Saturday, August 16, 2014

It's Not About You. It's About Obama and Hillary.

Everything wrong with the American media-political complex in one fell swoopagraph:
In this summer of global tumult, the debate in Washington essentially boils down to two opposite positions: It is all President Obama’s fault, according to his critics; no, it is not, according to his supporters, because these are events beyond his control.
So, which came first? The shallow play-acting of the elites, or the shallow reportage of the sycophants?

And what does it really matter?  Peter Baker's front page article in the New York Times, which turns complicated world events into a Manichean debate between foes and friends of the current front-man of the plutocracy, is all too emblematic of what passes for journalism. He said/she saids/ pseudo-feuds breaking up the Money Party, and the erection of straw men serve to mask the real story: that democracy is a theatrical sham, and that ordinary people are screwed.

It's the kind of reporting that makes the civil unrest in Missouri all about how much it is ruining Obama's vacation, or guessing how long it will take Hillary to "weigh in" on the events. ("Twitter Is Starting to Wonder!") It's the lazy soap opera method of political reporting. It's what happens when six media conglomerates control 90% of we see, hear, and read. It's when advocacy/adversarial journalism in the public interest is transformed into access stenography in the service of "the debate in Washington."

It's the kind of journalism that inspired Maureen Dowd to write a column last week on the death of Robin Williams and quickly morph it into a column about Hillary publicly dissing Barry's foreign policy. Actually, Dowd does make a sly, barbed, satirical point: Everything in the Consumer States of America -- even  death -- can be connected to everything else. Everybody has infinite degrees of separation... especially celebrities in the incestuous world of media, politics and entertainment!

My published comment, playing right along, in response to her piece:
Robin Williams had a thousand faces. Hillary has two.
Robin Williams had a wicked sense of humor. Hillary's recent performance art has just been wicked and senseless. First, she claimed to be dead broke and blamed it on her lack of artfulness. And now she's resorting to bare naked artifice, a two-bit Medea claiming that Obama didn't want to arm the Syrian rebels and bomb Assad into oblivion. She would have preferred unilateral bellicose action. An imperial presidency on steroids is what we can expect if we elect Hillary (or any other Republican) as our next commander in chief. Not for nothing was she John "Bomb Iran" McCain's honored guest at his elite and secretive Sedona festival of the neocons.
Elizabeth Warren is the one with the humor. Last April, as various pundits tried to back her into a corner about running, she allowed that Clinton would be a "terrific" candidate. She just kind of cagily forgot to mention for which party.
Warren is among the throngs of people all too well acquainted with the woman of two faces. Back when Hillary was newly installed by birthright in the US Senate, Warren was a consumer advocate lobbying for a strong bankruptcy protection bill to benefit regular people. Hillary promised she'd vote for it. And then she promptly voted against it.
So, while Obama is carefully pondering foreign policy as he golfs, this latest act in the All About Hillary melodrama is simply par for the course.
In the past week alone, four (Dowd, Gail Collins, Frank Bruni and David Brooks)  of the eleven-hack Times stable of op-ed writers each devoted entire columns to the staged Hillary-Barack Tango. And for one-sided sycophancy on steroids, you might as well also throw in Thomas Friedman's Sunday puff piece on Obama. Only Charles Blow saw fit to address the social upheaval in Missouri without making it all about sleazy politicians. Then again, he is the Designated Black Columnist at the Grey Lady.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman is wisely ignoring topics both shallow and fraught, and actually still talking about stimulus and austerity. He framed his piece around a comparison between the reactionary "too-muchers" (stimulus causes inflation and Greece!) and the "not-enoughers" (himself, and others who thought there was not enough stimulus) and how austerity in Europe is a big, big mistake and might even cause another lost generation, like in Japan.   

And then he again went into his standard Doctor Pangloss mode, soothing that "the good news is that things don’t look that dire in America, where job creation seems finally to have picked up and the threat of deflation has receded, at least for now."

