Monday, September 26, 2016

Debate & Switch Open Thread

Free-for-all time. Talk about the debate, or something more pleasant if you're avoiding the most momentous sporting event in the history of Citizens United.

Suggested drinking game: take an extremely tiny slug whenever somebody utters one of the following words, phrases or sounds: bipartisan, reach across the aisle, terror, lie, cheat, steal, God-given, godforsaken, invest, tough/hard choices, commander-in-chief, yuge, bigly, cough.

Personally, I'm still trying to recover from the top-trending mawkish photo of the week and the accompanying blather from media stenographers who believe that "bipartisan" is actually a positive instead of a negative.

Don't Worry, Honey, Nobody's Gonna Prosecute Anybody for War Crimes

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Our Man Holt

It's all about her:
Monday’s debate is not the only way Clinton hopes to restore a sense of inevitability to her candidacy, but the audience will dwarf those at rallies. “She takes it very seriously,” said (Communications Director Jennifer) Palmieri. “She’s going in front of tens of millions of Americans, maybe even 100 million Americans, to persuade them why she needs their vote.”
There they go again. Ask not what Hillary can do for our country. Remind voters, over and over and over again, that it's the country which owes her their votes. I highly doubt that anybody needs to be persuaded of her profound neediness at this stage of the game.

As a testament to its confidence in its candidate's debating skills, the campaign is imperiously announcing that it will be up to moderator Lester Holt - not Hillary - to toss Donald Trump's mendacious word salad down the food disposal. The Clinton-friendly Guardian obligingly takes the onus off Hillary right in the headline: "Habitual Liar Trump must be curbed in presidential debate." Ask not that Clinton herself call him to account. This is a woman who is highly accustomed to being waited upon. Don't ask her to curb anything. She presumes she has media chauffeurs like Lester to do that.

"Right ho, Jeeves," I imagine her pouting to Holt. "Carry on, my man. Please do bail out your Bertie like a good chappie and remove this vermin from my presence, wot?"

The Guardian puts it only slightly less condescendingly:
Clinton’s concern stems from Trump’s fast-and-loose rhetorical style, which has been attacked by newspaper fact-checkers but proved devastatingly effective on TV, first against his Republican challengers in the primary and, more recently, in a candidate forum on national security in which he was allegedly allowed to airbrush his past support for the Iraq war.
“She will respond when he misrepresents her own record, but given the historic nature of how much Donald Trump lies, it cannot be only on her,” Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri told reporters by phone on Friday.
“If the moderator is not willing to stand up and challenge lies, [then] to not do that is to give him a very unfair advantage”.
Trump did not live up to the Code of the Plute-sters by airbrushing his support for the Iraq War. He should have hurled great big globs of oil paint on the canvas like Hillary Clinton did. In the drawing room. With a knife.

If Team Clinton gets its way, the marathon session of Trumpian lies and moot fact-checking will reward her with neither the time nor the space to get a word in edgewise. She can just stand there and save her precious breath and roll her eyes before delivering a few canned talking points at the end. Not only will she play hapless Bertie to Holt's brilliant Wooster, she's even positioning herself as Fay Wray to Trump's King Kong, with Holt acting the part of the intrepid rescuer.

 It seems to me that as a war hawk whose claim to fame is "muscular" national security experience, she'd be able to fight her own rhetorical battles on a debate stage with an aged orangutan.

She's setting herself up as her own straw-woman before she even gets started. Let the sexist attacks fly. Let the sympathy vote be milked

Playing Holt and Trump off each other: is that Clintonoid triangulation, or wot?

Whatever the theatrics and the outcome of the first debate, we can already predict the spin. Both sides will claim victory as they simultaneously claim that they were bullied, by their opponents and by the media alike.

If the voters have little to do with this process now, other than being cowed and bamboozled into serving the needs of their favorite plutocrat, you can only imagine how the ultimate winner will treat them come November.

And no matter the vitriol being hurled between their Pater and Mater and their staffs of high-level servants and publicists, heiresses Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton both display a regal sangfroid about the staged nastiness. You see, it's all totally for show. Only the little people are conned into choosing a side to fulfill their dreams of belonging and participating in democracy, if only as bit players for a relative minute.

"We were friends long before this election, [and] we will be friends long after this election," she (Chelsea) said. "Our friendship didn't start in politics, it certainly is not going to end because of politics. I have tremendous respect for Ivanka."

One really must respect the chutzpah of an enormously wealthy woman who helped her Daddy swindle people out of millions of dollars in a Baja California real estate scam. Of course, Ivanka and other Trump spawn settled out of court, with all terms remaining strictly confidential.

Because when you're a dynasty, you're just like a bank. You're too big to fail and you're too important to jail. 

Neoliberal Death Match 2016 isn't a literal fight to the death between two plutocrats, of course The life spans of the wealthy are actually increasing as the wealth divide increases to epic proportions.

It's the center ring of the circus act which disguises the class war of the rich against the rest of us. Why else put all the pressure and the pre-emptive blame on a highly-paid journalistic servant? If Trump and Clinton fumble, it certainly won't be their fault. And they never perform without their safety nets.

It's all on Lester Holt, acting the dual roles of ringmaster and butler.

