Thursday, November 26, 2015

Let's Talk Turkey

As long as Woodrow Wilson is finally getting blowback for his racist pathologies, what's to prevent the nation going full Howard Zinn on this special day? We are long overdue for a factual correction to the entirety of our pathological revisionist history. We need a giant group nudge into some pretty harsh realities, if we have any hope of overcoming the hideous dogma of American exceptionalism and endless war. Our very lives depend upon owning up to the sordid past

Thanksgiving, our great national feast day of holy obligation and gluttony, gets its inspiration from the myth of the Wampanoags and the Pilgrims going all post-racial multicultural and stuffing their faces before living happily ever after in peace, love and understanding. We've been taught to view the aboriginals as uncultured primitives, and the Pilgrims as upright austere folk in funny hats fleeing from religious persecution to start life anew in the Land of the Free. We're falsely taught that this land was very sparsely populated, that there were plenty of wide open spaces just there for the sharing.

We've been taught wrong. Before the arrival of the Pilgrims, there were numerous Indian nations with millions of people prospering up and down the East Coast, later to be beatified as the Thirteen Original Colonies. Aboriginal people were never considered by either the colonial settlers or the later "Founders" to have been endowed with certain inalienable rights. They were considered aliens in their own land, which they had populated for thousands or even tens of thousands of years before Miles Standish and Cotton Mather arrived on the scene to scatter their imperialistic brimstone.

As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz writes in An Indigenous People's History of the United States, 
 In the founding myth of the United States, the colonists acquired a vast expanse of land from a scattering of benighted peoples who were hardly using it -- an unforgivable offense to the Puritan work ethic. The historical record is clear, however, that European colonists shoved aside a large network of small and large nations whose governments, commerce, arts and sciences agricultures, technologies, theologies, philosophies and institutions were intricately developed, nations that maintained sophisticated relations with one another and with the environments that supported them.
Racism came to America long before the importation of African people for purposes of enslavement. According to Dunbar-Ortiz, Britons were enticed to the Massachusetts Bay Colony by the usual ploy: a marketing campaign. In 1630, the Mayflower conquerors developed their own seal. "The central image depicts a near-naked native holding a harmless, flimsy-looking bow and arrow and inscribed with the plea, 'Come over and help us.'"

The doctrine of "liberal interventionism" dies hard, as evidenced by the USA's recent adventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and the presence of at least a thousand military bases encircling the globe.
  Thanksgiving might be more properly marked as Native Genocide Remembrance Day -- or, if you want to be euphemistic, National Colonial Settlement Day. The tradition of using religion as an excuse to invade, occupy, rape, plunder, terrorize and exterminate is nothing new. Now most publicized by ISIS, it was also the casus belli of the European settlers who landed on Plymouth Rock in the 17th century.

When the Pilgrims landed in 1620, there were 40,000 Wampanoags living in 67 separate villages in the territory. Today, only 4,000 of their direct descendants remain in New England.

  There were plenty of other victims of Puritan religious fundamentalism, too. From Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States:
 The Puritans also appealed to the Bible, Psalms 2:8: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." And to justify their use of force to take the land, they cited Romans 13:2: "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."
 The Puritans lived in uneasy truce with the Pequot Indians, who occupied what is now southern Connecticut and Rhode Island. But they wanted them out of the way; they wanted their land. And they seemed to want also to establish their rule firmly over Connecticut settlers in that area. The murder of a white trader, Indian-kidnaper, and troublemaker became an excuse to make war on the Pequots in 1636.
 A punitive expedition left Boston to attack the Narraganset Indians on Block Island, who were lumped with the Pequots. As Governor Winthrop wrote: "They had commission to put to death the men of Block Island, but to spare the women and children, and to bring them away, and to take possession of the island; and from thence to go to the Pequods to demand the murderers of Captain Stone and other English, and one thousand fathom of wampum for damages, etc. and some of their children as hostages, which if they should refuse, they were to obtain it by force."
The English landed and killed some Indians, but the rest hid in the thick forests of the island and the English went from one deserted village to the next, destroying crops. Then they sailed back to the mainland and raided Pequot villages along the coast, destroying crops again. One of the officers of that expedition, in his account, gives some insight into the Pequots they encountered: "The Indians spying of us came running in multitudes along the water side, crying, What cheer, Englishmen, what cheer, what do you come for? They not thinking we intended war, went on cheerfully... -"
Unfortunately, the current revisionist-in-chief is not only not getting with the Zinn reality program, he's doubling down on the imperialistic propaganda. Barack Obama, from today's Thanksgiving address:
 Hi, everybody. In 1620, a small band of pilgrims came to this continent, refugees who had fled persecution and violence in their native land. Nearly 400 years later, we remember their part in the American story -- and we honor the men and women who helped them in their time of need.
He couldn't even mention the Pequots and Wampanoags by name, could he? It might make his audience ask whatever happened to them all, anyway? There never was, and never will be, a "Je Suis Pequot" rallying cry in the United States.
Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims -- men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families. What makes America America is that we offer that chance. We turn Lady Liberty's light to the world, and widen our circle of concern to say that all God's children are worthy of our compassion and care. That's part of what makes this the greatest country on Earth.
Of course, the indigenous people never made the Pilgrims go through background checks, get fingerprinted, and then wait at least two years before entering the premises, as Obama's America is forcing the Muslim refugees to do. They never locked up mother and child pilgrims fleeing Central American violence in Homeland Security prisons until one humane, outraged judge finally ordered their release. The aboriginal communities did not then put ankle bracelets on the Pilgrims in order to track their every move. They never put the Pilgrims back on the boat and told them to get lost. I think that Obama is getting the plunderers and the plundered all mixed up in his jingoistic pipe dream.  

