Saturday, July 28, 2018

Update From Hell

So today I got my marching orders to vacate the flooded, incipiently moldy premises as of 3 p.m. Sunday so that Servpro can get on with making it like it never even happened. 

Granted, this was pretty short notice on the part of the landlord, who had given me a date of a week from now to check into the hotel. But professionals that they hopefully are, Servpro found themselves unexpectedly ahead of schedule. 

So no blogging, except maybe posting a few links, for the next week or so. I am not lugging my heavy equipment into exile, because it will be hard enough lugging my self and my clothes, my meds and my toothbrush into exile.

  Before starting packing, though, I did comment tonight on Maureen Dowd's piece, which ever so originally compares Trump to a mob boss. Naturally, she just happened to run into Robert De Niro at a party a while ago, and whenever one has the opportunity to drop a famous name in one's New York Times column, one must never waste it. And one must also coyly hint while one is at it that one was the direct inspiration for DeNiro's F-bomb-laced diatribe at the Tony awards.

My published comment: 
 I found myself lately wishing that the Trump Show would end just like "The Sopranos" did: with an abrupt blackout and no chance of a revival or spinoff.

And then I realized that such a blackout might spell not only the end of his organized crime spree, but of all of us. This guy has already created whole hellscape of collateral damage and misery. Will there be any turning back?

He threatens to nuke countries he doesn't like. He quit the Paris Climate accords. His nominee to head the Superfund program has made a career out of getting the polluters and poisoners of the earth off the legal hook, at great public expense. His "health" consiglieres are already plotting a mob hit on single payer health care. The thug heading HUD wants to triple the rents of the poorest tenants, while Trump's slumlord son-in-law Jared sues them for every last dime. His moll Betsy DeVos came not to oversee public education, but to destroy it.

Trump brags about GDP growth without admitting that such growth is a cancer which kills all but the richest of the ethically challenged rich. Wages continue to stagnate even in this "booming" economy.

 His pathological lack of discipline and a business model built entirely of deceit are the mirror image of late-stage capitalism's pursuit of limitless wealth and power - planet and people be damned.

Not just Trump, but the whole crooked system must come down and be replaced by a moral system of government, aka democratic socialism. Our lives depend on it.
Not to brag or drop names or anything, but the president who first reminded me of a Tony Soprano-style mafioso godfather was none other than Barack Obama. There was that time, for example, when his Secret Service thugs kidnapped Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2012 for attending his debate with Mitt Romney. They literally handcuffed her to a metal folding chair at an undisclosed location before letting her off with a stern warning.

And who can forget Democratic Senator Dick Durbin deflecting blame from Mob Boss Obama of the Austerian Cartel right onto greedy senior citizens who, through their selfish desires for a barely bearable retirement via Social Security, are robbing those precious future generations of any future at all? "Social Security is gonna run out of money in 20 years," Durbin trumpily lied on corporate-sponsored TV in 2013.

"The Baby Boom generation is gonna blow away our future. We don't wanna see that happen," Dapper Dick declaimed demagogically in his best Don style.

And then there was the Trans-Pacific Partnership corporate crime cartel, whose dastardly plans for total world domination hinged entirely upon Obama-style secrecy, stealth and lies. You might remember those hellish times circa 2015-16 when even congress critters were not permitted to examine draft copies of this planned mega-hit on ordinary people without the presence of armed guards to make sure they didn't make or steal copies. 

It goes on and on. Just a cursory glance through my Obama-era blog-posts provides a smorgasbord of tasty reasons why Trump won and the Democrats lost - not just the presidency, of course, but about 1,000 federal and state seats.

Here, for example, are excerpts from one typical right-wing speech that Obama gave in 2013, doubtlessly inspiring legions of disgusted Democrats to stay the hell home the following mid-term election year, in what turned out to be the lowest voter turnout year in modern American history:
We’ll need Democrats to question old assumptions, be willing to redesign or get rid of programs that no longer work, and embrace changes to cherished priorities so that they work better in this new age.
(That was the standard, centrist, dog-whistled attack on Social Security and Medicare, in case you didn't know.) 

We’ve come a long way since I first took office. As a country, we’re older and we’re wiser. And as long as Congress doesn’t manufacture another crisis – as long as we don’t shut down the government just as the economy is getting traction, or risk a U.S. default over paying bills we’ve already racked up – we can probably muddle along without taking bold action. Our economy will grow, though slower than it should; new businesses will form, and unemployment will keep ticking down. Just by virtue of our size and our natural resources and the talent of our people, America will remain a world power, and the majority of us will figure out how to get by.
With $100 million in book, speech and media deals in just little over a year, I think it's safe to say that Obama has figured out how to get by as ably as the majority of One Percenters.... or is it the .001 Percenters? Math was never my strong suit.

I also think it's safe to say that the reason that millions of Obama voters either stayed home again in 2016, or voted for Donald Trump out of sheer disgust and desperation, was that not only had they not figured out how to get by, but they realized how royally they'd been screwed by The One.

Political pro though he may be, it's like his eight years of Hope and Change never even happened. Serving the bottom 90% was just never part of his deal.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Personal Note

One of the upstairs tenants in my apartment building had the bright idea of hanging a sweatshirt on one of the sprinkler heads in their unit. As a result there was a massive flood the likes of which this complex has never seen. Two or three apartments were destroyed along with all their contents. Several more (including mine) were discovered to have severe interior wall damage which will require a partial gutting. Luckily none of our own personal property was destroyed.

So the management is putting up the most severely affected tenants in a hotel as repairs get underway, with the rest of us "triaged" according to extent of damage. Meanwhile, the constant sound of jackhammers (or what sounds just like jackhammers) makes reading, research and writing next to impossible during the daylight hours. At night there is the sound of industrial fans and dehumidifying and other equipment, which travels through to the apartments, like mine, which are still technically habitable. Even with air conditioning it feels like a sauna in here!

