Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Dem Debate: Punts and Stunts

I plan on writing a wrap-up of the CNN Game Show Extravaganza for tomorrow or Friday at the latest if I get as bogged down as I expect I will.

But meanwhile, how do you describe the desperation of the pundit class after last night's debacle? Let us count the ways, if we have the stamina. Paul Krugman, for example, tweeted that Elizabeth Warren had a "bad night" because she stood up for Medicare For All. What he obviously meant is that she did a bad thing by not lighting into Bernie Sanders the way she was supposed to. Since Krugman is now disowning Liz, I find that I like her better than I did yesterday. 

Then there's the New York Times column by Ross Douthat, who is so desperate that he declared Joe Biden the winner of the first night, even though Joe Biden wasn't even on the stage. My published comment:
I wish they'd stop calling corporate-funded, right-wing Democrats like Delaney "moderates," which connotes reasonableness and inclusiveness. It's as misleading as the congressional "problem-solvers caucus," whose prime agenda is solving the problems of billionaires by eviscerating even the mild Wall Street reforms of Dodd-Frank.
I think what is really scaring the moderates and the anti-progressive mainstream media is that Liz and Bernie made the brilliant tactical decision to join forces on the debate stage, refusing to take CNN's blatantly cheesy bait in hopes of a progressive food fight.
 Biden won insofar that he is probably thanking his lucky stars that he had people like Delaney, Ryan and Hickenlooper acting as his stunt men and stand-ins. It's not going to last.
And by the time Kamala Harris and the increasingly desperate Kirsten Gillibrand get done with him tonight, Joe might well be begging for Bernie and Liz, who obviously care more about the public good than they do their own individual political fortunes.
So here's hoping that their tactical and ideological partnership lasts to the convention and beyond. Sanders-Warren or Warren-Sanders would be a winning ticket. Notice how quiet Trump was during and after the debate? He knows that he's in deep, deep trouble after the knockout punches thrown by Liz and Bernie last night.
So the whole narrative that Bernie and Liz will cancel each other out, leading to a brokered convention with the super-delegates appointing/anointing Pete Buttigieg or Harris (I think/hope Biden will have flamed out long before then) might backfire on the corporate Democrats. In the event of neither Bernie nor Liz achieving a clear majority of primary votes necessary for nomination, would they then be able to award the front-runner his or her delegates? I'm not sure of the legalities here, so maybe somebody can help me out.

But leave it to the Democratic National Committee to come up with some kind of nifty solution that prevents voters from having the final word. The good thing is they'll have to do it full public view. Such a stunt would then hasten the long- overdue demise of the Democratic Party. 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Maureen Dowd Versus The Mob

In the third installment of her summer series "Confessions of the Designated Nancy Pelosi Whisperer," New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd abandons channeling Madam Speaker's now-backfired attacks on the Squad of four progressive congresswomen of color, and unsheathes her worthy literary claws on the Vast Twittering Left.

The hook for this week's attack was a tweet by NBC News personality Howard Fineman, who boasted about his attendance at one of Dowd's apparently famous Georgetown parties. He affixed a photo of Dowd greeting honored guest Nancy Pelosi and her date for the evening, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Outrage then ensued from all across the political spectrum. Poor Howard Fineman was forced to delete his tweet, in utter shock that his "benign big shot brag" had elicited such "vicious" reactions from the hoi polloi. In the olden days, he implied, people would have been more duly awed by the doings of the high and mighty. The twitter taunts thus only gained in intensity. He and his hostess Maureen Dowd both interpret these negative reactions as pure class envy rather than as legitimate criticism of the cozy, incestuous relationship between government officials and the journalists who are supposed to be holding them to account.

As I mentioned above, it is no longer feasible for Dowd to directly attack the Squad, given that the first two installments of the Pelosi Whisperer franchise had only served to raise their public profiles and elevate their progressive agendas - and worst of all, had provided the perfect opening for Donald Trump to launch his own vicious triangulated racist attacks on them. Poor Maureen was temporarily reduced to dishing out sloppy seconds, such as a statement she retweeted from media mogul David Israel calling the four women "the Squad of Vuvuzelas."

Vuvuzelas are the extremely loud, even deafening, monotonal horns invented and used by the Zulus of southern Africa to summon distant community members, and are now widely used at soccer games and other sporting events. Given the ethnicities of the Squad and the fact that one of them, Ilhan Omar, is a refugee from Somalia, it's an interesting choice of metaphor. 

But back to Maureen Dowd's latest column, in which she expresses wonder that her vivid description of Speaker of the People's House Pelosi wearing $995 pumps, munching on bonbons, and relaxing at her Napa Valley vineyard evoked such sour grapes of wrath from people:
After I interviewed Nancy Pelosi a few weeks ago, The HuffPost huffed that we were Dreaded Elites because we were eating chocolates and — horror of horrors — the speaker had on some good pumps.
 Then this week, lefty Twitter erected a digital guillotine because I had a book party for my friend Carl Hulse, The Times’s authority on Capitol Hill for decades, attended by family, journalists, Hill denizens and a smattering of lawmakers, including Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Susan Collins.
I, the daughter of a D.C. cop, and Carl, the son of an Illinois plumber, were hilariously painted as decadent aristocrats reveling like Marie Antoinette when we should have been knitting like Madame Defarge.
Yo, proletariat: If the Democratic Party is going to be against chocolate, high heels, parties and fun, you’ve lost me. And I’ve got some bad news for you about 2020.
The actual bad news is that Dowd has erected a straw man. This version is comprised of the latest group-think narrative trope that progressives are a monolithic bloc whose constant harping on impeachment rather than on Party Unity will only serve to give us another term of Trump. 
They eviscerate their natural allies for not being pure enough while placing all their hopes in a color-inside-the-lines lifelong Republican prosecutor appointed by Ronald Reagan.
The politics of purism makes people stupid. And nasty.
Dowd carefully names no names within her horde of stupid puritans. Nor does she mention that the loudest voices for impeachment have not been those of ordinary people, more of whom are leaning toward some form of socialism to solve our problems, but rather the corporate class of journalists on MSNBC and CNN and her own colleagues at the Times. But since the much-ballyhooed testimony of Robert Mueller turned out to be such a dud, scapegoats must be devised by these discredited corporate journalists so fixated on #Russiagate, and they must be devised in a hurry. The corporatists of the incestuous media-political complex are not our natural allies. In fact, they're the exact opposite. 

Hippie-punching and voter shaming are the standard tactics of last resort for these amoral establishment fools, and Dowd is only too happy to join the fray and deflect the blame. When Trump wins another term due to the lack of a populist agenda from the centrist Democrat whom they hope to undemocratically nominate, they will then refrain from blaming themselves and as usual, blame people with no power and no money.