Obama also didn't mention that Pilgrims sold many of the native people into slavery on sugar plantations, and that descendants of the Wampanoag nation have recently been discovered living on Caribbean islands. Globalized capitalism is nothing new.

Still, there's nothing wrong with traveling to holiday Fantasy Land, as long as the fiction satirizes and pummels the plunderers. The following retelling of the Thanksgiving legend is getting to be an annual Sardonicky tradition. It turns the Calvinist "origin myth" of the first Thanksgiving and the unholy birth of American Exceptionalism right on its head:

Wednesday (playing "Pocahontas")): Wait!
 Amanda:  What?

  Wednesday: We cannot break bread with you.

  Amanda: Huh? Becky, what's going on?

  Becky: [whispered] Wednesday!

  Wednesday: You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the road sides, you will play golf, and enjoy hot hors d'oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, "Do not trust the Pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller."

  Amanda: Gary, she's changing the words.

  Wednesday: And for all these reasons I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground. 


Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thank$ Be To Terror

Yesterday I singled out the New York Times's David Brooks as the worst kind of neocon hack, using psychobabble to try and soothe the reading public into overcoming those "sickly inhibitions" which get in the way of civilian embrace of Permawar.

But if truth be told, Brooks is only a sickly pale guppy compared to the ravenous shark named CNN. Brooks only burbles out two columns a week when he isn't adopting an avuncular persona for folksy "debates" on PBS with Mark Shields. CNN, on the other hand, has been manically churning the fetid propaganda waters non-stop, resulting in a bloody maelstrom in which fear begets more fear, profits beget more profits.

As Farron Cousins of Ring of Fire explains, it's all about the ratings.  Like any shark worth its endless rows of teeth, CNN is nothing if not a bona fide eating machine:

Cousins didn't need to tell me to stop watching CNN. (Except for the first GOP debate, I've never watched Fox.)  I shut CNN off of my own volition a week ago because the war porn made me feel so sickly. MSNBC is a little better, because it does occasionally interrupt the war porn to cover other news. I have no idea how CNN will tear itself away from the bombs and death when it hosts the next Republican debate. On second thought, what is a Republican debate but bombs and death, xenophobia and paranoia? What are Donald Trump and Marco Rubio but political porn stars?

What is CNN but a subsidiary of the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the NSA, the FBI, the CIA and the State Department? Thanks to what the late Sheldon Wolin called Inverted Totalitarianism, the USA doesn't need the equivalent of a state-owned Pravda, because the government and the corporate media are essentially one and the same outfit. CNN feeds the war machine, and the war machine feeds CNN. It's a totally voluntary, totally corrupt arrangement.

They're all doing their military Keynesian part: Pentagon spending fuels CNN's profits, and CNN's propaganda begets more military profits, and more military profits beget more weapons manufacturing and more weapons sales beget more war and death and more catastrophes beget more fear and the overcoming of those sickly inhibitions.

