Category Archives: Joe Biden

“it was not the outcome we had anticipated”: afghanistan

During the past few weeks the corporate news media has been studiously ignoring the disastrous military and humanitarian crisis shaping up in Afghanistan.  They have been doing so, I think, because the crisis makes Biden look feckless, ruthless, and incompetent. 

For so long, there was almost nothing on the corporate news, but every day it was possible to read about astonishing advances by the Taliban.  Every day estimates of how much of Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban increased, and estimates of how long it would be until the Taliban took over Kabul decreased.

I am no foreign policy expert, but even I could see that the Biden withdrawal of forces in Afghanistan was accelerating a Taliban takeover of the country.

The negotiated “peace plan” was non-existent.  I never understood what was being “negotiated” with the Taliban in the first place either by the Trump or the Biden administration.  One reporter late this week said that the “negotiated” peace process was not only on hold, it was in the basement with the door locked. 

And who had the bright idea that the Taliban could be negotiated with in the first place?  The group is defined by a suicidal religious refusal to compromise or negotiate with the modern world. 

Let me be clear, I did not support the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq but even I acknowledge that once you have invaded and occupied a country you can’t just walk out and leave everyone who has fought with you at the mercy of the enemy.  You cannot just withdraw without considering the implications for the population you are leaving behind.

But this is precisely what the Biden administration seems to have done.  They either didn’t consider the implications for the population, or they didn’t care.  I’m not sure which is worse.

Reports today (Friday) are that members of the Biden administration knew that this disaster was coming.  The Joint Chiefs warned them.  But the Biden administration decided that the disaster was inevitable (although they have denied this reality).  One official was quoted by Peter Baker as saying: It’s a tragedy, but it’s not our tragedy.  Who would say something this crass and unfeeling? There is not even much of a pretense of having any empathy with the abandoned population.

And in an effort to make the chaotic, precipitous, and disastrous withdrawal look better, the Biden administration has blamed everyone in sight – except themselves.

Evidently, the defense department that costs us trillions every fifteen minutes, just couldn’t manage to plan a withdrawal from a country they had occupied that didn’t create a humanitarian crisis.  How can that be?

Gen. John Kirby, in a painful press conference today, said the Afghanis had every conceivable advantage in the war.  A reporter asked Kirby how the Afghanis could have every conceivable advantage and still be losing.  Kirby balked at the rudeness of the question, then evaded answering it.  He went on to list all the advantages the Afghanis had (airplanes, an air force, more soldiers, etc.).  So, according to Kirby, the Afghanis have all these advantages and it’s just a great fucking mystery why they are losing.

The people of this country are told repeatedly that we have the greatest military in the history of the world, but that military just can’t figure out how after twenty years of supplying and training and fighting, to get the Afghanis in a position to hold their own against the opposing force. 

Earlier this week I listened to a podcast where the panel was pointing out that supply lines were a problem in Afghanistan.  Supply lines?  Twenty years and they haven’t figured out how to secure supply lines?  Even my cat knows not to go further away from the door than he can safely run back should there be a threat.  And they can’t figure out secure supply lines?  I just find this preposterous.  What the bleeding devil have they been doing for twenty years?

A lot of the feedback on Twitter consists of people arguing that the very fact that we have been in Afghanistan for twenty years legitimates the withdrawal. But, nobody is objecting to the withdrawal, it’s the way the withdrawal is carried out. 

As Paul Riekhoff said on Nicolle Wallace’s show the other night, this was a “reckless” withdrawal.  Riekhoff’s honesty about the situation made me wonder if the producers on MSNBC knew what he was going to say. (The next night I don’t think Wallace even talked about Afghanistan). Riekhoff lambasted the Biden administration’s withdrawal.  And Riekhoff, like Kevin Baron from Defense One, stated flatly that the administration was not “leveling” with the American people. 

The refusal to “level” was painfully obvious in the Pentagon presser this afternoon with Gen. John Kirby.  Kirby couldn’t even bullshit with any talent the obfuscation was so blatant.  Kirby stood at the podium and spewed nonsense.  He looked like a man experiencing a severe attack of piles as he fielded questions from reporters. 

He was fine with questions like that from MSNBC’s Pentagon correspondent.  After a day when every conceivable TV pundit repeated like a parrot: “The administration was not surprised with what happened but at the speed with which it happened” she asked if the administration was surprised at the speed with which the take over had happened.  Seriously?   

Another reporter doggedly tried to get Kirby to say that Kabul was “isolated.”  “Would you say Kabul was isolated?”  He asked repeatedly.  Kirby verbally danced all over the universe refusing to say that Kabul was “isolated.”  We all fucking know that Kabul is “isolated.”  What is the purpose of a journalist taking up valuable time trying to get Kirby to say the word?  Kirby said everything under the sun else except that Kabul was “isolated.”  What goddamn difference does it make if he uses the word?

I don’t think I have seen such a blatantly pathetic Pentagon press conference since Vietnam, and even then the brass talked the bullshit with some panache.  Kirby just seemed to be desperate to finish, desperately uncomfortable, resentful of meaningful questions.  John Kirby is a bad liar and bullshitter. If they are going to try to pass off this level of (do you believe me or your lying eyes) bullshit, they need to get another spokesperson.