My published comment on Dowd's column: 
The tweet by pundit Howard Fineman bragging about canoodling at Dowd's digs with the very same officials that journalists are supposed to afflict was what roused the ire of both left and right. It had nothing to do with "progressives'" disappointment over Mueller's overhyped (by corporate journalists like Fineman) performance.
This may come as a shock to the Beltway Bubble, but opinions on impeachment vary among progressives. Some are for, some against. But I suppose it's easier for Maureen to call them nasty purists than it is for her to address such core progressive policy proposals as single payer health care or to write about epidemic student debt, the growing climate catastrophe, the unaffordability of housing, the caging of refugees, and the fact that Flint, Michigan still has no clean water.
Nobody out here in Lower Slobovia cares about your Georgetown shindigs or your angst about peevish purists who do not show proper deference to the Knowledge Class and its insulated meritocrats.. Most of us are too worried about paying the bills and what kind of future our children and grandchildren face in a country where representative democracy has devolved into winner take all predatory capitalism.
But keep writing columns like this one, because the more you scold the have-nothings the less they will heed your infinite wisdom, and the more they will spare themselves the tedium of reading the next self-pitying installment.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Kafka Does Christmas In July

planning has begun in the East Wing at the @WhiteHouse. I'm looking forward to sharing our final vision for this unique tradition in the coming months.

The ominous phrase "Final vision," juxtaposed as it is with Donald Trump's caging of thousands of migrants and refugees on the Southern border, certainly does bring back memories of past traditions. Just not the pleasant memories and traditions that Melania Trump's public relations shop wanted to distract us with.
But perhaps we should interpret her clumsy Tweet another way. Maybe she's getting started on Christmas way early because she doesn't plan on being in the White House very much longer. Maybe she got caught up in all the media hype telling us that Father of Our Country Robert Mueller's congressional testimony was going to be the final word, the real coup de grace,for her chubby hubby wubby. And then it turned out that not only is Mueller the Deadbeat Dad that so many feared that he was upon seeing his final tepid report. He's a Demented Deadbeat Dad on his last mental legs.
So call Melania delusional and lacking in good taste to your heart's content. Because anybody who still puts any credence in the #Russiagate franchise after Mueller's bumble-wumble testimony on Wednesday should probably also have his or her own head examined.
Was there anything more delusional and Kafkesque and surreal, for example, than the New York Times's headline that blared Mueller's claim that "the Russians" are in our country right now, interfering in our elections, placed right next to a sidebar analysis bemoaning how confused the aging prosecutor has been acting lately?
A Russophobe in good standing might be "halting and hesitant" about remembering what is in his own report, but when it comes to meddling he miraculously recovers from the muddling. He regains Father of Our Country status and mental sharpness as long as he sticks to the corporate propaganda that Hillary Clinton lost the last election not because of her own ineptitude and corruption, but because of a group of underpaid Kremlin Internet trolls.
So I say let Melania have her own visionary deluded fun as we anxiously await the grand final vision of the Trump family leaving the White House forever. It's a big asylum, and thank goodness we ain't in it.
Merry Christmas, and may Kafka's Goddess of Liberty bless us, everyone.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Corporatists Behaving Badly

Let me get this straight. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Trump Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have miraculously just come to a silky-smooth bipartisan budget agreement that rips the feathers right off the deficit hawks and kills the Obama-era Sequester and fake debt ceiling crises all in one swoop.

The catch is that the debt ceiling truce is only for two years. So if a Democrat wins the White House and the GOP holds the Senate, it will be back to deficit hawkery as a bipartisan weapon to kill any possible resurgence of the New Deal.

Meanwhile, Trump is happy because the deal protects the war machine and "our veterans" and contains no poison pills that would nauseate rich people. The Democrats will not interfere with his border wall, and the Hyde Amendment prohibiting federal funding for abortions will remain. Pelosi is happy because the deal "will enhance our national security and invest in middle class priorities that advance the health, financial security and well-being of the American people."

But Trump being Trump, it is entirely possible that he'll ultimately refuse to sign it no matter how much he praises it today. And Pelosi being Pelosi, she utters not one single word about helping the tens of millions of people now living in abject poverty in the United States. Bare survival priorities, such as food and shelter, are not the same thing as middle class priorities, which might include such things as somewhat more affordable prescription drugs and protecting our right to purchase expensive health insurance on the predatory marketplace.

Before we celebrate, therefore, we need to read the fine print in this proposed budget deal. Because whenever politicians "reach across the aisle" in one of those rare bipartisan moments of good feeling, we ordinary people must steel ourselves for the blows that are sure to come. The very fact that the deal was reached so secretly and so hastily and that it must be voted on before the artificial deadline of the Congressional summer recess, is our first clue that bipartisanship is the exact opposite of social and economic justice. This deal must go through before anybody even has a chance to read it.

That's how many poison pills for struggling people and how many gifts to the oligarchs that this package undoubtedly contains.

Take the issue of the nation's community health centers, which deal or no deal, appeared to be very much on the bipartisan chopping block as recently as last week. These centers, which serve the poor, are therefore conveniently and cynically exempt from Pelosi's "middle class priorities."

The Democratic lawmakers proposing the cuts frame their cruelty in the usual way: in order to be kind and save the poor, they have no choice but to punish and sacrifice the poor, because otherwise the Republican hostage takers will beat the poor into a bloody dead pulp.

As reported by the Washington Post,

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is pushing a bipartisan plan that would provide flat levels of federal funding for hundreds of community health centers nationwide, at about $4 billion for the next four years. A similar plan is advancing in the Senate with the support of Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.
Lawmakers face a September deadline for the community health centers, after which their funding would begin to expire, likely leading to steep cuts.Pallone said the plan would provide the security of the longest guaranteed funding commitment ever secured by the clinics, averting the September cliff. But flat funding would not keep pace with medical inflation, likely forcing the community health centers to serve about 4 million fewer people annually by 2023 than they do now, said Leighton Ku, professor of health policy at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.
That prospect has alarmed liberal lawmakers including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the congressional Progressive Caucus. They argue Democrats should use their control of the House to approve increases in funding for the centers, and then hammer out an agreement with Senate Republicans.
“I was, quite honestly, stunned. It’s just absolutely disastrous, and moving in the wrong direction,” said Sanders, a 2020 presidential candidate, in an interview. “We should be substantially increasing funding. I was very, very disappointed by Democratic leadership … We will do everything we can to rectify this.”
We still don't know if the TrumPelosi Manifesto contains the bait and switch method of reducing health care for the poor, or whether it's a side-deal negotiated apart from the budget agreement.

