behold! It’s now about to officially become Received Truth, endorsed by government officials, scientists, the Great, the Good, and Reasonable People. The explanation is pretty simple:

When the lab leak idea suggested negligence and/or misconduct by Americans, it was a thoughtcrime.

When the lab leak idea can be pinned on the Chinese enemy, it’s definitely probably almost certainly true.

Here’s Christopher Wray, renowned expert in molecular biology moonlighting as FBI director, assuring us that Now We Know. “You’re talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans, precisely what that capability was designed for.” What conviction, what clarity now that the Wuhan lab is “Chinese-controlled” and no longer swarming with Americans funded by the NIH!

We don’t do propaganda here, do we? That’s the purview of non-democracies run by dictators who hate freedom. Then again, how long will it take for this Chinese-coverup trope penetrate our discourse and become the new convention wisdom? I’d say about a week.

Since our attention span is approximately that of a single-celled organism, few will recall that the new theory was recently the subject of a concerted campaign to dismiss it by high-level scientists, led by the inestimable Dr Fauci. His emails with ex-NIH director Francis Collins are revealing in that regard as they demonstrate a fevered scramble to get experts to pooh-pooh the lab leak notion. Back in 2021, our “intelligence” agencies promptly cooperated: they issued a reassuring statement that a lab leak was ever-so-unlikely. But that was then when U.S. scientists were deeply involved in the Wuhan lab performing the same gain-of-function research Fauci flatly denied compared to gambling in Casablanca.

How times have changed now that we have to gin up mass disgust with China and its leaders in preparation for Washington’s next war. Today, not only is lab-leak okay, it’s Essential Thinking. The new line is that evil empires are cooking up a dastardly plot to release deadly bugs onto the world. Who knows what will be next??!! I guess we’ll have to attack them right away. Before it’s too late! (Smoking gun, mushroom cloud, etc.)

Incidentally but perhaps not coincidentally, the Russians are claiming that the West is preparing “large-scale provocations involving toxic chemicals” to then blame Putin. Given the thin evidence for things like the alleged 2018 novichok poisoning on the since-disappeared Skripal family and the unlikely Douma chlorine attack in Syria, one can at least prepare to be skeptical. But so far, the zigzagging Beltway narrative has little competition in the public sphere.

Just for the record, here’s what the Russians said earlier this week:

On 22 February, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan made the statement, ‘Russian troops plan to use chemical weapons in the special military operation area.’ Russia regards this information as the intention of the United States itself and its accomplices to carry out a provocation in Ukraine using toxic chemicals. They expect that amid hostilities, the international community will be unable to organise an effective investigation with the result that the real organisers and executors may escape accountability and the blame is going to be placed on Russia. In our opinion, the preparations are in full swing.

Why would the winning side in a war resort to an action sure to bring worldwide condemnation? Maybe for the same reason the Russians blew up their own multi-billion-dollar pipeline. Choose your parallel reality: there are several on offer.

Tuesday, 21 February 2023

"It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder."

—erroneously attributed to Talleyrand, Napoleon, and others

In viewing the amoral world in which nations pursue their self-interests, we often adopt moral attitudes as well we should: sympathy with human suffering befits our better natures. But states don’t feel remorse, and their leaders are more often ruthless than humane. That said, while crimes are appalling, blunders are unforgivable because they expose not only that immoral acts were committed but that they were unnecessary.

Even a casual observer of the run-up to Russia’s invasion a year ago would have noticed the enthusiasm of Biden’s foreign policy team at the prospect of war. Biden himself assured skeptical reporters that a Russian move into Ukraine was imminent. But rather than express alarm or rush to emergency negotiations to forestall it, Biden seemed eager for the confrontation.

Biden’s neocons, Blinken, Winken, and Nod Sullivan, and Nuland, thought that a war would achieve the twin U.S. goals of crushing Russia and preparing the ground to confront China over Taiwan. They were convinced that unleashing an arsenal of economic punishments would cripple the Russian economy. They believed that the incomparable might of the NATO alliance would lead to triumph on the battlefield. In fact, they were probably helping Ukraine prepare a strike into the Donbass early last year knowing that Russia would be drawn in.

They turned out to be wrong on all counts. They have achieved precisely the opposite of their aims. Russia’s economy is at least at resilient as ours and arguably more so. The Russian military-industrial complex not only survived the attack, but now produces much more useful war materiel than the American version that churns out expensive gewgaws but can’t keep an army supplied with ammunition.

