Archive | March 2017

Bagel Dems

Many years ago I read about a handful of competent, but older, married women tennis players who could afford to travel around and enter developmental tournaments – only to lose 6-0, 6-0 in the first round (unless they played each other). One might assume that after a certain number of losses they would be denied entry, but it didn’t seem to work that way. As I recall they often got some few ranking points just for competing. They were known as the Bagel Ladies. I understand in other countries there are Bagel Girls from wealthy families that do much the same thing.

Which brings us to the Democrats. And the Russians.

Dagblog founder Michael Wolraich, a published author and very bright guy, took the trouble to publish a timeline of all the alleged connections between Russia and the Trump administration in, TRUMP-PUTIN QUID PRO QUO?. He’s not alone in being concerned about some sort of a deal between Trump and Putin. You can find insinuations of Russian connections from CNN and the Washington Post to The Young Turks. Rachel Maddow is arching eyebrows like Rona Barrett and SNL’s Beck Bennett may never wear a shirt onstage again.

It isn’t hard to imagine Trump engaging in a deal, and his cronies are certainly acting guilty, but a lot former BernieCrats and other progressives just roll their eyes when Democrats mention Russia. Caitlin Johnstone advises, Tell Your Liberal Friends They Can Give Up On Their Russia Conspiracy Theories Now:

The still completely unproven conspiracy theory that Russian hackers stole emails from Democratic insiders with the specific goal of handing Donald Trump the election was initiated by the CIA in December of last year when it anonymously leaked those allegations to the Washington Post, whose owner has received hundreds of millions of dollars directly from the CIA. Later that month this same CIA-funded mainstream publication would then publish an article by a recently-retired CIA operative arguing strongly that the CIA shouldn’t have to provide the American people with any proof of these allegations. This consistent refusal to show the public one shred of proof of the allegations of Russian hacking or Trump’s ties to the Russian government already had the intelligence community in “Saddam has WMDs” territory due to the obvious political implications and the alarming way the corporate media instantly and unquestioningly jumped on board with the unproven allegations in the exact same way as they did in the buildup toward the unforgivable Iraq invasion.

Matt Taibbi urges caution in, Why the Russia Story Is a Minefield for Democrats and the Media:

There is a lot of smoke in the Russia story. The most damning item is General Michael Flynn having improper discussions with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak prior to taking office. There is the much-discussed Republican platform change with regard to American assistance to Ukranian rebels, and the unreported contacts between officials like Jeff Sessions (and even Trump himself now) with Kislyak.

Moreover, the case that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee now appears fairly solid. Even Donald Trump thinks so. This of course makes it harder to dismiss stories like the one in which former Trump adviser Roger Stone appeared to know that Wikileaks was about to release the hacked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

But the manner in which these stories are being reported is becoming a story in its own right. Russia has become an obsession, cultural shorthand for a vast range of suspicions about Donald Trump. …

If there’s any truth to the notion that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian state to disrupt the electoral process, then yes, what we’re seeing now are the early outlines of a Watergate-style scandal that could topple a presidency.

But it could also be true that both the Democratic Party and many leading media outlets are making a dangerous gamble, betting their professional and political capital on the promise of future disclosures that may not come.

Let’s face facts. Democratic officeholders are dangerously uninspiring. They make fine speeches about social issues and the resistance, but quietly vote against lower priced drugs and for Trump’s toxic cabinet picks. The DNC’s recent election of Tom Perez was rife with hastily-contrived irregularities. They have co-opted Bernie Sanders for outreach, but refuse to listen to his message. They are doubling down on forcing us to choose between Trump or the establishment.

Year of Hell

One of the better plotlines on Star Trek: Voyager was the Year of Hell. In that two-part episode, Voyager was battered and her crew decimated over the course of a year of running battles with an implacable enemy. It struck me as a much more likely scenario than the usual melodrama of a lone ship escaping every situation either triumphant or at least mostly intact. The writers made everything revert to normal, of course, but continuing it would have been a learning experience for fans.

So in our real world plotline, we’ve had 100 days of limbo. Most of my friends and most of the media are outraged by President Trump, but a lot of the people I read or follow are equally outraged at the resistance which seems to have been encouraged, propagandized and orchestrated by the Deep State.

Why are progressives suspicious of the resistance? At Truthdig, historian Paul Street explains, The Deep State’s Hatred of Trump Is Not the Same as Yours :

… The issues that concern the swirling, record-setting crowds that have arisen from coast to coast are evident on their homemade signs. They include women’s and civil rights, climate change, social justice, racism, nativism, the police state, mass incarceration, plutocracy, authoritarianism, immigrant rights, low wages, economic inequality …, hyper-militarism and the devaluation of science and education. The marches and protests are about the threats Trump poses to peace, social justice, the rule of law, livable ecology and democracy.

Meanwhile, the national corporate media and the U.S. intelligence community have been attacking Trump for a very different and strange reason. They have claimed, with no serious or credible evidence, that Trump is, for some bizarre reason, a tool of the Russian state. …. Citing vague and unsubstantiated CIA reports, The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other forces in the establishment media want Americans to believe that, in Glenn Greenwald’s properly mocking words, “Donald Trump is some kind of an agent or a spy of Russia, or that he is being blackmailed by Russia and is going to pass secret information to the Kremlin and endanger American agents on purpose.”

Beneath the wild and unsubstantiated charge that Trump is some kind of Moscow-controlled Manchurian president is a determination to cripple and perhaps remove Trump because he wants to normalize U.S. relations with Russia.

