Monday, July 31, 2017

What the Hell Happened?

Her Real Self

You may have heard that Hillary Clinton's "highly anticipated" new book is due out in September, so set your countdown clocks to Zero Hour and get buzzed on all the buzz. From what little has officially leaked out so far, Hillary will portray herself as a circus acrobat with no other safety net than her stash of hundreds of millions of dollars:
 In "What Happened," the former Democratic presidential nominee will discuss the roles of former FBI Director James Comey and Russia in her loss to Donald Trump, according to sources familiar with the book.
“In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net. Now I’m letting my guard down," Clinton writes in an excerpt from the book's introduction.
Why the declarative title What Happened, as opposed to the interrogative What Happened? Or for that matter, What the Hell Happened? 

In an exclusive interview with Sardonicky, Hillary explains it all in her own words. (The following remarks were lightly edited for something resembling clarity.)
  I chose What Happened because it sounds so authoritative. Put a period on it, it's done... by me, Hillary Clinton. Nobody puts Baby in the corner. What, you were expecting Great Expectations or something? No cobwebby old Miss Havisham jokes from the haters of the vast right wing conspiracy, thank you very much.  Plus, if I made my book title into a freaking question, I would then be forced to answer it, not to mention inviting more tiresome debate. But if you really insist upon knowing, the only possible answer is: Shit Happened. To me, Hillary Clinton, not to the citizens of this country. I will do just fine with my long walks in the woods and my slugs of fine wine.
Of course, if I really wanted to be truthful, I would call it Bullshit Happened. And if I wanted to be really, really truthful I'd put it in the present tense: Bullshit Happens. After all, I am the one writing this book. And since the unproven trope "Russia Meddled in My Campaign, a/k/a Our Democracy" will be a main theme of my book, I will probably leave out the part where my DNC operatives mysteriously refused to let the FBI investigate our computers, lest evidence of an Inside Job destroy our whole Putin-Did-It narrative. Especially now that this narrative threatens to start World War III.
 If I wanted to be really really really truthful, I would also admit that I am paying (depending on sales and if he's very lucky) one of my former speechwriters to write my book for me. We've been flying back and forth between coasts at regular intervals to collude, I mean collaborate.
 And I wasn't about to call it Something Happened, because that is a brilliant, albeit forgotten, novel by Joseph Heller. Although it is fiction, it is way, way more honest than anything I could ever bullshit my way through, even if my very life depended on it. As a matter of fact, if you read Heller's book, you will discover that his satiric observations on bullshit come bleakly and uncomfortably close to who I am and how I ran, or didn't run, my campaign. For example, in the following section, Heller perfectly captures how Team Clinton put way too much stupid faith in polls giving me a 99% chance of winning, and how we relied on outdated demographics and algorithms instead of paying attention to people's real problems:
We had no way of knowing whether the information on which we based our own information was true or false. But that didn't seem to matter; all that mattered is that the information came from a reputable source. People in our market research division were never held to blame for conditions they discovered outside the campaign that placed us at a competitive disadvantage. What was, was - and they were not expected to change reality, but merely to find it if they could and suggest ingenious ways of disguising it. To a great extent, that is the nature of my own work, and all of us worked closely with the sales department and the public relations department in converting whole truths into half truths and half truths into whole ones.

  In any event, Something Happened (!) is far too exclamatory and singular, and it implies that only one bad thing happened to spoil my victory dance. Since I am Hillary Clinton, and I have whole shitloads of blame to lob at so many people, my book will be about the many many horrible things that happened to the singular woman who is me, Hillary Clinton.
 Unfortunately, the title A Singular Woman has also already been taken. It's the biography of Obama's mother, Ann Dunham.  I am also thinking of blaming her, simply for having spawned the first man with the effrontery to steal the presidency from me. But you'll just have to wait for September when the book comes out to find out how much ink I will actually spill on direct Barry-blaming. (Hint: my publicists have already planted the story that No Drama Obama deliberately ignored RussiaGate before my publicists thought to invent it mere days after I lost my second election, to Donald Trump, whom my publicists had planted in the press as one of the Pied Piper candidates it would be a cinch for me to beat.)
 But Goldwater Girl that I am, and for purposes of the austerity (for others) which has been my whole life's work, I am sticking to What Happened, Period. It gives out the perfect whiff of control and personal agency while also passive-aggressively absolving me, Hillary Clinton. of any accountability for my decisions. It also leaves enough space on the book jacket for a photo of me for a possible second and last printing. For now, though, we're going with the appropriately stern plain vanilla look. My publicists were leaning toward that now-iconic silhouette profile, which sends the message of a singular woman who holds her nose very proudly in the air so as to avoid actually looking at such things as middle class voters. So stay tuned. There may be multiple covers available to mirror my multiple reinvented public personae. One thing I can promise my readers is authentic high grade glossy paper milled from genuine dead trees.
Meanwhile, since I'll be heading out to the Vineyard and/or the Hamptons in the next couple of days, you won't see me in the woods around your neighborhood. But not to worry. I will be hard at work putting the finishing touches on the galleys. I will work my heart out for you, and continue my SuperPac fundraising for other centrist Democrats as they tout their new inspiring slogan, A Better Deal.
As my beleaguered millionaire pal Nancy Pelosi said just the other day, it's not the Democratic Party's de facto agenda of steak for the wealthy and crumbs for the poor that matters - it's the way that they put out their message. "We'll be making not a course correction, but a presentation correction," she announced.
It's not the economy stupid after all. It's the propaganda stupid.The main course of the feast for the Haves will stay exactly the same.
That is such a profound observation by Nancy I might even fit in my book somewhere, most likely in the acknowledgment section. That's the part, after unloading brick by brick my entire shitload of blame, where I air-kiss my myriad donors, celebrity fans, and enablers. It will take up at least a third of the entire book. This will give my memoir the appearance of intellectual heft and thereby justify my charging an outrageous sum of money for it.
We corporate Democrats are walking a mighty fragile tightrope these days. The danger is getting swept away by our own virtue-signalling.  When "they" go low, we go so high that we get oxygen-deprived sometimes. I don't mean to say that's a bad thing, because our enthusiasm for tiny incremental solutions becomes so contagious that it usually infects enough of the people at least some of the time. We only lost about a thousand national and state seats in the past decade, after all.

