Monday, February 27, 2017

Commentariat Central (continued)

Readers, thank you for all your excellent contributions to this weekend's open thread. Since the response was so good, I'll be making this a regular "thing" in the future.

As for me, I took some time off from my time off to write a few comments on a trio of New York Times op-eds.  Here they are, with synopses on/snippets from the columns preceding my reactions to them:

1. Nicholas Kristof, who just the other day begged liberals to stop being so mean to Trump voters, now takes his message directly to Trump voters. He paternally warns them that Donald is not only not their savior, he is betraying them. Kristof makes the startling observation that the president frequently lies, exaggerates and bloviates. So I am sure that the millions and millions of Trump voters who devoured this column are slapping their foreheads, Homer Simpson-style. A massive "D'oh!" is echoing throughout the heartland --  or what the pundits disdainfully call Flyover Country.

Kristof tells people something they didn't already know:
The biggest Trump bait-and-switch was visible Friday when he talked about giving Americans “access” to health care. That’s a scam his administration is moving toward, with millions of Americans likely to lose health insurance: Instead of promising insurance coverage, Trump now promises “access” — and if you can’t afford it, tough luck.
This promise of “access” is an echo of Marie Antoinette. In Trump’s worldview, starving French peasants wouldn’t have needed bread because they had “access” to cake.
Many of you voted for Trump because he campaigned as a populist. But instead of draining the swamp, he’s wallowing in it and monetizing the presidency. He retains his financial interests, refuses to release his taxes or explain what financial leverage Russia may have over him, and doubled the fee to join Mar-a-Lago to $200,000.
I won't go into a full discussion here of why high-deductible, high-premium Obamacare, too, is merely "access" to health care.  You can still go broke or bankrupt even with a shiny insurance card in your pocket. Moreover, even Barack Obama himself defined the Affordable Care Act as "access," frequently bloviating about the program and fudging the numbers freely. He just didn't do his bragging and his lying with a lowbrow Archie Bunker Queens accent. 

What also struck me so negatively about Kristof's smarmy advice column is his assumption that working class Trump voters even care about his taxes and the still-unproven claims by the Power Elite of his nefarious ties to Russia. I doubt that his fans are agonizing about him cheating other rich people by doubling their price of admission to his Florida club. If anything, they're cheering about it. Screw the rich!

Anyway. here's my published comment to Mister Ann Landers:
So what do you have to offer the Trump voter in lieu of Trump?

It's not enough to whine about what a lying jerk he is. Who, or what, will replace him? Another centrist Democrat who promises incrementalism we can believe in, as the jobs continue to be outsourced, the wages continue to plummet, the lives continue to be foreshortened?

If Trump is impeached or otherwise leaves office prematurely, his fans will cry foul. It'll get ugly, regardless.

There's more than a little truth to his charge of media bias. MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski annoyed a lot of people, and not just Trumpists, when she announced the other day that it's the media's job not only to inform us, but to control what we actually think. That's pretty rich, coming from one of the pundits  who worked so hard to elevate a proven crook during the grotesquely prolonged campaign season. It was (and is) a carnival reality show produced for the sole purpose of raking in record ad revenue for the six media conglomerates controlling 90% of everything we're allowed to see, hear, and read.

Yes, many Trump fans are deluded enough to deem this huckster their savior, yet others are just grimly satisfied watching him insult the same elite institutions that have deliberately helped stretch wealth inequality to record proportions. Trump is a charlatan, but even our "honest" leaders have deliberately ignored social and economic problems at home in the insane quest for profits for the few, penury for the many, and permanent war.

2. Maureen Dowd is still hung up on Trump's war with the corporate media, enmeshing it this week with literary and political figures as varied as King Lear, Batman, Rodney Dangerfield and William Jennings Bryan. (which she spelled "Bryant" before a copy editor corrected the error in the online addition.)  Like her corporate cohort, she accepts Vladimir Putin's takeover of the US Government as a given, a factless truth that is no longer even up for debate:
The White House has been trying to shape coverage by giving passes and questions at press conferences to Breitbart and other conservative outlets, including some fringe ones. And on Friday afternoon, the White House barred several news organizations from a Sean Spicer briefing. This included The New York Times and CNN, which angered the White House by reporting on links between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials.
This Russian-style domination of the press came only a few hours after the president told CPAC: “I love the First Amendment; nobody loves it better than me. Nobody.”
Fake news. Let’s just hope he doesn’t love the First Amendment to death.
My response (written before Trump wisely decided to skip this year's press dinner/aka Incest Fest:
Trump is 70 years old, and developmentally arrested as he is, he is sadly discovering that this is no country for old men who can't even tell the difference between the world and themselves.

