Monday, January 16, 2017

From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of... Norway?

You read that right - the United States Marines have just landed in the historic city of Trondheim, the former capital during the wild and crazy Viking era.

photo credit, Ned Alley, NTB Norway

For the first time since Hitler assaulted much of Europe in World War II, the American military is setting up a "rotational" base in the Scandinavian nation as a sign of chest-thumping strength against an allegedly threatening Russia. Not even during the Communist era of Cold War expansionism did Norway, always a fiercely independent social democratic country, ever invite any foreign military power to help it defend itself against a potential enemy. As a matter of fact, the Norwegian government signed an agreement with the Soviet Union immediately after World War II promising, after it joined NATO, that it would never allow foreign troops to be permanently stationed on its own soil.

 The Marine contingent of some 300 troops flew in on Monday from comparatively steamy Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, and will learn how to shoot guns on skis, among other sporty winter war games.

The New York Times reports that regular Norwegian citizens, while a bit nonplussed at the sight of Marines in jungle camouflage trudging through the January snow, are more than a little paranoid these days. First, there was the annexation of Crimea and the unrest in Eastern Ukraine. And everybody's been glued to a wildly popular Norwegian TV series called Okkupert, a dystopian futuristic political thriller in which the country is occupied by Russia. Very coincidentally, there have also been imaginary sightings of  Russian submarines off the western coast, their periscopes popping up from the frigid waves like slimy Loch Ness Monsters.

  And then came the ultimate fright: the election in the United States of Donald J. Trump. Propaganda depicting him as a Kremlin stooge apparently travels very fast, and very far, apparently respecting no national paranoid boundaries.

As per usual, whenever militarism and authoritarianism rear their ugly heads, it's been the lefties who are putting up the biggest stink about the Marine okkupation. From the Times:
Morten Harper, a leftist member of the local assembly that governs the area housing the military base, said the Marines’ arrival was ensnaring Norway into the United States’ “power struggle” with Russia.
“We see an ever more tense foreign policy situation,” he said. “If there ever was to be a major conflict between the great powers in the future, this makes us a more likely bomb target.”
Norway's defense minister soothed critics by promising that the Marines are only there for a trial period of six months and can be asked to leave at any time in what she termed an "open-ended" agreement. Now, where have we heard that reassuring story before?

Although  plans for the Norwegian deployment have apparently been underway "for some time," according to the 350-year-old regional newspaper Adresievessen, the transformation of the Norwegian Home Guards into an American Marine base was never even presented to the local citizens for informational purposes, let alone considered a matter for public debate. Many people were thus reportedly taken aback by the sight of 300 heavily armed soldiers struggling through the snow, dragging their suitcases. Some of them were still dressed in lightweight fatigues highly unsuitable, to say the least, for the harsh weather conditions of this sub-Arctic region in January. Talk about a new cold war!

Still, the local newspaper editorialized that while "it's frightening that Trump will be the boss of these soldiers," residents should rest assured that a few hundred Marines aren't tantamount to the beginning of World War III.

Maj. Gen. Niel Nelson, according to RT, was similarly nonchalant. "We've been going to Norway for 25 years," he groused. "So I don't really know what all the hype is all about."

He's undoubtedly right: the hype is a little late. As reported by the Norway Local, the US military already has completed the digging of deep tunnels into the Norway mountains for the storage of its tanks and other armaments. The American incursion has been an open secret.

None of the scanty news reports I've seen about Monday's Marine landing mentions that there are vast deposits of oil lurking beneath the icy Barents Sea, with some estimates amounting to fully one-third of the earth's remaining reserves. And the country's Arctic territory is warming up at an ever-quickening pace, becoming ever more accessible to plunder and predation. Norway already is the eighth largest crude oil exporter in the world. So somebody's got to protect the multinational oil cartel which doesn't/mustn't/shouldn't include Russia. Right?

As a matter of fact, only the plot of the TV series Okkupert (I believe it's available for streaming in the US) revolves around oil. But in a twist, the Russians have joined forces with the European Union to invade Norway, a non-EU country, and the (Trumpian) United States has withdrawn from NATO. And wouldn't you just know it, the leftist Norwegian Green Party is kind of the bad guy in the story, having just come to power and stopped the production of oil, enraging the whole gas-guzzling world. The propaganda stage would thus seem to have been set for the true-life Marines by the magic of make-believe. Isn't it always the way?

So as ever, whenever you have questions about what the Military-Industrial Complex is up to any given day, in any given location, simply follow the money. Skål, and Ka-Ching!

Friendly USMC Publicity Photo Furnished to the Local Norwegian Newspaper

Obama's B.S. On Insufficient B.S. - Conclusion

Much as I dread it, I feel it is my duty to follow up and complete last week's piece on President Obama's regrets over his faulty propaganda skills. So here's my analysis of the rest of the 60 Minutes puff piece interview which aired on Sunday night.  (As a testament to the ever more fascistic job description of our nation's chief executive, the title of the show refers to him not as the president, but as the militaristic commander-in-chief.)

The program starts out with all the heart-rending pathos that a corporate media powerhouse can muster: a nine-year-old clip of adorable little Malia Obama kvetching about Candidate Daddy's limited culinary skills and personal sloppiness. See - he was just like us then, and at his core, he's still just like us now!

