Saturday, June 12, 2021

Now what?

The Spy's Report from Washington

By Isidore F. Stone
Spy Washington Bureau

To the surprise of virtually no one, the Republicans are executing the same playbook they used successfully for the two previous Democratic Presidents:

1.  Oppose everything

2.  Drag everything out by engaging in sham negotiations that either break down or result in legislation so bad (tax increases at the gas pump) that voters will be repelled.

3.  Claim somehow that the Democratic President lacks legitimacy because Jewish space lasers changed votes, or something.

4.  When nothing happens, allow media to push the fraudulent both-sides gridlock-in-Washington narrative

5.  Go to the midterms knowing that Democratic turnout will be suppressed because nothing much happened in Washington.

6.  Stir up white racist resentment by claiming that some boogeyman (this year, it's . . . the academic works of Kimberlé Crenshaw?) is coming to take away your pickup truck and replace it with a solar-powered scooter.

7.  While no one's looking use their gerrymandered state legislative majorities to suppress Democratic votes.

The Democratic response runs the gamut from pretending that nothing's wrong (the White House view) to sending really tough Tweets to whining about Sen. Joe Manchin (D – Koch Industries).

We're going to go two millimeters out on the limb and say none of this bodes well for the midterm election.

What can be done given the reality of razor-thin Democratic majorities in both Houses?  

Well, now that you've asked . . .

Let's start with the leading example of the Republican bad-faith playbook: infrastructure spending.  Here's something that's popular with all voters and produces short-term results, at least in terms of pictures of white men leaning on shiny shovels.

President Biden, following the Democratic playbook of proposing sound, sensible legislation, proposed $2.2 trillion in new infrastructure spending, fully paid for by rolling back the ridiculous tax cuts for the rich and corporations rammed through on a zero-bipartisan basis by the Trumpublicans in 2017.

Billy Jo wants this bridge fixed

From the wailing that arose from Republicans, you would have though that Biden was proposing shaking down every storefront on Main Street for whatever was in the till.  So began the search for the Golden Bipartisan Compromise.

Fake Republican offer #1: $257 billion in new spending, paid for by raiding previously approved (and now allocated) COVID relief.  In other words, jack s***.

As usual, bad-faith negotiations followed, with Biden shaving $500 billion from his ask and Republicans in response offering a bucket of warm p***.

After that farce ended, a second round of bad-faith nonsense ensued, resulting in a supposed “bipartisan” deal of about $580 billion in new spending over eight years, paid for not by returning tax rates to their Obama Administration levels (which corresponded with six years of economic recovery from the Bush Recession), but with a mysterious pay-for that can only be an increase in the gas tax.

Sure, that'll work.  You don't have to be as talented a Republican hatchet man as those now doing business as the ever-so-pious Licoln Project to write the attack ad: “Biden and Democrats promised they wouldn't increase your taxes.  Now they're sending your gas tax through the roof.  They lied; you pay.”

If you're running in say Northwest Georgia or the Florida Panhandle, that's got to work better than “My sex partners were all over 18.”

What to do?

It's time to put the question.  It's clear that Republicans will always oppose new infrastrucutre spending until they are forced to pay a political price for it.  Put the $1.7 trillion in spending on the floor, strip out the tax increases, and make every Republican go on the record: Do you want to fix the Tallahatchee Bridge?  If not, run ads appealing to Billy Jo McAllister.

The point is to win the midterms. If the midterms are about gridlock in Washington and why Kamala Harris won't go for a boat ride on the Rio Grande, Democrats will lose.  If they're about who wants to fix the bridges and give you broadband, and who stood in the way, that's gotta work better.

The same path should be followed on voting rights.  There's endless wasted effort on the two vital voting bills, HR 1, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, simply reauthorizing the 1965 bill and immunizing it from fact-free attacks by John “I don't see any racism at the Metropolitan Club” Roberts '76, and HR 4, the For the People Act that would do a whole bunch of good things.

As 50 Republican Senators are content to hide behind the shell of Moscow Mitch McConnell, Democrats have focused on trying to persuade Manchin to approve the bill by suspending the filibuster.

There's only one flaw in this strategy: as long as there are no consequences to doing nothing, Republicans will do nothing.

Instead, let's have a summer of fun!  Every day this summer Schumer should put on the floor (1) the John Lewis bill, and (2) a separate provision of the For the People Act.  Each day each Republican can go on the record as blocking action on voting rights.  Talk about stimulating midterm turnout!

Why won't Harris investigate the Mexican border?
The For the People Act can be easily disassembled into its many provisions:

If the measure passed, Democrats could effectively overpower the states by putting in place new national mandates that they set up automatic voter registration, hold regular no-excuse early and mail-in voting, and restore the franchise to felons who have served their terms. The legislation would also end partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, restructure the Federal Election Commission and require super PACs to disclose their big donors.

In fact the bill contains scores of separate provisions relating to protecting and enhancing the right to vote, each of which can be voted on separately.  Does Sen. Wilfred M. “Profiles in Courage” Romney want to vote against a provision requiring Presidential candidates to release their tax returns?  Why not?  Does Sen. Susan “Disappointed” Collins want to vote against imposing minimal ethics standards on Supreme Court Justices, including the rapey ones?  Let's find out!

Some of the provisions, like public financing, are likely to go down the tubes, but let's see if Republicans are willing to block each and every change.  If so, each no vote is a ready-made attack ad and a reminder to the Democratic base on what could happen if they actually get off their asses and vote, as they did not in 2010 and 2014.

What's the down side?  Right now, all Democratic priorities are on a road to nowhere.  At the very least, let's make it clear who's to blame, and fight the midterms on these terms, not on Cancun Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham doing a summer-stock version of “Deliverance” on the Rio Grande.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Why are we in Iraq?

By Douglas MacArthur
War Correspondent

Fans of endless wars, including those great moral beacons Billy Kristol and Liz Cheney, were disappointed to learn that after 20 years of futility, the Biden Administration decided to pull the plug on Afghanistan, the war that was supposed to make the world safe from al-Qaeda terrorism, after which we hung around another 18 years looking for some reason to justify the endless effusion of American blood and treasure.

And by the way, it's going great, according to The New York Times:

The Taliban have negotiated Afghan troop surrenders in the past, but never at the scale and pace of the base collapses this month in the four provinces extending east, north and west of Kabul. The tactic has removed hundreds of government forces from the battlefield, secured strategic territory and reaped weapons, ammunition and vehicles for the Taliban — often without firing a shot.  

It's almost like there was no country there to defend, despite the Pentagon's protestations to the contrary.

But cheer up neocons – there's yet another endless futile war that's percolating along in the Middle East which no one is paying any attention to. Remember Iraq?  The war that was supposed to make the Middle East safe for democracy?  At least that's what Condoleezza Rice kept telling us:

Conceding that it had been “a long five years,” Ms. Rice said that Iraq had made “significant progress, remarkable progress,” however fragile, and she quoted President Jalal Talabani, who had said that the country was experiencing “a political spring.”

As rockets and mortars crashed into the fortified Green Zone, Ms. Rice met with Mr. Maliki, Mr. Talabani and other government leaders, then spoke briefly at the United States Embassy and dedicated a plaque there to commemorate two embassy employees killed in rocket attacks on the zone.

