Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Distraction Inside a Diversion Within a Deflection

I almost feel sorry for CNN, the most mistrusted name in news. As you've probably heard, one of its debate moderators belligerently asked Bernie Sanders why he had told Elizabeth Warren that a woman could never win the presidency rather than if he had told her this.

This tacky episode of desperately obvious collusion between the war industry-financed cable giant and the faltering campaign of Elizabeth Warren puts CNN in a real quandary as Donald Trump's impeachment trial opens in the Senate. How will its reporters juggle the onerous task of breathlessly hyping the drama of Ukrainegate while simultaneously hyping their contrived family feud between Sanders and Warren? Do they break from the testimony to do panel discussions on Warren and Sanders giving each other the side-eye? Do they cover the boring speeches by the "impeachment managers" or do they air Donald Trump bloviating about witch hunts and unfairness on the White House lawn or at another one of his Nuremberg-style rallies? What if another hell of a continent-engulfing fire breaks out just as the climate-denying senators are fretting about the scandal of delayed weapons appropriations in the new Cold War? What if Trump murders another foreign leader right in the middle of his trial while Adam Schiff is discussing foreign terrorism and improving America's reputation?  It's a real dilemma, not just for CNN, but for the whole media borg. 

In normally balanced times of abnormality, we're used to seeing a permanent split screen, images divided between the requisite two manufactured narratives and leading actors. But with the petty partisan politics of impeachment vying for attention with the petty partisan politics of the Warren-Sanders kerfuffle vying with the petty partisan politics of Everyday Trump vying with whatever mass shootings and climate catastrophes are happening in the world, our invisible TV pixels might devolve into visible pixels requiring a magnifying glass to see. Just the chyrons alone, vying for desperate attention on the top, bottom and both sides of the screen, might require the purchase of a whole separate screen to keep us properly informed. Maybe they should start selling smarter TVs with pre-split multiple screens that are bigger than a house... that is, to the lucky few who still live in houses, which are increasingly being used as hiding places for laundered oligarchic loot rather than as actual dwelling places for human beings.

Thus far I've only been able to find a gadget that breaks up your already-small screen into six separate compartments for your enhanced viewing confusion. To be fair, it is not marketed for use by just one viewer, but to multiple family members or housemates who fight over what to watch on their one TV and who can now supposedly get along in blissful cacophonous peace and harmony

Is it me, or are we finally entering the terminal stage of our great national psychosis in unreal real time, what with all these manufactured and unnatural events competing for our ever more divided and shortened attention spans?

But enough of these depressing dystopian musings! Let's talk just a bit more about that way too obvious conspiracy between Elizabeth Warren and CNN to destroy the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. As others have written, this is all for the benefit of Joe Biden, or perhaps for the benefit of Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg. Playing the sexism card against Bernie rather than against Gropey Sniffy Joe is Warren's tacit way of admitting she has no chance to be the nominee. Her task is to prove to Biden and the corrupt Democratic establishment that when they go low, she goes lower. She is a team player and a worthy candidate for the vice presidency or at least for a top-level cabinet position.

If Warren had been truly, sincerely disturbed by Sanders's alleged sexist remark at that private dinner more than a year ago, wouldn't she have spoken up in the immediate aftermath in order to warn progressives and feminists where this guy's head was really at?

Her belated accusation reeks of the Hail Mary pass. Faced with her imminent defeat, she has desperately pivoted from "I've got a plan for that"  to embracing the same old head fake of stale identity politics. She portrays herself - and by extension, all of womanhood -  as the quintessential victim. Of course, the best and the brightest of the victimized will nevertheless  "fight back" against the male sex as a substitute for fighting back against the patriarchal capitalism which afflicts every living thing on earth: men, women, children, flora and fauna.

Abandoning her brand as the populist champion of working class solidarity, Warren is now wholeheartedly embracing the centrist cult of neoliberal individualism. She is a good loyal friend to capitalism. It was always a contradiction for her to claim to be "a capitalist to my bones" from one side of the mouth and to assert that "I'm with Bernie!" with the other. The truth is now out there. Whether her calculated choice succeeds in damaging Sanders and rewarding Biden - and, ultimately, Trump - remains to be seen.

Warren, meanwhile, is using the solemnity of the impeachment to dissociate her own self from the kerfuffle she has caused. But CNN is having none of it, scoffing at the widespread criticism of its anti-Bernie bias and complaining that Warren refused further comment as she was entering the Senate chamber. CNN's Chris Cilizza vows that his network is not giving up the story about Warren's fight without a fight! Because a story is a story and it won't be the end of the story.

Capitalism hates class solidarity - unless, of course, it is plutocratic class solidarity.

 And it certainly does love those lonely individual downtrodden fighters who can beat all the odds and serve as shining examples of grit and fortitude to the rest of us poor slobs. Capitalism loves it when the teeming masses vicariously identify with such downtrodden elites as Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton and Meghan Markle... or conversely, with the beleaguered persona of Donald Trump. The more effectively we can be taught to disassociate from our own lives, root for their fortunes and disdain the "haters" who do not, then the less likely it is that we will ever join forces in solidarity with our similarly atomized brothers and sisters.