From Agence France-Press (sacre bleu!)
The journalist, a 35-year television veteran with 16 years under his belt at NBC, has selected three topics for the debate: America’s direction, achieving prosperity and securing America.
The 90-minute debate will be organized into six 15-minute segments, with two dedicated to each of the topics.
Holt will be the only person on the set with the two candidates. He has not revealed how he is preparing for the face-off, the first of three presidential debates ahead of the November 8 election.
The much-anticipated first debate is expected to draw tens of millions of American viewers. The two remaining debates, on October 9 and October 19, will be moderated by other journalists.
Holt, known for his calm and courteous manner, and a bass player in his spare time, probably will have uppermost in mind the recent flap caused by one of his NBC colleagues. (Matt Lauer).
It wouldn't do to be anything other than calm and courteous during a multicourse dinner party, especially when a couple of sensitive rich people will be asked about achieving prosperity as they sip their designer water. The unflappable, Woosterish, multimillionaire Lester Holt is supposed to break the ice and balance the trays and spill the beans without spilling any actual champagne. All this smooth service is to be provided with an earpiece in each ear so that he can hear the breathless fact-checkers above the clinking cacophony.

 Wealth is such a delicate topic. The rich do hate talking about their money and their war profiteering and their deals while they profess to care about the lesser people for purposes of further self-enrichment. Unless they're Donald Trump, of course. His fans love him because he exposes his fellow miscreants as well as himself. He makes himself one of the hoi polloi even as he brags about ripping them off. They don't care how much he lies or how ignorant he sounds, as long as they can wallow in a billionaire's mud-mind and feel some secure hate in the process.

Hillary Clinton has yet to find a way to let people in to her own cosseted world. It's the pathetic neediness - for privacy and for power. She simply doesn't share very well. She feels that she is owed and she can't hide it, even as she campaigns for the votes of increasingly distressed people.

And if Lester Holt invites her to apologize for her recent deplorable "basket of deplorables" remarks to the millionaires of the Cipriani Club, I suspect that she will respectfully decline: 

 "It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them."-- P.G. Wodehouse.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Neoliberalism's War on Youth

This is as good a synopsis of the ideological scourge of neoliberalism that I've heard, particularly as it pertains to youth.

Henry Giroux on RT's Watching the Hawks:

Henry also has a hard-hitting piece up on Tikkun that's well worth a read. As editor Michael Lerner writes in his intro to the essay,
...Our Network of Spiritual Progressives’ championing of a Global Marshall Plan seems suddenly “unrealistic” so that even Bernie Sanders did not mention it or even acknowledge the potential power of countering the strategy of domination and militarism with a strategy of generosity. Giroux helps wake us up to the way this militarization of our assumptions, or what I’d call the triumph of domination thinking, is an important element in allowing the distortion of our politics, our educational system, our media, the increasing militarization of local police forces,, the criminalization rather than celebration of whistle-blowers like Snowden who reveal the crimes of our government and “intelligence” (actually political police) forces,  our sense of what kind of television should be winning more Emmys than any other (Game of Thrones, with its violence and sexual depravity and sexist assumptions is only the tip of the iceberg) to go unnoticed or not seen as part of a larger pattern. Giroux correctly identifies all this as a pathology–another way of waking us up to a social reality that leads us both to repentance and to finding appropriate strategies to counter.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Gaslighting the Lost Generation

Now that she's corralled establishment Republicans and various moguls of the military-surveillance complex, conservative Democrat Hillary Clinton has decided that she needs the Bernie Sanders voters after all. So she's enlisted the liberal corporate press to crack the whip at all those whippersnappers out there who are crazily bucking the grand American tradition of voting for the Lesser Evil. They're even refusing to listen to Uncle Bernie's pleas, refusing to heed his exhortation that "our revolution" has to start with the election of Hillary and the repudiation of the "protest vote."

What a deplorable bunch of selfish free-thinkers. Their failure to get with the electoral program makes them as bad as Hillary's basket of deplorable white trash, even though they might be Black or Brown.

"I have never hated millennials more!" tweeted Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones magazine, about the polls showing that youth aren't loving Hillary. (Either the real lefty labor rights organizer Mother Jones is rolling in her grave, or her corpse has undergone a miraculous postmortem conversion to centrism.)

Following closely on the heels of champion Berniebro shamer Paul Krugman, the New York Times's Charles Blow got into the annoying act today, urging young people not to "throw their votes away" on third party candidates. (This election year marks yet another in the long tired series of the "this is not the right time for third parties" saga of fear-mongering in the service of the oligopoly.)

In addition, young people have allegedly succumbed to the dreaded False Equivalency bug that's been going around. It's causing brains all over America to insanely despise both candidates. No matter that Trump and Clinton are despised for very different reasons. In liberal pundit world, it is verboten to take issue with Hillary's history of war-mongering and attacks on the social safety net when Trump is out there, bellowing out his ignorance with a bullhorn.

Blow sniffs,
 I know immediately that they have bought into the false equivalency nonsense, and additionally are conflating the casting of a ballot with an endorsement of a candidate’s shortcomings.
So Clinton's disastrous votes for war and crusades for regime change and private $650,000 speeches to the banking mafia are reduced to mere "shortcomings" - whence we get a hysterical blow-by-blow litany of why a vote for a third party candidate is tantamount to putting your stamp of approval on police brutality and racism.

