Thursday, August 30, 2018

One Fell Into the Cuckoo Identity Trap

An attractive New York Latina is getting lambasted from right, left and center for not being able to decide if she's a Colombian immigrant and has the Jewish heritage she claims, and even whether, as a Caucasian woman she can claim to be "Hispanic."

 No matter that she's made a far more (for me) troublesome high-speed journey from conservatism to membership in the Democratic Socialists of America in the space of just a few short years, Julia Salazar is getting raked over the coals by both liberals and right-wingers for some pretty shallow things. The democratic socialist candidate for the New York State Senate finds herself helplessly floundering in the identity politics trap. She's damned if she immigrated, and she's also damned if she's native born. She doesn't help her own case that she keeps amending her answer according to the audience she's addressing. It also doesn't help when, like many a hollow pol before her, she blames her staff for getting her biographical details wrong.

Because all serious candidates for public office are now required to present a compelling personal story (narrative), the competition of who can be the most "diverse" is heating up. And when these personal back-stories get called out on their veracity by opposition researchers looking for any fault, the candidates' supporters, for whom the overarching campaign platform trumps honesty, come to their unquestioning defense. Instead of truth-seeking, one form of dishonesty props up another form of dishonesty, or lies battle lies, all for the justifiable end of "winning."

To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, they become trapped like traps in a trap. 

Before you know it, candidates will have to produce their Ancestry genetic profiles along with their tax returns. And that elicits the specter of fascism, and its all-American progenitor, eugenics.

As far as the ridiculous debate over Salazar's ethnicity is concerned, it's a red herring. Anyone of Iberian heritage is bound to have either recent or distant Jewish and African ancestors, because pre-Columbian Spain was a thriving, diverse melting pot. Before Fernando and Isabella evicted the country's entire Jewish population and went to war against the Muslim "infidels" in the south, tolerance of differences wasn't the exception but the rule. With the Inquisition, many Jewish families were forced, on pain of death or torture or financial ruin, to become Christian "conversos" and hide their religion before the diaspora. Tomas de Torquemada, royal confessor and inquisitor of Holy Mother Church, himself had Jewish ancestry.

Practically anybody with a Spanish surname has a genetic blueprint combining European, African, Arab, Jewish, and in the cases of Puerto Ricans and other colonial populations, Native American. So there is nothing even remotely "dishonest" about Salazar's journey of discovery of her Jewish ethnicity, and everything horribly wrong about critics denying her the right to her own ancestry and pettily accusing her of "cultural appropriation." The problem for Salazar comes when she makes her ethnicity a feature of her campaign plank, or at least allows her consultants and operatives to do so.

Like I said, I'm a lot more leery of how a person speeds her way from a right-wing political mindset all the way to a suddenly "cool" democratic socialist one. It usually happens the other way around, such as when former socialists, like Christopher Hitchens and Norman Podhoretz, suddenly pivoted drastically to neoconservatism and supported Bush's invasion of Iraq. 

I simply don't bother much any more with any candidate running on the ticket of either right wing of the Money Party, no matter how "progressive" he or she purports to be. While the lefty supporters of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez are acting all shocked and dismayed about her sickening tweeted eulogy for John McCain, I just shrug. Whether her rock star treatment by the corporate press has swayed her into "playing the game" out of her own political self-interest, or whether  she really does believe that McCain is a hero, is moot at this point.

The problem is that although Julia Salazar rightly complains that people are "exoticizing" her as a star in the identity politics game, she refuses to come right out and disown identity politics itself. To do so would probably be politically suicidal in the current neoliberal climate. Damned if she does, and damned if she doesn't, she plays it both ways.

From The Intercept:
Salazar appears to be arguing that her experience of going back and forth to Colombia as a child has allowed her to experience a version of life in the U.S. as an immigrant. “There isn’t one immigrant identity. Colombia is where my family was and where I was in the first years of my life. Most of the time when people asked about my childhood, they haven’t been interested in literally where was I born. They wanted to know how the first years of my life were spent, and where my family came from,” she told Jewish Currents.
“I would never claim nor have I ever claimed to share the experience of someone who has lived a life threatened by deportation. That’s not part of my narrative. [But] I’ve experienced people exoticizing me, or alienating me, or treating me as different. … I can acknowledge the importance of my family, and how I’ve been separated from my family, and how my family chose to live in the U.S. to be safer. All of this is part of an immigrant narrative.”
Democratic Socialist though she may be, Salazar has fully been captured by the shallow ethos of the modern, corporate-funded Democratic Party. Although not an immigrant, she is co-opting the "immigrant narrative," which, to be fair, has been co-opted by every American politician in memory, no matter how remote the immigration. Bank-subservient war hawk Joe Biden. for example, never forgets to tout his roots in Irish-American Pennsylvania coal country in a ploy to cover up his true ruling class allegiances.

The ultimate question is what good is the Democratic Party, or any political party?

True, the Bernie Sanders faction of the so-called Big Tent did score the victory this month of disempowering the super-delegates -- but only on the first ballot in the nominating process. Failure to select a candidate will open the floodgates of the corporate will, so the first round bait and switch is a feature and not a bug of the so-called reform.

  
Political philosopher Simone Weil was right when she observed in On the Abolition of All Political Parties that the primary concern of these exclusive political clubs is winning power and keeping power, rather than in making people's lives better. Just because the occasional "upstart" defeats an incumbent doesn't mean that the organizational structure of the machine itself will be defeated, let alone reformed.

