Friday, June 29, 2018

Pigs, Hogs, and Suicide Nets

Donald Trump visited the site of the new Foxconn factory on Thursday, outlandishly praising the Taiwan-based electronics giant as "the eighth wonder of the world" and mouthing vague threats against Harley-Davidson, which has announced it will outsource more jobs to Europe as a result of the president's chaotic trade war tariffs.

"Don't get cute with us," sneered Trump in his best Tony Soprano imitation. He was, after all, speaking in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. A Harley factory which manufactures the iconic Hog motorcycles is located right nearby, so perhaps he fancied that his electronically-enhanced (by an addicted cable TV news conglomerate) voice traveled there by magic. Or maybe it was just by the usual osmotic method with which Trump seems to infiltrate our brains whether we like it or not.

I suspect Trump might be dumping all over Harley-Davidson simply because he knows he wouldn't look good posing on one. The Hog would be in danger of collapsing under the weight of the pig. This guy looked like he could barely even hoist a shovel for his Foxconn publicity stunt.

But perhaps that's mean of me. He could be dumping all over Harley because he is still obsessing over Hillary Clinton and free-associates the Hog with all that money she made on hog and cattle futures when she was first lady.

I also suspect that Trump is gushing all over the new Foxconn plant because, just like himself, it is foreign-owned and will be rewarded handsomely via billions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives, a/k/a corporate welfare.

I even suspect that, given that Foxconn became infamous for its installation of suicide nets for its Chinese wage slaves,Trump and his cronies might actually be betting on American suicide futures instead of Hog and hog futures.

As reported by The Guardian on a visit to one of Foxconn's notorious Chinese factories:
“It’s not a good place for human beings,” says one of the young men, who goes by the name Xu. He’d worked in Longhua for about a year, until a couple of months ago, and he says the conditions inside are as bad as ever. “There is no improvement since the media coverage,” Xu says. The work is very high pressure and he and his colleagues regularly logged 12-hour shifts. Management is both aggressive and duplicitous, publicly scolding workers for being too slow and making them promises they don’t keep, he says. His friend, who worked at the factory for two years and chooses to stay anonymous, says he was promised double pay for overtime hours but got only regular pay. They paint a bleak picture of a high-pressure working environment where exploitation is routine and where depression and suicide have become normalised.
“It wouldn’t be Foxconn without people dying,” Xu says. “Every year people kill themselves. They take it as a normal thing.”
Consider the fact that Wisconsin taxpayers will not see a dime of their forced investment in this plant for at least 25 years. Consider the fact that Foxconn promises to create 13,000 new jobs with bait-and-switch salaries of $50.000  being bandied about in the press releases. Consider the fact that suicide-by-gun in Wisconsin is far more common than in most states.

 Consider the fact that the vast majority of these deaths are of white rural males in the prime of their lives - men who have seen their jobs disappear, their lives and livelihoods ruined. Deaths from despair among struggling working class people are increasing all over Exceptional America at a shocking rate.

In 2016, 142,000 Americans died from drug and alcohol-induced fatalities and suicide, an average of one person every four minutes. The Centers for Disease Control notes that this represents an 11 percent increase from the previous year.

Trump is so depraved I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he cited this increase as more proof that America is winning under his reign. He really is that much of a stupid and cruel man. 

There is so much more oligarchic profit to be made by investing in cheap, flimsy made-in-America suicide nets than in strong social safety nets like Medicaid and food stamps. There's so much more fun and profit in private prison futures and the construction of "tender age" facilities for migrant child prisoners than in public education futures and standard subsidized child care.

Trump is a cruel and stupid and vicious man. He is also the very model of a major neoliberal, entirely emblematic of the democracy-destroying and soul-destroying hypercapitalism which rules the world. 

America is turning into our very own Foxconn factory. Depression, suicide, drug overdoses and gun massacres are becoming normalized. It's just not a very good place for human beings.


Full disclosure: I hoisted a hunk of this post from my published New York Times comment on Paul Krugman's Harley-Davidson column. I am not one of those sticklers who avoids self-plagiarism like the plague. I am simply lazy sometimes, and as far as I know, there is no such thing as unremunerated theft of one's own profitless intellectual property, even though my comment apparently became the legal property of the Times Company the minute I submitted it. If the Times were Trump, they'd probably already be in court. But since they are certainly striving mightily to distance themselves from Trump even as they breathlessly gift him with every last pixel of the constant publicity he craves, I don't think I have much to worry about in the frivolous lawsuit department.  

I bring plagiarism up only because I noticed that one of the most highly recommended comments on the Krugman column got briefly called out as an unattributed copy/paste of a news article about Trump-supporting Harley employees. Both the "reader reply" politely calling the commenter out and the apologetic response from the original called-out commenter have since disappeared from the thread. The original plagiarized comment has, however, been allowed to stand by the moderators. Maybe the Times's avowed standards and practices as pertain to originality do not apply to the unpaid back-benchers. Or maybe the paper thinks that what it can hide from readers won't hurt them, and concurrently, that even plagiarized comments are fine as long as they are solidly both anti-Trump and anti-Trump supporter.

Maybe I'm making a mountain out of a mole-hill, or more accurately, out of the teeming ant-hill that is the typical major newspaper online comments section, but plagiarism has always been one of my biggest pet peeves. 

I'm not naming this commenter because I think he got the message, plus he did graciously own up to his faux pas. 

As far as the Times goes, meanwhile, do they ever own up to anything?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Sarah Sanders's Mendacity Is Now Weaponized

Those incipient flash mobs champing at the bit to heckle White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders some more and call out her serial mendacity should maybe consider investing in some bullet-proof vests. That's because she'll be getting her own Secret Service detail, beginning as early as today.

According to CNN, 
The Secret Service declined to comment, telling CNN: "For operational security purposes the Secret Service does not comment on its protective operations."
The news comes days after Sanders was asked to leave a small Lexington, Virginia, restaurant because of her role with the Trump administration, a move that has since sparked a national conversation on civility and public service in the age of Trump.
NBC News first reported that Sanders would begin receiving protection.
Sanders did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
It was Sarah Sanders herself who couldn't wait to comment to the whole world, via Twitter, that she had been denied service. She even broke the law by using her official public position to air a private grievance. But instigation is what she does. It runs in the family.