And, it seems that we should have learned (with the best military in the history of the world) that the solution to a badly thought-out war is not (or should not be) a badly thought-out withdrawal.  Evidently not.

But the thing that keeps sticking in my craw and going through my mind for the past few days is why?  How could the Biden administration be so inept as to create this situation?  Who was this precipitous withdrawal designed to please?  I just can’t think of anybody placated or pleased with this hair-brained withdrawal.  Why, after breezing through the deadline in May that the Trump administration had set, did Biden rush headlong into this withdrawal that seems so badly planned.

I will give just one example.  On another podcast about Afghanistan the commentators were pointing out that the Taliban ratchets up fighting in the Spring and then makes a big push over the summer.  Then, I suppose because of the weather, they retreat to bases in Pakistan in the fall and fighting dies down.  The panel members were pointing out that if Biden had just waited over the summer and pulled out most of the troops in the fall, it would have helped immensely.  So, what was the problem with that small change?

And there another thing that keeps going through my mind.  This is in response to a comment made on the Majority Report (a great podcast).  The guest was saying that there are many competing factions represented within the Biden administration – progressives (damn few), conservatives, moderates, hawks.  When some policy or appointment comes up that sparks strong opposition among these groups, they fight it out vociferously.  Fine. But when all this fighting and debate occurs, when positions are entrenched, Biden evidently does not step in and make a decision so everybody can go on.  Biden refuses to take make a decision that might alienate somebody and so everybody retreats to their respective corners.  The result is that nothing gets done.  The example that was being talked about was an appointment that had remained vacant for months.

I can’t keep from wondering if something like that happened here.  There was such strong disagreement about what to do, everybody was fighting and pushing and Biden just walked away (sort of like he’s doing in Afghanistan) and nothing got done. The withdrawal just ticked on without Biden taking control.  It was easier to do nothing than to make a decision.  Now, the administration is facing not only a humanitarian crisis, but a political disaster.

I have watched Fox News, OANN, and that other channel of Steve Bannon’s in the past two days.  You can bet they are making hay over this situation.  And, to my great discomfort and consternation, I agree with some of the commentary. 

A final thing that makes me uncomfortable about this situation is how similar it is to the way Democrats are handling the serious threat Republicans pose to the continuation of democracy. 

Democrats are so engorged with hubris, so convinced that the world is the way they want it to be, they are leading us into disaster at every turn.

I fear that they are going to do with Republicans exactly what they are doing with the Taliban – negotiate without reason, rely on the good intentions of murderous men determined to assume power at all costs and then when these men pull off a religious based authoritarian take over, wring their hands and say it was not the outcome they had anticipated.  

MORNING NEWS RUNDOWN

News Roundup

Police

  • On the internet: Video after video of police officers behaving abusively, escalating situations, cursing at people, threatening them, intimidating them, killing them, all over the country.  CNN has an expert on to explain that our brains work differently when we’re under stress. 
  • The “stress professor” and the Vanderbilt guy both agreed that we need more training for police.
  • I’ve been involved in criminology in one way or another for fifty years.  I did research on female police partners and male use of deadly force in the 70s.  Training is not the problem.  Minneapolis, for example, spent a small fortune on training. 
  •  Police culture will win out over all the training and policy in the world.
  • If you look at the Derek Chauvin case as an example, Chauvin didn’t take the stand because basically his defense is that he didn’t do anything wrong and that he would do it again if he had the chance.

Authoritarians

  • It appears that Alexander Navalny is dangerously close to dying.  In the past, he told colleagues he couldn’t understand people using hunger strikes to advance their cases.  It seemed, to him, merely a way to hand the state a tool.  But, evidently the situation for him in prison was so bad, he resorted to using his own body as a tool to try to get help.  It’s unlikely to work. The world stands by and watches. 
  • Gary Kasperov, former Russian chess player and current activist, pointed out on Twitter that the West continues to deal with Putin as if he were some quasi-democratic head of state.  Kasperov noted that Biden’s decision to turn around a ship to try to appease Putin was the wrong tactic.  Autocrats, kleptocrats, authoritarians view offers of compromise as weakness.
  • Biden deals with Putin the way the Democrats deal with the Republicans.  When will they learn that authoritarians cannot be compromised with or appealed to?

Corporate News

  • Joe Scarborough, who helped elect Trump, is now back to his rabid Republican heckling.  It is difficult for me to understand how anybody could think that Scarborough was an ally.  He and the dreadful Mika were up Trump’s ass until Trump threatened to reveal their adulterous affair.  People need to remember we have Mika on tape asking Trump’s permission to ask him a “hard” question.  Morning Joe as outlived its usefulness if it ever had any.  It belongs in the Chris Matthews trash bag of programming.  MSNBC needs to do better. 
  • While I’m on MSNBC, the nightly news programs continue to use Jason “island of misfit black girls” Johnson as a commentator.  He lost his job at the Root for his nasty, racist comment about the women who worked for Bernie Sanders, and MSNBC punished him with a few weeks off air.  But, he’s back now with a vengeance.  Joy Reid loves him because she actively worked to destroy Sanders’ campaign.  The lesson here?  You can say anything and get away with it if it’s about Bernie Sanders or his campaign. 

