From the New York Times:
After years as a sleepy federal backwater, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission became one of Wall Street’s most aggressive watchdogs during the Barack Obama administration.
Now the agency — which is responsible for policing a broad swath of markets and financial machinery, from trading in commodities to digital currencies to the complex derivatives that helped torpedo the financial system in 2008 — is shifting its law enforcement strategy: It will increasingly look to banks and other financial institutions to come clean on their own about misconduct and problems in the market.
The commission’s director of enforcement, James McDonald, plans to unveil the new framework in a speech Monday night at New York University. It is premised on the idea that large financial institutions, given the right incentives, have the potential to be invaluable partners for law enforcement.
“We start with the shared understanding that the vast majority of businesses want to comply with the law,” Mr. McDonald will say Monday, according to a draft of the speech reviewed by The New York Times.
From Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man, pp. 61-62:
“The tension between the actual and the possible is transfigured into an insoluble conflict, in which reconciliation is by grace of the oeuvre as form: beauty as the “promesse de bonheur.” In the form of the oeuvre, the actual circumstances are placed in another dimension where the given reality shows itself as that which it is. Thus it tells the truth about itself; its language ceases to be that of deception, ignorance, and submission. Fiction calls the facts by their name and their reign collapses; fiction subverts everyday experience and shows it to be mutilated and false. But art has this magic power only as the power of negation. It can speak its own language only as long as the images are alive which refuse and refute the established order.
Think about this for a moment, bearing in mind that the last actual invasion of the United States occurred in 1812:
ONE OF THE most controversial proposals put forward by Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential campaign was a pledge to make tuition free at public colleges and universities. Critics from both parties howled that the pie-in-the-sky idea would bankrupt the country. Where, after all, would the money come from?
Those concerns were brushed aside Monday night, as the Senate overwhelmingly approved an $80 billion annual increase in military spending, enough to have fully satisfied Sanders’s campaign promise. Instead, the Senate handed President Donald Trump far more than the $54 billion he asked for. The lavish spending package gives Trump a major legislative victory, allowing him to boast about fulfilling his promise of a “great rebuilding of the armed services.”
Picture a paunchy middle-aged man in a baseball cap, tossing and turning in fitful sleep on his Barcalounger. Call him Jake. He is a good American. He waves the flag on the Fourth of July, supports the troops, always roots for Team USA in the Olympics and never reads books. He hasn’t traveled outside of the United States because, as he often tells his kids, “there’s plenty to see right here.” He believes in God because everyone he knows believes in God; besides, being an atheist in America is still faintly disreputable, even mildly subversive, like being a socialist, and it can be personally and professionally damaging in large parts of the country. But he isn’t religious. He may go to church once or twice a year, but he usually just watches football on Sundays.
He thinks evolution, like climate change, is “just a theory.” He thinks this because credible sounding people on TV often say it. This is, in fact, how he gets all of his opinions: He hears credible sounding people on TV making assertions over and over and over again until gradually, subtly, they morph into his own beliefs. His friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers acquire their beliefs the exact same way.
This is how he came to believe that tax cuts are good but big government is bad; that free markets are natural and efficient, but socialism, whatever it is, is inefficient and potentially evil, although some social programs are okay for people who’ve lost work “through no fault of their own.” This is also how he came to accept the fact that America, despite its inherent goodness, is surrounded by enemies who seek to harm it, and so he never questions the military budget or the latest bombing campaign, even though he often thinks wars in the Middle East are pointless because “those people have been fighting for centuries and war is all they know.”
This is why he thinks America is soft on crime, in spite of the fact that it has more prisoners than any other country in the world. After all, didn’t he just see a story on the news about a pedophile who was released on parole and immediately went out and molested another child? This is also why he thinks Black Lives Matter is the exact equivalent of the KKK and that political correctness is responsible for provoking violence on the right. This is why he’s recently concluded that the country is moving too far to the left.
