Archive for the ‘general’ Category
coiffured announcer (voice on large-format TV screen overhead): ...it seemed important for the mayor to say the incident wasn't terrorism...
customer (talking back to the TV): That's because it wasn't terrorism.
drycleaners proprietor: It wasn't terrorism? What was it?
customer: Some guy with a grievance.
drycleaners proprietor: Huh.
customer: It's important for the ruling class to keep us scared at all times.
drycleaners proprietor: That's the way it is.
Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone, which favors returning the Clintons to power. Normally Taibbi speaks his mind in spite of this bias but his bosses must have been delighted with a recent column trashing Trump.
In a campaign speech in New Hampshire, Trump itemized some of the dubious Clinton Foundation activity that upsets people on both sides of the political aisle but has been under-reported until recently:
--Ridiculously huge speaking fees paid to Bill Clinton by companies that had business before Hillary's State Department;
--Clinton Foundation moves to give foundation donors suspicious reconstruction contracts in Haiti and a seat on an intelligence advisory board;
--Clinton Foundation machinations on behalf of a Russian uranium company;
and other examples of shady ethics that have been well documented by the center-left. Taibbi mentions these points but rewrites them so they fit a comical narrative about how Trump is a bad speaker when he reads from prepared remarks. Taibbi blows right past the substance and makes this a "process" story, which is one of the main flaws of conventional, DC-based election coverage.
Hillary Clinton gave a speech this week in which American exceptionalism was a major theme. She obviously chose that theme partly because it would appeal to her specific audience (an American Legion convention) and partly because it would enable her to criticize Donald Trump, who has said he doesn’t like the term “American exceptionalism” because people in other countries don’t like to hear it and feel insulted by it. Trump is right about that, although in many other respects he shows he doesn’t have qualms about insulting people in other countries, including the country he briefly visited on Wednesday and has described as a nation of rapists and drug dealers.
America is indeed exceptional in some obvious respects, and there is nothing wrong with Americans reminding themselves of that, as long as they do not stick the concept in the face of non-Americans. It is some of the corollaries that tend to flow in an unthinking fashion from the concept of American exceptionalism that have caused problems. Several such tendencies in American exceptionalist thinking have contributed to bad policy.
One particular common corollary of the notion of exceptionalism that Clinton emphasized in her speech was that of indispensability. “We are the indispensable nation,” she said. “So no matter how hard it gets, no matter how great the challenge, America must lead.” As with exceptionalism itself, it certainly is true that the United States is, or at least has been, indispensable in some respects. An example would be the role of the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency and of U.S. government debt as an instrument in international finance. The problems come from the tendency—which is implicit in much of the wording of Clinton’s speech—to consider the United States and U.S. leadership as indispensable in addressing all significant problems abroad. But not all problems abroad are U.S. problems, not all such problems are solvable, what solutions there are do not all come from the United States, and in some problems U.S. involvement or leadership is instead counterproductive.
A related and common tendency is to invoke the physical metaphor of a vacuum. “When America fails to lead,” said Clinton, “we leave a vacuum that either causes chaos or other countries or networks rush in to fill the void.” The vacuum metaphor has several problems when applied to foreign policy. It understates or overlooks altogether whatever was present before any outsiders rushed in. It incorrectly assumes a zero-sum or mutual exclusion relationship between the supposedly indispensable superpower and any other players who may be involved.
Once again, the reviled Trump is the person making sensible statements while the Secretary of Vacuum-Filling spouts dangerous nonsense.
Recommended reading: a long-ish Mondoweiss interview with Major Tom Pierce, a retired career military man who was one of the JAG Corps officers defending Guantanamo prisoners. Some pretty good thoughts on the US foreign policy nuthouse.
The anecdote below captures some of the loony quality over here right after 9/11. I remember arguments with otherwise reasonable people who thought we needed to "do something" (i.e. bomb the shit out of some hapless country). My response was, yes, "we" need to find the people responsible -- whoever is still alive -- and put them on trial, and not a kangaroo court either. Instead "we" invaded two countries and years later, shot one of the loudmouths who claimed responsibility. Oh, yeah, exceptionalism R US.
Where were you on 9/11?
I was on active duty as a JAG officer. I went into work that morning. And our staff was small, me and a lieutenant colonel, and he routinely would come in late. And that day he didn’t come in till 2 or 3 o’clock, which I won’t say anything more about. It was all happening when I got to work, and the second plane hit and we knew it was terrorism, and so we began wrapping up immediately our command, because we were responsible for all the Reserve units in six states. Also we knew people were being mobilized almost immediately. I was in on all the discussions because the more senior guy hadn’t shown up yet. And you could just see the hysteria taking hold of a lot of people.
Then at the end of the day, late in the day, because we worked late, finally my senior officer arrives, so I can go home, and I picked up my son [from school in Minneapolis] so we could go home, and see my stepson who was back from the Marines on leave. He’d been in a year and a half, and I was anxious to see him. And there was a huge traffic jam. And finally we got north, and we came to an overpass, and there was a guy on the overpass with a kid waving a flag. He backed the traffic up five miles because everyone honked a horn and slowed down a bit. It was something like after Pearl Harbor. But I was ticked off. I wanted to get home and see my stepson.