It is also quite telling that Trump waited until right after the budget agreement was announced to reveal plans to kick three million people off their food stamp benefits. In so doing, he gives credence to Pelosi's limited boast of protecting the financial interests of the "middle class" -- or those living above the poverty levels necessary to qualify for government nutrition assistance.

And speaking of bait and switch, the fact that Bernie Sanders is still going strong, and is even finally getting more refreshingly blunt about such corporate tools as Joe Biden, has finally elicited the full-blown hysteria of New York Times pundit Paul Krugman, who'd so far this campaign season kept his storied anti-Bernie powder dry, mainly by studiously ignoring Bernie Sanders.

Not any more. In a transparently bad-faith "both sides do it" column, ironically subtitled "A Bad Faith Debate Over Health Care Coverage," Krugman hilariously equates Biden's mendacity with Bernie's exposure of his mendacity.
But right now, two of the major contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, are having an ugly argument about health care that could hurt the party’s chances. There are real, important differences between the two men’s policy proposals, and it’s fine to point that out. What’s not fine is the name-calling and false assertions. Both men are behaving badly. And for their party’s sake, and their country’s, they need to stop it.
Notwithstanding that Krugman cannot point to one single example of Sanders calling Biden any bad names or lying (because he hasn't) the accusation is simply cover for his main point: he doesn't want Medicare For All to be a platform in the presidential campaign, even though he likes Single Payer "in theory". The column is all of a piece with the centrist, or corporate wing of the party, striving to please its deep-pocketed donors at the expense of everybody else. The message is this: you can get rid of Trump, or you can clamor for things that will make your lives better. But you cannot do both. Supporting Medicare For All is the same thing as giving Trump another term. Therefore, everybody please shut up about your damned health. And that includes the 70-80 percent of you in favor of Medicare For All. You're nothing but a distraction.

Also, now that Pelosi's attempted diminution of the "Squad's" championship of single payer health care has spectacularly backfired, the corporate party and its pundits need a new scapegoat with which to undermine Single Payer, even as they pretend to embrace the dark-hued female members as a means of combating Trump's racism.  Bernie Sanders, an old white guy, fits their bill perfectly. A Democratic legal pundit who hilariously calls herself a "moderate" can even go on MSNBC and complain that he "makes my skin crawl and I don't know why" with no consequence whatsoever.

Here's my published response to Krugman, in which I refused to take his slimy personality-politics bait, but instead tried to address the centrist groupthink propaganda that he so shamelessly parrots:
Whenever you hear universal coverage defined as everyone having "access" to "affordable" health care, beware of the bait and switch.
 Access to care is not the same thing as guaranteed care. Calling a trip to the doctor or emergency room "affordable" is glib to the point of cruelty, given that the majority of Americans don't even have $500 in savings.
The standard talking point that "folks" will never accept a Single Payer program because they are loath to give up their wonderful employer-based plans is also pretty cynical. Employers not only change plans regularly, they are increasingly passing the costs of overpriced plans with less coverage along to their workers.
If people are afraid of Medicare For All, it's mainly because our rulers and their corporate media stenographers, beholden to the insurance cartel and Big Pharma and their Wall Street investors, are making sure they stay very afraid of it. It's obviously not in their job descriptions to educate people and inform them that the taxes for Single Payer will be far, far lower than what they now pay to the predatory health care marketplace, with the continued risk that they can go bankrupt if they get hurt or sick.
 Once Single Payer is passed, and the profit motive goes out of health care, it will be repeal-proof. It will be as popular as Medicare For Some is right now. That's what has the wealthy donor class shaking in their custom-made shoes: the prospect of too many people becoming healthy and less stressed.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Cranky Dem Governors Kvetch At Crabfest

They aren't cranky because a fascistic president just put a target on a congresswoman's back, or because children are still being held in concentration camps at the southern border, or because the planet is alternately burning up and flooding, or that 30 million Americans still have no health insurance.

They're cranky because they think their party is turning a little too far to the left for the ease and comfort of the very tiny handful of very important people that the Democratic Party now represents.

They're so cranky it's a wonder they didn't choke on all the seafood delights they constantly gnawed upon as they kvetched to each other, to their wealthy donors, and to a select group of corporate media representatives at their annual retreat last weekend.

At least they were sweating due to their own anxiety, and not from the record heat wave engulfing much of the US. That's because the location of their luxury junket was Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, where fresh breezes off the Atlantic vied with the human windbags gathered together to liberally ignore the fact that millions of their alleged constituents are suffering constant, gnawing anxiety over how they're going to make next month's rent payment and how they're going to put another meal on the table.

As reported by the New York Times' Jonathan Martin, one of the corporate journos lucky enough to score an invitation to the elite Crabfest,
A group of governors are alarmed that their party’s presidential candidates are embracing policies they see as unrealistic and politically risky. And they are especially concerned about proposals that would eliminate private health insurance.
“I don’t think that’s good policy or good politics,” said Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, the chair of the Democratic Governors Association.
Raimondo is a former venture capitalist who sold one of her own investment funds to the Rhode Island state pension plan before she entered politics and from which she continues to personally profit. Despite the fund's poor performance, the state's public employees are unable to divest from it, because the owners (comprised mainly of the governor's friends and family) refuse to give their permission. Doing so might make them very anxious. As an insurance policy, it wouldn't be good politics as pertains to their own financial health.

Forbes's Eric Seidle explains the scam:
The pension was scheduled to exit Raimondo’s fund in 2016 but the firm, supposedly exercising its discretion under a secret agreement the state supposedly signed, unilaterally extended the life of the investment in 2017 and again in 2018....
The very fact that an investment, shrouded in secrecy and foisted on the state pension by the now-Governor, has continued to lose money for the pension and pay money to Raimondo for the past thirteen years—with no end in sight—should demand enhanced disclosure and public scrutiny, in my opinion.
Meanwhile, Gina Raimondo had "reformed" the state's public pension plan during her first term by farming more of it out to Wall Street and eliminating cost of living increases, warning that the plan would go bankrupt without such changes. She accomplished this feat while keeping her own personal interest in the scheme a secret from the public.

So Raimondo, far from being anxious about her own state's judicial and legislative oversight branches ever holding her to account for self-dealing and corruption, crabbily lectured her assorted Nantucket cronies that "we can't become the party of the checklist" and that instead, the Democratic presidential candidates must adhere to the economic needs of "everyday Americans" -- meaning, presumably, Americans who make at a minimum a thousand dollars every single day and who write the checks to the politicians.