 .... She played down recent violence in various parts of Iraq, saying that there would be days when “extremists manage, despite the fact they clearly are weakened,” to conduct suicide bombings and other attacks. . . .Two suicide bombings in three days last week killed at least 80 people in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad.

And that was 13 years ago.  By the way, we assume that after lying her way through the entire Iraq debacle, the disgraced and disgraceful Ms. Rice would be unable to gain employment other than as a cocktail-bar piano player.  Right?

 

Wtf?  We've been bs'ing our brains out for decades and no one has offered us a cushy faux-academic sinecure in pleasant Palo Alto.  

By the way, what is the Hoover Institution anyway?  According to it, it is "an independent institution within the frame of Stanford University."

What does that even mean?  What frame?  The html frame, as shown by the screenshot above? We think it means that the clownish ideologues who populate it get to pretend they are part of a prestigious academic institution while being able to spout nonsense without any of the oversight or responsibility normally associated with such an institution (not that there's much of that anywhere, see, e.g., child rapist Jeffrey Epstein and Harvard University).  It's like saying that after walking through the swamp, the leeches were “within the frame” of your shorts.

But we digress.  Let's get back to Ms. Rice's splendid little Iraqi War and how it's going 13 years after she beat feet out of Baghdad one step ahead of the mortars:

BAGHDAD — U.S. military officials in Iraq have grown increasingly alarmed over attacks by Iran-backed militias using drones to evade detection systems around military bases and diplomatic facilities.

 .... An official with the U.S.-led coalition described the evolving drone threat as the military mission’s biggest concern in Iraq.

In April, a drone strike targeted a CIA hangar inside the airport complex in the northern city of Irbil, according to officials familiar with the matter....The attack deeply concerned White House and Pentagon officials because of the covert nature of the facility and the sophistication of the strike.

Although no one was harmed in the strike, it prompted a long night of deliberations over how to respond, according to Western officials. Some U.S. officials advocated serious consideration of a military response, ... The Biden administration ultimately decided against taking military action.

“The damage wasn’t huge but the coalition were very upset. They told our commanders that it was a major escalation,” said one Iraqi soldier stationed at Ain al-Asad. . . .Ain al-Asad was previously targeted by Iran with ballistic missiles in January 2020 in response to the U.S. assassination of Iranian commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani earlier that month.

Rocket attacks by Iran-backed groups have at times killed American servicemen
and Iraqi security personnel and civilians, prompting retaliatory military action from the United States and pushing Washington and Tehran to the brink of outright conflict on Iraqi soil. 

So we have 2,500 splendid troops fighting in Iraq against Iran?  Why?  Were we always fighting Iran? After two decades, it's hard to remember just what we've been shooting at all these years.  First it was that vertex of the Axis of Evil, Saddam Hussein.  

Another digression: Remember who said that Saddam's Iraq was one corner of a triangular Axis of Evil, along with Iran, which was in fact Saddam's mortal enemy, and North Korea, which had nothing to do with any of this?  We'd bet that if we said anything as stupid as that, we'd be sent packing back to Toronto, forced to survive by selling poutine from a cart on Toronto Avenue.

So where is that guy?

He started out with a blog filled with white supremacist garbage like advocating the repeal of birthright citizenship.  That sounds about right, but as with Lyin' Condie Rice, David Frum has had a renascence of sorts:

With apologies to Barry Levinson, did you ever get the idea that there's something going on that we don't know about?

Back to our Iraq War.  We started the war to get rid of Saddam Hussein.  Then – funny story here – after Saddam was indeed gotten rid of, the war went on, this time against the pieces of Iraq that Saddam had kept from killing each other: Sunni and Shia militas, the latter backed by their coreligionists over at the second vertex of the triangular Axis, Iran.  Here's a typical day's war dispatch, from The New York Times:

Early Thursday, the American military launched another airstrike in a residential neighborhood of southwestern Falluja, military officials said. The strike killed at least 4 people and wounded at least 10, . . .

Falluja has become a haven for anti-American fighters who follow hard-line Sunni clerics who have imposed Islamic law. Foreign jihadists, loyalists to Mr. Hussein and disaffected young men also roam the streets, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47's. Insurgents groups regularly kidnap and occasionally kill foreign civilians passing through the area.

In the southern holy city of Najaf, militiamen loyal to the firebrand cleric Moktada al-Sadr agreed on Wednesday to trade 16 police officers they had captured this week for two insurgents imprisoned by the government,. . . said. Nine police officers still remain in the hands of the militia, the [Shiite] Mahdi Army. 

While liberator George W. Bush practiced
good toe hygiene, the Iraq War went on

Mr. Sadr's forces clearly remain defiant of both the Iraqi government and the American military, despite recent gestures made by Mr. Sadr that he wants to get involved in mainstream politics. 

American commanders have dropped the promise they made in April to kill or capture the cleric. Mr. Sadr is more popular than ever, having emerged as a folk hero during the revolt he led against the occupation. 

Fighting against everyone worked out about as well as you might expect, until in 2008 United States forces decided they would ally with the Sunni militias they had previously fought, while the Iraqi Government fell under the sway of Iran, who in turn controlled the Shia militias.

After great war hero George W. Bush left Washington to pursue his lifelong interest in toe paintings, the war smouldered until President Obama fulfilled his predecessor's commitment to end American combat operations in 2011.

Then the war started right back up again between the Shiite-dominated Iraqi Government and their Iranian handlers on the one side and increasingly extreme Sunni militias (including, wait for it, al-Qaeda), on the other:

Violence and political instability have escalated across Iraq since the withdrawal of American forces, as political and sectarian factions have fought for power and influence in a struggle that, within weeks, has threatened to undo the stability that allowed the pullout in the first place.

Enter, you guessed it, the United States again:

WASHINGTON — President Obama has authorized the deployment of an additional 1,500 American troops to Iraq in the coming months, doubling the number of Americans meant to train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces. The trainers and advisers are to help Iraqis and Kurds as they plan a major offensive expected next spring against Islamic State fighters who have poured into Iraq from Syria.

That's the dreaded ISIS. Remember them? Eventually they were pushed into a narrow corner of wasteland, but – our troops stayed on. 

And there's still there today, now apparently fighting Iranian forces again, thanks to the Former Loser Grifter's pointless strike on an Iranian general in Iraq.

Which leads to the question: why the f*** are we still there, 20 years after destroying the only stability the cobbled-together non-country of Iraq ever had?  Whom else can we fight?  When will we know when we win?  And what would winning look like?

The same Washington Post story quoted above included this rather obscure statement:

The future of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is the focus of ongoing discussions between U.S. and Iraqi officials.

If they come up with something, let's hope they let us know.

Happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

From the Archives: Democracy is recovering, 1931

By John Jones
Spy Foreign Correspondent

It was a near thing, but in the end democracy won out and seemed certain to prevail.  

America, 2021?  Hard to say, but we were referring to our coverage of Germany, 1931.

In that era, we depended on our colleagues at The New York Times for on the spot coverage of developments in Weimar Germany, and here's what our readers learned from August 11:

A musical program featuring unemployed musicians?  Sounds damned jolly to us!

The Times dispatch went on to note (in the Spy's tersely edited account):

Finance Minister Dr. Hermann Dietrich said that his hopes for dealing with the economic and political crises facing Germany have “been strengthened for Germany by the proof which the last weeks have furnished of the stability of the republic when endangered, the Germans proved better citizens than had been imagined.”