So as I so coyly teased in my leaked preface, we always run the risk of completely losing our balance performing such a multitude of verbal stunts as we seek public office. Especially when one is as clumsy as I was/am in the trickery department. And, channeling Joseph Heller again, when we lose sight of the fact that our bullshit is bullshit, we start relying too heavily on our version of the truth. We forget that the Big Lie has to be constantly honed to achieve maximum effectiveness. We get lazy and sloppy and self-satisfied, even after we lose one here or there. We nobly walk in the woods of our estates and guzzle our Chardonnay and attend many Broadway shows to prove to other wealthy members of our class that we're okay and smarter than the average bear.
Nonetheless. we have trouble distinguishing between the private positions we share with our patrons and donors and colleagues in the global finance capital cartel and the public positions we share with the hoi polloi. We become focus-grouped and poll-tested and trial-ballooned out of all rationality and meaning. We get so confused, that when we do get caught out in a lie or a grift, we have the chutzpah to channel Honest Abe and compare our paid speeches to Goldman Sachs with Lincoln freeing the slaves.
 We become mere ghosts, diminished to dictating our bullshit to ghostwriters.
Of course, that is far more honesty than my reputation as Warrior Victim Queen could ever possibly bear. 
Did I forget to request that this conversation be off the record? I did? Well knock me over with a Scaramucci feather! When I wrote in my teaser of a preface that I'd be letting my guard down and forgoing the safety net, I must have mistakenly meant what I said for once in my life.
What the hell.?!.?!

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Gray Lady Flinches

The New York Times did at least three interesting things today.

First, they censored star liberal columnist Paul Krugman, whose piece trashing Senator John McCain was posted almost simultaneously with John McCain becoming the deciding vote to kill TrumpCare, or as it's more commonly known, Skinny Bill. Krugman's column suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from its usual prominent spot on the top right home page.*

No matter that Krugman's observation that McCain is a fraud is true, or that the vote was obviously made to give cover to another misanthropic GOP senator whose reelection chances in his miserable state would be endangered if he gave his donors even the appearance of liking poor people. The narrative of today is John the Maverick and John the Brave Dying Warrior. And Krugman's opus simply didn't fit.

So the next chapter in The Narrative will probably be another righteous call for bipartisan "moderates" to make Obamacare even more friendly to those who stand to make continuing profits from it. More efficient and subtler legislation to punish regular people will, no doubt, have Fighting John McCain's name on it somewhere, and a signing ceremony might even be orchestrated to coincide with the funeral. Because let's face it, had John McCain voted for Skinny, his chances for a banal, interminable, bipartisan Reagan-esque sendoff in the Capitol would be skinny to none. 

This is not to say I don't still think that Paul Krugman is an opportunistic shill for the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, and a boring one at that. Despite his professed zombie horror of Republican antics, he has studiously and callously ignored the overwhelming popular clamor for Medicare For All. He really boxed himself into a corner last year when he lambasted single payer proponents as a bunch of unicorn-seeking, jammy-wearing Berniebros who wouldn't know a cost-benefit analysis from a hole in the wall.

On to the second thing that made the New York Times flinch today: the FBI arrest of Debbie Wasserman Schultz's (D-FL) IT guy as he tried to flee the country with millions of dollars in ill-gotten cash. The very fact that this story is mainly being covered by right-wing and/or independent media and ignored by the mainstream is cause enough to doubt its importance and veracity, says the mainstream media.

The Times is no exception, and right in the headline it announces that the only reason it's touching this nothing-burger at all is because Donald Trump is making a big deal over it. And despite its horror of all things Trump, the Gray Lady is never so flinch-ridden as to wantonly ignore the advances of Donald Trump!

 Granted, I don't know the facts of this story myself -  nobody seems to - so I'll just take the opportunity to make fun of how reporter Nicholas Fandos bends over backwards to defend DWS. Even though Imram Aman was arrested and charged with bank fraud, the case linking him to cyber-spying is still ongoing - therefore, according to the Gray Lady's little gray cells, it naturally follows that it has to be built solely on alt-right fantasy. Really, people! If the savvy Times has no evidence, how can there be any evidence?

The newspaper is treating it as a kind of inverted RussiaGate, where of course no evidence is ever needed and where no arrests or indictments need ever come to pass in order for it to qualify as unfake news.

Anybody involved in a crime who has access to or works for either DWS or Hillary Clinton is simply all the proof you need that the vast right wing conspiracy is still out to get them. If a crime or investigation is even so much as reported by a right-leaning outlet, Fandos implies, it cannot by definition even be a crime:
To hear some commentators tell it, with the help of his family and a cushy job on Capitol Hill, Mr. Awan, a Pakistani-American, had managed to steal computer hardware, congressional data and even — just maybe — a trove of internal Democratic National Committee emails that eventually surfaced last summer on WikiLeaks. It helped that the story seems to involve, if only tangentially, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman who is the former chairwoman of the committee and an ally of Hillary Clinton’s.
Something's happening here, but what it is ain't exactly clear, so Fandos muddles on: 
Some basic facts appear to be clear. Mr. Awan had been employed by the House of Representatives as an I.T. specialist since 2004 and his wife, two brothers and a friend began similar work in subsequent years. Over the years, he contracted to work part time for more than a dozen Democratic members of Congress, including Ms. Wasserman Schultz. The work, Mr. Gowen and congressional staff members said, was mostly run of the mill: setting up new phones and computers, fixing printers, helping aides and members reset passwords.
After the authorities briefed lawmakers about the investigation this spring, the legislators began to cut ties one by one, citing concerns about appearances or an abundance of caution.
Ms. Wasserman Schultz held out, arguing that until there was credible evidence, she saw no reason to terminate a longstanding work arrangement.
Debbie is such a kind and beneficent employer that she didn't fire Awan until the FBI had him in cuffs. She was forced to do it. Wasserman Schultz, who has previously had no qualms about the government's targeted assassination program, mass deportations and incarceration of immigrants in private prisons in her own state, is suddenly concerned about due process for an employee with access to sensitive data having been under active FBI investigation for months.

