Sad news. The Golden Anniversary of Woodstock this August has been called off due to lack of interest by investors. Billboard has the scoop:
Earlier today officials with Dentsu Aegis Network, which is funding the festival, released the following statement to Billboard: “It’s a dream for agencies to work with iconic brands and to be associated with meaningful movements. We have a strong history of producing experiences that bring people together around common interests and causes which is why we chose to be a part of the Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival. But despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees."
Like seemingly everything else, the misty-colored, mud-spattered, drug-addled legendary rock festival memories have all been reduced to a Brand. The high-maintenance music stars slated to perform apparently would not have felt safe enough in a region of upstate New York known for its soaring poverty and unemployment rates. Even many of the highly educated adjunct professors with teaching gigs in the CUNY and SUNY systems are forced to work extra jobs and go on food stamps to survive. The 50-year reunion was not even going to be in Woodstock Proper, but much further north in Schuyler County's Watkins Glen, most famous for its stock car events. In other words, they were going to pave paradise and put in a Trump-voter parking lot. I am clutching my pearls just thinking about it. Even the original Woodstock wasn't held in Woodstock, but across the border from Ulster County in Sullivan County's Bethel. A couple of years ago, even Bethel was re-branded as the home of the Woodstock-inspired Bethel Woods concert series, where ticket prices are way out of the reach of actual residents and Woodstock hippie survivors of the economically depressed area. They won't even let you bring your own blanket or lawn chair, for crying out loud. You have to rent one of their custom chairs for 6 bucks - or if you're especially flush with cash, you can purchase a branded one online. Otherwise, get off their lawn. Unless you have $519 to park your butt on it for the 2019 summer season. But since times are tough for even affluent people, they very generously allow you to bring one small Ziploc (branded) bag of foodstuffs from your home, along with one (1) bottle of water. No other migrant refreshments are allowed. Over the past many decades, the main industry in the nearby actual Town of Woodstock has been B&Bs, craft shops, head shops, gourmet shops and trendy restaurants catering to the New York City crowd. Just a 90-minute drive from Manhattan, this bucolic area is also second (or third or fourth) home to quite a few movie and media stars and wealthy Big Apple residents. MSNBC's Chris Hayes actually has a primary home in the Woodstock area. This cable personality, who last week grotesquely compared Russiagate critics, like me, to the pro-slavery, anti-abolition activists of the pre-Civil War era, recently dished to the New York Times that he personally accompanies his kids to their private day school before his chauffeur picks him up and whisks him down to the broadcast studios where he can instill the proper fear and loathing of Russia into the minds of his dedicated viewing audience -- without ever having had to personally fight traffic! Of course, this creeping gentrification is driving real estate and rental prices in the entire state sky-high. I just got word the other day that my absentee L.L.C. landlord would be raising my monthly rent by $250, effective in 30 days. If I don't sign a new lease within ten days, the month-to-month rent will be jacked up an extra $150 a month, for a total increase of 40 percent. I checked, and this unconscionable tactic to displace people is all perfectly legal in the aptly-named Empire State. Never mind that my apartment house was converted from a struggling local farmer's apple storage barn into affordable housing units about two decades ago with generous financial aid and tax breaks from both the state and federal governments. The catch is that it didn't have to be resold as affordable housing. As the property manager unctuously explained to me: "Market Rate." Timing is everything. With the state's landlord-friendly rent statutes due to expire next month, the new Democratic legislative majority is set to vote on a series of bills which would extend protections to renters statewide. But even if reforms do pass, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, great beneficiary of the predatory real estate industry that he is, could veto them. This is quite likely, given that since his election to a third term last year, he has abandoned both his pretend-pivot to populism and his threatened presidential run. It's not that I didn't have an inkling about what was in store for my complex's mainly working class residents, most of whom have been tenants here for many years and who have been getting their increase notices on a staggered schedule so as to discourage renter solidarity. As soon as the property resale closed last fall, the new owner summarily fired the long-time property manager without even one day's notice. "It's business, Hon," she told me the new owner's rep explained to her. (You'll forgive the digression from the core subject of this post, but I am feeling a tad grumpy today! I'll be writing a lot more on the housing rights struggle later.) So back to the Woodstock Reunion That Wasn't and Probably Never Will Be. I have to say that I am absolutely crushed that Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus will not be making the trek to the boonies, and that New York state troopers will not be diverted from highway patrol and other public duties in order to guard their bodies and those of their compatriots as they keep out the local riffraff who don't have the price of the tickets because The Rents Are Too Damned High. To no avail, concert promoters reached out to Live Nation and AFG in hopes of coming up with the necessary $20 million to keep the proposed festival site safe for the stars and the attendees from the Upper Ten Percent Demographic. But investors did not bite. Maybe it was because of Sunday's Simpsons episode, which poked such cruel, gleeful fun at the blight of upstate New York --and they suddenly became too afraid to either monetarily or physically venture forth into the Wilds. Or maybe they're just tapped out from bribing Joe Biden and giving ostentatious tax-deductible donations for the rebuilding of Notre-Dame. But rest assured, because Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus and the rest of the cast have already been paid, to the tune of $30 million. It's the Market, stupid. Chris Hayes probably isn't disappointed that the Woodstock gala is off, because as he so modestly confided to the Times, his life already is an "Unceasing Festival of Impatience." Who needs Woodstock-era hallucinogens when, between waking up to Twitter, spewing Russophobia, and then being chauffeured all the way back in Ulster County, he is a natural "brain-dead mess?" Just like Woodstock itself, Hayes is a self-avowed Brand, and proud of it. It's what the corporate journalism market is all about. But despite the announced cancellation, the Locals are having a lot of trouble adjusting to the news that the big city money and talent will not be flowing into this depressed area after all. They vow that the Show Must Go On -- Jay-Z or no Jay-Z. The event's organizer denies outright that it's been canceled.
“We are committed to ensuring that the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock is marked with a festival deserving of its iconic name and place in American history and culture," (Michael)Lang said in a statement via Woodstock Ventures. "Although our financial partner is withdrawing, we will of course be continuing with the planning of the festival and intend to bring on new partners. We would like to acknowledge the State of New York and Schuyler County for all of their hard work and support. "The bottom line is, there is going to be a Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival, as there must be, and it’s going to be a blast.”
