Friday, August 17, 2018

Internet Needs More Diverse Censors, Says Democratic Think Tank

Racism, being as all-American as rotten apple pie, has gotten a huge fertilizing boost thanks to modern technology. The Internet has spawned acres upon acres of toxic cyber-orchards which are poisoning millions upon millions of social media users all over this precious Land of the Free. 

With homegrown neo-Nazis to the right of us and Kremlin bots to the right-left of us, how in the world can #Resistance Inc's Democratic Party intelligentsia and their security state cohort combat the rise of online hate?

The Center for American Progress (CAP) has the very facile answer: Facebook and Google and Twitter should hire more Black and Brown people and women to work as censors and algorithm technologists!

Ask not whether the Corporate State censorship of online speech is a violation of our First Amendment rights. Ask instead whether or not Silicon Valley Nation is making the evisceration of the First Amendment diverse and inclusive enough.

 Google and Facebook and Twitter have already hired thousands of "former" government police and spy agency personnel to monitor our Internet speech, ostensibly to weed out the alt-right, but in the process is also shutting down numerous leftist websites and activist groups, such as Occupy London:

Occupy London, which claims 151,000 followers, appears to have been taken down by Facebook. A spokesperson for the group confirms it. Awaiting comment from the company.

 According to the CAP position paper posted online last week, this suppression is not a problem. The problem is that there are too many white people doing the censoring and not enough Blacks and Latinos and women shutting down Facebook pages and Google accounts. As a result, the algorithms favoring white supremacy are still reigning supreme on the Internet.

From the CAP report, co-authored by Aastha Uprety and Danielle Solomon:
According to data from 2016, the technology workforce in Silicon Valley was only 2.2 percent black and 4.7 percent Hispanic. This persistent lack of inclusion is a problem that costs companies billions, reduces product quality, and limits the development of innovative solutions to combat online hate and prevent algorithmic bias. To address this issue, the industry must devote significant resources toward recruiting candidates with diverse backgrounds and building safe and inclusive workplace environments. One effective method of recruiting and hiring more diverse candidates is to target multicultural professional associations at colleges and universities. Another option is the diverse-slate hiring approach, which short lists more than one candidate from underrepresented minority groups and can increase the likelihood of hiring a minority. Diverse hiring should be a priority at all levels of employment, from engineers to executives. Recently, Facebook committed to increasing the diversity of its board members, and Google has pledged to focus their efforts on hiring black and Hispanic women.
Big Brother is so sexist. So bring on a glorious Big Sister Rainbow Coalition to shut down the dissent!  Otherwise, as the authors warn, failure to monitor technology will undo "decades of racial progress and further entrench inequality."

CAP, which is the premier think tank of the Democratic Party, blames white racist bros and of course Russia for the entrenchment of inequality. It does not blame the real culprit, which is the unfettered financialization of the economy and the placement of the most wealth in the fewest oligarchic pockets since the last gilded age, paralleled by a new record CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 312 to one. Bosses now earn in a day what most people earn in a year.

  But it wouldn't be a corporate Democratic Party position paper if it didn't pin the election of Donald Trump directly and solely upon white racists, who harbored such an intense hatred for the first Black president. To hear CAP revise it, the whole country is being overtaken by hordes of torch-wielding Neo-Nazis, necessitating even more censorship, instead of, say, a living wage and good benefits.

 No matter that the overwrought forecasts of bloodshed and trouble at last weekend's D.C. rally marking the first anniversary of the Charlottesville rally fizzled right out, and the alt-right bros ending up literally fleeing the scene, as C.J. Hopkins so trenchantly reports. CAP is clinging to its censorship cure of a narrative. Of course, they're not calling it censorship, because this is still ostensibly a democracy. It weasel-words the suppression of thought with the phrase "best practices to address this threat." It euphemizes spying on social media sites with the words "identifying patterns of behavior" online.

 With its generous corporate funding at stake, CAP wants you to be afraid, very afraid, especially of people and things you cannot see:
 The attacks in Charlottesville were a wake-up call revealing the digital world’s potential for incubating violent ideologies and inspiring domestic terrorists. In reality, hate groups have long relied on online technology to advance their agendas; the digital world provides channels through which hate groups can operate anonymously and communicate without detection. Their ability to reach narrow audiences across a large geography allows these groups to raise money, spread racist propaganda, and lure and indoctrinate new followers. Halting the spread of violent white nationalism online will require nonprofits and private sector companies in the media and technology industries to devote substantial resources toward research and the development of best practices to address this threat. This research should seek to fully identify and understand patterns of behavior; platforms for communication and indoctrination; and mechanisms for exchanging money and weapons.
CAP forgot the mention the nearly one trillion dollars which the bipartisan Congress just allocated to Hatemonger-in-Chief Donald J. Trump for the purchase of more weapons, more technology, more bellicose psy-ops propaganda for the indoctrination of US citizens and the instillation of abject terror in oppressed peoples throughout the world.