 Weil wrote,
 "Political parties are organizations that are publicly and officially designed for the purpose of killing in all souls the sense of truth and of justice. Collective pressure is exerted upon a wide public by the means of propaganda. The avowed purpose of propaganda is not to impart light, but to persuade. Hitler saw very clearly that the aim of propaganda must always be to enslave minds. All political parties make propaganda. A party that would not do so would disappear, since all its competitors practice it... Political parties do profess, it is true, to educate those who come to them: supporters, young people, new members. But this is a lie: it is not an education, it is a conditioning, a preparation for the far more rigorous ideological control imposed by the party upon its members."
And that, sadly, is true just as well of the so-called Democratic Socialists of America and their slate of young, attractive, rising star candidates.

Despite some recent murmurings of protesting American foreign policy and forging an anti-war plank, the DSA's last statement on the topic was posted nearly five months ago, and merely called for the implementation of an "anti-war think tank" within the organization, to be mainly devoted to a critique of Donald Trump's national security agenda.

As Weil wrote in her own critique of partisan politics, such fuzzy, aspirational proclamations are part and parcel of the con:
 "This conception is extremely vague.... No man, even if he had conducted advanced research in political studies, would ever be able to provide a clear and precise description of the doctrine of any party, including (should he himself belong to one) his own.... A doctrine cannot be a collective product." 

Although not a political party per se, the DSA is in danger of becoming just another offshoot of the same Democratic machine it purports to disassociate itself from. Correction: the DSA is becoming so quietly assimilated into the machine, it's like the ancient propaganda is being greased with the same old neoliberal identity oil, as in branding and "narrative"-building. I hope I am wrong, and it's just my cynicism getting in the way again.

 
But when their pressing concern is not whether the United States is helping to bomb Yemeni children to death, but whether one of their own is being unfairly maligned because of her biography and identity, your skeptic radar should probably start to wobble alarmingly across your brain-screen. It sounds like their idea of change, too, is nibbling around the edges of social issues and becoming respected members of the Donald Trump #Resistance, when the mere show becomes the thing, and participatory democracy goes to die yet another of its thousands of zombie deaths.

If that strikes you as being overly pessimistic, here's Jimmy Dore to make you feel even better:



Monday, August 27, 2018

John McCain Has Left the Room

And entered into his just reward, aka The Void. 

Insert boilerplate hagiography here:







  John McCain made the supreme final sacrifice and clung onto life until the very end of the Hamptons and Martha's Vineyard seasons, so that the well-rested Ruling Establishment can all gather for one of this year's premier social events - his "full dress" funeral at Washington's National Cathedral. No need to interrupt their vacations or even waste their waning beach days on their eulogies, because these were all efficiently and professionally written long before McCain's demise.

He was such a selfless hero, in fact, that he even seemed to schedule death for the precise anniversary of Senate colleague Ted Kennedy's demise nine years ago. These men were so bipartisan they even shared the same disease. This coincidence has already taken on the status of miracle in Corporate Media World. Bipartisanship is not only neoliberal pro-capitalist propaganda, it has expanded itself right down to the deeply cellular level, and is probably even a sub-atomic particle. 

Margaret Thatcher, who herself was elevated to centrist sainthood by the media-political complex upon her passing, was only touching the tip of the sadistic iceberg when she proclaimed that "there is no alternative" to the rich sucking the life out of the poor. The rich are not like you and me. They literally control life and when they're on their own death-beds, they're not dying like other people and gasping for air. They have nobly decided to "discontinue medical treatment."

The McCain funeral promises to be every bit as over-the-top bipartisan and self-congratulatory a spectacle as Kennedy's and every bit as air-kissingly schmoozey as Tim Russert's. I am hoping against hope that when Michelle Obama gives George W. Bush another one of her carefully choreographed redeeming hugs, it will be presented by the Corporate Media Borg as a split-screen image showing a scowling Donald Trump playing golf. That way, the professional Mourning Class can bask in the glow of their bipartisan superiority and cry their crocodile tears like the reptiles they are.

Make no mistake. They'll be plastering on the hagiographic excess the same way that John McCain once accused wife Cindy of plastering on the makeup "like a trollop, you Samantha Bee word!"  

Yes. They are all Samantha Bee words, every last war-mongering, money-worshipping one of them. They are feckless dealers in death who save their greatest sorrows for their fellow purveyors of death, destruction, and violence.

So let us all join Hillary Clinton in raising a glass to her good drinking buddy John as he tumbles into The Void. Because no matter how hard we might try, the Celebration of His Life will be unavoidable for the better part of this coming week. It probably won't be as bad as Ronald Reagan's sendoff, but it will be bad nonetheless.

It comes as no surprise that Hillary's own spontaneously calibrated outpouring of grief for McCain was centered around booze. The woman who drowned her electoral loss sorrows in numerous glasses of Chardonnay even made a special (and obviously pre-recorded) cable TV guest appearance on the Morning After of the void-entering to reminisce about downing vodka shots with John McCain as part of a drinking contest in Estonia.



 Why not? Bragging about her bipartisan alcoholic prowess was one of her main campaign themes to show how authentically and bipartisanly barbaric she is. It was a real feather in her cap when McCain (a never-Trumper till the end, except the parts about giving him money for war and staying mute about the tax breaks to billionaires) obligingly called her "One of The Guys." Hillary saw McCain's  masculinization of her as one of the high points of her career.

As a matter of fact, NBC's "Meet the Press" made the hawkish Clinton-McCain friendship one of the highlights in what can only be the first of many fond remembrances. One clip showed (who else) Tim Russert interviewing John and Hillary in 2006 and as much as endorsing one another for president.