Since the performers have already been paid, the ethical thing might be for them to just show up, at no charge to the locals, and give the local economy a boost. Meanwhile, New York state politicians are feeling the outrage because The Simpsons cartoon show mocked the horrific results of four decades of extreme neoliberal policies, birthed right down there on Wall Street when bond vigilantes imposed austerity on the working class, and the oligarchs began taking over the city, state, nation and the whole world. It is embarrassing for them when the Empire State's "ghost towns and crumbling infrastructure" are not hidden from public view, as they usually are by MSNBC, Fox,CNN and the New York Times.
“We’re headed to the one place that can never decline because it was never that great: upstate New York,” Homer says as the Simpson family heads to Niagara Falls. During the trip, a tractor-trailer is seen swallowed by a pothole. They pass a shut-down Kodak plant in Rochester as people snap selfies. They also whiz by a leaking water tower in Niskayuna, near Albany.
Repeat after me, folks: Markets, Markets, Markets! Don't be shocked or saddened by blighted towns and desperate people who can't afford to go to a rock concert. Be offended instead by a song which scathingly points out that there are thousands of blighted landscapes and millions of desperate people struggling to survive in the richest country on earth. And be very afraid of "the Russians," who are sowing all this damned discord and attacking our beloved democracy.
Meanwhile, New York political leadership is such a brain-dead mess that rather than hang their heads in shame, the region's tourism industry is issuing an invitation to Simpsons creators and Fox executives to attend the State Fair this August to see for themselves. This computer-generated news narrative captures the essential problem -- the structured inhumanity of neoliberalism --even better than an actual human being could.
It's official. Joe Biden has finally repurposed his wandering hands into throwing his hat into the presidential ring for what is about the seventh lucky charming time in his career. Let the party-splitting begin in earnest! The campaign motto I have assigned to him ("Status Joe For the Status Quo") is, I admit, a bit misleading. It might be more proper for Uncle Joe to roar "Status Joe For the Status Quo-Ante!" given that he wants to return us to the Golden Age of Obama. On third thought, Uncle Joe crowing for Ante might remind voters what a groper and sniffer of women and girls he is - and that will never do in this age of #MeToo. Biden has such a long sordid history of corruption and cruelty that it would take hours to copy and paste all the lists that have thus far been compiled. For a crash course in his depravity, you should read Norman Solomon's excellent synopsis over at Truthdig, which in its own turn, links to several other excellent synopses of Biden's awfulness. It'll be interesting to see how his primary opponents treat him, given his exalted Status. If they are polite and deferential, if only to show that they are not as mean and petty as Trump, then beware - especially if it comes from candidates who've conveniently latched on to the progressive agenda. Even Trump is not acting as overtly nasty as he could be, only taunting Biden as "Sleepy Joe" in a morning tweet. This actually renders Biden hapless and harmless, which is exactly the opposite of the truth about him. Forget about the Democratic Party dividing itself in two. I think it should be at least a three-way division. A five or six-way division would be even better, because then collapsing under its own corrupt weight would come sooner rather than later. So far, we can probably divide the several dozen or so candidates among those who will shamelessly grovel before the former V.P.; those who mildly disparage his political history without engaging in the "politics of personal destruction"; and those who take off the gloves and immediately start punching him in his many vulnerable spots. I predict that "moderates" like John Hickenlooper and Pete Buttigieg will be in the first group, Bernie Sanders in the second, and Elizabeth Warren in the last. She has never been shy about expressing her withering disdain for Uncle Joe, largely because of his authorship of bankruptcy reform legislation. Bernie, on the other hand, is loath to personally attack anybody, except maybe Trump. There is also a fourth group, one that is thus far occupied only by former President Barack Obama. Cautious and pragmatic as always, he has as much as endorsed Biden without being "seen" to endorse him. To make his choice of Biden known, he used a paid spokeswoman to praise Uncle Joe, sending the additional subtle message that the enlightened women in Obama's orbit are far from disgusted by Biden's roaming hands and overactive nostrils.
“President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made,” Obama spokeswoman Katie Hill said. “He relied on the vice president’s knowledge, insight and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today.”
Out of sycophantic duty, Politicorefers to this glowing endorsement as "cryptic," allowing Obama to be seen as not interfering in the race. O.K. then. It'll also be interesting to see how Biden's claims to be Obama's heir play out. It's as if septuagenarian Prince Charles suddenly announced he was running for King as his more popular son William's heir, rather than Mum's. It's kind of a back-assward approach, if you ask me. Then again, I am probably being unfair. Because OBiden is not a father-son relationship, or a son-father relationship. What they're really marketing is a Bro-Bro relationship. When you're a Status Bro, you can rise above groping women. You can show your good intentions by gripping, and being gripped by, a fellow Status Bro who has the added benefit of having melted the hearts and minds of millions of liberals on both coasts. Regaling us with eight whole years' worth of professional, glitzy Bro-marketing also took unwanted attention away from such less appetizing macho behavior as bombing eight countries, drone murders of civilians, and their secret coddling of the Bankster Bros and Corporate Person-Bros.
This is not to say that their Special Relationship was all fun and games and Bro-cheer. OBiden could be serious when the occasion demanded it. Though sitting right next to one another, they very carefully refrained from jokes and PDAs during the private video-streamed execution of Osama bin Laden.
If it had been Trump sitting in that room, you can bet your bottom dollar he would have been crassly tweeting about his killing prowess even as the gruesome murder was happening. He probably would have live-streamed it on Facebook and maybe even superimposed his own MAGA hat-wearing head on a Navy SEAL executioner's body. Obama had the good sense to restrict his own involvement to one still photo, showing him dressed in a tasteful casual-chic golf shirt under a windbreaker. Instead of going into all the gory details, he waited many hours before donning suit and tie and maturely giving the Nation a sanitized, if not downright false, version of how "justice" had finally been done. That left the Bro-Joe side of the duo free to incessantly and trumpily bellow at re-election campaign rallies: "We killed Bin Laden and General Motors is Alive!" without ever mentioning that the investors in both enterprises got filthy rich while the actual grunts and auto workers got hammered - in wallet, in body, in mind, and in soul. As Biden intoned today in the video announcement of his "Let's Go With Joe!" campaign:
"We are in the battle for the soul of this nation. I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are, and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”
So I guess impeachment is not gonna happen. Removal of Trump on grounds of obstructing justice would obstruct Uncle Joe from battling aberrant moments. He and his Golden Pitchforks constituency cannot simply stand by and watch Congress perform its sworn Constitutional duty. Uncle Joe wants to succeed where Robert Mueller passive-aggressively failed. He wants to advance from mere Status Bro status and market himself as the latest Father of Our Country. O.K. then.