But due to both domestic racism emanating from a relative handful of disaffected anonymous white dudes and the "dissent-sowing" of a handful of Russian bots and trolls, CAP is calling for a total clampdown. If speech has to be suppressed, if certain innocent media outlets and individuals get caught up in the censorship dragnet, it's for our own protection. 

By advocating for more minorities and women to operate the dragnet, CAP makes censorship seem so liberal, with identity politics being the "lure" it so paradoxically purports to critique. To further spread the gloss of diversity over First Amendment violations, the paper also urges tech companies to be "mindful" about retention, to pay their female and minority censors at the same rate as their white male censors.

The moralizing is, of course, ultimately about suppression of working class dissent by an increasingly fearful oligarchy. The ruling class is seizing upon two scapegoats -- white nationalism and Russia -- to try and deflect our attention from the real agenda, which is total control by the few over the many.

Their crusade against "hate speech" is a red herring, given that hatred is the traditional glue that holds corporate American politics together.

Henry Adams, whose "Education of Henry Adams" has been rated the best nonfiction book of all time by the Modern Library, knew this more than a century ago when he acerbically wrote: "Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, had always been the systematic organization of hatreds."

Hate speech on the Internet is most assuredly ugly, but censorship by a smarmy self-appointed group of money-controlled experts is far, far uglier.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

John Brennan Drones On

You have to hand it to Donald Trump. Not only is he an expert at controlling the media he only pretends to despise as "fake," he also knows how to stir up corporate churnalism to a sustained furious boil, salted liberally with outrage from a can.

It took a Trump to turn George Bush's torture architect and Barack Obama's drone assassination guru into Resistance, Inc's latest action hero. John Brennan, former CIA director, has now usurped Omarosa Manigault's top spot in the daily news cycle. Not only does he merit the top left corner of the New York Times homepage, he's also glommed onto the upper right plot with the newspaper's lead editorial. I guess that makes him an extreme centrist.

Refusing to become another victim of the cartoon president, Brennan vows that Donald Trump will never silence him. This is pretty rich, given that his Times op-ed tacitly attempts to silence what he calls dupes of Russia. True spook that he is, though, he doesn't bother naming any names: (He no doubt has them all written down on a piece of  paper which he keeps cosily in his pocket.)
Before, during and after its now infamous meddling in our last presidential election, Russia practiced the art of shaping political events abroad through its well-honed active measures program, which employs an array of technical capabilities, information operations and old-fashioned human intelligence spycraft. Electoral politics in Western democracies presents an especially inviting target, as a variety of politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers are readily manipulated, wittingly and unwittingly, or even bought outright by Russian intelligence operatives. The very freedoms and liberties that liberal Western democracies cherish and that autocracies fear have been exploited by Russian intelligence services not only to collect sensitive information but also to distribute propaganda and disinformation, increasingly via the growing number of social media platforms....
 They troll political, business and cultural waters in search of gullible or unprincipled individuals who become pliant in the hands of their Russian puppet masters. Too often, those puppets are found.
The implicit message is that independent media dissent against the status quo should be suspect, if not of Russian origin... unless proven otherwise. This is the very same rationale that Brennan used when devising his Kill List during the Obama years. All Muslim males in the prime of life are deemed to be militants until (never) proven otherwise.

And of course he doesn't mention the CIA's own role in fomenting dissent and crafting intelligence in other countries besides our own. 

It is really quite stunning that the Times gifted Brennan with its prime real estate on the very same day it moralistically published a free press manifesto from the nation's newspapers. Even more stunning, and disheartening, is that the vast majority of reader comments on Brennan's op-ed are overflowing with praise and gushing, fawning thanks for his courage, patriotism and service.

My own deeply buried comment:
How does Trump deflect the public's attention from the Omarosa book, with its juicy revelations of racism and corruption?

He trolls John Brennan and other exiled military/surveillance actors, revoking some arcane thing called "security clearance."

Brennan, who couldn't even be confirmed by the Democratic majority during Obama's first term because of his alleged role in Bush's torture program, has thusly become the #1 hero of Resistance, Inc. The comments section is awash with gratitude for his patriotism and service to his country.

The condemnation that the CIA under his watch garnered for its admitted burglary of Senate computers during the torture investigation is but a hazy memory now, thanks to the common enemy named Trump.

