Friday, March 29, 2019

The Insider Threat of Media Stenography

Well, at least CNN president Jeff Zucker is being honest when he whines that "we are not investigators. We are journalists."

He was responding to criticism that his network and other corporate media outlets had gotten the #Russiagate coverage totally wrong.

Back in the olden days, there was such a thing as shoe leather reporting, when news professionals would literally pound the pavement in search of the truth. Today it's rare for a reporter to ever tear him or herself away from the computer screen long enough to venture out of doors to talk to actual people on the street and where they live, or to comb through boxes of forgotten dusty files in courthouse basements and to treat with healthy suspicion the pronouncements and press releases of the wealthy and powerful.

Zucker and other media moguls complain that their news personalities are unfairly expected to be prosecutors with subpoena power, that they are ridiculously supposed to actually come up with their own hard evidence, otherwise known as documents and history and personal interviews with myriad people. It is not the job of journalists, in other words, to do something so extreme as to independently verify what they are told by powerful people.

To be fair, though, such investigative journalism has become much harder in recent years, particularly when the Obama administration began cracking down on government whistleblowers with such executive orders as the Insider Threat directive, issued in 2011, requiring workers to spy on one another to ascertain whether their colleagues are talking to reporters. As McClatchey News reported in 2013:

The program could make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations of loyal Americans, according to these current and former officials and experts. Some non-intelligence agencies already are urging employees to watch their co-workers for “indicators” that include stress, divorce and financial problems.
“It was just a matter of time before the Department of Agriculture or the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) started implementing, ‘Hey, let’s get people to snitch on their friends.’ The only thing they haven’t done here is reward it,” said Kel McClanahan, a Washington lawyer who specializes in national security law. “I’m waiting for the time when you turn in a friend and you get a $50 reward.”
If it isn't digitalized or predigested, and if it doesn't come from a think tank or a political party or an approved government spokesperson, it simply doesn't exist to a whole generation of cowed stenographers toiling away in their increasingly repressive and consolidated corporate media hives. The exceptions are natural disasters like hurricanes, or unnatural disasters like the latest school shooting. Only then can they escape into the physical world to get some fresh air and maybe even gain some fresh insight from people who normally wouldn't be given a platform.

On the rare occasions that reporters do venture forth to take the pulse of the nation, they proudly pat themselves on the back for performing a bold feat of "parachute" journalism to prove that they care, they really care, what people in the Heartland are actually doing or thinking. They make sure everybody knows that they're not the elitists whom people, a/k/a the Deplorables, so often accuse them of being.

Zucker admits that his brand of journalism doesn't dig for the facts independently, but relies upon the "facts" that the media are given by their public relations and marketing colleagues in the government, electoral politics and private industry. His brand of journalism is often restricted to presenting  two differing - but not too differing - viewpoints on a given manufactured issue and then sitting passively back as the various factions duke it out on air.

Jeff Zucker is still completely in denial, proclaiming to the New York Times that he is "entirely comfortable" with having spread disinformation for the past two-plus years. It's not the media's fault that Mueller absolved Trump of "collusion", because it is not the media's job to debunk what the ruling class and their sponsors in the oil, weapons and pharmaceutical industries want them to sell to the public. 

And the most valuable product that they want to sell to the public is fear, to deflect attention from the "enemy within" to some amorphous "enemy without." One handy way that the media have accomplished this feat is to constantly lambaste Trump for his anti-Muslim, anti-Latino xenophobia and to replace it with their own anti-Russian xenophobia.

The various news organizations are still wallowing in the grief-stages of denial, depression, and bargaining, with just a hint of anger that they themselves have become the targets of criticism which does not come solely from Donald Trump. The president's own vengeful crowing is such overkill, in fact, that they shouldn't really worry about the continuing hatred from him and his base.

The only thing that they really have to fear is a sudden drop in their ratings and ad revenue now that #Russiagate is dead. Even MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, whose Russophobic fear-mongering over the last two years topped everybody else's, has seen her ratings plunge since the synopsis of the Mueller report was released. She has even been demoted in some media accounts from hard-hitting crusading reporter to "cable TV personality."

While they're rushing to conduct some fake soul-searching, the media-political complex is no doubt plotting the next meta-narrative. Trump, as ever, reliably contributes to the lucrative franchise by playing the Bad Cop, railing against the media as he obligingly performs his various Outrages Du Jour to suck up all the undivided passive attention. 

This week, it was killing Obamacare, yanking funding from the Special Olympics, and caging migrants underneath a Texas overpass. Trump acts, and the media reacts. The virtue-signaling soars to fever pitch. And the money flows in torrents of outrage into the usual select pockets.

The New York Times, for one, has reported record profits during the Russiagate panic, with executive editor Dean Baquet going full Edith Piaf: "We wrote a lot about Russia, and I have no regrets. It’s not our job to determine whether or not there was illegality."

Sing it, Dean!