He falls asleep in his recliner every night with the TV on. Is he watching ESPN or FOX NEWS? Does it matter?…Read on
In honor of Labor Day, please watch this Orwellian “training” video Wal-Mart shows its new hires. It’s obnoxious anti-union propaganda delivered by annoying performers who, if there is any justice in this world, will be immediately kicked out of the Screen Actors Guild. It’s not enough that people must work horrible jobs for minimum wage, they must also receive political re-education to get their minds right. Note the condescending tone and the assumption that the employees are complete idiots. I can tell you from personal experience that this is one of the worst aspect of these kinds of jobs. In addition to shitty hours, shitty pay, asshole bosses and zero benefits, management treats you like a special ed kid. It is thoroughly degrading, as it is no doubt intended to be. Enjoy!
You may have heard that there were explosions at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas near Houston, but you’d be wrong. There were no explosions. There never have been any explosions, and there never will be any explosions. There were only a series of small pops:
Authorities said Thursday morning that there weren’t “explosions” at the facility but, rather, “small pops” followed by smoke and fire.See? No explosions, just “small pops” that produced fire and smoke. What part of that don’t you understand?
But Richard Rennard, an Arkema executive, said it was impossible to know for sure, since all the employees had left the site.
“These things can burn very quickly and violently; it would not be unusual for them to explode,” Rennard said at a news conference. However, he said: “We believe it hasn’t been a massive explosion; it’s just been these vapor release valves that popped” in one of the box vans.
I’m reminded of an interview with a military man describing a plane crash near an air force base some years back: “The aircraft decelerated and rapidly lost altitude, which caused it to impact with the ground.”
I'm also reminded of the heroic U.S. invasion of Grenada, which wasn’t an invasion, but a “pre-dawn vertical insertion.”
Then I’m reminded of the fifth grade, when the teacher was reprimanding my best friend for losing his homework. “I didn’t lose it,” my friend said, “I temporarily misplaced it!”
And I’m forced to reflect on the sad fact that our political, business and military leaders talk just like a fifth grader lying about not doing his homework.
Even in the face of tragedy, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well:
There have already been more than 500 complaints about price gouging during Hurricane Harvey over the weekend, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told CNBC on Monday.There are also reports that a woman in a second story apartment was charging people $300 to come upstairs and escape the flood. Natural disasters come and go, but the market is eternal.
That includes reports of up to $99 for a case of water, hotels that are tripling or quadrupling their prices and fuel going for $4 to $10 a gallon, he said in an interview with “Closing Bell.”
The Texas attorney general is threatening to slap these upstanding capitalists with fines of $20,000 or more. Apparently he didn’t get the memo, handed down by Fox News and John Stossel in the wake of Hurricane Sandy: Price gouging is good! It even quoted Milton Friedman, who is second only to Ayn Rand in the right wing’s pantheon of free market divines: “Price gougers save lives!”…Read on
I’d like to take this opportunity to blatantly politicize the catastrophe in Houston. Before I begin, however, I’d implore everyone to stop describing such events as “biblical.” I’d wager that modern disasters dwarf anything seen in biblical times. There is just so much more nasty shit that can go wrong in our marvelously complex world. A city of over two million people flooded with toxic water beats a plague of locusts any day.
English is one of the most varied and nuanced languages in the world. Use it. Come up with something new, Mr. and Mrs. Pundit (and while you’re at it, stop using the word “surreal” to describe anything out of the ordinary.)
Let me go out on a limb and say America will learn all the wrong lessons from this
biblical god-awful shit storm in the Gulf. Do not expect our society to begin thinking seriously about global warming. Do not expect us to change our ways one iota. In short, do not expect us to soberly reflect on this tragedy and its implications for the future. That is what mature and responsible adults do. We are not mature and responsible adults. This is the soul of contemporary America:
It is loud, loutish, grossly juvenile, militantly ignorant and stupidly aggressive (which is why, incidentally, I don’t think Donald Trump is an aberration, but is in fact is the perfect expression of who we really are). It is easily distracted by shiny objects and utterly incapable of thinking in terms of fundamentals. It is the malleable plaything of demagogues, con men, and asinine pundits who actually have people believing that cutting taxes on billionaires is good for the middle class, that permanent war is normal and healthy, and that global warming is a hoax. In the face of rising temperatures, we have people who think its cute to make their trucks do this:
Nations have distinct characters and character is destiny. We are exhibiting all of the same dysfunction as the the Greenland Norse, the Easter Islanders, and many of the other extinct civilizations chronicled in Jared Diamond’s Collapse. Like them, we are stubbornly resistant to change. We simply cannot and will not imagine any other lifestyle than the one we have. Nor can we honestly face our problems. Instead, we retreat into pathological denial and double-down on all of the stupid and destructive ideas that are responsible for bringing us to this pass in the first place.
