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What rough beast. The return of Idelogical Warfare.

“A feature, not just of the age of the end of ideology, but of the age immediately preceding the age of the end of ideology, is that of the dictator who has no ideology at all. ”

— Christopher Hitchens


“Small change got rained on with his own .38…”

— Tom Waits, Small Change



We return to the Hitchens’ quote above because as with any other work of art, it is elastic in its applications, and possesses a taffy-pull of meaning.

Hitchens when working his voodoo and either being full of just the right mixture of nicotine and whiskey, or coming down the hill on the vapor trail of an empty bottle and an empty pack of fags, but certain salvation in the form of a replenishment of both was around the corner, could hit an observational shot right out of the park.

The post 1989 world was a mixture of fog and shadows on one side and hard truths on the other. Any number of people had reason to sell end of history nostrums and snake oil and any number of people had reason to buy stock in the swampland of those assertions.

Amid the bullshit and the America Uber Alles triumphalism people like Hitchens could and did offer reasonably sober (sic!) analysis of the new era.

And yet anyone with a lick of authentic sense, or what Hemingway called, the true gen, would have sighed and said something more or less along the lines of, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. History after all is a trickster and a bitch.

We were thinking about all of this because stumbled on a YouTube recording of Bill Burr’s podcast. Burr is a stand up comic whose persona is essentially Cliff Clavin of Cheers only far more intelligent, more caustic, more ruthless and funnier if also a lot angrier and possessing an irritating tendency to sound not unlike a very clever Trump supporter.

Burr is not however so far as we know, a Trump supporter and is far too cynical to really be an ideologue of either of the two corporate Coke/Pepsi political parties.

But this particular rant is worth listening to. It is essentially a rebuttal to some of the more worrying aspects of both AOC’s policy proposals and by association a critique of her cult.

AOC has proposed that as part of the clearly essential need to transform the economy from its current Mad Max thunder dome oil based Manichean gulag to something saner and more Green, there should be a tax of around 70% on amounts earned over $10 million.

Supporters point out that under Eisenhower the tax rate was 90% but they tend to leave out, or succeed in not mentioning, that adjusted for inflation schemes matter as does the fact that a third of the country was living under Apartheid/Jim Crow and there were quotas for keeping Jews out of your neighborhood and university and laws against Hispanics and queers and taken altogether, using Ike as an advertising slogan because the tax rate was high is like using Ted Kosinski as a reason to trust the US Mail.

It’s accurate but any sane person would rather be wrong and lose than be right and win because a serial bomber proves neither rain nor sleet will deter the system from being manipulated by psychopaths.

As we have said elsewhere she’s not wrong in her points about the looming disaster for what we charitably call humanity as the environment collapses. Or as she recently said in response to Mitch someone has to pick the cotton McConnell, he believes we can all drink oil in 30 years when the water supply becomes toxic.

The problem, as we’ve outlined, is not that she’s wrong but that she seems to actually believe that you can use the utterly corrupt Capital Hill whore house to convince the pimps to stop selling sex.

Which brings us back to Burr.

Burr’s rage is directed at a specific point. He is disgusted by the fact that the tax proposal is aimed in theory at everyone but really is not going to make a dent in the offshore accounts of the handful of piratical psychopaths who run the empire.

He’s not wrong.

She is – about the chances of her proposal succeeding without violence.

This is not just a problem but a symptom of something far more complicated and ultimately dangerous.

The truth is we are at the beginning of the next great ideological struggle. On one side is a loose affiliation of aristocratic liberals like Pelosi, Feinstein, Schumer, Hoyer and their neoliberal bankers (as always, feel free to make your own list), and the religious fanatics led by ayatollah in waiting, Mike Pence, the utterly depraved and cynical, reactionary, jackboot curious Southern aristocrats of McConnel & co and of course the Bannonite, Trumpian fascists.

On the other are the environmentalists.

And the umbrella of “environmentalist” covers everyone from your run of the mill irritating if otherwise harmless vegan, to people who are willing to use violence as self-defense against the corporatists.

It is a big tent, or if you prefer, a baggy suit but either way, it contains multitudes.

AOC quietly, in fact far too quietly, recently said that capitalism is beyond redemption.