So from now on, whenever Sarah and her family travel to an entertainment venue, men with guns will case the joint and make sure that there are no protesters or other foreign people lingering on the premises before she proceeds to indulge her appetites.

There is still no word whether the men with guns will also accompany her to her White House press briefings, where she has been assailed more than usual lately because of her serial lies and defense of her boss's corruption and inhumane policies.

Not that the press corps are that particularly adept at afflicting her, of course. They've been too used to groveling before power for too many years. Sarah is as serene as stone as the reporters ratchet it up for the cameras.

For her own part, Sarah Sanders is every inch the Nurse Ratched character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  Her job is not to impart information and help, but to scold the inmates for selfishly wanting their five minutes of TV time and asking annoying questions which always veer off her chosen Trump-glorifying topic for that day's group session.

Granted, her stony stern visage does occasionally crack into something resembling a smile. But I can't figure out if it's a grimace or a rictus... or maybe it's nothing more than horrible postpriandial gas pains competing with the verbal effluent as, more often than not, she eats the press for dessert.

But usually it's more like this, the sociopathic version of an RBF:

Medication Time, Gentlemen

This daily afternoon soap opera starring the chief White House propagandist and a revolving cast of caged corporate media personalities and stenographers  (with the occasional rare walk-on by an actual journalist), thus becomes the Real Story. The inmates of the press room huddle together in the Occupational Therapy corner after each session to rehash the rudeness and the latest lies and personal insults that the starchy gatekeeper with the pearls has just imparted. Viewers and fans just can't help but feel the pain and the outrage.

 But now that there will be orderlies with guns at Sarah's side at all times, the standard shock treatments which this presidency administers on a near-constant basis should probably be the least of our worries.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Pitchforks In the Service of Plutocracy

 (updated below)

"My administration is the only thing standing between you and the pitchforks," Barack Obama reassured a group of nervous tycoons in 2009, when the government bailouts of Wall Street were eliciting a tsunami of popular outrage.

Absent a new New Deal and absent any prosecution of said Wall Street bankers, that outrage soon evolved into the Tea Party movement on the right, the ephemeral Occupy movement on the left, and the virtual canonization, via slick corporate media propaganda, of Barack Obama himself as combination martyr, philosopher-king and rock star.

People were carefully taught to despise and fear one another, rather than aim their ire properly at the runaway capitalism that got us all into such a mess in the first place. Home foreclosures, many of them fraudulent, skyrocketed. We were told it wasn't the bankers' fault, but the fault of all those irresponsible people who took on debt they couldn't afford.

 If people didn't lose their jobs outright, often never to work again, their wages stagnated even as the richest Americans sucked back more than 94% of the wealth "lost" due to Wall Street shenanigans and unprosecuted crimes. People were told by one party that their lack of work was due to migrants stealing all the jobs, and by the other party that they had a "skills gap," and needed just a bit more education in order to become the entrepreneurs of their own lives.

People were urged to join the Republicans if they blamed the first African-American "food stamp president" for their troubles. People were urged to join the Democrats to show their love for our first African-American president and to hope for a better life tomorrow.

 Republican leaders, meanwhile, showed their own perverted love for corporations and billionaires. Democratic leaders, despite their own fealty to corporations and billionaires, also graciously expanded their love for the top 10 percent of wealth-holders. They preached to the bottom 90 percent that with enough hard work and grit and education, they too could reach the ranks of the top 10 percent. And if they could not, then their special "identities" would carry them through. If they weren't to be paid a living wage, then at least their identity labels would be recognized and respected. 

It was a dog-eat-dog world then, and it's a dog-eat-dog world now. Competition, not cooperation, is "who we are" in America. That's been true for the past 240 years.  

And ten years after the financial bailouts and the greatest concentration of wealth placed in the fewest hands since the last Gilded Age, people are trapped inside two political parties. There's a civil war brewing. The disposable troops are the hapless draftees of the Duopoly, fighting one another for neither monetary nor spiritual benefit. People are punching down and across, instead of up at the top, where the real culprits and the true enemies are.

"Let them eat resentment!" has long been the unspoken motto of phony Republican populists, riling up the masses in service of the elites.

"Let them eat Trump for breakfast!' has replaced the insipid "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" and "when they go low, we go high" platitudes of the corporate Democrats as they rile up the mere aspirants to the upper middle class, and celebrities raise their own social media profiles by appearing at party-sanctioned protest photo-ops.

Going high by espousing policies for the greater good, such as single-payer health care and debt-free education, is simply not an option for professional liberals as they approach yet another lackluster midterm election season. #RussiaGate simply isn't selling any more. But Latino kids getting ripped away from their parents certainly is, all of a sudden, after Latino families getting ripped apart by harsh immigration enforcement for two terms of Obama went virtually ignored.

The enemy is Trump, and nothing but the Trump. And, of course, all his minions.

As I suspected, the corporate media's coverage of the Poor People's Campaign rally in Washington over the weekend turned out to be scanty to nil. Exceptions were the Washington Post and NBC.

When I clicked on the HuffPo this morning, I was momentarily heartened by an oversize photo of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) raising her fist in the air and firing up an angry progressive crowd.

Unfortunately, the venue was not the Poor People's rally for social and economic justice. It was right in the celebrity heart of LaLa Land. And the ominous headline was a very Trump-like incitement to violence. "Waters Storms: Trump Admin. Not Welcome Anywhere!"

She was referring to recent events at Washington-area restaurants, where Trump officials were either hounded off the premises by activists, or formally asked to leave, as happened to Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and members of her family over the weekend. 
(Waters) warned members of Donald Trump’s cabinet to be prepared for a slew of outraged heckling and public shaming on the streets and in restaurants and stores if they continue to support the president’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy on undocumented immigrants.
“You think we’re rallying now? You ain’t seen nothing yet,” she vowed at an enthusiastic Los Angeles rally Saturday. “Already you have members of your cabinet that are being booed out of restaurants ... protesters taking up at their house saying ‘no peace, no sleep.’”
Waters is giving Trump exactly what he wants. She is feeding his administration's bunker mentality with manna from heaven. And if somebody in his cabinet gets hurt, all the better for him. The sense of mutual persecution which he engenders in his supporters will rise right along with his already-rising poll numbers.