It could be so much worse, of course, and I really can't complain. The building management is paying full rehousing costs for those affected, as well as abating our rent. The hotel they've booked for the evacuees is one of the more decent ones in town. The people who suffered the complete and devastating losses all had renters' insurance, thank goodness. One of them had just moved in a week ago.

We still haven't gotten a firm date on when we have to leave our own apartment, but their best guess is in the next 10 days to two weeks. We also don't know how long it will be before we can move back in. A week and maybe two is their best estimate.

Since I do all of my blogging from my desktop computer, which I definitely will not be lugging with me, writing on the blog will be put on hold for what could be close to a month.  At most I'll try to post small items now and again while I await my "marching orders."

I'll still be able to moderate and post comments from my phone during my exile, though, so if anybody would like to hold down the fort while I'm gone, please do so! Your excellent commentary is always welcome, both in the best of times and the worst of times.

Ciao for now.

Monday, July 23, 2018

What Stale Hell Is This?

"He felt constantly unappreciated and harassed by others, was frequently suspicious of many of those around him... vindictive, seething with unfocused hostility. (He had) a permanent sense of insecurity and frustration... leading to frequently bungling attempts at compensation... and a need to show the world who was boss."

(He filled his White House with) "big-bellied good-natured guys who saw Washington as a chance to make useful contacts and were anxious to get what they could for themselves out of the experience. (It was) the era of the moocher. The place was full of Wimpys who could be had for a hamburger." 

Those are pretty standard critiques of Donald J. Trump, right?  They are repeated so often that most people with a pulse can recite them like a litany. 

The only problem is that those observations were written about Harry S Truman. The first snippet is by Truman biographer Alonzo Hamby, and the second one was written by legendary journalist I.F. Stone.

You might not know it from all the historical whitewashing of Truman, particularly after the one-man Broadway hit show based on the "Plain Speaking" bestseller by Merle Miller. But this guy was a pretty dangerous human being.

If you think that the recent Democratic Party and Deep State-instigated RussiaGate campaign is over the top hysterical, if you likewise think that Trump is a paranoid nut case for the ages, relax. Because "Give Em Hell Harry" actually makes The Donald look like a wimp. It was Harry Truman who, upon first arriving in the Oval Office after FDR's death, beat Trump to the punch by about 70 years when he boasted: "I'll be as tough as the toughest!"

But in an ironic twist in light of today's politics, the people with whom Truman wanted to get tough were not the "fake news" media, Muslims, and Latino immigrants. It was those damned Russians.

So, exhibiting some pretty amazing party solidarity despite the alleged intra-party "divisiveness," Democrats have taken a tip straight out of Crazy Harry's playbook and repurposed Russophobia in their own desperate Hail Mary pass of an electoral tactic. It's really the only thing their billionaire handlers on Wall Street and Silicon Valley, and the deep thinkers within the "defense" industry-controlled Deep State will allow them to do. Even "socialist" Bernie Sanders is fully on board the RussiaGate Express.

Trump, bad as he surely is, has nothing on Truman. Harry was so crazy that he dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even after the United States has already as much as defeated Japan -- because he wanted to "send a message" to Stalin that the United States was going to be in charge of the world from thereon in! For sheer psychopathy, this act of mass murder certainly surpasses Trump's apocalyptic canoodling with Putin, or, in his most recent brazen display of toughness, his threatening all-caps tweet to Iran.

 Trump contemptuously, yet weakly, threw rolls of paper towels at Puerto Ricans. The US under Truman actually threw lethal bombs at them, when they started making demands for independence and were thus in violation of his edict criminalizing dissent. It seemed that the Russians were meddling and "sowing discord" even in Puerto Rico in the late 40s and early 50s. According to media reports, they continue doing so to this very day!

The Truman Doctrine divided the world neatly into the realms of good (USA! USA!USA! ) and evil (RussiaRussiaRussia!) in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Truman combined the worst aspects of modern-day Trumpian paranoid authoritarianism with scare-mongering over a crisis, manufactured explicitly to sell a war-weary public on the Cold War, and later, on the hot proxy war (er, "police action") against the Chinese/Russian coalition in Korea.

Truman was so crazy, he not only publicly threatened North Korea with nukes, he dispatched atom bomb-bearing B-29s to the US base at Guam to prepare for an imminent attack. It turned out to be a bluff, obviously. Conventional weapons were successfully killing millions of North Korean civilians anyway.

  And back at home in the Land of the Free, one of the new President Truman's first orders of business in the sales pitch for American global hegemony was signing an executive order called the Employees Loyalty Program, which authorized investigations into the beliefs and associations of all federal employees. If a worker was accused of disloyalty, he or she did not have the opportunity to defend him or herself. And in some Kafkaesque cases, they were not even made aware of the charges. The Truman administration ultimately compiled a list of 197 "subversive organizations" - left-wing political groups, peace groups, relief organizations and labor unions, membership in any of which was grounds for immediate investigations, and usually, firings.

Not willing to be co-opted or usurped by a Democrat, though, the Republican reactionaries in Congress quickly dubbed Truman a weakling and upped the ante, calling for even more purges and investigations. More than 300 new laws against "subversive activities" were passed at the federal, state and local levels, with some states declaring membership in the Communist Party to be a felony. The State Department issued a Trump-like travel ban in 1952, both for suspects entering the US and citizens leaving the Western Hemisphere. Even Supreme Court Justice William O.Douglas was denied a passport because of his own criticism of American foreign policy. (It wasn't until 1964 that the travel ban against people whom the New York Times derided as "Reds" in its headline was finally overturned and declared unconstitutional.)

 Joe McCarthy, aided by future Trump mentor Roy Cohn, saw his own opening and pounced when his off-the-cuff remark at a GOP women's luncheon about a list of 200-odd government spies got some unexpected press. He has since become the all-powerful lone bad guy in the historical revisionism of that era, not least because he was not only crazy, he was an alcoholic right-winger right out of central casting who made the mistake of going after the Pentagon and the State Department. If Chuck Schumer had been around, he could have told Joe that the Intelligence Community has six ways from Sunday of getting back at you.