She’s right.

It is a failed system and is only a success if your definition of success is a fortified bubble in which the wealthy live and the waste land zombie hoards wander the desiccated wilderness of the post environmental apoclolytic new world order.
Because that’s where we’re heading and at an alarming rate.

Bill Burr is correct when he rages that the system is corrupt and that her plan, if successful will end up being yet another example of the law of unintended consequences, in which the people who managed to make money and climb the ladder will have to take the tax hit for the billionaires who have their cash in accounts in Zurich and the Cayman Islands.

But beyond the details of these opposite points of view what matters is that the battle lines are being drawn.

His rage will appeal to both the left and the right but mostly speaks to the growing deep-seeded looming specter of the crack up of the Union, coups, counter coups, civil unrest teetering on the edge of civil war, and ginned up mobs of the desperate.

But crucially, it’s the rage that speaks more forcefully than the facts.

Over the next few years as the capitalist system wrecks ever greater damage to the environment, and the liberals insist on fighting Trump by tossing leftists on the flames, the left will become increasingly desperate and inevitably violent.

As will the right.

No, the center will not hold no matter how decent Joe Biden or Beto O’Rourke says they are.

It’s too late for that.

One could make a reasonable argument that ideological warfare never ended but we hold to a more nuanced view. The fact is that there is little to no daylight between any of the major powers. That is the authentic legacy of 1989.

Don’t approve of China’s anti-Muslim gulags and reeducation camps?

Well then stop being an iSlave and boycott Apple.

Don’t like Putin?

Then boycott Germany because it buys natural gas from Russia.

Don’t like Trump?

Well then stop using your slave manufactured, government sanctioned tracking devices (we type on our slave manufactured, government sanctioned tracking device.Or as noted cynic and genius Baudelaire said – brother hypocrite, I salute you).

We were briefly in an era of no ideology and now, we are at the threshold of an era that will be defined by nothing but ideological rage and fervor.

The bankruptcy of the age of isms – Marxism, capitalism, and so on, will give way to an era where all of those previous forces will be subsumed into a new gyre of violence.

Trapped in here with you? AOC asked rhetorically.

No, she said, you’re trapped, in here with me.

Plenty of people saw that as a witty new generation pop culture reference that put the establishment on its ass.

Perhaps but, irony is often wicked.

Trapped with each other and like the undead in a Sartre play, unable to leave, unable to change, they endure in a shared hell.

Small change got rained on, with his own .38.


For a look at Bill Burr’s rant:



11 comments on “What rough beast. The return of Idelogical Warfare.

  1. An important point, to my mind, is not to remain trapped in the ideological realism of American politics. Yes, as long as we allow ourselves to be ruled by corruption, it is true that taxation will fall on the middle class and the lesser rich, those who have money but aren’t part of the plutocracy. But at the same time, nothing is forcing us to be ruled by corruption.

    There are countries in the world with high levels of taxes on the rich. It can be done and achieving it doesn’t necessarily mean violence, although maybe it does in the US. High taxation is not a mere fantasy, anymore than the corrupt system that made most people rich in the fist place, including most with mere tens of millions of dollars. Still, it’s not really about taxation. As a veteran of the American revolution said, no one he knew gave a shit about taxation without representation. There one and only concern was to govern themselves. “Young man, what we meant in going for those redcoats was this: we always had governed ourselves, and we always meant to. They didn’t mean we should.”

    For all his hard-hitting truth-telling, I don’t know what to make of the rant. Burr criticizes AOC and then throws his weight behind the even more centrist professional politician Bernie Sanders talking big about raising taxes. Besides, AOC also supports raising corporate taxes and ending the ongoing wars, whether or not you believe her words, whether or not you think she’ll put actions behind those words. Anyway, I’m not sure how those making tens of millions every year are “regular citizens”. He obviously is hanging out with a rather wealthy crowd. So, people earning tens of millions can’t survive off of the mere multiple of millions that would be left over after 70% taxation on the rich, really? What does he want to do, instead? Go after the filthy rich corporations tied to the highly profitable military-industrial complex but leave the filthy rich plutocrats alone or what? If we did that, the plutocrats would simply move their money out of corporations and create new ways of investing and hiding money.