At the risk of being accused of the dreaded "what about-ism," I wonder where Waters was when Obama's ICE and Homeland Security thugs were rounding up undocumented immigrants and deporting record numbers of them. Luckily for her and most of her fellow Democrats, Obama wasn't tweeting out incendiary messages calling them "animals" and "invaders" who don't even deserve due process rights.  Obama made it easier for both liberals and conservatives by simply calling the parents of unaccompanied minor refugees "irresponsible," with his only lofty goal being to send them a stern paternal message from the soft bottom of his heart. He also had a good relationship with Mexico, and very quietly sent Joe Biden to broker a deal for the detention and expulsion - and often imprisonment and torture - in that country, long before Central Americans ever got the chance to reach the United States border. He also bribed offered financial aid to the often corrupt governments of the refugees' countries of origin in exchange for their discouraging potential border-crossers by any means necessary.

In other words, Obama partially outsourced this country's longstanding policy of cruelty to refugees the same way he outsourced to foreign black site prisons the CIA torture he pretended to ban soon after he took his oath of office. 

Much is being made of Trump's weekend tweet calling for an end to due process rights for migrants. But little was made of the Congressional Research Team's 2014 report that the US appropriated more than $100 million to the Mexican government for the purchase of such inhumane anti-immigration enforcement tools as canine teams and electric prods. 

The New York Times, which actually once did quite an admirable job criticizing Obama's harsh immigration policies - including the odious "Secure Communities" dragnet he set up during his first term - has seemingly completely forgotten all about that legacy as it goes about the business of manufacturing anti-Trump outrage in its liberal readership. According to an editorial published on Saturday, the caging of migrants was a magical leap straight from George W. Bush to Donald J. Trump, with nary a Barack Obama in sight, other than his laudable executive order protecting the "Dreamers."

Still, as the editorial correctly notes, Obama actually got a huge break from Republicans when they falsely accused him of being soft on illegal immigration.
Party leaders fanned those flames, accusing Mr. Obama of being imperious and “lawless.” In one bit of twisted logic, Mr. Boehner argued that the House couldn’t possibly take up reform legislation because it couldn’t trust Mr. Obama to carry out said legislation. Thus, the battle lines continued to harden.
Nothing allows unfettered capitalism to continue ruling and ruining the world like accusing a true champion of the free market like Barack Obama of being a Marxist peacenik. It sent, and continues to send, millions of good-thinking liberals straight to his defense. The nostalgia craze for Obama and his no-drama, intellectual, "scandal-free" regime has become something of a cult in its own right. 
My (not highly recommended) published response to the Times editorial:
 I was just re-reading some of the NYT's brave editorials (here, here, here) lambasting President Obama's cruel immigration policies, including the Secure Communities initiative which ended up deporting more immigrants than in all previous administrations combined. The reader comments were quite revealing, with the most popular coming from the pro-deportation crowd.

But there was a resistance movement back then, too, especially during his first term. Democratic mayors refused to comply with a directive ostensibly designed to cull "dangerous criminals" and kick them out of the country. The vast majority of deportees caught in the ICE dragnet turned out be upstanding people who'd lived in the US for many years. This was a cruel policy that also ripped families apart.

So I guess it's testament to the divisive politics in the Age of Trump that the editorial board would now opt to completely gloss over this stain on the Obama legacy. To his credit, he did eventually soften his stance and give respite to the "Dreamers" - but only after political pressure from activists and civil rights groups forced him to do the right thing, both morally and in the interests of his party.

So there's that one silver lining to Trump's cruelty. It's making people mad as hell. Polls now show that 75% of the population is against his own "zero tolerance" policy. 
 Do we care? Of course we do. And let's hope that we keep caring, and fighting injustice regardless whether the Dems win back power this year and in 2020.
Update, 6/26: Meanwhile, the corporate Democrats have designated Maxine Waters the "bad cop" for her calls for direct civic action against the Trumpies. The view of party elders, like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, is that the goading of public officials in public places of food and entertainment will have an adverse effect for liberals at the polls. The elders have therefore "distanced" themselves from Waters's rhetoric. Pitchforks, even if wielded in the ultimate service of plutocracy, have a way of getting out of control and extending themselves to... oh, I don't know... complicit Democrats who have no qualms about gifting the dreaded Trump with billions of dollars in war paraphernalia and personnel?

Maxine Waters did not directly call for violence, of course. But the HuffPo and other organs of professional "resistance" made that goal implicit in their banner headlines, in my humble opinion.

So the question we have to ask is this: what if the public shaming of the Trumpies is so successful that they actually quit their jobs and leave Washington forever? It's who we replace them with that should concern us.

Not one of the Democratic elders who are complaining about Maxine Waters's call to action have given even the slightest lip service to the civil disobedience and nationwide arrests of members of the Poor People's Campaign. Not even Maxine Waters is giving lip service to the Poor People's Campaign. 

Poverty is simply not a part of the official narrative.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Putting a Progressive Gloss on Neoliberalism

Former Clinton campaign aide and Obama/Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan has a piece up in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas explaining how the centrist Democrats have finally seen the light that their centrist message is not a big hit with voters.  

But try as he might, he just can't hide the bait-and-switch behind a hodgepodge of progressive rhetoric. The fraud of replacing the conservative "New Democrats" with the brand new "New Old Democrats." is exposed right at the start of his piece -- which, as the editors helpfully inform the time-pressed among us, is a "41-minute read."

So after approximately a one-minute read comes this disclaimer about why the New Dems have been acting more like Old Republicans for about the last trillion minutes:
 It turned out to be a 30-year tide, one that shifted the center of political gravity dramatically. From Ronald Reagan’s “[t]he most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” to Bill Clinton’s “[the] era of big government is over,” all the way through the 2012 election, a new consensus shaped by Reagan prevailed. Democratic presidents, Clinton and Barack Obama, surely advocated for and pursued progressive policies, but within limits defined for them, forced to trim their ambition compared with the Great Society and New Deal eras. Republican presidents, meanwhile, aggressively dismantled the progressive scaffolding of those earlier periods. Along the way, economic inequality skyrocketed—and America’s middle class kept losing ground.
If Sullivan right off the bat refuses to take ownership of the Democratic Party's policies and decisions, you can pretty much rest assured that the next 40 minutes will be a slog of blame-gaming, revisionist history and gaslighting. He deprives both Clinton and Obama of any personal agency at all. They were "forced" by those nasty old right-wingers like Pat Buchanan to "trim their ambitions" according to the limits defined for them and not by them. 