Capitalism doesn't care a whit about the sincerity of the downtrodden elites that it chooses to market and showcase. It certainly doesn't care whether or not its current star attraction, Donald Trump, is re-elected. In fact, the oligarchs are banking on his re-election, given how this master showman would in all likelihood defeat Biden or Buttigieg or Bloomberg.

Bernie Sanders is their designated enemy. But what really scares them and sends them to their loot-stuffed fainting couches is an informed, angry and motivated populace.

United we stand. Divided by a confusing infinity of split TV screens and manufactured controversies, we fall. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Bernie-Bashing Backlash Bonanza

To say that Elizabeth Warren's accusation of sexism against Bernie Sanders doesn't pass the smell test is the understatement of the year. Even total nostril blockage would not quench the stench of her allegation that he told her at a private dinner that a woman could never win the presidency. What he likely said was that Donald Trump would act like the sexist pig that he is toward any woman candidate.

Likely, given that Bernie has always stood up for women and Elizabeth does have this disturbing history of, ahem, exaggerating stuff, bending the truth, or even making things up.

What really reeks is the desperation in Warren's faltering campaign. It joins in lockstep stinkiness with the desperation of the oligarch-controlled media borg. Right on the eve of the last "debate" prior to the Iowa caucuses, CNN chose to run an anonymously-sourced story about the private dinner setting of his alleged remark, a conversation which Warren initially vowed would remain private, thus only adding to the intrigue. After several hours, she issued a statement confirming the unconfirmed CNN hit job, which was broadcast with glee by the New York Times and the whole crew of usual media suspects.

The themes of sexism and the threat to "party unity" will no doubt be the dramatic manufactured focal points of the "debate." The game show emcees ("moderators") will keep both their nostrils and their ears carefully stuffed with cotton balls as they corral the candidates into the desired tag team whose goal is to stamp Bernie into the ground. Never having had to develop the ability to actually think on the job, their careerist journalistic brains were themselves replaced by wads of cotton stuffing quite a while ago. Their minds have the handy dual function of absorbing the ooze of the plutocratic agenda while at the same time acting as protective barriers against any outside democratic contamination.

Poor Joe Biden will probably not join in the bashing with any great gusto, given his own history of sexism combined with that nasty hair-sniffing habit that the media has long since forgotten in its zeal to protect him from the Ukrainegate-based Trumpian slime machine.

Hopefully Sanders is primed and ready for the buckets of slime that are only beginning to be hurled his way. Hopefully he won't preface his defense with "Elizabeth is a good friend of mine, and she can absolutely win this thing!" 

Because judging from the backlash against Warren, the ears, noses, throats and brains of his base of supporters are absolutely clear and cottonball-free. #RefundWarren, a Twitter campaign demanding that she return donations from her small-dollar supporters, is taking off like a blast of turbo-charged nasal spray. (Notwithstanding the concern-trolling mainstream media package warnings to progressives about about the dangerous pro-Trump "rebound effects" of their righteous indignation)

Stay tuned. The ratings for the contrived slug-fest gleefully marketed by the New York Times as "Mom and Dad Are Fighting!" promise to be better than initially expected.


New York Times columnist and MSNBC personality Michelle Goldberg cloyingly advises liberals to move past the contrived Bernie/Liz battle, which originally started with Warren's accusation that he was "attacking her" via campaign workers pointing to the fact that she has well-heeled support. Goldberg sniffs that this stuff is too silly to even talk about -  before she then proceeds to spend her whole column talking about it. Her essay is essentially a thinly disguised call for Bernie to quit the race because, apparently, Warren is the only candidate who can provide that all-important "party unity"  that the Democratic establishment is so concerned about.

Midway through her piece, she casually mentions that since her husband advises the Warren campaign, she was really, really hesitant about even writing her column endorsing Warren. But needs must, when "party unity" trumps relief for the sick, the jobless, the underpaid, the desperate.

It's still all about the upper middle class pathological grief over Hillary Clinton's defeat:
Attacking another candidates’ supporters rather than her record is kind of obnoxious, but as far as political combat goes, it was pretty mild. The reason it caused a small uproar is that in much of the Democratic Party, there’s tremendous resentment of Sanders left over from 2016. Many believe he weakened Hillary Clinton by dragging out the primary — at one point even threatening acontested convention — and then only halfheartedly rallying his fans behind her when it was over. Warren alluded to this anger in a fund-raising email keyed to the Politico article that said, “We can’t afford to repeat the factionalism of the 2016 primary.”
"Many believe" is the same kind of unsourced weasel-wording smear tactic as the all-purpose "some say."

My published response to Goldberg:
How does the Sanders campaign pointing out Warren's poll-verified voting demographic amount to "attacking" her?
If this little kerfuffle is such a little kerfuffle, by amplifying it Michelle Goldberg only adds to the manufactured hysteria, and just in time for the latest episode of the Gong Show, I mean the "debate." If Warren thinks Bernie is "trashing her" simply by pointing out differences in their bases then I hate to think of a President Warren's epic meltdowns when the Republicans start trashing her for real every two minutes.
  By playing the faux-feminist victim card here, she actually disempowers other female politicians. Worse still, she is playing the crumpled Hillary card. Remember how well that pitiful ploy worked out to achieve "party unity" once upon a time? Bernie campaigned for her as soon as she was nominated. Then he was blamed for not having the magical Svengali touch to entice his supporters to actually vote for her.
The long-awaited smear campaign against Bernie has begun in earnest. The only surprising thing is that Warren has chosen to be an integral part of it.