Do expect the free market theologians and privatizers to swoop down on the Gulf like the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz, imposing market discipline and spreading charter schools around. At this moment, Betsy DeVos is probably on her knees with all of the other pernicious evangelicals in the Administration, giving thanks to her barbarous God for this heaven-sent catastrophe.
Do expect the corporate media to avoid mentioning climate change and focus instead on human interest stories and maudlin puff pieces about our heroic first-responders. Do expect the wicked Texas Republicans who voted against aid for Hurricane Sandy victims to change their tune and discover a new found love of big government spending.
The good new is that my predictions are often wrong. I hope I’m wrong again.
The space race is alive and well, but it’s not being conducted by nation states. As befits a degraded world run by oligarchs, this latest iteration of interstellar stupidity is being carried out by arrogant billionaires whom our culture, for reasons I will never, ever understand, considers to be visionaries.
According to Bloomberg Technology, which I’ve never been bored enough to consult until now, 16 of the world’s richest 500 people are invested in space travel projects to the tune of 513 billion. Apparently, they think humanity has done such a bang-up job managing the earth that we simply have take our show on the road. The universe must not be deprived of our gifts. The thought of some distant, forlorn alien species living without free markets, globalization, credit default swaps, corporate mission statements, fragmentation bombs, Wal-Mart, mountaintop removal and the iPod is just too fuckin’ much for a compassionate human to bear. It’s a wonder anyone can sleep at night knowing there’s never been a TED Talk in Alpha Centauri. Opportunity costs be damned, we must spread our wisdom through the galaxy.
The usual suspects are involved, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Obama’s kitesurfing partner and brand new BFF, Richard Branson. But there are some unusual names on the list as well, such as Sheldon Adelson, a casino billionaire who was Newt Gingrich’s pimp daddy in the 2012 Republican primaries, as well as one Ricardo Salinas, described as a “retail and banking billionaire.”
Yes, in the future, Mars will be bustling with casinos, Amazon fullfillment centers and banks, all hooked up to the Internet with access to Facebook and the Washington Post Online. The only thing missing will be a native population to exploit. Maybe they can fly up the Bangladeshis after global warming completely floods out their country.
Our society’s greatest luminaries will be able to chill out among themselves, far from the sweltering earth, basking in each other’s genius and debating such relevant topics as the latest iPhone, the future of AI, or whether it’s better to use your left or right hand when masturbating. Markets and entrepreneurship will be praised, but the billions of dollars of government subsidies they’ve received will be kept strictly on the QT. Genius grants, you see.
I wish them luck. I hope they fly as far as my dreams can carry them, out into the distant reaches of space where there is nothing but cold dead planets and hostile alien creatures that feed on pretentiousness.
The generals are in charge and they got exactly what they wanted, a permanent war in Afghanistan. Its details will be hidden from the public and it will guarantee rising military budgets forever. The military-industrial complex will win out, no matter what stuffed dummy sits in the White House.
(The comedian Bill Hicks used to say that every new president is taken into a secret dark room and shown footage of the Kennedy assassination from an angle no one has ever seen before. He is then asked, “Any questions, Mr. President?” I’m starting to think something like this must be true.)
But don’t worry, Trump’s other main constituency will soon get its biggest wish too. According to CNBC, “multiple Wall Street strategists” are laying odds that the one thing Congress can get done this year will be, wait for it, tax cuts. The bad news is that Republicans probably won’t be able to cut the corporate tax rate to 15 or 20 percent as they’d hoped, but will have to settle for 25 percent instead. Nor will they be able to “eliminate popular deductions, like those for mortgage interest, charitable giving, or state and local property taxes.” Nothing in life can be perfect, I suppose. Perhaps they can eliminate those popular deductions next year, when, with any luck, the little people will be distracted by a brand new war or hit TV show.
If you look past Trump’s strategically outrageous tweets, you can see and smell a familiar thing. It’s called business as usual in America.
In a couple hours we’re leaving for a three-week vacation. It’s a cruise, so I doubt if I’ll be able to post much. Or any. See you later.