The next night– the same thing. The guy was out there again with a flag. The third night, I pulled over. I had my uniform on, and I said, Hey you’re backing up traffic for ten miles. You’ve done this now for a couple days, we get it. He said, “I just want to show my support.” I said, I’m in the military, I want to get home, you’re doing a disservice to me.
The guy was out there again the next night. I called the highway patrol. I said, Look, I understand free expression, but backing up traffic? Can you at least suggest that he stop? But they said Oh no, we can’t.
Fortunately, he wasn’t out there after the weekend.
Why wasn’t it freedom of expression?
It was hysteria. Immediately– out came this outpouring. He was patriotic, but again to me, sitting out there—he was backing traffic up for miles. I never criticized anyone’s patriotism, though we could get on to a different topic, of how it’s become hyper militarism.
Where else did you see the hysteria?
Just watching my fellow officers. They were changing before our very eyes. We have to go to war, we have to start killing people. Then it all started. Picking people up with no Geneva conventions.
The Clinton Foundation sleaze is finally percolating up to the media's attention. From a Boston Globe opinion column:
This week, the Associated Press reported that half the people outside of government who met with Clinton as secretary of state donated to the Clinton family charity. Also, a judge ordered the State Department to fast-track a review of 15,000 previously undisclosed e-mails the FBI discovered during an investigation of Clinton’s e-mail server. Both stories contradict what Clinton has told the public: that there is no connection between her work as secretary of state and the Clinton Foundation, and that she turned over all her work-related e-mails to the State Department in 2014.
No wonder leading Democratic Senate candidates, like US Representative Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona and Governor Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, are reluctant to vouch for Clinton’s trustworthiness on camera.
There is a documentary called Clinton Cash that covers foundation maneuvers, narrated by Peter Schweizer and based on his book of the same name. You might be inclined to blow it off as the latest right wing clintonconspiracymongering, but it's pretty much in line with the critique coming from the center-left (such as the Clinton Foundation Timeline).
Here's a two part review by Nina Illingham of the movie that gives ample reasons to be skeptical of the source while still waving at the stench emanating from Clinton World. Just because the wingnuts are paranoid doesn't mean Bill and Hill aren't working the dark side. Illingham writes:
There is also a curious, off-beat leftist tone to the film as Schweizer repeatedly comes back to the idea that the Clintons are actively professing to help the disadvantaged globally, but are instead actually preying on devastated countries for massive profit and political power. As the author details human rights violations, the swindling of natural resources from the poor for the benefit of brutal oligarchs and the unconscionable murders that donors to the foundation have helped facilitate – it’s hard not to get the sense that Schweizer actually cares about these horrible crimes; as much or perhaps even more than he cares about tearing down a powerful Democrat on the verge of the presidency.
Update: Lauren Weinstein pounds the podium about AP's "half the people outside of government" statistic. This is how it works: if it looks like the AP cooked its numbers, Clinton diehards will howl and thus keep attention off the main story. Possibly Weinstein hasn't seen the Clinton Foundation Timeline website or Clinton Cash and is still living the 1990s "media is so unfair to the Clintons" scenario. He should be happy that the Foundation is finally in the news; people should know what they're voting for.
Just to remind myself in future years how awful Campaign 2016 became after Sanders rolled over, I copied all the headlines currently on the front page of San Francisco-based online rag, Salon, that dealt with the Evil Boogeyman of the hour, Donald Trump. This coverage sells magazines, and sells the supposed lesser-evil candidate, who has so many negatives she can only win by demonizing her opponent well beyond his own obvious negatives.
So here is a collection of mediocre headline writing in the service of bald propaganda, a kind of Day in the Life in Hell of 21st Century journalism. Hard to believe but each of these headlines has an associated article, that you are expected to read!
[photos of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Trump]
Trump's illegal & insane plan
Donald Trump's "extreme" immigration plan is pretty clearly illegal, and GOP leaders need to answer for it
[photo of Trump]
It’s not Bernie backers: If the U.S. elects Trump, this is who is responsible
It’s convenient to blame Berners for a possible Trump win, but they are the last ones responsible for this mess
[photos of Trump and Trevor Noah]
Trevor Noah on Katrina Pierson: “I really feel bad for her and all of Donald Trump’s surrogates”
"CNN should hire her — that's what they should do," Noah said
[photo of Charlie Sykes]
The danger of the right’s noise machine: Years of misinformation led to Trump’s rise
"Where do you go to have any sense of the truth?" right-wing radio host Charlie Sykes told MSNBC
[photo of Trump]
Trump’s voter intimidation plan: Deploying poll watchers to fight nonexistent voter fraud is a November dirty trick
Trump's camp is calling for "monitors" at polling places to ensure "Crooked" Hillary doesn't rig the election
[photo of Trump]
Of psychopaths and presidential candidates: To what degree do modern candidates resemble psychopaths?