Fast forward to some revelatory highlights in his Big Exit Interview. It turns out that despite regrets over his deficient propaganda skills, he can still scapegoat with the best of them:
And I will confess that, I didn’t fully appreciate the ways in which individual senators or members of Congress now are pushed to the extremes by their voter bases. I did not expect, particularly in the midst of crisis, just how severe that partisanship would be.
Obama doesn't blame the money in politics unleashed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. He doesn't blame the psychopaths of finance capital or the billionaire Koch Brothers for the extremism. He blames those danged voters clinging to their guns and religion. The poor congress critters are pushed to their sadistic extremes, not by their own corruption and greed, fueled by the corporate lobbyists who set the agenda and write the laws. They're pushed to extremes by the powerless, ignorant regular people back home in the sticks who persist in voting against their own interests. Yes, Obama can scapegoat with the best of them. And thus does he follow up his regrets over his failed propaganda with still more failing propaganda. (Jeeze, am I beginning to sound like Trump or what? Sad!)

And now, since this is CBS, whose CEO last year bragged how totally awesome Donald Trump has been for its profits, Steve Kroft forgets about stuff that might be important to regular people in the sticks. He immediately pivots right to Donald Trump's tweets and the Meryl Streep imbroglio:
Kroft:  He said Meryl Street is an overrated Hillary flunky.  I mean, what's going on?
Obama: You know, you’re going to have to talk to him. But here’s what I-- here’s what I think. First of all, I think everybody has to acknowledge don’t underestimate the guy, because he’s going to be 45th president of the United States. The one thing I’ve said to him directly, and I would advise my Republican friends in Congress and supporters around the country, is just make sure that, as we go forward certain norms, certain institutional traditions don’t get eroded, because there’s a reason they’re in place.
Rather than press Obama to define these norms and traditions (are they the CIA? the American hegemony? the continued comfort of the ruling class?)  and since he couldn't get Obama to bite on the moldy Meryl Streep imbroglio cheese, Kroft helpfully normalizes Trump by pointing out at least one thing that both presidents do have in common: their manly love for the elite Institution of Golf.

And since politics is at its capitalistic essence a rich man's sport, he asks Obama if he ever wished he had a Mulligan. (Trigger warning to readers: the following segments are rather severely condensed/translated in the interests of space, time and deconstruction--so please do refer to the original CBS transcript and video, linked above, for the official version of the spurious officiousness.)
Obama: Golf analogy -- well, yeah, Healthcare. gov. It didn't work for awhile, so we lost a little momentum. Management below par... or make that far above par, caught in the bunker, sinking in the decorative pond, and not making the cut.

Kroft: Oh, okay, whatever. Now on to foreign policy. (Here, Kroft plays a 15-month-old clip of himself bullying Obama about why he wasn't starting more wars, which was definitely hurting his image among hungry war profiteers. The whole world views an America in retreat, goddammit! What about war on Syria? The Saudis, the Israelis, the Republicans all view you as weak, weak, weak!)

Kroft: Now it's 2016. Two words: red line. You didn't have to say that.
 Obama: Well, yeah --
Kroft: I don't want to make a big deal about it. But red line, red line, red line, red line, red line. You didn't have to say it. But you said red line, red line, red line.

Obama: Yeah, but --

Kroft: Red line, red line, red line, red line, red line.

Obama: I -- but that -- 

Kroft: Would you take it back?

Obama: Well, I but --
Now that he's established that he will always put on a muscular show of bullying elected officials who don't completely grovel before the interests of the military-industrial complex and its Wall Street investors, Kroft gets in a few mild digs over Obama's belated passive-aggressive repudiation of illegal Israeli settlements.

 And finally it's time for the frothy dessert portion of the interview that we've all been waiting for:
Kroft:  What's it like living in the White House with all those perks?

Obama: Michelle pretty much couldn't stand it. Bubbles and all. But she thrived at it.

Kroft: So is the marriage OK? Inquiring prurient minds wanna know.

Obama: As far as I know. Heh, heh, heh.

Kroft: So you gonna do the ivory tower equivalent of puttering around the garden?

Obama: Sleep and puttering.

Kroft: Not going to Wall Street and make a lot of money?

Obama: I'll be investing in different capacities.

Kroft: How will we remember you ten years from now?

Obama: You know, I don't think you know now. Known unknowables and all. But known knowns are our energy future and setting the bar for the notion is that it's possible to provide health care for people. Increments you can believe in.

And you know, you gotta develop a thick skin this job. Not many people know that we even have to buy our own toilet paper in the White House. We pay for everything except the plane and the bodyguards and the walkie-talkies.

And with this whole Russian hacking thing, it is just incredible that some people (a/k/a Trump) actually think that Putin has more credibility that our own Deep State does.

Kroft: So how much White House swag you gonna take with you? You like your new crib?

Obama: It's a nice enough home. It's temporary. You know, it's not crazy big but at least there's enough room for a treadmill and some workout equipment in the basement.
And so ends Obama's Last Interview. As you can see, he is indeed just like the rest of us, wondering where to cram all the furniture when he's forced to move and downsize after a job loss and eviction.