For days I watched the same Charlottesville footage over and over again on MSNBC and never could figure out exactly what was going on. Who were the good guys? Who were the bad guys? How could you tell? The commentators didn’t seem to know either. Maybe that’s what confused our so-called “president,” too. You think?
But this morning I came across this absolutely first-rate 20-minute episode from VICE News, in which an absolutely first-rate reporter named Elle Reeve cleared things up for me. Here she is interviewing a specimen named Christopher Cantwell, who predicts that someday he and his neo-Nazi pals will find a real racist to lead them:
“Not somebody like Donald Trump. Somebody who does not give his daughter to a Jew. I don’t think you could feel like I do and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl.”
This is from Raw Story about Ivanka Trump’s upcoming visit to India:
How do foreign leaders deal wth First Daughter Ivanka Trump? According to one anonymous diplomat quoted by Hindustan Times editor-in-chief Bobby Ghosh, the key is to flatter her and make her feel important — just as you would do with a visiting member of a royal family.
“We regard Ivanka Trump the way we do half-wit Saudi princes,” the diplomat told Ghosh. “It’s in our national interest to flatter them.”
The diplomat also told Ghosh that he found it “a shame” that the U.S. was now being ruled by what looked like a royal family — “but that is America’s shame, not Modi’s, or India’s.”
Remember, she’s the smart one of the family.
Can we file this under making America great again?
…by Henry A. Wallace, Roosevelt’s wartime vice president — the last true progressive to get that close to the presidency. Written in 1944, this essay needs only a few name changes to describe the America of our so-called "president.”
A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party…
In every big nation of the world are at least a few people who have the fascist temperament. Every Jew-baiter, every Catholic hater, is a fascist at heart. The hoodlums who have been desecrating churches, cathedrals and synagogues in some of our larger cities are ripe material for fascist leadership.
The really dangerous American fascists are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.
If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful.
American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery…
On paper, Anthony Scaramucci is everything I despise: an arrogant, greedy, faux tough guy master-of-the-universe Wall Street hedge fund prick; a crassly materialistic, hyper-masculine adolescent man-child who brags about killing his enemies, skull-fucking the competition, and grabbing pussy; the kind of guy who uses terms like “cock block” and “front-stabber” and thinks he sounds bad ass doing it. To top it off, he has the seedy, loquacious manner of a car salesman or a late night TV huckster who pitches oyster shell enemas and personal power DVDs. He’s just like Jordan Belfort, the guy portrayed by Leonardo di Caprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. They’re cut from the exact same piece of greasy wax paper. They thrive like gut flora in American culture and they always will because that is what we are and that is what we value.
Still, I just can’t bring myself to dislike the guy. He was just too goddamned entertaining, and I simply can’t hate anybody who makes me laugh that hard. Hearing this sleazy, cologne-drenched guido answer a BBC reporter that, in fact, he had “no idea what’s going on with chlorine-rinsed chicken” but would gladly get back to her about it is just too, too good. It’s more than the sternum can bear. (It’s at about the 1:32 point of the video;here). He told us Steve Bannon tries to suck his own c**k and that Reince Priebus is an effing paranoid schizophrenic. He threatened to fire the entire communications staff at the White House because youse guyz in the press wouldn’t give up the leakers. He was the funniest clown in the biggest clown show on earth, and we won’t see his like again for at least another week.
There’s an element of genuine tragedy in Mooch’s speedy rise and fall. This preening cock-of-the-walk thought he was going to be first minister to the king — Cardinal Wolsey to Henry VIII, Mark Antony to Caesar, Boo Boo to Yogi — and then, poof, just like that he was gone, cut down and publicly humiliated in a mere ten days by a bigger, badder, more loudmouthed jerk than himself. Poor Mooch. He gave up everything to serve Trump. He sold his house. He sold his hedge fund. He committed everything to his new life in Washington. Then, tragically, in what should have been the best week of his life, Mooch traversed the full spectrum of defeat: He lost his job, his wife, his pride, his dignity, and he even missed the birth of his child. What did the White House say about Mooch’s inglorious shit canning? “ He served his purpose,” an aide said.