At least Sullivan doesn't tack on the standard apologists' trope that "the progressives/left let them down." 

But thankfully, that fickle liberal public is now finally waking up and believing that government can and should make people's lives better.  It's just too bad that the simultaneous epiphany of Jake and his fellow New Old Dems is being so drowned out by the fickle media's addiction to Donald Trump's tweets.

And, Sullivan continues, the media shouldn't really be fretting that the Party is moving too far left, particularly in the direction of de facto Old Dem Bernie Sanders - who, by the way, is as dotty and detail-free as he ever was. That's because you can be a corporate centrist and a progressive at the very same time! Or more accurately, you should be able to sell voters on the notion that you can serve corporations and struggling people at the very same time.

But back to Jake Sullivan's personal epiphany about the pressing need to change, not the actual plutocrat-serving policies of the New Old New Dems, but the message they are selling to voters:
I am obviously not the first person to see these trends or make these points. Others have been advancing this case for a while now. In fact, I have to confess that I did not fully appreciate the need for a more dramatic rethink at the start of the 2016 campaign. I was Hillary Clinton’s senior policy adviser, responsible for developing and rolling out proposals on everything from tax policy to bank regulation. But before that, I was a child of the 1980s and 1990s, steeped in the centrist politics of the era. And I had spent the years leading up to the campaign working on foreign policy, traveling the world and learning what was happening “over there” instead of coming to terms with what was going on back here.
That was the apology to Hillary Clinton that all her minions have been issuing in print lately. Jake was in such a Reagan bubble and flitting around the world so much that he was incapable of bursting the Reagan bubble that Hillary herself was helplessly trapped in. Jake let Hillary down, big-time, and now he's reinventing himself as the Great Progressive New Old Dem Hope. He repeats himself, just in case Hillary did not get the message the first time:
 This is not to rebuke the New Democrats of the 1990s. For one thing, the Clinton years, while imperfect, produced greater growth and fairness—with rising wages across the board and particularly strong gains for disadvantaged groups–than anything we’ve seen since. For another, the political constraints of the time were real. Bill Clinton came into office with a big, bold agenda, but the defeat of his health-care plan (remember Hillarycare?) and the walloping he took at the ballot box in the 1994 midterm elections forced him to dial back his ambition and seek more incremental progress where he could find openings.
Sullivan omits the fact that the booming economy of the Clinton years was largely the result of a bubble engendered by an orgy of deregulation: the repeal of Glass-Steagall banking regulations and the passage of telecommunications legislation which enabled the consolidation of the mass media into five or six giant corporate entities. He fails to mention the record poverty soon to become apparent thanks to the 1996 repeal of FDR's Aid to Families With Dependent Children. And he fails to mention that one reason "Hillarycare" failed was not so much the result of those "Harry and Louise" TV ads, but because Hillary refused any outside input from advocates of single payer health care. Its failure was more the result of bickering between the giant insurance companies and smaller insurance companies and her stubborn penchant for secrecy.

But never mind all that stuff he never even mentioned, Sullivan soothes. Because "we're in a different moment now" and have always to look forward, not backward. Sure, Hillary was wrong to denigrate Bernie Sanders as too pie-in-the-sky. But she was wrong only in her choice of denigrating words, not in the substance of her critique:
 He was offering prescriptions for the world as it once was, not the world as it is and will be. His worldview was rooted in the 1970s; he had little to say on the changing nature of work, the changing character of American families, or the enduring realities of globalization. (For example, his agenda lacked clear plans for dealing with workers in irregular employment relationships, or those dislocated by technological change.)
I must have read that paragraph ten times (adding many wasted minutes to my 41-minute allotment)  and I still couldn't understand what it meant. It finally dawned on me. It doesn't mean anything at all. It simply conveys the same old denigrating message that Bernie is a doddering old dinosaur who wouldn't know a real family if one smacked him in the face. He is so, like,'pre-Reagan 70s and doesn't understand that globalization is a natural phenomenon and, just like the weather, beyond the control of the neoliberal politicians like the Clintons who gladly helped finish what Reagan started.

But my time's a wastin' and so is yours, so I'll skip the fluffy filler and go straight to Sullivan's Platform for the New Old Democrats:
Recognize that the "future of work" is actually "the present of work." (Since it's already a gig economy right this very minute, we have to discuss things like buying into Medicare -- rather than, say, demand single payer coverage for everybody regardless of their employment status. Apparently forgetting that he'd just criticized Bernie for his lack of details, Sullivan writes about worker rights: "If we start from this basic premise ('the future is here') we can figure out the details so we can both promote innovation (my bold) and protect workers."

(This is the same old neoliberal centrism. "Innovation" is code for the profits of big business, which must be protected with the same old enthusiasm causing the increasing stagnation of wages over the past 40 years. Sullivan just cannot quit being a New Dem.)

 The roles and responsibilities of families have changed... People aren’t looking for handouts. These are working adults looking for a fair deal for their participation in the workforce. Hillary raised these challenges incessantly in her speeches, but they didn’t count as part of an “economic message,” because they were seen as soft “family” issues. They’re not. They are core economic issues. 

(Therefore, what families need are not single payer health care or subsidized  child care, but rather just a little "help" paying for these exorbitant costs out of their own pockets. This is Classic Neoliberalism 101. There will be no end to the privatization of everything and everything for a profit.)

 Recognize the service sector.

This is another way of suggesting that the Old New Dems should give up on the stereotypical male Trump voter, forget the factory workers and the steel workers, and concentrate on working class women, like home health aides. He writes, "So Democrats need to develop a story and a strategy for ensuring that workers in the caring economy, the services economy, and the value-added manufacturing economy receive not just a decent income and stronger benefits, but also dignity and respect along the way. I confess I don’t have the answers for how exactly to make this happen, but I do know that we should elevate these questions in the national policy dialogue."

(He just gave away the con, again. Before these workers get their fair wages and health care, the New Old Dems have to spin them a yarn because of course he doesn't have any actual answers for them. I suspect he doesn't imagine any of these overworked servants/ listeners are reading his piece in "Democracy" - a concept which does not seem to apply to actual people any more. But hey, as long as actual people get some "recognition" then what more do they want from the Newbie Oldies?)

  Education, education, education!