In any event, the propaganda and fear-mongering during the early Cold War years were highly effective. Seventy-seven percent of polled Americans wanted suspected Communists to be stripped of their citizenship and 51 percent favored imprisoning them.

"Nevertheless," writes Griffin Fariello, "these statistics may well reflect the shallow roots of the Red Scare, measuring only the uncritical ease of which many Americans take on the attitudes evinced by politicians and the media. For when asked, 'What kind of things do you worry about most?,' 80 percent responded in terms of personal or family problems, with the largest bloc expressing concern over business and economic problems." 

Millions of people have suffered and died in the interests of one or both US war parties and the capitalistic predators who own them. Millions of Americans have been displaying their susceptibility to relentless war propaganda for generations.

No matter that when the truth about the lies finally comes out, people have long since moved on to believing in the next Big Lie. Fool them once, fool them a hundred times.

It wasn't until 1978 that Truman adviser Clark Clifford admitted to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein that the administration had always been fully aware that there was never any "loyalty problem" at all, or even a Communist threat. "He (Truman) thought it was a lot of baloney.... It was a political problem.... He'd gotten a terrible clobbering in 1946 in the congressional elections. We gave a good deal of thought of how to respond. We had a presidential campaign ahead of us, and here was a great issue, so he set up this whole kind of machinery."

When Truman was exposed as a manipulative liar nearly 40 years after the fact, he was already five years dead. Nobody really cared. The old crimes of the nation's leaders had been sucked down the memory hole and effectively erased from "the narrative."

Fast-forward to 2018. The recently clobbered corporate Democrats in thrall to wealthy donors and hellishly aligned with the grotesquely named "Intelligence Community" are locked in an oligarchic power struggle with a blustery paranoid president and a party which has long relied on racism and economic resentment and voter suppression and gerrymandering to win elections. But instead of countering this ugliness and mass suffering with a campaign for a new New Deal, the inheritors of Harry Truman's own expedient paranoid style are embracing Hellish Harry with a vengeance and throwing FDR right under the bus. Because to Third Way neoliberal Democrats, the New Deal can never be dead enough to suit them.

A new generation of Russophobes were either not alive when Harry Truman was pulling the same kinds of destructive political stunts that both the Trump administration and the Duopoly are playing at today, or they don't bother reading any actual history of that truly scary time. Or maybe they do know, and they just don't care, because it's their party right or wrong. Everything they need to know is right there in the Times, the Post, on CNN and MSNBC.

The media-political complex is having a ridiculously easy time ginning up Russophobia in the masses, making it the central, deflective campaign platform for the 2018 midterms, and probably even for the 2020 presidential race. Maybe they're envisioning their Truman zombie of a presidential nominee gleefully holding up a newspaper with the headline "Trump Beats----------."

And then, at long last, they can finally purge their long national nightmarish memory of this: 

 The CIA, born as a rogue presidential army in the Truman years, is now a virtual fourth branch of government, to which all good Americans, true men and true women, are expected to pledge allegiance or risk being branded as at best, useful Kremlin idiots, or at worst, traitors.

If you want to know the truth, look no further than the history section of your local library. It is simply chock full of facts and valuable clues and historical precedents and dots to connect. But best be quick about it, because Godzillionaire Jeff Bezos might be hatching a fresh hell of a plan to render your friendly neighborhood libraries obsolete, replacing them with the Book Emporium of Amazonia - in order to "save taxpayers money". Or so Forbes reported, before a Twitter outcry deflated the trial balloon, and the whole article simply disappeared without explanation. You still can read the cached version here, because despite the legacy of Truman, the lords of capital still haven't quite gotten their purging skills in total order.

Give 'em Purgatory, Harry!


Sources and Recommended Reading:

Bernstein, Carl: Loyalties: A Son's Memoir. 

Fariello, Griffin: Red Scare: Memories of the American Inquisition.

Hamby, Alonzo: A Man of the People: A Life of Harry S Truman.

Stone, I.F.: The Hidden History of the Korean War.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Art of the Anti-Trump Dog Whistle

What do Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth have in common (besides, that is, being the carefully manufactured celebrity public images which mask and protect the private pursuit of power and wealth by neoliberal capitalism at the public's expense)?

They have perfected the fine art of pissing all over Donald Trump without ever having to unzip their lips and soil themselves by mentioning his name. That would just be too, too untoward.

Obama gave what's being praised (by the corporate media) as a momentous put-down of The Donald at a speech he had to travel all the way to South Africa to give, ostensibly in honor of the late Nelson Mandela. 

Lilibet was even more circumspect. As she stiff upper-lipped her way through the odious chore of meeting and greeting Trump last week, she wore a giant brooch given to her by Barack and Michelle Obama. She couldn't have stabbed Trump in the ass more effectively if she'd unpinned the magical amulet and stabbed him in the ass with it. She is the Merriest Wife of Windsor evah, or at least in the past half-millennium.

You go, Girl!  

She Is Not Amused

It's a tiny secret anti-Trump club of elites out there, folks, and you ain't in it. All you regular people can do is experience your daily Five Minutes of Hate in online comment boards when you're not feeling the vicarious outrage along with such Russophobic cable news stars as Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper.

The coded anti-Trump snootiness possibly reached an apogee of hilariousness in the pages of The Guardian:
 Casual royal observers such as myself barely noticed the Queen’s fashion choices during Trump’s visit, because we were too busy cringing at Trump’s behaviour around her. Whether you give a fig about the royals or not – and I come very much from the “no fig” end of the spectrum – watching Trump galumph around in front of her, get in her way and generally act as if she wasn’t even there was, just on a human level, throw-up-on-your-own-shoes nauseating. She’s a 92-year-old woman, show her some respect, you giant Oompa-Loompa! But, of course, expecting thoughtfulness from a man who, earlier this year, was photographed holding an umbrella over his own precious head leaving his young son exposed to the elements, brings to mind words such as “blood” and “stone”.