Analysis shows where some of this year's aspirants rank on a standard assessment of psychopathic traits
[photo of Clinton and Trump]
Sad! Breitbart commissions poll to unskew “mainstream media filter,” still finds Trump losing to Clinton
So much for claims of media bias -- even Trump's biggest media booster has Clinton beating him nationally
[photos of Trump and Stephen King]
“If Jesus were around today, he’d turn Trump out with the rest of the money-changers”: Stephen King’s anti-Trump Twitter campaign hasn’t lost steam
America's most prolific author and perhaps Trump's most entertaining Twitter critic never manages to disappoint
[photo of Paul Manafort]
Trump campaign lashes out at New York Times following report of cash payments from Ukraine to top aide, Paul Manafort
Even former Trump campaign head Corey Lewandowski tweeted a story on Manafort‘s work with the former pro-Putin ally
[photo of Trump]
Trump walks back claim Obama “founded” ISIS, says its rise “a direct result of policy decisions made by” administration
The GOP nominee reiterated his call to ban immigrants from "volatile regions," coining the term "extreme vetting"
[photos of Trump and Betsy McCaughey]
Team Trump is a disaster: It’s not just the candidate — his entire staff is ill-equipped for a presidential campaign
Trump has filled out his economic policy team with a long list of wealthy donors and female right-wing cranks
[photo of Trump]
The Trump vote: New data reveals hints as to who is most likely to pull the lever for Trump
A new Gallup analysis undermines some assumptions about Trump voters, and confirms that race plays a huge role
[photo of Trump]
The GOP after Trump: Don’t kid yourself — another candidate with his destructive platform can rise again
Even if Donald Trump is defeated, the xenophobic and bigoted goals of Trumpism will live on
[photo of Trump]
Donald the Terrible: If Trump had a selfie stick, we’d all be in the picture
Trump is the modern incarnation of Narcissus — a terrible-to-behold mirror image of America’s worst public face
We've talked about Dark Patterns in web design (manipulative page layouts that trick you into subscriptions, etc) but we also encounter them in media and politics. The Clintons are masters at them. One example is claiming a "Russian hack" to deflect attention from their dirty tricks against Bernie Sanders. Another is having Muslim parents of a deceased Iraq War soldier speak at their convention. Predictably their opponent spouts some Islamophobic nonsense and this shiny object diverts the media away from the Clintons' support of the war that put the soldier in harm's way.
Rolling Stone decided in its wisdom to deactivate the RSS feed for Matt Taibbi's essays. You know, because of progress and the web being Facebook now, whatever.
Taibbi's employers support the Clintons, so he has to write more gently when he criticizes the improper Democratic National Committee tactics that helped doom the Sanders campaign before Sanders self-doomed. Sadly, Taibbi also seems to have accepted the Clinton disinformation about the leaked DNC emails being a "Russian hack," which they then bizarrely tied to Trump. The proof for the Russian connection is weak but the media ran with it, successfully deflecting the story from the awfulness of the DNC emails. Taibbi at least attempts to walk readers through what was sleazy about the DNC's fundraising practices.
There's much sneering on the interwebs about naive Sanders supporters believing they could ever have free college. It's still a good idea, though, eminently affordable by siphoning off a fraction of US military spending or insisting that top earners actually pay their taxes. The sneerers also had a heyday with crying Sanders supporters at the DNC convention last night. Again, how are they supposed to feel when their guy rolls over at the crucial moment, or worse, plays them for suckers. It was a sad occasion.
Corey Robin has some choice anecdotes from the recent book Speer: Hitler's Architect, by historian Martin Kitchen. The book deflates what's left of Speer's rep as the "good Nazi."
As Minister of Armaments, Speer relied extensively on slave laborers from concentration camps to work in the factories. In 1944, he fell ill for an extended period of time. Himmler seized on the opportunity of Speer’s absence to remove those laborers from the factories -- at the pace of roughly 40,00 per month -- and send them back to the camps. Back at the office several months later, Speer complained about the “kidnapping” of his workers.
Robin also found in Kitchen's book a 1944 quote from German exile journalist Sebastian Haffner:
[Speer] symbolises indeed a type, which among all the belligerents has become increasingly important: the pure technician, the classless, brilliant man without a background, who knows no other goal than to make his way in the world, purely on the basis of his technical and organisational capabilities….This is his age. We can get rid of the Hitlers and the Himmlers, but not the Speers. Whatever may be the fate of each individual man, they will be with us for a long time.
Update: I read Kitchen's book on Speer and highly recommend it. The first part closely follows the architect's day-to-day life as an ambitious Nazi scum, based on Kitchen's careful study of the available documentation, and then the second half explores Speer's self-mythologizing after his release from prison. The first part effectively undercuts the claims in the second, and then the reader gets to enjoy watching the Speer myth begin to fall apart in the last few years of his life, as evidence he assumed was buried or destroyed began to surface.