The American values which John Brennan holds so dear include the program he dubbed the Disposition Matrix, aka the rationale for droning suspected terrorists - defined by him at the time as any Middle Eastern male in the prime of his life. We still don't have a full accounting of those killed and maimed by Predator drones, so I look forward to an op-ed from Mr, Brennan giving us the full information we deserve.

As a latter-day free press champion in the Age of Trump, Mr. Brennan has certainly come a long way from his advocating censorship of the Egyptian media during the Arab Spring..

Meanwhile, where is the outrage over Trump's complicity in the Saudi genocide in Yemen, which includes the recent bombing of a school bus full of children?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

But Siriusly, Folks

Sirius the dog star is still high in the sky. It's so bright, in fact, that on cloudy days you supposedly can even see it with the naked eye. At times it can even outshine the sun itself.

But in American End-Times, nobody but nobody outshines Reality Star Donald Trump. Not even reality starlet Omarosa Manigault Newman, despite her daily drip-drip-drip of goodies to a hungry press corps. So what better time for him to call another woman a dog, and what better time for the media to bay like hounds at the latest manufactured outrage when they're not salivating for the latest treat? The Dog Days of Summer have taken on a whole new meaning thanks to Donald Trump. He has made this typically slow news time of year sizzle like a virtual burning planet.

"Dog Days are approaching; you must, therefore, make both hay and haste while the Sun shines, for when old Sirius takes command of the weather, he is such an unsteady, crazy dog, there is no dependence upon him."

So said the Old Farmers Almanac way back in 1817. As usual, the folk prognosticators got it totally wrong, given that Crazy Dog Trump is as reliable a juicy news story as a piece of raw steak.

The media are drawn to the bait as magnetically as Trump's twittery jittery thumbs are drawn to his i-phone every morning, coinciding with the dawn rising of Sirius.  When the woman in question - the ubiquitous Omarosa - also happens to be Black, the dog insult becomes even worse, especially when it's juxtaposed with the White House's passive-aggressive admission that a tape likely exists of Trump using the N Word.

Fetch the smelling salts.

In other barely-reported, and thus less shock-intensive news, Roman Catholic priests were found to have abused over a thousand children in the past several decades in just one state, Pennsylvania.

 At least 30 people died in a bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy after its crumbling state had been an obvious scandal for months, if not years. Heads will not roll, although right wing officials are boldly calling for "resignations." You see, it was all the fault of the E.U. and not the fault of  elected right wing officials.

A bus full of Yemeni children was blown to smithereens by an American bomb. The murders of brown-skinned children are deemed by the corporate media to be less offensive and newsworthy than the latest president uttering racist slurs on tape. (both Nixon and LBJ were caught on tape uttering racist slurs, but not until they were safely dead.)

A complicit bipartisan Congress just gifted the "insane" racist president almost a trillion more dollars with which to bomb more busloads of children. And that money will need to be replenished in another year. It's no wonder that lawmakers gave him the nearly blank check months before the bill actually came due. It's no wonder that they gave this allegedly crazy dog even more money for more bombs and planes and troops than he even asked them for.

 But don't feel depressed or angry! Because the "most diverse group of candidates" in US history has just won a handful of primary elections. And that means that the American establishment is still reliably and liberally focused on identity politics rather than on class politics and anti-war politics.

The choice of the second Muslim woman to run for a seat in Congress on a progressive Democratic platform has, judging from all the self-celebratory liberal press coverage, served the dual purpose of absolving the Democratic Party of its own guilt in the killings of millions of Muslims throughout the world by American bombs and guns and the recent nondebatable funding of the US Imperium's continuing death and destruction.

It's the neoliberal way. Elevate a precious few members of historically marginalized and oppressed racial, gender, religious and ethnic groups to positions of prestige, and call it a victory rather than the whitewashing that it truly is.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

How Corporatism Is Co-Opting Socialism

Have you noticed that more and more corporate media pundits are paying some positive attention to socialism these days? If they can't beat such attractive upstarts as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, they might as well at least pretend to join them in the pre-midterms interim. There'll be plenty of time after November to curb both their enthusiasm and ours.

Color me skeptical, but when neoliberal scribes Paul Krugman and Michael Tomasky write pro-socialist op-eds in the New York Times on the very same day it does tend to send my bullshit detection radar into high alert.

Krugman even took a break from his European bicycle tour vacation to wax rhapsodic about Denmark's social welfare state. It seems like only yesterday when he was waxing funereal about Bernie Sanders's call for single payer health care and free higher education. O.K., so it was more than a year ago, but time flies when millions of desperate people are logically thinking that their time is running out.