Meanwhile, Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, under secret US indictment for his investigative journalism, is still a virtual prisoner in the Equador embassy. And whistleblower Chelsea Manning is still locked up in solitary confinement.

And despite his avowed disdain for Barack Obama and rhetoric about invaders from the Global South, Donald Trump has not only retained Obama's Insider Threat division for the suppression of truth, he has expanded it.

Last November, the Trump administration released a 19-step "maturity framework" directive for the detection of insider threats. The press release strives to mitigate the fascistically authoritarian nature of the  program by repurposing the entire federal work force as the "Insider Threat Community."

Details and required course material for government employees, devised by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, are readily available online. For example, one section advises employees how to detect mental illness in their co-workers and how to report suspected sufferers to supervisors. Workers must simultaneously be "sensitive" to the stigma associated with mental disorders and still be cognizant that mentally ill people might pose a grave internal national security threat. 

Since Donald Trump does not have a supervisor other than a complicit Congress and a conservative Supreme Court, guidelines regarding his alleged psychological issues do not apply and do not exist.

Still, somebody over at the Insider Threat School does seem to be trying to send a message. This chart, posted on the online course on mental illness, illustrates warning signs that government workers should be on the alert for and report to supervisors (click to enlarge):

Who, if anybody, is going to report this brilliantly subversive artist?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Health Care Kabuki

Since hell hath no fury like a president vindicated, Donald Trump has again gone on the attack against Obamacare. This time, though, Trump is doing an end run around Congress and is using another recent Texas court decision to try and overturn the law. 

The fake resistance Vichy Democrats, meanwhile, are doing their own oligarch-pleasing part by introducing a bill to merely "shore up" Obamacare and keep the private insurance predators in business. Single Payer is off the table. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made sure of that, just as she has made sure that impeachment is off the table.

Trump isn't even bothering suggesting a replacement for Obamacare this go-round. He wants, or at least pretends to want, to destroy the whole thing in one fell judicial swoop. He is using the tried-and-true Goebbels method of viciously going on the offense as a way to play cowardly defense. For despite all his boasts of "exoneration!" Trump is not out of the woods yet.  Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller III has reportedly farmed out acres of new evidence to states attorney general and US attorneys which tie him and his extended family to bank fraud, tax fraud, and real estate fraud, to name just three treats on the criminal smorgasbord. Never mind that these are the same local prosecution shops that have let the Trump empire get away with its sleaze for whole decades, absent making secret deals and paying the occasional civil fine. This time could be different, especially when there are political names to be made for any number of hungry headline-seeking prosecutors.

Now, here's where Trump's crusade to destroy Obamacare could hit a snag. As Vicky Ward lays out in her new book, "Kushner, Inc." the president's son-in-law Jared has a big financial stake in keeping Obamacare alive and kicking. His brother Josh's online health insurance company, currently valued at close to $3 billion, could be destroyed right along with the Affordable Care Act. Jared was adamantly opposed to the first attempt at repealing the law, for very good reason. Ward writes:
Josh had co-founded the online health insurer, Oscar, which was predicated on Obamacare: it could be purchased on the state exchanges that the Affordable Care Act had created.... If the new (repeal) legislation rolled back Obamacare, it could be financially catastrophic. Someone close to the brothers pointed out to me that "no other asset (in the Kushner family) comes close (to Oscar)." 
Trump's former economic adviser, Gary Cohn, a Democratic alumnus of Goldman Sachs, also opposed repealing Obamacare. Ward adds that at one point, Jared even brought in Obama health adviser Ezekiel Emanuel, to consult on saving the law and by extension, saving the family's financial skin.

It all became moot when the late John McCain cast the deciding GOP vote that saved the law.

I wonder if Ivanka might now whisper in Daddy's ear that, as pleasurable as it is to scare and sicken millions of people by ripping their health insurance out from under them, it might be smarter to keep the family peace, and most important of all, keep the windfall profits flowing to the family, all thanks to Obamacare. The Oscar company's bronze plan requires subscribers to pay an $18,000 deductible before they receive any benefits at all, making it as legally corrupt as most neoliberal schemes designed to extract money from the desperate and put it in plutocratic pockets for the greater pragmatic good.

It's quite the dilemma for Trump. He will have to choose between pleasing his base, and pleasing his kids and the insurance companies. What variety of greed and graft shall he pick? Stay tuned.

It's possible and even probable that Trump's latest authoritarian gambit is just another head fake to distract the country from his own cowering fears and continuing legal woes. It could even be a way of thanking Speaker Nancy Pelosi for squelching impeachment talk, for slapping his main rival Bernie Sanders' Medicare For All plan, and for fighting her very hardest to further enrich the health care marketplace which has been so good to Trump's in-laws and other wealthy investors.

The corporate Democrats' bill, after all, greatly expands federal subsidies to the insurance cartel, which is already flush with record windfall profits.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Stages of #Russiagate Grief

I wish I could say that the long-awaited Meh Report, in which Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no conspiracy and no coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, spells the beginning of the end of the corporate Neocon wing of the Democratic Party and all its associates in the zombie establishment media.