Mooch sold his soul for Trump, and Trump shivved him in the balls, loudly, gleefully and in full public view. There can only be one vulgar wannabe alpha-male in this house, Mooch, and you ain’t it.
“The President has really good karma,” the Mooch said of Trump in his maiden speech to the nation, “and the world turns back to him.” Indeed. Indeed it does, Mooch. Now go get your fuckin’ shine box.
It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for him. Almost, but not quite. Will there be a book deal? A tell-all expose about his vertiginous ten days in the White House? Perhaps a biography, or an investment guide, or a self-help/get rich quick manual for the masses — Let the Mooch show you his ten easy tricks for making more money, fulfilling your true potential and living the American dream! An appearance on Dancing with the Stars? A regular gig on Fox and Friends? Perhaps a tearful moment of clarity with Whoopie Goldberg on The View. A reality TV show: Cruising with the Mooch or Being Scaramucci. A late night infomercial selling hair care products. The possibilities are endless. America always has a place at the table for guys like the Mooch.
From Acta Herpetologica.
While most species of turtle exhibit secondary sexual dimorphisms that can be used to reliably infer sex, there are some species that are very difficult to sex … Therefore, we tested the novel method of using a vibrator to sex turtles by stimulating male turtles to evert their penises. Once a male turtle was captured, we attempted to lnduce an erection by applying an 18 cm, variable-speed, silver bullet vibrator to its shell and tail …
In general, turtles appeared to respond best when only the tip of the vibrator was touching them and when the vibrator had fresh batteries and was set on the fastest setting. Also, they seemed to respond best when the tip was held firmly against them (rather than allowing it to bounce), but not be pressed hard against them. Both allowing it to bounce and pressing it too hard generally resulted in turtles holding their limbs and tail tightly against the body, rather than relaxing. Additionally, it was often useful to move the vibrator around in small, slow, steady circles.
Ecstasy (MDMA) tablets molded and pressed into the shape of President Donald Trump’s face and head have shown up in the United Kingdom…
“Quality orange Donald Trump tablets,” advertised one site. “Very nice press, really detailed. Comes in the actual shape of the head of the president of the USA.” Another dark net site was offering thousand-lots for around $1,500, or a measly $1.50 a pill.
People are really being unfair to Scaramucci with all this accusing him of having “beliefs.” They should be considered more along the lines of fashion accessories.
Think rich people must be really, really smart, and poor people dumb as posts? Okay then, have you considered a job on the Supreme Court? You’d fit right in with the intellectual majority and you won’t even have to read up on the law. Ayn Rand is enough.
No, really. Just read this excerpt from the 2010 Citizens United decision, in which the conservative majority ruled that corporations are persons, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto.
[W]e now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.
My 84th birthday was last Saturday, leading me to wonder what was going on all those years ago. And of course nowadays Google makes it easy, maybe too easy, to satisfy idle questions like this. Here’s the answer, for what little it’s worth, from the New York Times front page summary of July 15, 1933:
Saud gives oil concession to Standard Oil Company of California. Govt seeks to limit RR CEOs salaries, wage and hour standards set for cement industry, textiles, men’s clothing.
Recently I’ve seen a lot of references to the Lawfare blog, where Benjamin Wittes, a friend of James Comey, is a principal. There are many other interesting pieces besides his, which is kind of a problem because I don’t really have time to read all this stuff.
Today Wittes has a piece about a civil suit that he finds interesting. The suit alleges that the Trump campaign and Roger Stone conspired with Russians to release information about the plaintiffs, who are not public figures, that violates their privacy rights according to laws in D.C. and intimidates them with respect to future advocacy. One interesting aspect of the suit is that, at least in Wittes’s view, there’s no question of standing; the plaintiffs offer to show clear harm directly related to the alleged conspiracy. Also, the plaintiffs did not name Trump himself, so there’s no argument that the President is immune from lawsuits.
In short, the ramifications of the possible progress of this lawsuit are extensive.