World condemnation of the Russian invasion is less uniform than our media pretend; here, we don’t dare say Biden’s neocon cabal had any role in starting the war, but plenty of studiously neutral countries around the world think it did. Not only that, a number of middlingly important countries are slowly edging out from under U.S. hegemony and looking east for their economic and perhaps eventually political alliances. Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil, and plenty of others show early signs of what used to be called “non-alignment,” which should worry the Beltway Band.

If the U.S. had practiced diplomacy—a lost art in Washington—Ukraine could have preserved its national boundaries by granting autonomy to its Russian-speaking minority as outlined in the two Minsk accords. (Those, it turns out, were just delaying exercises not meant to be taken seriously, as admitted by both Merkel and Hollande in recent weeks.) But peace has no place in the neocon hivemind.

Now, Ukraine is near collapse and will end up a rump state west of the Dnieper River, having lost its industrial heartland, large portions of its territory and infrastructure, and tens of thousands of its young men. Even after the annexation of Crimea, a deal to avoid a battlefield confrontation was within reach, but as recently as last month the neocons were discussing how, victory in hand, they would proceed to break up the Russian Federation into various mini-states.

As the scale of the debacle becomes clear, Biden’s incompetent dreamers will be temporarily set back and probably ousted from power. But they will learn nothing from this failure just as they learned nothing from their string of previous ones. They can be counted upon to get back to work cooking up the next war over Taiwanese “independence.” They’ll manage to lose that one, too, and we will find ourselves—little by little, then all at once—slipping into the status of just another country that once thought itself indispensable.

When that happens, perhaps we can get a hearing on our leaders’ long string of blunders, costly to ourselves and catastrophic for others, that led to the deaths of millions in Vietnam, Iraq, and elsewhere. If these immoral acts had produced a measurable success, they would still be despicable. Because they solved nothing, they are worse than crimes.

Tuesday, 20 December 2022

Ironies of Overdevelopment

A common explanation for the end of the Cold War was that the Soviet Union was forced into unsustainable competition with the U.S. through the arms race. According to this theory, the USSR’s demise occurred because a “flagging, state-owned economy simply couldn’t match the escalation in defense spending” initiated by Ronald Reagan, especially the hyper-expensive (for the time) Strategic Defense Initiative, a.k.a. Star Wars, that was intended to militarize space.

This explanation is convenient for proponents of ever-greater spending of our national treasure on arms and weapons. After all, if we felled the Soviet adversary by building up a vast arsenal of fear-inducing armaments, what new candidate for seriously rivalry to America could possibly arise as long as we keep up the flow of cash to Raytheon and Northrup Grumman?

As a result, we have enthusiastic backing for fancy new weapons like the trillion-dollar F-35 fighter jet and the B-21 Raider stealth bomber, recently given a Hollywood/TopGun-style unveiling [above]. These big-ticket projects are lucrative sources of contracts certain to warm the hearts of elected officials standing by to welcome the jobs and economic stimulus to their districts, along with the loot needed for their next campaign. Given our system of legalized bribery, this arrangement is the classic self-licking ice cream cone.

For example, the bat-winged B-21 Raider will cost $700 million each, and the plan is to build at least 100 of these babies at an estimated cost of $32 billion, including research and development, over the next 5 years. Earlier this month, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023 sailed through Congress authorizing $857 billion in “defense” spending, $45 billion more than Biden had requested. The measure included the establishment of a “multiyear, no-bid contract system” for Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, and other weapons manufacturers to “expand their industrial base” and assure ongoing production of essential munitions.

That sure makes it sound as though the U.S. has the wherewithal to put machinery and equipment on the battlefield at almost a moment’s notice, reminiscent of the enormous U.S. industrial mobilization that took place in the run-up to World War 2. In fact, the U.S. has rushed $20-some billion worth of weapons to Ukraine in the last nine months.

So why is Ukraine running out of ammo? Ukrainian president Zelensky recently announced his wish list for replenishing his army’s supplies, including 300 new tanks, 600 to 700 new infantry fighting vehicles, and 500 new Howitzers, and, one assumes, the ammunition, spare parts, and technical assistance to make this ordnance usable.

That sounds like a lot of hardware. But when comparing those figures to the amount of weaponry already lost, we get a slightly different view. Ukraine started off the war with 2430 tanks, ranked 13th in the world. Ukraine also had 11,435 armored vehicles and 2040 artillery batteries. Where did it all go?