Typical of the alcoholic sub-genre of The Narrative is the glowing piece on the CNN website, in which the consumption of booze becomes the hallmark of a patriot. The prose is as purple as the facial spider veins of late-stage cirrhosis:
 Both politicians managed four shots of vodka; the rules were unclear, but Hillary -- McCain's one-time political rival -- was declared the winner, according to the restaurant proprietor (though in her own account, Clinton said they "agreed to withdraw in honorable fashion," rather than name a winner). 

 That image sums up the humanity and character of the late Senator McCain, who will be mourned deeply on both sides of the political aisle. He embodied a more moderate brand of conservatism -- one that could separate politics and friendship -- that now feels distant and very much missed.
No wonder America is going down the tubes. Not only, as Shakespeare noted, is Hell empty and all the devils here. We are being ruled and regaled by a bunch of drunken incestuous neocon neoliberal reptiles who simply refuse to die even when they're dead. 

Calling the Bipartisan Shots Against the Backdrop of Predatory Capitalism


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Having Your #Russiagate and Eating It Too

New York Times reporter Sheera Frenkel certainly feels the precarity and angst of the average working gal. It's getting to be a real juggle of a struggle in the neoliberal jungle, people!

  Last week she had to juggle rewriting and padding the "blockbuster" Microsoft press release about more Russian hacking, with caring for her infant daughter, with tweeting up a storm on behalf of the corporate security state, with booking TV appearances to plug the Microsoft story in the interest of the corporate sponsors. She arrived at one early morning gig at MSNBC (formerly Microsoft-NBC) after breaking numerous traffic laws, only to find out they didn't have the right makeup on hand. So it was a battle against both time and finding the requisite under-eye fatigue concealer.

  Just reading her "Times Insider" story about how hectic life can be for a dedicated yet frenzied #Russiagate journalist left me feeling exhausted. Her juggling routine left me juggling only two reactionary balls in my own head, compared to her hundred: whether to write her a note and advise her to prioritize her rat-race priorities for the sake of her mental and physical health, or to just ignore her. Tweeting her is not an option, since I have always had a deliberately moribund account.

  So pragmatic juggler that I am, I just decided to split the difference, drop the balls, and let off some steam on a blog she doesn't read. Who has time? Certainly not Sheera Frenkel, already so busy it's a wonder she still has time to breathe.

Her description of a #Russiagate-intensive day in the life of a Times working mom-reporter:
I’ve learned a lot about “the juggle” in the year since my daughter was born. I joined The Times as a cybersecurity correspondent last year when I was eight months pregnant, fully aware I was taking a high-pressure job just as everything in my life was about to change. But I have a supportive husband, family and friends. My editors and colleagues are understanding, and my husband and I were lucky enough to be able to afford a nanny. I looked around and saw so many moms doing it under circumstances so much tougher than the ones I was facing.
Her story itself is a juggling act within a juggling act. How does a working mom Times reporter accomplish kvetch-bragging about her privileged struggle without sounding so privileged and whiney about it? By juxtaposing her struggles with those of "ordinary" working moms who are not quite so well-paid, well-supported, well-understood, married, nannied, credentialed and befriended, of course!

There is a reason parents describe it as a juggle. Even with all the help, there is constantly a ball in the air you are in danger of dropping. Most days, the only way to get through is to remove one of those balls. Stories need to be written, baby needs to get bathed; we can go one more day without filling the car up with gas, buying groceries, doing laundry. The first thing to go is always the personal errands we used to prioritize: dinner with friends, a visit to the gym or a haircut. Those are now icing on the cake, if and when we get to them.
 And what about all those extras, those little things we all do to advance our careers that fall outside of the 9-to-5 requirements laid out in our job descriptions? There are the after-work drinks, the last-minute dinners with a visiting boss. The out-of-town conferences and meetings that aren’t mandatory, technically.

 Oh, and those annoying appearances on MSNBC and CNN, which are practically mandatory in Consolidated Corporate Media World. Tellingly, Sheera Frenkel does not write about how "supportive" her employer is in providing any kind of onsite nursery care, or subsidized long-term maternity leave. It's a competitive, dog-eat-dog out there, and "just saying no" to overwork, no matter how well-compensated, seems never to occur to her. She couldn't even say no when her bosses asked her write a sidebar story about juggling and tweeting for the weekend edition. They want you to know that there are dedicated professionals behind the #Russiagate propaganda, and that they are human beings just like you and me.

The subtext of her piece is that there's always some other talented journalist out there, waiting in the wings, salivating to steal your job right out from under you. So she and others in the professional "knowledge class" are resigned to the fact that they are essentially on call to their corporate propaganda masters 24 hours a day and seven days a week. She writes unquestioningly:
 In journalism, which is never a 9-to-5 job, it’s even harder. News breaks at all hours of the day, and any phone call might be an important source with blockbuster news. Journalists are increasingly pushed to have a presence on social media. They are called to speak on television news shows to promote their stories. To be the face behind the byline means being in a studio early in the morning or late in the evening — exactly the hours of the day most parents carve out to be with their kids.
Sheera Frenkel sounds like most professional people, a "willing slave of capital." She doesn't need her "caring" editors to order her to work like a slave. She has totally internalized the ethos, her only solution being how to creatively carve out some spare time for the baby.