    When the time comes to force change, will Burr be at the front of the revolt risking his life with a gun in hand to take down the corporatocracy? Probably no more likely than that AOC or Sanders will be by his side. All three of these people live relatively comfortable lives, each representing success in our society if in different ways. The revolution, if and when it comes, will mostly be made up of the working poor putting their lives on the line because they’ll see themselves as having little to lose. And they won’t be doing it out of protest that the moderately rich are being taxed too much. The conflict between millionaires and billionaires, the moderately rich and the super rich, this is of little concern to most Americans.

    Yet as always, the basic point remains. The two parties and the entire political system is irrelevant. We aren’t going to escape this hell-hole with votes and reform.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      I generally agree with your points.

      I don’t view
      Burr as a comic/observational genius but more as a very angry canary in the national coal mine.

      His arguments – to me – are more important for how they are expressed rather than what they say though he is often on point.

      I agree – in the abstract – that we are not required to live this way buuut…well you know.

      You’re also right that other countries have high taxation of the wealthy and smaller levels of uber wealthy new money aristocrats but in the cases of Europe and Japan (and really those are I think the best and largest examples) the current tax/social scheme required apocalyptic levels of violence.

      I also think you’re right about Burr being logically inconsistent or, more accurately, illogical. He trips over his rage and fouls his point(s) as a result.

      However as we’ve discussed previously part of the dilemma/problem with AOC & co is their faith in working the gears and levers of the system.

      I think it rests on a militant refusal to see the entire picture of America – that is part of what I mentioned the other day about living in Plato’s ideal city state.

      I just don’t see how any well read/informed person could believe in the system as its currently constructed and believe that participation can be useful for attaining liberal/left goals.

      And of course as you say votes and reform wont cut it.

      What I keep coming back to is not the naivete of liberal/lefties but the ferocity of the corporatists/fascists.

      Ironically I note that the argument/method of the Lobster King is in a sense identical to AOC/Sanders etc.

      Peterson’s schtick is to erase the facts of the violence of the anti-left which leaves a fabricated left about which he can claim anything and everything.

      After all, outside of a handful of experts and oddballs, how many people really know about Kulchuck and the White Russians? In fact I’d bet Peterson probably has never heard of him but even if he did he’s so neurotic it wouldn’t change his view.

      The “reform” “leftists” like Warren/Sanders/AOC are probably better informed than Peterson but they betray their liberal DNA when they refuse to say just how violent and inherently fascistic the system is.

      The “who’s to blame for Trump” sham debate is a perfect illustration of this. The system is to blame and that by definition includes everyone who involved.

      Obama/Biden/Clinton/Pelosi etc etc are as guilty as the lizard people on the right.

      Of course I’m preaching to the choir;-)

      And of course given that the establishment liberals and the Pyongyang Fox cadres are already braying that AOC is really Che Guevara one can imagine what would happen if she or Sanders et al actually came out and said the elimination of capitalism is a requirement for saving the planet and then laid out an authentic left platform for seizure of assets, backed by the power of the state etc

      Answer: Demonization followed by an express ticket to the Grassy Knoll.

      Finally what struck me about Tom Waits’ Small change is not just its being in the hardboiled noir lineage (though that’s important) but the sense that millions of people recognize that lineage as the truth of our culture. The street level cynicism Waits expresses is the authentic lived in reality of people and no one on the “left” really speaks to it though sanders et al come closer than the establishment liberal aristocrats.

      So it goes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “What I keep coming back to is not the naivete of liberal/lefties but the ferocity of the corporatists/fascists. […] The “reform” “leftists” like Warren/Sanders/AOC are probably better informed than Peterson but they betray their liberal DNA when they refuse to say just how violent and inherently fascistic the system is.”

        That relates to the point Corey Robin recently made (as I brought up in my most recent post). Like so much else in our psychotic society, there is a disconnect both strange and profound. It’s the slowing down of time one experiences in a wreck where one sees it all coming while unable to do anything to stop it, a scream frozen at the back of one’s throat. That is American politics.

