Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Democrats’ Theater of Discipline



I must say: I’m surprised.

Not that Hillary was going to be the nominee. Not that Obama was in her camp. But by the gratuitously insulting and imperious way in which Obama, on behalf of Hillary, shut Bernie down.

Bernie was not going to win the superdelegates. Obama could have worked with Hillary quietly, behind the scenes, to ensure that, and to make sure the convention went smoothly enough, while maintaining his public neutrality.

By endorsing Hillary at this time, in this way—within minutes of his meeting with Sanders where Bernie had praised Obama for not “putting his thumb on the scale,” before Bernie had even started his next meeting of the day, before the final primary, before the vote at the convention that formally decides the nominee, and with an ad that Obama had filmed for Hillary in advance, posted on Facebook by the Clinton campaign—Obama was making a deliberately excessive gesture.

He was effectively telling Bernie, in a publicly brutal way, who’s the boss: “You’ve had your fun. Now get with the program. Oh, and, by the way, as you leave, make sure that those little ‘uns you got all riled up vote for Hillary.”

Forget thumb, Obama put his fist on the scale, effectively telling the superdelegates how he wants them to vote.  Obama is now campaigning for Hillary while Bernie is still officially in the race, and daring Bernie or anybody to complain about it. “Hey Bernie: Not the superdelegates, not anybody in this party, is going to defy me. Are you?”

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Taking Liberty: Killing Americans To Protect Israel


On this day in 1967, the Israeli Air Force attacked an American reconnaissance ship, USS Liberty, killing 34 American sailors and wounding 174. Over a period of an hour-and-a-half after Israeli pilots identified the ship as American, while the sailors battled to save the ship and their lives, the Israelis attacked the ship from the air and torpedo boats, hitting it with armor-piercing rounds, at least one bomb and one torpedo, and strafing the lifeboats. The Israelis wanted no survivors to embarrass them. Israeli jets had also targeted the antenna, to keep the ship from calling for help. But, as James Bamford recounts, a couple of radiomen:
patched together enough equipment and broken antennae to get a distress call off to the Sixth Fleet, despite intense jamming by the Israelis. "Any station, this is Rockstar," [radioman] Halman shouted, using the Liberty's voice call sign. "We are under attack by unidentified jet aircraft and require immediate assistance." 
"Great, wonderful, she's burning, she's burning," said an Israeli pilot. 
But, hey, the Sixth Fleet had the message. We all know what happened next. Seen it in every movie. The cavalry was on the way. You can hear the order to American pilots: “Splash the bastards.”

Er, no. Wrong movie. (Try Exodus.) What actually happened was that the Secretary of Defense (Robert McNamara) and the President of the United States (Lyndon Johnson) twice recalled the American planes that were launched from nearby carriers to defend the ship.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bernie's End



Today, the morning after the Associated Press and other media outlets declared Hillary Clinton the presumptive Democratic nominee. Glenn Greenwald gave the perfect headline: 
Perfect End to Democratic Primary: Anonymous Superdelegates Declare Winner Through Media
On the one hand, I understand why Bernie supporters are pissed-off about the media making this announcement on the eve of the California primary (taking place as I write). Bernie defeating Hillary in California would demonstrate her political weakness (always a good thing). Today’s announcement will likely depress the vote and make that less likely, and it would be naïve not to suspect that this announcement was made because someone wanted just that.

On the other hand, what we’re seeing here is only the reality of the Democratic Party made blatant. Pace Bernie and his supporters, the problem here is not that the media is reporting about superdelegates and how they say they’re going to vote. The problem is the superdelegate system itself, and what it exemplifies about the Democratic Party. Sandernistas love to show the math and the dates, and insist that, really, the 750 superdelegates have not yet voted. But the reality here—the political math—is that Bernie is not going to persuade hundreds of superdelegates to switch to him. The political reality is that those superdelegates were put in place to prevent someone like him from ever getting the nomination. And they are going to do their job. For which they are well paid in various ways. Bernie and his supporters are running into the Democratic Party wall, and they don’t want to hear it.