 But I'd be fooling myself. Elite failures rarely go away. They simply fail upward. At the very worst, they temporarily disappear or go into propaganda rehab until such time that the public has moved on to the next new narrative or scandal. The more blatant cases will simply double down on their delusions for the foreseeable future.

Since Donald Trump is nothing if not a gleeful scandal of his own making, he will very likely make it ridiculously easy for the liberal failure class not only to survive, but thrive. He will scream "total exoneration!" and "witch hunt!" so many times that his words will lose their impact.

 Meanwhile, the primary media stakeholders of the #Russiagate franchise - MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post - are all churning violently in their various Five Stages of Grief whirlpools. As students of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross should know, the duration and the order of these stages are not set in psychological stone. They vary from person to person. They often overlap each other. And oftentimes, just when sufferers think they're finally cured, they revert back to the earlier stages.

This whole "closure" thing is a lot of malarkey.  

Therefore, just because Robert Mueller has gone from revered Father of Our Country to Deadbeat Dad who couldn't or wouldn't bring home the Siberian bacon doesn't mean that "the Russians" aren't still out to get us. After all, we have thus far only seen a synopsis of the report written by Trump-friendly Attorney General William Barr. There could be enough hidden nuanced nuggets lurking in the actual report to at least partially satisfy hungry true believers.

As the editorial board of the Times, wallowing in its own initial denial phase of #Russiagate grief, plaintively insisted:

We know that the Russian government interfered repeatedly in the 2016 presidential election, by hacking into computer servers of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. We know that it did this with the goals of dividing Americans and helping Donald Trump win the presidency. We know that when top members of the Trump campaign learned about this interference, they didn’t just fail to report it to the F.B.I. They welcomed it. They encouraged it. They made jokes about it. On the same day that Mr. Trump publicly urged the Russians to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails, they began to do just that. And we know that when questioned by federal authorities, many of Mr. Trump’s top associates lied, sometimes repeatedly, about their communications with Russians. None of this is in dispute.
The Times continues to parrot the conventional wisdom that it was "the Russians" who hacked the Clinton emails, even though the Democratic Party relied on its own investigators to reach this conclusion and refused FBI access to its computer servers to prove the Russian connection one way or another. The newspaper still refuses to believe that there was no collusion, even though Trump was more of a passive partner than they originally claimed. He may have been the bottom half of the missionary position, but he still had relations with those Russians. At the very least, he lusts after Putin in his heart, and therefore he is still guilty as sin.

The second traditional stage of grief - Anger - is not yet the overwhelming symptom evident in the Media-Political Complex. #Russiagate grievers were still too shell-shocked on the morning after Mueller's death-knell to get overtly mad at him personally. Mueller has been too elevated to mythological, godlike status for too long for people to immediately turn against him. On the contrary, many are making excuses for him. As valiantly as he strove to cure the Trump cancer, the disease was too far advanced for even a prosecutorial Marcus Welby to tackle. This is especially true given that the body politic under attack by the Trump malignancy was in such horrible shape to begin with.

Former Obama White House Counsel Bob Bauer pleads that Mueller couldn't indict Trump on obstruction of justice for the simple fact that the president has been acting out in full public view. The tumor was just too large and too slippery to excise:

This was apparently a significant consideration in the decision by Mr. Barr and Mr. Rosenstein not to prosecute (along with the determination that there was no underlying “collusion” legal offense). Here, once again, the president who is a demagogue — who is fully prepared to flout well-established, vitally important expectations about how American presidents faithfully execute the laws — can safely bring self-interested, self-protective pressure on the Department of Justice and undermine its public standing and authority.
In other words, Trump wasn't sneaky and occult enough. This is like claiming that it's easier to catch an embezzler than it is to nab an armed robber bumbling with guns a-blazing in broad daylight. Bauer's op-ed represents the overlapping stages of denial and bargaining, as he suggests that if only we had a stronger penal code, Trump might yet go to jail. All we need is the right legal miracle drug to catch this guy, juxtaposed with major changes in our legalized lifestyle regimens. It's the normalized shameless corruption, stupid!

Democratic politicians are similarly in bargaining mode. If only they can subpoena more miracle documents, then maybe, just maybe, the lucrative #Russiagate enterprise can remain on life support. If only they can raise enough money through a barrage of email appeals demanding that Barr "release the report now!," maybe the outcome will be different.

There's also a fair bit of pragmatic acceptance going on along with the understandable depression. Some pundits know when they're beat and already are urging the country to get over itself and move on.

And some Democratic leaders, like New York's Hakeem Jeffries, seem downright relieved that they finally have permission to collude with Trump, while they simultaneously investigate him, now that their manufactured Russia scare has largely outlived its political and monetary usefulness to them. The Mueller report has served the desired purpose of tamping down all that pesky impeachment talk and vindicating Speaker Nancy Pelosi's reluctance to go that route.