Fandos describes Debbie as the poster child for right/left conspiracy theory victimhood. He even implies that despite solid evidence to the contrary, she did not really manipulate the primaries to favor Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

And just because Awan worked for the chairperson of the DNC doesn't mean he crossed the line from his official job in Congress:
Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokeswoman for the Democratic committee, called the suggestion “laughable.”
“He was never employed by the D.N.C.,” she said. “The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia was behind the D.N.C. hack.”
Case closed. Minds slammed shut. All the intelligence you'll ever need comes to you courtesy of the CIA, the NSA, and the FBI. And if you say otherwise, you're a Russian stooge if not a Kremlin collaborator. 


And now, third and last, but not least: how can the Gray Lady cover Trump's new potty-mouthed communications jerk without making foul language the centerpiece of its actual story?

Delicately and flinchingly, of course.

Although the headline of the article by gossip columnists Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman teasingly intimates an "uncensored rant," all we initially get is more censorship. You'll have to use your imagination (or click on the link in the lede) if you want to know exactly what the Gray Lady considers to be "vulgarity-laced language." Either that, or plod through a lot of moralizing before finally getting to the rant itself.

 To delay the inevitable and give their squeamish piece that exalted Times flavor, the writers insert some gratuitous Biblical imagery as a form of proper foreplay. Before being informed that the Mooch brags about masturbatory gymnastics, we are asked to delay our titillation and ponder this: Is Scaramucci Cain, or is he Abel?

Do we care? Because if the Times can't blast out dirty words with the same gusto and at the same frenzied rate that it dishes its standard Trumpian dirt, what journalistic good are they? Their click-bait cred will only suffer if they censor.

*Update: Krugman, after several hours M.I.A., revised his column in a way that doesn't clash too severely with The Official Narrative, and it has been duly restored to its original pride of place on the home page. As long as crusty old McCain "did the right thing in the end," all is right - and I do mean right -  with the Media-Political Complex. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trump Bans Transgender People From Military

Cue the outrage: Donald Trump has decreed that transgender people will no longer be allowed to don the uniform of the proud American military. He did so not by executive order, but by tweet.

This, according to the Huffington Post, is a "stunning reversal" of the benign policy of Barack Obama, who'd humanely allowed all genders the joy of operating joysticks to anonymously kill thousands of innocent people as the unfortunate collateral damage of his tolerant targeted assassination program.
The move was wholly unexpected. It’s not clear why Trump decided to announce such a significant policy change via Twitter or when it would take effect. His timing is also odd: He shared the news in the midst of Senate Republicans’ high-stakes fight to repeal Obamacare this week.
Trump claims he made the move after consulting with military experts, despite the Pentagon lifting the ban on transgender service members in 2016 after an exhaustive review of its military readiness policies.
“Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said. “We have to have access to 100% of America’s population for our all-volunteer force to be able to recruit from among them the most highly qualified — and to retain them.”
Note that while Trump's order is decidedly gratuitous and craven, issued only for reasons of attacking his predecessor, demeaning transgender people, pandering to homophobes, and privileging weapons over medical care, it comes just one year after Obama himself had finally decided to do the liberal, "honorable" thing. Obama's belated nod to transgendered troops was one more political ploy to brand both his legacy and his side of the War Party with a cynical window-dressing of human rights logos. His gesture came far too late to ever become fully implemented. If Obama really cared about transgender people, he wouldn't have allowed such inhumane treatment of whistle-blower Chelsea Manning before he, for his own legacy-burnishing purposes, finally granted her some long-overdue clemency.

Right-wing Republicans naturally are giving Obama some much needed cover by condemning him, not for war crimes, but for what they stupidly perceive as the contamination of good Christian soldiers by transgendered troops:
 “I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities ― and not continue the social experimentation of the OObama era that has crippled our nation’s military,” said (Family Research Council) president, Tony Perkins. “The military can now focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars rather than being used to advance the Obama social agenda.”
I mean, America can't go around invading countries and maiming and killing people without the traditional levels of hormones and sets of chromosomes, can it? Bombs are so much deadlier and drones are so much more accurate when virile men are at the controls. 

Next thing you know, the crotch grabber-in-chief will do another horrible number on Obama's legacy and ban women from combat.

Trump is very likely peeved that he can't do much more to coddle his fellow predators in the military, however. Despite statistics showing that military rapists usually go free while their victims suffer retaliation, Obama steadfastly refused to take sexual abuse cases outside the chain of command. This was despite overwhelming evidence that rapists in the armed services are serial offenders: they go on to commit their crimes over and over again.

So I don't think Trump would ever go so far as to ban women from joining the military. The prey must always be at the ready for the convenience of what he oafishly calls "my military."  

But never say never. Forced by a GOP Congress into choosing between his precious Wall and the rights of historically oppressed American citizens, it seems that he'd rather maintain fear of an Outside Other than honor his campaign promises to what many people still view as an Inside Other: the LGBTQ community being only the latest scapegoat. Chelsea Manning is right. Donald Trump is a consummate coward.