I’m no expert on civil conspiracy or privacy suits, but the allegations in this one strike me as presenting a pretty clean legal theory that very likely states a claim. The case’s weakness is that a lot of its allegations are, at this stage anyway, speculative. The complaint alleges a level of coordination between the campaign and the Russians that the public record does not yet support — for example, when it alleges that “Defendants entered into an agreement with other parties, including agents of Russia and WikiLeaks, to have information stolen from the DNC publicly disseminated in a strategic way that would benefit the campaign to elect Mr. Trump as President.” But remember, on a motion to dismiss, the court will have to assume these allegations true. A plaintiff is allowed to plead things “on information and belief,” after all, and it’s more norm than exception at the complaint stage to use public facts to hypothesize larger allegations one believes to be true but cannot at this stage prove. I think, in short, that this case is very likely to survive that motion to dismiss.
And that means the plaintiffs will get discovery.
The pleading is rich — very rich and intentionally so, I suspect — with allegations that will provide for plausible discovery requests against all kinds of actors and on all kinds of subjects. It makes reference to the President’s tax returns, for example. It names a large number of individuals, whose depositions plaintiffs might plausibly seek. One of the defendants is the campaign itself, meaning that the campaign’s agents, actors, employees, and documents, are all potentially subject to discovery. So if I’m right that the suit eventually survives that initial motion to dismiss, it will immediately become a gold mine for journalists and investigators. And it will present an intense set of headaches for the Trump forces both inside and outside of government. Think Paula Jones, but not about a single act of alleged harassment. Think Paula Jones — only about everything.
Yeah, discovery would be bad news for the amoral Trump clan, who only follow the law when it suits them.
Hermann Goering was Hitler’s Dick Cheney and he knew a thing or two about how to play the suckers into marching themselves off to war. So did Truman and Kennedy and Johnson and Nixon and Reagan and George W. Bush and now, unless we’re luckier than we deserve, Trump.
Nothing to it, really. Here’s Hermann:
Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
From the New York Times:
Turning to immigration, Mr. Trump said he had not been joking when he said recently that a wall on the Mexican border would pay for itself if it had solar panels. He also said the wall would have to be transparent, using an offbeat example to explain why.On May 20, 1990, in Los Angeles, Randy Barnes set the world record for the shotput with a throw of 75 feet 10 inches, measured vertically. The shot is an iron ball weighing 16 pounds.
“When they throw large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over,” he said. “As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall.”
This from Chauncey DeVega at Salon:
Thus a painful truth for those patriotic Americans who oppose Donald Trump: He will not be impeached. His son’s emails basically admitting collusion with Russia will ultimately mean little if anything.I hope that DeVega is wrong; I’m afraid, though, that he isn’t. A nation that could elect Hillary Clinton by only three million votes is capable of anything.
Why is this?
Because there is likely no amount of empirical evidence or facts that will turn the Republican Party and its supporters against President Trump. He is a tool for accomplishing the Republican Party’s goals of giving more money to the very richest Americans, punishing poor and working-class people, destroying the commons and the social safety net, creating a Christian theocracy, undermining the middle class, giving corporations full control over the country, destroying the environment, taking away women’s control over their own bodies, abusing Muslims, and denying the civil rights, freedom and equal citizenship of African-Americans and other people of color. In all, the Republican Party, its voters and the right-wing media have chosen political power over loyalty to country. In that context, Russia’s meddling in our presidential election to put Donald Trump in the White House is but a means to an end.
…but we can make a good guess. Lately I have been re-reading the history of my (relative) youth, and it turns out to be a depressing exercise. Even a frightening one. The excerpt below is from a 1968 essay by the great I.F. Stone. Substitute the “War on Terror” for Vietnam, switch the names of the politicians as appropriate, and the piece could run almost unchanged today. Stone had the 2016 election figured out half a century ago:
The average man approaches the problem of war with simple reactions of anxiety and threatened virility thousands of years old. There is a strong movement for peace, but there is also a strong contingent of cavemen among us, and it is hard to see which is the majority; the same people often belong to both categories. Reagan and Wallace speak for large constituencies, too. In Vietnam as in Korea the Democrats have kept the wars limited while Reagan, like MacArthur before him, speaks for a Republican right wing which thinks the whole business can be ended in no more time than it takes to go from the 17th to the 18th hole by dropping a bomb on Peking and another on Moscow.
The two urgent issues are the Vietnamese war and the black revolt. Both require solutions for which we are poorly conditioned. One is to give way in Vietnam to a communist, though also nationalist, tide. The other is to deal with the aspiration of the blacks, the other poor, which can only be met by fundamental changes, a real redistribution of income from haves to have-nots, and an intervention of the state deeper and more far-reaching than anything America has ever known before. The only party less prepared for this than the Democrats, though not much less so, is the Republican Party.