From Reuters (h/t Robert Sadin):  

The U.S. government is working hard to ensure quicker processing of U.S. foreign arms sales, which surged 36 percent to $46.6 billion in fiscal 2015 and look set to remain strong in coming years, a top Pentagon official said.
"Projections are still strong," Vice Admiral Joe Rixey, who heads the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), told Reuters in an interview late on Monday.
He said the agency was trying to sort out the impact of a much stronger-than-expected fourth quarter as it finalized its forecast for arms sales in fiscal 2016, which began Oct. 1.
The fight against Islamic State militants and other armed conflicts around the globe were fueling demand for U.S. missile defense equipment, helicopters and munitions, Rixey said, a shift from 10 years ago when the focus was on fighter jets.
"It's worldwide. The demand signal is coming in Europe, in the Pacific and in Centcom," he said, referring to the U.S. Central Command region, which includes the Middle East and Afghanistan.
CNN is also forecast to enjoy a stronger than expected fourth quarter, what with all that extra ad revenue generated by all those excess military profits and excess Trumpian xenophobia. People always switch on the boob tube whenever they're frightened to death, and then the boob tube makes sure that they become even more frightened to death. The endless propaganda feedback loop is as perpetual as war itself.

The  civil rights anthem of the Military-Industrial Complex: We Shall Overcome.... your sickly inhibitions.

So how about we overcome their propaganda and boycott the war profiteers as a form of protest? Don't spend money on any of the products and services you've seen advertised on CNN before you shut it off. These include most pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter pain killers, breakfast cereals, sugar and corn and toxic cleaning products which necessitate the pharmaceuticals, and anything manufactured by Koch Industries.

Let's give peace a chance. Let's also give them a piece of our minds as we take a million tiny but painful Piranha-like bites out of their tender, overstuffed shark-flesh.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Overcoming Sickly Inhibitions, the David Brooks Way

David Brooks As Doctor Pangloss (graphic by Kat Garcia)

David Brooks, resident hack of the Neocon Thought Collective, echoed that granddaddy of all neocon hacks, Norman Podhoretz, in his column today. He attempted to put a cheery Panglossian spin -- with some truly creepy eugenic baseline undertones -- on war, suffering and death.

It was Podhoretz who wrote that post-Vietnam, fed-up Americans needed a lot of guidance and prodding in order to "overcome the sickly inhibitions against the use of force." He actually cast aversion toward war as a disease rather than as a rational human response. Noam Chomsky explained the classic fascist propaganda techniques used to sell and re-sell modern American military aggression in his own classic volume, "Media Control":
"There were these sickly inhibitions against violence on the part of a large part of the public. People just didn't understand why we should go around torturing people and killing people and carpet bombing them. It's very dangerous for a population to be overcome by these sickly inhibitions, as Goebbels understood, because then there's a limit on foreign adventures. It's necessary, as the Washington Post put it rather proudly during the Gulf War hysteria, to instill in people respect for "martial value." That's important. If you want to have a violent society that uses force around the world to achieve the ends of its own domestic elite, it's necessary to have a proper appreciation of the martial virtues and none of these sickly inhibitions about using violence."
Just as the Vietnam Syndrome was temporarily overcome by the propaganda of the media-political nexus to justify the invasion of Iraq, so too is the bellicose thought collective trying to overcome the Iraq Syndrome to justify a turbocharged surge in the wider Middle East War, which Pope Francis has aptly called a "piecemeal World War III." 

Just as they justified Iraq by co-opting the 9/11 terror attacks, so too are they co-opting the Paris massacre to bomb, bomb, bomb again. And again. And some more. With no end in sight.

Enter David Brooks with his fascist, bizarre "Tales of the Super Survivors", which aims to convince us that suffering and catastrophe and terror are really good for us:
It’s horrible, of course, but over the past few years the findings of academic research into the effects of these traumas have shifted in a more positive direction. Human beings are more resilient than we’d earlier thought. Many people bounce back from hard knocks and experience surges of post-traumatic growth.
In the first place, post-traumatic stress disorder rates are lower than many of us imagine. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 13 percent of the first responders on 9/11 had symptoms that would qualify as a stress disorder. Only about 13 percent of the people who saw the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in person experienced PTSD in the next six months. The best general rule for all of society seems to be that at least 75 percent of the people who experience a life-threatening or violent event emerge without a stress disorder.
There are actual uncomplaining people out there, seemingly ground into psychic mulch only to bounce back fully formed, and so full of joy that they spread the Pollyannish gladness to everyone around them. They are virtual latter-day Übermenschen wearing happy face emojis.  Brooks gushes on,
 That is to say, they have positive illusions about their own talents, and an optimist’s faith in their own abilities to control the future. But they have no illusions about the world around them. They accept what they have lost quickly. They see problems clearly. They work hard. Work is the reliable cure for sorrow.
Optimism, altruism, and the ability to tell a good story as you work till you drop are the Brooksian cures for all that ails the maimed, the stabbed, the bombed, the troubled, the naked and the dead.