The emphasis should therefore shift away from degrees and diplomas and toward skills and credentials. Instead of prioritizing “free college,” we should prioritize debt-free lifelong learning: Every American willing to meet basic requirements should be able to find a training opportunity, at any stage of their lives, that provides them with job-relevant skills at a cost they can (truly) afford, and a job on the other end. This approach will both assure the ongoing vitality of middle class families and their children, and also provide new pathways for children of poverty to enter the middle class.

How many neoliberalisms can you count in just that one paragraph? You have exactly two minutes, and the clock is running right now! So I'll just give you a time-saving synopsis of what Sullivan is actually saying:
People are mainly stupid compared to us Old New Old Dems, so keep learning your whole life until you drop dead. Don't expect any help in meeting those basic requirements and always strive for a job that you can afford and never expect your boss to be able to afford you. Because that's not how it works in the Now-Future. Of course, the life-goal of every poor person is not to eat or find shelter, but to "seek a path to the middle class." Thankfully, though, Sullivan has replaced those rickety "ladders of opportunity" offered by the New Dems to the "launchpads of opportunity" now being sold for a very limited time by the New Oldies But Moldies.
Phew! I'm sorry to say that having gone way beyond my allotted 41 minutes, I  was unable to launch myself to the blissful end of this piece and sadly did not achieve full neoliberal Nirvana. But if you follow the helpful link in the first sentence of this much briefer synopsis, then you too can have the opportunity to get access to every golden word, regardless of your level of wonkiness or lack thereof.

Good luck, and have a great sardonic weekend.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

NY Times Claims Cash For Poor People Is "Unpopular"

The Gray Lady might be ostentatiously clutching her pearls over Donald Trump's anti-social treatment of migrants and refugee children, but that doesn't mean its sympathy for the downtrodden is universal.

On the contrary. In a well-buried (Page A17) article outlining Trump's latest plans to demonize and punish the poor by labeling nearly all social safety net and entitlement programs with the dog-whistle "welfare," the Times explains:
The plan, which will most likely face significant opposition in Congress from Democrats and some Republicans, includes relocating many social safety net programs into a new megadepartment, which would replace the Department of Health and Human Services and possibly include the word “welfare” in its title.
Mr. Trump and his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, the architect of the plan, have sought to redefine as welfare subsistence benefit programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and housing aid. It is part of a rebranding effort, championed by conservative think tanks and House Republicans, to link them to unpopular direct-cash assistance programs that have traditionally been called welfare. (my bold.)
Unpopular with whom? The Times doesn't say. But the implication is that everybody - the dwindling number of people receiving the paltry stipends and people who heartily resent those receiving paltry stipends - are just as disgusted as the conservative politicians and the real welfare kings and queens of America: the billionaires and the corporations.

 Nor does the newspaper explain that, thanks to Bill Clinton's cruel "reform" of welfare in 1996 and the discontinuation of long-term direct cash aid to the poor, giving money directly to families is nothing but a misty memory of the New Deal anyway.

FDR's Aid to Families With Dependent Children was replaced with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grants. Since this program limits cash aid to two years and imposes job requirements upon poor mothers with few or no child care subsidies, perhaps the Times meant to say that it's the mechanics of this meager substitute, which has actually plunged millions of people into extreme poverty since its inception, that is so unpopular with beneficiaries. The hoops that must be jumped through and the paperwork that is commonly lost before those temporary checks ever come trickling in is a feature, not a bug, of TANF. The mental aggravation and shame it engenders might actually be called an "unpopular" impediment to those thinking of applying for help.

As reported by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, in fact, less than one-fourth of all qualifying poor people eligible for TANF ever get benefits. This is down from the 68% of eligible people who signed up for aid in 1997.
Decreased access to TANF benefits has left the poorest families without resources needed to meet their basic needs.  TANF’s predecessor, AFDC, played a significant role in reaching families, particularly those with children and those in deep poverty.  TANF has failed to maintain that standard.  TANF benefits are not sufficient to lift families out of poverty in any state,[9] and TANF does far less than AFDC did to lift families out of deep poverty.  While AFDC lifted more than 2.5 million children out of deep poverty in 1995, TANF lifted only 420,000 children out of deep poverty in 2014. (See Figure 4.)  In 1995, only three states had more families living in deep poverty than receiving AFDC.  By 2016, the vast majority of states had more families living in deep poverty than receiving TANF.  
Under TANF, the poorest families have become worse off.  In the decade after TANF’s creation, average incomes fell by 18 percent among the poorest children in single-mother families, reflecting a large drop in the receipt of cash assistance.  These families recouped some of these losses after 2005 due to expansions of SNAP, while their average income from TANF benefits continued to decline during the Great Recession.  Still, between 2005 and 2012, these single-mother families lost further ground.

Figure 4
TANF Lifts Many Fewer Children out of Deep Poverty Than AFDC Did

Meanwhile, the Times article continues, the consolidation of the remaining New Deal and Great Society programs into one super-agency under the authoritarian directorship of one bureaucrat will make them that much easier to cut, if not abolish outright.
“They have been using the word welfare because it is pejorative,” said Elaine Waxman, a senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. “The programs you can call welfare are actually very small in comparison to SNAP, which is an income support necessary to help families, workers and millions of kids.”
I think, especially in light of the recent border atrocities, we all should realize by now the value that our political system places on families and children. While the Republicans are viciously punishing people, the Democrats feebly promise to "invest" in them as long as they stay in school, work hard, and play by all the cutthroat rules of the relay race we call Life.

In other words, neoliberal capitalism kills, and it kills absolutely. 

Rebranding programs which help children, the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly along with millions of working poor people struggling to get by on stagnant wages as "welfare" would presumably be greeted with wide public support, by both liberals and conservatives, educated and uneducated alike. This is because most polling is slanted toward the interests of the rich.

For example, one recent Los Angeles Times survey about public attitudes toward government aid to the poor was conducted with funding from the arch-conservative American Enterprise Institute. Is it any surprise that respondents answered the questions in the manner most pleasing to the oligarchs paying for the "research?" For example, most of the thousand or so people contacted agreed that government "welfare" has failed to bring people out of poverty.

Ominously, therefore, slapping the welfare label on workers who qualify for Medicaid and food stamps, despite earning above the official ridiculous $24,000 cutoff of the poverty line for a family of four, might make it easier to demonize whole new swaths and new generations of struggling Americans living paycheck to paycheck.