Cats

  • The new feral cat we are socializing woke me up at 3:30 in the morning because his food bowls were empty.  I’m wide awake, but he’s back asleep, stretched out at the foot of the bed on a quilt. They learn so quickly.  Cats are the masters of psychological manipulation.  His name is Oliver Wendell Holmes.

A breath of fresh air, a democrat tells the truth about christopher wray, fbi

Blog: Christopher Wray

For reasons inexplicable to me, the corporate media has always tried to make a hero out of Christopher Wray.  Most of the Democratic establishment has refused to criticize him and Biden has decided to allow him to remain as FBI Director.

But, in a giant departure from the way Wray is talked about by the corporate news media and the Democratic party, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, last night on MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, told the truth.  It was a breath of fresh air. Democrats ought to try it more often.

Whitehouse told Hayes that in Wray’s testimony before the Senate, he was “less clear” than Merrick Garland that the Justice Department would follow the investigation of the January 6, insurrection wherever it may lead. 

Whitehouse was particularly concerned that the investigation would be dumped on the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.  Were this to happen, Whitehouse argued, there would be real questions of whether the investigation would go further than low level participants to “upstream investigations” of people who were actually driving the crime.  Whitehouse seemed to feel confident that Garland would pursue these “upstream” investigations.

When asked directly by Hayes if he thought Wray was a “straight shooter,” Whitehouse issued a scoffing laugh.  “If so, that would be a new phenomenon.” 

“I’ve spent three years trying to get him to answer questions and he has hidden behind every conceivable dodge” continued Whitehouse.  “We have unanswered questions from 2017.”

According to Whitehouse, in hearing after hearing during the Trump administration, Wray failed to answer questions not only submitted by Democrats, but those submitted by Republicans.  In seven of nine hearings Wray participated in, the committee got no answers. 

“He (Wray) participated in or ran a massive traffic jam that stopped answers to huge numbers of QFRs (questions for the record)…and to all of our letters.  At the same time, he set up this side road where they could run” lots of documents into the Republicans to do the Cross Fire Hurricane investigation. 

Whitehouse said he still wanted to know why questions got “jammed into the traffic jam” while “Trump friendly” questions got high speed treatment.  He wanted to know “why were we stonewalled all those years…what was the method, on whose instruction was that done, what was the scheme, what was the plan, why did it happen, all that.” 

And Whitehouse, quite rightly, pointed out that the FBI under Wray engaged in an absurd exercise characterized as an “investigation” of the charges against Brett Kavanaugh. 

Whitehouse said it was necessary to go back to “the FBI investigation of Bret Kavanaugh and whether that was real or fake and what happened with that so called tip line FBI ran, because as best as I can tell…all the information (from the tip line)…got dumped straight into the bin.”  None of it got reviewed “pursuant to standard FBI procedures for reviewing the information that comes in through a tip line.  It was more a tip dump than a tip line.  And understanding if that happened, why that happened on whose direction, presumably from the White House.”

Whitehouse concluded: “If this guy (Wray) presided over a fake FBI investigation, we need to know that.”

I would like to point out that Sen. Chris Coons, Democrat, helped set up that FBI investigation.  He and Christopher Wray need to be held to account. 

Glenn greenwald interviewed by chris hedges: monday notes

I don’t pretend to fully understand the ideology of Chris Hedges or Glenn Greenwall, and there are important positions I disagree with them on.  But, I think they are important to at least listen to given the lack of criticism on the part of the corporate media for the Biden Administration.  CNN is doing a “celebrity piece” on Kamala Harris where she is asked to tell stories from her life. 

The media is supposed to be a critic of those in power, not their best friends.     

These are notes from an interview Chris Hedges did on his RT program “On Contact.”

Points made by Greenwald:

•       Bernie Sanders was rebuffed in his attempt to get the Secretary of Labor position in the Biden administration.  Sanders has expressed frustration with the Biden appointments.

•       AOC was denied a position on the Commerce Committee.

•       (Note: The DNC also refused to give Katie Porter a waiver to stay on another important committee)

•       What the Biden nominations represent is a third term of the Obama administration.

•       Susan Rice was nominated for the Domestic Policy Council

•       Biden has a long completely obvious history.  He has supported militarism.  He was a key supporter of the Invasion of Iraq, 2002, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

•       Biden’s state is the center of Banking and credit card industry.  He was so supportive of them that it provoked Sen. Warren to get into politics.  Biden was the architect of a bankruptcy bill that made Warren furious.

•       Biden, in addition, was more responsible for the crime bill than anybody else.

•       Biden has shown himself to be a man who serves imperialism and corporatism.

•       Wall Street celebrated when he picked Harris as Vice President. 

•       (Greenwald lives in Brazil.)  People ask him why Brazil suddenly lurched to right.  He explains that after years of what billed itself as being a “liberal” system, the system failed people.  They rallied behind anybody who seemed to oppose the system that failed them.  That’s what has happened with Trump. 

•       Now, the Biden administration is going to do exactly what the Obama administration did, nothing, for regular people.  And so, if you are doing exactly the same thing, you have to expect the same outcome.  The Obama failures led to the Trump administration.  And, now the Biden administration is setting itself up to repeat Obama’s failures. (Note: See Majority Report discussion noting that the Biden Administration seems to have learned from the failures of the Obama administration.)  According to Greenwald, the Middle class will continue to be destroyed.  Jobs will continue to be moved overseas.  The drug addiction, suicide, and anger that characterize working class communities will all continue to get worse.    