If you kidnapped, caged and misplaced thousands of immigrant children and were still fired for not being "tough enough," the New York Times will help to rehabilitate you and maybe even salvage your moribund Deep State career. But there's a catch. First, you must anonymously portray your former boss, President Donald Trump, as a Putin stooge and wimpy enabler and paranoid denier of an alleged continuing Russian attack on our Democracy. You must also declare yourself a loyal Russophobe in good standing in order keep the Russiagate fairy tale alive. The Times will then portray you as a courageous public official who tried to sound the Russian alarm in the last harrowing months of your tenure, only to be silenced by Trump's gatekeepers. But undaunted, you then bravely went behind his back and formed a secret working group to valiantly defend our nation against Russian meddling. You had the guts to direct the full strength of the World's Only Remaining Superpower against a Russian troll farm which had spent $100,000 to place the cheesy Facebook ads which miraculously swung the 2016 election away from Hillary Clinton. The estimated $5 billion worth of free advertising for broadcasts of Trump's campaign rallies by United States cable TV outlets pales in comparison. In exchange for this "whistle-blowing," the Times will never once, in its "breaking news" article, mention your grisly recent past as the Homeland Security secretary who willingly followed Trump's orders and ripped thousands of migrant children right out of their parents' arms at the border. The newspaper will never mention that outraged liberals have urged corporations and media outlets never, ever to give Kirstjen Nielsen another job or another platform - not only because she imprisoned kids, but because she did such a lousy job keeping track of the kids she deported or transferred, and that their whereabouts still are unknown and many will probably be lost forever. It was only a few short weeks ago that Times itself had joined full-throatedly in the anti-Nielsen chorus. "Her role in terrorizing children should make her a permanent pariah," wrote columnist Michelle Goldberg.
But with their Russiagate narrative now in tatters, it might be in the best interests of the lucrative franchise investors to forgive and forget in a huge hurry. The Times will even allow you, Kirstjen Nielson, to modestly both protect and aggrandize yourself by sourcing you only as "a former top administration official." And five of its big-name reporters will speak to another four anonymous current officials to lend further alleged credence to the yarn. As blatant propaganda goes, the piece is a classic of the genre. It is so off-the-wall, in fact, that as of this writing it was not even prominently featured, as most of these "scoops" are, at the top of the digital homepage. Maybe it's because even the editors were mildly nauseated by the globs of whipped cream on the top of the confection. The prose is so breathless, it leaves you dizzy. An example:
Ms. Nielsen left the Department of Homeland Security early this month after a tumultuous 16-month tenure and tensions with the White House. Officials said she had become increasingly concerned about Russia’s continued activity in the United States during and after the 2018 midterm elections — ranging from its search for new techniques to divide Americans using social media, to experiments by hackers, to rerouting internet traffic and infiltrating power grids.
The Times does not mention that the Washington Post report of a Russian attempt to hack the Vermont power grid was almost immediately retracted, because it wasn't true. After allegedly being ordered by Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney never to discuss Russian malfeasance in Trump's presence, lest he erupt in paranoid rage, Nielsen dished to the Times (anonymously) that she agonized about how Russians were gathering for the big attack and how she was rendered powerless to do anything about it. She seemingly forgot all about the kids she was snatching and caging at the time - as has the Times in its rehab of a puff piece. It's like the child abuse never even happened. The only thing we have to fear is not a near-fascist form of government within our own borders and the worst wealth inequality in recent history, but that "Russians" are sowing dissent and threatening our free and fair elections. If it weren't for those damned Russians, people would still believe in the American Dream. Because plucky patriotic child kidnapper Kirstjen Nielsen was thwarted in her efforts, the Times continues,
the issue did not gain the urgency or widespread attention that a president can command. And it meant that many Americans remain unaware of the latest versions of Russian interference.
As Robert Mueller III himself acknowledged in his report on Russian meddling, just because he could not provide evidence of terrible things does not mean that the evidence does not exist, somewhere out there. In other words, just because you can't prove a negative doesn't mean the allegations can't keep shambling along like a zombie that refuses to completely die.
While American intelligence agencies have warned of the dangers of new influence campaigns penetrating the 2020 elections, Mr. Trump and those closest to him have maintained that the effects of Russia’s interference in 2016 was overblown.
“You look at what Russia did — you know, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it — and it’s a terrible thing,” Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said on Tuesday during an interview at the Time 100 Summit in New York.
“But I think the investigations, and all of the speculation that’s happened for the last two years, has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads,” he said.