 Goldberg's colleague Paul Krugman seemingly wrote his own anti-Bernie column before the manufactured kerfuffle over trashing and sexism broke out. Because all his does is drag out the same old narrative about Medicare For All being the terrible thing that's destroying party unity. If you want to overcome "Trump's Plot Against Health Care," then you'd better shut up and vote for somebody who will fight to the death for the restrictive, junky, predatory insurance policy that you might be lucky enough to still actually possess. In the meanwhile, don't get upset about not having guaranteed coverage. Be upset because Trump lied about protecting your pre-existing conditions!

Krugman sounds the dire warning:
Make no mistake: Health care will be on the ballot this November. But not in the way ardent progressives imagine.Democrats running for president have spent a lot of time debating so-called Medicare for all, with some supporters of Bernie Sanders claiming that any politician who doesn’t demand immediate implementation of single-payer health care is a corporate tool, or something. But the reality is that whatever its merits, universal, government-provided health insurance isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
My published retort:
 The only pre-existing condition Trump saved is that of the top 0.1% owning as much wealth as the bottom 90%.
That grotesque reality is precisely why Medicare For All is such a "tough sell." The oligarchs own our political duopoly as well as corporate media conglomerate. They spread the fear and the misinformation that make people feel nervous about losing their precarious, expensive coverage to a more equitable program covering everybody from cradle to grave with no premiums, deductibles, networks, co-pays or surprise bills from private equity vultures.
  One of the leading questions in polls is "do you know that Medicare For All would make your private coverage disappear?" -- the implication being that there looms a coverage gap of epic proportions.
 Paul Krugman does his own "there is no alternative" part by labeling those of us who demand what exists in every other advanced nation "ardent progressives" who just cannot understand that single payer is impossible even with a Democratic majority. That statement says more about the pundits and politicians in thrall to the oligarchs than it does about the "ardent progressives."
In other words, if we don't adhere to the status quo of 84.2 million of our fellow citizens staying uninsured or underinsured, Trump will up the killing ante even more.
 It's like telling the people of Flint they're better off with the toxic water they already have, what with the uncertainty and the fear that new lead-free pipes might cause.
Harking back to the sexism theme now in vogue, I got a chuckle from a simile-averse mansplaining retort from "Michael" of The Bronx. Here's what the "woke" gender-conscious New York Times, which claims that it moderates every single reader comment, saw fit to publish right below my own comment:

@Karen Garcia: A couple of your statements in your letter reveals a tendency to hysteria, with a zeal that makes you prone to believe false narratives and propaganda. First you say that Krugman's incremental (and realistic) approach "says more about the pundits...", and then you mention the Flint toxic water situation. I suggest that you investigate more thoroughly the lead levels in Flint to the lead levels in other communities and nationally, and the history of the problem. Kevin Drum at Mother Jones would be a good resource.



Sunday, January 12, 2020

Killing the Antiwar Message Along With the Messenger

It's better to hate Tucker Carlson than to hate war.

That's the theme of Frank Bruni's latest New York Times column, in which he accuses naive peace-loving progressives of developing a crush on the Fox News personality for his audacious antiwar messaging and his critique of Donald Trump's assassination of Quassim Soleimani.

Suddenly you’re digging him. At least a little bit. I know, I’ve seen the tweets, read the commentary, heard the chatter, detected the barely suppressed cheer: Hurrah for Tucker Carlson. If only we had more brave, principled Republicans like him.
Right out of the gate, he protested President Trump’s decision to kill Qassim Suleimani, the Iranian military commander, noting that it didn’t square with the president’s determination not to get bogged down in the Middle East and warning of the possibility and horror of full-blown war. Your pulse quickened. You perked up.
Never mind the lack of brave, principled Democrats, whose own opposition to Trump's actions was limited to a nonbinding resolution that only pretends to limit his war powers. Because Fox News regularly and unfairly blasts the Democratic Party, it behooves us to defend establishment Democrats even when the criticism "from the other side" is valid. Therefore, Bruni gushes that Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposed the Iraq invasion but only very grudgingly admits that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer voted for it.

Instead of writing an antiwar column of his own, from a more humanistic point of view, Bruni chooses instead to highlight Tucker Carlson's history of racism and Trump-worship, thereby giving both the liberal interventionists and the neocons a complete pass and tainting antiwar sentiment across the board.

As Matt Gertz of Media Matters perceptively noted, Carlson’s antiwar stance “is not a break from his past support for Trump or his channeling of white nationalist tropes, but a direct a result of both.” Gertz explained that in the mind-set of Carlson and many of his fans on the far right, energy spent on missions in another hemisphere is energy not spent on our southern border. It’s no accident that, in regard to the Middle East, he and (White nationalist Richard) Spencer are on the same page.
See how subtly Bruni simultaneously gaslights and indirectly smears by association the leftist antiwar movement? I'm only surprised he didn't pounce, as other pro-war establishment Democrats have done, on the appearances of Glenn Greenwald and Tulsi Gabbard on Tucker Carlson's show to offer their own more leftist critiques of US imperialism and militarism. 