•       Note: There were such enormous hopes for Obama.  My brother, noting the support enjoyed by Obama, said “He could be the next Roosevelt.”  But, Obama wasn’t the next Roosevelt.  Obama was constitutionally predisposed to behave himself in many senses of that.  No matter what happened, Obama was going to behave himself.  Research the discussion about “behaving” and race.  Also, the Obama administration assumed that the Republicans were operating from a position of good faith, (what ever that means).  The Republicans are definitely not operating from a position of “good faith” and have not done so for decades.  How long it will take the Democrats to acknowledge this, I don’t know.  And, Obama was never a progressive, never a supporter of real change.  The movement that helped Obama get elected was jettisoned immediately after the election in 2008.  The group organizing for him were told to “behave.’  People were told not to give money to these groups, but to give the money to support Obama.  These groups, by and large, went silent under Obama. 

Christ Hedges: Biden and Obama regard progressives as the enemy.

•       Biden has always had contempt for the left.  As has Obama. 

•       And, the left is now more submissive than ever.  They are even praising Biden for distancing himself from Bernie, saying it was a savvy political move.  They played along with the excuse was that it was better to leave Barnie in the Senate than appointment his labor secretary. 

•       There are no progressives in the cabinet.

•       And, even with this fact, there is little dissent on the left. 

•       The choice that is presented is you can either unite behind the Democratic Party or succumb to fascism. 

•       The left has embraced censorship coming from corporations, and Biden is calling for new terrorism law.  Biden was an architect of the Patriot Act.

•       Hedges brings up the Hunter Biden laptop story which, he says, was censored out of the Intercept (the organization Greenwald co-founded).

•       Hedges points out that progressives supported Markey in Massachusetts against a primary challenge from Joe Kennedy.  After Markey won, he participated in a hearing with Zuckerberg.  Markey told Zuckerberg: we don’t believe you are censoring too much, you’re not censoring enough.   

•       Obama released a statement before election in which he said that the internet was the greatest threat to democracy.

•       The political center has decided we cannot have free speech in this technological age.  The center was pleading with billionaires to censor people even before the election.

•       World leaders denounced the banning of Trump from the internet (Merkle, Obredor of Mexico).

•       These leaders are well aware that tech corporations can do this to them (censor them) and their countries.   The EU has tried to break up these big Silicon valley companies without success.

•       What Google has done is to destroy a competing platform, Parler (AOC, Khana, and others supported this). 

•       This will make more difficult the ability to organize on the internet.  Corporations are outside democratic accountability.

•       Hedges points out that Greenwald has gone to Substack as has Matt Taibi. 

•       This is an effort of destruction of any outlet that permits independent voices of dissent.  They are laying the groundwork for rightwing censorship.  They will go after others.  It won’t be long before they are Turning guns on Substack and Patrion.

Greenwald    

•       Greenwald became concerned (about the media) when, during the Bush administration, the mainstream media presented torture as a “both sides” issue.  They wouldn’t call torture torture because the Bush administration said it wasn’t torture.  They took the position of “who are we to decide?”  We can’t call it torture because the Bush administration says it’s not true. We’ll just present both sides and let you decide.  This is not journalism.

Article about Greenwald, Counterpunch

•       Greenwald first came to prominence as an anti-Bush blogger

•       He published much of the Snowden reporting in “The Guardian.” 

•       He co-founded along with Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras, The Intercept.

•       His columns have become “insufferable.”

•       There is “almost no ideology besides reflexive contrarianism.”

•       Greenwald is “a kind of fanatic.”

•       The tendency toward contrarianism has led him to increasingly align with the far right. 

•       For example, Greenwald has made comparisons between Trump and Bernie.

•       Matt Taibbi has taken a “similar turn.”

•       He is an opponent of the national security state.

the “elite industrial complex” at work

What Elie Mystal calls the “elite industrial complex” has already started, before the election(which the Democrats are convinced they are going to win) to make the case for allowing Trump and the Republican crime family escape accountability for all the crimes they have committed not least of which is an attempt to subvert democracy and turn this into an authoritarian kleptocratic state.

We wouldn’t even have a crime network running the government, had we a functioning criminal justice system for white collar, corporate and political criminals.  Just take your pick from the various scandals and crimes the Trump family has been accused of (  sexual assault against women, including marital rape; defrauding the U.S. government through racial discrimination in housing; tax fraud; consumer fraud through Trump University; tenant intimidation; bankruptcy fraud; use of undocumented workers, including models; casino fraud; antitrust violations; money laundering; refusing to pay workers and contractors; charitable foundation fraud through the Trump Foundation; various frauds and scams related to ties with organized crime).  As Jeff Wise has written in the New Yorker:  “His entire life, after all, is one long testament to the power of getting away with things, a master class in criminality without consequences..”

But the elite industrial complex has already started working over time to pave the way for minimizing, normalizing and burying Trump’s crimes.  

On October 16, the Washington Post published an astounding article by Jill Lepore who claimed to be responding to a suggestion by Chris Hayes that “if we survive this” (meaning the Trump administration,) we should establish a truth and reconciliation commission.  She noted that NPR did a piece about a truth and reconciliation commission the same week.