Extra cash money for the poor and near-poor? According to the Times, this is such an unpopular concept that it doesn't even bear discussion, let alone pride of place on the front page alongside Trump's much more important, outrage-engendering tweets and his exciting fascist rallies.

 Nor has there been any prominent coverage of this weekend's Poor People's Campaign march on Washington for social and economic justice and an end to endless wars and militarism. Maybe that is because the corporate sponsors of our corporate media don't consider tens or hundreds of thousands of poor people taking matters into their own hands and taking to the streets to be all that "popular," either. The last thing they want is for too many voters to start adding the word "poor" to the prescribed list of political identities.

They'd prefer you just identified as a person who aspires to join the ephemeral middle class and whose only civic duty is to vote every two or four years.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Family That's Jailed Together Stays Together

The nation got a rare peek Wednesday at a softer side of Donald Trump's cruelty. Bowing to pressure from the brand damage being inflicted upon daughter Ivanka by thousands if state-kidnapped and imprisoned migrant children, he reversed a decision he'd again denied making only that morning.

The corporate media shockingly had begun doing some actual reporting for a change, diverting the public's attention away from the president's daily tweet-storm and creating a perfect unified storm of public outrage at Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. 

 Ivanka saw the pictures of the crying children, and she showed the pictures to Daddy, no doubt tearfully informing Daddy that her carefully honed image as DOTUS (daughter of the United States) was being badly, if not fatally, tarnished. Ditto for wife Melania, whose own "Be Best!" public relations gimmick aimed at children's self-esteem was also effectively doomed to fail, given that every future photo op of her interacting in pediatric hospital wards was bound to be juxtaposed with images of children housed in cages at her husband's specific order.

Happy wife, happy life -- so Donald didn't have to think twice about reversing himself. To show what a nice paternal president he is, he's even reverting to the hokey Dad policies of his pretend-nemesis, Barack Obama, and ordering more "family detention centers" to be built to answer the xenophobic demand for mass incarceration of refugees and asylum seekers.

It'll be interesting to see whether there will be a reprise of the famous "Rachel Wept" episode on MSNBC or if the corporate media will document every mother-child reunion occurring behind barbed wire fences, or whether rich celebrities will continue tweeting how sad they feel and how big the checks they're mailing are. Or, will the media revert to type and go back to harping on RussiaRussiaRussia and the brand damage that Trump is doing to America's pristine image as the preeminent political crises of our times?

My hope, if I may be so bold as to harbor one, is an echo of what I wrote earlier this week: that, as a result of this great national awakening to America's state-sanctioned cruelty, the media will cover other stories about oppressed people, such as the Yemenis now being starved to death with the help of the American military and intelligence personnel and billions of dollars in American weapons sales.

Can the media quit their unhealthy addiction to palace intrigues and their relentless pseudo-shock over Trump's narcissistic personality disorder even at this late stage of capitalistic world rule?

We'll see if there's as much coverage of this weekend's Poor People's March on Washington as there is Trump's latest tweets or the Democratic Party-controlled Women's March Against Trump. After all, the feckless Democrats never met a humanitarian crisis or a rag-tag protest movement the party couldn't co-opt -- until such time, that is, as all the liberal candidates are safely re-elected and all the selective outrage can be safely contained.

With so-called moderate Republicans abandoning the GOP for the Democrats in droves, or at least pretending to quit on TV, it is at least more apparent that the Duopoly is exactly as Upton Sinclair described it: one bird of prey with two right wings. The Republican wing, currently befouled with the predator's own crap, is not flying much at all these days. For its part, the Democratic wing is much too weighed down with corporate money to do much more than beat frantically, keeping time with the usual bipartisan preening and scolding and screeching. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

The United States of Child Abuse

At this point it doesn't matter what might be the self-interested motives of the politicians who staged Father's Day protests at the immigration prison in New Jersey and at the pediatric gulags in Texas. They're shining the national spotlight on the latest example of state-sanctioned cruelty.

As much as we might like to turn away, we cannot. When even Laura Bush, wife of war criminal Dubya, is compelled to speak out against the Trump policy of forcibly removing an estimated 2,000 children from their asylum-seeking parents, the teflon coating of the president who once boasted he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it is starting to lose its nonstick sheen, even among some of his erstwhile tacit supporters in the Grand Guignol Party.

Whether Donald Trump diverts from type and bows to public pressure for one of the few times in his life remains to be seen. But ominously, his base of supporters which agrees with everything he does is growing, and  emboldened by the rhetoric of their leader. Trump's approval rating has now reached the 40 percent danger zone.

So just because the lead human rights official at the United Nations is condemning Trump's actions in no uncertain terms as state-sanctioned child abuse doesn't mean he will have any influence on the regime's draconian policy. After all, Congress refused only a couple of years ago, and not for the first time, to ratify the International Rights of the Child treaty.  The United States is the only country which has officially given the giant middle finger to children, now that even the autocratic regimes of South Sudan and Somalia have become signatories to the treaty.

Trump is no outlier. He is only the latest and the loudest manifestation of the right wing core of Exceptional America.

Children as young as five or six years old were already getting hauled out of their American classrooms in handcuffs long before Trump decided that jailing the "illegal" ones should be the next logical step in the march of cruelty. As the American Civil Liberties Union reports, children are treated as adults in the criminal courts of 14 states. 
 The United States remains the only country in the world to sentence children to life in prison without the possibility of parole, a severe punishment that is categorically prohibited under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. While in recent years the U.S. Supreme Court has limited the application of this life and death sentence to children, around 2,500 people are currently serving this sentence for crimes they were involved in years ago as children.
So that the corporate media are now focused, en masse, on the abuses and deadly antics of the aptly named ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is really quite remarkable after years of relative avoidance of the issue during the Bush and Obama administrations. Trump, for his part, is no doubt cynically using the child arrests to pressure Congress into allocating him the funds for his precious Wall. And given that this is a midterms election year, he might well succeed in forcing the wishy-washy congress critters to finally pass an immigration reform package, including making permanent the Dream Act.

Meanwhile, here's my New York Times comment to Charles Blow's column
about the individual human beings who are being tragically swept up by the Icemen of Trumpistan: 
Only a few weeks elapsed between Trump calling them "animals" and treating them like animals, yanking kids from parents and jailing them. He literally views refugees as less than human.

His flacks' pleading that they're only following the law hearkens back to the fascist regimes of the last century.