Without having a clue about military matters, I would hazard a wild guess that it’s mostly been blown up by the Russians, who must have even more, plus total dominance of the skies as the Ukrainian air force was destroyed in the first week of hostilities. Furthermore, despite regular announcements that the Russians are about to “run out” of this or that essential piece of weaponry, they miraculously seem to keep churning the stuff out.

By contrast, NATO has completely depleted its reserves of useful materièl according to multiple reports. What about the back-up supplier, the US of A? Well, turns out the industrial capacity of the American powerhouse, unequaled in history, second to none, etc., etc., can’t crank out the supplies until, in some cases, the middle of next year.

Don’t take my word for it: here are Bradley Bowman and Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery (ret.) writing in Defense News this past October. Year after year, they write,

. . . budgets were proposed and approved that saw crucial munitions purchased at the lowest possible rate companies could sustain, hollowing out the industrial base. Now, Washington can no longer disregard a munitions production shortfall that endangers U.S. military readiness.

What we need to do now, they argue, is to fund “major production increases of key munitions, targeted measures to expand industrial capacity, and the provision of multiyear procurement authorities that incentivize private sector investment.”

In other words, the U.S. has shot itself in the foot through its lean-and-mean (“just-in-time”) industrial policy in which companies were encouraged/permitted to locate production offshore and pocket the nice difference between what American factory workers used to get and the poverty wages they paid to virtual slaves in Honduras, Pakistan, or Cambodia. Turns out that’s actually not too smart when applied to tanks, trucks, and ammo IF you turn out to actually need them in a hurry.

But the big bucks were always in the F-21s, nuclear weapons upgrades, and the like, so everyone in Washington could bask in the bright sunlight of the MICIMATT (the Military-Industrial-Counter-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think Tank complex) and refill their poolside cocktails from the bountiful overflow of U.S. Treasury cash without worrying about actual preparedness. How ironic it will be if financialized late capitalism turns out to be incompetent at sustaining the military machine that made its global domination possible.

Russia, on the other hand, seems to have developed an industrial/military policy that enables it to produce everything it needs for war at a fraction of the cost, perhaps because financiers and rentier capitalists have not been permitted to take over the Russian economy—which incidentally is doing just fine.

Maybe the referee of the great Cold War World Cup has not yet blown his final whistle. Now that would be an own goal for the ages.

Saturday, 3 December 2022

The political class reminds us of its [class] interests

The comfortably bipartisan display of disdain for the needs of a group of essential railroad workers—led by Lunch Bucket Joe of Scranton—is yet another reminder that the fibers that bind our multicolored rulers together are far more durable than the hues of their respective ribbons.

It was truly a Bastille Day moment to see the assembled millionaires and beneficiaries of generous federal benefits, exhorted by “Labor” Secretary Walsh and Mayo Peter the transport minister (fresh from his multi-month paternity leave), smash rail workers’ fight for adequate sick leave in the wake of a HEALTH epidemic that killed off a million of us.

Not that anyone is digging up cobblestones for an assault on the headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway where railway tycoon Warren Buffett can now add a few billions to his unspeakable fortune. We’re too busy hating on either the “libs” or the “fascists” to realize that the great 99% without control over our own lives have a lot in common: the fact that we’re being equally screwed by our insatiable neo-feudal elites powerless over their addiction to acquisition.

Before this week’s tragicomically crude display of ruling class greed, we were living in a curiously insouciant time after the popcorn fart of the midterms when the Republican blowout did not occur. For a few days, the two factions, the reds and the blues, stared hatefully at each other in roughly matched hemispheres. It was easy to think that nothing much was going to change.

Although the current temporary lull is unlikely to last, the treatment of the railroad workers was a bracing reminder of what a puppet show we’re getting from these folks. The barons of late financialized capitalism are accelerating their class war, and on that score they’re fully on board with each other and against us.

Our inflamed national discourse, full of denunciation and alarm on either side, obscures the superficial nature of the political differences at the top. Do the two bands truly disagree about the country’s future course? If so, in what ways? Do they truly represent distinct social forces? If so, what are they?

On the surface, public policy disagreements are expressed in increasingly hostile language, suggestive of profound and fundamental differences on all manner of issues, things like abortion access; crime control and policing; social benefits and their expansion (or reduction); lately, public health measures; perhaps the content of education and educational materials; the eternal blame for the cost of everyday necessities. But how much do the two teams really diverge in their proposed responses once we look past the rhetorical variants?

