After Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss nearly six months ago, her most powerful Democratic allies feared losing control of the party. Efforts to lip-synch economic populism while remaining closely tied to Wall Street had led to a catastrophic defeat. In the aftermath, the party’s progressive base – personified by Bernie Sanders – was in position to start flipping over the corporate game board.
Aligned with Clinton, the elites of the Democratic Party needed to change the subject. Clear assessments of the national ticket’s failures were hazardous to the status quo within the party. So were the groundswells of opposition to unfair economic privilege. So were the grassroots pressures for the party to become a genuine force for challenging big banks, Wall Street and overall corporate power.
In short, the Democratic Party’s anti-Bernie establishment needed to reframe the discourse in a hurry. And – in tandem with mass media – it did.
The reframing could be summed up in two words: Blame Russia.
Continue reading “The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia”
Vast efforts to portray Donald Trump as Vladimir Putin’s flunky have given Trump huge incentives to prove otherwise. Last Thursday, he began the process in a big way by ordering a missile attack on Russia’s close ally Syria. In the aftermath of the attack, the cheerleading from U.S. mass media was close to unanimous, and the assault won lots of praise on Capitol Hill. Finally, the protracted and fervent depictions of Trump as a Kremlin tool were getting some tangible results.
At this point, the anti-Russia bandwagon has gained so much momentum that a national frenzy is boosting the odds of unfathomable catastrophe. The world’s two nuclear superpowers are in confrontation mode. It’s urgent to tell ourselves and each other: Wake up!
Continue reading “Russia-Baiting Pushed Trump To Attack Syria – and Increases the Risks of Nuclear Annihilation”
When Rachel Maddow finished a 26-minute monologue that spanned two segments on her MSNBC program last Thursday night, her grave tones indicated that she thought she’d just delivered a whale of a story. But actually it was more like minnow – and a specious one at that.
Convoluted and labored, Maddow’s narrative tried to make major hay out of a report from Moscow that a high-ranking Russian intelligence official had been dragged out of a meeting, arrested and charged with treason. Weirdly, Maddow kept presenting that barebones story as verification that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had directly ordered the hacking and release of Democratic campaign emails in order to get Donald Trump elected president.
Continue reading “Is Rachel Maddow Becoming a Liberal Glenn Beck?”
Here is a condensed version of President Obama’s speech from the Oval Office on Sunday night, unofficially translated into plain English:
I kind of realize we can’t kill our way out of this conflict with ISIL, but in the short term hopefully we can kill our way out of the danger of a Republican victory in the presidential race next year.
As a practical matter, the current hysteria needs guidance, not a sense of proportion along the lines of what the New York Times just mentioned in passing: “The death toll from jihadist terrorism on American soil since the Sept. 11 attacks – 45 people – is about the same as the 48 killed in terrorist attacks motivated by white supremacist and other right-wing extremist ideologies…. And both tolls are tiny compared with the tally of conventional murders, more than 200,000 over the same period.”
While I’m urging some gun control, that certainly doesn’t apply to the Pentagon. The Joint Chiefs and their underlings have passed all the background checks they need by virtue of getting to put on a uniform of the United States Armed Forces.
As much as we must denounce the use of any guns that point at us, we must continue to laud the brave men and women who point guns for us – and who fire missiles at terrorists and possible terrorists and sometimes unfortunately at wedding parties or misidentified vehicles or teenagers posthumously classified as “militants” after signature strikes or children who get in the way.
Continue reading “Obama’s Speech, Translated Into Candor”
Of all the excuses ladled out for the Obama administration’s shredding of the Fourth Amendment while assaulting press freedom and prosecuting “national security” whistleblowers, none is more pernicious than the claim that technology is responsible.
At first glance, the explanation might seem to make sense. After all, the capacities of digital tech have become truly awesome. It’s easy to finger “technology” as the driver of government policies, as if the president at the wheel has little choice but to follow the technological routes that have opened up for Big Brother.
Now comes New York Times reporter Charlie Savage, telling listeners and viewers of a Democracy Now interview that the surveillance state is largely a matter of technology: “It’s just the way it is in the 21st century.”
That’s a great way to depoliticize a crucial subject – downplaying the major dynamics of the political economy, anti-democratic power and top-down choices – letting leaders off the hook, as if sophistication calls for understanding that government is to be regulated by high-tech forces rather than the other way around.
In effect, the message is that – if you don’t like mass surveillance and draconian measures to intimidate whistleblowers as well as journalists – your beef is really with technology, and good luck with pushing back against that. Get it? The fault, dear citizen, is not in our political stars but in digital tech.
Continue reading “The Digital Dog Ate Our Civil-Liberties Homework: ‘It’s Just the Way It Is’”
Fourteen years later, the horrors of 9/11 continue with deadly ripple effects. American militarism has become the dominant position of U.S. foreign policy, while other options remain banished to the sidelines. Yet from the outset of the “war on terrorism,” some Americans spoke out against a militarized response to the terrible events on Sept. 11, 2001.
Conventional wisdom presents the “war on terrorism” — proclaimed by President George W. Bush and maintained under President Barack Obama — as the only practical response to 9/11. Fighting terrorism has been the main rationale for all U.S. military interventions since then, spinning the Pentagon’s machinery into overdrive despite the absence of clearly identified foes or geographical boundaries.
Even the most prominent warnings against such an approach were marginalized and vilified in the wake of Sept. 11. And those warnings have been buried by the U.S. media as though they never occurred, even though their concerns have proved prescient. The U.S. has spent trillions of dollars on military interventions across the Middle East, and yet the region is more violent and turbulent than ever.
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