If Hillary loses, it's all your fault. If you're not "With Her" you're against her, much as you were against Bush's neocon wars for freedom. Ask not what Hillary can do for you, ask what you can do for Hillary. Remember - the slogan is "I'm With Her." She is not necessarily With You.

Shame, shame, shame on America's Lost Generation, saddled with functioning brains and college debt and a bleak future of dead-end jobs and few prospects. Don't you know that voting against your own economic interests is still better than voting for the economic interests of Donald Trump?

To supplement fear of Trump as the primary reason for millennials to vote for her, Hillary went on Between Two Ferns today. Talented actor Barack Obama has been able to skillfully co-opt political satire for his own ends by making himself a star performer in the genre, so she obviously thought she could follow in his show biz footsteps by gamely allowing the fun to be poked right to her face rather than behind her back.

It was awkward. She hasn't quite found her comedic timing this late in her career. I have a feeling that rather than winning the hearts and minds of millennials, she's only repelled them further by being as inept about parody as she is about her emails.

The professional passive-aggressive alternate shaming of and pandering to the Lost Generation contains the implicit insulting message that they are naive, selfish, shallow, and malleable.

  So how about, instead of shoving the Lesser Evil gospel down our throats, pundits explored the root class and income inequality causes of mass disaffection?

Rather than deploring the alleged amorality, bigotry and ignorance of the electorate, the pundits might instead call for better funding of public education and restoration of the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting.

Of course, teaching students to read and think critically is precisely what the Establishment doesn't want. And now manufactured ignorance is coming back to bite them with a Trumpian vengeance. The masses, both educated and uneducated, are proving themselves impervious to the concern-trolling and gaslighting cons. After being played with and tortured for so many years, they're way beyond being receptive to purring lectures from the fat cats.  As a matter of fact, the tactic is having the exact opposite effect. The more that the elites needfully knead their typing paws, the more that they rub up against their audience and hiss and yowl, the harder the electorate closes their ears and eyes. 

And people don't want to hold their noses in the voting booth. They don't want their rights and their dreams to be stifled. They want to breathe.

As Bertrand Russell wrote in Free Thought and Official Propaganda,
If there is to be toleration in the world, one of the things taught in schools must be the habit of weighing evidence, and the practice of not giving full assent to propositions which there is no reason to believe true. For example, the art of reading newspapers should be taught. The schoolmaster should select some incident which happened a good many years ago, and roused political passions in its day. He should then read to the school children what was said by the newspapers on one side, what was said by those on the other, and some impartial account of what really happened. He should show, from the biased account of either side, a practised reader could infer what really happened, and he should make them understand that everything in newspapers is more or less untrue. The cynical skepticism which would result from this teaching would make the children in later life immune from those appeals to idealism by which decent people are induced to further the schemes of scoundrels.
Although newspapers are a moribund breed, Russell's advice applies just as well to cable news and the Internet. We should read from a variety of sources, not just those in the business of selling comforting confirmation bias.

The preaching of the neoliberal pundit class does not educate or elucidate. It simply aims to gaslight and guilt-trip struggling and oppressed people. Credulity is the enemy. Misinformation is the currency of the two big business political parties, which exist mainly to enrich and empower themselves and their plutocratic donors.

What Russell wrote nearly a hundred years ago holds just as true today: "Preaching and exhortation only add hypocrisy to the list of vices."

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Gang That Couldn't Bomb Straight

I'm not talking about the mad bomber whose improvised explosive devices have luckily killed nobody since he (or they) started planting them willy-nilly over the weekend in dumpsters and on fun-run routes and around tourist spots in the Greater Metropolitan Area.

I'm talking about the inept bombers of the United States military establishment. Over the same weekend, American armed forces "mistakenly" killed and wounded at least a hundred Syrian and Afghan soldiers in two separate oopsies. But these bombers could not possibly be described as terrorists. They're the good guys. They have protected, state-sanctioned status.

Now that law enforcement officials have identified the suspected New Jersey/New York bomber as a naturalized American citizen of Afghan descent, it has finally become safe and politically correct for us to use the "terrorist" word to describe him.

Upon hearing that the now-arrested suspect's name is Ahman Kahn Rahami and not Jim-Bob Fluke, politicians and pundits are jostling for prime camera position.

According to the New York Times, the Rahami family of Elizabeth, New Jersey are notorious operators of a restaurant ironically called First American Fried Chicken. It never closes. Customers are loud eaters. And of course, they urinate in neighbors' driveways. And every time the cops are called, the Rahamis scream discrimination. And some of them have even fled back to Afghanistan!

So, you see, American citizens, the freelance bomb-planters are upset and went on their rampage because they are bad neighbors in America, not because America invaded their home country 15 years ago and has no intention of ever leaving.

The smaller headline in today's Times smarmily describes the human carnage unleashed by American warplanes this way: "Accidental Bombing in Syria Creates New Dilemma for U.S."