The Spy's ace Telegraph Editor incorporated a second Times report into its piece:

German Counsel General O.C. Kiep declared in a radio address yesterday that Germany “will overcome the present crisis by the discipline and energy of her own efforts and the cooperation of those who friendship and confidence shall not have been misplaced.”

And they lived happily ever after!

A careful reader of the Spy's report could hear a few discouraging notes.  First,

The entire Berlin police force was on riot duty throughout the day, in view of the Communist threats to disturb the celebration of Constitution Day and to kill several police officers whom they had named in handbills.

But good news – the Antifa [Surely, Communist? – Ed.] effort to attack the police didn't amount to much.  Now the civil authorities in Germany could relax, having nothing else to worry about!

But what was that bit in the Times about ruling by decree because the legislative branch of the German Government had been paralyzed, forcing the German Government to rule by executive order, uh, decree?   That sounds like a threat to democracy.

Earlier that year, certain parties had declared a policy of 100% opposition to the Government's program and had even tried to bring the legislative branch to a halt with performative obstruction:



That perpetual whining victim routine never works.  They'll probably next try to cut aid to unemployed workers!
 
Just to show how the well-informed German public reacted to these desperate shenanigans, less than two months later, one of the offending parties was kicked out of the government of the State of Thuringia:


As a result, in April 1931 the state's National Socialist party base fractured when confronted by the anti-government antics of the party's leaders:
 
 

It could happen here too!  Just ask Liz Cheney.

And of course some might say it's a bad sign when a major political party has fallen completely under the control of a single individual, but as long as that party says it's committed to lawful conduct and not to extra-legal nonsense like claiming that the fair and lawful election it lost was rigged, there's nothing to worry about:

Fortunately, there's no way to engage in “unauthorized speculations” as to what the Republican Party will do if it gets back into power, because it did not even adopt a policy platform in 2020.  Instead it pledged obedience to the Former Loser Grifter, thereby cleverly saddling him with responsibility for “all that the party as such does or omits to do.” 
 
To be fair, some white men with columns in the New York Times have speculated about the parallels if any between Weimar Germany 1931 and America 2021.  Here's Roger Cohen back in 2015, before the reign of the Former Loser Grifter:

“We’re going to be so tough and so mean and so nasty,” Donald Trump says in response to the San Bernardino massacre. People roar. He calls for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” People roar. “People want strength,” he says. People roar. His poll numbers go up. Pundits, even the longtime guru of Republican political branding, Karl Rove, shake their heads.

Trump is a clown. No, he is not. He is in earnest. And he’s onto something. It is foolish not to take him seriously. 

....The Weimar Republic ended with a clown’s ascent to power, a high-energy buffoon who shouted loudest, a bully from the beer halls, a racist and a bigot. He was an outsider given to theatrics and pageantry. He seduced the nation of Beethoven. He took the world down with him.

We're not always fans of Mr. Cohen's pensées but when he's right he's right.

For a completely different but not unexpected take on the same topic, albeit one that's totally wrong, who better to turn to than the boy no one would have lunch with in Winthrop House, Ross Douthat, who approaches the comparison of Weimar 1931 to Washington 2021 after watching a German telenovela:


Let's get one thing out of the way first: “Babylon Berlin” was pretty riveting viewing as long as you overlook its modest implausibilities, like whether a German hooker could really become a police officer in 1931, or any other year.

But let's see what lessons Ross draws from his TV and whatever history his research assistant pulls down from Wikipedia:

Then the final thing that’s striking about Weimar’s world compared to ours is the sweeping institutional and cultural strength of the nationalist right. Indeed if anything the show underplays this power: It portrays a right-wing German military eager for a coup and conservative industrialists eager to support it, but the potency of right-wing ideas in the intelligentsia and the German university hasn’t really been depicted; the lone student character so far is an idealistic Communist.

Yeah, the nationalist right doesn't have any power here, unless you consider that one of the two major political parties is in thrall to, and willing to excuse any violent anti-democratic excesses of, the Former Loser Grifter. Or you consider the anti-democratic (and anti-Democratic) domination of powerful states like Prussia [Surely, Texas? – Ed.], Florida, and Georgia by hard-right Republicans.  Or the web of plutocrats secretly financing it all.  Or the captive non-news media supplying bigoted incitements to violence 24/7.

He does point to one modest difference:

Ross still remembers how lonely it felt
to be a conservative at Harvard

Yes, conservatives have Fox News and talk radio, the Republican Party has its business-class support and Trump had Michael Flynn and the MyPillow C.E.O. and Jerry Falwell Jr. But our generals are mostly allergic to politics and the military’s most recent political intervention was a counterstrike against a critique from Tucker Carlson.  

His counterexample of the military Tweeting snark back at hatemonger Tucker Carlson is ridiculous, but there does seem to be some nonpolitical professional ethic at work at senior levels of the military that we hope makes it a less active participant in the destruction of democracy than was the case in Germany. On the other hand, we still don't know why the military refused to protect and then defend the Capitol against invasion and insurrection.  If you're confident it would do so in a future Republican Administration, you're naive enough to want to know what Ross Douthat thinks about f***in' anything.  

There are of course also great differences in economic conditions between Germany of 1931, already poor and soon to suffer in the Great Depression brought about by stupid rich white Republican men, and the current boom, caused by a Democratic President and Congress willing to spend what it takes to revive a pandemic-stricken economy.

But we've seen that “economic anxiety” isn't what drives anti-democratic white supremacists in the United States.  It's good old-fashioned bigotry and fear of loss of unearned white privilege.  If the better economy leads swing voters to stay home because they don't feel any personal need to protect the American political system, the economic good times could bring on very bad democratic ones.

The most telling and frightening parallel between the two cultures is the choice that rich white men made when confronted by a democracy that demands they pay some taxes and surrender a crumb of their privilege, and a dictatorship that lets them hold on tight to their pelf and their sense of entitlement.  In both 1930's Germany and 21st century America, they voted their billion-dollar economic anxieties, and we saw the results over the last four years.

Could it happen here?

It already did. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

News from the Middle East: Both Sides Use Tons of Their Favorite Weapon

 

By Isaac N. Ishmael
Middle East Correspondent

As violence flares in the strife-torn Middle East, informed observers rate the chances for a quick peaceful settlement as slim to none, citing the huge weapons stockpiles both sides have accumulated and deploy against the other day and night.

The stockpiled weapon of choice?  It's that staple of Middle East warfare: bullshit.

In the latest exchange of bullshit, Israel announced today that its destruction of a building in Gaza it knew housed credible news outlets like the Associated Price was not part of a program either to neutralize credible, i.e. hostile, coverage from Gaza or to exact a bloody toll to improve crooked Bibi's chances of holding on to power.  Instead, it was because somewhere else in the building, in addition to innocent families, there were supposed “Hamas intelligence sources:”


You have to hand to the Israelis (or not; they'll take it away from you anyhow): no one can deliver a precision guided load of bullshit better.  What tf is a Hamas intelligence source?  That description probably covers most of the 2,000,000 helpless exposed Gazans other than Hamas's sworn enemies.  One of the leading suppliers of Middle East bullshit, the @IDF Twitter account, admitted that pretty much any high-rise building in Gaza was to them fair game:


Maybe the Israelis could provide a list of buildings in Gaza they believe to be free of any Hamas agent or sympathizer they regard as a legitimate military target, regardless of how many babies sleep in the apartments above and below.