I'm afraid that it will be a cold day in hell before some future president tweets out an order cutting the Pentagon budget by 90%, putting an end to all the wars and the largest military force and largest arms dealer the world has never known.

Ultimately, it will be irreversible climate change that puts an end to everything, with the latest psychopath in the White House becoming the least of the planet's last gasping worries.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Kushner Does Seinfeld

Just because it looks like collusion, sounds like collusion, stinks like collusion doesn't necessarily mean it's collusion. At the very worst, as Jared Kushner laboriously intoned in a bland prepared statement, his meet-up with two or eight or ten Russians was standard canoodling procedure.

 Since no actual quid pro quo has been established, it was simply a variation of the misunderstood Seinfeldian nose pick.

In case you're not a fan of that other hit TV show about narcissism and nothing, that was the episode where Jerry's girlfriend thinks she sees him picking his schnoz at a traffic stop. He insists that he was only scratching the side of his nose and not actually digging for gold. Can a person not twiddle? "I did not pick. There was no pick.  I did not pick!" Seinfeld insists. "It was clearly on the outer edge of the nostril!"

"I did not collude. I did not collude!" Jared insists. (He's way too bland, boring, and well-bred to perform an actual indignant snort.) "All of my actions were proper in the normal course of events in a very unusual campaign.

If innocent nose-scratching can be mistaken for gross picking, so too can mere proximity to shady characters be misconstrued as something shady. Outer-edge schmoozing in the process of digging for Hillary dirt is perfectly normal when one is embroiled in such a rarity as an oligarchic carnival barker having the chutzpah to run for national elected office. It was only side-digging, folks! Appearances happen. So if you see anything untoward, you obviously need an eye exam as much as Jerry Seinfeld's accusers do.

(And if you, like me, thought you heard Kushner say in the above clip that he likes to work on imported matters rather than on important matters, then he'd probably tell you that you need a hearing aid as well as glasses.) 

Just as Jerry denies that he was seeking a bodily channel for his wayward finger, Jared scoffs at the notion that he'd ever use a back (ugh) channel for his own wayward habits and acquisitions. As a matter of fact, he drawls, he was so bored by the whole meeting that he couldn't even find his own way out of the hole he'd dug for himself. He's had people to clean up after him his whole life. Therefore, he admitted, he had to frantically email an underling to come up with an excuse for him to leave.

 What a clever, stand-up guy.

Since Jerry Seinfeld never takes questions from the audience during his stand-up routine, Jared Kushner followed suit and left the stage immediately upon completing Monday's deadpan performance before the Washington press corps. If you think he bombed, it's your fault. All that your lack of appreciation does is "ridicule those who voted for him." He was talking about his father-in-law, of course, not about his own prissy unelected and unqualified self.

What a snotty little prince.

And not to nitpick or anything, but it turns out that White House adviser Steve Bannon happens to own a stake in Seinfeld reruns. Since Bannon and Kushner don't get along, though, I doubt if there was any collusion in Jared's shameless appropriation of Seinfeld's self-protective dialogue.

As Jason Alexander, who played Jerry's sidekick George Costanzo, observed: "So Steve Brannon makes residuals on SEINFELD. I know there's a joke there somewhere but right now I only find it sad."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Great Walls of America

In the Age of Trump, the word "wall" immediately conjures up the image of a 3,000 mile-wide monolith protecting America the Pure from hordes of immigrants and terrorists eager to steal our jobs and murder us in our beds. That this wall is and always will be just another Trumpian con job means absolutely nothing to his dwindling but loyal base of fans. You see, it's the thought that counts. It makes the dispossessed feel safer, just knowing that their renegade leader is mouthily gung-ho for yet another barrier between Us and Them.

Not to be outdone in the paranoia department, though, the Democrats and their neocon associates are also trying to sell us on a wall. Their version is a barrier in cyberspace that would keep out all the disinformation which, they say, emanates from Russia and its co-conspirators in the independent American media. Absent a democratic social agenda that would improve the lives of ordinary people, the Democratic Russophobes warn us to ignore our own lives and our own lying eyes. We should just admit that our brains have been infected by "fake news" so insidiously and for such a long time that we finally committed the ultimate atrocity: we unwittingly denied the presidency to Hillary Clinton. 

If this all sounds disturbingly Kafkaesque, you're not being paranoid. You're facing the reality that we live in a country where gas-lighting is now the default governing strategy on both sides of the Duopoly. Franz Kafka, who creatively used metaphor and parable to warn of the totalitarianism knocking at the European door almost a century ago, was a big critic of walls and barriers of all kinds. He probably wouldn't be too surprised that the same thing is now happening in the United States.

  Not for nothing did his last novel - Amerika - remain unfinished.

But in his posthumously published short story, The Great Wall of China, Kafka combines the very best fantastical formulas of both Trump and the Democratic Neocons. Notwithstanding their theatrical campaign of insulting tweets and counter-tweets, these two entities are disparate only on the surface. They actually complement each other in the core agenda of diverting our attention from our own worsening quotidian problems.  Despite opinion polls showing that people are more concerned about their own health care than they are about the avalanche of tiny pebbles clumsily posing as blockbuster scoops from the New York Times and the Washington Post, the media-political complex is relentless in warning us we should worry more about the "constitutional crisis" of the rolling palace coup than about scrounging enough money together for next month's rent or insurance co-pay.

A new Bloomberg survey shows that although only six percent of the population is primarily concerned about Russia-Trump, the mainstream media is devoting more than half of all news coverage to McCarthyite scare-mongering. 

Our "official" menu choice has thus devolved into two flavors of paranoia: Muslims and Mexicans entering the country, or the Russian takeover of our democracy. In other words, they're building a wall separating people from their own thoughts as well as from each other.