 And the Queen, wisely, appeared to expect none either, because it turns out she was sending us all coded messages via the medium of her brooches. Yes, her brooches – read on and bow down in awe, James Bond. Twitter user @SamuraiKnitter has pointed out that on the first day of the Trump visit, the Queen wore a simple green brooch that was given to her by the Obamas to signify their friendship. On the second day, she wore a brooch given to her by Canada, a country with which Trump is less than pleased at the moment (also, it was in the shape of a snowflake, a classic Trump term for people who disagree with him.) And, for the last day, she chose a brooch she wore to the funeral of her father, so not one associated with happiness and joy. Queen’s brooches: 3. Trump: 0.
Barack Obama sported no royal jewelry with which to broadcast his own elite disdain for the Human Dorito, but he still retains his silver tongue and his vocabulary of gold. And thus he broached the topic. Unlike other mere liberal mortals, currently frothing at the mouth in an inchoate group frenzy of Treasonous Traitor Terror Tirades, though, Obama was able to add to the epidemic of Trump Derangement Syndrome by seeming to tamp it down with his calm, cool, dispassionate, "coded" rhetoric.

Trump's Tweets: 0. Obama's Speech: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

You'd think he was a computer geek with all the praise he's getting from the media about his "coded" message to Those In The Know, a message they imagine totally bypassed the thick skulls out there in Deploraville, who wouldn't know the meaning of "ascendant strongman politics" and nuance if their asses depended on it. As the New York Times reported,
Mr. Obama seemed to to take direct aim at Mr. Trump over his administration’s policies and his propensity for exaggerations and falsehoods. He said he was stunned how the notion of objective truth was now up for debate and how politicians make up facts and stand by baseless claims even after they are proved wrong.
“We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders, where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and lie some more,” he said. “Look, let me say: Politicians have always lied, but it used to be that if you caught them lying, they’d be like, ‘Ah, man.’”
Unlike Trump, Obama has a refined sense of humor. When he was caught out in his epic "if you like your health plan, you can keep it" lie about the Affordable Care Act, for example,   his aides were able to importune the Obama-friendly media into treating it like a huge joke, with the uninsured and underinsured public as the giant punchline. And with stunning book, speech and Netflix deals worth least $100 million in his first post-presidential year alone, Obama has very much to be amused about when he's not giving his very serious (with many a knowing grin) coded speeches.

The Art of Coded Trump-Pissing, Complete With Urinal-Inspired Podium

Those smugly In The Know just can't resist juxtaposing Obama's legendary arcane brilliance with Trump's latest Tweet, in which he not only misspelled "colusion" but he so deranged that he thinks he is immune from the Trump Derangement Syndrome bug going around. He is so deranged that he is even, as Politico reports, "walking back his walk-back on Russia interference."   
President Donald Trump on Wednesday returned to a defiant posture, insisting his deeply controversial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin will prove to be a great success “in the long run” and complaining that his critics are suffering from “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”
One day after issuing a rare mea culpa — in which Trump claimed he meant to say there’s no reason to believe it “wouldn’t” have been Russia that meddled in the U.S. election — Trump appeared to be walking back his walk-back.
“While the NATO meeting in Brussels was an acknowledged triumph, with billions of dollars more being put up by member countries at a faster pace, the meeting with Russia may prove to be, in the long run, an even greater success. Many positive things will come out of that meeting” Trump tweeted.
Since I recently cancelled my ripoff cable TV service, I was late watching the TrumPutin Armageddon press conference that has Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow and the New York Times writhing in such conniption fits of outrage. And you know what? I didn't find the con at all out of the ordinary. Leaders of state preen for the cameras and fawn all over one another - check. Corporate media ask questions about the Golden Showers Dossier and other click-baity things, and said leaders react with disdain. Check.

I was, like, oh man, where is the beef? Where's the charred Mar-a-Lago sirloin? Where's the Strogonoff with sour cream and mushrooms? It was painfully obvious that these media personalities were so pumped before the fact of The Summit From Hell that they had their disgusted talking points all lined up to recite for the cameras the minute that Trump and Putin left the stage

But lo and behold. It is now two whole days since the Summit, and the capitalistic world is still spinning.  Amazon Prime deliveries are still running right on schedule. The pay is still too damned low and the rent is still too damned high. The United States still has between 800 and a thousand military bases all around the world, and Russia still has a very scary grand total of Nine. NATO still exists. So does NAFTA, despite all of Trump's deranged trade war rhetoric.

You know what is really bothering me? I'm discovering that I am developing more sympathy and empathy for Trump voters (dare I say even for Trump himself?) than I am able to even remotely identify with the hysterical McCarthyite liberals of the Democratic Party, who seem to be yearning for World War III by actually attacking the Trump regime from the right. No wonder James Comey is urging everybody to vote Democratic. They've got Intelligence on their side, and I don't mean in a good way.  

Sad. And scary as hell.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

New Litmus Test For Patriotism: Loyalty To the Police State

Treason is in the air. If you hate everything that Trump stands for, but still agree with him that #Russiagate is a fraud*, then it naturally follows that you are just as much a traitor as he allegedly is. 

Hysteria is in the air. Trump betrayed the United States by meeting with Vladimir Putin, who did attack us, is attacking us, and will continue to attack us. If you don't believe it, then you weren't paying attention when actor, Hillary Clinton supporter and #MeToo critic Morgan Freeman made the big announcement last year. He informed the nation that we are at war with Russia, and he urged Congress and the Intelligence agencies to act. And they listened. Because Morgan Freeman is so much better at playing President than Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is such a lousy actor, in fact, that he  committed the cardinal sin of presidents. He actually criticized what is hideously euphemized by its media enablers as the Intelligence Community. He has made this critique before, of course,  mainly on Twitter, but on Monday he did it with Vlad the Impaler standing right there at his side. 

Elite heads proceeded to explode.

 James Clapper, the former NSA chief who lied to Congress about spying on everybody, and John Brennan, the former CIA chief who couldn't even get confirmed in Obama's first term because he helped implement Bush's torture program, are under attack by the Treasonous Traitorous Trump (see the New York Times's Charles Blow, who got the whole treasonous media ball rolling with his pre-TrumPutin Summit column.)