My response:
 The trouble with the too-muchers is that too much is never enough. The one and only goal of capitalism is constant expansion, even if it means engorging itself on our lifeblood like a demented tic. The plutocrats will die of gluttony, we will die of anemia. 
You know who the real "not-enoughers" are? Average Americans whose wages have decreased by 23% since 2008. To say that the situation here is not as dire as in Europe because job creation "seems to have picked up" is cold comfort to those who are literally having their lives cut short by the insatiable greed of those at the very top.
 At least the too-muchers don't have so much influence in Europe that they've destroyed government-run health care, or dumbed down and privatized public education, or weaponized and militarized their countries to the point of no return. At least they don't arrest people for sleeping in their cars. At least their income inequality isn't nearly as severe as ours, ranking as we do at rock bottom on the Gini coefficient scale.
The caterwauling of American conservatives over inflation is just part of their free-floating crusade of terror, designed keep us cowed and quiet as our numbers are cruelly culled via Social Darwinism. When it's not the inflation bogeyman out to get us, they'll say it's ISIS who's sneaking across the border to murder us all in our beds.
Anything to deflect our attention from the real culprits: the parasites of the plutocracy.
They are just too, too much.



So in the spirit of everything being connected to everything, I hereby declare an Open Thread commenting free-for-all. Have at it. Because despite what the Times says, it is indeed All About You!

Update 8/17: In the same spirit, Maureen Dowd has written a fantastic piece on Times reporter James Risen's fight against the Obama administration, which is threatening him with jail for refusing to name a source in a book which outlined a CIA plot (what else). Dowd writes: 
How can he (Obama)  use the Espionage Act to throw reporters and whistle-blowers in jail even as he defends the intelligence operatives who “tortured some folks,” and coddles his C.I.A. chief, John Brennan, who spied on the Senate and then lied to the senators he spied on about it?
“It’s hypocritical,” Risen said. “A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”
Wow. If you thought this was another Dowd column that would bring the usual knee-jerk chorus of outrage from the Obamabots, think again. I've read through all of the 80 or so comments posted so far, and I think a grand total of two (both highlighted by editors) are actually in the president's court on this issue. Here's my comment:
Great column exposing the rank hypocrisy and bone-chilling assault on the free press which characterizes The Most Transparent Administration Ever (TM).
It is baffling to me how a president who has never denied holding weekly "Terror Tuesday" meetings to decide whom to drone-kill, who has jailed more whistleblowers than any other president, who has gone after leakers like a paranoid Nixon on steroids, who has protected torturers and Wall Street fraudsters while millions of people have slid into poverty, could still enjoy an approval rating in the low 40s.
People either aren't paying attention, or they prefer their lesser evilism with a personable smile as opposed to the blatant malevolence that is the face of today's GOP.
Risen, along with such stalwarts as Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill and Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, are the exceptions to the rule. When not self-censoring out of fear of surveillance, most reporters seem more interested in gaining access to the powerful than in afflicting them. Advocacy writing in the public interest has gone the way of the rotary phone.
 The recent police crackdown in Missouri is nothing new. The war on terror is a euphemism for the war on civil dissent. Under Obama, police arrested at least 7,000 Occupy protesters nationwide in an orchestrated crackdown, while Homeland Security fusion centers spied on their every move.
James Risen deserves the Medal of Freedom for having the courage to stand up for all of us.

21 comments:

annenigma said...

Karen, just when I think you can't get any better, you've outdone yourself again. My favorite sentence this time? 'The one and only goal of capitalism is constant expansion, even if it means engorging itself on our lifeblood like a demented tick.'

You're in top form. Thanks!

Zee said...

At every turn in the run-up to the 2016 Democratic convention, Hillary will "weigh in" in whatever way and on whichever side will assure her nomination.

Then, once her nomination is assured, she will segue in whichever direction that she believes will ensure her election.

And the pundits and reporters will accept all this as the way it is, something to be happily accepted, rather than criticized.

Then, assuming that she wins the election, Hillary will do whatever she--or her corporatist masters--want to do.

It will be the same on the Republican side.

And then, save for only cosmetic changes to the appearance of our democracy, things will go on exactly as before:

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/civil-rights/214857-who-rules-america

"A shattering new study by two political science professors has found that ordinary Americans have virtually no impact whatsoever on the making of national policy in our country. The analysts found that rich individuals and business-controlled interest groups largely shape policy outcomes in the United States."

The scholarly paper on which the foregoing summary on The Hill is based can be found here:

https://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens%20homepage%20materials/Gilens%20and%20Page/Gilens%20and%20Page%202014-Testing%20Theories%203-7-14.pdf

The author of The Hill article has this to say:

"This study should be a loud wake-up call to the vast majority of Americans who are bypassed by their government. To reclaim the promise of American democracy, ordinary citizens must act positively to change the relationship between the people and our government."