Who represents the working classes in the face of economic turmoil and suffering? Republicans classically carry hod for big business, but the world of big finance has tilted toward Democrats in recent years. Both insist that long-standing elements of the New Deal are or soon will be on the chopping block as amply demonstrated this week. Workers are expendable, and the bosses have no problem shoving that fact in our faces because the much vaunted “resistance” promptly collapses when they do. (Some “progressive” email lists and FB sites leapt to the defense of Biden so quickly I had to be careful not to drink coffee while reading. The DSA camp, mercifully, is having none of it.)

We shouldn’t be surprised. For years unions have backed Democrats and got very little in return while rural voters and angry blue-collar workers cheered Trump and got even less. Whichever party is in power, the beleaguered masses face impossible housing costs, medical bankruptcy, educational debt peonage, and only by accident a bit of economic relief via an accidentally favorable job market.

Republicans beat the drums of crime and capitalize on people’s fears, steadily inflamed by tabloid-style coverage of the day’s horrors. For their part, Democrats go defensive and backtrack on any nuanced approaches to public safety and criminal justice—New York City is a prime example. They fall back on demagogy, call for more police, more jail time, and harsher conditions, so while the rhetoric shifts a tad this way or that, the end result is largely the same: violent crimes continue to plague us, and prisons bulge with ever more discarded lives.

Which is the party of peace? Which is the party for reining in the military industrial complex, for seeking savings in our bloated military budget? Republicans denounce the Democrats in power as too stingy with cash for the Pentagons and the arms industries; Democrats in power now outdo them in shoveling money to new initiatives and break all records with multi-billion-dollar packages for their failing adventure in Ukraine.

Which is the party defending our privacy from the intrusions of the security state and the snoops of Silicon Valley? Neither. Which is the party against regime change in foreign countries? Trump made noises against that idea, then hired a passel of neocons dedicated to keeping it up. Democrats openly claim America’s right as the shining guardian of virtue against foreign despots and criminals, conveniently defined to justify the next war, the next invasion, the next militarized hotspot.

Which party promises to preserve our civil liberties and the rule of law, the party that established dungeons in Guantánamo where detainees languish without criminal charges for 20 years or the party that promised to abolish them and never did?

Which is the party for fair terms of trade, for protecting American workers from foreign quasi-slave labor? Which party is prepared to face down the monopolies and cartels that are gobbling up the economy and turning us all into serfs?

Which is the party for preserving Medicare benefits, for protecting Social Security? The party that encouraged deep invasions by private insurance to extract juicy profits from government reimbursed programs? Oh, that would be both.

No doubt partisans of each camp will insist that they represent virtue, and the others, vice. They will point out areas where their side actively works in favor of one policy item or another that clearly distinguishes them from the others. Democrats could credibly argue that the antitrust awakening engineered by Biden appointees is a concrete break with decades of past practice. Republicans could claim they are the ones truly hostile to monopolies, especially those headed by Silicon Valley moguls who ban Trumpian speech on social media.

But which of the parties will resist the mountains of cash available at the commanding heights of the finance sector, ready to rain down on the favored to crush the rebellious? Which will defy Northrup Grumman and Raytheon and dare to propose a modus vivendi with Russia and China in a world slipping from decades of U.S. domination?

The cheers of World Cup fans at the entry of a spherical object into a net are comforting. The goals act as substitutes for the desire of our clannish biped race to plunge knives into hated foreigners, and as such I enjoy seeing their energies dissipate harmlessly. In the end, though, what do we celebrate when our team, in hockey, basketball, politics, or synchronized swimming, emerges with the gold or the trophy or the Senate seat? Those who live for “owning the libs” or crushing the Trumpian meatheads can expect only temporary relief from the gnawing doubt that our creaking, hyper-financialized, irrational economic system headed by experts in propaganda and not much else is capable of navigating the ship of state increasingly lost at sea.

Thursday, 17 November 2022

Red New York Bucks the Trend

OK, I was wrong. Here’s why.

The GOP did not take over, and the national red wave did not occur.

But in New York State, it did.

Had New York’s trends translated to the entire nation, the Republicans would have swept both houses of Congress with a big majority.

As seen in the two maps above, Dem Senate candidate John Fetterman’s victory in Pennsylvania was reflected all over the state where he consistently outperformed Biden’s vote in 2020. His regular-guy persona, his active campaign in every county, and his unapologetically sharp policy stances bore fruit. He overcame what looked like a fatal health issue to send off Dr Oz by a surprisingly handy margin.