Since the punishment in the United State for high treason is death, look for the next phase in the media hysteria to be a debate over how to execute Donald Trump. The more passionate pundits will probably opt for bringing back the electric chair, while the liberal humanitarian interventionists will suggest nitrogen gas.

Of course I'm kidding. They don't really want to put Trump on trial for high treason. They don't want to gift him with such a ratings bonanza, especially since his martyrdom would include a stirring speech with the theme "I regret that I only have one life to give for My Company."

 They just want to weaken him a bit while spreading their scare stories and raising donor money for the mid-terms. They'd prefer he lose a second term to a centrist Democrat, aka moderate Republican, who will be loyal to the unaccountable rogue police state and spy agencies whose own main function is enabling corporate global plunder and protecting the oligarchs against the restive global rabble. The elite media-political complex wants somebody who will stay mum on all the meddling in foreign elections which the United States has done, is doing, and will continue to do until the American Empire collapses under the weight of its own hubris and greed.

Trump is acting too much like an outside critic of Empire and not enough like its discreet marketer. His idea of the presidency is being the star of his own reality show. To impress one another and portray themselves as righteous to the rest of the world, therefore, our elite Thought Leaders must pretend to despise him, despite the mammoth tax cuts he recently gifted to the wealthiest among them. They want the rest of the world to forget the record hundreds of billions of dollars they just gifted right back to Trump's own war machine by a very compliant and corrupt Congress.

This recent Russophobic hysteria is very much an internal war between the two political right wing factions of the ruling class: the Dollarcrats and the Reprivatans. Since the latter abhor regular people by rewarding the private interests of capital at every opportunity, they should just remove the "public" part of their moniker and exhibit a little honesty for a change.  Ditto for the Dems. The people, or Demos, have become too utterly subservient to the big money gilding the Big Tent into a virtual gated community to have their name co-opted any longer.

Totalitarianism is alive and well in the Land of the Free. The FBI and the CIA and the NSA have usurped what used to be the purview of the independent press and have become an all-powerful and highly weaponized fourth branch of government. 

Why else would a Congress pretending to despise Trump just confirm a known torturer, "Bloody Gina" Haspel, to head the CIA at Donald Trump's own specific and very personal behest? They love Trump, but they just can't admit it in public.

* Update. Never mind. Trump has officially caved. He is not willing to die, not even for his brand, his dynasty, or his company:


I can barely stand any more to look at the propaganda tool of the "Deep State" which the New York Times has unabashedly (rather than heretofore stealthily) become - but I have nonetheless submitted a few more comments in recent days. Readers who express even the slightest skepticism in the comment threads about the inherent goodness and honesty of the Police/Surveillance State are becoming fewer and farther between. Propaganda absolutely does work, even upon the minds of otherwise very intelligent people.

Maureen Dowd, who used to write such fun and shallow pieces on Trump's antics, is now deadly serious about the Great Orange Evil and his puppet master Vlad. Ever the name-dropper, she shares that she and some other celebrity pundits once had dinner with Putin at the 21 Club and were so put off by his icy cold stare and his sanguine attitude toward a Russian submarine disaster that they lost their appetite for all that fine service and overpriced food. 

  So not to be outdone by the hysteria and overwrought angst of her corporate media cohort, Dowd has finally seen the careerist light. She bloviates:
Trump hugging Putin even as Putin stabs at our democracy is an incomprehensible mystery.
Flummoxed and craven Republicans scramble to go along with a president who has turned the traditional heroes and villains of the G.O.P. topsy-turvy, berating our European allies, NATO, the N.F.L., the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., and canoodling with the mendacious and scheming Russians.
On the eve of the Helsinki summit, which Trump has arranged as a very intime pas de deux, it is still befuddling and alarming to watch him kowtow to Putin.
When you are as disloyal to football as you are to the police state and the permanent war machine, any lingering doubts about your patriotism will get flushed right down the toilet. 

So how shocking that we all woke up on this Summit morning-after, still breathing and the sun still shining, and Amazon Prime still delivering. The nuclear war that the Neocons and the Liberal Interventionists are hankering for will have to wait for another time, especially since the one lone anti-nuke protester at the Summit was summarily ejected from the room by our very honorable patriots, aka police state strongmen.

My (not highly recommended) published response to Dowd:
Trump is a master of spectacle. Since the show's the thing, he doesn't care as long as he's still #1 at the box office and on Twitter. Pathological lying? Meh. As long as he gets the wall-to-wall coverage from our pathologically consolidated media, he's a winner in his own stunted little mind.

A gaslighter for the ages, he saturates the news cycle till it's as flat and stale as yesterday's pancake. Still, the manic over-coverage of the TrumPutin Apocalypse does serve to distract our attention from our own day-to-day problems, such as lack of a living wage, lack of savings, unaffordable rents, unaffordable health care, and so much student debt that people are actually dying before they're able to pay it all back.

So while we blame Russia for hacking our "democracy," the culprits much closer to home can remain free, screwing the body politic with the immunity and impunity to which they've become accustomed.

 Trump is the symptom, not the core problem. The scary thing is that unless our politics is replaced by some actual representative democracy, our future presidents will not only be like Trump, they'll be smarter than Trump.

Meanwhile, the Blimp above Parliament is sadly something we're not allowed to see above US seats of power, given that the moneyed interests running this show have barricaded themselves below their no-fly zones and behind their armed luxury fortresses.

So down with the Ugly, and up with the beauty of social democracy. Oh, and happy Bastille Day!
Now on to Paul Krugman, who thankfully didn't go full Russophobe himself because he already had a column in the can about the nasty Republicans - and again, it's only the nasty Republicans - waging a war on poor people. The newest gimmick in this endless war is declaring that since the war on poverty was such a success, who needs anti-poverty programs any more anyway?  Certainly not the rich. 

Sadly though, neither poor people nor Krugman's own narrow views on poverty are trending topics  on the Times today, thanks to the Bromance Armageddon Hysteria completely hogging the front page. So, fewer readers than normal weighed in with comments on something so mundane as massive record poverty in the richest country on earth. Outrage can only go so far on any given day and on any given topic, after all. 