As cultural critic Franco Berardi tells it in "Futurability," we are now in an era where
 The power of knowledge has been uncoupled from social welfare.We have entered an age of techno-barbarianism: innovation has provoked precarity, richness has created mass misery, solidarity has become competition, the connected brain has uncoupled from the social. 
The conjunction among bodies has become fragile, while the connection among disembodied brains has grown permanent, all-encompassing, and obsessional, to the point of replacing life with the spectral projection of life on the ubiquitous screen.

  So after her harried onscreen MSNBC appearance to plug the latest New York Times hysteria, all she could do to express her frustration was to take to the ubiquitous Twitter screen and vent into the void. And lo and behold, other working parents came out of the cyber-depths to vent right back. For one bright shining moment, Sheera Frenkel was no longer alone, no longer just a cog in the capitalist machine, no longer an ant in the mindless ant farm, no longer an atomized dehumanized automaton. The cyber-security expert was herself fleetingly cyber-secure.

Of course, those are not her words, but mine. Here are her words:
Lots of moms, and some dads, wrote me to say that they could relate to the impossibility of trying to give your all both at work and at home. Some people wrote to tell me that I was a terrible mother, and that I should have stayed home with my child. Others wrote to tell me I was a terrible journalist, skirting my responsibility to inform the public in order to be with my child.
That's another thing. Besides print reporters plugging #Russiagate to TV reporters, and print reporters then plugging and quoting TV reporters in the newspaper in order to cement the "narrative," it is also the duty of journalists working the #Russiagate franchise to tweet incessantly and thereby portray themselves as central actors - sympathetic, put-upon victims of both the reading public and Trump - in whatever story they are writing. It does not occur to them to quit Twitter, let alone their jobs, or after-hours drinks and TV appearances. At most, as the uber-productive Times reporter Maggie Haberman recently did, they will "pull back" from social media until such time as they can recover from the 24/7 chore of feeding the trolls and then having to write more Times articles about the chore of feeding the trolls and pulling back from Twitter.

But to hear Sheera Frenkel cheerfully tell it, it's all been worth it. Or so she says. To admit otherwise might put a damper on her career. 

That's sad. Back when I was a working-mom journalist, my most memorably frantic career moment came when I had to abandon an article and leave work early when the school nurse called me to pick up my daughter, on whose head lice had been discovered. I drove the 20 miles to pick her up, envisioning juggling my nitpicking editor with the physical picking of nits. Luckily, the "lice" turned out to be just remnants of shampoo, which as a juggling working mom I had failed to completely rinse out the previous night. The school nurse's name was, aptly enough, Mrs. Dudman. I doubt that she reads this blog or even tweets, let alone breathes. She'd be at least 97.


 Back then, (in the temporarily booming deregulated Clintonoid 90s) I was even allowed to work from home on days that my kids were sick. This being before the Internet, the paper would actually send a courier over to pick up my copy.

Reporters covering local news aren't the only ones out of a job these days. What's a courier, anyway?

Foreign democracy-meddler Rupert Murdoch eventually bought the local paper, which was drastically downsized and assimilated into the consolidated corporate media borg. I didn't even have the outlet of Twitter to unleash my angst and my wrath. I think that was probably a blessing and still is, because unleashing your angst on Twitter and expecting to hold on to your brilliant career when, ten years from now your angst is deemed un-PC, is not conducive to a continued brilliant career in any field.

I wouldn't trade places with Sheera Frenkel for a million bucks or a thousand cable TV spots.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Isn't It Rich: Trump, Madonna, and Chelsea Clinton

Despite his best efforts, Donald Trump is not quite the shoo-in for best performance by a rich, famous, entitled and clueless narcissist this week.

The internet is exploding because Madonna made her VMA show tribute to the late Aretha Franklin all about herself and her own struggles to achieve fame and fortune. She is now known as Me-donna, which is quite a big step up from Material Girl. She's made Trump's own accolade to Aretha -- "She worked for me on numerous occasions " -- look almost magnaminous.

But sorry, Don and Me-Don, because neither of you has anything on Chelsea Clinton. Unlike both of you, she at least brings a little class to the narcissistic table.

Then again, she didn't have the Queen of Soul to compete with her, because the sole topic of the day was the Clinton family and her book sales. 

Persistently still plugging "She Persisted" in Scotland, the daughter of Bill and Hill was asked, yet again, if she will ever run for office. Definitely maybe someday, but definitely not right this very minute was the nuanced Clintonoid reply.

Chelsea classily explained:
"While I disagree with the president … I think my family ... is being really well represented. But if that were to change, if my city councillor were to retire, if my congresswoman were to retire, my senators, and I thought that I could make a positive impact, then I think I would really have to ask my answer to that question."
This is honesty as only the clueless rich can convey it. As long as her family is being well-served by her politicians, she is content, because their needs are being met thank you veddy much. She disagrees with Trump on almost everything - she abhors his presidency - but she is not about to complain about the tax breaks he has gifted to her. The needs, wants and interests of the less-fortunate people of her voting district(s) do not enter into her thought processes at all. They are invisible to her, and unlike your typical phony populist,  she doesn't have the capacity to even pretend to see them, let alone care about them.

She will run for office only if she can make a positive contribution to her family fortunes. Once The Help retire, she might be forced to serve herself for lack of any more family retainers.  At least it sounds that way. To be fair, though, she does at least pay lip service to her own class, admitting that "I feel incredibly protective of Barron Trump" before generously reminding everybody that he has been "bullied for his appearance."

I mean, was anybody even thinking that Barron has a problem with how he looks before Chelsea insinuated that there is something not quite right about the kid? As she readily admits, her feelings of protection toward the youngest Trump son are simply not credible.