“This is a terrible idea.” She wrote. 

Lepore then reminded the reader that this country has a tradition of a “peaceful transfer of power” and of conceding an election “without violence.”  What she didn’t point out was that there is nothing, nothing about a truth and reconciliation commission that implies a non-peaceful transfer of power or a resort to violence.  Lepore is, therefore, objecting to something that has never been proposed, setting up a straw man to knock it down.  This is how she starts.

Lepore then goes on to quote Thomas Jefferson.  “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it.” 

Lepore is arguing that the crime spree that has taken place in the past four years, calls for violence, threats not to allow an election, reminders by the likes of Mike Lee of Utah that the goal is not democracy, are just errors of opinion.  No.  These are not errors of opinion.  Shaping foreign policy to fulfill your own personal agenda and financial interests instead of that of the country is not an “error of opinion.”  Soliciting a bribe from the leader of another country, proposing to release public money in exchange for dirt on a political opponent is not an “error of opinion.”  I could go on for pages if not books in this vein, but you get the point.  Only an imbecile or a propagandist would call these errors of opinion.

The quote itself ends with a phrase that contradicts Lepore’s premise.  Jefferson says to let these folks stand undisturbed “where reason is left free to combat” their wishes to dissolve the union or change its republican form.  But, reason is not free to combat this effort at replacing a democratic system with an autocracy.  We have Fox News churning out propaganda 24 hours a day.  We have social media promoting the worst, most base fear mongering propaganda 24 hours a day.  No.  Reason is not “left free to combat” the threat.  So the quote Lepore’s using contradicts the argument she is advancing.

Lepore then quotes Justice Robert Jackson, chief counsel for the U.S. at the Nuremberg trials.  “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.”

Once again, Leopre’s own quote belies her entire argument.  The crimes and attacks on democracy and justice by the Republicans have indeed been “calculated,” “malignant” and “so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored.”  And, democracy “cannot survive their being repeated.” 

I am not at all convinced that Joe Biden will even win the election.  The Republicans have been working for decades to install a system of voter suppression, stuffing the courts with right-wing religious zealots, voting system manipulation, data mining through social media (Cambridge Analytica) and legislation that erodes voting rights.  They have too much to lose to allow a Biden win and I do not think they will do so.  And withe Supreme Court packed with right-wing ideologues who have no respect for the law, I doubt we will get another chance to hold a fair election.

Lepore goes on to assert that Trump was elected in a “fair election.”  But, there is evidence that this is not the case.  A former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, an expert in election security, has said as much.   We have indictments of Russian nationals who hacked computer systems.  We have a Mueller report that details the handing over of computer voting information to the Russians by Paul Manafort.  And, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Lepore self-righteously asserts that truth and reconciliation commissions don’t take place after democratic elections.  Well, that may well not have been a democratic election.

And, then, idiotically enough, Lepore just asserts, without question, that we can trust “investigative journalism, a functioning judiciary, legislative deliberation and action and dissent” to solve any problems caused by the crime spree of the last four years.

Well, investigative journalism is the first thing to go in newsrooms taken over by conglomerates and has been gutted.  We certainly don’t have investigative journalism from television networks that are owned by corporations.  The Republicans have worked for decades to stock the courts with ideologues who have no respect for law, but for dogma and some of whom have even been deemed incompetent by their own Bar Association.  Mitch McConnell bragged recently on Fox News that he totally blocked any legislative agenda the Obama administration had in the last six years Obama was in office.  And, we just had an impeachment process where Republicans in the Senate voted not to even hear evidence against the President, let alone convict him.  Dissent has been met with violence and illegal surveillance of the protestors, and Lepore is suggesting we rely on people protesting during a pandemic.

In short, this essay is idiocy and the fact that the Washington Post published it is a travesty.  But, as Elie Mystal notes, it’s the “elite industrial complex at work.”  Rick Stengel was on MSNBC waxing poetic about the “lovely” way in which the Biden campaign refused to engage in recriminations.  And, Joe Biden is part of this complex.  As Lepore points out, Biden has already said that pursuing charges against Trump officials is “probably not very…good for democracy.” 

“We are facing too many crises, we have too much work to do, we have too bright a future to have it shipwrecked on the shoals of anger and hate and division.”  This was Biden at Gettysburg, delivering a speech that had been carefully crafted to make the case for unilateral surrender. 

So, Biden and the “elite industrial complex” like Lepore will work to convince us we just have to engage in “self-reflection.”  Sen. Cory Booker thinks what we need is a “return to civic grace.”

Leopore ends with the statement: “Lock him up” cannot be the answer to “lock her up.”  What she fails to see, however, is that one of them is guilty and the other is not.

Ginsburg, celebrity culture and “civil grace.”

Saturday 19 September 2020

I despise the celebrity culture that has taken over this country.  The Democratic National Convention was nothing other than a cheap, vacuous, celebrity infomercial devoid of policy and full of “cult of personality” programming.  It was an embarrassment. 

Somehow, we were supposed to believe that because Joe Biden is a nice guy and has lost family members, he should be president of the United States.  Somehow, we were supposed to pat ourselves on the back and glory in the fact that we had nominated an African American, Asian woman to be vice president.  Never mind the policies of these two people.  Never mind their histories.  It is supposed to be enough that these two are telegenic, just as nice as they can be, and fit certain categories of human beings.