Because the building housed American journalists, the Israeli forces provided advance notice of the attack, a courtesy not apparently provided to the over 80 Gazan civilians, many of them children, buried alive by Israeli attacks.

But before we get too far along, we repeat that both sides are amply supplied with bullshit and neither side is reluctant to shoot off thousands of rounds of it.  On social media, a mouthpiece for Netanyahu sent out supposed pictures of a Hamas rocket attack that was actually taken in 2018 in Syria, while pro-Palestinian groups circulate false pictures of Israelis supposedly faking casualties.

The Hamas terror organization, which should be recalled holds a death grip on Gaza and considers itself at war with Israel, and its millions of sympathizers deploy bullshit as promiscuously as Hamas sends missiles into Israel. These missiles, being essentially unguided, have no conceivable legitimate military purpose.  They are fired solely to terrorize and kill Israeli civilians, again including children.

But let's see how Hamas and their cheerleaders bury this simple truth under kilotons of bullshit:

To many Palestinians, the rockets symbolize their rightful resistance to Israeli dominance and occupation. 

Although justifying terror attacks on civilians going about their daily lives (which is the accurate description of Hamas missile launches) on the grounds that you're rightfully resisting denial of political rights is heavy bullshit ordnance, it does allow us to widen out our focus and see how bullshit is used by all parties on all fronts of the current conflict.

The trigger for the latest exchange of deadly high explosive missiles and bullshit was a dispute over displacing Palestinian families from a district of Jerusalem.  The precision pinpoint bullshit delivered by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs told us it was just an obscure property dispute that dated back for a century so nothing to see here people, move along.

In fact, it is just the latest front in the 30 year effort to replace Palestinians with Israelis across a large swath of Occupied Territory that Israel likes to call “Jerusalem,” although the borders of the district extend kilometers beyond the Old City: 


 

That little tiny dark blue shape is the Old City of Jerusalem.  Anything not in light green shows what Israel decided it would take after 1967.

It's all part of a larger Israeli effort to pave the Occupied Territory of the West Bank with Israeli settlements to deny Palestinians any meaningful possibility of a state of their own there.  The Israelis are offering Palestinians in “Jerusalem,” and rest of the West Bank a choice between permanent second-class status under Israeli rule or leaving altogether.

Powering this choice is the 100-megaton Israeli bullshit bomb that there are no such people as “Palestinians.”  They are supposedly only Arabs, who would would feel equally at home anywhere from Casablanca to Kuwait.

Fortunately, under the doctrine of mutually assured truth destruction, the Palestinians have an equally monstrous bullshit pile: their claim that Israelis have no right to a state of their own, despite having had one since 1948 (and according to a popular book, before that too). 

The immediate results of the bullshit crossfire is violence unleashed by Israelis on their Palestinian fellow citizens.  And vice versa. 

Yet the equally impressive arsenals of bullshit, although brilliantly successful in turning neighbor against neighbor from Lod to Haifa to Jerusalem, can't seem to wipe out the essential fact: that neither the Israelis and nor the Palestinians are leaving, and both claim the place.  In a Middle East in which bullshit had been beaten into fertilizer, each would have a state.

So why not start talks under the auspices of the United States aiming toward a general reduction of bullshit in the Middle East, which could give rise over some period of time to something that looks like peace, freedom, human dignity, and security?

The answer is the Bullshit-Industrial Complex, a joint Israeli-Palestinian institution by which incompetent corrupt wannabe dictators produce and then set off great masses of bullshit, not to protect or serve their populations, but to preserve their hold on power.  

The normally staid New York Times put it just a tad more elegantly:


In a massive bullshit barrage, the corrupt indicted Israeli Prime Minister for Life declared today that the continued civilian carnage in Gaza would continue, not until his re-election is secured (which would be the truth) but 



or, in other words, never, as the only way to ensure that no more rockets are fired from Gaza would be to eliminate all 2 million of its inhabitants.

As long as producing and using weapons of mass bullshit remains a reliable path to power for both Hamas and the Likud, look for continued violence and misery.

Now we all know that the greatest defense against bullshit is truth, or at least we like to think so in spite of the Trumpublican Party.  Maybe that's why the forces of bullshit in the region targeted The Associated Press.  It's not just democracy that dies in darkness.  

The children of Gaza and Israel do too.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Woke-a-Dope

By Nellie Bly
Spy Washington Bureau

We'll skip the usual 100-day thumbsuckers and get right to how things are going.

We'll admit things are looking up from January 20, 2021, when we feared an imminent coup sponsored by the many friends of the Former Loser Grifter.

On the other hand,


According to Johns Hopkins's count, the United States is rapidly closing in on 600,000 COVID-19 deaths, almost all of which could have been prevented had not the United States Government been paralyzed by the FLG and his state-level taint polishers.  That's equivalent to killing off the entire population of Baltimore, Maryland.

And how's the economy doing?  Well, there are an astounding 13,600,000 unemployed, again principally as a result of the Republican failure to address the pandemic and its economic fallout.

Then of course the nation has still failed to address the crises of police violence directed at persons of color, mass gun violence at rates many times higher than the rest of the world, grotesque voter suppression laws targeting, um, persons of color, and the catastrophic rate of global warming which threatens to inundate large portions of our coastline, including Miami [Is this is a plus or a minus? – Ed.].

With all these problems to focus on, which of them most concerns the Republican party and their media toadies?

If you guessed “none of the above,” you win!  Your prize: a democracy on the brink of collapse.

What Republicans are worrying about is something they choose to call “wokeness,” by which they mean the act and mindset of anyone who criticizes their warped values and priorities. As Erin Gloria Ryan explains in The Daily Beast:

Miami 2100: the Venice of America

The definition of “woke” that relates it to social consciousness wasn’t added to the Oxford English Dictionary until 2017, but, since then, it’s gotten about as much use on Fox News as Tucker Carlson’s neck bronzer. Like a lot of buzzwords the MAGA set colonizes, their use of the phrase is unconstrained by the inconvenience of a consistent definition; it can mean whatever the speaker needs it to mean at that moment, and a different thing the next day. Like “feminist” or “tyranny.” Or, more recently, “triggered.”

“Woke” is now a word that means anything that expresses more cultural sensitivity than a red state Facebook dad whose grown children won’t talk to him anymore due to his aggressive political obnoxiousness. It’s used as a shorthand for the cultural left Going Too Far. It’s a klaxon for other conservatives who blindly want things to stay the way they used to be, when it appears that things may change. . . . 

Declaring everything that makes conservatives uncomfortable “woke” is tedious when it applies to things like updating workplace dress codes to stop classifying hairstyles like afros and box braids as “unprofessional.” But the conservative apoplexy over “wokeness” isn’t primarily focused on the conduct of American adults; it’s much creepier than that. The anti-“woke” movement is disproportionately focused on cartoons, theme parks, picture books, movies that feature talking snowmen and magic mirrors . . . .Modern conservatism is an entire identity built around grown adults not being able to mind their own business. 