But lest you be too concerned about his future cramped living quarters, his definition of "not crazy big" is 8,200 square feet, eight bedrooms and nine bathrooms. He's going to need one extra room just to store all that toilet paper.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Topsy-Turvy Duopoly

The fact that Donald Trump is a very dangerous man shouldn't distract us from the naked truth that corporate Democrats and their surrogates are trying their damnedest to overthrow his election by every slimy method at their disposal. By aligning themselves with the de facto fourth branch of government alternately known as the Deep State, the Surveillance State and the Intelligence Community, they're actually accomplishing the feat of attacking a right-wing demagogue from the very far right.

You'd almost think that they were repudiating democracy (such as still even exists) itself.

So you have to ask yourself: Just who, exactly, is the fascist thug in this mix? The whiff of beer hall putsch disguised as a Champagne brunch is wafting up the Potomac.

While the "socially liberal" oligarchic faction pretends to battle the sadistic oligarchic faction (step right up and buy our chic pink Pussycat hats for the big anti-Trump march, ladies!) ordinary people schlepping to their temporary service gigs will get caught in the crossfire. 

 The ruling class racketeers on both sides of the Uniparty are ignoring social and economic problems in favor of joining forces to scapegoat a third oligarchic faction named Vladimir Putin. They accuse him, with little to no evidence, of personally ordering the "hacking" of the presidential election and costing Hillary Clinton her prize of Empress of the Free World. By gluing the national attention, once again, to an Enemy Over There rather than toward the very real class war enemies over here, they're doing nothing less than preparing our hearts and minds for World War Three. Thousands of NATO (American) troops are massing on the Russian border even as we speak. From The Guardian: 
But their arrival was not universally applauded. In Moscow, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We perceive it as a threat. These actions threaten our interests, our security. Especially as it concerns a third party building up its military presence near our borders. It’s [the US], not even a European state.”
The Kremlin may hold back on retaliatory action in the hope that a Donald Trump presidency will herald a rapprochement with Washington. Trump, in remarks during the election campaign and since, has sown seeds of doubt over the deployments by suggesting he would rather work with than confront Putin.

But on Thursday Nato officials played down Trump’s comments, saying they hoped and expected that he would not attempt to reverse the move after he became president on 20 January. 
 That prediction was reinforced by Trump’s proposed defence secretary, James Mattis, and his proposed secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who backed Nato during Senate confirmation hearings.
As we have (apparently not) learned from history, it will be much harder to get out of a war than it will be to start one. And given that both the USA and Russia are nuclear weapons powerhouses, this could indeed be the war to end all wars. By whispering in Trump's ear that his alleged pal Putin has been spying on him, the "intelligence community" and their political enablers are trying to provoke (or blackmail) him into going along with plans for corporate hegemony put in place by the "defense industry" long before his shocking victory over Clinton. It seems to matter not a whit to Democrats that military men like Mattis are supposedly not allowed to lead the "Defense" Department out of a very real concern that we might end up with a domestic military coup.

How to persecute a persecutor who flits from idea to idea to idea with no regard for facts or respect for "norms?"  How do you solve a problem like Maria? Many a thing they know they'd like to tell him (and they have certainly tried to "brief" him, given his reputed short attention span.) How do you catch a wavy comb-over on the sand?

And he's been warned, as Chuck Schumer so elegantly put it on national TV, that the Deep State will exact its revenge "six ways from Sunday" if Trump doesn't go along to get along... with his actual life.

So while the liberal corporate Democrats are aligning with the unaccountable authoritarian surveillance/war state and attacking Trump from the right, those of us with a more socialist perspective find ourselves in the weird position of defending Donald Trump from the left via our criticism of liberal overreach.

For example: why on earth would a Democratic president be gifting Trump with such unprecedented extensions of the Authoritarian State if liberals are really so terrified of him? Obama quietly signed off on creation of a global/domestic propaganda bureau just before Christmas. Its unprecedented scope and funding would make even Joseph Goebbels green with brown-shirted envy. And in his most recent weekend dump on his sprint to the finish-line, Obama signed a terrifying order allowing the NSA to begin sharing all our personal email and telephone communications with all 17 police state ("intelligence community") agencies, including the CIA and the FBI. 

Given the current Democratic establishment's posturing over FBI Director James Comey's own alleged coup against Hillary Clinton, you'd think they'd be enraged by Obama's action. However, this latest blockbuster of a power grab has basically gone under the radar, thanks to the current epidemic of Russophobia making all the important people break out in a total body rash. So, do be sure to read Glenn Greenwald's piece on it at The Intercept if you haven't already done so.

Meanwhile, I have a sinking feeling that people are still making the mistake of underestimating Trump. He will no doubt use the ongoing manufactured mass hysteria to his own distinct and powerful advantage. After all, if even thinking people believe that he's got a valid point about being persecuted by a corrupt surveillance state, he's won half the public relations battle already.

Although some if not most of the comparisons of Trump to Adolf Hitler are overblown, there are eerie similarities in the political climates of both Weimar Germany and End-Stage Capitalistic 21st Century America. People are out of work or underpaid. Xenophobia is simmering while global demagogues suddenly made hate not only politically correct, but something to be encouraged. Democratic political systems institute austerity for impoverished people in order to pay off onerous IMF/World Bank debt and bail out banksters and CEOs, while billionaires off-shore their record wealth in hidden tax-free accounts. Income disparity soars to unprecedented levels.