That is evidently where we are.

After the convention we were treated to more infomercials.  In one of them, Kamala Harris had a charming, laughing, conversation with Barak Obama about Biden liking ice cream and wearing a certain kind of sunglasses.  This was seriously intended to get us to vote for the Democrats – the fact that the party elite could chat on television and laugh about the personal foibles of the candidate.  This is what they think of us.  This is nothing but insulting.

In the true fashion of this celebrity worship culture we have going on, the corporate media is this weekend, endlessly talking about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  We are in the middle of a war for  a democratic society, and we are engaging in celebrity worship.

As Elie Mystal pointed out writing in the Nation, we don’t have time for this, and Ginsburg would be the first person to see that we don’t have time for this.

Ginsburg occupied a pivotal position on the U.S. Supreme Court and her death has created a crisis that just illustrates the dysfunction of the government and the society.  The death of a judge, one judge, shouldn’t throw the country into a crisis.  The appointment of one judge shouldn’t mean the difference between democracy and authoritarianism.  But, it does.  It hands to the Republicans the opportunity to conclusively warp this society into an authoritarian kleptocratic state devoid of rights for regular ordinary human beings. 

This is where we are.  We have to fight this authoritarian take-over with everything in our beings.  But, tonight, on CNN they are hosting Scalia’s son to discuss (out of all the other things about Ginsburg’s life) the beautiful relationship between Ginsburg and one of the arch enemies of law and therefore democracy, Antonin Scalia. 

I’m sorry but I just can’t stomach this.  I suppose there is somewhere, something laudatory about being able to be friends with people who are sitting at the peak of privilege and wealth and power and working to destroy democracy and the rule of law for the rest of us, but I just don’t see it. 

If we have to sit through this eulogizing of Ginsburg, the last thing we need is to have right-wing Federalist Society zealots to talk about her.  The last thing we need is to try to convince people that what we need is more bipartisan cooperation.  No, we need less, and we need to fight for democratic law and democratic institutions.

The corporate Democrats who have much more reason to talk about Ginsburg, are bad enough.  Last night, Nina Totenberg was on Rachael Maddow talking about her friendship with Ginsberg.  She said wistfully that Ginsburg had planned to retire in 2016 and have her successor named by the first woman president.  Isn’t that special?  I might plan to have thoroughbred horses fly out of my ass, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

This story was presented as if it demonstrated something positive about Ginsburg, and it has been retweeted today by people who obviously think the same thing.

To me, it just demonstrates what was wrong with the Democratic Party elite in 2016 and what is still wrong with the Democratic Party elite today. 

Barak Obama declined to tell the American people the truth about something crucially important to them.  He refused to tell them that Russian operatives had intervened in the 2016 election to the extent of penetrating the voting systems in 50 states. 

Obama made this decision, as far as I can tell, because first, he was afraid of the reaction of Republicans if he came out and told the American people without bipartisan support.  He was so afraid of appearing partisan he lied by omission, lied about something vital to the functioning of democracy.  Mitch McConnell refused to join Obama and make a public, bipartisan statement and Obama didn’t have the guts to do it alone.

Second, Barak Obama was afraid of tarnishing his cherished legacy by appearing to be “partisan” in the 2016 election.  He was more concerned with his legacy (to people who despise him) than his country. 

Third, Barak Obama was so sure Hillary Clinton was going to win, he decided he wouldn’t have to tell the truth to the American people.  Clinton could solve the problem after she was elected.

All three of these excuses stink to high heaven and again illustrate something characteristic about the Democratic corporate elite.

This professional class of Democrats think they know better than the American people how to run the country.  They think that their judgement is better than everybody else’s. 

They can handle, among themselves, an unprecedented intrusion into the election process.  Why tell the unwashed masses?

Obama reportedly thought that telling the truth would shake the confidence of the American people in the election process.  He’s not the only member of the Democratic elite to think this.  There are an astounding number of people out there who will react like vicious dogs if the integrity of the election process is even questioned.

The logic of this position just amazes me.  It goes something like this.  The election process has been corrupted but we mustn’t tell the American people because it might shake their confidence in an election process that because of corruption can be no longer relied on.  So, it’s better to have the American people believe a lie, continue to trust an election system that can’t be trusted.  It’s better because we (the Democratic elite) can deal with it ourselves, behind closed doors.  That worked out really well.

This same kind of hubris evidently led Ruth Bader Ginsburg to think she could continue (in ill health and advanced age) to sit on the Supreme Court and have Clinton name her replacement.  Having the first woman president name her replacement made a good story, a fitting end to her career.  And, like Obama, she was convinced (so convinced she was willing to risk our future) that Clinton was going to win.  Even with a compromised election process (which they all knew about), Clinton’s baggage and low approval ratings and an e-mail scandal, Clinton was going to win.  Why?  Because they wanted her to.

I’ve got news for these people.  They don’t get to determine what’s going to happen.  They don’t control events.  What kind of delusional hubris leads one to stay in a position at the Supreme Court, a crucial position, a history changing pivotal position, counting on the fact that they are going to waltz out with the first woman president because that’s what they want to happen?