So the problem facing this country according to Republicans is not the death and economic toll of the pandemic, racial justice, or saving the planet from climate catastrophe.  It's Dr. Seuss and, wait for it, big corporations.   What makes these plutocratic colossi such revolting exemplars of wokeosity?  According to the corrupt Russian stooge plotting his comeback from his Fortress of Solitude and Fried Chicken in Florida:


Now we're getting somewhere.  Ms. Ryan believes that the conservative fixation on wokeitude is another example of the immaturity and stupidity of threatened white supremacists.  She's right, but the crusade against wokeification has more than one cause.

We think it, like every other Republican culture-war smear since 1972, is designed to change the debate.  Instead of talking about the Republican plan to suppress Black turnout, Republicans and their media fluffers can whine about corporations who have dared to suggest that limiting democracy may not be such a great idea, and may not be so good for business either, i.e. a “woke corporation.”

See how easy it is to shift debate from an uncomfortable ground for Republicans (voter suppression: what is it good for) to much nicer terrain (mocking those supposed liberal elites at Coca-Cola).

There's many things to be said about this rhetorical jujitsu trick, but new isn't one of them. Let's turn the Wayback machine to 1972, when Republicans were desperate to change the subject from their abysmal and pointless prolongation of the Vietnam War for four long years.

Democrats who correctly pointed out the futility and brutality of this cynical Nixon scheme were met not by a claim that four years of pointless suffering and death were a good idea but rather that by demanding an immediate end to the sanguinary dumpster fires raging in three Indochinese countries, Democrats were the party of acid, amnesty, and abortion.

Spoiler alert: it worked:


Since two of those terms aren't familiar to modern readers, we'll tick them off.  “Acid” was the catchall term for illegal drugs, which Republicans fought with a cruel racist incarceration strategy since then.  We know that doesn't work, which is why state after state is decriminalizing marijuana and diverting drug users into treatment programs, not prison. 

So the Democrats were right about that one.

“Amnesty” was the plan to allow draft resisters who had fled to Canada to return to their families and lives in the United States, which Republicans condemned as more treasonous than invading the Capitol to overturn an election.  Despite the noise, President Jimmy Carter implemented the plan.  The draft resisters came home.  Nothing bad happened.

So the Democrats were right about that one too.

Abortion you know. The Democratic effort to make it legally available in the initial stages of pregnancy was attacked then as now as baby murder, but 1,400,000 women a year don't think they are baby murderers, and are probably glad that they didn't have to resort to coathangers to control their bodies.

And the Democrats were right about that.   That's three for three if you're scoring at home.

Now we're getting somewhere.  Republicans wanted to shift the debate from the pros and cons of drug treatment and reproductive freedom to a hate-filled cry that would appeal to their perpetually angry voting base.

So whenever you hear Republicans babbling about wokeomania, ask yourself: what's the real debate that they are trying to obscure?  Find it, and you'll see why they would rather screech about the peril of wokeism in lieu of explaining whey they oppose child care to let parents re-enter the workforce, rebuilding our collapsing infrastructure, or transitioning to a safer green-energy future.

Here's a recent example, from the guy that no one would have lunch with in Leverett House twenty years ago, Ross Douthat:


 

His argument, to use the word generously, seems to be that Elizabeth Warren unlike Joe Biden is too “woke” to be electable:

Wokeness is “faculty lounge” rhetoric, the language of elite hyper-educated progressivism, entering into mass politics in a way that turns a lot of normal people off. . . .

But at the same time I think the problem he’s[Jim Carville] describing could be manageable for Democrats, because their primary voters already figured out a way to manage it: Don’t nominate Elizabeth Warren, nominate Joe Biden instead. Or to depersonalize the strategy: Don’t nominate a candidate who talks like a member of the Harvard faculty, nominate the candidate who can talk like an old-line Democrat and, once elected, shovels money out the door.

Does Elizabeth Warren sound like a pompous Harvard faculty member when she recalls how she was able to go to college for $50 a semester? Or when she advocates for affordable child care so women can re-enter the workforce without risking their children?  Or proposes single-payer health care, used successfully in well-known Socialist hellholes like the UK and Canada?  

Frankly, although Elizabeth Warren, unlike the scourge of the Leverett Dining Hall, was a real member of the Harvard faculty, we don't think she sounds nearly as pompous and out of touch as Ross.

But that's not really the point.  The point is that Ross and his ilk deploy the dreaded wokeyman to obscure the real crises of American life, which we outlined right at the beginning.

And that's the whole point of terrifying the electorate about Wokezilla.  It gives elected Republicans who spend their days rigging America to serve the interests of rich entitled white man something to talk about when Democrats try to address real problems, like the pandemic, economic decline, crushing inequality, worker's rights, systemic racism, or the Republican assault on what's left of our democratic institutions.

And the deflection has worked for decades, whether it was called “acid, amnesty, and abortion” or “political correctness” or “wokeness.”

It will continue to work until one of three things happen:

(1) American democracy is successfully dismantled and replaced by one-party Republican rule, 

(2) angry white supremacists value their economic interests over indulging their fear and racism (unlikely) or  

(3) the majority of Americans realize that until they mobilize to protect themselves from predatory Republican plutocracy and fight every single election at every level every year, they will lose control of their future and their country.

We're hoping for door number 3.  But that would require a lot of folks, especially white ones, to get and stay – woke.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Police Beat: Why does the barrel still reek?

 

By Scott V. Sandford, Justice Correspondent with
Police Reporter Francis X. Dreben and Larry Lowell in Boston

Now that cold-blooded killer and proud Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted and fitted for his orange jumpsuit, we can all rejoice.  The bad apple has been removed from the barrel and all those good cops we see every night on every crapcan prime-time police drama (not to mention the endless repeats broadcast by the dregs of basic cable) can get back to work serving and protecting, right?

We asked a cross-section of your fellow Americans whether they felt the system had worked and if they now felt safe from police violence.

Here's what they had to say:

Ma'Khia Bryant:  No comment, having been shot to death by police at the age of 16 on the streets of Columbus, Ohio.

Daunte Wright: No comment, having been shot to death by police in Minnesota at the age of 21 while unarmed.

Andrew Brown, Jr.: No comment, having been shot in the back of the head by police in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

Proud Yale Law School grad and professional man of the people J.D. Vance: “whatever you think of the Derek Chauvin verdict, the outcome, like you said, cast a pall over the entire justice system. ”

Well, that settles it.  

But most still living white people seem to have settled on a narrative along the lines of having purged the barrel of a bad apple like Chauvin, the rest of the barrel remains sweet and delicious.

To which we say: applesauce, as the following clip from that well-known outlet of Antifa disinformation, KTRK-TV Channel 13 in Houston, suggests:

 

In fact the crises of police violence against people of color and general impunity remains no closer to a lasting solution. 

There are a number of systemic factors (white racism chief among them), but the most powerful constraint on effective police reform remains – the police.

So let's look at the rest of the barrel.

Recently in Boston, a plump old white man was arrested on serious child sex abuse charges.  But there was more to the story, as The Boston Globe told us:

A father and his teenage daughter walked into the Hyde Park police station last August and reported a heinous crime.

The girl said she had been repeatedly molested from age 7 through 12 by former Boston police union president Patrick M. Rose Sr. Five more people soon came forward, accusing Rose of molesting them as children over the span of three decades, including the girl’s own father.

Rose being tagged as a child sexual abuser was news to the city when he was arrested and charged last summer. But it wasn’t news to the Boston Police Department where Rose served for two decades as a patrolman.