Tomasky, editor of the centrist journal "Democracy" and a columnist for the Clinton-supporting Daily Beast (Chelsea Clinton sits on its board of directors) is not so much enthusiastic about socialism as he is worried that capitalistic greed is creating too much socialistic enthusiasm in the great unwashed masses.
So if you were a person of modest or even middle-class means, how would you feel about capitalism? The kind of capitalism this country has been practicing for all these years has failed most people.
Yes, it’s given us lots of shiny objects to gush about. A smartphone that can display slow-motion video is a wonder. But an affordable college education, though perhaps not a wonder, is a necessity for a well-ordered society. So is a solution to a national drug crisis in which 115 people die every day, as well as a lot of other problems that the capitalism of our era has simply ignored.
I have mixed feelings about this socialism boomlet. It has yet to prove itself politically viable in general elections outside a handful of areas, and by 2021 we could wake up and see that it’s been a disaster for Democrats.
 Mind you, Tomasky mainly has the interests of the plutocrats at heart. His column is an appeal to their alleged altruism and understanding of the lesser people and by no means a list of remedies to ameliorate record inequality. He doesn't go so far as to agitate for single payer health insurance, a living wage, increased Social Security benefits, a federal jobs guarantee or new taxes to fund affordable housing. He only asks that wealthy "thought leaders" care, or more accurately, pretend to care. Otherwise too many leftists might get elected and take away their perks.

Nevertheless, both he and Krugman are being widely praised for saying such pretty, inclusive words. They are good soldiers who will do whatever it takes to get disaffected Democrats to the polls in November.

Meanwhile, since I wanted to find out if socialism is getting even more popular among disaffected young people, I Googled "millennials/socialism/polls" to get some numbers.

Surprisingly or not surprisingly, the very first entry in the Google search results was from a site calling itself "Victims of Communism.Org."

It wants to warn struggling, indebted young people about their deluded thinking. If they persist in wanting guaranteed medical care and other nice things, they might end up in a Stalinesque gulag. Or to be really realistic about it, Maduro's Venezuela!
Unfortunately, Americans are as ignorant of the developing situation in socialist Venezuela as they are of the definition of socialism itself. Six out of every ten Americans surveyed were wholly unfamiliar with Venezuela’s socialist dictator, Nicol├ís Maduro, and the economic crisis and human rights abuses that have occurred under his rule.
So, 100 years after the Bolshevik Revolution, the majority of the largest generational cohort in America show great enthusiasm for socialism while completely failing to correctly identify its definition when asked or examine its consequences. It gets worse.
Seven in ten Americans drastically underestimate the number of people killed at the hands of communist regimes over the last century. This is unsurprising, given the fact that half of all Millennials say they have never heard of Mao Zedong, a man whose policies killed nearly 60 million people, making him the greatest mass murderer of the twentieth century.
 It goes on to equate the neo-Nazi provocateurs at Charlottesville with the anti-fascist protesters "with hammer and sickle flags" despite the fact that the anti-fascists are not members of the Communist Party.

A click on the miniscule link to "Leadership" reveals that, unsurprisingly, the people in charge of Victims of Communism.Org hail from conservative think tanks, the finance industry and the security state. The executive director, Marion Smith, is a Heritage Foundation alumnus. Look for his re-education campaign on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, Fox and other echo-chamber outlets of the corporate propaganda consortium.

Chairman of the Board is Lee Edwards, also of the Heritage Foundation, who cut his own anti-socialistic teeth as director of communications for Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign.

Not that the Victims of Communism organization is totally Republican, of course. Since "bipartisan" is establishment-speak for "noble, altruistic and honest," there is even a congressional Victims of Communism Caucus to more ably represent the interests of unfettered capitalism.

Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Dennis Lipinski (D-IL) joined with their GOP colleagues in urging EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to boycott the unveiling of a statue of Karl Marx (a gift from China) in his hometown of Trier, Germany this past May in honor of his 200th birthday. No matter that Marxism was co-opted by such despots as Joseph Stalin in order to do some truly evil things. According to the official US corporate bipartisan consensus, Karl Marx personally was and is responsible for all manner of global evil.

To his credit, Juncker not only ignored the US politicians and right-wing hecklers, he publicly derided them in his speech at the statue's dedication:  
Mr Juncker said: "Anyone would do well in remembering Marx because remembering and understanding are part of securing the future.
"Without memory and thought, without understanding memory, there will not be much for the future.
"Marx isn't responsible for all the atrocities his alleged heirs have to answer for.
"One has to understand Karl Marx from the context of his time and not have prejudices based on hindsight, these judgments shouldn't exist".
He went onto discuss Marx's influence on the European Union, saying that Marx's philosophy taught Europeans that it was the “task of our time” to improve social rights.