As usual, when another illegal and undeclared war goes bad, it's framed around "the White House struggling to put together a coherent strategy in a multi-sided conflict":
The errant bombing, for which the administration apologized to Mr. Assad, also gave both the Russians and the Syrian government a propaganda bonanza: Russia suggested it was a result of an American reluctance to share intelligence, and the Assad government said, contrary to all other evidence, that the United States was trying to protect the Islamic State.
The US insists it wants to send humanitarian assistance to the people it is killing, but the convenient scapegoat for everything from hacked emails to the rise of Donald Trump - nasty old Russia - isn't letting them. The American airstrike on anti-Isis Syrian troops and the mass violent deaths it caused have "weakened efforts to control violence,"  another Times subhead paradoxically complained.

It's nearly impossible to locate the tiny Times article on the most recent of many "errant" American strikes in Afghanistan, but it's still there: 
 A spokesman for the American-led coalition, Brig. Gen. Charles H. Cleveland, confirmed only that “we conducted an airstrike against individuals firing on, and posing a threat to, our Afghan partners in Tirin Kot on 18 September.” His statement continued: “We don’t have any further information on who those individuals might have been or why they were attacking A.N.D.S.F. forces.” The initials refer to Afghan security forces, including the military and the police. “U.S., coalition and Afghan forces have the right to self-defense, and in this case were responding to an immediate threat.”
Translation: it's the fog of war, Citizens-Consumers. Since we invaded their country, we have to defend ourselves by killing global neighbors we don't have the time or the inclination to identify. It's a threat whenever we say it's a threat. From way up in the air, all those people look alike to us.

The corporate media, meanwhile, are showing some refreshing new priorities today. It turns out that it takes a domestic bomb-thrower to bump another bomb-thrower named Trump off the top of the front page.

The serious people sit back and wonder why "they" hate us for our freedoms, and want to blow things up. The word "blowback" is rarely mentioned in polite media company.

Instead, the Tweeters and talking heads argue back and forth about who uttered those careless bomb and terror words first - was it Trump or was it Clinton? Our pathological state of permanent war and mass surveillance is not a fit topic for discussion and debate in Neoliberal Horserace 2016.

Before the manhunt and ensuing arrest of Rahami, for example, NBC framed the story around Trump's irresponsible knee-jerk reaction and Clinton's more passive-aggressive blather.
The presidential candidates remained true to form in their reactions to the explosion in New York City on Saturday night, with Donald Trump sounding alarms and Hillary Clinton offering caution.
Trump, the Republican nominee, was set to take the stage in Colorado Springs just as unconfirmed reports of an explosion in downtown Manhattan started spreading over Twitter.
After waiting on his plane for about 13 minutes, he took the stage and reported what no news outlets or law enforcement had yet: that a "bomb" went off in New York City.
"Just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York, and nobody knows exactly what's going on, but boy, we are living in a time," Trump said. Exactly how Trump learned of the incident is yet to be determined.
While Clinton, the Democratic nominee, appeared to criticize Trump for immediately calling the incident a bombing, she initially referred to it the same way.
"I've been briefed about the bombings in New York and New Jersey and the attack in Minnesota," she said.
Asked later to respond to Trump's calling the explosion a bombing, Clinton told NBC News that it's important to wait until jumping to conclusions.
"I think it's important to know the facts about any incident like this," she said. "I think it's always wiser to wait until you have information before making conclusions, because we are just in the beginning stages of trying to determine what happened."
On Sunday morning, however, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo referred to the explosions as bombs, as well, saying: "Whoever placed these bombs we will find and they will be brought to justice, period. And they will be punished."
Later Sunday, Clinton put out a statement on the "apparent terrorist attacks" in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota.
President Obama, meanwhile, chose to simply deny that the dozens of people who were injured and traumatized by the Homeland blasts should be feeling afraid. Because freelance terror never wins, and state-sanctioned winners never quit.
"We're going to continue to enlist tech companies, community and religious leaders to push back on extremist content online and all messages of hate," he said. "We all have a role to play as citizens."
As former "defense" secretary Robert Gates warns, Trump may be "irredeemable," but Hillary needs to get even more hawkish than she already is:
“ (She must) address forthrightly her trustworthiness, to reassure people about her judgment, to demonstrate her willingness to stake out one or more positions on national security at odds with her party’s conventional wisdom, and to speak beyond generalities about how she would deal with China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, the Middle East — and international trade. Whether and how she addresses these issues will, I believe, affect how many people vote — including me.”
I'm scared, all right, but not of the things that our best and brightest leaders and candidates and pundits instruct us to be scared of.

I'm scared that the United States seems to be gearing up for World War III.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Commentariat Central: Exploding Heads Edition

As per reader request, here's another in my semi-regular series of New York Times comment dumps (my published responses follow synopses/quotes from each op-ed).

Charles Blow, Donald Trump, Grand Wizard of Birtherism, 9/17>

Charles easily surpasses the smarmy born-again indignados of the corporate media's anti-Trump brigade of Profiles in Courage who've become brave in great numbers only because there is great protection in crowds.
This man is so low that he’s subterranean.
Donald Trump said Friday: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.”
That was a lie. There is no evidence Hillary Clinton and her campaign either started or took part in the efforts to question the location of Barack Obama’s birth.
He continued: “I finished it.”
My published response:
 Yes, Trump's birther campaign was and is based upon a lie. But to say that nobody in Clinton World ever took part in any efforts to question the president's birthplace is also less than truthful.