My published comment:
The theme of today's sermon from Mount Plutocrat: Get over yourselves, plebs!

Voltaire wrote a scathing masterpiece on such phony optimism in the 18th century. His anti-hero, Pangloss (who it's fun to envision as our favorite chin-stroking pundit-philosopher who gets paid to go on champagne-soaked $120,000 vacations for the rich) advises Candide that despite earthquake, plague, poverty, capitalistic predators and corrupt priests, this is still the best of all possible worlds. The French Revolution ensued, of course. People were as sick and tired of the sanctimonious claptrap that Voltaire satirized as they are now.

Fast forward to the postmodern Age of Terror, and Brooks grotesquely enthuses that only 13% of 9/11 first responders came down with PTSD in the first six months. 

 Duh. As most grief experts will tell you, reaction to trauma is often delayed for years or decades. Six months is still the numb stage for a lot of people. Brook's little guide to "l'optimisme" also doesn't factor in the cancers and other diseases just now manifesting themselves from that event. And forget about the hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi victims of American wars of aggression who didn't get to see another sunny side of life.

This is the age of terror, all right. It's the economic terror of a deregulated plutonomy that's scaring us, impoverishing us, and quite literally killing us.

And Brook's Rx is resilience and story-telling?

Mr. Brooks: please get over yourself.

 When Brooksian Resilience Bites You in the Ass, Be Strong and Carry On

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Managed Democracy Follies

The thought leaders of the universe are now pondering the unimaginable, that Donald Trump will indeed win the nomination of the Grand Guignol Party.

 Paul Krugman, for example, got his liberal conscience so rattled that he broke with New York Times protocol and wrote the verboten word "shit" in a blog-post about the looming specter of our first openly fascist presidential nominee. The ravening right-wing base is hellbent on electing somebody willing to "bomb the shit out of Muslims" and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, Krugman wrote.

My response:
Trump is doing what establishment Dems have had little stomach for or interest in: he is destroying the Republican Party. I can hardly wait for the convention -- if, in fact the GOP elders don't decide to broker it or cancel it altogether in the interest of their own survival. Maybe they'll dream up a new outside terrorist threat in order to maintain their own reign of terror.
Meanwhile, polls show Bernie Sanders beating Trump at wider margins than would Hillary Clinton -- who, unsurprisingly enough, is tacking further to the right now that she's again been declared inevitable. Can't you just imagine a debate between the two of them, with Trump bragging that his daughter and Chelsea are BFFs, and that he gave so generously to the Clinton family slush fund? That will be sure to bring out Democratic voters in droves.
Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton

Meanwhile, Trump and the Republicans don't need to red-bait Bernie on single payer healthcare when they have Hillary to do it for them. She is now ridiculously claiming that government-run health care would be a burden on the middle class, when it actually would be a savings boon to everybody. She's essentially saying that it's better to pay private insurance predators for their profit than to pay Uncle Sam in the interests of the common good.

  The good news is that younger voters are backing Bernie over both Hillary and Trump. Although it might not happen this cycle, change is inevitable. Out with the old neoliberal order, in with the new New Deal.
Naturally, Krugman and the rest of the Gray Lady claque dare not mention  inconvenient polls reflecting actual popular opinion and sentiment. Patrick Healy. for instance, broke away from his He Who Must Not Be Named or Taken Seriously political theater beat long enough to write a front-page piece insisting that liberal voters are upset mainly with the "lingering" optics -- not the actual substance -- of Hillary Clinton's sordid ties to Wall Street: 
At a time when liberals are ascendant in the party, many Democrats believe her merely having “represented Wall Street as a senator from New York,” as Mrs. Clinton reminded viewers in an October debate, is bad enough.

 It is an image problem that she cannot seem to shake.