Bruni's column succeeds in completely changing the subject. It also ticks off the requisite "shoot the messenger" box. If you still think Tucker Carlson might have something valid to say, the warning is, then you'd better think again. You don't want to get caught inadvertently quoting him and then risk getting called a racist or a closet Trumpist by your friends, do you?

  Since Tucker Carlson holds such loathsome views on many social issues, the implicit message is, then it must naturally follow that liberals make up for wars' destruction by being more inclusive and diverse and sincere and well-meaning. All Bruni is saying by omission is, give war a chance. And never mind that the bipartisan bombs dropped in the past two decades on at least eight different countries in Africa and the Middle East are almost exclusively killing and maiming black and brown-skinned people. War and imperialism and colonialism are racist in both thought and in deed. The "good side" of the oligarchic duopoly simply stifles the racist rhetoric more adeptly than the "bad side" does.

My published comment on Bruni's column:

With CNN and MSNBC stuffed to the gills with CIA and Pentagon analysts. it should come as no surprise that one of the few antiwar pundits left standing will attract a certain amount of squeamish liberal enthusiasm.
 Does anybody remember when MSNBC summarily fired Phil Donahue for his own antiwar sentiment during the run-up to the Iraq invasion? Follow the weapons industry/fossil fuel/corporate sponsor money!
An overlap between liberalism and libertarianism is nothing new. Ron Paul, for instance, attracts a fair number of lefties for his opposition to the war/surveillance state despite his connections to the racist John Birch Society and his opposition to government health and welfare programs.
One of the best antiwar analysts writing today is Andrew Bacevich, who contributes regularly to The American Conservative. and who has criticized US wars of aggression from Vietnam to Iraq and beyond. His latest book, "The Age of Illusions," chronicles how the end of the Cold War unleashed a rampage of neoliberal capitalism and neoconservative militarism which have become the subversive new definitions of democracy. It also helped usher in the Trump presidency.
 Of course, Trump himself will likely never read this book or any other book for that matter. So if it disturbs you that a racist antiwar poser like Carlson occasionally stays the itchy trigger finger of our Fox News addict of a president, that's a clue that we need many more progressive antiwar voices in the media.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Demanding Their Share of the War Power Pie

House Democrats this week fought back against accusations that they are antiwar or opposed to assassinating foreign leaders.  Far from being disturbed by Donald Trump's murder of Iran General Qassem Soleimani or the waging of endless wars of American aggression, their resolution is, in fact,  a cold-blooded document which passive-aggressively celebrates the latest U.S. war crime.

Democrats and even a few Republicans are just mad that Trump didn't "brief" them beforehand. They're just mad because he has made no effort to supply the usual doctored evidence that some reviled foreign leader was planning anything nefarious. They're especially mad because the Soleimani murder might get the military and the corporate land-grabbers it protects kicked out of oil-rich Iraq.

Not for nothing was former CIA analyst Elissa Slotkin of Michigan tapped to introduce the pro-war House resolution, which also serves to absolve the United States of any culpability for Middle East chaos. The jingoistic document provides no evidence for its claim that Soleiman was a "terrorist" rather than a sometime-partner of the US, especially as pertains to his fighting the Islamic State.

The resolution "condemning" Trump's reckless action does nothing less, in fact, than to tacitly justify it. It rather hilariously states that fhe occupying and invading American forces in the region have an an absolute right to defend themselves from the invaded and the occupied, who very conveniently become "terrorists" when they have the nerve to balk at the home invaders with the conceit to pose as social workers with guns and bombs.

Therefore, the sanctimonious House resolution continues, whenever the president gets wind of an imminent rogue counter-offensive plot, Congress should be consulted about whether to further punish the recalcitrant evictees and squatters and their representatives. The occupying invaders have to carefully weigh whether such drastic punishment will make them feel more safe and secure in order to "prevent further disastrous attacks on the United States."

Since there have been no disastrous attacks on United States soil since 9/11, it seems that the House Democrats are also buying into the specious claim that Iran and Iraq were behind that 2001 Saudi-financed attack. Although the  mainstream press rightly derided Vice President Mike Pence for repeating this false claim right after the Soleimani murder, they remained silent when the Democrats also (albeit more obliquely) echoed it in their own resolution.

As Speaker Nancy Pelosi dithers on when or even whether she'll send the House's severely limited articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial, her party's resolution sanctimoniously announces that "supporting the people of Iraq, Iran, and other countries throughout the Middle East who demand an end to government corruption and violations of basic human rights" is why the United States must invade, destroy, kill, conquer and occupy the region. 

They fight the corruption and human rights abuses over there so they don't have to address all the domestic misery which they themselves have caused over here.

And to hammer home the reality that their resolution is nothing but a sham, they add at the very end of it that Trump is still allowed, even encouraged, to unilaterally assassinate Al Qaeda operatives or "associated forces."

In effect, they canceled out their own resolution. By calling Soleimani a terrorist - rather than the bona fide military official and popular government leader that he was -  and then confirming in the very last section that Trump has their continuing Congressional permission to both define and to kill terrorists, they contradict themselves in a manner that actually vies with Trump in double-talking, double-dealing, double-crossing chutzpah.