That excuse didn't fly at the Nuremberg trials and it shouldn't fly here, either... although the US has carefully exempted itself from international human rights statutes.

US leaders have never held the family in highest regard. While the entire nation is rightly aghast at what's happening in our own back yard, should we really be shocked?

The Trump regime is also now assisting Saudi Arabia in a genocide in Yemen, attacking and isolating the only port of entry for food shipments.

Here at home, one in three black American males is imprisoned at some point in his life, a de facto policy which also serves to rip families apart. We have more prisons and lock up more people than any country on earth.
We have more guns than any other place on earth.
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas have certainly learned the hard way that US leaders don't care a whit about families - unless they're dynasties and billionaires.
It's the all-American norm of state-sanctioned violence with cynical thoughts and prayers, blame and excuses, whenever cruel policies have "shocking" consequences.
So little time, so much to protest against. Let's all wake up, and stay awake this time.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Pre-Existing Conditions

As pathological as it is, the current Trump administration is not operating in a vacuum. Its policies on war, institutional racism, and robbing the poor to reward the rich are part of the grand old capitalistic traditions of slavery, neocolonialism, neoconservatism and neoliberalism.

As I've written many times before, Trump and his cronies are just more upfront about braying out the hatred that the ruling class harbors against the rest of us. They take bad pre-existing things and they make them much, more worse.

Take their latest stunt of ripping immigrant children away from their parents at the border and incarcerating them in an abandoned South Texas Walmart warehouse. Since this facility is already overcrowded to bursting thanks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions's unilateral decision that domestic and gang violence are no longer grounds for getting refugee status, the Trumpies are busily planning tent cities to house the children as they await their unilateral deportation orders from overworked immigration rubber-stampers judges.

Don't get me wrong. It's great that liberals and even conservatives from both corporate parties are raising a ruckus about this cruelty. But where were they a couple of years ago when the Obama administration threatened to seize the children incarcerated at the Berks (Pennsylvania) Family Detention Center because their mothers were staging a hunger strike to protest the abysmal living conditions and the lack of due process? Either the women ate or they would lose their kids. So they chose to eat. Thus was the last ounce of personal agency they possessed to fight the system taken away from them. The system crushed them.

The White House press corps certainly did not appeal to Obama flack Josh Earnest's parental status to express their outrage over that particular atrocity.  Then again, Earnest didn't pull a grotesque Sarah Sanders and fall back on the Bible to explain how any cruelty can be legalized. (see: torture, capital punishment, forced feeding and solitary confinement.)

Now, to be fair, it's not that the public or the press never cared about the plight of "illegal" immigrants in this country. As recently as Memorial Day 2014, the residents of Murrieta, California turned out en mass to protest the housing of refugees in a warehouse. But there was a catch: they weren't angry because the newcomers were about to be locked up in a pre-deportation "processing center". The townsfolk were mad because they didn't want the immigrants in their town, period. They forced the Homeland Security buses filled with refugees to turn back at the town line.

Plus, in that particular well-publicized incident, the ensuing national liberal backlash was aimed not so much at Obama's cruel immigration policies, but against the conservative residents of Murrieta -- who, Trump-like, distastefully wore their xenophobia right on their sleeves.

To their credit, the corporate media are now in the forefront of protesting the Trump version of cruelty toward immigrants and refugees. The New York Times published a righteous editorial instructing readers how to "fight back" -- by calling their congress critters and joining protest marches and writing a check. Oh, and by the way, be sure to vote in those righteous Democrats in November. Because unlike the Republicans, they suddenly care so very, very deeply about refugees and immigrants. 

Meanwhile, the editorial offered absolutely no exploration of the root causes of this exodus from Central America: the poverty engendered by NAFTA; the predatory loans from Wall Street banks and the IMF to corrupt governments, often installed after CIA coups against democratic ones; the DEA-ATF-assisted drug and gang wars.

Still, the coverage is a refreshing departure from a 2012 puff piece about Obama's public relations initiative to make jails for migrants charged with minor civil offenses, like traffic tickets, resemble Holiday Inn Expresses. It was a gesture of his punitive good will. Immigration officials gave the media a guided tour of a prototypical complex in South Texas:
 Detainees will be free to move through much of the center 24 hours a day. Unarmed staff members, dressed in blue polo shirts and khaki trousers, are known as “resident advisers,” not guards....

 The 608-bed center, in Karnes County, Tex., will house male detainees who present minimal safety concerns or flight risk, officials said. The first detainees are expected to arrive in about three weeks.
Spread across 29 acres, the center is designed according to the Obama administration’s new mandates calling for greater unescorted movement and recreational opportunities in a less penal setting.
The gentler approach is immediately evident in the center’s modernist facade, which is painted in bright primary colors — a far cry from the dreary bunkerlike structures that have characterized the system.
This article is a prime example of how even a cruel policy can be effectively masked with just the right amount of pretty liberal window-dressing and sugar-coating. It also helps the cause of making punishment look benign when Republicans then turn around and complain that immigrants imprisoned for jaywalking or speeding are just getting it too good. “The administration goes beyond common sense to accommodate illegal immigrants and treats them better than citizens in federal custody,” Sen. Lamar Alexander fumed at the time.


Speaking of pre-existing conditions, Republicans are again making the Affordable Care Act look better than it is by threatening to remove the requirement that private insurers give coverage to chronically sick paying customers as well as healthy subscribers.

It's another made-to-order campaign talking point for corporate Democrats desperately seeking midterm votes. So naturally, neoliberal Times pundit Paul Krugman is happy to carry their outraged water for them. He fumes: 
What may seem puzzling about all this is the cruelty. O.K., Donald Trump is obviously a man utterly lacking in empathy. But don’t other Republicans feel a bit bad about the prospect of taking health care away from millions of Americans who have done nothing wrong besides having past medical problems?
Actually, no. Consider Rick Scott, the governor of Florida (and current Senate candidate), whose attorney general has joined the lawsuit to eliminate protection for pre-existing conditions. While refusing to say whether he supports the suit, Scott declared, “We’ve got to reward people for caring for themselves.” Right, because if you get cancer, or arthritis, or multiple sclerosis — all among the pre-existing conditions for which people used to be denied coverage — it must be your own fault.
It's all according to how the cruelty is marketed. Republicans sell it to their base in the form of resentment against both internal interlopers and enemies at the gate, while Democrats market it as the lesser evil. Things are of necessity unpleasant now, but be patient and all will miraculously morph into the Greater Good at some fuzzy unspecified time but certainly not right this very minute. At least 30 million Americans will have to remain grossly underinsured or completely uninsured, while nearly half the population who literally can't afford to live should write a check to candidates and tide themselves over by hating Russia.