A Globe investigation has found that the Boston Police Department in 1995 filed a criminal complaint against him for sexual assault on a 12-year-old, and, even after the complaint was dropped, proceeded with an internal investigation that concluded that he likely committed a crime. Despite that finding, Rose kept his badge, remained on patrol for another 21 years, and rose to power in the union that represents patrol officers.

Asked if she was satisfied with the Chauvin verdict
Sandra Bland was unavailable for comment

Today Boston police are fighting to keep secret how the department handled the allegations against Rose, and what, if any, penalty he faced. Over the years, this horrific case has come full circle: The father who brought his daughter in last summer to report abuse by Rose was the boy allegedly abused at age 12 in the 1995 case. The department’s lack of administrative action back then may have left Rose free to offend again and again, from one generation to the next.

Prosecutors now say the boy recanted his story under pressure from Rose, a common phenomenon for young survivors of abuse when faced with demands from their abuser. Though the criminal case against Rose was dropped as a result, a separate police internal affairs investigation went forward and concluded Rose broke the law. 

Gee, and you thought that witness tampering was a separate and independent crime.

By the way you'll never guess what happened to that internal investigation.  We'll let The Globe's Editorial Board shock and surprise you:

In the small tranche of documents released this week from the Boston Police Department internal affairs investigation file on Rose, one stands out as particularly horrifying, but also telling about the mindset and priorities of union leaders. It’s from a letter sent by a lawyer representing the BPPA to then-Police Commissioner Paul Evans in October 1997, threatening to file a grievance on behalf of Rose if he is not reassigned to full active duty.

Keep in mind that Rose was accused of the sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy in 1995, and . . . by 1996 internal affairs investigators had sustained the allegations. All that time, Rose remained on administrative duty — collecting his usual paycheck. But that wasn’t good enough for the union and its then-president, Thomas Nee.

“For approximately two years, Officer Rose has been . . .not permitted to work paid details or street duty (thereby depriving him of court overtime) and received only limited station overtime,” wrote union lawyer Alan H. Shapiro, setting a deadline for the commissioner’s response to the “financial hardship visited upon Officer Rose.”

So the BPPA was more concerned with getting one of its members back on the department’s notorious overtime/paid detail gravy train than with unleashing on an unsuspecting public a possible pedophile dressed in blue.

Rose, who eventually became head of the BPPA, today stands accused of 33 counts of molesting six children ranging in age from 7 to 16. 

Why was the police union so eager to file a grievance? Because it knew that a grievance would be decided under the police union contract not by the representatives of the democratically-elected Mayor and City Council of Boston but in secret by some jamoke whose paycheck was contingent on pleasing police unions.  It also knew that these arbitrators have a reputation for knocking down punishments to the satisfaction of badge-wearing child molesters, racists, or cops who claimed that they thought their heavy metal handgun was a plastic Taser.  Oops!

In practice, again according to The Globe:

We left several messages for Breanna Taylor
asking for comment on the Chauvin verdict
and will let you know if we hear back

But even when the department does sustain allegations of law-breaking against officers, punishments internally are often mild. Offending officers are almost never fired. In the few instances when the department takes action and fires an officer, it can get overruled by arbiters and the state Civil Service Commission. Records show this happened in three of the six firings in the last decade.

That's a pretty good percentage.

Now the right to escape condign punishment through the secret corrupt private arbitration system is not engraved in stone tablets.  It's a right that cops fight for and get in their contracts:

When pressure builds for change, public safety unions have long used collective bargaining and state arbitration to delay, water down, or leverage new policies to gain pay hikes and other benefits. In the parlance of collective bargaining, it can seem like almost anything can be quid — something of value traded in a quid pro quo.

At least in Massachusetts, the right to arbitrate discipline for sexually abusing a child or murdering a person of color is embedded in contracts between the relevant police union and the city or town.  So why can't cities and towns just wait for the contract to expire?

Funny story: under Massachusetts law, if a city and its unions can't agree on a new contract, normally the provisions of the old contract continue until a new one is reached.  Mass. G.L. c. 150E sec. 7(a).  So once cover-up arbitration is embedded in a contract, it can't be removed without the consent of the police.  Which thus far has happened exactly never.  Of course, in case of impasse the city and the cop union can agree to, wait for it, binding arbitration!

The legal structure that insulates bad apples like convicted murderer Derek Chauvin is therefore made possible only with the active support of – all those good apples in the barrel who whine whenever they are lumped in with the killers of Floyd, Bland, Braynt, Wright, Brown, and the thousands of others, mostly powerless and people of color, victimized by police violence.

So if the police really want to persuade us that they are truly concerned about violence and racism in their ranks, they will agree to end binding arbitration of discipline related to violence and racism.  

A word of advice: don't hold your breath.  

It didn't work for George Floyd.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Give me your tired excuses, your poor rationalizations . . .

The Spy's Report from Washington

By Emma Goldman, Immigration Editor
with Isidore Stone,
Spy Washington Bureau

It's not every day that the U.S. Government makes a decision that is both indefensible on its merits and universally despised.  And it's even rarer when such a decision is made by the heretofore politically astute Biden Administration.

But on a Friday afternoon, when it thought no one would be looking, the Biden team hit the Daily Double by backing down from its oft repeated promise to abandon the bigoted Former Loser Grifter limitations on admissions of vetted refugees.

It was a clusterf**k.

Around noon,

The White House announced on Friday that President Biden would limit the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year to the historically low level set by the Trump administration, reversing an earlier promise to welcome more than 60,000 people fleeing war and persecution. 

It did not go well.  A few hours later,

the move to cap the number at 15,000 prompted such an immediate backlash from Democrats and human rights activists that the White House later retreated and promised to announce a final, increased number by May 15.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, did not specify how many refugees would be allowed into the country, but she did say that Mr. Biden’s initial goal of welcoming 62,500 seemed “unlikely.”

So first the Biden Administration alienated its allies, and then by flip-flopping it provided further ammo to anti-immigration white supremacists, all while forcing long-suffering refugees to suffer even more from the uncertainty.  Talk about a good day's work. 

The Biden Administration knows refugees are nothing but trouble   (c)NY Times

The debacle proved embarrassing enough for the formerly tight-lipped Biden team to start some desperate leaking:

Unauthorized migrants crossing the border are processed differently from refugees, who are fully vetted and approved for resettlement before arriving. But Mr. Biden was concerned that lifting the Trump-era cap on refugees would overwhelm the already-strapped system, according to two senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss decision making.

Still, the Biden administration had been promising for months to raise the cap. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken notified Congress on Feb. 12 that the administration planned to allow up to 62,500 refugees to enter the United States in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, citing “grave humanitarian concerns” around the world. 

Both the practical and political concerns are, to put it kindly, lame.  Even the normally staid New York Times had to point out that two of the agencies dealing with border crossers, the Border Patrol and the inland body snatchers (ICE), don't deal with the formal refugee resettlement program.  The office that houses minor noncitizens, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, is involved with refugee admissions, but the refugee admissions group is separate from the team charged with care of unaccompanied minors.

The heavy lifting in the refugee program is the vetting process, intended to weed out criminals, terrorists, friends of Roger Stone, and other undesirables:

Before admission to the United States, each refugee must undergo a rigorous interviewing process to ensure that the individual meets the “refugee” definition. . . . Applications for refugee resettlement can be denied on health-related grounds, criminal grounds, and security grounds. They may also be denied for polygamy, misrepresentation of facts on visa applications, smuggling, and previous deportations.