The main efficacy in the selling of a wall, Kafka observed, is that it is always a work in progress. It always has gaps. Holes are necessary, because not only do they create even more fear and paranoia, they engender a sense of purpose and national/party solidarity. If these dream walls ever did get finished, we'd end up feeling too safe for comfort.... for the comfort of our rulers, that is. 

For them to maintain permanent control, they extend their walls' purpose to not only to keeping the Enemy out, but in dividing and conquering those who actually labor on the project The lowly workers are kept far away from both the middle managers and the elite architects who do the actual planning and thinking. And if something goes awry, guess who gets the blame?

Kafka explains how class structure as a method of control and fear is built into the human psyche from childhood:
"I can still remember quite well us standing as small children, scarcely sure on our feet, in our teacher's garden, and being ordered to build a sort of wall out of pebbles; and then the teacher, girding up his robe, ran full tilt against the wall, of course knocking it down, and scolded us so terribly for the shoddiness of our work that we ran weeping in all directions to our parents."
It doesn't get any better when these educated young people grow up and can't find a decent job paying a living wage. Kafka accurately described the cutthroat world of neoliberal meritocracy as the class-based division of labor - since time immemorial, we are either the designing few, or we rank among the many servants of the builders and designers.

The challenge to the elite rulers, therefore, is to be seen as keeping their promises, merely by keeping up the spirits of the people on the receiving end of their lies. This is the sweet spot where hope is invoked. Kafka describes how "piecemeal" wall-building is used as a ploy to keep those who toil for the elites both enthusiastic and pliant.

 When people are exhausted and losing faith in the system, rulers will throw them a crumb and then a deflection. The following passage in Kafka's story mirrors the media-hyped euphoria surrounding the signing, and subsequent successful defenses, of the extremely limited kludge known as Obamacare. It's also apropos of the falsely-touted (fake news) withdrawal of American troops from the still-occupied and ever more destroyed country of Iraq:
"Accordingly, while they were still exalted by the jubilant celebrations marking the completion of the thousand yards of wall, they were sent far, far away, saw on their journey finished sections of the wall rising here and there, came past the quarters of the high command, and were presented with badges of honor, heard the rejoicings of new armies of labor streaming past from the depths of the land, saw forests being cut down to become supports for the wall, saw mountains being hewn into stones for the wall, heard at the holy shrines hymns rising in which the pious prayed for the completion of the wall."
If there's anything that rulers require, it's the unity of the populace who must be taught to settle for "piecemeal" solutions as they wave the flags and watch a lot of TV and attend many sporting events. No matter that our two establishment political parties appear to be falling apart at the seams; they were only populist fronts for the oligarchy in the first place. They'll happily subsist on the gold dust of their destruction until such time as they rise and thrive again.

As Kafka recounts in his parable, the elites are even able to absolve themselves when their ill-conceived Tower of Babel, built as it is on the ill-conceived Wall, is also never completed. It's definitely not their superior intellects which are to blame. After a thorough investigation by the designated experts, not only is nobody held accountable, they have the chutzpah to praise themselves for their insights.
"... The tower failed and was bound to fail because of the weakness of the foundation. In this respect at any rate our age was vastly superior to that ancient one. Almost every educated man of our time was a mason by profession and infallible in the manner of laying foundations.... How could the wall, which did not form even a circle, but only a sort of quarter- or half-circle, provide the foundation for a tower? That could obviously be meant only in the spiritual sense."
 This is creepily reminiscent of John McCain insisting, after the financial system crashed in 2008 and millions of people lost their jobs, that "the foundations of our economy are still strong." It's eerily similar to former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan airily explaining away the Wall Street-generated subprime mortgage crime spree as "irrational exuberance." It faintly reeks of Barack Obama excusing war criminals by "looking forward, not back" and praising CIA sadists as well-meaning "patriots" who suddenly were trapped into "torturing some folks." When Donald Trump then babbles incoherently in compulsive tweets and opines that he has the right to pardon himself, it's not really all that extreme, once you stop and think about it.

There are other examples too numerous to mention of the boilerplate official excuse that "mistakes were made" to explain away such atrocities as aggressive war, torture and mass incarceration. There is never a lack of experts and pundits to roll out one Kafkaesque explanation after another to absolve the criminals residing in the very highest echelons of public/private power. Thus are we chided by the president's apologists never to take Trump's tweets literally, and by Democratic apologists to believe that 30 million uninsured Americans still enjoy universal "access" to health care, along with the promise that building walls against any number of Others will make our lives a happy, serene heaven on earth.

It's no surprise that Woody Guthrie's famous protest song "This Land Is Your Land" has been bowdlerized into a feel-good patriotic anthem taught to American schoolchildren. This supplements the teachers who are increasingly forced into toppling young people's towers of creativity and independent thought via for-profit standardized testing and curricula designed by corporations.

Here's what the Kafkaesque "High Command" doesn't want you to hear or sing or think:
"There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me."

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Circular Investigation Squad

 (*Updated below)

In a plot reminiscent of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, they're killing each other off in Washington. Robert Mueller is investigating Donald Trump, and Donald Trump is investigating Robert Mueller. The president has essentially issued a dictum of no confidence in Jeff Sessions, whereupon Attorney General Sessions ominously declared that he'll stay on the job anyway, for as long as it's "appropriate."

As long as he has time to whip up a bunch of indictments against Trump, Incorporated? The soon-to-be paroled O.J. Simpson had better get moving on that multimillion-dollar TV deal of his, because there's a whole lot of competition waiting in the wings. By the time the dust settles, there might not be anybody left on the island. Sad.

With no many incestuous relationships going on in so many high investigatory and governing places, conflict of interest has long been a feature, and not a bug, among Establishment types. And Trump is not only milking this congenital chaos for all it's worth, he's adding to the churn daily with some truly malevolent glee.