Sadly, Chelsea Clinton's wealth and expensive education haven't even made her discourse as erudite as she pretends. "If... I thought I could make a positive impact, then I would really have to ask my answer to that question" is either crafty Clinton doublespeak, or an indication of some seriously muddled thinking.

But as Mother Hillary once wisely asked her answer, "What difference, at this point, does it make?" 

Plus, you can always blame the narcissism of rich people on genetics. Hillary and Madonna are tenth cousins, having shared the same great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother. 

They're all one great big happy self-satisfied family.

Madonna and Hillary

Madonna and Chelsea

Although Chelsea and Ivanka Trump used to be besties, they're not speaking to each other these days. And sadly, Chelsea hasn't expressed the same indignant concern for lesser sister Tiffany Trump, who suffered the ignominy of having to avoid Madonna during a recent high-fashion event in New York and even required extra Secret Service protection as a result. That's because Madonna had also made the first Women's March against Trump all about Madonna, and threatened to blow up the White House.

That's another way the rich are different from you and me. They're never held accountable, because enough of us are enjoying this show way too much to even care. Either that, or we're too numb or jaded to care.

  It's what happens when the Spectacle replaces participatory democracy.

So I hope that maybe definitely someday, Chelsea will find herself forced to protect her own interests when, let's say, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez decides to run for the ignominiously retiring Chuck Schumer's Senate Seat on a socialist platform. Now, that would be spectacle to participate in with gusto and vengeance.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Internet Needs More Diverse Censors, Says Democratic Think Tank

Racism, being as all-American as rotten apple pie, has gotten a huge fertilizing boost thanks to modern technology. The Internet has spawned acres upon acres of toxic cyber-orchards which are poisoning millions upon millions of social media users all over this precious Land of the Free. 

With homegrown neo-Nazis to the right of us and Kremlin bots to the right-left of us, how in the world can #Resistance Inc's Democratic Party intelligentsia and their security state cohort combat the rise of online hate?

The Center for American Progress (CAP) has the very facile answer: Facebook and Google and Twitter should hire more Black and Brown people and women to work as censors and algorithm technologists!

Ask not whether the Corporate State censorship of online speech is a violation of our First Amendment rights. Ask instead whether or not Silicon Valley Nation is making the evisceration of the First Amendment diverse and inclusive enough.

 Google and Facebook and Twitter have already hired thousands of "former" government police and spy agency personnel to monitor our Internet speech, ostensibly to weed out the alt-right, but in the process is also shutting down numerous leftist websites and activist groups, such as Occupy London:
 

Occupy London, which claims 151,000 followers, appears to have been taken down by Facebook. A spokesperson for the group confirms it. Awaiting comment from the company.

 According to the CAP position paper posted online last week, this suppression is not a problem. The problem is that there are too many white people doing the censoring and not enough Blacks and Latinos and women shutting down Facebook pages and Google accounts. As a result, the algorithms favoring white supremacy are still reigning supreme on the Internet.

From the CAP report, co-authored by Aastha Uprety and Danielle Solomon:
According to data from 2016, the technology workforce in Silicon Valley was only 2.2 percent black and 4.7 percent Hispanic. This persistent lack of inclusion is a problem that costs companies billions, reduces product quality, and limits the development of innovative solutions to combat online hate and prevent algorithmic bias. To address this issue, the industry must devote significant resources toward recruiting candidates with diverse backgrounds and building safe and inclusive workplace environments. One effective method of recruiting and hiring more diverse candidates is to target multicultural professional associations at colleges and universities. Another option is the diverse-slate hiring approach, which short lists more than one candidate from underrepresented minority groups and can increase the likelihood of hiring a minority. Diverse hiring should be a priority at all levels of employment, from engineers to executives. Recently, Facebook committed to increasing the diversity of its board members, and Google has pledged to focus their efforts on hiring black and Hispanic women.
Big Brother is so sexist. So bring on a glorious Big Sister Rainbow Coalition to shut down the dissent!  Otherwise, as the authors warn, failure to monitor technology will undo "decades of racial progress and further entrench inequality."

CAP, which is the premier think tank of the Democratic Party, blames white racist bros and of course Russia for the entrenchment of inequality. It does not blame the real culprit, which is the unfettered financialization of the economy and the placement of the most wealth in the fewest oligarchic pockets since the last gilded age, paralleled by a new record CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 312 to one. Bosses now earn in a day what most people earn in a year.

  But it wouldn't be a corporate Democratic Party position paper if it didn't pin the election of Donald Trump directly and solely upon white racists, who harbored such an intense hatred for the first Black president. To hear CAP revise it, the whole country is being overtaken by hordes of torch-wielding Neo-Nazis, necessitating even more censorship, instead of, say, a living wage and good benefits.

 No matter that the overwrought forecasts of bloodshed and trouble at last weekend's D.C. rally marking the first anniversary of the Charlottesville rally fizzled right out, and the alt-right bros ending up literally fleeing the scene, as C.J. Hopkins so trenchantly reports. CAP is clinging to its censorship cure of a narrative. Of course, they're not calling it censorship, because this is still ostensibly a democracy. It weasel-words the suppression of thought with the phrase "best practices to address this threat." It euphemizes spying on social media sites with the words "identifying patterns of behavior" online.