Her advisers say most Democrats like her economic policies and believe she would fight for middle-class and low-income Americans. Most opinion polls put Mrs. Clinton well ahead of Mr. Sanders nationally and in Iowa, and they are running even in New Hampshire, but she fares worse than him on questions about taking on Wall Street and special interests. And even if Mrs. Clinton sews up the nomination quickly, subdued enthusiasm among the party’s liberal base could complicate efforts to energize Democratic turnout for the general election.
Healy fails to mention the polls showing that Bernie would beat Trump, possibly in a landslide. He also parrots the talking point of her operatives who claim that just because she takes Wall Street money doesn't mean she will do Wall Street's bidding. Say what?

My published comment: 
Corruption in the 21st century is more nuanced than in the olden days, when crooked politicians would accept bags full of cash in the dead of night in return for a specific favor. No longer does this rule of the quid pro quo apply. So, for Hillary's surrogates to claim that her millions from Wall Street doesn't translate into rewards for oligarchs is disingenuous at best.
As Gilens and Page established in their studies of "affluence and influence," huge donations from the wealthy ensure that, over time, they will get most of what they want. And what they want is privatization of public spaces, corporate coups disguised as "free trade," and fewer social services for the poor and the working class.

Her surrogates claim that the Clintons' "third way" neoliberal crusade of 90s deregulation is a thing of the past. But up until a year ago, they were working closely with Pete Peterson's "Fix the Debt" astroturf campaign to cut Social Security and Medicare. As Secretary of State, Hillary traveled to Greece to urge more pain for suffering people. She grotesquely called banker-dictated austerity "chemotherapy to get rid of the cancer," stating that cuts in social programs "will make Greece more competitive, will make Greece more business-friendly. We think that is essential for the kind of growth and recovery that is expected in the 21st century when businesses can go anywhere in the world and capital can follow."

I know exactly who Hillary is fighting for. And it ain't us.
Nearly 900 other readers weighed in. The people have spoken, and they are not taking kindly to Hillary Clinton's shit-bombs. The top-rated commenter, "Harry 1213," had this to say:
 Three weeks ago I sat next to a retired Vermont school teacher at a library benefit dinner in rural Vermont. When I asked the teacher what he thought about Bernie Sanders, he related the following: in 1975 he and Sanders were each manning tables at a bookseller's convention. The bookselling business was slow and for three days they talked about the world. According to the retired teacher, Bernie said "the same things in 1975 that he's saying now about income inequality and Wall Street." The undemocratic dominance of our economy and opportunities by the big banks, mortgage lenders, Wall Street, and all the corporate lobbyists didn't just happen during one administration, it goes back a long time, involving both Republican and Democratic politicians. Wouldn't it be great for our country's economic and democratic future if we could elect someone who appears to have been consistently and honestly on the side of the working people?
From "Martin" of New York:
 If Clinton is elected, I know exactly what will happen. She will move to the "center," the Republicans will declare that she's a socialist or a communist who must be stopped at all cost, and she will compromise with them in an effort to be or appear effective. Been there and done that too many times. If Sanders were elected, I have no idea what would happen, except that he will continue trying in word and deed to address the fact that our political system is a fraud.
And from "Tudor Bornwell," my imaginary friend:
 Leave poor Hillary alo-o-o-ne! Don't be, as President Obama chided us when he extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich, a bunch of "sanctimonious purists" who keep insisting on reducing the worst wealth inequality in American history. Do your jobs as citizen/consumer-frogs in a slowly simmering centrist Democratic pot instead of in a GOP cauldron immediately set at a high, thrombling boil.

We dare not speak ill of Hill. Doing so will lead directly to the election of Donald Trump.* So knock it off, everybody. As the late Sheldon Wolin rightly observed, we live now under a system of inverted totalitarianism, or managed democracy. Our job as citizens is to shut up about our pre-vetted corrupt candidates and pull the lever for the Lesser Evil every four years in the faint hope that our demise as a country might therefore be slightly delayed, and maybe even a tad less painful.

That this article by Patrick Healy again stresses style and image over facts, history, character and ethics is no surprise, seeing as how he comes to the political beat directly from the theater beat. All the world's a stage, and all of us are merely being played.

 * The New York Times does not mention some polls showing that in a general election match-up, Bernie Sanders would beat Donald Trump in a landslide. The truth might hurt Hillary's chances, as would more Democratic debates on nights when people would actually be watching.
Read 'em all. They might make you feel slightly less pessimistic about humanity in general.

