The Talking Dog

August 30, 2015, Some things never change

And other things do...

Anyway, this piece on "Aristocratization" from our friends at the Onion, even seven years later, is still funny (and no, that is not Stately Dog Manor in the picture).

August 16, 2015, Reach out and touch someone

The Grey Lady gives us this exegesis on the now thirty-year collaboration between the National Security Agency and itself AT&T. Short answer: if it was technically feasible for AT&T (and to a lesser extent apparently, Verizon) to hand the government anything transmitted over telecommunications (telephone or internet traffic), it would appear that it was done. Which has been my surmise for some time: the only limits on the government's ability to spy on you are technical, not "legal" let alone "constitutional." And so the powerful-- the government and its corporate partners (and yes, that is the word used), can, and do, eavesdrop on every aspect of your life, for purposes not of "national security," but of social control. This can take the form of the outright thought-control that results from the inevitable self-editing we all engage in knowing that "privacy" has long been something we had to "get over," or perhaps from outright blackmail in the event someone proposes to get out of line (in any meaningful way).

To the extent any of this is talked about in the national dog and pony show election spectacle, it's most likely by Republican Rand Paul (or to a lesser extent, by self-declared-socialist-but-running-as-a-Democrat Bernie Sanders). Most of this, of course, is blown away in the public imagination (such as it is) by the broader bluster of Billionaire Donald Trump, who actually might be the guy to do something about this, as Trump stands for generalized free-floating (White people's) anger about everything, and "everything" might just include the immense sums of money that the government is spending to spy on its own taxpayers (and not, of course, on illegal immigrants, who are probably spied on to a far lesser extent because they are far less likely to devote most of their lives glued to an electronic device on which they are espied.)

Oh well. We are in an intertwined Gordian knot of bad stuff. An example of this that strikes me is the President's scheduled jaunt to the Arctic to highlight the dangers of global warming which is an interesting case study. We have the same President who refuses to have his Administration sign off on a pipeline to transport Canadian tar-sand derived petroleum nonetheless approved Arctic oil drilling, stances that are "inconsistent." Kind of like "the most transparent Presidency in American history" prosecuting more government whistle-blowers than all of its predecessors combined. The first and only time in American history we have the White House and Justice Department overseen by people of color, also happens to be the same government to give hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment intended for use in war zones to American police departments, where it will be, as disproportionately as everything else in law enforcement, deployed against... people... of color.

To try to put what's going on in the world in one long and unpleasant sentence, I am somewhat informed by my recent observations of the New York City subway system, in which virtually every advertisement I saw was either for (1) a financial value-skimming dot com (trying to suck value from everything from food delivery, to taxis, to help-wanted ads) that will now divert value to centralized Wall Street or Silicon Valley v.c.'s that used to go, albeit in a more diffuse, less "efficient" way, to Main Street and mom and pop ventures, or (2) some kind of vocational training, be it by a for-profit operation skimming from the federal student loan machine or occasionally by state-run community colleges. And so, my not particularly helpful take is that "Power that used to be spread out among workers, productive industries, governmental interests and the commonweal has now been ever-more concentrated into ever-more centralized pockets of power tied to money derived either from commons-devastating resource extraction or from the financial trickery facilitated by national policy designed solely to maintain the asset values of those already in possession of substantial assets based not on providing goods and services of real value but based upon the privilege of either issuing unlimited debt or accessing that debt at virtually no cost or risk which permits "them that has to gets" in ever larger quantities, resulting not merely in wealth and income disparity but power disparity to the point that an academic study concludes our nation is an oligarchy and not a democracy, and as a result of a peculiar psychopathology that has infected the powerful, their interests have amounted not to the long-term benefit (or even survival) of themselves or their offspring, but have instead resulted in an insane land-grab of everything in the interests of their personal short-term gain at the expense of the population writ large, resulting in ever more debt-generation (and all that goes with that), resource depletion, environmental degradation and the resulting adverse health consequences that result from that, loss of real living standards for all but those largest rentiers on top of the skimming-game pyramid, and a concomitant increase in the power (financial and otherwise) of those on top of the game at the expense of everyone else, all at the same time that decades of dumbing down education and popular culture seem to have quite literally sapped the very imagination of those not on top of the pyramid to the point where the only "solutions" amount to some variant of extending the status quo that has caused the problems in the first place."