She also took a thinly-veiled swipe at the influential "Squad" of progressive congresswomen with popular social media profiles who are calling for Medicare For All, an end to cruel immigration enforcement practices and a Green New Deal.
“A month or two before my primary I was getting crushed on social media,” Ms. Raimondo said, recalling the challenge she had from the left last year. “My friends were calling me, saying, ‘Gina you’re going down’ and then we won by 20 points.”
It's not just Trump fans who vote against their own economic interests. When people can be manipulated by the fear-mongering propaganda of shady elite rulers, they become complicit in their own destruction.

The human frogs that politicians like Gina Raimondo stick in the slowly simmering pot never know what's hitting them until it's way too late. Unlike the lobsters that she and her gubernatorial cohort scarfed down by the pound in Nantucket last weekend, we become so stunned that we don't even have time to scream. 

So until and unless we ourselves stop internalizing the dangerous neoliberal dogma that "there is no alternative" to cutthroat capitalism, there will be no change and no real improvement in our lives.

We have to instead capitalize on the current paranoia and anxiety of the ruling class and make them choke on their own excess. Self-awareness of our own complicity in their cruel game is key, and the necessary first step. Then comes solidarity with our fellow frogs. And then comes the will to finally organize ourselves enough to jump out of the pot, en masse, and take over the whole feast.


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Narrow Focus of Democrats' Anti-Trump Ire

True to form, House Democratic leaders quickly abandoned their initial clarion call to censure Donald Trump for his continuing series of vile xenophobic attacks on the Squad of four progressive female members. They instead introduced a motion merely to "condemn" his language while failing to condemn either his continued caging of immigrants at the border or his actual and threatened deportation sweeps. (Update: the condemnation passed, largely across party lines, on Tuesday evening.)

The Democratic leadership's condemnation of Trump's racist demagoguery is not to be confused with any opposition to the Status Quo. The whole purpose of their grandstanding resolution is to unify the Party, not to protect refugees from man-made climate change and regime change. 

 And just so everybody is perfectly and absolutely clear about their limited intent, the resolution condemning his language gratuitously doubles right down on the longstanding "colorblind" racist trope which distinguishes the Able-Bodied Deserving Immigrant from the Weak Undeserving Immigrant.

As reported by the New York Times,

Among other things, the resolution declares that the House “believes that immigrants and their descendants have made America stronger,” that “those who take the oath of citizenship are every bit as American as those whose families have lived in the United States for many generations,” and that the House “is committed to keeping America open to those lawfully seeking refuge and asylum from violence and oppression, and those who are willing to work hard to live the American Dream, no matter their race, ethnicity, faith, or country of origin.”
There is not one word about those fleeing because record drought and heat have destroyed the subsistence farming they depend on to literally survive. There is not one word about changing the law to include impending starvation as a legitimate reason to seek asylum. Only those who are willing to wait in line for years and then work hard for low wages will be welcomed. Humanitarianism is not part of the equation. Political power is.

The Democrats' resolution all about restoring the tone, the civility, the cosmetic diversity, the jolly bipartisanship and intraparty comity among the members of Congress, most of whom have achieved fabulous wealth, or at least achieved the promise of future fabulous revolving-door wealth. The Times approvingly quotes the Resolution's co-sponsor, New Jersey Democrat and former Obama State Department official Tom Malinowski:

“Let’s focus on these comments that the vast majority of Americans recognize to be divisive and racist, that the vast majority of my Republican colleagues, in their hearts, recognize to be divisive and racist.
“We need to move forward with something that can be unifying, and right now, what we can unite around is that what the president said was wrong, un-American, and dangerous.”
Focus on his words, not his xenophobic deeds, in which the Democrats have been all too shamefully complicit.

The nihilistic Republicans, meanwhile, are seeking to shift their own conversation away from addressing Trump's racist rhetoric to caterwauling about the "socialist" danger posed by the squad of progressive women who are the targets of his wrath: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

Trump's hurling of anti-racist invective (if you call me a racist that makes you a racist) right back at his critics is nothing new under the ultra-right sun, of course. His defense of Israel while leveling charges of anti-Semitism against, in particular, Somali refugee Ilhan Omar, is simply the transmutation of the Far Right's own historical anti-Semitism into increasingly mainstream Islamophobia. The Muslim refugees of America's wars, and now the Latino refugees from US-sponsored regime change military coups and climate catastrophe are essentially stateless people. And since the historically stateless Jews are now largely assimilated into American and European life, the Muslims and Latinos are simply the new Jews - or the latest convenient scapegoats.

The growing fascism of Donald Trump's Republican party and the neoliberalism of the Democrats are actually closely aligned. Presidential contender Hillary Clinton, for one, recently and bizarrely blamed immigrants themselves for the rise of right-wing populism in Europe and the United States. In a friendly series of November interviews covered by Guardian diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour, Clinton said:

“I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame...
“I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message – ‘we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support’ – because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.”
It's a somewhat nicer nativistic way than Trump's of telling people to stay in, or go back to, their own countries even if it kills them. She doesn't acknowledge her own role in the growing global humanitarian catastrophes, particularly her dominant role in destroying Libya, whence countless migrants have fled, many of them losing their lives in desperate attempts to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. 

But she was only too happy to Tweet this week against Trump's racist attacks on the Squad, and to join with Nancy Pelosi in glibly advising immigrant families to simply not answer their doors when Border Patrol and ICE agents drop by their neighborhoods in one of those deportation sweeps. The focus of her ire is every bit as conveniently narrow as that of her party. It's not the anti-immigrant policies that have been ramped up with a vengeance, with increasing border militarization and imprisonments and mass deportations. It's the anti-immigrant Trumpian rhetoric attached to these cruel policies that evokes her virtue-signaling wrath. The fake anger is carefully transmuted into the platitudinous anti-Trump statements that her party regularly dreams up as a means to mask its own complicity.

The mask is getting mighty thin and mighty transparent.

The ultimate goal of border walls is not only to "make America white again," but to protect the rich world from the poor world, to protect plutocrats from the victims of capitalistic violence, who must be exiled and their humanity diminished so that the rich can assuage their own guilt as well as protect their hoarded wealth. Just as the Squad is the latest convenient scapegoat for Trump and the Republicans, Trump and the Republicans are convenient scapegoats of their Democratic de facto collaborators.

The never-ending scandals and Tweets and outbursts of outrage in high places is the fuel that feeds the spectacle.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Turn of the Pelosi Screw

Much like the paranoid governess in the Henry James novella, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to be melting down faster with every passing summer day.

