Sunday, November 13, 2016

Ship of Fools: What Trump Teaches


It happened.

Yes, I was surprised. Since I spend a lot of time in western Pennsylvania, I knew there was more support for Trump than the media let on, but he just seemed too incompetent, incoherent, and disorganized a candidate to defeat the Clinton machine. I enjoyed torturing my friend who has been very close to Hillary for decades with scary stories about Trump surging. But in our early election day texting, I confessed that I thought it would be called for Hillary by 11PM at the latest. I was as wrong as everyone else.

I did not vote for either Hillary or Trump, and was resigned to taking my chances with either horrible outcome, but I was implicitly anticipating the dangers of a Clinton administration. I also thought, however, that there might be one positive effect of Hillary’s presidency. Contrary to what might be considered the usual leftist line that electing the explicitly ultra-reactionary Trump would foment the revolution, or at least radical discontent, I thought that, in the American context, Hillary being president would help the left the most.

If Trump wins, I argued, and his policies fail miserably and obviously, Democrats and liberals would spend the next four years saying: “See, you should have voted for Hillary,” and channeling oppositional energy into a familiar anti-Trump, anti-Republican, “Let’s make sure we elect a Democrat in 2020” politics—as we saw after Bush’s election in 2000.  The Democrats would once again present themselves as the system’s way out.

On the other hand, I thought that, if Hillary were to win and wreak her expected havoc on America and the world, Democrats and liberals would not be able to blame the Republicans. It would be the left that could say “See what you voted for?” The system would have failed in its Democratic guise. Because this might finally persuade more progressive-minded people to break with the Democratic Party once and for all. It was Hillary’s presidency, not Trump’s, that would open new paths for the left.

Now we have Donald Trump as president. His election is a disgrace, and we know what a disaster his administration will be for the country and the world. Mr. Anti-establishment, “drain the swamp,” tribune of the forgotten, is already filling up his clown car cabinet with the same-old tired Republican reactionaries and incompetents (Sarah Palin, Giluliani, Christie, Bolton), not to mention turning to industry and Wall Street lobbyists (and here) and, of course, Goldman Sachs (Steven Mnuchin) to run the Treasury. As business news site Quartz so aptly headlines: Trump criticized Clinton for her Wall Street ties, but he’s the best thing to happen to big banks.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tom Hayden's Haunting

George Brich, AP

As an old SDS-er, I found it hard to see Tom Hayden go. However meandering his path, he was at the heart of radical history in the 60s, an erstwhile companion, if not always a comrade, on the route of every boomer lefty.

One of his finer moments for me, which I’ve never seen mentioned (including among this week’s encomia) since he wrote it, was his 2006 article, published on CounterPunch with an introduction by Alexander Cockburn, in which he apologized for a "descent into moral ambiguity and realpolitick that still haunts me today.” It would be respectful of Hayden’s admirers and critics, on the occasion of his passing, to remember which of his actions “haunted” him the most.

The title of the article says it clearly: “I Was Israel’s Dupe.” In the essay, Hayden apologizes for his support of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which was for him that “descent into moral ambiguity” More importantly, he explains why he did it, in a detailed narrative that everyone should read.

Hayden sold out, as he tells it, because, in order to run as a Democratic candidate for the California State Assembly, he had to get the approval of the influential Democratic congressman Howard Berman. Berman is a guy who, when he became Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was proud to tell the Forward that he took the job because of his  “interest in the Jewish state” and that: “Even before I was a Democrat, I was a Zionist.”

Hayden had to meet with Howard’s brother Michael, who, acting as “the gatekeeper protecting Los Angeles’ Westside for Israel’s political interests,” told Hayden: "I represent the Israeli Defense Forces”—a sentence that could serve as the motto of most American congress critters today. The “Berman-Waxman machine,” Hayden was told, would deign to “rent” him the Assembly seat on the “one condition: that I always be a ‘good friend of Israel.’”