 The left wing becomes the whipping boy of both right-wingers and corporate centrists. "Moderate" leaders in both Weimar and America barred leftist candidates from public discourse and coverage before the elections, of Hitler and Trump respectively. Intellectuals and pundits nearly all prophesied, regarding both Trump and Hitler, that such an extremist clown would never last. They yawned when Hitler became chancellor. They similarly predict that Trump will be impeached and kicked out of office before the year is over.

All it took for Hitler to gain sole dictatorial power after a series of perfectly legal democratic victories was one traumatic event: the burning of the Reichstag in his first year as Chancellor. He was able to unite all of Germany against one scapegoat. You guessed it: Communist Russia. Jews had always been the enemy, but blaming the arson on a Marxist, with absolutely no evidence, was pretty much the same thing in Adolf's fevered little brain.

All it might take for Trump to, if not seize dictatorial power, at least enjoy a mass uptick in his public approval ratings and the strengthening of his personality cult, would be for a terrorist attack or other catastrophe to occur within our borders. George W. Bush and Barack Obama have certainly paid forward some of the most extreme and violent executive/deep state powers in American history for him to play around with and shoot up with his own designer steroids. Americans have been programmed all too well to see threats and dangers wherever we're told to look.

It certainly hasn't helped the weakened Democratic Party's cause to continue demonizing both the Sanders/Warren wing and the independent leftist media as being just as dangerous and extremist as Trump. They're ironically employing the same tactics as Joseph Goebbels did in Nazi Germany. In their fevered campaign of equating fascism with socialism, they are only stifling dissent and solidifying further our pre-existing condition of obedience, repression, and fear. 

Influential centrist pundit Jonathan Chait is a case in point. As Timothy Shenk describes Chait's "dead center" Cold War 2.0 straw-manning worldview,
Chait has been less successful at interpreting the left, which in his analysis becomes an undifferentiated mass of rabid Marxists, politically correct ideologues, and postmodern academics. Rather than attacking these distinct factions at their strongest points, he lumps them together as products of the illiberal left, and then takes fire at the caricature he has drawn. “Marxist theory does not care about individual rights,” his readers learn, while, “Political correctness borrows its illiberal model of political discourse from Marxism”—as if Marxist theory and political correctness are buddies who meet up for drinks to plot the demise of free speech.

 Such topsy-turvy "right is left, and left is right" centrist propaganda tactics have historically not ended well.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Obama's Biggest Regret: Insufficient B.S.

A media goodbye which rivals even Ronald Reagan's funeral for overkill and hagiography is rapidly reaching its apogee. Or, if you cynically wish, its low point. Because this Sunday, Barack Obama will claim that it was mainly his own faulty propaganda which prevented regular folks from happily accepting their nasty, brutish fates under the plutocrat-serving neoliberal policies of the Duopoly.

In a tantalizing preview of a self-eulogy promoted as his last presidential appearance on network television, Obama tells 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft that if only his bullshit had flowed a little more slickly, the citizens of America would be satisfied and Donald Trump would never have been able to co-opt their grievances and pain.

Obama is also pitifully proud of the fact that he was able to keep his pants on during his entire eight-year tenure -- as though "major scandals" don't include such things as droning people to death at his whim, preaching austerity and urging people to "share the sacrifice" via his deficit reduction "Catfood" commission, deporting more Latinos and prosecuting more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined, imprisoning refugee families, bombing seven different countries, force-feeding Gitmo hunger-strikers at a prison he'd promised to close, and siding with Wall Street bankers over people losing their jobs and their homes and dying ever younger in the process. 

Obama's inability to "get stuff done" is such a shock to him personally, given how his initiatives have largely been conservative and market-based. Look at Obamacare, for crying out loud, the biggest gift to the predatory health insurance cartel in history. He even secretly scuttled the public option to placate those nasty old Republicans and a passel of Blue Dog Democrats. And then they wouldn't even consider his last Supreme Court nominee, the most conservative law-and-order high court candidate ever suggested by a modern Democratic president.

Don't people get that Obama is a truly nice, smart guy who only aims to please rich and powerful people on behalf of all of us?  Why did people vote against their own interests, a/k/a  the interests of Obama's and Clinton's socially liberal donors? Why couldn't people envision their future ladders of opportunity and level playing fields 20 years from now as clearly as Obama could? 

Obama is the epitome of elite liberal victimhood. Nonetheless, he nobly offers to accept some of the blame for his party's implosion --  not by admitting his deliberate chronic failures to match his words and campaign promises with ensuing deeds, but by acknowledging his failure to bury the electorate in a large enough avalanche of sweet-smelling bullshit:
Steve Kroft: You couldn’t even get a (Supreme Court) hearing.