I probably shouldn't even delicately ascribe her recent bizarre verbal attacks upon "The Squad" of four newly elected progressive women to run-of-the-mill derangement. Because since reading the Maureen Dowd column in Sunday's New York Times and other accounts, in which Pelosi characterizes both Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Donald Trump as harmless "glasses of water" I keep getting a mental picture of Pelosi as the Wicked Witch of the West, melting down into a sorry puddle after getting deservedly doused with that same glass of water.

Actually, the putrid puddle image that I can't get out of my head vies with the equally ugly picture that the Dowd column conjured up: the stiletto heel of Pelosi's expensively shod (Manolo purple pump, retail $995) right foot stomping on and grinding progressive policies into a pulp, while her weaker left appendage flirtatiously but ineffectually plays footsie with Donald Trump and the Republicans under the table.

That Pelosi is more attuned to the Republican side of the Duopoly, and that she despises progressive Democrats with every fiber of her being is also becoming more painfully obvious by the day. In fact, she is beginning to sound a lot like the authoritarian Trump himself, with her strident demands to her caucus for loyalty to party over loyalty to constituents and country.

As a carefully leaked, anonymously sourced piece in Politico described it,

Speaker Nancy Pelosi chided progressives in a closed-door meeting Wednesday, calling on them to address their intraparty grievances privately rather than blasting their centrist colleagues on Twitter. Pelos's comments, which were described as stern, came during the first full caucus meeting since a major blowup over emergency border funding last month between progressive and moderate lawmakers as well as a recent spat with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her freshman allies.
"So, again, you got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it," Pelosi told Democrats, according to a source in the room. "But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK."
Harrumph. This from the same politician who went to the New York Times and complained so peevishly and publicly about The Squad, and thought it would be O.K. and that her progressive targets would not in their own turn react publicly and very negatively to her clumsy gaslighting attempt.

Of course, this whole "Ballad of the Cat-fight Cafe" narrative was from the very beginning the joint project of the corporate Democratic Party and the Times. All Dowd had to do was pick up and expand upon the contrived propaganda narrative ("The Mighty Moderates Vs. AOC")  written the previous week by her colleague Julie Hirschfeld Davis, a piece which I critiqued here. This anti-progressive narrative was in its own turn a companion piece to the longer-running blockbuster series called "The Ruling Class Vs. Bernie Sanders," which is now on temporary hiatus thanks to his slight fall in the polls. But as soon as he becomes a clear threat or when he openly attacks Joe Biden, the Times will be back on the offensive. For the time being, it's the dangerously popular AOC who serves as the convenient proxy in the Class War of the rich vs. the rest of us.

But now there's a glitch in their offensive. AOC noticed and vocalized the inconvenient fact that the "Squad" which Pelosi denigrates is all comprised of women of color, and they have received death threats. The "race card" is being played in the Mighty Moderates vs. AOC game, and the Democrats and the corporate media are beginning to panic. There is a clear and present danger that the identity politics which the liberal class has long used as a diversionary tactic is in danger of collapse from the now racially charged intraparty angst. Without identity politics to divert attention from the corporate Democrats' lack of attention to the economic woes of the electorate, they have nothing.

It looks even worse for Madam Speaker and her "lieutenants." To prove his own devotion to the Game of Bipartisan Footsie in service to the rich, Donald Trump himself has gallantly come to Nancy Pelosi's defense in a cynical attempt to justify the GOP's own racist attacks on AOC and the other three women. "I'll tell you something about Nancy Pelosi that you know better than I do. She is not a racist!" he told the media as he made preparations to rip apart up to 2,000 more immigrant families via ICE deportation raids this weekend.

So the personality politics-driven Family Feud Franchise which the Times itself instigated at the behest of Pelosi and the Democratic leadership is backfiring right in their faces. But rather than admit their own complicity, the same media outlets that over-hyped the Narrative all week are now criticizing their own story without taking responsibility for it. It apparently sprang fully formed from the ether without any assistance from them at all. 

The TrumPelosi Minuet

As the Atlantic now reports, the whole Pelosi-AOC Catfight Narrative was pretty much a fraud from the get-go, because the Democrats have always been united, and so enough with the Narrative already. It is certainly not the Media's fault, writes David A. Graham:

There’s no reason to blame the media for simply reporting shots that the two sides are taking at each other. Insofar as there’s a “Democrats in disarray” narrative in place, it’s because the Democrats are shouting at one another from the rooftops.
Yet the rhetorical sparring does obscure a broader Democratic unity. The border-funding vote aside, there’s barely any daylight between Democrats on matters actually before the House. The Squad has broken with Pelosi on just two votes so far, according to ProPublica’s tracker. The gap between the party’s moderate and left wings is relatively small, too. Ocasio-Cortez and Representative Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, a co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, have parted ways on just 13 percent of votes; Omar and Representative Max Rose, who’s more pragmatic than ideological, on 7 percent of votes.
They're trying to put the toothpaste that they themselves just squeezed out in big fat globs back into the tube.

They're trying to mop up the toxic Pelosi puddle and and wring it back into the glass and call it pure sparkling water.

But it's still sludge. And there's still a sharp, mean, nasty designer stiletto heel lurking just beneath the surface, ready to stomp and screw even mildly progressive policy ideas at a moment's notice.

Meanwhile, all that Nancy Pelosi can tell the two thousand terrorized immigrant families who are the targets of Trump's upcoming deportation sweep is to simply not answer their doors when the ICE troops come politely knocking, crowbars and guns at the ready.

She sounds like Nancy Reagan telling people to Just Say No to drugs at the very same time that her husband's CIA was filling poor neighborhoods with crack cocaine and millions of people started getting swept up and jailed in the Duopoly's racist war on drugs.

Meanwhile, the corporate media mostly ignored the large immigrant protest at Joe Biden's Philadelphia campaign headquarters on Wednesday, the very same day Pelosi was warning her caucus to shut up. Six people were arrested for staging a sit-in and demanding that the former vice president apologize for the Obama administration's record deportations of 3 million immigrants. Biden has thus far preferred not to, remaining behind locked doors at some undisclosed location.

How does the screw turn? Let us count the ways.

So forget about locking our doors. We need to show up at their doors, right where they hide and they cower, starting in the hallowed halls of Congress, and wherever centrist candidates set up shop.

**Update, 7/13: The protesters caught up with Biden in New Hampshire on Friday afternoon, when he discovered to his great chagrin that uttering the word "Barack" doesn't necessarily elicit cheers of adulation and/or moans of nostalgia. Literally stuck between the protesters and a river (also containing kayaking protesters) Biden had no choice but to mutter sorry for deporting millions of innocent people, not sorry for deporting a relative handful of people with felony records. The confrontation pointed to one of the few positive aspects of this interminable campaign season - it has greatly extended the period of time in which regular people are allowed to afflict the office-seeking powerful and comfortable.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Neoliberalism and Sex Slavery

It keeps on getting worse. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who as a US attorney signed off on the infamous secret sweetheart deal that protected convicted child molester Jeffrey Epstein as well as his entire network of plutocratic predators and enablers, continues to double down on his contempt for non-wealthy women and children.