We should have gotten the awful message when he let out this Freudian slip at a January press con (the one with the piles and piles of empty dossiers as a prop):

"As president, I could run the Trump organization, great, great company, and I could run the company—the country. I’d do a very good job [at both], but I don’t want to do that."

Meanwhile, the press is as hooked on Trump as he is hooked on them. I suspect he gets a rush out of even the negative stories, because his resentment needs stoking right along with the rest of his massive super-id. He might not want to share his actual wealth and that of the oligarchy with the rest of us, but he is more than eager to share his resentment with us. As a matter of fact, he wants to stuff it down our throats. He doesn't want us to gag, of course; he merely wants to gag the media.
So my 'umble advice to the press would be to stop whining, get into Trump rehab, pronto, and restrict your reporting to his many provable crimes. You might start with his mob connections and casino flim-flams and the associated New Jersey graft and corruption. Get hold of his tax returns and prove this alleged Russia connection once and for all.

Have your Correspondents' Dinner -- just don't invite him.

Let him wither away from sheer neglect.
3. Ross Douthat, the Times's young right-wing Catholic hypocrite, goes full extreme centrist this week and rehashes Barack Obama's own Trump-producing, neoliberal prescription for a sensible, balanced approach to rewarding the rich and urging the poor to show some grit and resilience in these tough times. He calls for some bipartisan legislation to help Republicans put themselves at a safe distance from the dastardly Trump, and humorlessly dubs his own suggestions an "immodest proposal." Thus he proactively (or so he seems to think) removes himself as one of those annoying postmodern reactionaries who'd be a prime target of Jonathan Swift's withering attack on selfish rich jerks. Douthat writes: 
Let’s start this week with what one might call an emergency response to the social crisis. That crisis is apparent in the data that Eberstadt and many others have collected, showing wage stagnation in an era of unprecedented wealth, a culture of male worklessness in which older men take disability and young men live with their parents and play video games, an epidemic of opioid abuse, a historically low birthrate, a withdrawal from marriage and civic engagement and religious practice, a decline in life expectancy and a rise in suicide, and so on through a depressing litany.
To get rid of the "gridlock" that only the Washington Consensuals actually care about, Douthat suggests the carrots of a larger child care tax credit, a payroll holiday, an infrastructure bill, expanding the military, and hiring more cops.  His sticks surprisingly include cuts in unemployment and disability and Medicaid benefits in order to encourage those lazy poors to throw away their Oxycontin and pick up their shovels.  

You'd be surprised at the number of reader-responders who actually think that Douthat's sense and sensibility approach is a yuuuge improvement over the enervating Trumpian insanity. Why, he sounds almost refreshingly Obaman! But here's my published response:
This might sound depraved, but offered two choices of entertainment in Dante's seventh circle of hell, I'd rather endure an eternity of Trump's rantings than be tortured by Ross's series of radical proposals to fix poor people. At least The Donald is funny about a hundredth of the time.

But the NYT's resident young Social Darwinist is apparently dead serious as he riffs on Jonathan Swift's satiric masterpiece.

Ross calls for a reduction in disability and unemployment benefits to offset infrastructure costs. But how newly immiserated poor, jobless and sick people are then supposed to navigate those wonderful new bridges and highways to their dream job is apparently their own problem. Maybe they can sign up for a stint in the armed forces to escape the hell that Ross's radical mind has devised for them. And if they misbehave as a symptom of their manufactured despair, let's hire a whole bunch of militarized cops to keep

the ingrates in line. There's got to something amiss when people can't envision some good old Trickle Down flowing downhill from the billionaires enjoying even more tax breaks and subsidies.

Given that 4.3 million children are recipients of the disability benefits Ross wants to cut, I'm surprised that he just doesn't go full Swift and suggest using poor children as food for the rich before they become a "burthen" to society. It's such a waste of time, trying to hide your sadism behind God.

As Pope Francis said, it's better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic.

(credit: Simpsons Wiki)


annenigma said...

On the topic of the news media, here's an article about the 15 billionaires who own America's news media companies. That's just the news media. Now think of the handful of billionaires who own politicians, such as all of Congress - George Soros, Tom Steyer, Haim Saban (who just ran a hit job on Keith Ellison), Koch#1, Koch#2, et al.

Here's something the news media failed to cover: Many people said they were going to vote for Trump exactly because he was too rich to be bought. Since the election, I've read comments that if Trump makes peace with Russia, they don't care if he enriches himself as President because he would deserve it. So being rich worked for him, not against him. The MSM will never get that.