I’m sorry.  Ginsburg appears to have been a wonderful person, lawyer, activist, but someone genuinely concerned with and committed to the struggle, with the future of the country for ordinary people, would have resigned during Obama’s administration to make sure that the ideals she believed in and fought so hard for, had a chance of continuing. 

And, I fault not only Ginsburg but Obama and his administration for not pushing her resignation.  I ask you: What is wrong with these people?   

I keep going back to a film quote.  As Yankees are overrunning Atlanta, Aunt Pittypat is concerned about Scarlet having a chaperone.  Dr. Meade, in utter and complete frustration yells:  “Good God, woman, this is a war, not a garden party.”

But, this Democratic elite – the politicians, the “strategists,” the pollsters, the pundits – all of them are so filled with pride and smug assuredness that they can’t see what is happening around them.

Even now, after all the mistakes of 2016, the Democratic corporate elite seems to be waltzing off an electoral cliff supported by their own delusions.

Ginsburg wasn’t a healthy 50-year-old.  They knew she was ill, had known for years.  If they couldn’t convince her to resign when Obama could nominate a successor, they should have had a strategy for what they were going to do if she suddenly died during Trump’s administration.  They should have hit the ground running on Friday night, not sat stunned, grief stricken, and still counting on the Republicans to “do the right thing.” 

I mean, Jesus F…ing Christ.  Anybody who is now, four years into this administration, relying in any way on the Republicans to do the right thing, is just brain dead (I include Cory Booker in that category).

For the first time on Friday night, I heard Chris Hayes interview somebody (Rebecca Traister) who sounded like I and a lot of other people have felt for four years.  Traister was and said she was terrified and furious.  She sounded like somebody who was terrified and furious, not like the stable of “calmers”, the “institutions are holding” gang on MSNBC who have been interviewed today.  Cory Booker, Klobuchar, the presidential historians, Hirono (as much as I love her), Capehart, Jarrett.

I swear I think that part of the deal to convince all the corporate democrats to drop out of the race and endorse Biden was an agreement by MSNBC to interview them every fifteen minutes.

Last week, Cory Booker was on Ari Melber’s (also disgustingly celebrity laden) show claiming that what we needed was a “return to civic grace.”  That’s Booker’s answer to an authoritarian take-over, a return to “civic grace.”  I’m sure Mitch McConnell will take that “return to civic grace” and stuff it up Booker’s nose.

The “war room” for the wrong war: stealing the election

The New York Times yesterday published an article about Biden’s “war room,” a “major new legal operation” to deal with election protection.  Staffed with hundreds of lawyers and big names like Eric Holder, we are led to believe that the Biden campaign will, unlike campaigns before it (Clinton and Kerry, for example) be prepared to handle any threat to the election process. 

But, the article itself and the attitudes expressed by the people involved in this “operation,” demonstrate that both the NYT and the Biden campaign have swallowed hook, line and sinker the head-fake of the Trump administration.

The Biden campaign is described as responding to “baseless accusations of widespread fraud.”  But, the accusations of fraud are not baseless.

“It’s going to be fraud all over the place,” Trump said in June. “This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country…”  Trump should know.  The Republican party is orchestrating the corruption.

But, by accusing the Democrats of fraud, early and often, the Republicans accomplish the same head-fake they pulled off in 2016.  The Republicans yell fraud.  The Democrats respond that the election will be fair.  The head of this “operation” stated: “We can and will hold a free and fair election this fall and be able to trust the results.”   The Republicans cheat like hell and win.  The Democrats are left holding their private parts.  How many times do we have to watch this happen?

There the legal battles being conducted in numerous states, especially in swing states to suppress the vote.  In Florida, for example, an appeals court ruled Friday that people who had completed sentences for felonies would have to pay fines and fees before they could vote thereby imposing a poll tax. This is only one example.

Nowhere, nowhere does the article mention an effort of the Biden “war room” to confront perhaps the most dangerous of all threats to the integrity of the election, the utter lack of transparency of the vote count.

In fact what the article demonstrates clearly is that the Biden campaign is not going to touch this issue, and the corporate media is not going to bring it up. 

As Jonathan Simon has written:

“We are about to head into the most critical set of elections in living memory continuing to permit our votes to be counted unobservably and without verification in the partisan, proprietary, pitch-dark of cyberspace and trusting that manifestly corruptible process to deliver the truth—an honest and accurate counting of our votes.”

It’s a war room preparing for the wrong war, and we ought to be asking why?

MORNING RUNDOWN: Belarus, Putin, DoInJ; Barr, Post Office, RICO, “The Chickenshit Club”