It’s not the media, but the Sanders campaign, that is perpetuating a diversionary myth—in this case, about who and what the superdelegates are. They are, in the main, not political actors amenable to reason or ethics in figuring out who is the best candidate, but agents of the money and power interests that control the Party, appointed to vote as those interests wish. Which is worse: To report the political truth or perpetuate a political myth? 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Plan B Is Not Bernie

I admit: It’s all speculation.

On April 4th, I wrote on Facebook: “My prediction: the next President of the United States will be someone who is not yet in the race. (e.g., Possible alternative Dem ticket: Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.) How crazy am I?”

This wasn’t just a wild guess. It was based on a few considered convictions.

The first major conviction is that Bernie Sanders was not going to be Democratic nominee.

To begin with, the Democratic Party, an institution dedicated to plutocratic class rule and imperialism, would not allow Bernie Sanders to be their nominee. The plutocracy will not permit Bernie Sanders to be the CEO of American and world capitalism, let alone the Commander-in-Chief of the American empire.

Furthermore, Bernie Sanders does not want to play either of those roles. He entered the race, as his advisors acknowledged to the New York Times, “to spread his political message about a rigged America rather than do whatever it took to win the nomination,“ and he has repeatedly pledged to support whomever the Democrats nominate.

Whatever unexpected and undeniable success his campaign has had, it’s a “political revolution” that will be limited to exerting pressure on the Democratic Party and its eventual nominee. One can complain that it’s been blocked by electoral hijinks or by the anti-democratic superdelegates, but those sores have been festering for a long time in the party Bernie chose to run in. At this point, if Hillary comes to the convention with one more pledged delegate and more popular votes than Bernie—which she will—she will win fair and democratically square—and any attempt by him to use superdelegates against her would contradict his own erstwhile complaints about them. At any rate, those supredelegates were put in place expressly to prevent anyone like him from becoming the nominee, and are not going to be persuaded, even by wonderful arguments based on electoral logic, to forsake their duty. Which of these folks is going to switch to Bernie because polls show he’d do better against Trump in the general?


Friday, April 22, 2016

Vexed by Vaxxed


“Ideology, after all, is more influential than laws.….[N]o one…would dream of making legislation to force people to read certain books and prevent them from reading others.”1
--Literary critic H. Bruce Franklin

The treatment of the movie Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe is an astounding example of ideological discipline performed by the American cultural elite.


As everybody knows by now, Robert DeNiro selected Vaxxed for his Tribeca Film Festival. Because he and Grace Hightower have a child with autism, he thought it was important that the issues raised in the film be shown to the public. 

Vaxxed presents a personal admission and documentary evidence from Dr. William Thompson, a senior scientist and the lead author of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) study that purported to disprove a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. His evidence indicates that the panel actually found a link—and specifically a 300% increase in risk among African-American boys—and contrived to hide it. The panel’s effort to manipulate the data and destroy evidence in order to bury the link extended an inquiry that was meant to take six months into four years. 

Thompson says that he, his co-authors, and the CDC, “omitted statistically significant information”; that “my supervisors have broken laws”; that they destroyed evidence in a way he “assumed … was illegal and would violate both FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] and DOJ [Department of Justice] requests”; that he has stopped lying,” and has “great shame now when I meet families of kids with autism because I have been part of the problem….I was complicit, and I went along with this, we did not report significant findings.” He also describes the atmosphere that reigned in the CDC thusly: “The federal government is hostile to anyone who says anything negative about any industry.”2

That is the crux of the movie. It makes the case that this participant’s stunning statement-against-interest evidence of fraud should be seriously investigated. You’ll be excused if you had no idea this is what the film is about, or if you thought—i.e., if the media coverage of it led you to believe—it was about something else entirely, about making some “anti-vaccination” argument. There is nothing in the film that is “anti-vaccination.” Unless criticizing the side-effects (now acknowledged, but once completely ignored) of Lipitor makes one “anti-drug.” Believe me, there are some voices out there that reject the efficacy and theory of vaccines in general. Neither Vaxxed nor anybody in it is one of them. In fact, the film explicitly supports vaccination, even as it urges more serious attention to the safety of one specific vaccine.  But you’d have to see the movie to know that.  (If you want a good idea of what the film is like beyond the trailer, take a look at this segment from Thom Hartmann’s show.)

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