But I don't think that's really going to happen until things get much worse.

As someone posted here a thread or two ago, most Americans are more interested in what Kim Kardashian is wearing today--and how it makes her butt look--than they are in anything else going on around them.

annenigma said...

Since Israel seems connected to so much that goes on in our country, here's some food for thought. No wonder the people in Gaza are tweeting advice to Ferguson residents about coping with tear gas.

Israel-Trained Police 'Occupy' Missouri After Killing of Black Youth

"At least two of the four law enforcement agencies that were deployed in Ferguson up until Thursday evening — the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Police Department — received training from Israeli security forces in recent years."

"Meanwhile, the scope of Israel’s influence on US law enforcement remains virtually ignored by the media despite the troubling implications of emulating an apartheid regime actively engaged in ethnic cleansing and war crimes."

"The culture of racism and impunity that has long plagued American policing is deadly enough as it is. Adding Israeli-style repression to an already dangerous mix guarantees disaster."

http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/rania-khalek/israel-trained-police-occupy-missouri-after-killing-black-youth

Denis Neville said...

Don’t fear the terrorists or drugs. Fear the American media-political complex, that awful power created by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated means.

“Today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. What is real? We are unceasingly bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives. I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power.” - Philip K. Dick

George Seldes, a muckraking investigative journalist influenced by Lincoln Steffens, co-founded a weekly political newsletter, ‘In Fact,’ subtitled "an Antidote to Falsehoods in the Daily Press,” in 1940. Seldes once observed, “It is possible to fool all the people all the time—when government and press cooperate.”

Collusion between the media and the powerful works too well. It is the “Mighty Wurlitzer," a reference to the massive propaganda apparatus invented by Frank Wisner, the first chief of political warfare for the Central Intelligence Agency. “They were,” he said, “capable of playing any propaganda tune I desired.”

The public will believe what the media tells them they believe. The American media-political complex keeps the public ignorant, disengaging their minds through low-quality public education and the “vaster wasteland;” dazed and confused, with a constant barrage of violence and wars and sexual exploitation; and distracted, excess matters of no real importance - "junk food for thought" (aka, bread and circuses).

Speaking truth to power that journalists, before journalists became celebrities, were once in the habit of doing? Muckraking news that might be of real interest to the American people?

“Fulfilling your duties, where does that land you? Into jealousy, upsets, persecution. Is that the way to get on? Butter people up, good God, butter them up, watch the great, study their tastes, fall in with their whims, pander to their vices, approve of their injustices. That’s the secret.” - Denis Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew

For all those few brave souls (Karen included) who still care to tell the truth, George Seldes’ grave warning is clearly the order of the day: “Tell the truth and then run!”

“Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press” was a 1996 documentary film that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The film opens with a cartoon character, Truth, being chased and fired upon by an enraged mob.

“The truth is not in the commercial media because the truth is a dagger pointed at its heart, which is its pocketbook.” ― George Seldes, Facts and Fascism

Pearl said...

Karen: A great comment to an unusually insightful column of Maureen, one of her best.
You read my mind when I saw your comment and hoped you would write your usual brilliant response. Thank you. So now I can go to sleep with a little smirk on my face. Please put it in Sardonicky, it should not be missed.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks Pearl. I'll post the link in the body of the post so people can get past the Times paywall to read Dowd's column.

annenigma said...

TERRIFIC comment in NYT Karen! I raised my fist and yelled 'Yes!'

Denis Neville said...

“A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”- James Risen

Why is the Obama administration still pursuing Jim Risen?

“Is it any wonder that President Obama wants to shut down reporters after the horrible catastrophe Snowden has done to the Administration?” replies one Dowd commenter.

Happy Orwellian ignorance, you dimwit.

“In like a dimwit, out like a light.” - Walt Kelly, Pogo

That Obamabot comment reminds me of how Orwell defined a liberal: “A power worshipper without power.”

“Ignorance is strength.”

Obama may be channeling Orwell, but we are trapped in the nightmare of an absurd Brazil-like dystopia, i.e., the terrifying dystopian film, set in a surveillance society which is over-reliant on poorly maintained machines and paranoid about terrorism.