Anyway, here's my own published submission: 
The "official" way the US defines poverty paints a falsely rosy picture. According to current standards, only individuals earning less than about $11,000 are deemed poor, while a household of four must fall below $24,000 to qualify for the honor. Thus, "only" about 12% of the US population are that badly off.

A more accurate metric is the Supplementary Poverty Measure, which takes into account the rising costs of rent, food, clothing and utilities. In actuality, at least a third of the population, or 110 million people, can be considered poor or nearly poor. They are:

51.9 percent of children under the age of 18
40.7 percent of adults between the ages of 18-64
42.5 percent of elderly
45 percent of women and girls
33.9 percent of Whites.
60.3 percent of Blacks.
65.1 percent of Latinos.
41.1 percent of Asians. 

 This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's Poor People's March on Washington, which he didn't live to lead. But now we have the Poor People's Campaign, which has been staging protests (with many arrests) all over the country as well as a major rally in D.C. a few weeks ago. There has been little to no corporate media coverage of this movement of. by and for the poor.

If you're wondering why that is, the operative word is "corporate."

Trump isn't the only corrupt entity looking a humanitarian crisis in the face and callously pretending it doesn't exist.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Trump Is Perfectly Normal (*Updated)

Let me qualify that. Donald Trump is every bit as perfectly normal as the pathological soul-destroying capitalism which passes for democracy in our so-called free world.

That's why I find the overreaction (*see update below) to his gaslighting tour of Europe this week to be so amusing. Once again, our renegade president is single-handedly destroying all the advanced Norms of Civilization, which, legend has it, reached their finest hour in the McCarthyite post-World War II years of American Empire. The smell of neoliberal punditry in the morning, mourning Decline and Fall, is both bracing and nauseating.

The earthshaking news is that Trump insulted Theresa May in the pages of a British tabloid (yuck) when she'd so movingly laid out the red carpet for him at Winston Churchill's palatial estate, and he so awkwardly grabbed her hand like an adolescent swain wearing his first tux to his first prom. Fetch the smelling salts, pronto, to alleviate the horror of what the New York Times called this "remarkable breach of protocol!" 

You'd think he'd pulled a Poppy Bush and puked all over her bright red dress or something, when all he was doing was making the world safe for capitalism, but minus the normal feel-good concern-trolling mask of smarmy neoliberal spectacle.

But n-o-o-o-h. He had to insult America's NATO client states right to their faces, demanding that they pay their fair share for continued inclusion in the Military-Industrial Complex welfare state for the very, very rich and the very, very powerful. It's extortion, I tells ya! And the defense contractors of America are laughing all the way to the bank while their media lackeys on CNN and MSNBC are phonily tut-tutting Trump's etiquette breaches in exchange for their seven-figure salaries.

What's being billed as the ultimate coup de grace to the so-called World Order is yet to come, when Trump meets Putin in Finland. What will he "give away" to this vile dictator, who so rudely annexed Crimea and who is so abnormally meddling in Iran and Syria and Eastern Ukraine? If you listen to the servants of the Military-Industrial Complex tell it, tiny Estonia with its thousands of heavily armed US troops protecting it is becoming newly vulnerable to the ghost of Stalin himself, thanks to our Kremlin Stooge-in-Chief. 

 And most distasteful of all, the over-hyped "bromance" of Trump and Putin is having the awful side-effect of eliciting latent anti-gayness in all those lovable liberals for whom celebration of diversity substitutes for actual progressive policies. (see the homophobic... er, I mean iconoclastic, New York Times animated cartoon treatment of the imagined TrumPutin sodomy if you don't believe me.)

"Trump must not capitulate to Putin!" shrills former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice in the latest of her long series of fear-mongering moralistic op-eds selling the concept of Russophobia to explain away all of her own boss's decisions favoring Wall Street over Main Street.
( )... precisely because President Trump is anything but typical — including in that his campaign is under investigation for possibly coordinating with Russia to win the presidency and that he consistently lauds Vladimir V. Putin while denigrating our closest allies — his coming summit with Mr. Putin in Helsinki is a dangerous and counterproductive undertaking. The risks are many and the benefits, if any, are difficult to discern.

It's Donald Rumsfeld's damned known knowns, unknown knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns all over again. But in keeping with the prescribed Bromance narrative, Rice at least tries to keep it subliminally sexy, if not quite Kama Sutra-ish: 
In normal circumstances, the American president would press Russia on multiple fronts. He would refresh demands that Russia: withdraw from Ukraine and renounce its illegal claim to Crimea; cease backing the murderous Assad regime in Syria and work for a diplomatic outcome that protects the rights and security of all Syrians; stop supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan; halt provocative military actions on NATO’s periphery and harassment of United States personnel in Moscow; extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty on nuclear weapons and come clean on its violation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty; press the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, to denuclearize completely; cease destructive cyberoperations; and halt interference in America’s electoral processes and domestic politics, or face harsh additional sanctions. There is a rich and full agenda to pursue, if only we had a president who cared to advance American interests.
As a loyal member of the Duopoly, Rice doesn't even have to outline what "American interests" are, because she is not writing for a general audience. Through the ever-reliable Times, she is addressing her own class, aka the Establishment-in-Exile, aka the Flailing Brotherhood/Sisterhood of the Travailing Pants (as in very heavy breathing, not couture) Still, I do have to admit that her arcane prescription for "split-yielding" at the Bromance summit does have some teasing erotic potential.

Meanwhile, where would aphrodisiacal Resistance punditry be without Paul Krugman?

According to his latest column, the United States leadership spectacle was absolutely chock-full of considerate lovers and moral heroes before Trump came along to destroy the myth of great American male-centered greatness. Ignoring Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and all the CIA coups in between, Krugman defends the Pax America myth with all the passionate punditry he can muster:  
The institutions Trump is trying to destroy were all created under U.S. leadership in the aftermath of World War II. Those were years of epic statesmanship — the years of the Berlin airlift and the Marshall Plan, in which America showed its true greatness. For having won the war, we chose not to behave like a conqueror, but instead to build the foundations of lasting peace....