And that work is done by the State Department and USCIS.  Once the refugee has been vetted, it's a matter of arranging a plane ticket and coordinating with local voluntary organizations who have done an admirable job of receiving the refugees and integrating them into their new communities.  So the supposed practical objection to letting in previously cleared refugees is a pretext.

The results of the Biden Admission refusal to resume admissions of cleared refugees are appalling:

As a result, tens of thousands of people who have already completed the complex process for resettling in the United States have been stranded abroad, often in overcrowded refugee camps where many have been waiting for years.

“These are refugees approved to come here, who have been waiting for years and whose flights have been canceled numerous times,” said Jennifer Sime, senior vice president for resettlement, asylum and integration at the International Rescue Committee. 

Of course, since they are refugees, they are by definition living in precarious and often dangerous conditions.  Otherwise, they wouldn't be refugees.

You don't have to take our word for it.  You ought to be able to rely on a report signed by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken eons ago, or, more precisely, February 12, 2021:

The United States, like UNHCR, recognizes that resettlement in third countries is a vital tool for providing a durable solution for refugees who cannot return safely to their country of origin or integrate into local communities in a country of first asylum. For some refugees, resettlement is the safest, and perhaps the only, alternative. It is a complementary tool to humanitarian assistance, supporting countries hosting large numbers of refugees, the vast majority of whom will never be resettled.

Through the USRAP, the U.S. government not only addresses humanitarian needs for specific populations but demonstrates leadership that encourages other States to identify and protect vulnerable people. For example, by resettling stateless refugees through the USRAP, the U.S. government encourages other countries to do more to help stateless people and prevent new stateless populations, including by implementing universal birth registration. Stateless refugees who arrive in the United States for resettlement not only find a durable solution to their displacement but are also placed on a path that will afford the opportunity to naturalize and resolve their stateless status.

So who could disagree with that, other than the Administration of which Secretary Blinken is a part?  Fun fact: the 62,500 figure was included in that official State Department report.

Which brings us to the real if ridiculous ground for backtracking on the commitment to undo the FLG's anti-refugee scheme:

The tortuous maneuvering reflected growing concern about immigration inside the White House, according to people with knowledge of the decision-making process, who cited worries about expanding the refugee program at a moment when critics are pummeling Biden with claims that he is too soft in his policies and rhetoric. The president is struggling to contain the soaring number of migrants arriving at the southern border, which has caused significant anxiety inside the West Wing, according to people with knowledge of the situation. 

Thanks Joe for protecting us from this
Let's try something the Biden Administration eschewed and think about this for a moment.  First, Biden isn't expanding the refugee program, he's returning to the levels that the nation accepted without difficulty prior to the presidency of a corrupt bigoted Russian-owned stooge.  Second, the refugee program involves resettling these folks in small clumps around the country, often in places desperate for dynamic young families, like Lewiston, Maine:

Yet Lewiston is more vital than it was two decades ago. Of the city’s 36,000 residents, 6,000 are now African refugees and asylum-seekers. New immigrants work in health care, retail, industry, and food service. The first Somali American kids born in the city are high school juniors, and a new elementary school opened in September with a 900-student capacity – among the largest K-5s in Maine.

Who would prefer Lewiston to be less vital than it was 20 years ago?  Answer: the bigots the Biden Administration thinks it can appease through gratuitous cruelty to vetted refugees.   As The Washington Post writes with a straight face

For all the furor, the political effect of Biden’s move was unclear. While he met a torrent of outrage from Democrats, some conservatives suggested that the impulse to hold off on a dramatic increase in refugees showed sensitivity to the politics of immigration.

“This reflects Team Biden’s awareness that the border flood will cause record midterm losses *if* GOP keeps issue front & center,” tweeted Stephen Miller, a chief architect of Trump’s hard-line immigration platform.

Stephen Miller, the anti-immigration white supremacist who spent the last four years as FLG's hatchet man intent on destroying, usually illegally, the entire federal immigration effort to satisfy his lust for a lily-white America?

That Stephen Miller?

Let's just say that if your immigration initiative is praised by that hateful ghoul, you're doing it wrong.

More fundamentally, is anyone in the Biden Administration stupid enough to believe that tormenting refugees who have already been deemed safe to enter the United States will advance the cause of immigration reform even one millimeter?

And if so why?

We've seen this movie before and frankly, despite big name talent, it sucked. 

About 100 years ago, President Barack Obama decided that a great way to persuade Republicans to back immigration reform was to punish undocumented families by locking them up while their asylum cases languished in an overwhelmed hearing system:

The Obama administration largely abandoned family detention back in 2009 after facing widespread criticism and protests about the ethics of locking up mothers and children in immigrant detention.

Last year, however, facing an unprecedented illegal crossing of some 68,000 unaccompanied minors and a similar number of mothers traveling with their children, the Obama reinstituted family detention, arguing that it would act as a deterrent. The administration constructed a new, 2,400-bed family detention center in Dilley, Texas, last year and expanded capacity for family detention at a second center in Karnes County, Texas.

Both the Dilley and Karnes County centers are run as for-profit enterprises by private corporations. . . .

Turning away refugees: what could
go wrong? (1938 edition)
The Karnes County center has been the subject of numerous complaints of abuse. At least three women who participated in two hunger strikes this year protesting their detention and the detention of their children said they were placed in isolation with their kids as punishment. Guards at the detention center repeatedly told the protesting mothers that their children would be taken away if they continued, according to a lawsuit filed last month.

In October, the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund alleged that at least three employees sexually harassed or abused several women detained there.


The point of Obama's theater of cruelty was to persuade Republicans to compromise on broad immigration reform.  The number of Republicans persuaded by the show was reliably estimated to be approximately 0.000000.  Plus or minus.

Many Obama Administration veterans now serve in the Biden Administration and all are available to consult. Which of them advised that returning refugee admission levels to Obama-era levels would somehow reduce Republican pressure to torment noncitizens at the Southern border?

And why would that view even make sense?  If you're a white Republican bigot who senses political hay to be made by whining about the supposed hordes rampaging across the Rio Grande, why would you be mollified or deterred by cruel treatment of an entirely different group of refugees, who arrive at airports in small family groups greeted by relatives and volunteers and don't produce the thrilling video of Cancun Ted hiding in bulrushes, like Moses on meth? 

If that seems unlikely, ask yourself what it would take to reach out to hard-core white supremacists like Stephen Miller and the grifting sex criminal he still drinks Coke with.

Friday's flip-flop on admitting vetted refugees at their 2016 levels was so devoid of merit, both as a matter of policy and of politics, that it could only have been the work of a famously moderate Democratic genius like Rahm Emanuel.  Well, maybe Larry Summers had a hand in it.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Plot Against America, Live 24/7

 

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

One of the brightest stars in the Fox “News” firmament and friend of the common man who just happened to inherit millions from the Swanson TV dinner fortune Tucker Carlson has run into some rough seas, as his fellow rich douchebags would say.

Some of his recent ravings about the immigrant threat have caught the attention of captious critics who have noticed the parallels between Salisbury Steak Carlson's views on the imminent peril of “white replacement” and the views of other distinguished commentators from our recent and more distant past.