An editor of McClatchy Newspapers, a well-respected mainstream service, reports that one "rogue" Clinton volunteer was fired in the 2008 for spreading the rumor. The machinations of Clinton friend Sidney Blumenthal are even more problematic, since he allegedly suggested to the McClatchy editor that Obama had been born in Kenya. The newspaper duly investigated and found the allegation to be false. More here:

The Obama administration was so well-aware of Blumenthal's methods that they banned him from the White House and State Dept. job after the 2008 election:
The Blumenthal connection is obviously the basis for Trump's mendacious claim that Hillary Clinton "started" the birther movement. Trump took a short-lived whispering campaign and turned it into a full-fledged crusade. He co-opted racism and the Tea Party movement as subsidiaries of his corporate media empire brand. It made him even more fabulously rich and famous than he ever could have gotten by being just another run-of-the mill grifter.

And the media conglomerate of which he is an integral part is only too happy to help and to profit right along with him.
I might have guessed that this fairly bland reality check for the Clinton-supporting Charles Blow would elicit the usual responses from the usual suspects, including the accusation that I am doing the nasty work of the "alt-right" as well as ignoring the fact that I'd credited McClatchy both for doing its journalistic duty of accurately writing history and for debunking Trump.

So I wrote this generic follow-up comment addressed to no one troll in particular: 
 Based upon the comments to my comment thus far, it is painfully apparent that any fact-based criticism of Clinton is undesirable and must be avoided at all costs lest righteous heads explode. Last time I checked, neither McClatchy nor the Times are "alt-right" outfits. Just because right-wing sites pick up and run with certain facts about Clinton doesn't mean these facts should be delegitimized on their face. Nothing I wrote is a distortion of the truth.

Believe it or not, it is possible, even desirable, to both expose and deride Trump and to examine and critique Clinton. Nuance, unfortunately, is one of the casualties of this crazy-time election. Pick a side, close your eyes and ears, and stay blissfully ignorant.

I posted links as a courtesy because we are only allowed 1500 characters in comments. If you don't choose to click them, that's your prerogative.
This in turn elicited another response which took issue with my rhetoric, by mansplaining:
 Karen Garcia -- "it is painfully apparent that any fact-based criticism of Clinton is undesirable and must be avoided at all costs lest righteous heads explode"

Yes, and that is counter-productive. It is really just Trump's method. It undermines an attack on Trump's method.
My counter-response:
 Perhaps I'm misinterpreting your comment, but you seem to imply that colorful metaphors and sarcasm from the Left should be off the table because Trump himself is often sarcastic. Wow.

By the way, "Exploding Head Syndrome" (EHS) is a bona fide medical condition. According to neurologist John Pearce, symptoms include “a sense of explosion in the head, confined to the hours of sleep, which is harmless but very frightening for the sufferer.... Some people also see flashes of light, feel hot, experience chest pains and palpitations, or feel an electrical sensation rising from the lower torso to the head."

Of course, their heads are not actually exploding.

I'd hazard a guess that this syndrome is probably becoming even more prevalent during our fraught election season, given the nightmare that is Donald Trump.

Paul Krugman, A Lie Too Far? (blogpost), 9/17:

Krugman is right pleased that the press is following his profiles-in-courage advice and finally calling Trump a big fat loathsome liar in lying about both birtherism and Hillary's nonexistent direct role in its inception:
The Matt Lauer debacle may have helped bring things into focus. And tightening polls probably matter too, not because journalists are being partisan, but because they are now faced with the enormity of what their fact-free jeering of HRC and fawning over DJT might produce.
There are now two questions: will this last, and if it does, has the turn come soon enough? In both cases, nobody knows. But just imagine how different this election would look if we’d had this kind of simple, factual, truly balanced (as opposed to both-sides-do-it) reporting all along.
My response (comparatively well-received by the readership because it contained no tastelessly explosive Clinton criticism):
 I may be wrong, but I suspect that the newfound journalism in the public interest being displayed by the corporate media is a one-off. Some of them seem to be more miffed about being "played" by Trump in the big lead-up to the big non-apology than they are willing to admit that they themselves are complicit supporting players on the big stage of dirty politics.

Furthermore, they are calling Trump a liar based upon a libel committed against President Obama, not for his libel of and his continuing attacks on Hillary Clinton. Unless they now start reporting in the vein of "Trump falsely claimed that Mrs. Clinton robbed a bank...." rather than the usual "Trump asserted that Mrs. Clinton robbed a bank," then I am taking their born-again ethics with a huge grain of salt.

Let's hope that now that they've finally uttered the "lie" word and their careerist worlds didn't come crashing down on top of them, they'll develop more of a taste for it - much as they did when they finally admitted that enhanced interrogation is actually torture.

David Brooks, The Uses of Patriotism, 9/16

I've largely abandoned my old hobby of messing with boring old Brooks, but this one was particularly loathsome, not to mention borderline racist. It seems that those young black folk are not giving the American Flag the proper religious reverence:
Recently, the civic religion has been under assault. Many schools no longer teach American history, so students never learn the facts and tenets of their creed. A globalist mentality teaches students they are citizens of the world rather than citizens of America.
Critics like Ta-Nehisi Coates have arisen, arguing that the American reality is so far from the American creed as to negate the value of the whole thing. The multiculturalist mind-set values racial, gender and ethnic identities and regards national identities as reactionary and exclusive.
He gives no evidence that American history is no longer being taught in "many schools." More likely, he's miffed that history isn't taught as a religion the way that science is sometimes taught as creationist "intelligent" design. My published response:
 Other commenters have aptly pointed out the racist roots of our national anthem. The Founding Fathers stood up for their own freedom, to own other human beings and to expand their territory without regard for the rights of aboriginal populations. Why should Black athletes, or any one else for that matter, stand up to celebrate such an ignominious history?