President Barack Obama: But we couldn’t even get a hearing. Trying to get the other side of the aisle to work with us on issues, in some cases, that they professed, originally, an interest in, and saying to them, “Hold on a second. You guys used to think this was a good idea. Now, just because I’m supporting it, you can’t change your mind.” But they did.And what that did, I think, made me appreciate. And I’ve said this before. But it’s worth repeating. Because this is on me. Part of the job description is also shaping public opinion. And we were very effective, and I was very effective, in shaping public opinion around my campaigns.
But there were big stretches, while governing, where even though we were doing the right thing, we weren’t able to mobilize public opinion firmly enough behind us to weaken the resolve of the Republicans to stop opposing us or to cooperate with us. And there were times during my presidency when I lost the P.R. battle.
Since CBS at this point cuts off the promo of the full interview, we'll have to wait until Sunday night to discover just what specific times in his presidency Obama is talking about. This is assuming, of course, that Steve Kroft presses him for details and Obama isn't allowed to veer off into more bathos about Michelle and the troops and the kids and the dogs and the dogs crapping in the Lincoln Bedroom and other sweet-smelling bullshit.

Judging from the pre-eulogy teaser, it is painfully obvious that Obama is either oblivious or cynical. Given his much-vaunted intelligence, I would guess the latter. He probably knows full well, in his heart of hearts, that if we had Medicare for All, Republicans would not even be daring to whisper about repealing it. That's because they wouldn't be able to co-opt resentment and use it as a divide-and-conquer weapon. The expensively and inadequately insured population would not be attacking the "undeserving" poor Medicaid recipients who are not required to pay costly premiums and deductibles. There'd be no 30 million people deliberately exiled from health care staying silent rather than harassing their congress critters on behalf of their fellow citizens deemed to be more privileged than they are.

"All against all" is how we roll in this neoliberal political system created by the movers and shakers of the two right wings of one duopoly. Divide-and-conquer is the real propaganda tool which political leaders utilize time and time again to keep the rich comfortable, and the poor and middle class either apathetic or pitted violently against one another in a constant battle for sheer survival.

The Democratic wing "lost" this time because resentment and pain can no longer be tempered by false hope. And probably next time the Republican wing will "lose" because that's the normal cyclical tendency; from frying pan to fire and back again to scorched frying pan.

 And maybe a miracle will happen, and the remaining ashes of any legitimacy they still possess will go the way of the funerary urn.

Notice how Obama himself frames his failure in "public relations" in terms of one elite faction at war with another elite faction. He and Steve Kroft are members of the same class, the media-political complex. They're having a private conversation that, through the magic of TV, we're allowed to witness. But we are not allowed to participate or contribute to it in any meaningful way. We're supposed to take it for granted that a bunch of experts and technocrats were "doing the right thing" and these busy bees with credentials had simply neglected to tell us proles about their total awesomeness. If only we'd known, we would have stormed Washington in support of... what, exactly?

It seems never to have occurred to Obama that the "folks" whom his propaganda campaign failed to reach were out in the streets in 2011 protesting Wall Street greed and wealth inequality, and that his police state and his Democratic governors summarily broke up the Occupy camps in one week-long orchestrated campaign of state-sanctioned violence.

Yes, Republicans are and always will be nihilistic sadists. And as long as basic insight and awareness and empathy continue to be deliberately scrapped from its own agenda, the Democratic Party will never recover. The utter lack of respect for the intelligence of American citizens displayed by Barack Obama in just the interview clip above is what is truly shocking and scandalous.

 When one-quarter of all American children are going to bed hungry, he wants us to think that all we need is a more comforting bedtime story.

Please don't let the door hit you on the way out, Obama. Good night, and good riddance.


On my own personal and self-serving behalf, meanwhile, I am proud to announce that today marks the sixth anniversary of Sardonicky. 

Here's a reprise of my very first post, entered on Jan. 13, 2011. (Remember the good old days when all good liberals were so shocked and appalled at Sarah Palin? Little did we guess about the fright-fest that was truly in store for us. "Caribou Barbie" has actually improved with age, though, because now she's bipartisanly warning us about Trump's crony capitalism and blaming Obama for the "Mexican Muslim" airport shooter.)

Out, Out Damned Spot! 

Blaming Sarah Palin for the Tucson Massacre is just as unfair as blaming Lady Macbeth for the mayhem at Inverness Castle.  All these two maligned ladies did was lay out the weapons: Sarah, her cross-hair graphics and Lady M, a few carelessly placed daggers.  Subtle hints do not a murderess make.
Along with their histrionics and lust for power, both women have a fixation with blood. Palin, subdued from her usual frenzied harangues, looked like a robot on tranquillizers  as she You-tubed herself into the queen of the martyrs and the victim of “blood libel” of the biased liberal lamestream punditocracy.  To give her credit, I doubt she knows the anti-Semitic origin of the phrase, but the blood part likely was what appealed to her.  And Lady Mac was  totally obsessed with blood, even to the point of sleepwalking and being unable to wash the imaginary stains from her hands. Sarah, of course, also had difficulty scrubbing her website clean of the infamous Cross-Hairs map.  It had already gone viral all over cyberspace. “Out, out damned cache!” could be heard echoing through the valley, according to Wasilla lore.
The Lady Sarah really doth protest too much, methinks, and all the sanguineous references in the world can’t mask the fact that this anti-mother/mama grizzly has ice water running through her veins and a stony heart totally lacking in the warmth of human kindness.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Leave Us Poor Plutocrats Alone!

It's been quite the week for rich and powerful people whining about how oppressed they are, hasn't it?