Here's Trevor Noah pointing out the similarity between Turkey Breast and Peas Carlson and, um, white mass shooters:

 


In response, other Twitterers have pointed out it may be unfair to blame the deranged views of these vicious murderers on Fish Fingers Carlson.  It might be the reverse, or it might be simply that the racist theory of “white replacement” has been with us for a long time.

At least that's the view of Prof. Jared Sexton on Substack [Hey you mean you can get paid for this s**t? – Ed.]

What Tucker espoused was not just racist or white supremacist in nature, it was the very stuff of white supremacist terrorism and active neo-fascism in the modern world. . . . 


Before cable TV, white supremacists had to show their faces in public

One of the great misunderstandings of this moment is that any of this is new. Donald Trump obviously represented a degeneration of what we call the “status quo,” but he was representative of a larger systemic rot in American culture and politics. That he is no longer president is not proof that that disease has been cured or even particularly stalled. That disease has infected the body of America since its founding and has flared up, in new and different ways, whether it was the uprising by slaveholders in the 19th century, the paranoid, oppressive actions of the Cold War, or in the horrific development of American fascism in the 20th century, a development that serves as a prescient precursor to this crisis we find ourselves in now.

Prof. Sexton cites infamous fascists from our past, like Col. Charles “I 💕  Nazis” Lindbergh:

The America First Committee was incredibly popular and national hero Charles Lindbergh came to represent its public face and flirted with a run at the presidency. Lindbergh openly advocated for not just neutrality in the nascent war, but a partnership with Hitler to defend “the treasures of the white race.”

“It is time to turn from our quarrels,” he wrote, “and to build our White ramparts again…a Western Wall of race and arms which can hold back either a Genghis Khan or the infiltration of inferior blood.”

Lindbergh gained traction as he highlighted the struggle against people of color and the threat of losing the white world, painting a portrait of a major conspiracy being perpetrated by Jewish puppetmasters who controlled the media, liberal traitors who destroyed the country from the inside out, and people of color who were sources of potential violence wherever they might be found. It was the same conspiracy theory we’re still dealing with today under a different name.

Hey Rupert he's tanned, rested, and
ready for prime time

America First?  Why does that sound familiar? Maybe someone could check in with sources close to Jared and Ivanka and get another big A1 story for The New York Times.

Lest you think that pointing out the obvious linkage between the hateful views expressed by Whipped Potatoes and Apple Cobbler Carlson and generations of white racism is an exotic specialty of the intellectual left and late-night satirists, let's welcome Max Boot, former Republican apologist for the Iraq War and flack and bag carrier for the campaigns of noted lefties John McCain, Wilfred M. Romney and Marco Rubio.

Max, is it unfair to connect Fried Chicken and Peas Carlson to white supremacist hate speech then and now?  According to the Bootmeister:

Carlson knows exactly how toxic the word “replacement” is when used in the context of immigration, but he nevertheless put his imprimatur on it: “Now, I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true.”

Now no one has ever accused Hungry Man Sized Carlson of original, or indeed, any thought.  Until July of last year the white supremacist scripts were written for him nightly by an Ivy League grad (well, Dartmouth) and unapologetic neo-Nazi, Blake Neff, until his bigoted hate speech was made public, whereupon he was shuffled off to Argentina:

Neff worked at Fox News for nearly four years and was Carlson's top writer. Previously, he was a reporter at The Daily Caller, a conservative news outlet that Carlson co-founded. In a recent article in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Neff said, "Anything [Carlson is] reading off the teleprompter, the first draft was written by me." He also acknowledged the show's influence, telling the magazine, "We're very aware that we do have that power to sway the conversation, so we try to use it responsibly." 

Carlson's writers room is an exciting place to work
When asked in a 2018 appearance on Fox's "The Five" about the writing process for his show, Carlson said he spends hours working on scripts, but referred to Neff by name, saying he was a "wonderful writer" and acknowledging his assistance. And Carlson credited Neff in the acknowledgments of his book, "Ship of Fools," for providing research. In the acknowledgments, Carlson said that Neff and two others who helped with the book "work on and greatly improve our nightly show on Fox." 

Now they are written by hatemongers with better hidden social media accounts, proving that you can take the peas and carrots out of the TV dinner but it's still pure Carlson.  And you still wonder who can stomach it.

But that's not really Boot's main point.  He proceeds to point out the hypocrisy of Fox “News” coining millions from fomenting anti-immigrant hatred when the entire enterprise is controlled by, wait for it, immigrants:

The founder and co-chairman of Fox Corp. is, of course, Rupert Murdoch, a mogul who was born in Australia and now spends a lot of time in both the United States and the United Kingdom [and is a naturalized US citizen – Ed.]. The co-chairman and CEO is his son, Lachlan Murdoch, who was born in London and now lives in Australia. The person who is often said to be the most powerful day-to-day executive at Fox is Viet Dinh, a Vietnamese refugee born in Ho Chi Minh City who is now the corporation’s chief legal and policy officer. The lead outside director is Jacques Nasser, a former Ford CEO who was born in Lebanon and grew up in Australia. Another Fox director is Anne Dias-Griffin, the founder and chief executive of Aragon Global Holdings, who was born and educated in France.

Viet Dinh?  The superstar lawyer who fled Vietnam as a child and sought asylum in the United States?  And who made $24,000,000 in 2019 overseeing the nonstop production of hot steaming lies and bigotry at Fox “News?”

Nice work if you can get it.

No one doubts his legal acumen, as proven by his Supreme Court Clerkship, a job for which we ourselves were turned down.  Hey, maybe they are replacing us!  Next thing you know, Tucker's family will be making their famous Salisbury Steak dinners out of fake meat.

The undeniable linkage between Roast Beef with Gravy and Tater Tots Carlson's extreme racist and white supremacist rants and 100 years or more of American racism and neo-Nazi extremism has led some to wonder if he really believes this crap or whether it's just a cynical ploy to justify the $10,000,000 he trousers from aged Australian immigrant Rupert Murdoch.

To which we say: it makes no difference. First, which is more loathsome: that he is a white supremacist or that he isn't but is spewing hate just to make millions?

Second, as our old friend Kurt Vonnegut said in Mother Night, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

Are illegal alien child terrorists coming for your
golf clubs? We're just asking questions here.
Of course both things can be true: this douche can be a white supremacist and also willing to say whatever crap needed to keep the mouth-breathing racists (or, as they are sometimes known as, “Republicans”) glued to the tube.

It makes you wonder whether thrifty immigrants like Viet Dinh could save serious money here.  Over the past five years, Fox “News” shed two hours of high priced  “talent:” Loofah-lovin' Bill O'Reilly and Mammy Megan Kelly, but their ratings suffered not a whit.

Could it be that the loyal consumers of Fox “News” come not for the personalities, but for the hate speech simpliciter?  If so, why not fire the current stooges and replace them with a computer avatar that generates the same bigotry but costs only pennies?   It's our willingness to give away our genius ideas for free that separates us from $25 million a year savants like Dinh.

Making $10 million a year for spewing garbage may seem like easy money, at least for those who are not burdened by either shame or guilt.  But to the pride of Yale Law School, professional ex-hillbilly J.D. Vance, it really takes courage:

 

 

We'll just say that if you think that white supremacist hate speech is a brave challenge to elite dogma, then you are a veggie and a dessert short of a Swanson 3-course dinner.