But wait! I think I spoke too soon. To make you feel twice as pessimistic about humanity, as if that were even possible, you will be grimly happy to learn that resident conservative Times pundit David Brooks is a huge Hillary fan, because among her many other right-wing credentials, she wants to bomb the shit out of various countries. Brooks had absolute wargasms over her hawkish speech last week before the Council on Foreign Relations, veering as she did far to the right even of Drone President Barack Obama. Of course, Brooks's own staid definition of bombing the shit out of countries is prettified into killing people with "mature resolve." Hillary's hawkish approach to dealing with the Middle East, he enthused, is "multilayered and coherent" and "supple and sophisticated,"  as opposed to, say, the stupid shit-bombs of Donald Trump. Her shit not only doesn't stink; according to Brooks, it is formed like a brain encased in solid gold.

My published response:
If corporatism and corruption had not destroyed democracy in this country, Hillary Clinton would be running as the true Republican she is. Wall Street is for her, the generals are for her, the multinationals laundering money through her family foundation are for her, and David Brooks is for her.

And in a general election, Bernie Sanders (or any true liberal for that matter) would probably beat her. Because like Bernie says, we are sick and tired of getting screwed by a de facto oligarchy, which is only good at expelling people once it has extracted every last minute of underpaid labor from them. We're tired of being ground into human mulch before being tossed in the refuse dump of disposable people.

 Many of us are too busy or tired to care that a multimillionaire politician has a smarter, wonkier plan for waging war and shedding blood. And if we actually are paying attention, we are thoroughly disgusted that this is what electoral politics has come to. We have no choice about whether we want war or not. We are only invited to pick which corrupt politician we'd prefer to do the killing (euphemized as surgical drone strikes and the like.)

Hillary Clinton, appearing before an elite think tank run by corporations, generals and bankers and the media shills who serve them, hilariously declared that the aftermath of the Paris attacks "is no time to be scoring political points." And then she cynically proceeded to score political points.

It's disgusting, and it's horrifying.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Grey Lady Gossip Girls

Everything that is so, so wrong with national political coverage in just four paragraphs: 
Carolyn Ryan, the Times political editor, says that one of the thrills and pleasures of her job is hearing from reporters about what they see on the campaign trail.
The national political reporters Amy Chozick and Patrick Healy have been crisscrossing the country: Ms. Chozick’s reporting focuses on Hillary Rodham Clinton and her candidacy; Mr. Healy has covered the presidential campaign generally. In a lively, dishy conversation between campaign stops, the reporters chat with Ms. Ryan about Mrs. Clinton and her campaign.
 Informal and high-spirited, their conversation includes Mrs. Clinton’s snack of choice (jalapeño peppers, whole), her “badass” State Department look, her confidence level, the comparative political skills of Hillary versus Bill Clinton, and questions about the candidate’s authenticity. (Complete with revelations: “She’s brilliant at selfies.”) 
With a few seconds for bellyaching about bad coffee in certain parts of New England.
The above babble is a teaser for the latest entry in a new New York Times feature called "Insider," which also happens to be the name of a tabloid TV program about both Hollywood and Washington celebrities. The Times Insider, shockingly enough, is reserved for those special insiders willing to pay extra to enter a digital gated community recently built behind the pre-existing paywall, itself designed to keep out the lower orders without the bucks to spare for the elite content and government propaganda that the Paper of Record churns out on a near-constant basis.

In other words, the Insider is news for the affluent, who are not too concerned about the day-to-day angst of normal people. Why read about single payer healthcare and crumbling schools when you can learn about Hillary Clinton's snacks and selfie skills, and what a "badass" dresser she was over at the State Department?  Oh yes. To give that spicy edginess to coddling the wealthy behind closed digital doors, the Grey Lady has finally become laid-back enough to utter the word "badass!" Too bad that it took the paper nearly a decade to go big and bold enough to admit that "enhanced interrogation" is really torture.

I must be more privileged than I thought, because I could actually access the gossipy podcast behind the gated community behind the paywall as part of a temporary free admission policy in hopes that I might part with more money to become privy to Insiderism on a regular basis. Based upon what I heard, though, I would not join Times Insider even if it were free.

The above teaser was actually a blessedly short synopsis of the very tedious and strained verbal "conversation" that ensued.