 To expect timely change or relief is to be unhealthily fixated on puppies and unicorns. So give Dems your vote!

But unhealthy obsessive ingrate that I am, I published this response to Krugman:  
The trouble with the GOP opposition to the inaptly named "Affordable" Care Act is that they're opposing a plan originally devised by the conservative Heritage Foundation. In order to distance themselves from anything with the word "Obama" in it, therefore, they have to distance themselves from themselves and move ever farther to the right.

It's the Democratic Party that is now the party of the center-right. The wealthy donors funding it wouldn't have it any other way. With more than half of the US population now favoring single payer health care, what does the DCCC do? They direct midterm candidates to refrain from using the term "single payer" in their campaign ads. They are instead tiptoeing around bait-and-switches, like Medicare buy-ins for a chosen lucky few, or a public "option" - just more opportunity for the GOP to punish the sickest and for private insurers to rake it in.

With friends like the predatory insurance cartel, who needs the GOP? Maybe that's why Nancy "Pay-Go" Pelosi posed with a Blue Cross executive this week, tweeting out: "We're fighting for you!"

Yes, the GOP is every Dickens villain rolled into one. But cathartic as it may feel to rail against the Blob from hell, doing so absent a new New Deal will not win liberals many majorities. I'm even starting to wonder if the corporate Dems are having too much fun being virtue-signaling neoliberal #Resistance fighters to care.

So I'll say it loud, say it proud, say it often: Single Payer Or Bust.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Gush Vs. Bore In Singapore

I am certainly no fan of Donald Trump, but he actually comes across as a lot more reasonable than some of the media-political complex minions who are throwing cold war on this whole precious thing called peace.

The neocon and liberal interventionists of Cold War 2.0 are variously calling the Trump-Kim public relations effort to at least give peace a chance a sham, too lacking in "details," and an open door to Chinese dominance in Asia.

The New York Times editorial board, among most others in consolidated corporate media world, complains that Trump offered Kim the unthinkable "concession" of ending the annual US-South Korea "war games" spectacle without getting anything in return.... as though the North Korean dictator's gesture of stopping nuclear testing and provocative launches was not itself the concession which paved the way for the historic Singapore summit.

The Times was mightily offended about how gauchely Trump "gushed" over Kim, who has been miraculously transformed from Rocket Man into a great guy, if not Donald's new BFF. It was also miffed that Trump made nice with such a violent oppressive leader, ignoring the fact that Trump (and all his immediate predecessors) just recently made nice with the Saudis, who are engaged in outright genocide of Yemenis via another port blockade of food shipments.
Mr. Kim’s wins were obvious. He got what his father and grandfather never did — a meeting with an American president, the legitimacy of being treated as an equal as a nuclear power on the world stage, country flags standing side by side. And while American sanctions remain in place, Mr. Trump has delayed imposing new ones and other countries are expected to begin easing theirs.
Mr. Trump insisted he secured concessions from Mr. Kim, including a nuclear and missile test suspension that is already in its seventh month, and the destruction of a missile test site and an engine test site. The latter two will have to be independently verified. But what about the main goal, denuclearization? “We’re starting that process very quickly — very, very quickly — absolutely,” Mr. Trump said.
The latest litmus test for bipartisans of the extreme center is how vociferously they can ridicule the Singapore Summit - from its weird tasting menu, all the way to the weird travel propaganda video with which Trump regaled Kim. Liberals are desperately trying to bore into the public mind the same message that they used to denigrate the Occupy movement: there are not details and no specific demands! 

This messaging promises to get even more boring as mega-mergers among already consolidated media content and delivery providers become the new normal in how we citizen-consumers get the preferred misinformation drilled into our heads.

My published comment to the Times editorial:
Only time will tell who is the better con artist: the dictator or the wannabe dictator.

Trump assumes that his self-proclaimed business savvy ( his "touch and feel"), which veers between making threats and making nice as a means of reeling in his prey will work in the case of diplomacy, with which he has zero experience.

Only time will determine the outcome. Nobody should be rooting for his attempt, or pretense at one, to fail. There's always the serendipity factor, when even the most bumbling operators can do the right thing by sheer accident and for all the wrong reasons (re-election campaign for him, midterms for the cult which still insists upon calling itself the Republican Party.)

As for Trump discontinuing the war games, which he views as a wasteful romp rather than training exercises, he does have a habit of announcing grandiose initiatives on Twitter without first notifying the people who are actually in charge. This is similar, to name just one example, to his unilateral banning of gay people from the military, which has since been walked back.

He's all about saving his own face and getting whatever booty he can for his personal empire.. Maybe he'll simply rename the war games something else, like the Trump Air Show for the high-ratings entertainment of the people of the Korean peninsula.

Besides saving face, it's also all about the marketing.

But with any luck, peace on earth will have a chance despite us being stuck with the most venal president in US history.

(On second thought, I'd better revise that to "perhaps the most venal," or even more accurately, "one of the most venal" presidents. They've all been doozies and liars and cheats in their own unique ways. It is, after all, part of the job description.)

The Korean War, which was never approved by Congress, has never officially ended. Think of the Singapore Summit as a continuation of the truce, with the added incentive of North Korea now having nuclear capability.

It is ironic, meanwhile, that Trump was the protégé of Roy Cohn, the ultra-right attorney who successfully prosecuted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. 
On top of espionage for the Russians, they were also widely blamed for starting the Korean War. While they sat in prison awaiting their executions, the United States went on its mad spree of killing millions of North Koreans. At a  few points, Harry Truman seriously contemplated the nuclear annihilation of  the entire population, as a sort of follow-up act to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. See what I mean about a ratings system for presidential dooziness? For example, Trump threw paper towels at Puerto Ricans and Truman threw bombs at them, not long before he considered nuking North Koreans.

It's certainly been a long  -- but far from winding -- road from Sing Sing, where the Rosenbergs were killed in the electric chair in June 1953, to Singapore in June 2018.

Never mind Trump. America has always been a tad on the insane side.