He manipulates the mainstream media at the same time he is manipulated by them. Why else give a no holds barred interview to his frenemy, the "failing" New York Times? To keep everybody scrambling, and out of breath in the futile effort just to keep up with him.

The way Trump spilled his guts to the Times the other day, you even have to wonder whether he'd rather be the star of his own courtroom drama than be president of the United States. Just imagine the ratings for the United States vs. Donald Trump show. It would pre-empt regular programming and investigatory reporting even more than it's already being pre-empted. To Trump, popularity and notoriety are the exact same thing. Perhaps a stint in a minimum security Club Fed would be preferable to the prison that is the White House. He'd still have a bottomless commissary fund and all the Doritos and Fox News he can consume.

So before he tries to pardon himself and his entire clan, I hope he also remembers to sign an executive order allowing TV cameras in the courtroom. It's the least he can do. The American people deserve it. Not only would we get gavel-to-gavel coverage of the lengthy (months or even years-long) trial, the rule would also apply to the Supreme Court, which currently allows only audio transmissions of its proceedings.

 Trump being Trump, he'd probably add the caveat that the camera must be aimed at him, his family, Ivanka's couture and jewelry, and his OJ-strength team of lawyers at all times. If he can prohibit pictures of the prosecution side, and most important, of the competing celebrities in the audience, he'll probably go for it. As long as it's all about him, what does he care?

He and his family naturally will also control all the licensing of movies and shows about themselves. Even though criminals are barred from profiting from their own stories, perhaps one of the grandchildren can be put in charge of the post-conviction family business. The six-year-old is already trained to perform Mandarin on cue, after all.

Trump will always be a star, albeit a dark, decayed star. He'll always have his fans. He'll always have Paris.

*Update, 7/22.

Despite common wisdom, a criminal trial of a sitting president is not outside the realm of whimsical possibility. 

The New York Times had to file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain a Clinton-era legal memo hidden deep within the National Archives. (Apparently, the moniker "national" does not automatically connote that an agency will be transparent or public without first making the public jump through hoops!)

The memo, from the office of former Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, thoroughly debunks the notion that Trump would be immune from prosecution until or unless he leaves office. Writes Times reporter Charlie Savage:
“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes. “In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.”
Mr. Starr assigned Ronald Rotunda, a prominent conservative professor of constitutional law and ethics whom Mr. Starr hired as a consultant on his legal team, to write the memo in spring 1998 after deputies advised him that they had gathered enough evidence to ask a grand jury to indict Mr. Clinton, the memo shows.
Included in the decades-old cache is a draft criminal indictment of Bill Clinton.

The plot thickens. So stay tuned for the latest Tweets from the Circular Investigation Squad and from the righteous custodians of the Incestuous Industrial Complex. Or don't. It's the weekend, and it's the middle of summer.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ain't Nothing But a Hypocritical Hound Dog

Although Trumpism and human rights are obviously mutually contradictory, it still came as a huge shock in official circles when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson broke precedent and coldly refused to trumpet his agency's annual report on global human rights abuses. And to add insult to injury, he's even reportedly planning to close down State's War Crimes division.

How very oily of him. 

Not that the United States has ever actually looked in the mirror and condemned its own abuses and war crimes, which include but aren't limited to capital punishment, solitary confinement and the shackling of pregnant women in domestic prisons; aggressively invading other countries; torture by the CIA in black sites; bombings of hospitals; and extrajudicial assassinations by drone.

 It's that the Trump administration refuses to abide by the norms and traditions of its virtue-signalling predecessors. The serial giant middle fingers of Trumpian contempt make our exceptional country look bad to the rest of the world. His regime deprives us of our righteous opportunities to lecture the rest of the world. 

A further indication of the domestic erosion of human rights is the fact that the State Department official who did comment to the press on the annual human rights report did so anonymously, out of fear of retaliation from the Trump administration.

The government's annual report calling attention to global crimes against humanity has ever had any legal clout, mind you. As a matter of fact, the State Department has always functioned as a major arms broker to the same vicious regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, which it presumes to occasionally criticize. Still, as PRI reported in March, Tillerson's lack of engagement and flouting of tradition sends a chilling message to rights organizations as well as a tacit message of encouragement to autocrats in places like Turkey and the Philippines. The shallow hypocritical American rhetoric which has historically waved its feeble pompoms for human rights efforts around the world is completely evaporating:
The international watchdog Human Rights Watch linked Tillerson's no-show to what it fears is a broader decision by Trump's administration to downplay America's leadership role on the issue. 
"Trump's anti-Muslim refugee policy and hinted cuts to foreign aid have heightened concerns that the US won't be a vocal player on human rights issues abroad," HRW Washington director Sarah Margon said. 
 Tillerson's absence, she added "reinforces the message to governments, rights activists and at-risk minorities that the State Department might also be silent on repression, abuse and exploitation."
To complement that episode of passive-aggressive silence, Tillerson also aims to do away with State's Office of Global Criminal Justice, whose business is vocally "deploring" or "condemning" the war crimes of others while ignoring American atrocities - and while supplying the Deplorables with billions of dollars' worth of weapons every single year. The former Exxon CEO has already reassigned Stephen Rapp and his entire war crimes staff to other duties.

From the New York Times article about Tillerson's "reorganization" plans:
The war crimes office has modest resources. It has a staff of about a dozen and an annual budget of about $3 million, and it has generally been run by an envoy appointed by the president.