Fetterman, however, was an anomaly. He campaigned as a left-leaning populist against the Democratic machine, which universally backed his primary opponent, one of those bland, Bob Forehead types that the corporate party so loves. As Krystal Ball noted in her show, Fetterman was the most left-wing candidate in the entire national field and, contra mainstream opinion, didn’t suffer for it. He cut down on the GOP’s rural margins and won back some of the white working class, and his stroke-induced struggles may even have made him look even more real. “Fallible humanity trumps a silver tongue, celebrity, or fancy credentials” (Ball).

Fetterman refused to creep into the center in obeisance to the Beltway wisdom in his primary or the general. He slammed corporate gouging and painted Oz as an elitist dweeb. He also benefited from some re-shored jobs trickling back into the old Rust Belt, suggesting that people may sometimes actually vote their interests, despite the disdain of the punditocracy.

By stark contrast, New York Governor Kathy Hochul looks like, and is, a cookie-cutter centrist party operative who stayed mum about Andrew Cuomo’s failings during her years as his loyal lieutenant. She took over when he was forced out and ran on being a nice lady who isn’t against you getting an abortion.

Meanwhile, the city of New York is obsessed with crime and last year elected an ex-cop as mayor who echoes GOP talking points. Given that there is virtually no pushback on what to do about crime (get tougher, hire more cops, throw everyone in jail and keep them there), the Republicans dominate the discussion. Turnout was way down in the boroughs, and the usual Republican tilt upstate was overwhelming.

Hochul isn’t personally all that much to blame. She’s just a product of a sclerotic Democratic party that has as little as possible to do with small-d democracy. Its notorious Brooklyn gang does a great imitation of the Czechoslovak Socialist Party, crushing any attempt to actually organize Brooklynites while pinning medals on its paid toadies and sycophants.

The national party’s bagman, sleazoid congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, is also from New York. Maloney invaded a progressive’s district after redistricting and elbowed him out because Maloney thought that seat was safer, then swanned around Europe raising cash while getting his ass handed to him in the actual voting. Bye, Sean!

Redistricting hurt the state Dems, for which they themselves are to blame (though not solely). The state tried to stop the blatant gerrymandering that benefits the party in power by assigning the task to an allegedly bipartisan commission, but that didn’t work because the state’s politicians have no interest in a fair fight. The districts got redrawn by a judge, which made them surprisingly, and unusually, competitive. Since Democrats were unmotivated, turnout tanked, and the Republicans cleaned up.

In short, New York State, despite a huge Democrat advantage in registration, almost single-handedly shepherded the Republicans into control of the House by allowing them to flip four seats. If anyone thinks accountability for this debacle will follow, they don’t understand New York.

Monday, 7 November 2022

Empty plate


The torrent of political ads flooding the airwaves in the last hours before Tuesday’s vote places in high relief the issues that our political class thinks should decide the outcome. Here in New York state, they boil down to very few:


·         Crime, which is the fault of squishy liberals who hate the police and love felons;

·         Abortion, which male predators want to outlaw so that women return to the kitchen barefoot and pregnant;

·         Gas, which is too damn high;

·         Trump, who is Evil and a dictator.


Missing from this list:


·         The deaths of 800,000 people from Covid during the Biden presidency: One doesn’t have to think it’s his fault to wonder why this actual threat to our citizens’ wellbeing is a non-issue. Two murders on the subway apparently scare people far more than several tens of thousands of cadavers in ICUs.

·         The prospect of a shooting war with a nuclear power even as U.S. military personnel arrive in Ukraine to “monitor” arms deliveries, which have been going on for months.


Old dudes like me can remember the arrival of “advisors” to South Vietnam as a precursor to the dispatch of a half million troops. Gingerly suggesting that a door to negotiations be opened is so taboo that two dozen Democrats were beaten into backtracking when they dared to breathe the word. Once again, we are allowed to be afraid of a nutcase coming at us with a knife on the street but not of ICBMs turning New York City into a smoldering parking lot.


For whom does one vote to express opposition to debtors’ prison? For whom does one vote to endorse diplomacy over war? For whom does one vote to block the consolidation of oligarchic control of our economy and the rule of money in politics or the spreading of state-techno censorship? The “democracy” that our neocon cabal insists on exporting throughout the world does not offer such choices on the 2022 ballot. 