They're counting on the establishment press to gloss over this glaring hypocrisy. They're also counting on the American citizenry to not bother even reading the resolution for themselves. They're mainly counting on the mass marketing of their phony antiwar manifesto to squelch any incipient bottom-up citizen antiwar movement.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Untruths and Consequences

Give Donald Trump a little credit. He is succeeding where Barack Obama failed: he has single-handedly reanimated this country's moribund antiwar movement, inspiring spontaneous weekend street protests against imminent war in at least 80 American cities.

Thanks to Trump, the assassinated Quassam Soleimani is now a household name. Tbanks to Trump, politicians on both sides of the War Party aisle are scrambling to either defend the indefensible drone attack against a foreign leader visiting another foreign country (Iraq) at the express invitation of that country, or to complain they weren't properly kept in the assassination loop as is their god-given right as co-equal warmongers.

Besides joining the anti-war protest or strike nearest you, now is also the perfect time  to dust off your copy of George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language"to help you parse both the pro-war propaganda and the pretend anti-war propaganda.

The pro-war propaganda is especially prevalent in the reactionary tabloid press. The New York Post, for example, published a graphic photo of Soleimani's severed hand on its front page with the descriptor "Dead Ringer" to explain how his ring helped identify him. Whether this kind of coverage unites Trump's fan base into the desired frenzy of Islamaphobic solidarity remains to be seen - especially given that it's the children of his fan base who will be importuned into fighting Trump's war.

The more staid establishment media are much more nuanced and subtle, or at least they're making a half-hearted attempt at nuance and subtlety. It must be really hard out there for the liberal interventionists and pundits who previously had never met a war they didn't like. They find themselves in the unaccustomed position of suddenly hating United States-sponsored murder and terrorism only because they hate Trump so much. If only he weren't our current murderer and terrorist-in-chief! War was so much easier to sell when the discreet and eloquent Barack Obama and the genial, goofy, dry-drunk George Bush were in nominal charge.

Obama, especially, was able to project a modicum of sanity and balance in public as he acted out his inner Trump, holding his weekly Terror Tuesday assassination club meetings and dropping his bombs on eight different countries throughout his "no drama" presidency. He played by the rules. He adhered to the norms. The media rarely challenged him. He mastered the fine art of political-speak to defend the indefensible. Per George Orwell:
Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements.
And as Janet Malcolm more recently explained this delicate deadly rhetorical balance in her critique of the access-hungry complicit media, "The Journalist and the Murderer":
Society mediates between the extremes of, on the one hand, intolerably strict morality and, on the other, dangerously anarchic permissiveness through an unspoken agreement whereby we are given leave to bend the rules of the strictest morality, provided we do so quietly and discreetly. Hypocrisy is the grease that keeps society functioning in an agreeable way.

Just because Trump is a bombastic liar doesn't mean that his phony anti-war concern-troll critics are telling the truth themselves.

Take Susan Rice, national security maven in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, and now a Netflix board member and contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times. After helping to orchestrate the ill-planned, disastrous regime-change war in Libya highlighted by the gruesome murder of Moammar Qadaffi, Rice now has the chutzpah to chide Trump for his own recklessness.

The Big Lie in Rice's sanctimonious Times column is that longstanding US-sponsored Middle East chaos didn't start until Trump came along to ruin all their hard diplomatic work:
How did we get here? What are the consequences of these targeted killings? Can we avoid a worse-case scenario?
 The escalatory cycle began in May 2018, when President Trump recklessly ignored the advice of his national security team and the opposition of our allies in unilaterally withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal- despite Iran's full adherence to its terms and its efficacy in rolling back from a nuclear program. Since then, the Trump administration has had no coherent strategy to constrain Iran's nuclear program or to counter other aspects of its nefarious behavior.

After getting the obligatory Orwellian rhetorical question-begging out of the way, Rice doesn't even call war with Iran a potential worldwide disaster, but only a "worse-case" scenario. She does, however, add the common, group-thinking, passive-aggressive caveat that Suleimani was a "terrorist" because he led the military of another country that is not allied with or beholden to the United States. 
In deciding to eliminate General Suleimani, Mr. Trump and his team argue they were acting in self-defense to thwart imminent attacks on Americans in Iraq and the region. That may be true, as General Suleimani was a ruthless murderer and terrorist with much American blood on his hands. Unfortunately, it's hard to place confidence in the representations of an administration that lies almost daily about matters large and small and even, in this critical instance, failed to brief, much less consult, bipartisan leaders in Congress.
In other words, if you're going to assassinate somebody, you must have a proven track rcord of skillful, confidence-inspiring obfuscation. After all, it has taken two whole decades and three whole administrations for the serial lies about the Afghanistan war to finally come to public light.

Meanwhile, Rice doesn't bother explaining whose blood Suleimani had on his hands, other than it was pure red-blooded American blood. It would never do to admit that the ruthless killing was done to ruthless killers and/or invading armies and/or corporate colonizers.