Mr. Rapp came to the office with considerable experience: He served on an international tribunal on the atrocities in Rwanda and prosecuted war crimes in Sierra Leone before President Barack Obama appointed him to lead the office in 2009, making him the ambassador at large for war crimes.
Mr. Rapp also played a major role in arranging for one of Syria’s most important defectors to provide thousands of photographs to the F.B.I. of detainees who had perished in President Bashar al-Assad’s prisons.
In the two decades that it has existed, the office has played an important role in bringing perpetrators to justice. Mr. Rapp worked behind the scenes to press Kosovo to accept its new human rights tribunal. The office also pushed Senegal to try Hissène Habré, the former dictator of Chad.
The key phrase here is "behind the scenes." The United States not only refused during the Clinton administration to become part of the International Court of Justice, it aggressively worked behind the scenes to weaken it, before it eventually denounced it, during a five-week conference in Rome.

As international human rights barrister and activist Geoffrey Robertson recounts in his excellent history, Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle For Global Justice,
Although the Clinton administration had previously advocated a world criminal court and Clinton himself called for it in his 1998 visit to Rwanda, his personal authority was eroded at the crucial time by the domestic fallout from his affair with Monica Lewinsky. After her blue dress was taken by the FBI for DNA analysis, he capitulated to the Pentagon, which had for some months been briefing the military attaches of its allies that the Court was a danger to soldiers of the Western alliance. Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced that the Rome Treaty would be 'dead on arrival' in Congress if there was any prospect of the indictment of a single American soldier....

The US delegation rejected the principle of universal jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity (other than genocide) so vehemently that the US Defense Secretary William Cohen threatened Germany and South Korea with a US troop pull-out if they persisted in their support for the Statute.
Trump is really not much of an anomaly after all, is he?

So, rather than hound his administration for the ongoing horrendous war crime of 40,000 Iraqis crushed to death in their homes by American bombs or shot to death in the streets of Mosul by American-made guns, the media-political complex is instead hounding him for canoodling with a slimy bunch of Russian oligarchs. These are some of the same characters who were originally aided and abetted in the plunder of their nation by the "Harvard Boys" of the Clinton era.

Since these things are too horrific to report, and since such journalism would be against the best interests of the global ruling class, it behooves them to change the narrative and divert the attention. They've concluded that it's better to hound Trump for RussiaGate and for his slaughter of the English language than it is to howl in outrage about his administration's slaughter of human beings.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Saved By the Clot

(*Updated below)

Despite its best intentions, a Congress stuffed with aging millionaires does provide the occasional benefit for the downtrodden rest of us.

We should probably thank Senator John McCain and the surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain for our latest reprieve from getting our crappy health insurance coverage slashed into worse than nothing. Because of McCain's illness, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to delay voting on his cruel plan to punish the strapped and the ill for the benefit of the richest of the rich. 

And especially for those of us who personally rely upon, or whose family members rely upon, Medicaid coverage: we must seize upon this gift of time to spread the word about how god-awful the GOP's bill truly is. This cruel legislation would punish and doom to a even earlier death the fully one-third of all Americans who receive Medicaid when they become underpaid, unemployed, sick, hurt, disabled, or old. In putting a cap on lifetime Medicaid benefits, the Republican legislation is a true stealth weapon of mass destruction.

The Democrats and the corporate media cannot, for the most part, be bothered to spread the word too thickly. They're too busy spreading, like unhealthy dollops of clotted cream, all the latest RussiaGate gossip and innuendo. They're too busy drumming up the paranoia, too busy softening up the American public for more war and more arms sales for them to get too mushy and soft-hearted about spreading the word that a Medicare for All plan would be both humane and cost-effective. And, incidentally, virtually repeal-proof, what with 100% of the population becoming contributing beneficiaries.

While McCain, who has a history of melanoma, is expected to stay out of Washington for at least a week, medical experts say his healing could take much longer. I would recommend just making it a whole recovery summer. If his fellow senators get too bored, they can always venture out to town halls to try and explain to their constituents that cruelty is freedom.

 Besides the irony of one legislator's personal illness getting in the way of his sadistic cohort depriving tens of millions of people from receiving care is the irony that this one particular senator never need worry about where the money will come from to pay deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses. He very likely will never even have to look at a hospital bill. His gold-plated congressional insurance will see to that.

Meanwhile, yet another study reveals that even under the selective benefits of the Affordable Care Act, the United States still has the worst health care among the 11 rich nations studied. It is also the only country in the study which lacks true universal coverage.

Regardless of your income and insurance, you will get the worst care and the worst access to care if you happen to live in the exceptional Land of the Free. While nearly half of low-income Americans complain of restricted access to care, even a surprising 26% of the well-to-do report having difficulty paying their uncovered medical expenses.

You read that right: a wealthy American has more trouble getting and paying for care than even the poorest Brit or Aussie. Even the affluent misanthropes who stand to benefit off the backs of the sick and poor if this bill is passed don't have it as good as they think they do, despite all the concierge medical services their money can buy.

The Commonwealth Fund study, aptly titled Mirror, Mirror 2017, found that although the US spent $9,364 per person on health care last year, the United Kingdom and its single payer National Health Service came in first in the survey - despite an expenditure of only $4,094 per person. The runners-up are Australia and the Netherlands.

In each of the categories studied, the US ranked dead last or near last, with the exception of better outcomes for its hospitalized heart attack and stroke patients. The failing categories include equity of care, administrative efficiency and outcomes, primary care affordability, and financial protections against destitution for citizens who get sick or hurt. 

America also does relatively well in doctor-patient relationships, end of life care, and survival rates for such diseases as breast cancer. It does poorly on infant mortality rates, and it has the lowest life expectancy of the 11 countries for citizens who reach the age of 60. 

The richest country on earth still has the highest rate of preventable deaths. America is indeed exceptional, the unfairest of them all.

*Update, July 18: Two more senators have joined the Clot Caucus, and ding dong, the bill is dead! Or is it? The late great George Romero, whose undead franchise is more alive than ever, might have a thing or two to say to all the revelers out there. As might the late great Mark Twain, who quipped that "the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated" after reading his own obituary in the newspaper.