        “For the last quarter-century, we’ve lived in a world, on the left, where the vision of catastrophe is strong, while the answering vision remains inevitably small: baby steps, cap and trade, pay as you go, and so on. Each of these moves might have its own practical justifications, but it’s hard to see how anyone could credibly conjure from those minuscule proposals a blueprint that could in any way be commensurate with the scale of the problem that’s just been mooted, whether it be Trump or climate change.”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. rauldukeblog says:

        “…a scream frozen…”

        Edward Munch for president;-)

        But yes the disconnect is authentic.

        It feeds the neurotic in denial liberals and tepid “leftists” and it feeds the right wing and it feeds the marketing goons.

        A hundred examples but William Burroughs’ idea of the interzone – the dark side of the ideal city state.

        Hmm, a noir Plato as authoritarian cop hunting poets.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. “Hmm, a noir Plato as authoritarian cop hunting poets.”

        I can imagine that story being done as a version of Blade Runner, and not because of the WSB connection. With Plato as the protagonist, we’d need to return to the PKD source material.

        Or maybe, if we prefer more of an action movie, we could instead model it on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. So, it would be Plato: Poet Hunter. There would be a touching scene of Plato’s mother wasting away while reading Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther.

        It’s brilliant! Some of the details might need to be worked out, though. But I wouldn’t worry about the historical inaccuracies, as no one will likely notice.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. rauldukeblog says:

        Laughing my ass off, as they say!!!:-)

        Plato pointing a gun at a rhapsode: Know thyself, motherfucker!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Below is AOC’s rant. I’ll be watching for her response as the GOP and the establishment in her own party continue to do nothing or rather continue to act to make things worse. As every meaningful, reasonable, and necessary proposal she and her allies make gets shot down again and again and again, then what will she do?

    The frustration can already be heard in her voice and she has barely arrived in DC. Will she become radicalized or will she become resigned? She may be a naive reformist liberal right now. But that was true of Thomas Paine too when he was still in England and working a government job. And so was Eugene V. Debs before he went to jail.

    Both the majority of Democrats and the majority of Republicans support the Green New Deal. That certainly doesn’t mean the ruling elite are ever swayed by public concern or democratic demand, as long a their is no threat to cause them fear. We already know they never do what the American public wants, except on the rare occasions when what the rich want happens to coincide with public opinion. That isn’t the case here.

    So what’s next?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:


      The Paine and Debs points are telling.

      Most radicals are pushed into being radical because of the radicalism of their opponents.

      I have a hard time seeing her taking action of a authentic civil disobedience nature but then again it wouldn’t surprise me if in say a year that’s where it ends up.

      Of course Pelosi and her allies like McConnell would like nothing more than for AOC to get arrested and not in some one off symbolic way but something consistent and serious.

      It’s all feeling familiar – the details vary but political chaos/deadlock always looks similar from 1789 or 1917 or the current Ministry of Silly Walks shit show in the UK.

      For some reason I can’t copy and paste the link you sent but I’m sure I can find it on YouTube though I saw a headline where she said people are going to die bcs of environmental neglect and of course she’s right.

      In a sense it’s like slavery. It had to end but it took a war.

      Capitalism has to end too but the Trump goons and the old regime relics like Pelosi – notwithstanding the fact that she’s almost 80 – aren’t going to say ok we give up.

      Ultimately AOC is going to have to decide – authentic radical or liberal with an attitude and an imperial toga.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. rauldukeblog says:

      Just watched the video.

      Same points – the environment is collapsing and the corporatists will only surrender when they’re dead.

      She’s bourgeois in her faith in the system.

      I just don’t see the establishment ever giving up.


      1. Then again, I’d return to the examples of Paine and Debs. Before their respective change of hearts, the former thought bringing a petition to Parliament would make a difference and the latter was opposed to strikes because he thought them too disruptive. Both came to political radicalization later in life.

        It sometimes requires someone to attempt reform for themselves before they can acknowledge and accept its futility. But that is only possible for someone with enough passionate righteousness and moral outrage to not back down in the face of oppression and failure. I’m not sure how one might know who has the potential for radicalization in advance of their being radicalized.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. rauldukeblog says:

        I don’t think one could make an accurate prediction. You might be able to predict it based on circumstances but even that is essentially a guess.

        Liked by 1 person

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