We need to know lots more. The power in knowledge can, if not stamp out the power to wage military and financial warfare against the people, at least question it.

Great comment, Karen, as many others have also acknowledged.

Isaiah Earhart said...

@Karen,

Awesome comment on Dowd's op-ed. Simply wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I have a way of getting beyond the Times paywall. Often when you bring up the NYtimes you can read one article without being cut off. If not, close off and bring up the paper again and quickly check the title of an article you want to read. Then put the title in the google search and up it comes without cutting you off for that article. This has to be repeated over again for another one. However I am registered for the NYTimes and can do this and also check off Karen's comments. But perhaps you can register as well if this is required. I also use another computer in the library where I live and can bring up articles on it. It isn't that I can't afford to pay for a subscription but I can use the money for other things. Perhaps not fair to the workers on the Times but it works O.K. for now and perhaps information that might be useful to some of you.

Pearl said...

That's me, Pearl above. always press the wrong button

Jay - Ottawa said...

I had heard a little about the plot of “The Matrix” and was vaguely reminded of its slant when I first read Karen’s post. So I looked up the film in Wiki and elsewhere for more detail and recall its being mentioned in relation to a film Denis just mentioned, “Brazil.”

At several universities, “The Matrix” is required viewing for courses in philosophy. So I wouldn’t be slumming in junk thought if I eventually got around to viewing them, eh? Think I’ll download both real soon to bolster my sense of well-founded paranoia. The more time passes in the American reality, the less these films borrow from fiction and the absurd.

Denis Neville said...

Karen, superb response to Krugman’s “Why We Fight Wars” today: “Follow the money, and the trails of blood, and the usual few suspects…”

"War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it." - George Orwell

Yes, to understand what is going on in this crazy ride that we’re on, follow the money. To follow the money, follow the economic hit men employed by the "corporatocracy," the highly paid professionals, who help build the American empire through economic manipulation, through bankruptcy, through fraud, through bribery, through extortion, and through cheating the poor around the world.

And if they don't succeed, we send in the "jackals," the CIA-sanctioned mobsters, to initiate coups and revolutions, murders and assassinations. And, should the jackals fail, it’s boots on the ground.

"Plunderers of the world, when nothing remains on the lands to which they have laid waste by wanton thievery, they search out across the seas. The wealth of another region excites their greed; and if it is weak, their lust for power as well. Nothing from the rising to the setting of the sun is enough for them. Among all others only they are compelled to attack the poor as well as the rich. Robbery, rape, and slaughter they falsely call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace." - Tacitus, Agricola

It never ceases to amaze me, how we, as a nation, continue to think of ourselves as paragons of western civilization, exporting our “freedom” and “democracy” to the oppressed masses throughout the world, while our own “freedom” and “democracy” disintegrate much like our infrastructure and middle class living standards.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks Denis and thanks Pearl for instructions on how to bypass the Times paywall. Here is my latest comment to Krugman's tepid column on war:

Like any other plutocratic crime, war absolutely does pay. The only losers are the citizens caught in the crossfire, instructed to "share the sacrifice" by either being the troops or supporting them. The masters of war themselves -- politicians, oligarchs and the tax-exempt "defense" contractors -- all cower behind their phalanxes of personal security guards as they call shot after shot after shot heard round the world.

Putin is obviously no sweetheart, but what about the American neocons, like Cheney-Clinton maven Victoria Nuland, who helped foment the Ukraine coup in the first place?

Why no mention of the Obama administration, now fighting two wars that we know about (Afghanistan and Iraq III) along with myriad shadow wars being kept secret? There's a reason that this country maintains at least a thousand military bases around the world, and it isn't to "keep us safe." Follow the money, and the trails of blood, and the usual few suspects (Wall Street, Big Oil, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing, etc) are still raking in the trillions.

Ukraine is just the latest target of the MIC insatiability cult. "Nations" might not get wealthy invading this country, but individuals will, and are. Soon after the Maidan Square uprising, Joe Biden's son, R. Hunter, was appointed to sit on the board of Burisma Holdings, Ukraine's largest natural gas supplier. What a coincidence.

Sorry -- but there is not one war-monger in our own government with clean-enough hands to diss Putin.

Isaiah Earhart said...