Of course the MSM owners and their sycophant lackeys and toadys in the press are the ones who refuse to allow discussion about Capitalism being our national religion, serving as the basis for our imperial wars which are always for freedom and democracy *cough*cough. The reason of course is too obviou$. Lying for ego is small potatoes compared to that Big Lie and the many more just like it.

Patrice Ayme' said...

Glad the New York Times still publishes your comments: I always found them very interesting (and that's how I discovered you). The New York Times banned me from ALL comments (even in their philsophy section). It was an efficient manner to reduce my notoriety. Since then I have understood that the New York Times is just a propaganda outfit: I never sent a comment which was not decent, serious, well researched.

I have also been a NYT full subscriber for decades. I had heated exchanges with them during their propaganda for the 2003 Iraq invasion.

I prefer the term "plutocratic media" to MSM. Indeed the media is all owned or influenced (NPR< PBS, BBC) by plutocrats.

I have completely stopped reading the NYT opinion. I am still vaguely reading some of the general articles, but it's just a matter of time before I cancel my subscription. There is no more reason to have it than one to the "People's Daily" of the Chinese dictatorship.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Patrice's resolve to turn his back on one of the big dogs in the "plutocratic media" has parallels elsewhere, like foreign tourism and shopping in Miami, NYC, Chicago Seattle, LA, Houston and Dallas. More and more I'm hearing the French, Italians, Canadians and Mexicans vowing they're not going to the USA anymore, both out of fear of being hassled at the border and in some cases to punish American commerce for Trump.

Canada and Mexico rank 2 and 3 as US trading partners (China is #1). A sudden cutback by neighbors, even if only by the bourgeois class with spare change, is bound to pinch American hotels and malls. It's an uncoordinated boycott of sorts, but it could hurt and spread.

Trump may be a wild elephant knocking down supports of the circus tent, but his consigliere, Steve Bannon, is a viper in a big hurry to strike. Chris Hedges put out the skinny on Bannon yesterday. Lots there––and in the previous week's essay on James Baldwin––about race laws. Hard to be jokey after reading those pieces.

A friend passed on this old Mexican saying: "They tried to bury us; they didn't know we were seeds." Spring is just around the corner.

annenigma said...

There's an interesting article in the Columbia Journalism Review:

'We Analyzed Two Weeks of Spicer Press Briefings. Here’s What We Learned'

-Mainstream outlets are, in fact, called on - Mainstream and Conservative, 30% each, Moderate 27.5%, Progressive 12.5%

-Conservative media is tough on Trump

-Skype seats loom large, with mixed results

-Controversies drive coverage

"Perhaps the most visible change to the White House briefings under Spicer is the introduction of Skype seats, wherein journalists and commentators from around the country are beamed into the briefing room and called on to ask questions."

annenigma said...

Latest NBC/WSJ Poll shows the GOP is now viewed more favorably than Democrats, in Trump era! GOP favorable: 35%, Unfavorable 43% (-8); Democrats favorable: 30%, Unfavorable 46% (-16)

Also, a majority, 51%, think media is too critical of Trump. Only 41% think it's been fair.

Full poll at

Karen Garcia said...

Neofascists like Steve Bannon see their big opening in the chaos currently on display in the Duopoly. This seems to be one of those times in history when democratic capitalism, or capitalistic democracy, has reached its breaking point. Wealth inequality can only go so far before a collapse of one sort or another inevitably occurs. I think of Bannon as an ideological vulture capitalist. They thrive by messing things up and then cashing in.

The only consolation is how grossly unhealthy this guy Bannon looks. Not that I wish anyone ill, but boy, does he ever look dreadfully ill! You can say the same thing about Trump, what with KFC and Dorito habit. Now that he wants to increase military spending by 10%, will also be interesting to see how many of his neocon critics soften up toward him. Have to say I am looking forward to his Big Speech tomorrow night.

The media are of course complicit in framing the "narrative" around Donald Trump being the only villain we have to fear. Trump, in turn, creates his own bogeymen for the delectation of his fans. Divide and conquer the masses: it's how the plutocracy rumbles.

Re New York Times -- I still subscribe too, mainly because it is a golden source for my criticism of propaganda and neoliberalism. Some columns I never bother with any more, including Krugman, who has gone so far around the bend as to be unreadable. Patrice, I used to read and recommend your comments on his blog all the time. You are not the only one to be censored, this has happened to several people I know. When they inquire of the "community manager," they are always reassured that no such censorship exists; in other words, the censored contributors are gaslighted instead of being offered guidance or explanation.