As The Guardian reports, Acosta wants to destroy one of the few remaining agencies tasked with protecting the victims of global sex trafficking. He has recommended cutting funding for the International Labor Affairs Bureau by a whopping 80 percent, or from its current budget of $68 million to only $18.5 billion. In so doing, he is helping to protect all the Jeffrey Epsteins of the world from legal accountability.
The Department of Labor is widely respected for its vital role in investigating, prosecuting and preventing human trafficking worldwide. Experts say any major cut to ILAB would be a direct threat to the US government’s ability to combat the sexual exploitation of children.
 “A huge cut of this sort is bound to expose children to more risk of sexual trafficking,” said Kathleen Kim, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who co-authored California’s law on human trafficking.
“An 80% reduction at ILAB will undoubtedly eliminate many of the US government’s anti-human trafficking efforts that have been critical in encouraging action by law enforcement.”
 Kim said Acosta having granted the lenient plea deal to Epstein, combined with the proposed cuts to ILAB, made it entirely inappropriate that he continued in his current role.
“He should step down,” she said.
Whether or not Trump fires Acosta or he resigns voluntarily, the neoliberalized economy which fuels the sex slavery and other human rights abuses will continue to thrive, absent a complete counter-revolution against neoliberalism itself.

It is no accident that the victims of Epstein's human trafficking enterprise were poor and/or vulnerable, and that their poverty and vulnerability and that of their parents and caregivers are the direct results of a 40-year-long project of dispossession by the lords of capital. To amoral men like Epstein and Acosta, human flesh is just one more commodity, there for plunder by the wealthy few. The exploitation and trafficking of women and children is no longer just a third world phenomenon. It happens whenever and wherever the global oligarchs administer their economic shock therapies to remedy the very financial crises which they themselves create.

Anthropologist David Harvey explains the process in A Brief History of Neoliberalism:
"The loss of social protections in advanced capitalist countries has had particularly negative effects on lower-class women. and in many of the ex-communist countries like the Soviet bloc, the loss of women's rights through neoliberalization has been nothing short of catastrophic.
So how, then, do disposable workers - women in particular - survive both socially and affectively in a world of flexible labor markets and short-term contracts, chronic job insecurities, lost social protections and often debilitating labor, amongst the wreckage of collective institutions that once gave them a modicum of dignity and support? For some, the increased flexibility in labor markets is a boon and even when it does not lead to material gains the simple right to change jobs relatively easily and free of the traditional social restraints of patriarchy and family has intangible benefits. For those who successfully negotiate the labor market there are seemingly abundant rewards in the world of a capitalist consumer culture. Unfortunately, that culture, however spectacular, glamorous, and beguiling, perpetually plays with desires without every conferring satisfactions beyond the limited identity of the shopping mall and the anxieties of status by way of good looks... or of material possessions.  
"For those who have lost their jobs or who have never managed to move out of the informal economies that now provide a parlous refuge for most of the world's disposable workers, the story is entirely different. With some 2 billion people condemned to live on less that $2 a day, the taunting world of capitalist consumer culture, the huge bonuses earned in financial services, and the self-congratulatory polemics as to the emancipatory potential of neoliberalization, privatization and personal responsibility must seem like a cruel joke."
The reported scores of young girls who were lured by Epstein and his paid adult associates to sexually serve him as well as his circle of acquaintances were further victimized by their additional work assignment of procuring other victims, thus doubling their subsequent feelings of guilt from the victimization of their own peers. But at the time, the payments to them of hundreds of dollars by Epstein for services rendered must have seemed like winning the lottery, a means to enter the capitalistic consumer culture that had previously been way out of their reach. Becoming their own entrepreneurs in the Sharing Economy was a goal which had been drummed into them from birth. Now they know better. Their shamed silence was precisely what Epstein and Acosta were no doubt counting on. Non-disclosure agreements and other legally corrupt methods for the wealthy to avoid justice also probably factored into the longevity of this vast protection racket.

The main reason that Epstein got away with his crime spree for as long as he did, and why his initial "punishment" was so ridiculously light, is that his victims were specifically selected for their lack of clout and money and education. The relatively well-heeled victims of Harvey Weinstein, on the other hand, already had the built-in media platforms from which to articulately expose their ordeals. Many if not most are celebrities or well-educated professionals. Epstein's victims had and probably still have nothing.

The widespread orchestrated abuse of women and children is made possible by unregulated, financialized capital and record inequality. As the Epstein case illustrates, this abuse is not at its core just a gender issue or a question of misogyny. The social and economic maltreatment and exploitation of non-wealthy women and children is a major front in the class war being constantly waged by the powerful greedy few against the desperate many.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Vice Is Nice, But Licker Is Quicker

Before you get too happy about the news that the two-tiered American justice system is finally (maybe) holding wrist-slapped billionaire predator Jeffrey Epstein to legal account, please face reality first.

It's still a two-tiered system, where the rich get off and the poor get screwed.

Take the case of Lenise Lloyd Martin III, 36 and unemployed, who thought he could make a few bucks by joining the latest fad of posting a Facebook video of oneself licking a carton of ice cream in a store and then putting it back inside the freezer compartment. No matter that Martin was just desperately trying to cash in on the whole postmodern Fake News Franchise, and that he then honestly purchased the carton of ice cream, even producing the receipt to prove it.

The sheriff of Assumption County, Louisiana assumed the worst anyway, and he arrested The Licker, mainly to issue a stern  warning to all the other incipient Lickers lurking in the supermarkets of America. Big Brother is watching you, and he's not the benign fraternal duo known Ben and Jerry of Vermont, either. Not even close.

This is especially true if you, like Martin, go grocery shopping while black. The young white woman who started the whole fad simply got a tongue-lashing from the authorities. Martin got thrown in jail.

The public health menaces who are attacking the nation's ice cream supply are real Sicko Lickos, as Rupert Murdoch's New York Post puts it, and they must be stopped before we all die. It seems never to have occurred to the professionally disgusted media and law enforcement personnel in need of a new enemy to hate and a new fear to monger that the ice cream makers should simply add those hard-to-remove plastic collars around the lids to prevent undue licking and the need to throw out hundreds of potentially tainted containers 

The cops were especially miffed because when confronted, Martin actually had the gall to claim that he hadn't done anything wrong by licking before buying. In fact, he was very cavalier about his heinous crime, said Lonny Cavalier, the sheriff's spokesman. He acted so downright disrespectful and dangerous that he's been rotting in jail since the Fourth of July - four more days than flight risk Jeffrey Epstein has been rotting in jail for running a massive child sex trafficking pyramid scheme for the past dozen or so years in the full brazen view of the entire two-tiered complicit criminal justice system and the plutocrats who own it. 