Most recently and famously, Celebrity Apprentident Donald Trump complained Wednesday that he feels like he's in Nazi Germany, what with that John LeCarré fan-fic of a dossier alleging that he'd enjoyed a "golden shower" from Russian prostitutes on a Moscow hotel bed once occupied by Michelle and Barack. This claim is ridiculous on its face, said Trump, because he is a well-known germophobe. And that, in turn, reveals Trump's profound scientific ignorance, given that normal urine is, if not exactly sterile, usually free of some of the nastier microbes that can make us sick.  I don't think that Donald Trump ever would have engaged prostitutes who were unable to produce certificates of health completed by the Mayo Clinic any later than five minutes ago. Moreover, I don't think that Donald Trump has ever had to pay direct cash money for sexual favors. Cash is way too contaminated.

Naturally, the dossier leakage in the national press has only helped Trump to rise, once again, in the court of public opinion. His fans are paying more attention to his persecution at the hands of the "intelligence community" than they are to the fact that he adamantly refuses to divest from his global business empire while he acts out the role of leader of the free world. 

Since oppression flows downhill as readily as any bodily effluvia, the pundits and mainstream press are beside themselves in a frenzy of victimhood at Trump's short-fingered hands. Thanks to his insults aimed directly at them, they are ignoring his big Freudian slip at the press conference, when he actually seemed to confuse the United States with his company. He as much as announced that America will hereby be known as Trumpistan, Inc: 
 As president, I could run the Trump organization, great, great company, and I could run the company—the country. I’d do a very good job [at both], but I don’t want to do that.
  So when Trump talks about draining the swamp, perhaps what he really means is that he is germophobically placing some tissue paper on the toilet seat and "stanitizing" it for his own protection.

The more he insists that he's doing America a solid, the less we're supposed to notice when the solid starts inexorably flowing downhill.

And speaking of ignorance, I think that a more apt comparison for what poor old Tweety is going through would be Stasi East Germany under Communist rule. That was the true spy state. Under Hitler, enemies of the state just tended to get killed instead of being blackmailed or discreetly graced with years and years of surveillance.

Preceding L'Affaire Golden Showers by just a few days was Hollywood's Golden Globes affair. Meryl Streep used the occasion of one of her lifetime high achiever awards to lambast Trump for his own poor "performance" imitating a disabled New York Times reporter. But forget Meryl using her pulpit to advocate for rights for disabled people and perhaps alerting the nation that the Republican Congress is always aiming to reduce or discontinue Social Security benefits for the chronically sick and disabled. On the contrary: Trump has his beady sights aimed directly at Hollywood's "diverse" group of multimillionaires and their publicists in the media. To hear Meryl Streep tell it, movie actors who were born in Canada or Africa or Israel are right on the top of Donald's basket of deportees.

She didn't give one mention to the hundreds of poor Central American mothers and children who, fleeing drug and gang violence in their home countries, are currently locked up in so-called family detention centers. She didn't mention that regardless of his lip service to "Dreamers," President Obama has deported more Latinos than in all previous administrations combined.

Instead, Streep informed her audience that were it not for her and other professional actors, we poor slobs would never know what it's really like to be a poor slob. On second thought, she wasn't really talking to the TV audience, was she? She was virtue-signaling to her liberal peers:
 An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.
Like many Democratic surrogates criticizing Trump, Meryl Streep daintily refused to actually call him out by name. And while she rightly advocated for a strong independent press to hold Trump to account, she has never done likewise during the Obama regime, which has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined. Maybe this oversight had something to do with Meryl being exhausted after partying into the wee, wee hours with Barack and Michelle and hundreds of other aggrieved A-Listers just two nights before the Globes extravaganza. 

And who, really, can be more oppressed by Donald Trump than the current president himself? Obama might have partied hearty at the White House over the weekend, but his whole political party has just imploded. Millions of people might lose their health coverage, and much of the population stands to become even more impoverished under direct oligarchic rule. But to hear the hagiographic mainstream media tell it, this is all about the destruction of Obama's precious personal legacy. His star-studded, golden-voiced farewell address in Chicago was so maudlin a performance that even he was reduced to tears by it. Or so I've read - I forgot to remember to watch it.

And then there's the parade of plutocratic creatures being "grilled" by the Senate this week in preparation for the rubber-stamping of their cabinet appointments. Xenophobic reprobate Jeff Sessions, who aims to selectively safeguard our civil rights as Trump's attorney general, used his biracial granddaughter as a human shield at his confirmation hearing as his "history of making racist statements" was carefully differentiated from any specific racist actions. Plus, he is an equal opportunity bigot: he opposes legal immigration as heartily as he opposes illegal immigration. His cordial Democratic colleague Dianne Feinstein did the obligatory civil rights concern-trolling before she praised him for his fealty to the "intelligence community." So all is fair in hate and war. He looks like a shoo-in for the job.

 Oil magnate Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, prissily fretted over his own privacy rights when questioned about his finances and tax returns, while at the same time casually admitting that, as potential Secretary of State, he has never even discussed foreign policy specifics with his new boss. Because of his cordial history with Vladimir Putin and the epidemic of Russophobia bipartisanly plaguing Congress at the moment, however, Tillerson doesn't look like a done deal quite yet. The members of the senate judiciary committee nonetheless carefully kept their grilling on Exxon-Mobil's long sordid history of global pollution and plunder and corporate welfare and political bribery to an absolute discreet minimum.