I hate to sound heartless here, but it's not as though the Russophobes weren't warned that their disease was terminal. As long ago as last October, legal experts were trying to impart the bad news in the gentlest possible terms. As Politico reported, 
The public, they say, shouldn't expect a comprehensive and presidency-wrecking account of Kremlin meddling and alleged obstruction of justice by Trump -- not to mention an explanation of the myriad subplots that have bedeviled lawmakers, journalists and amateur Mueller sleuths. Perhaps most unsatisfying: Mueller's findings may never even see the light of day.
And as recently as a month ago, Senate investigators themselves were trying to hammer home the sad fact that as hard as they'd tried, they too had found no evidence of a Trump-Putin conspiracy. All eyes then turned to Doc Mueller as the last best hope to come up with some factual crimes to fit their beloved conspiracy theories.

It must indeed be a buzzkill, after having spent more than two years of your life steadfastly performing conspiracy nursing duty, to suddenly discover that your seemingly viable patient has suddenly upped and died on you.  The demise of #Russiagate, to its devotees, must feel like losing a beloved family pet. To the most extreme among them, it might even feel like losing a child. 

So while I am not going to gleefully stomp all over irresponsible propagandists and #Russiagate birthers like Paul "beware the Siberian Candidate!" Krugman and Rachel "the Russians will freeze us to death!" Maddow, I do sincerely hope that they and their ilk will at least just quietly fade away for a week or a month and do their grieving and their bargaining and their teeth-gnashing in a dark closed room somewhere. Because thanks to them and hundreds of other handsomely paid corporate group-thinkers like them, this country has entered into another Cold War, complete with a renewed nuclear arms race.

Trump may have dodged an existential bullet. But the country and the world have not.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Neoliberal Bioethics: Just Die Already

 Ezekiel Emanuel, health policy adviser in the Obama administration, lists his current credentials as oncologist, bioethicist, and vice provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

His idea of ethics is writing a propaganda piece in The Atlantic which insinuates that Bernie Sanders's Medicare For All ("messy care") proposal is politically impossible, because Americans are like battered women trapped in a toxic relationship. Citing the results of recent push-style polling which conclude that the 70 percent of respondents who initially claim to be in favor of single payer health care suddenly change their minds when (falsely) told they'll lose benefits under a government-run system, Emanuel says the real enemies of single payer health care are not Republican think tanks and politicians, but the US citizenry. 
As much as Americans hate insurance companies in general, they want the right to have a love-hate relationship with their own insurer. During the battle over the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama promised, “If you like your plan, you can keep it.” When a handful of Americans lost their plans, the backlash was tremendous—even when the cancellations had nothing to do with the new law. The polling data today are clear: When Americans are told they might have to give up their current insurer, fewer than 40 percent support Medicare for all. That’s nowhere near enough to override the entrenched interests in health care.
Emanuel is so ethical that he doesn't stop at simply debunking the vicious Republican propaganda about socialized totalitarian medicine and death panels. He sets up a brand new straw man with which to gaslight his audience and attack Medicare For All. If we get sick and die because we are uninsured, he explains, it'll be our own damn fault for getting obliquely lied to by push-pollsters. We cannot blame our poor beleaguered congress critters for failing to pass a true universal guaranteed health care payment system. We can only blame ourselves and our neighbors who listen to nasty right-wing talking points and watch insurance industry-sponsored Harry and Louise-type TV commercials.

Needless to say, Emanuel's bioethics do not include informing people that true single payer is not only simple, but that coverage would be guaranteed and that private insurance would not only be rendered superfluous but people would end up with more money in their pockets by not paying premiums, co-pays and deductibles and their employers would save money and hopefully pass the savings on to their workers in the form of better pension plans as well as higher wages. He doesn't explain that the taxes to be collected would be much lower than the premiums charged by the insurance industry.

But to give him credit where it's due, Emanuel does nonchalantly and ethically inform readers toward the end of his piece that
Between Bernie Sanders and a buy-in are two more practical and politically appealing plans. One is Medicare for America, a proposal drafted by the Center for American Progress. (Full disclosure: I helped design it. I’ve also received speaking fees from groups representing insurers, hospitals, doctors, and employers.)
That little snippet is so inconsequential that he puts it in parentheses so you get the message that his grifting activities have nothing at all to do with his true concern for his gaslit audience.

Just as, if not more, important as guaranteed universal coverage from cradle to grave, Emanuel thus concludes, are the guaranteed and continuous windfall profits for the predatory and admittedly abusive-at-times private insurance industry. One way to improve and expand upon Obamacare would be to implement Medicare Advantage For All, and allow private companies to impose their narrow restrictive networks and suck up even more exorbitant profits from the myriad services which would be deliberately excluded from coverage under any new government plan. Medicare drug coverage plans already are privately run, and the prices of many drugs therefore would still be kept artificially high under the plan Emanuel helped design.