There are plenty of other ways to display patriotism than singing a song or reciting a pledge. Protest is as all-American as democracy itself. We need a lot more of it.

If David Brooks is scared that "critics like Ta-Nehisi Coates have arisen" to democratically and patriotically criticize the country we live in, that actually gives me hope. The protests and rhetoric of the left are becoming strong enough to drown out and vanquish both neoliberalism and Trumpism.
 Brooks's real squeamishness seems to be that the rising solidarity among people of different backgrounds and ethnicities against economic, social and racial oppression is not of the bland, submissive kind of which the oligarchs running this place would approve.

People are refusing to be co-opted by the stentorian sermons and anti-democratic platitudes that "critics like Brooks" keep dishing out like rancid stew.
He's been preaching Spencerian "every man for himself" drivel since forever, and now he wants to impose solidarity from on high? Give me a break.
Paul Krugman, Obama's Trickle-Up Economics, 9/16:

More Obama legacy-burnishing and Clinton-boosting and statistical cherry-picking. The big tell is that Krugman's link to "Census Bureau report" goes not to the report itself, but to a New York Times "Upshot" interpretation of it. Krugman pontificates:
What happened instead after Mr. Obama was re-elected was the best job growth since the 1990s. But family incomes, at least as estimated by the Census, continued to lag. So there was still some statistical basis for the right’s Obama-bashing. Now that statistical basis is gone.
You might ask whether these numbers reflect reality. It’s often claimed that Americans aren’t feeling any economic recovery — and if anyone were to ask Mr. Trump, he would no doubt claim that the Census numbers, like every number he doesn’t like, are cooked.
But be wary of polling on this issue. When Americans are asked how the economy is doing, many of them just repeat what they think they heard on Fox News: By large margins, Republicans say that unemployment is up and the stock market is down under Mr. Obama, the opposite of the truth. On the other hand, when you ask people how well they personally are doing, the Obama years have been marked by large improvements — a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who see themselves as thriving.
My published response (trigger warning: sarcasm ahead!)
 Happy days are here again. So if you insist on feeling blue as you peer into your empty wallet, you've probably been watching too much Fox News.

Yes, median incomes are up and poverty is down. But look closely at the Census figures and you see that although people might be working longer hours, they certainly haven't gotten a raise. Most of the new jobs created have been of the low-wage, service sector variety.

According to the report, the median pay of single women without children jumped 8.7%. This sounds fantastic until you realize that their actual median salary increased to $29,022 from $26,022 in 2014. That's nowhere close to a living wage, especially if most of it has to go toward skyrocketing rent. So if you don't think you've come a long way, baby, by getting 5-10 more hours at Walmart thanks to the beneficence of the clan that owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom half of the population, then you've probably been watching too much Fox News.
Under "Total Income Dispersion", the report shows that the poorest, lowest quintile received only 3.1% of total income, while the top 20% raked in more than half of it. The top 5% grabbed more than a fifth of the entire pie. Income inequality is not improving, not at all.
Another report out this week found that only 16% of the jobs available to new college grads give them enough purchasing power to buy a home and start a family.

So turn off Fox, all you pessimists, and raise a glass to Dr. Pangloss.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Proud To Be a Moral Anti-Deplorable

 I finally figured out why I've been so bothered by Hillary Clinton's "Basket of Deplorables" speech last week. I also figured out why her cavalier lumping of non-deplorable Trump supporters into their separate category of neediness deserves its own special basket of cloying Clintonoid condescension.

What bothered me perhaps more than her words was the braying, approving reaction to them from the crowd of celebrities and plutocrats who'd paid thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to gain admission to her event. In deploring the Trumpenproletariat, Clinton also effectively absolved her wealthy liberal donors of their own latent racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, ignorance, neediness... you name it.

They were implicitly dubbed the virtuous anti-deplorable moral majority of the moneyed minority. (Say three times fast.)

Whether you despise Trump or only pretend to loathe him in order to fit in with the in-crowd, then it naturally follows that you are a good liberal. You try to keep your classism to yourself. Ditto for your colorblind racism. After all, if you voted for Barack Obama, you are absolved of racism, then and now and forever. A whole country full of deplorables might not be smart and post-racial, but you most certainly are. After all, you just gave the black maid a quarter an hour raise to help pay for her hour-long subway or bus ride to your Manhattan high-rise.

