It's time once again for another semi-regular dump of my New York Times comments.
Because of the corporate media's steady diet of "all Trump all the time", I'd been somewhat constipated of late as far as my commenting contributions to the Gray Lady are concerned. It's hard to comment on articles in a paper which I sometimes go entire days without reading. The virtue and sanctimony on offer is often just too rich for my squeamish digestion. Even cutting the cord on the empty calories provided by CNN and MSDNC did not entirely rid me of the nausea and bloat engendered by the Trump overload, because pearl-clutching and virtue-signalling supplements are baked into every fake resistance "news analysis" article and opinion piece in the Times.
The Times dishes out Trump in abundance, and at much profit to itself. Its latest earnings report just set another new record.
But recovering news junkie and elitism-gawker that I am, I just can't quit the Gray Lady entirely. And I do confess that when I fall off the wagon, I fall off the wagon bigly.
So, on to the dump of those comments which I can actually remember pecking out in a dazed binge-and-purge orgy of news and elite opinion-consuming gluttony.
First up is Frank Bruni's actually pretty insightful column, titled Donald Trump's Phony America: Land of the Fraud and Home of the Knave.
Comparing Trump's rise to that of Theranos grifter Elizabeth Holmes, chronicled in the bestseller Bad Blood by John Carryerou, Bruni writes:
There are several kinds of success stories. We emphasize the ones starring brilliant inventors and earnest toilers. We celebrate sweat and stamina. We downplay the schemers, the short cuts and the subterfuge. But for every ambitious person who has the goods and is prepared to pay his or her dues, there’s another who doesn’t and is content to play the con. In the Trump era and the Trump orbit, these ambassadors of a darker side of the American dream have come to the fore.
Trump’s amorality play contradicts our paeans to the Puritan work ethic. It’s not the script that we teach our children. But with Trump in the White House, validated by tens of millions of votes, it may well be what some of them are learning.
My published response:
The Puritan work ethic is the lodestone of our nation's Calvinistic "Discovery Doctrine," holding that plunder is fine as long as it's done in the name of a "higher power."
Think Mike Pence and the attempted coup in Venezuela.
We're taught that certain people are just so special that they were chosen from on high to be The Elect. Salvation is guaranteed to the materially successful, while the poor and unlucky probably deserve damnation.
Trump is just the most blatant symbol of this perverse, consumerist, inhumane value system. He's gotten away with his crimes for decades because America loves a grifter and a showman. His fans, 40% of the country, cling to him as they waste their energy resenting their fellow human beings who don't look or talk just like they do. So what if the Trumps and the Holmeses of this world bamboozle their way to the top? The ends - wealth and power - always justify the means. Rarely are they held to account.
So if there's one good thing that Trump has done, it's been forcing more people to wake up to the reality that the American Dream has always been a scam. Working and studying hard, waving the flag and supporting the troops lose their luster when you look at all the bumbling hypocritical pathocrats in our midst with the gall to keep preaching their sick prosperity gospel to us.
It's no shock that Exceptional USA now ranks 35th out of 50 other advanced nations in measurements of health.
So down with Trumpism. Up with the Green New Deal.
It's all Michael "The Rat" Cohen all the time at the Times, and Maureen Dowd gives readers her acerbic take on the saga in a column slugged The Sycophant and the Sociopath:
Trump, who once bleated “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” in his anger about Jeff Sessions recusing himself, wanted a lawyer who was whip-smart, amoral, ruthless and predatory. Cohen was merely Renfield to Trump’s Dracula, gratefully eating insects and doing the fiend’s bidding.
With a few exceptions in his inner circle and with family, Trump doesn’t give loyalty or deserve it. That’s why Republicans on the Hill who so obsequiously stand by him will eventually learn it wasn’t worth it, just as Cohen warned them.....
Loyalty is a rare commodity in Washington. And Cohen is not the most wretched sycophant in political history. That honor goes to Andrew Young, a slavishly devoted aide to John Edwards during the 2008 campaign who served as a driver, personal shopper, handyman and butler to the North Carolina senator.
Ouch. I had almost forgotten about the "Breck Girl" as Dowd once dubbed Edwards after he was photographed on the campaign trail getting a $400 haircut while marketing his Two Americas anti-poverty fakery.
So while Dowd, along with Bruni, wrote a pretty insightful column this weekend, my biggest ongoing complaint about her work is that she never lets readers forget what a Washington insider she is herself. Famous people are always confiding to her at one elite Beltway or Hollywood cocktail party or another. There's a certain knowing smugness to her columns that makes me feel slightly nauseous when I read them.
My published comment to her latest:
It's hard to know how much of Cohen's mea culpa was original, and how much of it was scripted by Lanny Davis, his own fixer of a lawyer.