Although named Medicare Extra For All, not everyone will pay the same premiums, which will be based on income. Subscribers would still have to fork over co-pays and deductibles, again based on income, with discounts offered if services are rendered at a "center of excellence."

And all this would be available gradually, over a period of eight (!) years. 

It's a lot more convoluted than true single payer. There's a lot more space for watering down and tinkering by lobbyists.

The whole point is to keep cut-throat competition as the health care marketplace's driving force, and to keep treating health care as a privilege or lottery and not as a basic human right. Capitalism is so slick and smooth and well-groomed compared to "messy care for all" as envisioned by messy old Bernie. Giving people immediate relief and peace of mind simply does not meet the requirement of "efficiency" -- code for keep it unnecessarily complicated, and maybe it'll all just go away.

Emanuel's plan, with no apparent sense of irony, also adds reams of paperwork and whole new layers of bureaucracy to the already messed-up system, and thus is almost guaranteed to garner complaints, with much justification. He explains to the bewildered:  
There are also good policy rationales to preserve a role for private insurers. While progressives often claim these companies do nothing for the health-care system but add paperwork and extract profits, this view is anything but universal. Medicare Advantage plans offered by private insurers currently enroll about a third of seniors and are the fastest-growing part of Medicare. The evidence—only 2 percent switch back to regular Medicare— suggests that seniors like these plans and, by implication, the private insurers that offer them. In addition, having multiple payers adds competition, which can improve performance and prevent the government’s health plan from ossifying.
The fact that even old people stay in abusive relationships does not mean that victims love their abusers. It means that they're afraid of their abusers. It's human nature to be afraid of change. They're afraid that if they stop giving in to blackmail and extortion and protection rackets, they'll be left with nothing at all. They might even die.

Emanuel does not explain this, or attempt to set the record straight or soothe any manufactured fears. He does not ethically explain what he even means by the dreaded "ossification" of a government-run single payer health system. I suppose he wants to impart the notion that Medicare For All isn't sexy enough. Our lives are not precarious enough. We need constant intrigue and excitement. Why be bored and complacent knowing that the good old stodgy reliable government will always be there to promptly pay for our medical care, when we can enjoy seductive and dangerously titillating trysts with Cigna or Aetna or Blue Cross-Blue Shield?

Never knowing when or even if they'll show up is half the fun. What's your phone for, after all, but to spend countless hours trying to locate an insurance company adjuster and beg them to reverse a claim denial? It's as emotionally appealing as trying to track down a cheating or inattentive or missing spouse or partner.

And what an aphrodisiac it is when they finally do deign to talk to you or show up and make up for your bruises with a bouquet of flowers (or a surprise partial reimbursement check.) Abusive relationships are to die for.

Ezekiel Emanuel hasn't been this persuasive about the joy of pain since 2014, when he wrote in The Atlantic that since he doesn't want to live past the age of 75, neither should selfish old you -- Medicare Advantage plan or not. 

I wrote a critique of that slimy bit of neoliberal propaganda, cross-published in Truthout, which up to then had been regularly running my pieces. "Medicare, Dr. Mengele and You" apparently was not, I heard from a reliable source, well-received from on high, because the liberal site suddenly dropped me like a hot potato. An ossified, unpaid hot potato. 

Granted, my critique of Zeke was fairly brutal. An excerpt:
If Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D. can’t live forever in a young body, then neither should you. If Ezekiel Emanuel’s attack of male menopause freaked him out, then you should freak out too. If Ezekiel Emanuel fears a decline, then the rest of the aging population should just quietly disappear, even before they get sick or senile.
Ezekiel Emanuel has decided that if he can’t function like a rich jerk forever, he would just as soon die before he reaches 75. Therefore, nobody else should live past 75 either. Once you stop being entertaining or remunerative, you should just check the hell out.
Sad to say that judging from his most recent "Messy Care" narrative, Emanuel is as ossified in his tomb of a capitalistic belief system as ever. The continuing neoliberal message is that if you can't learn to survive within an abusive, cutthroat market-based health care system and cannot appreciate all the Advantages accruing thereto because you have no money and no clout, then you might as well just die already. 

Emanuel is really, really bad at bioethical gaslighting. If there was such a thing as journalistic malpractice, he'd be sued. His shameless propaganda should make us more determined than ever to keep agitating for single payer health coverage for everybody.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Fan of a Pretty-Faced Murderer

The barrage of bipartisan gaslighting finally may have gotten to Ilhan Omar, congresswoman from Minnesota.

 While steadfast and brave in the face of charges of anti-Semitism for her critique of the right-wing government of Israel's outsize influence on American politicians, she appears, at first glance anyway, to have collapsed under the weight of all the shocked reaction to her spot-on critique of Barack Obama's drone assassinations, mass deportations and imprisonments of migrants and refugees, and his corrupt fealty to Wall Street.