Prediction is a mug’s game, but let’s play anyway: a very solid GOP victory, sweeping them into power in both houses of Congress along with some unexpected prizes that no one would have expected a month ago (e.g., NY governorship). A delegation visiting Sleepy Joe at the White House to discuss a retirement package before year’s end—not meaning Social Security.

Monday, 17 October 2022

Chaotic British leadership shuffle reflects democratic disappearing act


The imminent defenestration of the hapless Liz Truss that will end her flash premiership after mere weeks will result in the year’s third U.K. prime minister who, unlike the previous two, will have not been elected by anyone. Truss, for all her manifold faults, at least won a legitimizing vote in her favor by the Tory party membership. Boris Johnson, preceding her, was the beneficiary of a general election in which the country resoundingly opted for his party’s continuation in power.

Truss was famously engraved in memory by being the last person to appear publicly with the late Queen Elizabeth. But while QE edges even closer to immortality than she did while alive, we will soon wonder if LT ever existed at all.

Meanwhile, on our side of the Atlantic, we trudge grimly toward an election whose results seem guaranteed to resolve nothing about who should captain the ship of state. Election night returns, that core element of democratic rule, will be challenged in courts throughout the land. Ostensible winners will be promptly denied and discredited before the ballot inks are dry. Some losers will say the vote totals were rigged; others that the computerized voting systems are hackable, perhaps by foreign geniuses; and still others that the voting arrangements were cynically calculated to deny hostile blocs access to the urns.

Even where numerical vote totals seem more or less accurately to reflect voter choice, we will remain shadowed by hoary traditions like the blatant gerrymander, the plague of the Electoral College, and the ongoing usurpation by a Supreme Court determined to re-legislate the last 50 years, wielding a majority installed by a minority-vote president.

While we are rallied to support overseas war-making as a defense of “democracy” versus some sort of oriental authoritarianism, citizens of the collective West enjoy less of it than ever. If the Republicans retake control of the Senate—which I anticipate—the filibuster (that Democrats insist on treating as hallowed tradition) will be quickly jettisoned into the dustbin of history, and a new GOP legislative-judicial dictatorship will show us how the Will to Power really works.

Why is democracy failing us so badly and broadly and not just us but Europeans, too? They face a hungry and frigid winter but will be treated only to bland phrases and non-solutions from the unelected EU pooh-bahs who regularly overrule their presidents and prime ministers, increasingly reduced to figureheads and placeholders.

I suggest that it is because the failures of late financialized capitalism are now impossible to ignore and that “the will of the people” cannot be satisfied under current conditions. Whatever voters may want and manage to articulate in their voting choices, the political classes of the collective West cannot provide it. There is no prosperity, no healthy growth, no essential services, no social cohesion, no infrastructural modernization, no cooperative mobilization (e.g., for climate change), and certainly no peace possible as long as we continue to tolerate the dictatorship of concentrated wealth that now marks our world. While we scrap over transgender bathrooms and mass imprisonment, who is tougher on crime and who knows how to raise children, bloated plutocrats steadily push us toward a neo-feudalism in which only the incalculably rich retain any agency over their own lives.

The bright side of this march cliff-ward is that our capacity for belief is rapidly shrinking, and that is a very good thing. Undoubtedly, this growing skepticism towards officialdom is accompanied by many “morbid symptoms” as Gramsci warned are characteristic of an imploding system. We enjoy marveling at the credulousness of the adversary but will gradually appreciate where we ourselves have bought the shiny object and will discover fraud.

This weekend, I attended a fundraiser for the New York Progressive Action Network, which grew out of the 2016 Bernie campaign. It continues to advocate for popular (and populist) policies in health, education, housing, labor, transportation, and the like. Unfortunately, the speeches were almost exclusively from or about elected officials, and while speakers occasionally warned that we would not “play along” with the establishment Democrats forever, the focus of the event was to keep doing exactly that. We need a more expansive vision.

As stated above, I fully expect next months’ midterms to result in the Democrat wipe-out that some Pollyannas continue to think can yet be avoided. A party with such a stellar record of failure cannot expect to avoid total discredit; but the other one’s will follow in due course, and we should lament neither. Those empty suits are mere hod-carriers to the real elites, and we needn’t take them seriously. Their role is to inflame emotions and distract us from the dysfunction at the core of our social arrangements. The sooner we see through them, the faster we will begin to formulate alternatives.