No word on whether the Bipartisan moralizers back in the USA will demand that Marx's books be banned as well. But no matter. In the American Land of the Free, Marx is rarely, if ever, taught in institutions of higher learning. And most important of all, curious learners anxious to learn about socialism and polls and young people always have the Google to set them on the right-wing path.

Google, you might remember, has not only given the reactionary website "Victims of Communism" the top spot as a result of this query, it has actively suppressed such leftist groups as the World Socialist Website from its results pages.

Here are the other top hits to the query "socialism/polls/millennials" on Google's front page of results:

"Majority of Millennials Want to Live In Socialist, Communist or Fascist Nation Rather Than Under Capitalism" (Washington Times)  According to the lead, "this troubling turn highlights widespread historical illiteracy in American society."

Sound familiar? Maybe it's because the source of this scare-mongering piece is none other than the above mentioned Marion Smith of the Heritage Foundation. For a guy so concerned about education, he certainly has a parallel agenda of the destruction of public education in the United States. He also has an addiction to false equivalency, the way he equates socialism with fascism.

Third-ranked on the Google search results page is a Chicago Tribune piece titled "Why Are Millennials So Hot on Socialism?" (Hint: they are woefully uneducated, not knowing such uncomfortable factoids as "the forcible removal of ghetto children" from their parents in Denmark... so they can go to school for 25 hours per week!) Also too, the American millennials who favor socialism are the same depraved individuals who believe in birth control and extramarital sex.

It's only until you get halfway down the Google search results page that you get to read more objective and relatively unbiased articles about young people and socialism, which are largely centered around the upset primary victory of Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Still, as CNN reported on the recent polling, millennials still like capitalism and free enterprise right along with their newfound enthusiasm for socialism. So all is not lost. As long as there's Google to supplant critical thinking skills and the deep study of history, there's life in the old Oligarchy yet.

So the corporate media will keep their fingers crossed until such time as they can get back to business after the November midterms. They'll keep inviting reactionary shills like Marion Smith on their air to keep the conversation balanced, the concern for the poor as shallow and perfunctory as possible, and the capitalistic cancer in fake remission even as it grows and multiplies under all the concern-controlling and co-optation and snake-oil treatment.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Update From Hell

So today I got my marching orders to vacate the flooded, incipiently moldy premises as of 3 p.m. Sunday so that Servpro can get on with making it like it never even happened. 

Granted, this was pretty short notice on the part of the landlord, who had given me a date of a week from now to check into the hotel. But professionals that they hopefully are, Servpro found themselves unexpectedly ahead of schedule. 

So no blogging, except maybe posting a few links, for the next week or so. I am not lugging my heavy equipment into exile, because it will be hard enough lugging my self and my clothes, my meds and my toothbrush into exile.

  Before starting packing, though, I did comment tonight on Maureen Dowd's piece, which ever so originally compares Trump to a mob boss. Naturally, she just happened to run into Robert De Niro at a party a while ago, and whenever one has the opportunity to drop a famous name in one's New York Times column, one must never waste it. And one must also coyly hint while one is at it that one was the direct inspiration for DeNiro's F-bomb-laced diatribe at the Tony awards.

My published comment: 
 I found myself lately wishing that the Trump Show would end just like "The Sopranos" did: with an abrupt blackout and no chance of a revival or spinoff.

And then I realized that such a blackout might spell not only the end of his organized crime spree, but of all of us. This guy has already created whole hellscape of collateral damage and misery. Will there be any turning back?

He threatens to nuke countries he doesn't like. He quit the Paris Climate accords. His nominee to head the Superfund program has made a career out of getting the polluters and poisoners of the earth off the legal hook, at great public expense. His "health" consiglieres are already plotting a mob hit on single payer health care. The thug heading HUD wants to triple the rents of the poorest tenants, while Trump's slumlord son-in-law Jared sues them for every last dime. His moll Betsy DeVos came not to oversee public education, but to destroy it.

Trump brags about GDP growth without admitting that such growth is a cancer which kills all but the richest of the ethically challenged rich. Wages continue to stagnate even in this "booming" economy.

 His pathological lack of discipline and a business model built entirely of deceit are the mirror image of late-stage capitalism's pursuit of limitless wealth and power - planet and people be damned.