To proclaim that the GOP's bill to destroy the health care of tens of millions is dead is about as premature as the late great Edgar Allan Poe's tale of the living burial. When plutocrats want something, or more aptly, when they demand everything, they don't give up. Otherwise, they wouldn't be plutocrats.

So read the fine print. The headline in today's New York Times, for example, merely notes that the two new Senatorial defections only "signal" the end of TrumpCare.

And then there were these ominous rumblings from the mythical "other side" of the Aisle of the Dead:
The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, responded to the announcement on Monday by urging his Republican colleagues to begin anew and, this time, undertake a bipartisan effort.
“This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable,” Mr. Schumer said. “Rather than repeating the same failed, partisan process yet again, Republicans should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system.”
Whenever you hear the words "bipartisan" and "long-term stability to the markets" uttered by a politician, you should brace yourself for the fortified oligarchic shock troops assembling for yet another awesome surge. They don't call Schumer the Senator of Wall Street for nothing. The day that he utters the phrase "Medicare for All" will be the day that his campaign war chest goes bare and his commanders quickly advise a permanent R&R and a brain scan. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Be They Ever So 'Umble

A Good Ole Pair of Bellicose Bipartisan Bros
At a folksy gala held at his Dallas shrine on Thursday, George W. Bush told Bill Clinton and a group of military, business and civic leaders that the most important quality America's chief executive can possess is humility.

Whereupon he bragged that his friendship with Clinton was "one of the most unique relationships and important relationships in US political history."

That'll sure teach Donald Trump, the obvious target of the virtue-signalling. Were it not for Bush having been so blessedly meek, the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent global refugee crisis might never even have happened. He would have been too busy stomping all over Al Gore and still bragging that he won the election six months into his administration. If he hadn't been so modestly clearing brush in Texas during the summer of 2001 rather than wallowing in Washington and insanely tweeting, he might have made the huge narcissistic mistake of heeding the written warning that America was in imminent danger of being attacked. He would thereby have allowed a huge crisis go to waste.

As it turned out, Nine Eleven was the gift that keeps on giving to the global oligarchy. If it weren't for George Bush discreetly doing his cowboy shtick when it counted the most, the lucrative War on Terror never would have been possible.

"I think it’s really important to know what you don’t know and listen to people who do know what you don’t know,” Bush modestly and incoherently burbled."The decisions you make have a monumental effect on people."

He is right, because his decisions continue to reverberate all over the globe. Even as he bonded with Bill in Dallas, 10 women and children died of dehydration in an Iraq detention camp for relatives of ISIS fighters. That, according to Iraq Body Count, brings Bush's monumental effects on the people in that country alone to a grand total of 268,000 corpses.

 Bill Clinton jovially agreed with his bro about the lingering effects which ex-presidents have. “You want to be able to say, ‘Things were better off when I quit, kids had a better future, things were coming together, You don’t want to say, ‘God, look at all the people I beat.’”

You want to be able to say, look at all the women we forced off welfare and sent to work at low-paying jobs with none of that subsidized child care we promised. Look at all the black dudes we sent to prison, beating previous incarceration records. Look at how we deregulated the banks that crashed the economy. Look at how we monumentally doubled extreme poverty in the United States. It sure beats bragging about all the crooked politicians you were able to beat!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

NYT Now Admits the RussiaGate Saga Is Harmful to Our Health

While Donald Junior's "scandal" is even eclipsing news of the crack-up of an entire continent, the supposedly moribund stealth care reform bill is thrashiing through Congress like a silent but deadly sidewinder rattlesnake.

Before millions of victims even know it, they'll have been bitten right in the ass, without recourse to the antitoxin which normally would be on standby from the first responders of the erstwhile Loyal Opposition (a/k/a the Democratic Party and their media sycophants.)

It seems that our legislators are just doing what they do best. They pick a time when people aren't paying attention, and then they ram their latest bolus of poison through our veins. What more exquisite "serious crisis" timing could there be than the smoking gun of Donald Junior's secret meet-up with a Russian femme fatale with a law degree? American oligarchs can't wait to sink their fangs into what is still left of the democratic body politic.

To his credit, New York Times columnist David Leonhardt has somewhat broken ranks and written a panicky piece entitled "Table Russia, Focus on Health Care" in today's edition. 

It seems that the Senate majority is trying a bait and switch that makes Don Junior's victimhood at the hands of a Russian lawyer promising Hillary Dirt look like he actually won the Super-Ball Lottery. That's because the so-called Cruz Amendment would allow insurance predators to sell policies as worthless as a degree from Trump University.... as long as they also pretend to balance their graft with just the tiniest bit of honesty. People aged between 50 and 65 would be forced to pay the highest prices for increasingly worthless coverage.

Leonhardt writes:
The next few days seem crucial. Senate Republicans are meeting today and plan to unveil their new bill. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has vowed to vote on a motion to proceed next week.
There is a risk that the Russia news, important though it is, will keep people from paying attention to what’s going on in the Senate. Millions of Americans’ access to decent health care is at stake.
Leonhardt issues his belated warning based upon a panicky email he received from a former Obama administration official. Since nowhere in his piece does he mention the verboten phrase "Single Payer Insurance" as an antidote to the reptilian malevolence, you have to wonder if what they're mainly worried about is that establishment Democrats, rather than the GOP, will end up getting blamed at the polls. Their obsessive-compulsive devotion to RussiaGate to the exclusion of the actual public interest will come with a cost.

Since establishment Democrats are demonstrating themselves to be so weak and panic-stricken, what better seriously critical time than right now to make them an offer they can't refuse? Support Medicare for All, right now, or go down in defeat in 2018. If, as they claim, health care is a universal human right, then it should not be O.K. to let tens of millions of American remain either totally uninsured, or so underinsured that they avoid going to the doctor and can still go bankrupt if they get sick or hurt.

Unity, schmunity.