But here's the part of his testimony that really chilled me:
“Indeed, given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power, and this is why I agreed to appear before you today.”
Trump's approval rating now scarily hovers around the 40% mark. Too many people are treating this as a reality show. And despite all its pearl-clutching, that especially goes for the Media-Political Complex.
The consolidated media is flush with record subscription cash, ad revenue, readership and viewership. Trump is a blockbuster hit series which the movers and shakers don't want to cancel any time soon. Impeachment is "off the table" while the various actors vie for campaign donations and their own starring roles on cable news show panels.
No matter how they purport to "resist" Trump and how fast they race to fact-check his every mendacious utterance, they love him and they serve him every bit as slavishly as Michael Cohen.
To expand upon the infamous quip by the disgraced ex-CEO of CBS, Trump may be bad for ordinary people, but he's been damned good for the oligarchy and the media it controls.
The movers and shakers aren't exactly champing at the bit to relinquish their monster tax breaks, or agitating to stop Trump's regime-change coups and wars, are they?
Speaking of Dowd's insider status, I had also commented on her previous column ( Feb. 23) which launched yet another trial balloon for Joe Biden. She brought up his family history of what she curiously calls a "web" of tragedies and intrigues, apparently designed to both pre-empt criticism of sleaze over which he has no personal control (Clinton, Obama, borderline incestuous affairs involving sons and daughters-in-law) and to soften our hearts and minds for his umpteenth entry into the presidential sweepstakes.
I'd barely heard of Biden's "web" of pseudo-scandals until Ms. Dowd saw fit to bring it up to refresh all our memories.
Since it was Joe himself who reportedly was the source for the maudlin 2015 Dowd column that had the dying son begging Dad to seek the nomination, this sounds like another trial balloon to gauge whether the public even cares about the troubled family dynamics. Are Biden or his people also setting up this narrative, portraying him as a sympathetic victim of Trump to dilute, if not preempt, any potential backlash?
Ms. Dowd playfully warning Uncle Joe about his "Irish temper" getting the better of him is too cute by half. So's the insinuation that Trump is all Obama's fault.
If people -- other than D.C.'s elite establishment, that is -- have a bone to pick with Biden, it won't be because of his family soap opera or his age. It will be because of his actual political history.
As one of the original conservatives of the Democratic Leadership Council, he was instrumental in passing the crime bill which incarcerated a record number of black people, as well as reforming bankruptcy laws which made it nearly impossible for families to make a fresh start from onerous, often usurious, credit card debt. And then there was his awful treatment of Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas confirmation. hearings.
It's the family-unfriendly web of neoliberal capitalism that Biden helped to spin that should encourage him to stay off the trail to spend time with his own clan.
One aspect of Michael Cohen's testimony that the liberal media are gobbling up is his claim that besides being a cheat and a con man, Trump is also a racist. The fact that the Republicans on the panel dutifully defended Trump from this charge is just more proof, according to columnist Michelle Goldberg, that the GOP is in "A Race to the Bottom."
I kind of suspect that Clinton advisor Lanny Davis, who is also Cohen's pro bono defense attorney, is the mastermind behind the racism addition to the corruption scandal, because it hews so perfectly to the Democratic Party's embrace of identity politics as a means of virtue-signalling and proving that they are not Trump. But I digress.
Goldberg, recounting Rep. Mark Meadows's use of a black female Trump appointee as a human prop to "prove" that Trump is not a racist, writes:
The “fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself,” said (Rep. Rashida)Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American. Red-faced, indignant and seemingly on the verge of tears, Meadows demanded that Tlaib’s words be stricken from the record, turned the charge of racism back on her, and said that he has nieces and nephews who are people of color. In a stunning dramatization of how racial dynamics determine whose emotions are honored, the hearing momentarily came to a halt so that Tlaib could assure Meadows that she didn’t mean to call him a racist, and the committee chairman, Elijah Cummings, who is African-American, could comfort him. “I could see and feel your pain,” Cummings told him.
Amazingly (ahem) enough, Goldberg failed to examine why in hell a leading corporate resistance Democrat, an African-American no less, not only sided with a right-wing politician and threw Tlaib under the bus, but went on to insist that this right-wing racist is his very best friend in Congress. Cummings essentially announced his own corrupt priorities to the entire country, a shocking admission that must be ignored by the corporate media at all costs lest it interfere with Democratic virtue-signaling.
My published response:
A common technique of right-wing authoritarians accused of racism is to boomerang their accusers.
Trump himself is a master of this kind of gaslighting. When, for example, Black NPR journalist Yamiche Alcindor asked him at a November press con about the white nationalism he inspires, he went ballistic, retorting "That is such a racist question.... Oh, I don’t believe that, I don’t believe that, I don’t believe that. Why do I have my highest poll numbers ever with African-Americans? Why do I have among the highest poll numbers with African-Americans? That’s such a racist question!"