In case you were wondering, the "everything else" that Patrick Healy covers is named Bernie Sanders, who is not mentioned any more often than the Times can help, lest the mere mention of his name destroy Hillary's chances. Healy, to my utter shock, comes to his Bernie Beat directly from the Times' theater beat. After all, he tittered in the podcast, what is politics but performance art? No wonder that his Bernie articles are so heavily dismissive of Sanders' hair, accent, posture and couture as well as so snidely critical of his lack of schmoozing and baby-kissing skills.

Amy Chozick, who covers the Clintons exclusively, is disappointed that Hillary is not more like Bill, who has this "incredibly high energy and people skills" that his wife sorely lacks. This, after Chozick helpfully leaked her strategy to become more authentic and funny. Hillary is still pretty much a living, breathing "Policy Pez Dispenser," cheerfully chuckled Chozick within the safe confines of the gated digital salon. Oh, and although Hillary doesn't much care for political reporters,  she absolutely adores Mark Landler, who covers the State Department for the Grey Lady. Chozick is s-o-o-o jealous that Hillary doesn't seem to like her as well, even though she is always unfailingly polite.

Meanwhile, Healy wallowed in his own shallowness by remarking, without a hint of irony within his gated community behind the Wall: "Hillary Clinton thinks reporters are interested in the story behind the story, and that's just not tru-u-u-e!"

I think I'll go choke on a jalapeño pepper.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cordially Yours, Jeb Bush

Flailing presidential candidate Jeb Bush has apologized for his odious suggestion that only Christian refugees be allowed sanctuary in his America.

"This was a horribly insensitive gaffe on my part," the scion of one of the country's premier crime families was heard to sheepishly admit on Tuesday. "What I meant to say was, only conservative folks with money, dynastic connections, elite degrees and professions or trust funds have an absolute guarantee of asylum in these, my United States. It's just a plus if they're High Church Christians, is all I'm saying. I didn't mean all Christians, fer chrissake. Baptists and Seventh Day Adventists, especially, might be sadly out of luck when it comes to the political vetting process. Do you hear me, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson? And forget about the secular humanists. I'm handing those atheist folks a one-way ticket to the hell that my born-again brother created to keep y'all safe."

OK, so I made that quote up. Despite his attempted dehumanization of refugees as pesky "challenges of the world," Jeb Bush did not verbally condemn them to hell based solely upon religion or lack thereof. All he said is that Syrians and Iraqis should present some sort of Christian I.D. prior to crossing the border into Exceptional USA. 

 Discrimination, which they grotesquely call "compassionate conservatism," has always has been an integral part of the Bush Family's ideological DNA. Simply read his bogus trickle-down platform and listen to his speeches, and you will discover that Jeb has devised a hell on earth for all poor atheists, all poor agnostics, all poor Catholics, all poor Jews, all poor Protestants, all poor Muslims, all poor Hindus, all poor Sikhs, all poor Jains and all poor Buddhists, regardless of where they come from, no matter whom they love.  He is an equal opportunity plutocratic class warrior. Muslims and immigrants are among the more recent convenient scapegoats for the rabid right wing, especially in the wake of the terrorist attacks in France.

Jeb and his cohort simply feel a little freer to spew the fear and the hatred and the sanctimony these days. All he has to do is open his mouth and cable news is there in a flash to give him endless campaign air time at no cost to Jeb and much cost to the refugees.

And not to be outdone on the domestic front, even by himself, Jeb also just managed to mangle the fable that illustrates precisely why most poor, doomed, white, angry voters still get fooled most of the time by the likes of him, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Responding to a question at a campaign event about Bernie Sanders' call for free college tuition, Jeb lit right up. "This is a great question, I’m glad you brought it up! Because this notion that earned success in life, that the government can just take care of us, if we keep taking steps down that path, we’re in danger. And it’s insidious, because you don’t see it until it’s over. That’s the problem with this. It’s like the crabs in the, you know, whatever —the crabs in the boiling water."

(To be fair to Jeb, he was probably suffering from the congenital Bush family trait of not being able to maintain more than one picture-bubble in his head at a time. He was probably seeing the corporate media's cartoon caricature of "Crabby Bernie" as he struggled in vain to answer yet another unfair liberal "gotcha!" question.)

Luckily, a sympathetic audience member heard his silent cry for help, and yelled out: "Frogs!" 

(To be fair to Jeb, he probably didn't want to bring up frogs in his mangled metaphor, lest it dredge up memories about how W. used to stick firecrackers up frogs' butts just to watch them explode, a juvenile prelude to his blowing-up of the entire Middle East.)