 And what Trump is trying to do is undermine that system, making bullying great again.
My published response:
  Trump is the personification of capitalism run amok.

He fires at whim. He's immune to public shaming.. His pursuit of wealth and power is relentless. He cares for nobody but his immediate gene pool, just as the capitalistic system itself has no regard for anyone other than owners and the investor class.

He's a very stable crook and a master gaslighter. Taunting his prey one minute and fawning over them the next is how he keeps them off-balance before either lunging for the kill or leaving it for later.

This is exactly how bosses, from CEOs all the way down to middle managers, instill fear into workers every day of their precarious lives.

Thanks to both our major parties moving further right in the past 50 years, there are now few legal restraints against either public and private tyrannical behavior or graft. 
 It's no surprise that Trump confuses "the country" with "my company." It's no surprise that the longstanding, pre-existing world order of profits over people has produced such a glut of reactionary global leaders like him.

It's no use griping that Trump is destroying "norms," or pretending that everything was cool before he came along. More than a dozen wars, with millions killed and trillions of dollars wasted since World War II, coupled with the constant assaults on our social programs, have created a virtual Petri dish for all kinds of Trumps to grow and thrive like Blobs.

We need some social democracy, and we need it right now.

A new New Deal or bust.


*Update 7/14: I wrote the above before Friday's indictment of the dozen Russian hackers, announced just as Trump was breaching all kinds of protocol with the queen, not least of which was failing to bow and walking ahead of her while reviewing the guards with the beaver hats.

It's not surprising that #Resistance, Inc. is treating the indictment as a conviction instead of the standard accusation requiring presentation of evidence in a court of law. That is because the accused will never show up for a trial. That is because the Justice Department and Robert Mueller do not expect there ever to actually be a trial, other than the kind performed in the media. Otherwise, they would have indicted Wikileaks and Julian Assange, who, unlike the Russians, is very vulnerable to extradition. 

This is so obviously a political wrench in the works of the Trump-Putin summit it doesn't even bear further analysis. The New York Times is even editorializing on its news homepage that Trump ordered Russia to "hack" the computers of Hillary and the Democrats, and that Russian intelligence became Trumpist lemmings in the space of a New York minute.

It seems to me that if there were true treason at work here, Trump would have been gone by now.

All Mueller would probably have to do to get Trump on felonies is produce his tax returns and bank records to prove any number of sordid financial (not treasonous)  ties to Russian oligarchs. I suspect the problem with that gambit is that it would expose too many other valuable Establishment figures and political donors to be worth the risk. John Podesta's lobbyist brother has already been tainted from the Manafort indictment, after all, so I'm sure there are more where he came from. Trump has gotten where he is today by importuning all kinds of politicians from both establishment parties, along with their bankers, factotums and relatives. 

I can't help wondering whether Hillary Clinton will use the indictments as vindication, proof that Donald Trump is a Russian stooge who stole the election and therefore a rationale for a third time's-the-charm rerun. My suspicions are raised not by her relentless fundraising emails on behalf of various progressive veal pens, but by the planted news stories last week of her and Bill flying coach on not one, but two, occasions. She is telegraphing her born-again down-home populism, folks! 

Happy Bastille Day.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Milk of Human Cruelty

If you thought the kidnapping and imprisonment of 3,000 children by ICE thugs was cruel and inhuman, then get a load of this
A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly.
Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.
Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.
It gets worse. As the New York Times reports, not only did the American delegation refuse to introduce the resolution, it threatened every single country intending to support it with economic sanctions for failure to privilege the profits of infant formula manufacturers over the health of babies.

When the unnamed US delegates' attempt to destroy the resolution (through removal of language touting the benefits of breastfeeding over bottle feeding) failed, they got downright nasty. They effectively tried turning nursing mothers and babies into enemy combatants in Donald Trump's global trade war.

Ecuador, which originally had been slated to introduce the resolution, was the first to get the Tony Soprano treatment. Not only would it lose money, it would lose military assistance from the United States. It was an offer that Ecuador couldn't refuse, and so it immediately caved. Other nations, mostly in Africa, which hosts at least one American military base in each country of that continent, also refused to go against the world's sole remaining Superpower. Ditto for many countries in Latin America. They fell like dominoes under the onslaught of the Orange Scare.

But despair not! Because this story of attempted blackmail and extortion does have a somewhat happy ending:
 In the end, the Americans’ efforts were mostly unsuccessful. It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the Americans did not threaten them.

 "We’re not trying to be a hero here, but we feel that it is wrong when a big country tries to push around some very small countries, especially on an issue that is really important for the rest of the world,” said the delegate, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

He said the United States did not directly pressure Moscow to back away from the measure. Nevertheless, the American delegation sought to wear down the other participants through procedural maneuvers in a series of meetings that stretched on for two days, an unexpectedly long period.
In the end, the United States was largely unsuccessful. The final resolution preserved most of the original wording, though American negotiators did get language removed that called on the W.H.O. to provide technical support to member states seeking to halt “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.”
The United States also insisted that the words “evidence-based” accompany references to long-established initiatives that promote breast-feeding, which critics described as a ploy that could be used to undermine programs that provide parents with feeding advice and support.
Perhaps the Russians stepping in and saving the day is why there hasn't been very much news coverage and media-manufactured outrage about the Trump administration's latest attempt to cull the world of disposable people.

 The outrage is definitely justified. Because by proactively performing the extermination ritual early, as soon after birth as is inhumanely possible, the Trump regime wants nothing less than to prevent kids from ever having the health and the strength to toddle across our precious borders.

So the positive interference by Russia simply does not compute in the corporate media hive-mind. Election-meddling and democracy-destroying and (alleged) Novichok-poisoning Russians acting in a humane manner? If it's not a fluke, then they have to have ulterior motives. They just have to. 