Less than 24 hours after her scathing assessment of the Obama presidency was published in Politico, Omar lamely insisted she is a "fan of Obama" whose remarks were taken out of context. It's as if a whole squad of Obamabots in little white coats had kidnapped her and forced her into some emergency Obama Conversion Therapy. It's as if she's starring in another remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. One minute she's one of the last lefty Obama critics standing, and the next minute she says she's in love with the guy. She went to sleep as a progressive, and she woke up as a brainwashed neoliberal replicant.

But I think we should cut her some slack. She must recant and pretend to love Obama so as to blend in with the rest of the zombie pod people, too many of whom are merely playing at being humane. She pretends to succumb so that others might wake up, face the recent past, escape the hagiographic propaganda of his lingering personality cult, and warn the rest of the world about all the smooth-talking Obama clones who might be lurking in our midst.

Omar's surface conversion has become a matter of political, not to mention physical, survival, for her. It's hopefully only a temporary form of Stockholm Syndrome. She must at least pretend to join forces with her gaslighters, and go along to get along.

Omar is a refugee from Somalia, a poor country that was the target of many a drone strike by Obama. She simply has to learn, or pretend to believe, that unlike Trump's stupid drones, Obama's drones killed thousands of people therapeutically and philosophically. She must learn to identify, or pretend to identify, with her native country's own abuser. She should just lighten up. After all, Obama was able to urbanely joke about his drone murders without acting like a total xenophobic Trump-ass about them.

She has to learn that to survive as a Democratic pod-person in good standing, she must keep her accurate assessments of Obama to herself for now, especially when her own hometown newspaper appears to be turning against her. Her accurate assessment of the influence of the Aipac lobby was hard enough for some of her constituents to bear, but insinuating that Obama is a slick smiling killer is worse than stomping on the flag, spitting in a plate of apple pie and stealing from your own mother all at the same time.

Here's the heretical statement that got Omar into so much trouble:

“We can’t be only upset with Trump. … His policies are bad, but many of the people who came before him also had really bad policies. They just were more polished than he was. And that’s not what we should be looking for anymore. We don’t want anybody to get away with murder because they are polished. We want to recognize the actual policies that are behind the pretty face and the smile.”
And then came the pod people in their little white coats, and Omar hastened to tweet:
“Exhibit A of how reporters distort words. I’m an Obama fan! I was saying how Trump is different from Obama, and why we should focus on policy not politics.”
Omar linked to an audio of the Politico interview, which, strangely enough, only confirmed her initial assessment. And since it confirmed rather than refuted her critique of Obama, she then hastily deleted the tweet proclaiming her fandom and the audio confirming the exact opposite. It confused people, including (at first) me.

But the main reason that I cut Omar a lot of slack is that despite her surface fealty to the Cult of Obama, she has started a long-overdue conversation about the actual Obama legacy, which the corporate media have been burnishing to a high gloss for the past decade or more. There's quite a bit of rot hiding beneath all that surface shininess. 

Other critics and even some recovering victims of Obama Stockholm Syndrome are beginning to come out of their own woodwork and acknowledge the inconvenient truths that Omar has publicly proclaimed, at much personal and political cost to herself.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Hillary 3.0

Hillary Clinton is not running for president. But she may very well be sauntering for president.

Still the same politician who told Goldman Sachs bankers during a paid speech that she has "a public position and a private position," she denies publicly that she is running for the highest office in the land while at the same time vowing to "stay relevant" and letting it be known that sure, she still wants to be president. And if we are to believe Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, Hillary is pretty bemused that people literally take her at her "I'm not running" word.

The plethora of Democrats announcing their own candidacies well over a year before the first primaries are to be held was, I suspect, supposed to dilute the field enough to make Bernie Sanders irrelevant, especially when given that such corporate contenders as Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand have eagerly adopted Medicare For All and other liberal policy proposals which were deemed too radical when Sanders first challenged Clinton with them for the 2016 nomination. 

Perhaps the private, as opposed to the public, plan was for these candidates to siphon off enough votes from Sanders to necessitate a brokered convention in 2020. Since the super-delegates are still allowed their weighted votes should the first ballot fail to nominate anyone, it is entirely feasible that Hillary Clinton could be nominated by undemocratic acclaim, without ever having had to physically hit the trail for a third time. After all, everybody already knows who she is, despite that pesky public-private positioning. And sauntering rather than running also protects her from any more pesky scrutiny.

Of course, the corporate media would love a Clinton-Trump do-over. Think of the ratings and the ad revenue and the guarantee of No Medicare For All Not Ever. And the Democratic Party elders would do just about anything to destroy Bernie Sanders, even if it means a second term for Trump. They are perfectly content to raise money off their roles as #Resistance Fighters. Nothing sells like perpetual umbrage in high places.

So employing the old standard Clintonoid parsing ploy, Hillary no doubt feels perfectly sincere when she says she's not running. She is not running right now, because for one thing, and for some reason known only to her own private self, she is said to be waiting for the Mueller report to be released before deciding. She may never run at all in the traditional sense. Because she received those storied three million more actual votes than Trump did in 2016, she is already The Elect. She's a special case. She always has been.