@ Karen,

Great comment on the Krugman misinformation campaign.

While I read Krugman's hit piece on the truth, I couldn't believe he was selling the idea that war doesn't profit while simultaneously reinforcing the official trope about how Ukrainian State Fail is at the behest of Putin Ego.

In your comment, you managed to articulate what my angry and incoherent buzzing brain was attempting to parse while subjected to Obama Era "liberal" dimwittery from the Acceptable Pundits.

So thank you kindly.

@ all

I have not watched the film "Brazil" for many years. But I have been increasingly thinking about how magically prescient that eerie film directed by Terry Gilliam in the 1980s turned out to be.

Zee said...

Karen--

“Modern nations can’t enrich themselves by waging war. Yet wars keep happening. Why?” —Paul Krugman

What with all the lies and half-truths that have been spun by Krugman in his various columns and blogs—and detected by the participants in this forum—it's a miracle (to me, at least) that anyone believes anything that Krugman has to say any more.

War profiteering is as old as war itself, and for Krugman to overlook that fact is...well...just preposterous for someone who is alleged to be so brilliant by his loyal following:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_profiteering#In_the_United_States

Harry Truman acquired his national reputation as the U.S. Senator who chaired the Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program at the outset of World War II:

“The Truman Committee, formally known as the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, was a United States Congressional investigative body headed by Senator Harry S. Truman. The bipartisan special committee was formed in March 1941 to find and correct problems in US war production—problems with waste, inefficiency and war profiteering. The Truman Committee proved to be one of the most successful investigative efforts ever mounted by the US government: an initial budget of $15,000 was expanded over three years to $360,000 to save an estimated $10–15 billion in military spending, and thousands of lives of US servicemen. (My bold emphasis.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truman_Committee

“Investigations of manufacturing and parts productions revealed a woefully inadequate, and at times dysfunctional, inspection process. An Army Air Forces inspector, complaining of the quality of engine parts produced by Wright Aeronautical, recalled, 'When I protested about the roughness of these bearings I was told that during war time we couldn't be too choosey.' In another whistleblowing incident, an army official testified that three 'ready to ship' engines on the loading dock, when disassembled, 'were found to be in such a condition that they could not have been installed in an airplane.' Employees described how plant managers intentionally misplaced paperwork identifying 'bad parts' in order to pass them off as usable components ready for distribution. Despite these irregularities, some army officials condemned the practice of whistleblowing—writing letters to elected officials to expose wrongdoing at production plants—as a form of 'insubordination.'”

https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/investigations/Truman.htm

If Paul Krugman is too naïve or too stupid to understand that today's defense contractors are getting even richer and more powerful than they already are off of our current state of perpetual war, well, he's too naïve or too stupid to deserve the national following that he has.

Another one of life's many mysteries, I guess.

Isaiah Earhart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
annenigma said...

Krugman should read the enlightening book 'Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex' by William Hartung (2010) or he could read President Eisenhower's farewell address of 1961 since he is obviously totally unfamiliar with it.

He deserves his Nobel Prize as much as Obama. What a fraud!

Krugman, Blow, and the rest of the phony intellectuals are people I truly despise. They have an international forum and audience and the power to inform and influence, yet feed the public idiotic garbage, then have the nerve to blame the public for being uninformed and unaware.

Krugman should write a public apology and resign. He is a loathsome piece of work.

Pearl said...

As Repression Escalates on US Campuses, an Account of My Ordeal With the Israel Lobby and UC http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/25587-as-repression-escalates-on-us-campuses-an-account-of-my-ordeal-
with-the-israel-lobby-and-uc

A heartbreaking report. I have sent him an e-mail of support at his university. The more things change the more they remain the same.

Isaiah Earhart said...

@Zee

I really appreciate your open-mindedness in the renunciation of Krugman. I knew we would agree that Krugman's following should go elsewhere. People, like you and I, should focus on the brilliant efforts of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE).

You can learn about economic issues here:

http://www.empowerwomen.org/

Here is an excellent source - "Bright Ladies, Dismal Science:"

http://ladyeconomist.com/2014/04/30/socialist-feminism-pt-ii-but-whats-a-feminist-economist/

I knew we would find some common ground!

Zee said...

@Isaiah Earhart--

Thanks for the links. It will take me a while to read and digest them, but I will have a look.