Not just Trump, but the whole crooked system must come down and be replaced by a moral system of government, aka democratic socialism. Our lives depend on it.
Not to brag or drop names or anything, but the president who first reminded me of a Tony Soprano-style mafioso godfather was none other than Barack Obama. There was that time, for example, when his Secret Service thugs kidnapped Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2012 for attending his debate with Mitt Romney. They literally handcuffed her to a metal folding chair at an undisclosed location before letting her off with a stern warning.

And who can forget Democratic Senator Dick Durbin deflecting blame from Mob Boss Obama of the Austerian Cartel right onto greedy senior citizens who, through their selfish desires for a barely bearable retirement via Social Security, are robbing those precious future generations of any future at all? "Social Security is gonna run out of money in 20 years," Durbin trumpily lied on corporate-sponsored TV in 2013.

"The Baby Boom generation is gonna blow away our future. We don't wanna see that happen," Dapper Dick declaimed demagogically in his best Don style.

And then there was the Trans-Pacific Partnership corporate crime cartel, whose dastardly plans for total world domination hinged entirely upon Obama-style secrecy, stealth and lies. You might remember those hellish times circa 2015-16 when even congress critters were not permitted to examine draft copies of this planned mega-hit on ordinary people without the presence of armed guards to make sure they didn't make or steal copies. 

It goes on and on. Just a cursory glance through my Obama-era blog-posts provides a smorgasbord of tasty reasons why Trump won and the Democrats lost - not just the presidency, of course, but about 1,000 federal and state seats.

Here, for example, are excerpts from one typical right-wing speech that Obama gave in 2013, doubtlessly inspiring legions of disgusted Democrats to stay the hell home the following mid-term election year, in what turned out to be the lowest voter turnout year in modern American history:
We’ll need Democrats to question old assumptions, be willing to redesign or get rid of programs that no longer work, and embrace changes to cherished priorities so that they work better in this new age.
(That was the standard, centrist, dog-whistled attack on Social Security and Medicare, in case you didn't know.) 

We’ve come a long way since I first took office. As a country, we’re older and we’re wiser. And as long as Congress doesn’t manufacture another crisis – as long as we don’t shut down the government just as the economy is getting traction, or risk a U.S. default over paying bills we’ve already racked up – we can probably muddle along without taking bold action. Our economy will grow, though slower than it should; new businesses will form, and unemployment will keep ticking down. Just by virtue of our size and our natural resources and the talent of our people, America will remain a world power, and the majority of us will figure out how to get by.
With $100 million in book, speech and media deals in just little over a year, I think it's safe to say that Obama has figured out how to get by as ably as the majority of One Percenters.... or is it the .001 Percenters? Math was never my strong suit.

I also think it's safe to say that the reason that millions of Obama voters either stayed home again in 2016, or voted for Donald Trump out of sheer disgust and desperation, was that not only had they not figured out how to get by, but they realized how royally they'd been screwed by The One.

Political pro though he may be, it's like his eight years of Hope and Change never even happened. Serving the bottom 90% was just never part of his deal.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Personal Note

One of the upstairs tenants in my apartment building had the bright idea of hanging a sweatshirt on one of the sprinkler heads in their unit. As a result there was a massive flood the likes of which this complex has never seen. Two or three apartments were destroyed along with all their contents. Several more (including mine) were discovered to have severe interior wall damage which will require a partial gutting. Luckily none of our own personal property was destroyed.

So the management is putting up the most severely affected tenants in a hotel as repairs get underway, with the rest of us "triaged" according to extent of damage. Meanwhile, the constant sound of jackhammers (or what sounds just like jackhammers) makes reading, research and writing next to impossible during the daylight hours. At night there is the sound of industrial fans and dehumidifying and other equipment, which travels through to the apartments, like mine, which are still technically habitable. Even with air conditioning it feels like a sauna in here!

It could be so much worse, of course, and I really can't complain. The building management is paying full rehousing costs for those affected, as well as abating our rent. The hotel they've booked for the evacuees is one of the more decent ones in town. The people who suffered the complete and devastating losses all had renters' insurance, thank goodness. One of them had just moved in a week ago.

We still haven't gotten a firm date on when we have to leave our own apartment, but their best guess is in the next 10 days to two weeks. We also don't know how long it will be before we can move back in. A week and maybe two is their best estimate.

Since I do all of my blogging from my desktop computer, which I definitely will not be lugging with me, writing on the blog will be put on hold for what could be close to a month.  At most I'll try to post small items now and again while I await my "marching orders."

I'll still be able to moderate and post comments from my phone during my exile, though, so if anybody would like to hold down the fort while I'm gone, please do so! Your excellent commentary is always welcome, both in the best of times and the worst of times.

Ciao for now.