joe biden

MORNING RUNDOWN

  • Widespread protests continue in Belarus. Protests have been happening in the major city of Khabarovsk for weeks after Putin “removed a popularly elected governor and replaced him with a hand-selected loyalist.  Putin is now in the position of allowing Lukashenko to flee to Russia (as he did with Yanukovych in Ukraine) and gobbling up parts of Balarus, or does he modulate his interference.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/08/15/putin-lukashenko-belarus-russia/
  • The Department of inJustice: The case against a company  charged with conspiring to defraud the government by orchestrating a social media campaign to interfere with the 2016 election was dropped in March by the Barr Justice Department.  This was a prosecution that had been pursued for two-years and was dropped weeks before the case was to come to trial. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/08/foreign-hackers-have-made-it-harder-us-prosecute-them
  • David Plouffe, along with others stress that the destruction of the effectiveness of the Post Office, is an emergency (see also Jesse Eisinger). He recommends prime-time hearings, now; subpoenas to Trump WH and other officials.  “This is a RICO case,” says Plouffe. Twitter  From the Democrats, silence, strongly worded letters.
  • Lest we Forget: Don McGahn is the nephew of mafia attorney, Pat McGahn, who brokered the AC Taj Mahal land deal between Donald Trump and mob boss, Little Nicky Scarfo.
  • Jesse Eisinger’s book “The Chickenshit Club” is one of the most important books in understanding what is happening with the Republican party and the Trump administration. Tweet (8/16/20)  “…cutting government and then pointing to a crippled government as proof that government doesn’t work has been a Republican strategy for 40 years.”  Republicans who are surprised at the inaction of the federal government in the pandemic and at the dismantling of the post office have not been paying attention to the policies of the Republican party they have been voting for.
  • Fascism not only “can happen here” it “has happened here.”  There have been other fascist movements in the United States.  Also, the Republicans are using flaws in the system to establish this Christian Nationalist authoritarian state.  Hint: Trump didn’t think of these flaws himself.     https://www.alternet.org/2020/08/expert-explains-how-trump-has-exploited-our-legal-infrastructure-to-advance-true-fascism-in-america/
  • Biden is already caving on health care for Americans. Democratic operatives tell “The Hill” that the most likely strategy is to “fix” Obamacare without providing a public option.   This is just one example of what a Biden/Harris administration will be like.  There will be repeated caving to corporate interests and the abandoning of the people they are begging to vote for them now.  “Powerful health care industry groups, ranging from drug companies to health insurers to hospitals, are strongly opposed to a public option, worried about its impact on their bottom line, and would fight any legislative push on the subject next year.  The industry is instead pushing the idea of a more modest ObamaCare fix that does not include a public option.”
  • https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/511909-battle-looms-over-biden-health-care-plan-if-democrats-win-big

 

 

GEORGIA ON MY MIND: Voting in Brian Kemp’s Georgia

kemp
Stealing the Vote
 
The Republicans are using a variety of methods to steal this election. At the moment, the focus is on disenfranchising people because their ballots by mail don’t arrive on time. The Republican party is actively sabotaging the post office to make sure that your ballot doesn’t arrive on time. But, this is just one of the issues.
 
In Georgia, for example, if the signature you use to sign your mail-in ballot does not match exactly the signature as you wrote it when you got your driver’s license, they can (and I suppose will) throw it out. For example, I use my first two initials and my last name to sign almost everything. It’s quicker and easier. But, I also sometimes write my first name, middle initial and last name. On the ballot I just used in the primary, I signed both ways just to make sure there was no confusion. Today, I learned that this means that my ballot was almost certainly thrown out.
 
If your signature changes in any way, since you applied for your driver’s license, your ballot can be thrown out.
 
There are a thousand and one different catches like this that can be used to throw your vote out.
 
1) ballot arrives late due to post office
2) signatures that don’t exactly match your driver’s license signature
3) having had your name stricken from the voter rolls because a name similar to yours appears in another state. (Read Greg Palast’s book about how many people were purged in Georgia because their first and last names were the same as someone in another state (for example, George Mason). These people were purged even though the Georgia person was named George A. Mason and the Virginia person was George B. Mason; even though the birth dates were different.
4) having been purged from the voter registration roles because you didn’t vote in two elections
 
This list goes on and on and on. It’s not reading that I especially enjoy, but if you want to understand the true depth of the voter manipulation that is going on, you have to do it. They are depending on people not reading about this, not researching this.
 
They are also depending on people NOT WANTING TO BELIEVE that the voting system is this terrible. I have had friends, Democrats, get angry, really angry because I tried to tell them about the research demonstrating how much vote manipulation is going on (in this case in Georgia). People get mad because they want to think that all they have to do is vote.
 
There is a reason the state of Georgia spent a small fortune on complicated new voting machines just before the election. And, there is a reason they made every polling place replace all their signs that said “I voted” with “I secured the vote.”  This is a propaganda campaign to convince people that their vote is counted in a fair election.
 
To give you just one example: the state of Georgia maintains that you have a paper ballot with these machines . A paper ballot means that your vote can be verified, right? You get a piece of paper printed out with your voting choices on it. You are supposed to check these and make sure they are right before running the paper ballot through the scanner which records your vote.
 
But, your actual vote, the vote that is recorded by the scanner that you put your ballot through, does not even recognize the printed material. It reads a bar code at the bottom of the page that YOU CANNOT READ. So, just because you check and see in the printed part that you voted for Biden, nothing prevents the bar code from saying you voted for Trump. You would never know.
 
Just recently, the State of Georgia said that in any recount, the recount would be confined to running the ballots through the scanner again. IF YOUR VOTE WAS RECORDED INCORRECTLY IN THE BAR CODE, RUNNING IT THROUGH THE SCANNER AGAIN ISN’T GOING TO CHANGE THAT.
 
The State of Georgia (run by the criminal Brian Kemp) was explicit. Any recount would involve ONLY running the ballots through the scanner again.
 
We cannot just assume that “overwhelming voter turn out” will win this election for us. Voter turnout means nothing if your vote is not counted, or counted incorrectly.