Mark Meadows similarly overreacted in outraged victim mode. And what a disappointment that Oversight Chair Cummings seemed to take his side and call him a friend, implicitly rebuking Rashida Tlaib. Apparently, she is supposed to stay in her assigned place as one of the new female symbols of diversity, and to keep her accurate assessments to herself.
It is testament to her own generous humanity and her courage that she was able to both embrace Meadows and still defend her absolute right to speak her mind and represent her constituents.
This also goes to the real purpose of most over-hyped congressional hearings. Politicians commonly use them to grandstand and play to their base and donors, rather than to cross-examine witnesses to seek the truth.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is also to be commended for demanding documents and names, in lieu of showboating.
And last but least we come to two columns by Paul Krugman.
In his most recent offering, he claimed that he was so tired of bashing Donald Trump that he might as well bash daughter Ivanka Trump for a change. Krugman is apparently miffed that she's going around lecturing the country about the evils of socialism, and the bliss of social mobility and waged work, topics about which he obviously knows a lot more than she does. As a matter of fact, inserted right smack in the middle of his column for no apparent reason is a self-promoting blurb bragging that [Paul Krugman did explanatory journalism before it was cool, moving from a career as a world-class economist to writing hard-hitting opinion columns. For an even deeper look at what’s on his mind, sign up for his weekly newsletter.]
Since Krugman used his column to focus on Ivanka's ignorance rather than on her criminality, I addressed the latter in my own off-topic published comment:
Dotus (Daughter of the United States) was a lifelong registered Democrat who couldn't even vote for Doting Daddy in the New York primary because of that state's draconian law imposing a ridiculously long waiting time to change one's party affiliation.
So her current shtick using GOP talking points to poor-shame the very people Trump has made even poorer is simply re-branding her image. She thinks as long as she can use neoliberal code words like "empowerment" and "access," we'll forget all about her involvement in grossly overcharging Trump Hotel guests in town for Daddy's inauguration.
A Mueller indictment for that scam, as well as fraud charges stemming from her reputed involvement in Russian oligarch money-laundering schemes, can't come soon enough.
She's already been close to indictment in Manhattan, until her attorney made a nice campaign donation to the district attorney. And as David Cay Johnston has outlined, she once bilked prospective buyers of a Baja California resort by falsely claiming not only to have purchased a unit herself, but that she would live there. She settled with prosecutors for an undisclosed sum in a sealed agreement.
So let her lecture the working class all she wants. The more she whines about socialism, the more attractive it appears, even to doubters.
Keep it coming, Ivanka. Hope to see you modeling the latest Trump-branded orange jumpsuit at a Club Fed resort real soon. I hear they pay whole pennies an hour for the job of your dreams.
Krugman's previous column (2/25) addressed Trump's apparently discontinued trade war with China, because apparently, only "unlawful" autocrats can bribe Trump into immunizing themselves from protection racket protection scams.
Now, since the Times is not only uncritically covering Trump's ongoing grossly illegal coup in Venezuela, and is in fact totally on board with it, I've been inserting this topic into my comments wherever I can. Especially given Krugman's allegations of shocking bribery in Trump Tower, it makes you wonder why, since Nicolas Maduro is painted as such a vicious dictator by the corporate media, Maduro isn't also on Trump's bribery payroll, or vice versa. In point of fact, it's the Koch Brothers and Big Oil bribing Trump, but that's a story for another day.
My published response:
The trade war with China that wasn't was always about Trump's own political fortunes. He no longer seems to care about pandering to the working class in general and the US steel industry in particular. Remember when he made it all about the unfairness of all that cheap Chinese steel invading our country and destroying our wonderful jobs?
He has now pivoted to Venezuela, where he is on record for wanting to invade just to get their oil. It won't do for him to bicker with China when Venezuela is ready, willing and able to accept Chinese goods and aid. China buys Venezuelan oil, or at least it did before the US imposed new sanctions and froze Venezuela's bank accounts and made the economy scream like Nixon did to Chile.
Trump might have the attention span of an ant, and his Art of the Deal was an artless piece of ghost-written junk, but his merry band of neocon gangsters are very well-versed in the dark art of global looting and war and bloodshed. They'll find a way to take their outsize cut of polluting, planet-destroying Venezuelan oil sales to the choking, smog-infested, car-happy Chinese population, should they achieve their goal of seizing the Venezuelan oil supply for humanitarian reasons.
Of course, this is all just total speculation on my part. Every time you think that the Trump regime couldn't possibly get more insanely, openly, pathologically greedy. they get more insanely, openly and pathologically greedy.
And they don't care who knows it.