Monday, July 23, 2018

What Stale Hell Is This?

"He felt constantly unappreciated and harassed by others, was frequently suspicious of many of those around him... vindictive, seething with unfocused hostility. (He had) a permanent sense of insecurity and frustration... leading to frequently bungling attempts at compensation... and a need to show the world who was boss."

(He filled his White House with) "big-bellied good-natured guys who saw Washington as a chance to make useful contacts and were anxious to get what they could for themselves out of the experience. (It was) the era of the moocher. The place was full of Wimpys who could be had for a hamburger." 

Those are pretty standard critiques of Donald J. Trump, right?  They are repeated so often that most people with a pulse can recite them like a litany. 

The only problem is that those observations were written about Harry S Truman. The first snippet is by Truman biographer Alonzo Hamby, and the second one was written by legendary journalist I.F. Stone.

You might not know it from all the historical whitewashing of Truman, particularly after the one-man Broadway hit show based on the "Plain Speaking" bestseller by Merle Miller. But this guy was a pretty dangerous human being.

If you think that the recent Democratic Party and Deep State-instigated RussiaGate campaign is over the top hysterical, if you likewise think that Trump is a paranoid nut case for the ages, relax. Because "Give Em Hell Harry" actually makes The Donald look like a wimp. It was Harry Truman who, upon first arriving in the Oval Office after FDR's death, beat Trump to the punch by about 70 years when he boasted: "I'll be as tough as the toughest!"

But in an ironic twist in light of today's politics, the people with whom Truman wanted to get tough were not the "fake news" media, Muslims, and Latino immigrants. It was those damned Russians.

So, exhibiting some pretty amazing party solidarity despite the alleged intra-party "divisiveness," Democrats have taken a tip straight out of Crazy Harry's playbook and repurposed Russophobia in their own desperate Hail Mary pass of an electoral tactic. It's really the only thing their billionaire handlers on Wall Street and Silicon Valley, and the deep thinkers within the "defense" industry-controlled Deep State will allow them to do. Even "socialist" Bernie Sanders is fully on board the RussiaGate Express.

Trump, bad as he surely is, has nothing on Truman. Harry was so crazy that he dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even after the United States has already as much as defeated Japan -- because he wanted to "send a message" to Stalin that the United States was going to be in charge of the world from thereon in! For sheer psychopathy, this act of mass murder certainly surpasses Trump's apocalyptic canoodling with Putin, or, in his most recent brazen display of toughness, his threatening all-caps tweet to Iran.

 Trump contemptuously, yet weakly, threw rolls of paper towels at Puerto Ricans. The US under Truman actually threw lethal bombs at them, when they started making demands for independence and were thus in violation of his edict criminalizing dissent. It seemed that the Russians were meddling and "sowing discord" even in Puerto Rico in the late 40s and early 50s. According to media reports, they continue doing so to this very day!

The Truman Doctrine divided the world neatly into the realms of good (USA! USA!USA! ) and evil (RussiaRussiaRussia!) in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Truman combined the worst aspects of modern-day Trumpian paranoid authoritarianism with scare-mongering over a crisis, manufactured explicitly to sell a war-weary public on the Cold War, and later, on the hot proxy war (er, "police action") against the Chinese/Russian coalition in Korea.

Truman was so crazy, he not only publicly threatened North Korea with nukes, he dispatched atom bomb-bearing B-29s to the US base at Guam to prepare for an imminent attack. It turned out to be a bluff, obviously. Conventional weapons were successfully killing millions of North Korean civilians anyway.

  And back at home in the Land of the Free, one of the new President Truman's first orders of business in the sales pitch for American global hegemony was signing an executive order called the Employees Loyalty Program, which authorized investigations into the beliefs and associations of all federal employees. If a worker was accused of disloyalty, he or she did not have the opportunity to defend him or herself. And in some Kafkaesque cases, they were not even made aware of the charges. The Truman administration ultimately compiled a list of 197 "subversive organizations" - left-wing political groups, peace groups, relief organizations and labor unions, membership in any of which was grounds for immediate investigations, and usually, firings.

Not willing to be co-opted or usurped by a Democrat, though, the Republican reactionaries in Congress quickly dubbed Truman a weakling and upped the ante, calling for even more purges and investigations. More than 300 new laws against "subversive activities" were passed at the federal, state and local levels, with some states declaring membership in the Communist Party to be a felony. The State Department issued a Trump-like travel ban in 1952, both for suspects entering the US and citizens leaving the Western Hemisphere. Even Supreme Court Justice William O.Douglas was denied a passport because of his own criticism of American foreign policy. (It wasn't until 1964 that the travel ban against people whom the New York Times derided as "Reds" in its headline was finally overturned and declared unconstitutional.)