In The Deep State vs. President Trump, retired polysci prof Gary Olson hits many of the same notes:

Why does the Deep State fear and despise Trump? First, his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, is a fervent disciple of capitalist economic nationalism. Further, his America is the “shining city on a hill,” but where the dwellers are Christian white people. Deep State types are convinced Trump’s skewed priorities will undermine the dominant role played by the U.S. in the global capitalist system from which they derive their power, wealth, and ultra-lavish lifestyles. We are witnessing a no-holds-barred clash between two warring camps.

Second, both the Pentagon and their arms-dealer friends are salivating over a new Cold War with Russia and will do anything to sabotage enhancing peaceful understanding between Washington and Moscow. This explains their hysterical Kremlin-baiting of Trump. Likewise, Trump sent chills through the Deep State when he voiced doubts about NATO as an archaic relic of the past, expensive and dangerously misused outside of Europe.

Third, Trump’s erratic behavior, penchant for confrontation and unwillingness to be a team player render him an unreliable caretaker of Deep State interests. They much preferred Hillary Clinton or even Jeb Bush. Trump was the “Frankenstein Populist” (Paul Street’s term) who, shockingly, won the election. Now he threatens to unwittingly expose their “marionette theater” of contrived democracy. My sense is that if Trump does not satisfy the Deep State doubts about his trustworthiness, his days in office are numbered.

Perhaps you think you’re being treated unfairly?

Essentially, a lot of people who were doing fine under Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama aren’t ready for that ride to be over. They expect everyone, EVERYONE to forget that life under neoliberals sucked and was getting worse for a lot of people, and to unite to defeat Trump. It’s the same deal they worked hard to arrange in the election, and even though it was a loser, they would rather make it work through insurrection than change one damn thing about the establishment.

We watched the film Elysium last weekend, which like Snowpiercer was a fairly transparent metaphor for our unequal society overlaid with fight scenes that resembled video gaming. As in Snowpiercer, the establishment was overthrown, and society was able to quickly reboot. Is the Trump administration robust enough to survive all his missteps? If not, is the US government robust enough to survive a bitter insider revolution? Are we robust enough to survive a series of authoritarian administrations?

In, American Regicide, Akim Reinhardt warns that the institution of the Presidency is increasingly fragile:

After Nixon’s resignation, 5 of the next 7 presidents suffered an impeachment motion in the House, and one of them, Bill Clinton was actually impeached. In fact, every president beginning with Ronald Reagan has seen a member of Congress move to impeach him.

Ronald Reagan faced an impeachment motion over the Iran Contra Scandal.

George Bush the Elder faced an impeachment motion over the first Iraq war.

Prior to actually being impeached over the Monica Lewinski scandal, Bill Clinton faced an impeachment motion for allegedly obstructing an investigation of alleged campaign contributions from foreign sources.

George Bush the Younger faced an impeachment motion over his version of the Iraq (and Afghanistan) war.

Barack Obama faced two impeachment motions: one for administering the drone program in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the other for the odd combination of charges that he failed to do perform his presidential duty while also abusing his presidential powers.

All of this is not a coincidence.

What Reinhardt doesn’t get around to saying is that the roots of government weakness lie in our failure to take part in, or even pay attention to its workings. Many of us work hard, and more of us play hard, but few of us go to the long boring meetings that determine the direction of government. Taking part in marches is a fine thing, but making one’s voice heard at all sorts of town meetings is a better thing. People get the government they deserve, but more to the point, we have also gotten the deep state we deserve, and we may get many years of hell while our government and deep state fight for supremacy.

Pivot or Divot?

A lot of mainstream media pundits, and some internet pundits, are suggesting that President Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress indicates a political pivot. The mainstream media seem impressed by Trump’s relatively calm delivery. The guys and dolls at fivethirtyeight.com put their heads together in, On A Scale Of Pivot To Game-Change, What Did We Think Of Trump’s Speech? :

harry: This was a “pivot” moment. But it doesn’t mean that Trump is pivoting. This is merely a moment in time. The question is whether Trump likes being treated well by the press and decides to copy this behavior going forward. …

perry: There was no pivot on immigration, the travel ban, etc. Not to sound too much like Nate, but the media is obsessed with itself. And Trump pivoted by not bashing the media. Hence, his tone was softened, the media declared. It really wasn’t on most issues.

Debbie Lusignan at the Sane Progressive saw a capitulation to the deep state in the replacement of Flynn with McMaster, and in Trump’s relatively sane speech, but her podcast guest from last week, Caitlin Johnstone, thinks that McMaster’s resume is an indication that Trump will continue to engage the deep state:

After former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn drew glass-shattering shrieks of outrage from the political left for speaking to Russian officials during the transition period (which former ambassador to Russia Jack Matlock says is actually standard practice), he was fired for keeping those calls on the down-low and replaced with a largely unknown fellow from the Army named Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster. There were a number of think pieces written by various publications in which political commentators took guesses as to who Flynn’s replacement might be, but I never saw a single one which predicted McMaster. The guy came totally out of left field, and not much is known about him, but we do know this: his Ph. D. thesis was titled “Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam,” and he has publicly warned of the dangers of the military industrial complex, stating “the military-industrial complex may represent a greater threat to us than at any time in history.”

FWIW, I heard that McMaster was well-known and respected due to his battle record in the Iraq War, but was passed over for promotion to Brigadier General due to his book.

And now Trump brings in a Lieutenant General and Ph. D. out of left field to help him navigate matters of national security, whose area of study just happens to focus on the lies the deep state uses to dupe America into war and who just so happens to have an open disdain for the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower tried so urgently to warn us about in his farewell address upon leaving office fifty-six years ago.

I don’t think Trump’s goals have changed, but he may have learned to temper his arrogance.