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hillary’s Hide-and-Seek


This Sunday’s New York Times (NYT) article by Amy Chozicko, headlined “Issues in Hillary Clinton’s Past Leave Her Muted in Furor Over Donald Trump” (“Clinton Treads Lightly Amid Furor Over Trump” in the print edition) provides a fine example of how the mainstream press covers up Hillary Clinton’s problems, even when they claim to be reporting on them.

The article introduces itself as explaining Hillary’s “virtual silence” regarding the issues of Donald Trump’s piggish treatment of women—issues that she herself raised in this campaign. The article mentions, in the most non-specific way possible, that she’s an “imperfect messenger” for these issues because of her “missteps” in dealing with her own “husband’s history” of piggish behavior. It alludes to her “role in countering the women who accused him of sexual misconduct” as part of a “painful past” that “haunted Mrs. Clinton last Sunday” when Trump brought some of her husband’s accusers to the debate.

The article goes on at length to quote from Michelle Obama’s speech, to elucidate how Hillary slyly changes the subject to cat videos when asked, and to talk about how she struggles to overcome the electorate’s lingering resistance to a woman president. It mentions how, “without mentioning the accusations against Mr. Trump,” she says things like: “This election is incredibly painful. I take absolutely no satisfaction in what is happening on the other side with my opponent.”

What the article does not do is mention a single specific “misstep” or “imperfection” in the way she “countered” her husband’s “accusers” and verified mistresses. In an article of some 1300 words, there is not one that clearly describes any of the things that Hillary Clinton did and said in that regard—the precise things that cause Hillary to “tread lightly” about Donald Trump’s abusiveness, and cause her the discomfort the article purports to explain.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Waiting To Exhale: Hillary, In Sickness And In Health


What’s wrong with Hillary? Since her collapse on 9/11, that question has become inescapable.

I am not going to try to prove that Hillary Clinton has Parkinson’s Disease, or some other serious, degenerative neurological or neuro-vascular condition. I suspect she does, especially since her collapse on 9/11, and the acknowledgement that she was passing off as an allergy what she now claims is pneumonia. Suddenly, the various videos of her strange tics, and the diagnoses thereof, have been less easy to dismiss. One can’t help but wonder what better explains her lackluster campaign?

But the speculation is futile at this point. Either she has some serious condition or she doesn't, and if she does, it will likely manifest itself in undeniable ways. If her head-shaking, coughing, and collapsing episodes are effects of discrete, trivial things like allergies and overheating, these episodes will stop, and she'll continue merrily along with her campaign (and likely presidency). She'll have a lot of public appearances, perform well in the debates, hold regular press conferences, etc., without incident. Of course, the obvious and best thing for her to do, if she’s really healthy, would be to show full medical files with raw test results.

If she does have a serious and degenerating neurological condition, she will try to avoid press conferences, lengthy public appearances with lots of people, and any stressful event where she cannot be physically managed by handlers. But avoiding all that in a presidential campaign is virtually impossible, starting with the debates. So if she is seriously ill, it’s inevitable that obvious symptoms will re-appear, in public and with more frequency.

We shall see.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Prime Directive: Trust the System, Blame the Russians





There are increasing doubts about the trustworthiness of America’s now ubiquitous electronic voting systems. For all the reasons I put forth in my previous post, including the suspicious results in the Democratic primary this year (analyzed in detail in a Stanford study), wider swaths of the public are aware and concerned about whether voters can have confidence that their votes will be counted for whom they are cast.

So the establishment media had to address this issue in some way. I guess that’s why the New York Times put David E. Sanger and Charlie Savage on the case, with their September 14th article, “Prime Danger in Vote Hack: Sowing Doubt.”

As the title indicates, the prime objective of this article is to allay any doubt voters might have about the reliability of the American electoral process, while at the same time acknowledging (kinda, sorta) that there’s some “danger” involved in the opaque, proprietary technologies that now determine the outcome of our elections. It’s a tricky needle to thread, and the convoluted and self-contradictory argument they use to do it is woven around the first two words of the article: “Russian hackers.”

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