Trump not only lies in real time and is caught lying in real time, he avoids the usual platitudes about spreading democracy and human rights throughout the world by way of massive death and destruction. He brays the truth about the real purpose of these wars: land-grabbing for oligarchic fun and profit.

And he is so nasty and humorless about it. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at least, was gracious enough to laugh and lighten things up a bit with a friendly complicit network TV reporter after Qaddafi was sodomized to death by a bayonet:

Meanwhile, the Media-Political Complex wrings its hands over Iran's resulting threats to the thousands of aggressive land-grabbers and mercenaries ("American interests") who will now be less safe in the vast, resource-rich geographical spaces which they have so nobly invaded and colonized in the name of free market capitalism.

The literal ring of military bases surrounding Iran actually might get a dent or two put into it!

My published response to Susan Rice's arrogant little New York Times sermon:
The stage for catastrophe was set nearly two decades ago with the invasion of Iraq, a war which the author of this op-ed did not oppose. She joined in the fear mongering propaganda over the non-existent WMDs, even joining with the Bushies in claiming that the invasion did not need permission of the U.N. Security Council.
And then there was Ms. Rice's pivotal role, with Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power, in the Obama administration's ill-fated Libya "humanitarian" intervention - which remains to this day a humanitarian catastrophe.
 Those in power never learn that America's aggressive meddling has never had one single happy ending. If Trump is reckless and acts with impunity, it is through the unitary executive powers bequeathed to him by his predecessors. And absent a few principled representatives like Ro Khanna and Bernie Sanders, Congress has oceans of blood on its hands for just having gifted Trump more billions for war. They even awarded him his very own Space Force, even as the House voted to impeach him over his sleazy Ukraine extortion scheme. Given his insane attempt to start World War III with the assassination of one of Iran's highest ranking officials, that incident now seems rather pathetic.
Presidents under siege and/or facing re-election have a tendency to start wars and drop bombs as diversionary tactics. That Trump would react to impeachment like a cornered senile wolverine is no big shock to anybody - except to the experts who never seem to learn.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Commentariat Central: Bernie Edition

One of my New Year's resolutions is to comment more frequently on New York Times articles than I have been doing in recent months. This vow, of course, is contingent upon at least partially overcoming the nausea and rise in blood pressure that accompany reading the articles prior to responding to them. This is particularly true of the op-eds. For the sake of my own sanity and health, I long ago gave up perusing the silliness of Gail Collins and the banality of David Brooks. Brooks and Paul Krugman, his erstwhile nemesis, actually sound banally alike as #Resistance, Inc. fighters in the Age of Trump.

Here is my first Times comment of 2020, in response to another article about Bernie Sanders by Sydney Ember, co-written with Thomas Kaplan. The underlying theme of their piece is that since Bernie's record fund-raising haul from small donors is eclipsed by Donald Trump's bank account, Bernie might not be electable, despite the small-dollar donations from "loyal supporters who are faithful to him despite his setbacks."

The piece is less openly derogatory than Ember's previous anti-Bernie articles, but that is likely to change as the first primaries draw nearer. Knowing that the public is on to their bias, Ember and other mainstream journalists appear at this delicate moment to be very carefully covering their asses.

My published response:

The wording in the side-by-side headlines about Sanders and Yang's fundraising totals is a perfect example of how to subtly slant a story and cast doubt on a popular candidate.
Whereas "Yang raised $16.5 million, His Campaign Says" we are told that "Sanders Says He Raised $34.5 million."
 The subtle implication is that one is fact and the other is just a claim. Bernie "says" he raised the money and Yang definitely did, with the journalistic ploy of sourcing his campaign for the info, as a kind of afterthought. And then, as other commenters have rightly noted, the article goes on to ridiculously compare Sanders's stash to that of an incumbent president who is running unopposed. Cast the doubt and cast it as wide and as shallowly as what passes for journalistic ethics permits. 
It will be a lot of fun deconstructing the anti-Bernie rhetoric coming from the establishment media from here on in. Right now it's as subtle as they can make it, but as the plutocratic panic over his rise becomes ever more palpable, watch out for the subtlety to go out the window and for the more blatant smears to begin afresh. To Bernie's own great credit, he is not shy about calling the media out this time around. Last time, he was way too nice.
Now, if we could only get him to stop prefacing his Biden critiques with "Joe is a good friend of mine"...
My other two Times comments are actually from last month, in response to a couple of Paul Krugman's op-eds, both of which caused the nausea and angst that are the necessary impetuses (impeti?) for me to take to the keyboard in a desperate attempt to at least temporarily relieve my symptoms.

Krugman's more recent column, titled "The Legacy of Destructive Austerity," rather ridiculously posits that the corporacracy's punishing deficit obsession agenda disappeared in 2015 and that it was mainly a Republican effort to stop Democrats (who from 2009 through 2011 controlled the presidency and Congress)  from doing what they really, really wanted to do.

Specifically, debt fears were used as an excuse to cut spending on social programs, and also as an excuse for hobbling the ambitions of center-left governments. Here in the United States, Republicans went through the entire Obama era claiming to be deeply concerned about budget deficits, forcing the country into years of spending cuts that slowed economic recovery. The moment Donald Trump moved into the White House, all those supposed concerns vanished, vindicating those of us who argued from the beginning that Republicans who posed as deficit hawks were phonies.
Note the passive voice in the first paragraph, subtly absolving the true-believing deficit hawks in the Obama administration of culpability. Krugman feels so vindicated now that it's been proven beyond all doubt that the Republicans were only pretending to be austerians all along. What he unethically fails to acknowledge is that the Democratic leadership still are true-believing, wealth-serving, bought-and-paid for deficit hawks.