 You're all for immigration reform, too. As Obama himself said in a recent anti-Trump address to his upper middle class base, we must always welcome new "talent" to our shores, regardless of their ethnicity.
 Because it’s our diversity, our welcoming of all talent, our treating of everybody fairly—no matter their race, gender, ethnicity, or faith—that’s part of what makes our country great. It’s what makes us resilient. And if we stay true to those values, we’ll uphold the legacy of those we’ve lost, and keep our nation strong and free. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
 As long as refugees have a skill-set, they can come right on in. Tired, poor and huddled no longer cuts it. But hey, this is the "real world" we're living in. Medical benefits and social services only go so far when funds are limited. They're deliberately and artificially limited by spending an estimated $5 trillion on wars of aggression in the last 15 years. And who needs a stupid Trump wall when Homeland Security and ICE have already deported more people under Obama than they did under any previous administration? Why wear your xenophobia on your sleeve when you can imprison hundreds of Central American refugee mothers and children in substandard privatized prisons before you send them back to certain death in their CIA-destabilized home countries?

If you are a moral anti-deplorable who hates Trump's hateful rhetoric and loves Hillary's identity politics, there is no need to worry your expensively coiffed heads over the institutional racism being conducted in your names every single day of every single year, both here and abroad.

Since you elected and you love Barack Obama, you can scoff with utter impunity at the Black Lives Matter movement. After all, Obama himself has regularly lectured young black activists with his own brand of "respectability politics" and chided them for their rudeness to powerful politicians at rallies and fund-raisers.

If you are a proud anti-deplorable, you can ignore the global racist imperialism exported by the United States and propagandized as liberal democracy-sharing or defense of our national security. No need to worry and wonder that the millions of innocents displaced, maimed and killed by our CIA coups and our wars and our drone strikes have mostly been of the darker-skinned variety.

 No need to ask yourselves why American Muslims have been burdened with a special duty to "disown" terrorism, while white Christians are given immunity from responsibility for homegrown terror attacks.

After all, you don't wear any incipient Trumpism you might possess right on your sleeve. That would be illiberal.

  Hillary's grating mixture of disdain and condescension was rendered all the more hypocritical by where it occurred: the Cipriani Club, Wall Street, USA.

It was from the balcony of that bastion of plutocratic excess that young Champagne-sipping financiers yelled their epithets down to the Zuccotti Park Occupy campers in 2011, as raucously as they yelled their contempt at the Trumpenproletariat five years later. They see no difference between bottom-up, left wing democratic socialism and elite co-opted right wing populism. Both types threaten their bottom lines.

As I wrote way back when,
The Cipriani Club, for those of you not in the know (and I was among the unknowing myself until earlier today) was constructed during the Gilded Age of  Wall Street's glorious heyday  and comprises an entire city block. (the better to view the hoi polloi).  It now houses restaurants, condos selling in the mid to high seven figures, spas, bars. The restaurant has the dubious distinction of being home to a $32 hamburger. It's gotten many a lousy review in the New York Times, for its terrible food, tiny chairs and conspicuous consumption.  As far as I know, the Cipriani is not among the financial district eateries donating food to the Zuccotti Park campers.  But we can always call and ask!  Here is their number: 212-699-4096.
And speaking of reviews: Ginia Bellafante, the Times columnist who made fun of the Wall Street protesters and their regalia last weekend, should have gone into Cipriani instead.  According to the Indagare travel site, the uber-wealthy Cipriani crowd " truly verges on Fellini-esque with extreme hairdos, face-lifts and implants on parade."  And all Bellafante could come up with was a topless dancer and some cheap masks?  What has journalism come to? 
"What has journalism come to?" is now the ironic and constant refrain of liberal pundits bemoaning a mass outbreak of unfairness and "false equivalency" regarding the allegedly disparate coverage of the ruling class racketeers named Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Paul Krugman, who contributes to the mass hysteria over Neoliberal Death Match 2016 by pronouncing his own elite self terrified by the smears and innuendoes against Clinton, apparently forgets that he himself once led the fear-mongering pack with his own smears against Bernie Sanders and his progressive supporters.

It's unfair, Krugman says without one smidgen of hard evidence, that the pristine Clinton Foundation is getting trashed while Trump's bogus charity is not: 
And I don’t see how the huffing and puffing about the foundation — which “raised questions”, but where the media were completely unwilling to accept the answers they found — fits into this at all.
No, it’s something special about Clinton Rules. I don’t really understand it. But it has the feeling of a high school clique bullying a nerdy classmate because it’s the cool thing to do.
And as I feared, it looks as if people who cried wolf about non-scandals are now engaged in an all-out effort to dig up or invent dirt to justify their previous Clinton hostility.
Hard to believe that such pettiness could have horrifying consequences. But I am very scared.
My suggestion to Petrified Paul would be that he construct a panic room in his fortified $2 million Manhattan condo if he has not already done so. Maybe such a safe space would protect him against the journalistic micro-aggressions of his own employer, and who knows, maybe even allow the irony of his own Berniebro bullying to sink into his steel-reinforced mind. That bullying had the distinct feel of a high school clique, given that Krugman enlisted the aid of a clique of neoliberal establishment economists-for-hire to make his case against single payer health care.

Here's my published comment to his latest deplorable disingenuousness:
The reason the Clintons are held to a higher standard is because they were lifetime putative public servants who then proceeded to cash in, big-time, on that public service.

Trump, never having been a public servant, is given a comparative free pass for a whole lifetime of private chicanery. He's also a fixture on the social scene in New York, the media capital of the world. He schmoozes with such media stars as Matt Lauer and Maureen Dowd and media mogul Barry Diller, who also hangs out with BFFs Chelsea and Ivanka.