 With its generous corporate funding at stake, CAP wants you to be afraid, very afraid, especially of people and things you cannot see:
 The attacks in Charlottesville were a wake-up call revealing the digital world’s potential for incubating violent ideologies and inspiring domestic terrorists. In reality, hate groups have long relied on online technology to advance their agendas; the digital world provides channels through which hate groups can operate anonymously and communicate without detection. Their ability to reach narrow audiences across a large geography allows these groups to raise money, spread racist propaganda, and lure and indoctrinate new followers. Halting the spread of violent white nationalism online will require nonprofits and private sector companies in the media and technology industries to devote substantial resources toward research and the development of best practices to address this threat. This research should seek to fully identify and understand patterns of behavior; platforms for communication and indoctrination; and mechanisms for exchanging money and weapons.
CAP forgot the mention the nearly one trillion dollars which the bipartisan Congress just allocated to Hatemonger-in-Chief Donald J. Trump for the purchase of more weapons, more technology, more bellicose psy-ops propaganda for the indoctrination of US citizens and the instillation of abject terror in oppressed peoples throughout the world.

But due to both domestic racism emanating from a relative handful of disaffected anonymous white dudes and the "dissent-sowing" of a handful of Russian bots and trolls, CAP is calling for a total clampdown. If speech has to be suppressed, if certain innocent media outlets and individuals get caught up in the censorship dragnet, it's for our own protection. 

By advocating for more minorities and women to operate the dragnet, CAP makes censorship seem so liberal, with identity politics being the "lure" it so paradoxically purports to critique. To further spread the gloss of diversity over First Amendment violations, the paper also urges tech companies to be "mindful" about retention, to pay their female and minority censors at the same rate as their white male censors.

The moralizing is, of course, ultimately about suppression of working class dissent by an increasingly fearful oligarchy. The ruling class is seizing upon two scapegoats -- white nationalism and Russia -- to try and deflect our attention from the real agenda, which is total control by the few over the many.

Their crusade against "hate speech" is a red herring, given that hatred is the traditional glue that holds corporate American politics together.

Henry Adams, whose "Education of Henry Adams" has been rated the best nonfiction book of all time by the Modern Library, knew this more than a century ago when he acerbically wrote: "Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, had always been the systematic organization of hatreds."

Hate speech on the Internet is most assuredly ugly, but censorship by a smarmy self-appointed group of money-controlled experts is far, far uglier.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

John Brennan Drones On

You have to hand it to Donald Trump. Not only is he an expert at controlling the media he only pretends to despise as "fake," he also knows how to stir up corporate churnalism to a sustained furious boil, salted liberally with outrage from a can.

It took a Trump to turn George Bush's torture architect and Barack Obama's drone assassination guru into Resistance, Inc's latest action hero. John Brennan, former CIA director, has now usurped Omarosa Manigault's top spot in the daily news cycle. Not only does he merit the top left corner of the New York Times homepage, he's also glommed onto the upper right plot with the newspaper's lead editorial. I guess that makes him an extreme centrist.

Refusing to become another victim of the cartoon president, Brennan vows that Donald Trump will never silence him. This is pretty rich, given that his Times op-ed tacitly attempts to silence what he calls dupes of Russia. True spook that he is, though, he doesn't bother naming any names: (He no doubt has them all written down on a piece of  paper which he keeps cosily in his pocket.)
Before, during and after its now infamous meddling in our last presidential election, Russia practiced the art of shaping political events abroad through its well-honed active measures program, which employs an array of technical capabilities, information operations and old-fashioned human intelligence spycraft. Electoral politics in Western democracies presents an especially inviting target, as a variety of politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers are readily manipulated, wittingly and unwittingly, or even bought outright by Russian intelligence operatives. The very freedoms and liberties that liberal Western democracies cherish and that autocracies fear have been exploited by Russian intelligence services not only to collect sensitive information but also to distribute propaganda and disinformation, increasingly via the growing number of social media platforms....
 They troll political, business and cultural waters in search of gullible or unprincipled individuals who become pliant in the hands of their Russian puppet masters. Too often, those puppets are found.
The implicit message is that independent media dissent against the status quo should be suspect, if not of Russian origin... unless proven otherwise. This is the very same rationale that Brennan used when devising his Kill List during the Obama years. All Muslim males in the prime of life are deemed to be militants until (never) proven otherwise.

And of course he doesn't mention the CIA's own role in fomenting dissent and crafting intelligence in other countries besides our own. 

It is really quite stunning that the Times gifted Brennan with its prime real estate on the very same day it moralistically published a free press manifesto from the nation's newspapers. Even more stunning, and disheartening, is that the vast majority of reader comments on Brennan's op-ed are overflowing with praise and gushing, fawning thanks for his courage, patriotism and service.

My own deeply buried comment:
How does Trump deflect the public's attention from the Omarosa book, with its juicy revelations of racism and corruption?

He trolls John Brennan and other exiled military/surveillance actors, revoking some arcane thing called "security clearance."

Brennan, who couldn't even be confirmed by the Democratic majority during Obama's first term because of his alleged role in Bush's torture program, has thusly become the #1 hero of Resistance, Inc. The comments section is awash with gratitude for his patriotism and service to his country.

The condemnation that the CIA under his watch garnered for its admitted burglary of Senate computers during the torture investigation is but a hazy memory now, thanks to the common enemy named Trump.

The American values which John Brennan holds so dear include the program he dubbed the Disposition Matrix, aka the rationale for droning suspected terrorists - defined by him at the time as any Middle Eastern male in the prime of his life. We still don't have a full accounting of those killed and maimed by Predator drones, so I look forward to an op-ed from Mr, Brennan giving us the full information we deserve.

As a latter-day free press champion in the Age of Trump, Mr. Brennan has certainly come a long way from his advocating censorship of the Egyptian media during the Arab Spring..