When a corporate media outlet like the Times wants to bury the truth, they go to some of the most mistrusted public figures in America to elicit the truthful quotes they wish to debunk. So rather than turn to respected journalists like Aaron Mate, Stephen Cohen, Chris Hedges, Glenn Greenwald and other so-called "Russoskeptics" for insight, they go to Jared Kushner of all people.. People hate this career grifter and slumlord so much that even when he does speak the truth - that the Russiagate propaganda franchise is far more dangerous, given the nuclear powers involved, than any alleged "meddling" - that they will discount anything he says out of hand. Although Barack Obama also faces renewed criticism for not taking Russian meddling seriously enough, the Times also tries to rehabilitate his reputation by going to some of his former national security advisers for confirmation that Trump is even worse - despite his recent warning to Putin to get out of "his" Venezuela, and his administration's increased verbal threats and economic sanctions against Russia. It's almost as if the Times and other investors in the Russiagate franchise want Trump to be re-elected, or at least are unwittingly handing him re-election. It seems that they'll say anything to divert a restive population's attention from the country's leftward bent and overwhelming voter enthusiasm for progressive policy proposals like Medicare For All and debt-free higher education. The first Cold War, beginning in the 50s, set the stage for reversal of FDR's "socialist" New Deal by instilling fear of socialist Russia in people. Perhaps Cold War 2.0 can recapture the magic and complete the job. Ask not what your country is doing to others. Ask what others are doing to your country... even though it really isn't "your" country, and democracy is pretty much limited to allowing the news and entertainment consumers of America to vote every two and four years. As for Kirstjen Nielsen, despite what scolding liberal pundits wrote about her mere weeks ago, look for her to show up on MSNBC or CNN as a regular paid national security contributor and Russia expert any day now. She has taken that all-important first step in her rehabilitation crusade by being an anonymous source for the #Resistance in the pages of the Times. If George W. Bush can be resurrected as a beloved elder statesman by the liberal class despite his epic war crimes, then child-snatcher Nielsen should graduate to corporate forgiveness respectability in record time. Take a look at the top-rated reader comments on the article. It did its job and evoked the requisite sympathy for Nielsen. She is halfway home in her journey toward forgiveness. The public consent has been duly manufactured. If Gina Haspel could torture people and destroy video of the torture sessions and still be confirmed by the Senate to head the CIA, who's to say that Nielsen also can't reinvent herself and advance in her own career? After all, if people like John Brennan and James Clapper can parlay their own crimes into talking-head gigs on cable TV, the sky is the absolute limit. It was Barack Obama himself who famously urged us to "look forward, not back" as he refused to prosecute the "patriots who tortured some folks." How quickly the bad things that American leaders do slide down the Orwellian memory hole. Maybe Nielsen, her image transformed with the help of the corporate media, can put the nightmare behind her even as thousands of her asylum-seeking victims will never be able to.
After two years of urging Democrats to patiently await the results of the Mueller investigation before even thinking about impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved the goalposts on Monday.
As she sees it, the report is only a prelude. It is merely a template, or book of clues which Congress must carefully examine in order to finally arrive at The Truth. So much for Robert Mueller III being the avenger and final arbiter of the fate of Donald Trump. It's almost as though Pelosi is pulling an Obama, who back in 2009 told a group of nervous Wall Street bankers that "I am the only thing standing between you and the pitchforks," tacitly assuring them that they would not face criminal prosecution under his benevolent watch. Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful Democrat in the land, is the only thing standing between a blustery and very paranoid Trump and the golden pitchforks of the liberal pundit and political class, more and more of whom are demanding that impeachment proceedings begin. This is especially true of those running for president and who are in dire need of fuel to fire up the voters. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have yet to catch fire in the polls, and are among the impeachment advocates. Of course, since they sit in the Senate, and it's the House that has to get the ball rolling, their calls for impeachment require no further effort or political capital on their part. As for Pelosi, her neoliberal bipartisan agenda trumps bringing Trump to any form of justice. For starters, she is anxious to get the Trump-backed corporations and the Democratic Party-backed corporations together in a closed room to arbitrate drug prices without any input from the actual House of Representatives. A drawn-out impeachment process would just take all the energy away from enriching the oligarchy in the bipartisan manner to which it has become accustomed. And since Pelosi had also refused to bring George W. Bush to justice for his illegal torture and surveillance programs, and for lying us into a war that killed, maimed or displaced millions of people, bringing Trump to justice for playing a mob boss and thwarting the Mueller investigation would seem kind of petty, wouldn't it? This is especially true since Pelosi herself was secretly briefed on Bush's torture program in 2003, and did nothing to expose or stop it. And that would make her seem kind of complicit in war crimes, wouldn't it? Well, not according to Pelosi. She said she was only following the secrecy rules. She is no Chelsea Manning-style whistleblower. The fact that Republicans attacked her on the torture issue did the bipartisan trick, too: it brought loyal Democrats to her immediate defense, just as the Democratic "witch-hunt" against Trump brings the GOP to his immediate defense. Unaccountability is built right into the permanent American power structure. The rulers rely on the Constitution and other arcane rules whenever it's convenient, not because it's right. When it's not convenient, then they don't. That is the main function of the Duopoly: theatrics and grandstanding in public, and disdaining the public good and the public's wishes in private. Fast-forward to 2019. Politico reports:
"We can investigate Trump without drafting articles," she said during a call with House Democrats.... We aren't going to go faster, we are going to go as fast as the facts take us."
"It is also important to know that the facts regarding holding the President accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings," she wrote earlier Monday afternoon in a letter to House Democrats.
This should throw cold water on the continuing hysterical insistence by the Golden Pitchforks crowd that Donald Trump is a secret Russian agent and guilty of treason. I don't think that even Nancy Pelosi has reached the level of corruption that would allow her to desultorily hunt for facts about how, exactly, Vladimir Putin is actively ruling our country and ruining our democracy. Her inaction should be all the proof the Russophobes need to relinquish their fantasies once and for all. But now that they've created their own alternate reality, inconsistencies and plot-holes are so easy to ignore. The play is the thing, as Shakespeare once observed. Therefore, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, typical of the Golden Pitchforkers of the Plutocracy, writes:
So all the “fake news” was true. A hostile foreign power intervened in the presidential election, hoping to install Donald Trump in the White House. The Trump campaign was aware of this intervention and welcomed it. And once in power, Trump tried to block any inquiry into what happened. Never mind attempts to spin this story as somehow not meeting some definitions of collusion or obstruction of justice. The fact is that the occupant of the White House betrayed his country. And the question everyone is asking is, what will Democrats do about it? But notice that the question is only about Democrats. Everyone (correctly) takes it as a given that Republicans will do nothing. Why?
Translation: We will keep spinning the Russiagate fairy tale and foist all the blame for the Democrats' failure to hold Trump accountable for "treason" on the usual GOP suspects, who do not believe in "American Values." This is like a prosecutor who refuses to indict a suspect because he doesn't have an ironclad guarantee of a conviction. It's akin to the Obama administration refusing to prosecute Wall Street bankers because it is too complicated and institutions must never be allowed to fail. It is cowardice and complicity,and yes, it is obstruction of justice in its own right. It is so much easier to accuse one side of the Duopoly of not adhering to "American values." It saves the corporate Resistance the trouble of examining their own consciences and acknowledging their own roles (2016 Bernie Buzzkill) in enabling the election of Trump. These Democratic pitchforks come custom-equipped with nice, soft protective cushions over their shiny, well-oiled tines. Liberals come to scare and enrage Trump, and to be ostentatiously disgusted by him. They don't want to really hurt him. He is too valuable a commodity and diverting media personality. My comment on Krugman (held by the newspaper's censors for 10 hours prior to publication):
If Speaker Pelosi believed that Trump is a traitor to his country, she'd be pushing impeachment. She's averse to it because she knows Trump is just your ordinary homegrown mobster who's "not worth it."