As for myself, some algorithm devoid of any human selection process several years ago awarded me one of the first green check marks, meaning they only censor me when enough other readers "flag" me. Since the "verified" commenting privilege is, in my opinion, just another divide and conquer tactic always wielded by the powerful to stoke resentment and maintain control, I don't abuse my "privilege" by commenting on every last article, as some people do. Still, the Times usually makes it a point to bury my comments under their Times Picks. I think, too, that they tolerate me in order to allow a torrent of negative replies to show their gigantic readership that my opinions are real outliers. I can't count how many times that I've been told I am personally responsible for Trump, since I have dared to criticize the Clintons and Obamas.

And they say that only Trump supporters are under authoritarian thrall!

annenigma said...

From same NBCWSJ poll (Hart Research Associates):

Q16a - "For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the costs" - Agree 86%, Disagree 12%, Not Sure 2%

Q16b - "The news media and other elites are exaggerating the problems with the Trump administration because they are uncomfortable and threatened with the kind of change that Trump represents" - Agree 53%, Disagree 45%, Not Sure 2%

annenigma said...


The NYT - what a waste of trees! They must contribute to global warming with all that loss of CO2 conversion.

Isn't there enough propaganda and neoliberalism in the digital version that can be read without a subscription? to read? The only difference that I can see is the limit of 20 free articles a month which I used to override by closing my browser which empties cookies, but it's irrelevant anymore. I'd find it hard to read 20 articles in a year now.

I confess I did recently click on an opinion piece for the first time in ages just to find your comment since I hadn't seen any posted on your blog for awhile. But I had to read through a bunch of the worst, I mean highest-rated, comments to find yours, so I'm completely done. Comments used to be my favorite part, like eating chocolates, but they haven't held appeal since the Democratic convention. That's probably a good thing.

So what propaganda and neoliberalism does a subscriber see that the rest of us couldn't also see? An expanded version of their new Wealth Section?

Full disclosure: I get their Friday book review/bestseller list sent by email.

Karen Garcia said...


I used to bypass the paywall using a Supercookie gizmo, and wrote detailed instructions on how to do so right here on the blog. And wouldn't you know it, one of the trolls on the Times comment boards outed me as a TIMES CHEAT, right in public! And then others followed suit. So my reasonable son decided to gift me with a paid annual subscription to save my sorry ass (and face)

Over this past summer, the Times invited me to "considered" to become part of a readers' panel discussing the upcoming elections on a weekly basis, a kind of written chat or debate-type/essay situation. I said fine. And then they wrote back asking if it would be OK for them to "check me out" on the Internet before they made their final decision. I replied that there was no law against Googling me, but wondered if, in order to become part of this august panel, I would have to undergo a background check or anything. The editor in charge said no, as a matter of fact some of their moderators actually read Sardonicky! He very carefully didn't say what their opinions of it were.

Now comes the good part. I made the final cut! However, in order to be included I would next have to participate in a photo shoot. They'd even send a photog up to my house! I reluctantly agreed, because I figured if that's what it would take to get my lefty ideas highlighted every single week during election season in the same newspaper which had bent over backwards to squelch all things Bernie, I'd be crazy to turn it down.

And then there was sudden radio silence from their end. Which is fine, because it began to slowly dawn on me that what they really had in mind was a personality profile of their commenters, with maybe a sentence or two from us next to our pics. Clickbait! The editor had told me that pics were an absolute must for their "Voices" section. Upon further research, I discovered that "Voices" is basically a photo spread where various readers offer brief-- very brief -- thoughts on the news of the day.

I also wondered if perhaps their lawyers had axed the project, since it involved soliciting free labor from writers. But probably not, since they also run another Metro feature where writers used to get paid with a bottle of Champagne, but now get paid with nothing -- because just getting exposure in the Paper of Record is reward enough! Really, you can't make this crap up. So I began thinking up ways to wiggle out of my agreement with the Times.

Turns out I didn't have to, because months later, a couple of days AFTER the election, I got another email from them announcing that they had shelved the project because of all the uproar surrounding the election; in other words, events intervened and we commenters were no longer needed. But they'll be glad keep us in mind for another "opportunity" in the future!

Like I said, you can't even make this stuff up. Welcome to the Sharing Economy, where you can get fired from your unpaid gig before you ever get a toe in the door!

Jay–Ottawa said...

This guy never gives up. Neither should we, no matter how small our numbers.

"Once again history repeats itself. As I describe in my recent book, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think, it takes one percent or less of the people to be politically conscious and engaged to change conditions or policies, so long as they represent a majority opinion. My estimate is that, apart from the huge demonstrations on January 21, 2017—the day after Donald Trump’s Inauguration—less than 200,000 people, showing up at Congressional town meetings or demonstrations, have changed the political atmosphere among 535 members of your Congress. It just took one week of a few riled up voters expressing the “enough is enough” fury of many more voters who for now are still a part of the “silent majority”."

--Ralph Nader