OK then. Remember that you have an infinite capacity for adaptation-- it's what has kept our physically-not-very-formidable species in the dominant position on this planet for a while (and, it is the habituation to the forgetting of this fact that will, if things do not soon change in a big way, kick us out of that position, and possibly, kick us out altogether). What can one do? I will start by leaving that as an exercise for your imagination.

The one place that AT&T, Verizon and the NSA can't reach out and touch, by the way.

August 2, 2015, Bread and Circuses: Delaware Edition

The Grey Lady treats us to its own version of NY Post style speculation/encouragement on the issue of whether Vice President Joe Biden will be entering the Presidential race against Eva Peron Eva Braun Hillary Clinton.

Let me say that with Hillary Clinton, all things are possible. She has already been instrumental in giving us our first Black President (no, not her husband). Right now, she is on track to give us, quite possibly, our first Jewish/avowed socialist President, or possibly our first Latino President, or, maybe even our first woman President (Elizabeth Warren or perhaps some Republican... such as Hillary herself). So that said, why not Joe Biden? Sure, he had been a Dan Quayle-style joke for these last six-and-a-half years, but repeat after me: "With Hillary, all things are possible."

With all due respect, Joe Biden is no one's example of a genius. At least he's authentic... but he's prone to "gaffes." Anyway-- until it became clear that Hillary was going to be a more serious enemy of her own candidacy than the entire right-wing press corps and Congressional Republicans combined, The Establishment [tm] was willing to let her have a quiet victory lap before her coronation while we all sat back and watched Bill and Hillary's buddy the Human Bad Hair Day (they attended his [most recent] wedding) savage the Republican side with his own version of a political reality show, slicing and dicing through political sacred cows and tearing off the Emperor's New Clothes faster than his real estate empire went bankrupt without his father to prop it up. But now, as her abysmal campaign "style," her continuous e-mail fiascoes and, well, her just continue to undermine her campaign...

So... here's the thing.

With the clear exception of Bernie Sanders, whose election would signal something rather dramatic (which is why it isn't going to happen), does anyone doubt that the next President, be it Biden or Hillary or Bush or Rubio or Walker or whomever... is going to (1) continue occupying over 150 other countries and active drone wars and shooting wars, (2) reappoint Janet Yellen or some other clone whose mandate is to prop up the asset values of the already rich and super-rich, (3) continue to shove corporate-giveaway abominations like Trans-Pacific Partnership and TTIP and the like down our throats, (4) take no effort to manage the ongoing American and global declines in anything other than the present manner of making sure that the rich and super-rich do not suffer even a little, (5) fill in your own variant of "maintain the status quo" be it "not close Guantanamo," "not rein in deficit spending," "not control health care costs" or whatever you like...?

I didn't think so. Because the President's recent diplomatic breakthrough with Iran should cause us to give a moment's pause, and realize just how similar we are to that nation. Like us, it has a notional democracy for the election of political leaders figures, and like us, it has the actual power-holders not elected by that process. The only difference is that in Iran, this arrangement is "official," whereas here, we delude ourselves into pretending that the few hundred billionaires who control an insanely disproportionate share of financial power do not also control all relevant political power.

What can we do about this? Well, you can consider sending money to Bernie Sanders (I have), and helping his campaign. Obviously, I have no expectations on this one. Otherwise, you can withdraw your unbridled belief in "American democracy." Because it exists only in places like "American Idol," although there, teenage girls will probably outvote you, just as oligarchs will outvote you in "elections." Of course, I'm not averse to absorbing the entertainment value of things. That said, we are being presented with a show... so why not sit back, and enjoy it?

Say what you will about Joe Biden... the man is entertaining.