She thinks it's safer to run out the clock till Election Day. as we're regaled with a steady procession of piecemeal investigations and subpoenas that Trump will (true to form) obstruct every step of the way.
Enough of Russiagate. It feeds his paranoia. He used his campaign as a marketing opportunity, and dealing with the Russian mob was just one of his many scams.
Where's the corporate media outrage over his veto of the congressional bill to stop the US-enabled genocide in Yemen? Where's the angst over the US meddling and attempted coup in Venezuela, or his economic assault on Iran, or his continued caging of refugee children at the border?
As for the GOP, when did they ever "believe in" anything, except serving their paymasters? They're not scared of the corporate Dems, who serve their own paymasters. They fear only true progressives like Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren - who, to her great credit, was the first liberal senator to utter the "I" word.
Republicans win because they co-opt populism in the service of elitism. Trump's way too skilled a comic diversion to relinquish. Add to him the hucksters of the Evangelical "Greed is God" cult, and they haven't got a qualm in the world. Ethics? What ethics?
Speaking of ethics, lack of same is very much a bipartisan affair. Pelosi used the same language of collegiality and cooperation in 2006, when widespread public antiwar sentiment cost Bush the lower House. She grotesquely equated justice with pettiness. In her world, it's always better to ostentatiously extend olive branches to war criminals and forget about the war dead and the trillions of wasted dollars. As the New York Times reported,
She said the GOP, which frequently excluded Democrats from conference committee hearings and often blocked attempts to introduce amendments, would not suffer similar treatment. “Democrats pledge civility and bipartisanship in the conduct of the work here and we pledge partnerships with Congress and the Republicans in Congress, and the president — not partisanship.” She also extended an olive branch to Bush on the war in Iraq, saying she plans to work with him on a new plan but will not support the current strategy and supports beginning redeployment of troops by the end of the year. Pelosi also said she supports the idea of a bipartisan summit on the war. “We know, ‘stay the course,’ is not the way,” Pelosi said. Pelosi said she received a brief, early-morning call from Bush, who invited her to lunch on Thursday. “We both expressed our wish to work in a bipartisan way for the benefit of the American people.”
She mildly scolded Bush for his authoritarian language the same way that she now mildly scolds Trump for his. It's not even Nerf-brand toy pitchforks that Nancy Pelosi wields. It's a few slimy strands of overcooked spaghetti. When she keeps repeating that her goal is to benefit "the American People," her definition of people is the United States Corporate Empire, limited to the very rich, the very militaristic and the very interconnected. Here's another response to Krugman's claim that Republicans have no American values. This one was written by my alter ego, "Nicky Sardo," and also held overnight by censors: (many "regular" commenters besides me have been similarly and regularly exiled. In keeping with the Unaccountability Code of Values adopted by the American ruling class and their media propagandists, the Times ascribes its censorship practices to the vagaries of a top-secret algorithm.)
There is at least one American Value that the Republicans sincerely believe in. And that is the value of the almighty dollar. Billions and billions of them, to be precise, all parked tax-free in the pockets of a few tycoons who own as much wealth as the bottom half of the population combined.
They also believe in vote suppression, particularly in Southern states with majority Black populations. They accomplish this with their Unholy Trinity dogma: voter ID laws; incarcerating record numbers of Black people and then denying them suffrage based upon their convictions; and gerrymandering.
They also believe in denying poor white and black and brown people a decent education. Trump himself once boasted that he "loves the uneducated." Because if you keep people down long enough, they'll vote for Republicans out of ignorance, fear, desperation, resentment of "the other" - or they'll be too broke, apathetic, sick or disgusted to even bother to vote at all. And failure to vote is usually a default vote for a Republican, unfortunately.
Whether Trump is an actual traitor is beside the point at this point, because Americans have been shafted by unfettered neoliberal capitalism for decades now. Forget about Putin and the Russians. We have the Kochs, the Adelsons, the Mercers, the Wall Street banks, the consolidated media spewing corporate propaganda and rich men's wars at us 24/7. The fact that they still invite us, even beg us, to vote is proof that democracy is pretty much a delusion.
Since many of humanity's most enduring myths and legends are thought to have their origin in humanity itself, we can't expect the Russiagate saga to die any time soon either. It makes lots of money, spinning straw into gold for franchise owners and investors by the hour, by the month, by the Thousand and One Nights and A Night. It also seems to fill a great psychological need for the spinners, who still quaintly describe themselves as journalists. Were it not for the fact that their military/surveillance state-serving narrative edges us ever closer to confrontation with a nuclear-powered Russia, among other less-weaponized sovereign nations, I'd just say let them have their delusional fun while they can. I haven't yet read the whole Mueller report, not even close - but I have glanced at the various interpretations of it. Whenever I see a headline with the words "Ten Things You Need To Know About the Mueller Report Right Now!" or " Fifty-Two Takeaways From the Mueller Report," my psyche goes into self-protective shutdown mode. I search in vain for other interesting or threatening things to learn about, such as Trump's barely-noticed veto of the Congressional resolution to stop the US-enabled Saudi genocide of Yemenis. So it's mainly been through some magical process of osmosis that I've absorbed the gist of Mueller's pricey report. To wit: Richard Nixon has been vindicated! Anything is legal if you're president. To paraphrase Donald Trump himself, when you're a president, you can do anything. You can grab the country by the short hairs and it's gonna let you. Mueller, who has sadly devolved from Father of Our Country into Absentee Deadbeat Dad, apparently as much as admitted that Trump cannot be prosecuted for obstruction of justice because presidents can obstruct justice all they want. And if they can act stupid or paranoid or emotional or spoiled rotten while they're at it, it's all the better for them. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. (I knew there was a reason that the report was released on Maundy Thursday, a/k/a the Last Supper eve of the crucifixion.) Plus, as Zephyr Teachout lays out in Corruption in America, when you're an oligarch, you can do anything, such as buying Congress and the Supreme Court and changing the corruption laws in America. Under our current system of legalized crime, the only thing that could get Trump prosecuted is his being caught personally accepting a bag full of cash in exchange for a veto or an executive order. This legal restriction of corruption to quid pro quo, Teachout writes, was codified by the Citizens United and McCutcheon vs FEC Supreme Court decisions, which dictated that political donations are protected political speech, and not bribery. The redefinition narrows the scope of political corruption only to explicit deals.