Meanwhile, where is the outrage over Trump's complicity in the Saudi genocide in Yemen, which includes the recent bombing of a school bus full of children?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

But Siriusly, Folks



Sirius the dog star is still high in the sky. It's so bright, in fact, that on cloudy days you supposedly can even see it with the naked eye. At times it can even outshine the sun itself.

But in American End-Times, nobody but nobody outshines Reality Star Donald Trump. Not even reality starlet Omarosa Manigault Newman, despite her daily drip-drip-drip of goodies to a hungry press corps. So what better time for him to call another woman a dog, and what better time for the media to bay like hounds at the latest manufactured outrage when they're not salivating for the latest treat? The Dog Days of Summer have taken on a whole new meaning thanks to Donald Trump. He has made this typically slow news time of year sizzle like a virtual burning planet.

"Dog Days are approaching; you must, therefore, make both hay and haste while the Sun shines, for when old Sirius takes command of the weather, he is such an unsteady, crazy dog, there is no dependence upon him."

So said the Old Farmers Almanac way back in 1817. As usual, the folk prognosticators got it totally wrong, given that Crazy Dog Trump is as reliable a juicy news story as a piece of raw steak.

The media are drawn to the bait as magnetically as Trump's twittery jittery thumbs are drawn to his i-phone every morning, coinciding with the dawn rising of Sirius.  When the woman in question - the ubiquitous Omarosa - also happens to be Black, the dog insult becomes even worse, especially when it's juxtaposed with the White House's passive-aggressive admission that a tape likely exists of Trump using the N Word.

Fetch the smelling salts.

In other barely-reported, and thus less shock-intensive news, Roman Catholic priests were found to have abused over a thousand children in the past several decades in just one state, Pennsylvania.

 At least 30 people died in a bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy after its crumbling state had been an obvious scandal for months, if not years. Heads will not roll, although right wing officials are boldly calling for "resignations." You see, it was all the fault of the E.U. and not the fault of  elected right wing officials.

A bus full of Yemeni children was blown to smithereens by an American bomb. The murders of brown-skinned children are deemed by the corporate media to be less offensive and newsworthy than the latest president uttering racist slurs on tape. (both Nixon and LBJ were caught on tape uttering racist slurs, but not until they were safely dead.)

A complicit bipartisan Congress just gifted the "insane" racist president almost a trillion more dollars with which to bomb more busloads of children. And that money will need to be replenished in another year. It's no wonder that lawmakers gave him the nearly blank check months before the bill actually came due. It's no wonder that they gave this allegedly crazy dog even more money for more bombs and planes and troops than he even asked them for.

 But don't feel depressed or angry! Because the "most diverse group of candidates" in US history has just won a handful of primary elections. And that means that the American establishment is still reliably and liberally focused on identity politics rather than on class politics and anti-war politics.

The choice of the second Muslim woman to run for a seat in Congress on a progressive Democratic platform has, judging from all the self-celebratory liberal press coverage, served the dual purpose of absolving the Democratic Party of its own guilt in the killings of millions of Muslims throughout the world by American bombs and guns and the recent nondebatable funding of the US Imperium's continuing death and destruction.

It's the neoliberal way. Elevate a precious few members of historically marginalized and oppressed racial, gender, religious and ethnic groups to positions of prestige, and call it a victory rather than the whitewashing that it truly is.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

How Corporatism Is Co-Opting Socialism

Have you noticed that more and more corporate media pundits are paying some positive attention to socialism these days? If they can't beat such attractive upstarts as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, they might as well at least pretend to join them in the pre-midterms interim. There'll be plenty of time after November to curb both their enthusiasm and ours.

Color me skeptical, but when neoliberal scribes Paul Krugman and Michael Tomasky write pro-socialist op-eds in the New York Times on the very same day it does tend to send my bullshit detection radar into high alert.

Krugman even took a break from his European bicycle tour vacation to wax rhapsodic about Denmark's social welfare state. It seems like only yesterday when he was waxing funereal about Bernie Sanders's call for single payer health care and free higher education. O.K., so it was more than a year ago, but time flies when millions of desperate people are logically thinking that their time is running out.

Tomasky, editor of the centrist journal "Democracy" and a columnist for the Clinton-supporting Daily Beast (Chelsea Clinton sits on its board of directors) is not so much enthusiastic about socialism as he is worried that capitalistic greed is creating too much socialistic enthusiasm in the great unwashed masses.
So if you were a person of modest or even middle-class means, how would you feel about capitalism? The kind of capitalism this country has been practicing for all these years has failed most people.
Yes, it’s given us lots of shiny objects to gush about. A smartphone that can display slow-motion video is a wonder. But an affordable college education, though perhaps not a wonder, is a necessity for a well-ordered society. So is a solution to a national drug crisis in which 115 people die every day, as well as a lot of other problems that the capitalism of our era has simply ignored.
I have mixed feelings about this socialism boomlet. It has yet to prove itself politically viable in general elections outside a handful of areas, and by 2021 we could wake up and see that it’s been a disaster for Democrats.
 Mind you, Tomasky mainly has the interests of the plutocrats at heart. His column is an appeal to their alleged altruism and understanding of the lesser people and by no means a list of remedies to ameliorate record inequality. He doesn't go so far as to agitate for single payer health insurance, a living wage, increased Social Security benefits, a federal jobs guarantee or new taxes to fund affordable housing. He only asks that wealthy "thought leaders" care, or more accurately, pretend to care. Otherwise too many leftists might get elected and take away their perks.