My published comment:

Paul Krugman doesn't mention that the Austerity Project was a totally bipartisan affair, what with President Obama himself convening the aptly-named Catfood Commission to cut the deficit as the economy was crashing. Congress did not force him to do this.
  Far from ending in 2015, austerity still rules, with the so-called opposition party addressing an epidemic of homelessness, sickness and premature deaths from despair by tinkering around the edges of catastrophe. The House leadership grudgingly agreed to control costs for only a handful of outrageously priced drugs while refusing to address the surprise hospital bills being sent out in droves by the private equity vultures who increasingly run our deeply sick health care system.
Last spring, Speaker Pelosi was once again a guest of honor at the late billionaire Pete Peterson's annual austerity conference. Complaining that Trump was taking all the media attention away from the "agenda," she said: "Pete Peterson was a national hero. He was the personification of the American Dream. I loved him dearly. He cared deeply about working people. He knew that the national debt was a tax on our children. He always said to me, 'Nancy, always keep your eye on the budget!"
 And thus does the oligarchy sing the same tired old refrain about why people (a/k/a "purists") have to suffer: "But how you gonna pay for that?"
They could start by withholding the trillion-odd dollars they keep gifting Trump every single year for our endless wars.
The other December column to which I responded had Krugman trying to absolve himself from his own destructive anti-Bernie rhetoric during the 2016 campaign, in which diehard austerian Hillary Clinton had fiendishly vowed that Medicare For All would "never, ever come to pass" under her leadership.

His column was a thinly-disguised campaign commercial for the faltering Elizabeth Warren, who is currently suffering the slings and arrows of billionaires from the right and progressives from the left as a result of her efforts to please all of the people all of the time.

Ridiculously once again, Krugman points to allegedly low unemployment numbers as proof that there was never any "skills gap" to blame for the nation's joblessness. He doesn't acknowledge that most of the jobs created since the 2008 financial collapse are of the low-wage, temporary and precarious variety. What counts is that he has been proven right, and the deficit hawks and the inflationistas were wrong, as were the oligarchs who blamed the unemployed for their own plights. These oligarchs have an inordinate influence on policy and are coming after Warren.

Krugman concludes:

Which brings me back to the 2020 campaign. You may disagree with progressive ideas coming from Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, which is fine. But the news media owes the public a serious discussion of these ideas, not dismissal shaped by a combination of reflexive "centrist bias" and the conscious or unconscious assumption that any policy rich people dislike must be irresponsible.
 And when candidates talk about the excessive influence of the wealthy, that subject also deserves serious discussion, not the cheap shots we've been seeing lately. I know that this kind of discussion makes many journalists uncomfortable. That's exactly why we need to have it.

I just could not help myself. Those high-falutin' hypocritical words were exactly why I typed out this response:

An amazing thing is happening in Punditville. Some of the same outlets that only last week were engaging in a virtual Bernie Blackout are suddenly taking the opposite tack, admitting that hey, this guy might just clinch this nomination, especially since he looks to win Iowa and New Hampshire. leads in California, and even has a decent shot in South Carolina, whose millennial Black voters favor him overwhelmingly. Biden's current national lead is still based largely on name recognition rather than any fondness for his retro center-right policies.
 Cheap shots by this liberal columnist in 2016, such as "Bernie is becoming a Bernie Bro!" because his policy proposals for the greater public good were supposedly outweighed by nonspecific "serious character and values issues" are now conveniently buried under the rug. Given a choice between Trump and a winning Bernie-Liz ticket, it behooves even establishment types to acknowledge that the rich are losing this class war of ideas, that the oligarch-owned and controlled media are rapidly losing credibility for reasons that have nothing at all to do with Trump's own deranged critiques of "fake news."
Not, of course, that I'm complaining about mainstream journos suddenly gushing about the newly spry and funny Bernie so soon after gleefully pouncing on the heart attack to concern-troll the message that his candidacy was over. They don't want to be blamed if they once again trash Bernie so hard that they hand Trump another term.
This is different, of course, from what I suspect is their subliminal desire to actually hand Trump another term. They don't want to contend with a Sanders nomination or presidency because they would then be forced to expose themselves as wealth-serving careerists. They can champion progressive policy initiatives or they can keep their jobs. But they would not be able to do both. It would be far easier for them and more lucrative for their employers  to have Trump to kick around for another four years, to keep Russiagate propaganda on life support, and thus keep their hypocrisy more or less hidden from public view.

As I mentioned in my first Times comment, deconstructing the plutocratic propaganda promises to be very fulfilling, almost as fulfilling as the $14 increase I just got in my Social Security check.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Kiss the Mean Teens Goodbye

And say hello to another Roaring Twenties for the plutocrats - in tandem with the Soaring (as in record heat) Twenties for everybody. Those hoping for a Boring, Snoring Twenties in the wake of Trumpism and a return to the status quo ante that produced Trump are probably out of luck - unless, of course, they are among the millions of people who will die prematurely because of the vicious, neoliberal capitalism that has all but subsumed representative democracy throughout the world. 