"It reclassifies influence-seeking as normal and desirable political behavior. It purportedly avoids difficult problems of definition. It attempts to wring the moral content out of the term corruption and tell a story about corruption that is consistent with a world populated by self-interested actors."
Since liberal pundits and politicians cannot reverse this process, absent a social democratic revolution (the prospect of which they loathe even more than they pretend to loathe Trump) they must revert back to fairy tale mode. The money and the arms must continue to flow to the military-industrial complex and its Wall Street/Silicon Valley investors. An Enemy Outside which "sows dissent" must always be conjured up to keep the domestic populism down. Therefore, they will keep spinning their propaganda straw into gold while there is still a viable world and a well-appointed newsroom or broadcast studio to spin it in. So what else, besides six and seven figure salaries, explains the lasting appeal of the Russiagate folklore franchise to careerist news personalities and stenographers? The late fairy tale interpreter and Jungian psychologist Marie-Louise von Franz gives us a clue about what could be going on in their heads and those of their fans:
Actually. you can interpret a myth or fairy tale with any of the four functions of consciousness. The thinking type will point out the structure and the way in which all the motifs connect. The feeling type will put them in a value order (a hierarchy of values) which is also completely rational. With the feeling function, a good and complete fairy tale interpretation can be made. The sensation type will just look at the symbols and amplify them. The intuitive will see the whole package in its oneness, so to speak; he will be most gifted in showing that the whole fairy tale is not a discursive story but is really one message, split up into many facets. The more you have differentiated your functions, the better you can interpret because you must circumambulate a story as much as possible with all four functions. The more you have developed and obtained the use of more conscious functions, the better and more colorful your interpretation will be.
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, the best-known spinner of the nightly Russiagate fables, is not about to give up her Scheherazade role. She's made a fortune and a career out of connecting the dots on charts to explain how various low-level or innocuous meetings of Trump operatives with Russian operatives have amounted to one great overriding plot, with the grand overarching motif that Donald Trump is a Putin agent. The more details and dot-connections she can offer, the more believable that she makes her yarn become.
Her "intellectual" approach feeds into the competing feelings of inchoate Trump-hatred and powerlessness within the psyches of her audience of millions. We know, we just intuitively know, that the foreign agency of Trump must be true, especially when the message is constantly being split up and spun off among so many different expert storytellers in our six major media conglomerates. The more that the story can go round and round (circumambulation) the truer it becomes, and the more colorful the embellishments that can be added all the time. It gets so complicated that the plot holes and even the original plot gets fuzzy with time. It is a continuous closed feedback loop. And like climate change itself, it is proving very hard to stop, now that it has achieved a life of its own. Robert S Mueller III, loyal establishment player that he is, is playing right along with the Russiagate franchise.The contrived existential threat of Putin-meddling is in the intro to his report. He was hired for a specific reason. Trump, painted by the media and now by Mueller as a con man and a stooge, might have dodged a personal bullet, but the country has not. The country, with at least 800 military outposts around the world still must be taught to fear a country with a grand total of nine. Be afraid, be thrilled, be very afraid, be very thrilled. Because those Russian internet trolls who planted a couple hundred Facebook ads and walked around the United States wearing Trump masks to fake protest rallies are not only still at large, they are lurking under the Freedom Bridge to US Election Nirvana. They are plotting, right now and as Rachel Maddow speaks, to pull you down and drown you on your way to vote in 2020.
How can wealthy liberals, anxious to protect their fortunes and their heirs from the predations of the poor, destroy Bernie Sanders without being seen as destroying Bernie Sanders? That is the delicate question. The current tactic is the playing of the hypocrisy card. With revelations (by Sanders himself) that he is now a millionaire, thanks to his book sales, his fellow millionaires and not a few actual billionaires point to this fact as being "problematic." It is especially "thorny" because Sanders is acting so damned "prickly" about it whenever the topic of his new membership in the One Percent Club is brought up - say, about every 10 minutes in the video chat rooms known as cable news shows and in the pages of such elite gossip rags as the New York Times. "Good-natured" ribbing from late night pseudo-comedians is an integral part of this new front in the destruction crusade, with the New York Times breathlessly reporting on Wednesday that Jimmy Kimmel observed that Bernie appears to have spent none of his fortune on personal grooming or couture. The same article quotes Stephen Colbert, fresh off his London junket fawning over Michelle Obama in the latest leg of her book tour, as drawling:
“Yesterday Bernie Sanders released 10 years of his tax returns. Finally, now we can get the answers to all of our Bernie-related financial controversies. Like whether he writes off mothballs as a business expense or a snack.”
The Times is once again doing what it arguably does better than any other corporate media outlet: it is engaging in a personal destruction crusade in such an arch, knowing, nuanced way that it does not seem to be engaging in any personal destruction crusade at all.