So why the sudden shock that media stars and media conglomerates don't act like old-school muckrakers and hold Donald Trump's feet to the fire? A presidential candidate he may be, but he is still a private citizen of the all-American huckster type. In our culture, we tend to grudgingly admire these types for their amorality and outsize egos. Trump is lovable the way Tony Soprano was lovable. Because he gets away with stuff. If we lived in a society where criminal justice rules applied to the wealthy, he would have been moldering in prison with Bernie Madoff by now.

Read David Cay Johnston's book on how Trump came to be, and you'll see that there's plenty of blame to go around for his perfidious rise. He knows how to co-opt fellow greedsters and needy sycophants.

And speaking of the Bushies, the fact that they were never prosecuted themselves speaks even more ugly volumes about America the Exceptional.

Only the poor get punished. It's pretty deplorable.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Deplorables of the Deep State

While the nation ostensibly mourns the thousands of victims of the 9/11 attacks today, thousands of elite pathocrats and plutocrats are cackling, silently yet maniacally. September 11th is the permanent catastrophe that keeps right on giving to them. It's always Christmas for the Deep Security State, a behemoth so big and so unaccountable and so flush with cash that even the president himself cannot be aware of all its myriad moving parts. 

As reported by Dana Priest and William Arkin, 9/11 has spawned a virtual Fourth Branch of government which grows secretly and exponentially with every passing anniversary of the attacks:
* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.
* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings - about 17 million square feet of space.
* Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.
* Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year - a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.
Therefore, all the president can do to try and control the permanent War on Terror is to renew America's State of Emergency for a 16th straight year, and continue issuing proclamations and uttering platitudes about the Nine Eleven Generation. These are the young people who have never known a day when their nation has not been at war.  Although the marketing campaigns are creepily similar, they are not to be confused with the Pepsi Generation. That might be way too crass.

Crass, my ass: Coke, in true capitalistic competitive spirit, marked our great national day of hegemony and death by constructing a Twin Towers replica made entirely out of soda cans. To add insult to injury, they built it in a Florida Walmart. The marketing geniuses apparently didn't realize the display was in bad taste until thousands of shoppers told them so, and the exhibit was duly removed by $8-an-hour associates with no company health insurance benefits.

Meanwhile, 9/11 continues to be very, very good for neoliberal capitalism. As Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee writes in his Diary of a Bad Year, 
The bogeyman Osama bin Laden has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Armed with nothing but Kalashnikovs and plastic explosives, he and his followers have terrorized and demoralized the West, driving nations into wholesale panic. To the bullying, authoritarian, militaristic strand in Western political life, Osama has been a gift from the gods.
No matter that U.S. special forces executed a cowering Osama in 2012 in the run-up to Barack Obama's re-election campaign. The patriotic spirit of terror lives on, with or without him.

The September 11 attacks were the pretext to invade Iraq a year and half later.  Nearly 7,000 U.S. service people and at least a quarter of a million civilians have died since the start of the war, which continues with the deployment of at least a thousand new Gen-9/11 troops to fight Isis. Obama's drones have murdered at least hundreds of innocent women and children in areas with whom this country is not even officially at war.

Bill Quigley writes:
Since 9/11 US spending on our military cost well over $3 trillion. Direct combat and reconstruction costs for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11 have officially cost US taxpayers $1.6 trillion dollars according to the Congressional Research Service.   Additional trillions have been spent on growing the Pentagon budget and for present and future increased health and disability benefits for veterans.
The US military captures 55 percent of our national discretionary spending and spending on veterans benefits is another 6 percent. Since 9/11 military spending has increased by 50 percent while spending on other discretionary domestic spending increased by 13 percent according to the National Priorities Project.
War profiteers like Boeing and Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have raked in billions of dollars in profits in the 15 years since 9/11. Although Saudi Arabia has been at least indirectly implicated in the attacks, the United States continues to sell that repressive regime billions of dollars worth of arms for the slaughter of Yemeni civilians. President Obama is expected to veto a bill which would allow 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia for monetary damages.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton rails against the millions of Donald Trump supporters who have been carefully and incessantly taught to be Islamophobes by the leaders and corporate media of America. The "deplorables" of Flyover Country simply didn't wake up one morning and start railing against Muslims based upon any direct knowledge or experience. They simply turned on CNN and Fox and MSNBC and watched the sycophantic mass media cozily embed themselves with the American invaders. They learned to think of Muslims as bad guys whose pictures were on decks of cards. "Clash of civilizations" propaganda has been polluting our airwaves with a vengeance for going on two decades.

It seems that Clinton forgot to notice all the rotten eggs of the Military-Industrial complex in her own Basket of Deplorables. Despite an overpowering reek, they're nesting there comfortably in their abundant money grass. Not only have they never been convicted of torture and war crimes, graft and corruption, they are getting pride of place at the gourmet table. And because they're encased in solid gold, there's no danger of them ever getting devoured themselves. People are too weary to develop a taste for rebellion against the forever wars being waged in all our names.

So we turn away in apathy or disgust. And then we hold our noses, and we choose a commander in chief using the parts of our brains which process fear rather than exercising those which enable rational thought.