As the New York Times reported in an article buried deep beneath a virtual avalanche of Epstein coverage,
Mr. Martin was charged with criminal mischief for tampering with a product before he had purchased it, and with “unlawful posting of criminal activity for notoriety and publicity,” a rarely-used Louisiana law that makes distributing a video of oneself breaking the law punishable as an additional crime.
 Mr. Martin will spend at least four nights in jail awaiting his bail hearing. In Louisiana, the authorities have 72 hours to bring suspects before a judge, but because of the July 4 holiday, the clock did not start ticking until Monday. The earliest that he will be able to post bail is Wednesday.
Franz Borghardt, a defense lawyer, said that the authorities appeared to be trying to make an example out of Mr. Martin in an effort to put a stop to the flurry of ice cream licking incidents.
“This is a highly aggressive arrest based on a seldom-used statute that is constitutionally questionable,” Mr. Borghardt said.
In other Constitution news, a federal court has just ruled that Donald Trump acted very cavalierly and illegally when he blocked millions of critics from his Twitter account. But unlike his pal Jeff Epstein, he is still very much immune from legal accountability. Just ask his other pal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Even a constitutional amendment making it a crime not to do one's official congressional duty and impeach a criminal president probably would not sway her. After all, nobody paid much attention to that other constitutional amendment which banned liquor back in the day. And why would they? Ignoring the law made a lot of organized criminals very rich during the Depression, just as ignoring the law makes organized criminals very rich today. Congress itself is a virtual Speakeasy, operating in broad daylight. It's not a crime when drunk-on-power oligarchs do it.

Or at least, not usually. Every once in awhile, the Powerful Club does sacrifice one of its own, to give the restive populace the idea that nobody is above the law, not even Jeff Epstein. 

But ask yourselves this: would Bill Clinton pal Epstein have been arrested if Hillary Clinton were the one sitting in the Oval Office today and if Donald Trump's corrupt labor secretary hadn't been the one who'd given Epstein his original slap on the wrist?

And another thing: having been rightly castigated for their abject failure to protect the caged children in the southern border's concentration camps, the Democrats are desperate for another virtue-signaling hook by which to "resist" Trump. With Epstein's belated indictment, politicians and pundits are falling all over themselves as they scramble to defend the scores of sex-trafficked young girls whose continuing victimization by Epstein had been an open secret for years. It gives them a much-needed break from pretending to care about the imprisoned and abused refugees. 

And just in case championing Epstein's victims isn't enough, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are taking the brave stance of inviting the champion US women's soccer team to drop by their Speakeasy for a splashy photo-op. If they couldn't put any distance between themselves and Trump on their mutual persecution of the imprisoned immigrant children, they can at least brag about what good sports they are about sports. In lieu of introducing any actual legislation mandating equal pay for equal work and a living wage for all women and for all people, they're making a bit of a self-serving stink about how professional women athletes should make at least as many millions of dollars as their male counterparts do. Those fashion spreads in Vogue and those lucrative product endorsement deals just don't cut it.

You go, girls! And stay away from the ice cream, unless it's the Opulence Sundae  kind with the real gold leaf embellishments and the side of caviar that you pay $1,000 for. That's about $100 per lick, at least. The freedom to consume in freedom is the greatest freedom that the Neoliberal World has ever invented for those precious few who can afford it.

Meanwhile, enough with the political bickering. Let's all join together and celebrate more bipartisan cuts to the food stamp program as we celebrate Jeffrey Epstein's great legal reckoning. We will feel replete just knowing that the Ruling Class is on our side, as is God.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

So On and So Fourth

*Updated below.

To the chagrin of thousands if not millions of Rod Serling junkies, the SyFy Channel cruelly nixed its annual Twilight Zone Fourth of July marathon last year.

 So somebody has to fill the patriotic holiday TV vacuum, right? And that somebody turns out to be none other than Showman-in-Chief, Donald J. Trump. As Daughter of the United States (DOTUS) Ivanka might say, "It's totally surreal!"

So in lieu of time travel and cheesy flying saucers and the Monsters Coming to Maple Street, all manner of military bombers and jets and helicopters will darken the skies over D.C. on Thursday evening. There will even be a few tanks on display on the National Mall to thrill the ticket-holders, not to mention regaling those stuck in their houses in the throes of Twilight Zone withdrawal. C-Span coverage of Trump's horror show should hopefully tide them over.

Sadly, not even the SyFy Channel will be airing this true-life frightening event. As a matter of fact, only Fox News will join C-Span in the wall-to-wall coverage. Both MSNBC and CNN say they will adhere to their previous scheduled programming of various talking heads sitting around a table bitching about Trump and bragging about their own righteously indignant decisions to replay only the most gruesome "highlights" of his Fourth of July show. Heaven forbid that they collude with Trumpian authoritarian narcissism on this sacred day of all days. They already do enough colluding with his authoritarian narcissism on the other 364 days, or whenever he holds a Nuremberg-style campaign rally in some flyover city that they themselves would never live in, let along visit other than to cover a Trump event or a tornado. 

There are, let's face it, already more than enough displays of hideous military might on American TV screens. Tune in to any of the cable Sunday shows, and at least one of the sponsors is bound to be a branch of the military or the manufacturer of the same kinds of death machines which will so distastefully and outrageously fly over Washington on the Fourth of July.

But for some reason, Recruiter-in-Chief Trump's own Independence Day theatrics are giving all good war-mongers and true some serious conniption fits.

 The Best and the Brightest are not used to death machines flying directly over their own hallowed democratic institutions and gated communities and manicured lawns in the greater D.C. area, the wealthiest per capita section of real estate in the entire United States.  

And speaking of grass, they're suddenly all concerned about parks. They're bitching about the obscene cost of the Trump Show - more than $2.5 million of it allegedly coming from National Park funds, which would be better spent improving and cleaning the parks. These are the same critics who don't ever bat an eye at the trillion-odd dollars spent every single year on the death machines so grotesquely being put on public display on one nightmarish night for the whole world to see. They prefer that their death machines operate far, far away where American citizens don't get to see them actually killing innocent people.