The problem which the Gray Lady and her corporate media cohort now face is that Bernie has gone mainstream, and most important of all in their world, he has more cash on hand than any of his Democratic rivals. It's certainly a long way from the good old days of 2016, when all the Times had to do, personal destruction-wise, was to alternately ignore Bernie and deride him. It's even a long way from last year and early this year, when the propaganda tropes that he is not liked by women and black people went nowhere fast, given that public polls have shown the exact opposite to be true. So now it's on to how Bernie Sanders is causing such great angst among the altruistic liberal rich that they might even be inconvenienced by a dreaded Brokered Convention next year. Times reporter Jonathan Martin engaged in some good old fashioned shoe leather reporting as he pounded the pavement on both coasts to plumb the plutocratic depths of the "Stop Bernie" movement Parachuting down to Flyover Country for a day or an hour is, let's face it, nothing but lazy stenography. The rich love to read about themselves and not about some deplorable out of work factory laborer, even if the literature is not always as flattering to them as they might like. It was the rich, the class which could afford to buy books in the 19th century, who helped make Thackeray's satiric Vanity Fair, for example, the enduring bestseller that it came to be. And what 21st century PBS fan wouldn't kill to live in the snooty Downton Abbey? Anyway, satiric critical portrayals of the venal rich sometimes have a way of turning such conniving grasping characters as Becky Sharp into admirable heroines whenever the corporate entertainment world gets hold of them. When Vanity Fair was made into a TV movie in 2004, for example, Reese Witherspoon magically transformed her into a plucky, adorable, rags-to-riches ingenue. Did I mention that Witherspoon had also recently played a celebrity softball-pitcher at one of those spunky, rags-to-riches Michelle Obama book tour appearances, where front row seats go for thousands of dollars a pop? Anyway, I digress.
Martin's faux-satiric characterization of Bernie Sanders fans as "an unwavering base" of "fervent supporters" who endanger party unity had the desired effect of eliciting nearly 3,000 outraged responses from readers who are still smarting from the newspaper's cavalier treatment, three years ago, of both themselves and their candidate. These responses seem designed to be an "I told you so" cathartic moment for the nervous rich, proving once and for all to the sensitive elite class that Bernie Sanders supporters are, in fact, a fervent and unwavering mob... and so veddy, veddy unreasonable and dangerous. Secondarily, Martin's surface-snide portrayal of the rich donor class as selfish pearl-clutchers and canape-gorgers who are terrified of Bernie's "avowed socialism" seems designed to plant the very tiniest seed of doubt into the minds of progressive readers. Never mind that Bernie is no socialist, but rather a de facto FDR Democrat who sees nothing wrong with wars or the arrest of Julian Assange or with a better-regulated capitalistic system in general. If you can only plant that seed in these early days, it might even sprout and thrive by the time any actual voting takes place a little under a year from now. Comparing Sanders with Trump is still tops on the "Stop Bernie From Eating the Oligarchy!" agenda. Martin posits that Bernie is just as paranoid as Trump, probably because Bernie (rightly) believes that the Democratic Party and its media sycophants are aiming for his personal destruction. The main weapon, therefore, that centrist corporatists plan to wield against Sanders is Trump himself. Even the Sanders campaign acknowledges that beating Trump is their top priority, before passage of a single payer health care bill and other policies can even be seriously discussed. The wealthy backers of the party are taking solace in the fact that, just as he did in 2016, Sanders has vowed to support the eventual nominee. Which, if they have anything to say about it, will not be Bernie Sanders. It is only his promise to be an avowed player that permits him to stay in the game. Thus, his calculated silence on the Julian Assange arrest. He is silent even though it was WikiLeaks which revealed that the corporate Democrats were really out to get him in 2016. So, there's this important nugget in the Times's cautionary tale:
“Bernie Sanders believes the most critical mission we have before us is to defeat Donald Trump,” said Faiz Shakir, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager. “Any and all decisions over the coming year will emanate from that key goal.” Or, as former(my bold) Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri put it: “One thing we have now that we didn’t in ’16 is the uniting force of Trump. There will be tremendous pressure on Bernie and his followers to fall in line because of what Trump represents.”
If the anguished wealthy liberal donor class needs a slogan, here's a suggestion for them: Never Bernie! Never Trump! Always the Plutocracy - Always! When you finally wake up the golden drops of their beneficence trickling down upon you after they nominate one of their own in a super-delegate-rigged second ballot, they tacitly confide to the Times, you'll realize just how abjectly grateful to them that you truly are, and should have been all along.
As we visit our troops in Stuttgart to thank them and be briefed by them, we honor our first responsibility as leaders to protect and defend the American people. It is wrong for the President, as Commander-in-Chief, to fan the flames to make anyone less safe.
The target of much criticism from the left for her bland scolding of Donald Trump over his own incendiary Tweet against Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Pelosi has since announced she will ask for another security review by the FBI and Capitol Police to determine how Omar, her family and her staff can be best protected from a sitting president of the United States. She has also belatedly suggested that his original offensive tweet, with a photo of Omar interposed with a graphic of the flaming World Trade Center, "be taken down." Omar's remarks about Islamophobia at a conference last month were recently ripped out of context by a right-wing agitator, then enhanced by Rupert Murdoch's tabloid New York Post, and finally grotesquely inflamed by Provocateur-in-Chief Donald Trump. What Trump actually presides over is not so much the government as it is the xenophobia and racism which has always been an integral, albeit usually verbally suppressed, part of the American ruling class agenda. And that very much includes the United States military, whose Civil War army was reconstituted and professionalized for the express purpose of enforcing the mass expulsions and exterminations of native American populations. To this day, military weapons and other hardware, such as the Apache helicopter, are named after Indian tribes. Osama bin Laden was code-named Geronimo prior to his extrajudicial sneak execution as Barack Obama began preparations for his re-election campaign. So Trump just happens to be the most vocal and vicious (and for the more discreet ruling elite, the most embarrassing) spokesman for this dark part of the American psyche, not arriving on the scene until some some 300 years after the Puritans first erected their own model shining City on the Hill off a foundation of corpses of the native populations of New England, whom they exterminated both through their diseases and their wars. So the cowardly and tepid response of Pelosi and Democratic Party leadership to Trump's not-so-veiled incitements to racist violence against Omar in particular and Muslims in general, should thus be put into historical context. Pelosi in her Tweet avoided directly addressing his threats against Ilhan Omar by diverting the issue into a bizarre sermon whose theme is that any discussion of the Sept. 11th attacks should be akin to prayer - a "sacred memory" - to be chanted only with the approved words and contained within the walls of the established cathedral. This deflection is nothing new. The horrific act of mass murder began its