Nevertheless, both he and Krugman are being widely praised for saying such pretty, inclusive words. They are good soldiers who will do whatever it takes to get disaffected Democrats to the polls in November.

Meanwhile, since I wanted to find out if socialism is getting even more popular among disaffected young people, I Googled "millennials/socialism/polls" to get some numbers.

Surprisingly or not surprisingly, the very first entry in the Google search results was from a site calling itself "Victims of Communism.Org."

It wants to warn struggling, indebted young people about their deluded thinking. If they persist in wanting guaranteed medical care and other nice things, they might end up in a Stalinesque gulag. Or to be really realistic about it, Maduro's Venezuela!
Unfortunately, Americans are as ignorant of the developing situation in socialist Venezuela as they are of the definition of socialism itself. Six out of every ten Americans surveyed were wholly unfamiliar with Venezuela’s socialist dictator, Nicol├ís Maduro, and the economic crisis and human rights abuses that have occurred under his rule.
So, 100 years after the Bolshevik Revolution, the majority of the largest generational cohort in America show great enthusiasm for socialism while completely failing to correctly identify its definition when asked or examine its consequences. It gets worse.
Seven in ten Americans drastically underestimate the number of people killed at the hands of communist regimes over the last century. This is unsurprising, given the fact that half of all Millennials say they have never heard of Mao Zedong, a man whose policies killed nearly 60 million people, making him the greatest mass murderer of the twentieth century.
 It goes on to equate the neo-Nazi provocateurs at Charlottesville with the anti-fascist protesters "with hammer and sickle flags" despite the fact that the anti-fascists are not members of the Communist Party.

A click on the miniscule link to "Leadership" reveals that, unsurprisingly, the people in charge of Victims of Communism.Org hail from conservative think tanks, the finance industry and the security state. The executive director, Marion Smith, is a Heritage Foundation alumnus. Look for his re-education campaign on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, Fox and other echo-chamber outlets of the corporate propaganda consortium.

Chairman of the Board is Lee Edwards, also of the Heritage Foundation, who cut his own anti-socialistic teeth as director of communications for Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign.

Not that the Victims of Communism organization is totally Republican, of course. Since "bipartisan" is establishment-speak for "noble, altruistic and honest," there is even a congressional Victims of Communism Caucus to more ably represent the interests of unfettered capitalism.

Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Dennis Lipinski (D-IL) joined with their GOP colleagues in urging EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to boycott the unveiling of a statue of Karl Marx (a gift from China) in his hometown of Trier, Germany this past May in honor of his 200th birthday. No matter that Marxism was co-opted by such despots as Joseph Stalin in order to do some truly evil things. According to the official US corporate bipartisan consensus, Karl Marx personally was and is responsible for all manner of global evil.

To his credit, Juncker not only ignored the US politicians and right-wing hecklers, he publicly derided them in his speech at the statue's dedication:  
Mr Juncker said: "Anyone would do well in remembering Marx because remembering and understanding are part of securing the future.
"Without memory and thought, without understanding memory, there will not be much for the future.
"Marx isn't responsible for all the atrocities his alleged heirs have to answer for.
"One has to understand Karl Marx from the context of his time and not have prejudices based on hindsight, these judgments shouldn't exist".
He went onto discuss Marx's influence on the European Union, saying that Marx's philosophy taught Europeans that it was the “task of our time” to improve social rights.


No word on whether the Bipartisan moralizers back in the USA will demand that Marx's books be banned as well. But no matter. In the American Land of the Free, Marx is rarely, if ever, taught in institutions of higher learning. And most important of all, curious learners anxious to learn about socialism and polls and young people always have the Google to set them on the right-wing path.

Google, you might remember, has not only given the reactionary website "Victims of Communism" the top spot as a result of this query, it has actively suppressed such leftist groups as the World Socialist Website from its results pages.

Here are the other top hits to the query "socialism/polls/millennials" on Google's front page of results:

"Majority of Millennials Want to Live In Socialist, Communist or Fascist Nation Rather Than Under Capitalism" (Washington Times)  According to the lead, "this troubling turn highlights widespread historical illiteracy in American society."

Sound familiar? Maybe it's because the source of this scare-mongering piece is none other than the above mentioned Marion Smith of the Heritage Foundation. For a guy so concerned about education, he certainly has a parallel agenda of the destruction of public education in the United States. He also has an addiction to false equivalency, the way he equates socialism with fascism.

Third-ranked on the Google search results page is a Chicago Tribune piece titled "Why Are Millennials So Hot on Socialism?" (Hint: they are woefully uneducated, not knowing such uncomfortable factoids as "the forcible removal of ghetto children" from their parents in Denmark... so they can go to school for 25 hours per week!) Also too, the American millennials who favor socialism are the same depraved individuals who believe in birth control and extramarital sex.

It's only until you get halfway down the Google search results page that you get to read more objective and relatively unbiased articles about young people and socialism, which are largely centered around the upset primary victory of Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Still, as CNN reported on the recent polling, millennials still like capitalism and free enterprise right along with their newfound enthusiasm for socialism. So all is not lost. As long as there's Google to supplant critical thinking skills and the deep study of history, there's life in the old Oligarchy yet.

So the corporate media will keep their fingers crossed until such time as they can get back to business after the November midterms. They'll keep inviting reactionary shills like Marion Smith on their air to keep the conversation balanced, the concern for the poor as shallow and perfunctory as possible, and the capitalistic cancer in fake remission even as it grows and multiplies under all the concern-controlling and co-optation and snake-oil treatment.