The Guardian newspaper is typical of the corporate media-political class outrage over Trump's Fourth of July apostasy:

The event takes place in a politically hostile environment: Hillary Clinton took more than 90% of the vote in the District of Columbia in the 2016 election, whereas Trump secured just 4.1%. The Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue is one of the few outposts in the capital where his supporters are conspicuous. 
And for decades, presidents have kept a low profile during Washington’s annual celebration of the 1776 Declaration of Independence, as typically hundreds of thousands of people gather at the National Mall for a nonpartisan concert and fireworks.
 But ever the disrupter, Trump its putting himself centre stage this year. He tweeted on Tuesday: “Big 4th of July in D.C. ‘Salute to America.’ The Pentagon & our great Military Leaders are thrilled to be doing this & showing to the American people, among other things, the strongest and most advanced Military anywhere in the World. Incredible Flyovers & biggest ever Fireworks!”
Trump is egregiously not only creating his own Christmas in July, he is trying to create his own Super Bowl in July. It is an unprecedented breach of protocol the likes of which the Military Industrial Complex has never seen. 

 You see, besides waging never-ending wars, it has only been at violent corporate sporting events that the United States Military has regularly performed such public displays of authoritarian, nationalistic strength. 

Maybe (besides aspiring to be Hitler) Donald Trump is simply getting back at Professional Football. Not only was he prevented from buying his own team several years ago, his constant harangues at football players who refuse to stand for the National Anthem have been greeted with derision. So if professional football players disrespect both him and the flag, his Fourth of July stunt might his way of dissing them right back. 

Speaking of the spending of public money on war propaganda, a little scandal erupted with news that an estimated $10 million in taxpayer money had been paid out by the Obama Defense Department between 2011 and 2015 to 14 National League teams simply to "put on elaborate patriotic salutes to the military."

As Think Progress reported, Trump's criticism of players who "take a knee" during the playing of the National Anthem is really an unwitting defense of a policy put in place during the Obama administration, which importuned players to take part in jingoistic salutes to the flag and other propaganda events honoring the troops and the armed forces. The whole point of the militarization of football games via this "paid patriotism" was to recruit more young people to join an ever more depleted and exhausted all-volunteer military.

The year before Trump won election, and as a result of Congressional oversight, the NFL announced it would be ending its war marketing programs and returning a token $724,000 of the Pentagon payout money it had pocketed for staging blatant recruiting drives during games and using its athletes to do so.

But the National Anthems and the marching military bands and the elaborate flyovers at the Super Bowl itself still remain time-honored traditions. As the U.S. Air Force bragged in a press release for this year's earsplitting performance:

“Supporting this event is a tremendous honor for the team and the U.S. Air Force,” said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbirds commander and leader. “We look forward to showcasing the pride, precision and professionalism of our nation’s 660,000 Total Force Airmen to football fans around the world.”
 The Thunderbirds’ flyover, its first public event in 2019, will feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons, soaring over the Mercedes-Benz Stadium at the moment the final notes of The Star Spangled Banner are sung. They will take off for the Super Bowl LIII flyover from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, Georgia.
The Thunderbirds last flew over the Super Bowl in 2017 at the NRG Stadium, Houston.
 The Thunderbirds’ team is composed of eight pilots, four support officers, 120 enlisted Airmen and three civilians serving in 28 Air Force job specialties. In 2019, the Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform at 65 air shows in 33 different locations all over the world.
Since the unit’s inception in 1953, more than 300 million people in all 50 states and 60 countries have witnessed the distinctive red, white and blue jets in thousands of official aerial demonstrations.
Here's the performance, in case you missed it. You probably also missed the mass outcries expressing the nation's horror and outrage at this shameful example of aggressive American exceptionalism. Because there were none. On the contrary - it is the media's task to relentlessly hype this kind of patriotic horror and do their part to recruit more troops before they profit from showcasing them in their wheelchairs and caskets:

And it's not just at football games that the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps perform flyovers to encourage more sports fans to enlist to serve in the nation's endless wars.They're also doing their stunts at Major League Baseball games, at college games and, most disgusting of all, even at Little League season openers.

New rules now allow up to four aircraft at a time to perform at each standard sporting event flyover, while limits on ground equipment displays have been virtually abolished. 

These flyovers, of course, are expensive. But the military actually justifies the costs by claiming that the promotional spectacles are all part of the pilots' training experience. Better to fly over the bodies of thousands of people where everybody can watch you learning your craft than to practice your skills lonely and unseen and unsung above unpopulated deserts and bodies of water. 

Current estimates are that the military honors at least 850 flyover requests from sports groups each year, at varying costs. A seconds-long six-plane flyover for six F/A-18A jets from the Navy's Blue Angels squadron, for example, runs taxpayers about $36,000.

So while it's gross and it's self-serving, let's put Donald Trump's fascistic Fourth of July extravaganza into some perspective. He's glorifying himself, of course, but he's also just simply horning in on the lucrative corporate war machine which has been so profitable for so few and so deadly to so many.

Maybe enough people will be so turned off by his shameless narcissism that they won't immediately rush out to their nearest military recruiting office to enlist after watching the flyovers and listening to his jingoistic rants. That distinct possibility is probably what's really riling up the war profiteers, the neocons, the liberal interventionists and the media sycophants.

Trump makes war look tawdry and ugly and disgusting. Tanks a lot, Trump!

*Update, 7/5. For those who missed his speech, Trump at least got into the true spirit of The Twilight Zone's time-travel episodes when he snort-bellowed these words:
"In June of 1775, the Continental Congress created a unified Army out of the Revolutionary Forces encamped around Boston and New York, and named after the great George Washington, commander in chief. The Continental Army suffered a bitter winter of Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware and seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown. 
"Our Army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do, and at Fort McHenry, under the rocket’s red glare it had nothing but victory. And when dawn came, their star-spangled banner waved defiant."
Trump could have been riffing off any number of classic Twilight Zone plots. There's the classic episode about the airplane that entered a time warp and passengers saw dinosaurs where La Guardia Airport should have been. And then there was the one about the guy who went back in time and tried to warn everybody about historical catastrophes. But the best comparison between Trump's addled revisionist history might be to "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville," which features a bored corrupt millionaire who literally gets stuck in a past that never existed except within his own warped mind. Judging from the amount of loud sniffling he did during his tirade, could Trump have hit the cocaine before taking up position in front of the Lincoln Memorial?

Colonel Bone Spurs had to have been on something to actually stick to his script and summon up the chutzpah to urge people to join the same military he had so studiously avoided during his Vietnam-era youth. As it was, his bleary image behind rain soaked bullet proof glass made him look like a crazy old coot who'd forgotten to take his clothes off before hitting the shower and performing his spittle-inflected ode to bloody American Exceptionalism. At least he didn't sing.