transformation into a cult, founded and led by the political-media complex, almost from the day it happened. The attacks had to be fetishized in order to avoid discussions of its root cause, which was blowback by former CIA asset Osama bin Laden, revenge against the US militaristic/capitalistic meddling and plunder in the entire Middle Eastern world and the militarization of Israel by its US partner, funder and enabler. The physical site of the lower Manhattan attack has been transformed into a national shrine and museum. The 2,753 victims have been canonized as martyrs. The attacks became the impetus for even more US meddling, with the ensuing full scale military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and still-ongoing bombings of at least seven other majority-Muslim countries, including Ilhan Omar's native Somalia. More than a million people have died, been maimed or displaced by this overkill. The 9/11 attacks also became the perfect excuse to criminalize dissent and whittle away the civil rights of both US and global populations. They spawned a whole new Department of Homeland Security and transformed the country into what journalist Todd Miller aptly calls Border Patrol Nation. This year, the United States Congress has allocated more money to the permanent war machine than it did during the bloodiest year of the Iraq War. Long before the September day in 2001 "when everything changed," of course, Islam was being demonized by Western leaders, and their corporate news media and Hollywood propagandists. Islam has regularly been equated with fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism for decades. As the late Palestinian author Edward Said explained in the introduction of the 1997 edition of his book "Covering Islam," Muslims became especially convenient scapegoats after the fall of the Soviet Union. In the wake of the bombing by Libyan terrorists of the Pan Am flight above Lockerbie, Scotland, and the first bombing of the World Trade Center and other attacks, the simple utterance of the word "Islam" in the West became a means of attacking Islam. This, in turn, has "provoked more hostility between self-appointed Muslim and Western spokespersons. 'Islam' defines a relatively small proportion of what actually takes place in the Islamic world, which numbers a billion people, and includes dozens of countries, societies, traditions, languages, and of course an infinite number of different experiences." This is exactly what Ilhan Omar was talking about in her speech last month, correctly observing that the actions of "some people" on 9/11 paved the way for the perpetual criminalization of an entire religion as practiced in myriad ways by over a billion people worldwide. As for Donald Trump, inveterate entertainment consumer and purveyor that he is, his own personal xenophobia did not sprout full-fledged from the murky depths of his personality disorder. He probably, for example, saw the 1994 Hollywood blockbuster, True Lies.Its star villains, notes author Zachary Karabell, are stereotypical Arabs "complete with glinty eyes and a passionate desire to kill Americans" who must, in turn, be killed by the sexy intrepid American hero, played by future GOP California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. As Edward Said observed, "Covering Islam is a one-sided activity that obscures what 'we' do, and highlights instead what Muslims and Arabs by their very flawed nature are." Ilhan Omar was initially celebrated by the Democratic Party because she so perfectly fit its identity politics agenda as a cosmetic antithesis of Trump: she is a woman, she is Black, she is an immigrant, and she is a Muslim. If only she could have stayed in her appointed place as an exotic statue instead of criticizing the right-wing government of Israel - on top of having the effrontery to be one of the most progressive members of Congress. As such, she puts lie to the propaganda that Muslims live in a medieval, anti-feminist world. The corporate wing of the party, led by Pelosi, is not progressive and it fully supports the right-wing government of Israel. While pretending to be all-inclusive and anti-bigotry, this corporate wing has fully colluded in waging the forever wars on Muslim-majority countries. Pelosi never blinked an eye at Barack Obama's drone assassination program, which specifically targeted Muslim civilians as incipient terrorists simply by virtue of who they are and where they live (unprotected "tribal areas"). Pelosi therefore must have found it easier to castigate Trump for blaspheming the "sacred memory" of 9/11 than to castigate him for implicitly threatening Ilhan Omar's life. It took her three whole days to even factor Omar's well-being into her narrative. Her main gripe was that Trump abused the sacred memory by making it all about himself and his political future. Although she didn't spell it out, Pelosi also implied in her April 13th tweet that the carefully unmentioned Omar had also abused the sacred memory by juxtaposing her own religion next to the US Imperium's virtual state religion and holy day of obligation, which became the very basis for attacking Omar's religion and its various adherents, the vast majority of whom are peace-loving people. The Church of Nine-Eleven was constructed by the war-mongering capitalist elites for the sole propaganda purpose of ramping up war and plunder, cynically repurposing the victims and first responders into patriotic martyrs and human shields, even as some of these same first responders went to war to die for the sole profit of corporations. And, even as sections of the 9/11 Commission report implicating the Saudi government were kept secret for many years. The volunteer troops fighting the oligarchs' wars were then used by the Obamas and other politicians to shame the economically struggling population at home into "sharing the sacrifice" as jobs were lost and punishing austerity was imposed after the 2008 financial collapse. Pelosi's tepid tweet sends the hysterical message that it is reckless, rank heresy for Trump to openly and verbally admit that he hates Muslims, Mexicans and all dark-skinned people. Her sub-Tweet, gushing about her own visit to a US military base in Germany, which is still semi-occupied 75 years after the end of World War II, says it all. When she writes that the military protection of "the American people" is her first priority, keep in mind that the de facto definition of "the people" and their national security is the corporate state, which armed forces must protect around the clock and around the globe if their plunder is to proceed apace. As Edward Said wrote:
"The tendency to consider the whole world as one country's imperium is very much in the ascendancy in today's United States, the last remaining superpower.... Such an idea of rightful Western dominance is in reality an uncritical idolization of Western power. "
Keep in mind that Said penned those words in 1997, before 9/11 "changed everything." The ascendancy has already reached its peak and it has nowhere else to go but down. Thus, for Pelosi and for her fellow imperialists, it is likewise heresy for a progressive elected representative like Ilhan Omar to bring too much attention to herself, to her maligned religion and her war-torn native country, to her fellow immigrants and refugees, and to bipartisan hypocrisy. The ruling class does not want the American public to get the idea that the United States kills and expels and robs people for any reason other than humanitarianism, or that other countries hate us not for our "freedoms", but for our crimes. Pelosi might be getting this year's Profiles in Courage award from the Kennedy dynasty, but it's really Omar who deserves an award for her serene courage under immense, unrelenting pressure. In the days since Trump's incendiary tweet, she has received even more death threats, and Trump himself has escalated his Twitter attacks on her. Even so, her mind is on the plight of others:
This country was founded on the ideas of justice, of liberty, of the pursuit of happiness. But these core beliefs are under threat. Each and every day. We are under threat by an administration that would rather cage children than pass comprehensive immigration reform.