The common, but already failing, conventional media wisdom had been that Bernie fans would enthusiastically embrace one of the current crop of poseurs, because they're younger, more physically appealing and "diverse" than he is. But since he raised record-breaking amounts in small donations on the first official day of his campaign, the media has quickly advanced to full Bernie destruction mode. The most common trope, despite the fact that it has no basis in fact, is that Sanders doesn't appeal to black voters. One recent example of this genre appears in The Guardian, where Theodore R Johnson warns readers that Bernie's outreach to blacks, even if he reaches out to them all day and every day, "will not be enough."

The alleged reason?
These tips-of-the-hat to black Americans’ disparate experience are unlikely to move the electorate into his coalition in any significant way for a few reasons. First, history has fostered a political pragmatism within the black electorate that tends to prefer moderate Democratic candidates who have a track record of deep and persistent engagement. Because of the centrality of the civil rights question, black voters most often support presidential candidates they trust with protecting the gains made to date. This trust is earned over time or through a shared lived experience. This is why establishment candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, and why black candidates like Barack Obama and Kamala Harris, have the inside track with this bloc. Sanders has yet to show he can break through.
Johnson doesn't acknowledge the polls that show Bernie is leading in every identity parameter except, by a very slim margin, race. As Vox reports,
An analysis of recent polls from November of 2018 to March 2019 shows Sanders is more popular with people of color than white people, and women like Sanders as much as men do, if not more. He leads every other possible 2020 contender with Latino voters and lags behind only Joe Biden — who hasn’t announced a bid yet — with African-American voters. Sanders’ polling numbers with black voters are double that of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), according to a March Morning Consult poll.
He only lags, and not by much, and mainly among older, more conservative black voters. 

At the end of the Guardian piece, readers are informed that author Theodore R Johnson is a senior fellow at the Brennan Center For Justice. Yeah, civil rights credibility! What we aren't told is that he is a retired U.S. Navy official and also a recent fellow at New America, a neoliberal pro-war think tank led by former Clinton State Department adviser Anne-Marie Slaughter and staffed with alumnae of the Clinton and Obama administrations. His journalistic side-career writing for various corporate media outlets included one typical February 2018 piece for Slate.

Since it appeared a year before Bernie-Bashing 2.0 officially got underway, Johnson instead used his propaganda skills to insinuate that black voters were too doped up on Russian "blini and vodka" to propel Hillary to victory in 2016. Russia's alleged spellbinding of the American black electorate has been a common propaganda trope used by Clintonoid forces to try and explain why black voters didn't come out for her in 2016. It's really quite the racial scapegoat, not to mention stereotype, because it denies black people their own agency and assumes that they're a monolithic bloc who lack critical thinking skills.

As a matter of "fact," Johnson claimed, in a throwback to J. Edgar Hoover, Russia has been messing with and hypnotizing black people's heads since the 1960s Civil Rights era:
Russia used the U.S. history of racial oppression and its persistent challenges with systemic racism to manipulate (or at least attempt to manipulate) Americans’ electoral choices. And this wasn’t a simple add-on tactic to a larger influence operation. Rather, it’s in keeping with several decades of Russian efforts to use the United States’ treatment of its black citizens as a counterpoint to the American narrative of freedom and equality. The major difference today is that social media marketing allows Russia to do with efficiency and scale what it could never do with Cold War–era print and radio propaganda.
In other words, Johnson is a paid propagandist for both the corporate Democratic Party and its affiliates in the military-industrial complex. But I think you had that all figured out the minute you finished slogging through his sleazy Guardian piece.  

Norman Solomon wrote a great article about all the anti-Bernie propaganda that's been churning out there in an already-furious boil. He thinks that it's not the Party itself we have to worry about so much as it is the Party-aligned media. I think that it's both, and that we won't see much direct official Party sleaze in action until the first primaries. Then the DNC jaws will publicly clamp down in earnest if Bernie wins and makes it all the way to the convention.

Meanwhile, Hillary saunters.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

America's Lousy Unreality Show

"Would some Power the gift to give us / To see ourselves as others see us!"--Robert Burns, To A Louse 
Judging from two recent national polls, Americans do not see the United States as the rest of the world sees it. 

"People around the world see U.S. power and influence as a major threat to their country," reveals a Pew Research Center report issued last month.

But a nearly simultaneously-released Gallup poll shows that half the American population is
 happier about the country's standing in the world than they've been at any time in the past 13 years. They think the world hasn't loved America this much since 2001, in the aftermath of the terror attacks of 9/11, and again in 2003 when the whole world supposedly stood up and cheered when Bush Junior invaded Iraq. Remember, this poll measured not reality, only belief systems. Americans tend to believe what they see on cable TV and read in the establishment press.