 Besides, the Democrats are way too busy exposing the "right to life" hypocrisy of the Republicans as Trump announces his next anti-abortion Supreme Court justice to fret overly much about global injustices. Even the plight of the imprisoned 3,000 Central American children is beginning to fade from the Official Narrative thanks to the latest conservative judge becoming the greatest threat to democracy this country has ever seen.

Even if he is ever directly confronted over his deranged horror of breast milk, Donald Trump will no doubt do what Donald Trump does best: fly in the face of all fact, and declare the Resolution passage to be a win.* Not only is it a victory against "evidence-based" science which proves that breast milk is rich in antibodies, it is a victory for infant formula manufacturers in particular and the junk food advertising industry in general. Thanks to pressure from Trump, countries which want to warn their citizens about the health dangers of foods laden down with salt and sugar will no longer get technical support and financial resources from W.H.O.

Donald Trump is trying to make the world safe for Nestle, Similac... and Doritos. And, it should be fairly obvious, he wants to quit W.H.O. itself, if not utterly destroy it.

Nestle will continue marketing its powdered infant formula in countries with untreated drinking water. It will continue extracting water for its bottling empire even from areas in the United States which are going dry from climate change. And in perhaps the cruelest extraction of all, it will continue removing potable groundwater from the lead-poisoned Flint, Michigan area. And government officials will continue refusing to supply clean bottled water to the lead-poisoned residents of Flint.

For its own Make America Great Again part, the Trump administration unabashedly would rather see an estimated 800,000 children die every year around the world for lack of breastfeeding than see one dollar lost to unfettered capital. They'd rather that the global corporations already gifted with recent tax cuts to such an obscene state of record corpulence also get to suck up the estimated $300 billion saved in annual health costs through the breastfeeding of babies.

The Trump Collective's war against infant nutrition gives a whole new grotesque meaning to the balloon facsimile of a Baby Trump which is set to float above London this week in protest of his visit. The Baby-in-Chief literally wants to snatch food from the mouths of babes.

Not that the liberal #Resistance isn't also complicit in the relentless "herd-culling" all over the world. The poor are scapegoated for being too many and therefore responsible for their own plights. Overpopulation is regularly tsk-tsked by elites as being the main threat to our endangered planet, while the plunder and predation and pollution by oil companies and other extractors (including the Pentagon) are given a relative free pass. 

The Trump administration is only the latest and clankiest link in the long chain of capitalistic cruelty.

Philosopher Etienne Balibar observed that this institutional cruelty seeks both to "eliminate human beings, and to remove the humanity from human beings."

This dual cruelty is now right out in the open under Trump.

The first type, which Balibar calls ultraobjective cruelty, treats people as things or useless remnants. The second - ultrasubjective cruelty - treats people as evil incarnate, devils or dangerous animals which threaten us and must be eliminated at all costs. The intended targets are simultaneously portrayed as both subhuman and superhuman.

 Racism is at the root of this cruelty, Balibar asserted, and it, too, is manifested in two main ways. First there are the outright murders (an estimated three per day in the US by domestic law enforcement) and the maltreatment of immigrants by the unaccountable ICE police force. Second are the usually invisible social and economic exclusions meted out on a daily basis to groups which have been designated as superfluous: the poor, the young, the old, the darker-hued, the disabled, the sick.

So it's absolutely a straight line from Trump's exclusion of black and brown families from his father's New York City rental empire to his current exclusions, both actual and attempted, of black and brown people from what he's called "shit hole countries". Capitalism under Trump is even trying to exclude people from something so basically life-protecting and universal as human breast milk. 

"So cruelty is not just one form of extreme violence," Balibar said. "It is violence that can oscillate in unmediated fashion, between ultra-naturalistic, anonymous forms and an impulse toward suicide and criminal compulsion."

Trump has fetishized hate and fear to such an extent that he doesn't even seem to care if he destroys whole countries, including his own, in the process. He would rather America died than have it contaminated by nonexistent bogeymen. And with an approval rating hovering around the 40-45% range, he is definitely not alone in his thought processes.

Tellingly, none of the American thugs and blackmailers present at the United Nations conference has been identified by name. The delegates and lobbyists prefer to remain anonymous for the protection of their own cruelty and violence. And the participants who recounted the threats and blackmail to the media also prefer to remain anonymous for fear of further retaliation from the Trump administration.

As the New York Times reported, 
Although lobbyists from the baby food industry attended the meetings in Geneva, health advocates said they saw no direct evidence that they played a role in Washington’s strong-arm tactics. The $70 billion industry, which is dominated by a handful of American and European companies, has seen sales flatten in wealthy countries in recent years, as more women embrace breast-feeding. Over all, global sales are expected to rise by 4 percent in 2018, according to Euromonitor, with most of that growth occurring in developing nations.


* Trump considered the Times revelations about his reps' shilling for powdered formula moguls at the UN health meeting to be confrontational enough to merit his tweeting displeasure:
What an ignorant doofus. Breastfeeding ability does not correlate with poverty, nor do women need "access to formula" because of alleged malnutrition, although an adequate diet certainly helps. If they can't afford food, how can they possibly afford pricey formula? I suppose what Trump and his oligarchic buddies are aiming for are strong-arm deals with despots in poor countries. It would go something like this: you guys pass a law requiring women to bottle-feed, and we'll help you loot your treasury in exchange for whole shiploads full of the powder substitute we can't sell enough of in the United States. The only women still having babies are affluent enough and educated enough to reject the powdery crap in favor of the healthy natural stuff their own bodies produce.

So since the oligarchs and the media they own can't fool all the people all of the time, they'll settle for fooling some of the most vulnerable and poorest people on earth. Trump's whole career has been based on the marketing of lies for his own gain, so why wouldn't he lie about breastfeeding too?

Pssst... and he really doesn't like women very much. The sight of a breastfeeding mother probably makes him feel very jealous as well as insecure. Leave to Trump to broadcast his misogyny by making women feel insecure and doubtful about their unique ability to nurture another human being.

The brilliant people who'll be flying the Trump baby replica over London this week couldn't have chosen a better time for their stunt.