Then again, the Twenties could also finally bring millions more people into the streets, capitalism could be overthrown with some sort of socialist revolution, and inexorable climate change and its negative effects on life might at least be slowed down/ameliorated by a few years.

For as Barack Obama once so infamously proclaimed when he gave the Bush administration a free pass on its war crimes, we must look forward and not back. We're already witnessing the myriad global victims of the Bush-Clinton-Obama-Trump era no longer taking so kindly to American Exceptionalism. We just got a preview when thousands of Iraqis stormed the supposedly impregnable Emerald City Embassy in Baghdad in protest of US military airstrikes. The US war against that country, despite all the bragging to the contrary, has never ended.

There's already a plethora of lists of the Bests and Worsts of our last decade. I got a particular chuckle out of Politico's How Will History Books Remember the 2010s?  The title provoked in my head a zany picture of vast columns of nostalgic animated books marching along like the demented brooms in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."

The actual people who supposedly will write those history books decades from now won't remember the Teens because they and the trees providing the paper and the bees pollinating the food crops will have all died out from the climate catastrophe and drug-resistant plagues. Now, if that's too gloomy and doomy a scenario for you to contemplate, let's say that maybe one actual human producer/consumer of memories is still left, a lonely character bearing a striking resemblance to the Burgess Meredith bookworm in that Twilight Zone episode about nuclear catastrophe.

Not for nothing has Dictionary.Com, to much media fanfare, just named "existential" the Word of the Year, not least because the noncommercial massive Websters on their own special stands are disappearing, right along with the not-for-profit physical libraries that house both them and increasing numbers of homeless people.

Meanwhile, Dictionary.Com at least has a sense of humor. Before you're even allowed to read about the Existential Crisis, this little caveat pops up from the darkness: and use cookies to enhance {see also: improve, boost} your experience. By continuing without changing your settings, you agree to this use. To provide the best {see also: finest, first-rate} English dictionary and thesaurus on the web for free, we also request your permission for us and our partners to use cookies to personalize ads. To allow this, please click "Accept Cookies." Need more info? Take a bite out of our ∙ Cookie Policy
And that reminds me that high on my list of Best Books of 2019 is The Rise of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff. It's also, strangely enough, on Barack Obama's Best Books list. I say strangely, because Obama himself had kept alive the Bush era's mass surveillance program. He also accused Edward Snowden, the great revealer of the top-secret mass surveillance state, of being unpatriotic. Needless to say, Obama did not include Snowden's own memoir on his list of worthy tomes. To be fair, though, the New York Times also snubbed it from its list ot the year's 100 notable books. What the Times did strangely consider notable was Michelle Obama's ghostwritten memoir.

Let's face it. Lists are so fakakta. (Look it up on the online Yiddish dictionary.)

Of course, not being a history book, I can't even remember all the books that I have read and/or re-read in the past year, let alone collate them all into a fakakta list. But here is just a portion (some newly published, but mostly older) that I enjoyed and highly recommend. Despite my criticism and previous New Year resolutions, I find that I cannot completely Resist the List. Call me a hypocrite if you want, but here are listed (ugh) in no particular order:

Hate, Inc. - Matt Taibbi
 Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism - ed. by Jason Moore. 
Staying With the Trouble - Donna Haraway. 
A Brief History of Neoliberalism - David Harvey 
The 42nd Parallel - John Dos Passos 
American Nightmare - Henry A. Giroux 
Black Reconstruction in America - W.E.B. Dubois 
The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry 
Words Are My Matter -  Ursula K. LeGuin 
Owls Do Cry - Janet Frame 
Birth of Our Power - Victor Serge 
The Liberal Defence of Murder - Richard Seymour 
Cancer Ward - Alexander Solzhenytsin 
Making Trouble - Lynne Segal 
The Code of the Woosters - P.G. Wodehouse 
Squeezed - Alyssa Quart 
American Dreamer: A Life of Henry A. Wallace - John C. Culver 
The Original Frankenstein - Mary Shelley 
An American Utopia - Fredric Jamison 
The Power of the Dog - Don Winslow 
Down to Earth - Bruno Letour 
The Wrecking Crew - Thomas Frank 
The Book of Joan - Lidia Yuknavitch 
Bananeras - Dana Frank 
The Weird and the Eerie - Mark Fisher 
Travels With Herodotus - Ryszard Kapusinski 
Goya - Robert Hughes 
This Census-Taker - China Mieville 
Reporter - Seymour M. Hersh 
I put in a request months ago to the mammoth New York Public Library for Snowden's Permanent Record, but to no avail. It is glaringly still not on their list of virtually hundreds of thousands of books available to download. So in light of what seems to be an orchestrated blackout of his work, you should definitely watch his lengthy(nearly three hours) conversation with Joe Rogan, available for streaming on YouTube.

If you have more time after that, please also share your own favorite movies, shows, books, pet peeves, whatever, in the comments section. They need not be actual lists.

Happy New Year to Sardonickists everywhere!