America is like the snooty church lady in the Burns poem who is blissfully unaware of the louse crawling through her hair to brazenly perch atop her fancy bonnet. Or, just as likely, she is well aware of the louse, but is proudly and perversely glad that its creepy presence is frightening and disgusting everyone around her. Merely pretending to be blissfully unaware of her vermin problem, she can then act all shocked and dismayed when her lousy bombs of liberating democracy are not greeted with the proper fawning admiration and gratitude.

Don't, in fact, these dueling polls and dueling literary interpretations reflect the combination of ignorance and arrogance which has always made America so exceptional? Because contrary to what our liberal corporate media would have us believe, Donald Trump has not single-handedly destroyed America's global reputation. He has made it worse, of course, but U.S. "global standing" has never been anything to brag about.

According to the Pew report,

A median of 45% across the surveyed nations see U.S. power and influence as a major threat, up from 38% in the same countries during Trump’s first year as president in 2017 and 25% in 2013, during the administration of Barack Obama. The long-term increase in the share of people who see American power as a threat has occurred alongside declines in the shares of people who say they have confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing regarding world affairs and who have a favorable view of the United States.
America took big reputational hits during the Obama administration when Edward Snowden revealed the National Security Agency's global collection of phone records and emails, along with the United States' eavesdropping campaigns against the leaders of such friendly countries as Germany and Brazil. His drone assassination program also failed to engender a feeling of global love and respect.

Ironically, and somewhat shockingly, the NSA has just announced that it is discontinuing the massive data collection program secretly begun by the Bush administration in the aftermath of 9/11. Either "No Such Agency" is stuffed to the gills with data that it doesn't know what to do with, or it tacitly acknowledges its redundancy, given that such private entities as Amazon, Google and Facebook have taken over data collection and surveillance as the full and equal partners of the Deep State.

But back to the Gallup poll. The breakdown of results purporting to find that more than half of the US citizens polled are happy with the country's global reputation also reveals that a major subset of these allegedly satisfied people are self-described Republicans. That only a third of respondents were satisfied with US standing only a year ago, and with eight out of 10 Republicans now hoisting up the total "satisfaction" percentage so much, also parallels the creeping-up of Trump's own domestic poll numbers.

Respondents believe that although world leaders as individuals don't respect Trump, they're convinced that these leaders' subjects view "America" favorably. They either didn't consult the Pew poll, or they are too entranced by Trump's self-glorification and frequent claims of "winning" to notice the louse on his own orange bonnet:

  • The belief that leaders of other countries respect the U.S. president dove from 45% in Obama's final year to 29% last year, and has not recovered at all.
  • The percentage of Americans satisfied with the nation's position in the world dipped slightly from 36% in 2016 to 32% in 2017, but then surged to 45% this year -- the highest in 13 years.
  • A majority of Americans in 2016 (54%) believed the world rated the U.S. favorably. The percentage with that view fell to a near-record low of 42% last year, then bounced back to 55% this year.
If it's any consolation, the percentage of Republican respondents who think that world leaders respect Trump is still much lower than the percentage of Democratic respondents who thought that world leaders respected Obama.  

Nevertheless, we can't just blame Republicans for all the cluelessness. Even Democrats are not noticing the louse on the red, white and blue bonnet as acutely as they probably should, with more than a third of them still convinced that despite Trump, the rest of the world thinks highly of the United States: 

Last year's decline in this measure to 42% reflected sharply lower percentages of Democrats and independents believing the world viewed the country favorably. This included a fall from 68% to 32% among Democrats and from 55% to 41% of independents. Though Democrats' attitudes this year, at 36% favorable, are fairly similar to their views last year, 50% of independents now think the U.S. rates favorably, and Republicans have gone from 39% in 2016 to 54% last year and 80% now. 
As The New Yorker's Jane Mayer reports, the White House and Fox News are no longer bothering to hide the fact that they are essentially the same corporate entity. Propaganda works, and it works well. When Trump brayed at a campaign rally that "I love the poorly educated," he wasn't kidding, given that 80 percent of his base now believes that the whole world respects America. And that more than a third of Democrats still think the same way is also probably the result of their own steady consumption of pro-war reporting by the corporate media, most recently the liberal clamoring for "humanitarian intervention" in Venezuela. It also helps when Russia has been marketed as the "enemy outside" sowing domestic discord and meddling in our democracy for these past two years. 

Besides investigating creepy-crawly Trump corruption, we really should be pushing for a Marshall Plan to rescue public education in this country -- and that includes building more schools and public libraries and paying teachers at the same high levels that other highly trained professionals receive. Perhaps we can insert such a plan into the Green New Deal as an emergency declaration to salvage America's critical thinking skills at the same time we try to save our planet.

Impudent and arrogant American Exceptionalism is not only a lousy doctrine, it is a global killer. The only thing the rest of the world dreads more than the power and terror of the U.S. hegemon is the climate catastrophe which the U.S. hegemon alternately ignores and intensifies. 

Make America think again.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Adventures in New York Times Commenting

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.
He concludes: 
 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.

My comment:
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.