And last but not least, and to demonstrate that they can do a bravura performance every bit as well as Meryl Streep, the downtrodden millionaire Democrats of the Senate staged another one of their "rare" protests in the wee overnight hours. It seems that the Republicans have filibuster-proofed the repeal of Obamacare. As the New York Times reported it,
One by one, Democrats rose to voice their objections. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington said that Republicans were “stealing health care from Americans.” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said he was voting no “because health care should not just be for the healthy and wealthy.”
The presiding officer, Senator Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, repeatedly banged his gavel and said the Democrats were out of order because “debate is not allowed during a vote.”
No Democrat, of course, actually brought his or her emotive acting to the level of introducing a true single payer health bill as the most cost-effective and humane replacement for the kludge known as the "Affordable" Care Act.

After all, they're only there in supporting roles.

There's so much elitist trickle-down going on that we regular folk will be lucky to catch even one golden beneficent drop of it.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Anti-Propaganda Propaganda

I'll give credit where it's due. A New York Times "explainer" piece about how Russian propaganda gets done in the United States is a pretty slick piece of propaganda itself.

It insidiously casts doubt upon independent media at the same time it tries to get the patriotic war drums pounding in the brains of its readers.

The headline blares out its piercingly shrill dog-whistle of a warning to the reading public: Russian Hackers Find Ready Bullhorns in the Media. In other words, the media outlets that published DNC and Clinton campaign emails are, if not exactly traitorous, extremely careless and naive. And if you the reader don't want to be considered traitorous or careless or naive yourself, you'll be very, very careful about what you choose to peruse.

Reporter Max Fisher, who recently arrived at the Times's new "Interpreter" beat from previous explaining gigs at Vox and the Washington Post, immediately asserts that Russian hacking of Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign emails is an established fact. Despite much skepticism from a wide variety of sources about the results of the government's investigation, the Russian infiltration of our democracy is no longer even up for debate, as far as the Times is concerned:
As the dust settles on Russian interference in the United States election, journalists are confronting an aspect that has received less scrutiny than the hacking itself but poses its own thorny questions: Moscow’s ability to steer Western media coverage by doling out hacked documents.
Fisher enhances the official narrative by moving beyond the Russian red herring, which deflected attention from the actual damaging content of the emails. Now it's time to inflict shame on the reporters who wrote about them, and to warn them off covering future non-sanctioned leaks. Since the Russian messenger of the email story has already been vanquished as far as Max Fisher is concerned, he can now safely move on to smearing -- in a smarmy, concern-trolling way, of course - the "stenographers" of the message. The reporters who published mainly banal exposures of the self-interest, money-grubbing and petty backbiting within Hillary Clinton's Democratic Party without vetting the original sources are as good as accessories after the fact. And if you, dear readers, pay any more attention to these emails, then you too are complicit. 

Any journalism from here on out now that is critical of the Wall Street/war faction of the duopoly will have Putin's bloody hand-prints all over it. And, the article hints, this whole First Amendment thing might need to be reconsidered because the Russians are spoiling it:
 By releasing documents that would tarnish Hillary Clinton and other American political figures, but whose news value compelled coverage, Moscow exploited the very openness that is the basis of a free press. Its tactics have evolved with each such operation, some of which are still unfolding.
Fisher goes on to quote cyber-security expert Thomas Rid, a professor at Kings College London, who has been allegedly tracking the hacking since last summer, when Obama administration officials apparently first learned of it but did nothing. They believed, like nearly everybody else, that Hillary would beat Trump, a "Pied Piper" candidate whom they themselves had set up as the perfect loathsome target for her. They did nothing, even after the embarrassing emails started appearing in print the month before the election. Obama reportedly did not want to be seen as placing his own thumb on the electoral scales by making a huge issue out of what basically is standard international mutual spying procedure.

But that was then, and the agenda now is to delegitimize the renegade Trump victory by calling him a Manchurian candidate and simultaneously beating the drums for war on Russia. And so Thomas Rid is quoted as saying that this goes well beyond run-of-the-mill hacking. "It's political engineering, social engineering on a strategic level," he ominously told the Times.

In other words, they want you to believe that Vlad Putin not only wants to eat your brains for breakfast, he wants to steal your breakfast table and all your furniture and your house and your money and the entire American consumer culture that makes us so great.

"A New Dark Art" is how Fisher balefully describes the Russian propaganda scourge in a bold subhead.