The issues, however, are beyond that unspoken ideological consensus within which the two-party system operates. The Democratic Party, unlike the Republican, has some legitimate claim to being the party of “the people.” But the people for whom it speaks turn out on closer examination to be middle-class owners of property, white-collar workers, or the organized working class…
“I would bring back waterboarding, and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” the so-called “president” said last year. You could tell what a really really tough guy he was, couldn't you? It must have broken his heart back when a crippling but mercifully short-lived attack of bone spurs kept him out of the Vietnam war. No doubt he was recalling those early agonies when he later told another campaign audience, “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works. Believe me, it works.”
So naturally he named another tough guy, a Tea Party congressman from Kansas named Mike Pompeo, to head the CIA. And Pompeo, a big fan of waterboarding himself, has just picked as his top deputy one Gina Haspel. Ms. Haspel had gained in-house fame of a sort by running a secret CIA jail in Thailand where one prisoner was waterboarded 83 times before his torturers finally decided he had nothing useful to tell. She later ordered the destruction of the videotapes and recordings of his torture.
So here we are back again to those wondrous worlds of yesteryear — the Inquisition, the Nazi death camps, the gulag, the Salem Witch trials, the Crucifixion, the Roman Circus. And Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, both draft dodgers like the so-called "president."
Before we get too excited, though, let's examine again the testimony of a man who knows, as Trump and King and Pompeo and Haspel never will, the truth about waterboarding. Not only is it torture, it is what you try after other forms of torture haven’t worked. (I first posted M. Alleg’s story in 2006. Fat lot of good it did then and a fat lot it will do now. But still…)
The following is from a 1958 book called The Question. The author, a French newspaper editor in Algeria named Henri Alleg, had already resisted a month of hideous torture at the hands of his own country’s paratroopers, including electric shock and having his testicles burned. The worst, inflicted only when all else had failed, was yet to come…
Here’s quote from Carl Sagan’s book The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Not bad for 1995:
I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness...
Who’s afraid of North Korea? Not me, at least not in the way we’re supposed to be. So Kim Jong-Un fired a single ICBM that might be able to hit Alaska. Are we supposed to believe that he’s just going wake up one morning and decide to bomb Anchorage, knowing that if he did so his country would be radioactive ash within minutes?
Then I remember yellow cake and aluminum tubes, the Axis of Evil, Saddam, cross-dressing Panamanian dictators, Gadaffi in his tent, ayatollahs, Russian commies, Chinese commies, mullahs, Cubans, Sandinistas, Somali pirates, bird flu and ecoli and anthrax and lions and tigers and bears, oh my! And then I realize that, well, yes, we are indeed supposed to think exactly that.
This map is only a slight exaggeration of how lots of Americans actually do view the world (click to enlarge):
They’re encouraged in their ignorance by leaders who are equally dumb. Ronald Reagan once returned from a trip to Latin America and said with genuine astonishment: “You’d be surprised. They’re all individual countries down there.” Not to be outdone, George Dubya once informed the world that Nigeria was an important continent and that border relations between Canada and Mexico were excellent. He also once asked the Brazilian president: “Do you have blacks, too?” …Read on
The people crowded over the old man to hear his dying words. He was on his back, shriveled and bony and gray, like a dried-out lizard lying belly-up in the sun, gasping for breath and struggling to speak. Everyone quietly leaned forward to hear what he had to say.
The oldest man in the world, the only surviving link to the twentieth century, was about to speak his last, and the ragged people of 2110 were eager to hear his words. What wisdom did this fading relic of America’s final decades have to give? Surely this man who’d lived in better times had something helpful to tell them?
Shivering and dirty, they huddled ever closer, afraid to touch him lest he dissolve like ancient parchment in their hands. He coughed, they jumped; he gurgled, they gasped; he moaned, they sighed. They feared it was too late.
Then, suddenly, the old man shot up and spoke. His ghostly voice broke out in song, and the people heard the glorious souls of their ancestors come to life:
Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!
The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup!
Nationwide is on your side!
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Don’t take your chronic migraine laying down. Stand up!