But to further outdo even himself, Jeb gamely lumbered on with his gruesome tale:

“The frogs. You think it’s warm, and it feels pretty good and then it feels like you’re in a whirlpool—you know, a Jacuzzi or something. And then you’re dead. That’s how this works.”

Translation: Subsidized higher education for the masses is a clear and present danger to the Republican Party. Beware the functioning brain and the independent thought. Look at the Bushes, for whom congenital intellectual and moral deficits are worn like badges of honor and they got filthy rich anyway. If they can do it, you can do it. And if you still insist on college, debt peonage till the day you die will be your lot and your loss, and their gain.

Jeb might not be the Smartest Bush. But when it comes to disclosing the Right's true fascist agenda, he is at least an inadvertently Honest Bush. They make you feel all warm and wet and turgid, and then zap. They do you.

That's how it works, crabby frog-people. The oligarchy is tossing you into an epic maelstrom right out of Edgar Allan Poe. Life sucks, and then you die. That's exactly how it works. That's the Republican plan for America. 

GOP Jacuzzi for the Poor

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


It was almost enough to make you feel sorry for President Obama. It was almost enough to make you applaud the drone president for "standing his ground" when sprayed by a flood of saber-rattling spittle from the corporate press corps, some of whom had traveled to Turkey to "cover" the G-20 summit instead of to Paris to milk the terror for all that it's worth to their defense contractor sponsors.

And exploiting and enhancing and even creating terror is worth a whole hell of a lot to them. Glenn Greenwald has a chart showing that the stock of weapons manufacturers has taken off like a nuclear-fired missile since the Paris massacre. The so-called journalists bombarding Obama with their double-dog-dares disguised as questions all had their marching orders. And they marched in perfect lockstep.

Here's part of the official transcript. 
Margaret Brennan, CBS.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. A more than year-long bombing campaign in Iraq and in Syria has failed to contain the ambition and the ability of ISIS to launch attacks in the West. Have you underestimated their abilities? And will you widen the rules of engagement for U.S. forces to take more aggressive action?

Jim Acosta, CNN.
Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I wanted to go back to something that you said to Margaret earlier when you said that you have not underestimated ISIS’s abilities. This is an organization that you once described as a JV team that evolved into a force that has now occupied territory in Iraq and Syria and is now able to use that safe haven to launch attacks in other parts of the world. How is that not underestimating their capabilities? And how is that contained, quite frankly? And I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world, it has the backing of nearly every other country in the world when it comes to taking on ISIS. I guess the question is -- and if you’ll forgive the language -- is why can't we take out these bastards?

Ron Allen, NBC.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I think a lot of people around the world and in America are concerned because given the strategy that you’re pursuing -- and it’s been more than a year now -- ISIS’s capabilities seem to be expanding. Were you aware that they had the capability of pulling off the kind of attack that they did in Paris? Are you concerned? And do you think they have that same capability to strike in the United States?
And do you think that given all you’ve learned about ISIS over the past year or so, and given all the criticism about your underestimating them, do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?
So Obama is standing his ground, for now. But you have to ask yourself whether this whole "him against the world" performance was a big fat set-up. He had to have known that by selecting CNN, the official Terror Channel, he'd be pressured to vengefully bomb, strafe, slaughter, and bomb again. Is this the way that he justifies starting another war, or more accurately, revving up the one(s) he's already been waging, both secretly and openly? Is this press conference one of the ways he again gets to portray himself as a mythical reluctant warrior, being dragged kicking and screaming into yet more death and destruction and billions of dollars in added profits for the war and surveillance industries?

Given that his own CIA director is also stirring up the bellicose paranoid fever, I suspect that this is very much the case. Back in the safety of the Homeland, John Brennan hand-wringlingly denounced all the pacifist "hand-wringing" (which actually amounts to a few pinkie fingers vaguely twitching on the outskirts of Peaceville) and demanded even more blanket surveillance of ordinary citizens. While he was at it, he tacitly blamed the abuses of the government spying programs and war crimes on the very whistle-blowers, like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, who have exposed the abuses and the war crimes. One is in exile and the other is in prison while the abuses of Superpower go on, unimpeded by either popular protest or the prosecutions and impeachments of past and present government officials.

It must be so, so hard for one set of murderous sociopaths to keep track of another set of murderous sociopaths. Pity the poor CIA, which unleashed a half-century-long torrent of Islamophobia when it deposed the democratic government of Iran in order to make the world safe for BP.