Because unlike run-of-the mill spying and meddling, Russia is using front organizations and proxies to disseminate its propaganda across our borders. Never mind what Edward Bernays revealed almost a century ago: most propaganda you read in newspapers originates from a front group or public relations agency. In his seminal work on the topic, he singled out the New York Times: 
      The extent to which propaganda shapes the progress of affairs about us may surprise even well informed persons. Nevertheless, it is only necessary to look under the surface of the newspaper for a hint as to propaganda's authority over public opinion. Page one of the New York Times on the day these paragraphs are written contains eight important news stories. Four of them, or one-half, are propaganda. The casual reader accepts them as accounts of spontaneous happenings. But are they? Here are the headlines which announce them: "TWELVE NATIONS WARN CHINA REAL REFORM MUST COME BEFORE THEY GIVE RELIEF," "PRITCHETT REPORTS ZIONISM WILL FAIL," "REALTY MEN DEMAND A TRANSIT INQUIRY," and "OUR LIVING STANDARD HIGHEST IN HISTORY, SAYS HOOVER REPORT....
     These examples are not given to create the impression that there is anything sinister about propaganda. They are set down rather to illustrate how conscious direction is given to events, and how the men behind these events influence public opinion. As such they are examples of modern propaganda. At this point we may attempt to define propaganda.
      Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group.
      This practice of creating circumstances and of creating pictures in the minds of millions of persons is very common. Virtually no important undertaking is now carried on without it, whether that enterprise be building a cathedral, endowing a university, marketing a moving picture, floating a large bond issue, or electing a president. Sometimes the effect on the public is created by a professional propagandist, sometimes by an amateur deputed for the job. The important thing is that it is universal and continuous; and in its sum total it is regimenting the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments the bodies of its soldiers.
But now Thomas Rid and the Times act as though this tactic is both brand-new and lethal. As Fisher breathlessly Timesplains: 
Great powers have long meddled in one another’s affairs. But Russia, throughout 2016, developed a previously unseen tactic: setting up fronts to seed into the press documents it had obtained by hacking.
“Doing public relations work in order to get the hacked material out as an exclusive story with the Daily Caller or Gawker or the Smoking Gun, that is new,” Mr. Rid said.
That public relations work was initially done by two web presences that appeared this summer, Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, each posing as activist-hackers in the mold of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks chief. Though neither acknowledged it, and the links were not immediately known, online security experts later concluded that both were Russian fronts.
Of course, Professor Rid is being disingenuous. Fisher doesn't inform his readers that his source is an alumnus of the RAND Corporation, a public-private think tank which has been churning out imperialistic American propaganda since the end of World War Two. Many of its activities and position papers are highly classified. 

 RAND was once castigated by the Soviet news agency as the "American Academy of Science and Death" and by Stanley Kubrick as the BLAND Corporation in Dr. Strangelove. It was the physical source of the eventually stolen top-secret Pentagon Papers, which revealed the lies and coverups about the Vietnam War. As Alex Abella outlined in a book he wrote about RAND, it received most of its corporate and taxpayer money during the Cold War decades:

 I worked for RAND as a national security analyst from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, and people there spoke of those earlier times with wonder and nostalgia. Thanks to ever-expanding cold-war budgets, the Air Force essentially dumped a truckload of money at RAND’s front door every year. The organization was permitted to spend that money at its discretion. Although most of it funded useless research—I recall a 1960s-era report on the Black Death in the Middle Ages as an example of societal catastrophe and recovery—some of it helped to invent nuclear strategy, Sovietology, and systems analysis (probably RAND’s most lasting contribution to its military clients). Other analysts developed such far-reaching pursuits as game theory and rational-choice theory.
Speaking of game theory, and going back to Max Fisher's slick propaganda explainer piece in the Times, propaganda just wouldn't be slick if its practitioner didn't also play the Both Siderism game. Fisher continues with his 'splaining about those dastardly Russian PR shops and how they so easily fool dumb journos:
In July, for instance, DCLeaks published emails belonging to retired Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove. The Intercept, a left-leaning site, covered the emails in a story that portrayed Mr. Breedlove as trying to foment hostility against Russia. The story did not note Russian links to the hack. Its lead author, Lee Fang, said he had no interactions with DCLeaks and pointed out that the group’s suspected Russian ties were not widely publicized at that time.
Lee Fang is a respected independent investigative reporter. But never mind all that. Because when it comes to shilling for Putin, Fisher implies, he's just as Strangelovingly "preverted" as the often-scurrilous Daily Caller: 
In September, DCLeaks contacted Peter Hasson, a reporter at the Daily Caller, a right-leaning site, with an offer: password-protected access to hacked emails belonging to Colin Powell, the former secretary of state.
The Daily Caller’s story also did not note the growing belief that the documents had been hacked by Russia and leaked as part of an influence operation. Mr. Hasson said he was unaware of the alleged Russian links at the time.
And to give a good back-handed smack to smaller independent ("peripheral") news sites, Fisher, in a more subtle variation of the discredited PropOrNot way of smearing them as Russian propaganda tools, actually praised the conspiracy site InfoWars as being moral enough to refuse to publish some of the leaked DNC  emails. If InfoWars of all places is turning down Russian leaks, then why can't more reputable organizations? Or so Fisher slickly implies in his article.

But Fisher is not done yet. Because as the final sinister subhead to his article prescribes, it's way past time to be "Developing Antibodies" to all this Russian mental germ warfare.

Get it? Independent news that afflicts the powerful is like contaminated food. You just never know who packaged the bread on that sandwich you're eating. The baker, in turn, has no real way of knowing the provenance of the flour she used, and the farmer has no earthly idea where his seed came from, or whether the pesticides he used on his crops are more toxic than the manufacturer asserted.

Ergo: we had all better quit reading and listening to consuming unsanctioned stuff that embarrasses or damages our betters and their agendas. We must not become angry and take to the streets in protest. At the very least, we should restrict our diets to such BLAND and healthy establishment sources as the Times and CNN and the Washington Post and MSNBC.

"I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.... It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids, without the knowledge of the individual, certainly without any choice. That the way a hardcore Commie works." -- Dr. Strangelove, 1964.