 Joe McCarthy, aided by future Trump mentor Roy Cohn, saw his own opening and pounced when his off-the-cuff remark at a GOP women's luncheon about a list of 200-odd government spies got some unexpected press. He has since become the all-powerful lone bad guy in the historical revisionism of that era, not least because he was not only crazy, he was an alcoholic right-winger right out of central casting who made the mistake of going after the Pentagon and the State Department. If Chuck Schumer had been around, he could have told Joe that the Intelligence Community has six ways from Sunday of getting back at you.

In any event, the propaganda and fear-mongering during the early Cold War years were highly effective. Seventy-seven percent of polled Americans wanted suspected Communists to be stripped of their citizenship and 51 percent favored imprisoning them.

"Nevertheless," writes Griffin Fariello, "these statistics may well reflect the shallow roots of the Red Scare, measuring only the uncritical ease of which many Americans take on the attitudes evinced by politicians and the media. For when asked, 'What kind of things do you worry about most?,' 80 percent responded in terms of personal or family problems, with the largest bloc expressing concern over business and economic problems." 

Millions of people have suffered and died in the interests of one or both US war parties and the capitalistic predators who own them. Millions of Americans have been displaying their susceptibility to relentless war propaganda for generations.

No matter that when the truth about the lies finally comes out, people have long since moved on to believing in the next Big Lie. Fool them once, fool them a hundred times.

It wasn't until 1978 that Truman adviser Clark Clifford admitted to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein that the administration had always been fully aware that there was never any "loyalty problem" at all, or even a Communist threat. "He (Truman) thought it was a lot of baloney.... It was a political problem.... He'd gotten a terrible clobbering in 1946 in the congressional elections. We gave a good deal of thought of how to respond. We had a presidential campaign ahead of us, and here was a great issue, so he set up this whole kind of machinery."

When Truman was exposed as a manipulative liar nearly 40 years after the fact, he was already five years dead. Nobody really cared. The old crimes of the nation's leaders had been sucked down the memory hole and effectively erased from "the narrative."

Fast-forward to 2018. The recently clobbered corporate Democrats in thrall to wealthy donors and hellishly aligned with the grotesquely named "Intelligence Community" are locked in an oligarchic power struggle with a blustery paranoid president and a party which has long relied on racism and economic resentment and voter suppression and gerrymandering to win elections. But instead of countering this ugliness and mass suffering with a campaign for a new New Deal, the inheritors of Harry Truman's own expedient paranoid style are embracing Hellish Harry with a vengeance and throwing FDR right under the bus. Because to Third Way neoliberal Democrats, the New Deal can never be dead enough to suit them.

A new generation of Russophobes were either not alive when Harry Truman was pulling the same kinds of destructive political stunts that both the Trump administration and the Duopoly are playing at today, or they don't bother reading any actual history of that truly scary time. Or maybe they do know, and they just don't care, because it's their party right or wrong. Everything they need to know is right there in the Times, the Post, on CNN and MSNBC.

The media-political complex is having a ridiculously easy time ginning up Russophobia in the masses, making it the central, deflective campaign platform for the 2018 midterms, and probably even for the 2020 presidential race. Maybe they're envisioning their Truman zombie of a presidential nominee gleefully holding up a newspaper with the headline "Trump Beats----------."

And then, at long last, they can finally purge their long national nightmarish memory of this: 

 The CIA, born as a rogue presidential army in the Truman years, is now a virtual fourth branch of government, to which all good Americans, true men and true women, are expected to pledge allegiance or risk being branded as at best, useful Kremlin idiots, or at worst, traitors.

If you want to know the truth, look no further than the history section of your local library. It is simply chock full of facts and valuable clues and historical precedents and dots to connect. But best be quick about it, because Godzillionaire Jeff Bezos might be hatching a fresh hell of a plan to render your friendly neighborhood libraries obsolete, replacing them with the Book Emporium of Amazonia - in order to "save taxpayers money". Or so Forbes reported, before a Twitter outcry deflated the trial balloon, and the whole article simply disappeared without explanation. You still can read the cached version here, because despite the legacy of Truman, the lords of capital still haven't quite gotten their purging skills in total order.

Give 'em Purgatory, Harry!


Sources and Recommended Reading:

Bernstein, Carl: Loyalties: A Son's Memoir. 

Fariello, Griffin: Red Scare: Memories of the American Inquisition.

Hamby, Alonzo: A Man of the People: A Life of Harry S Truman.

Stone, I.F.: The Hidden History of the Korean War.