Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’


All right. I’m bracing myself for blowback from the identity-politics wing of the Democratic Party — that part that’s more concerned about patting themselves on the back, demonstrating their virtue, and shaming their more pragmatic brethren, than defeating Trump.

Think I’m talking about Joe Biden. Wrong! Biden is a corporate sell-out hack with no discernible virtues. He backed the Clinton “tough on crime” measures in the ’90s that helped increase mass incarceration; as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the run-up to the disastrous Iraq War, he not only voted in favor of that disaster, but avoided calling expert witnesses who would have called Bush/Cheney’s blatant dishonesty into question. He actively abetted that crime against humanity, helped sell it, because he almost certainly thought it would be to his political benefit to do so. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he totally screwed Anita Hill at the Clarence Thomas hearings — and helped saddle us with extreme-right authoritarian Thomas — by refusing to hear Hill’s corroborating witnesses about Thomas’s gross sexual harassment of Hill.

As VP, he enthusiastically supported Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s war on whistle blowers (thus criminalizing exposure of war crimes, while letting war criminals off the hook).

He also supported Obama’s decision to save the banks while screwing the millions of people who lost their jobs and/or homes who voted for Obama, the master bullshit artist, who betrayed us en masse. (Yes, I voted for Obama in 2008, hoping that his “hope and change” promises weren’t complete bullshit, complete dishonesty — I was wrong.)

Biden also supported Hillary Clinton’s engineered Libya disaster (with no exit strategy in sight), which she thought would make her appear “tough.”

And, of course, he used his VP shoulder to prop up the Obama/Clinton/Biden policy of support for “ISIS-with-oil,” the murderous Saudi Islamic regime.

Joe Biden is a complete fraud as a representative of the working class, and a symptom of everything that’s wrong with the Democratic Party.

Most recently, however, he was ambushed by Kamala Harris on day 2 of the Democratic debates. He was like a deer in headlights.  Notwithstanding that Harris’s attack was simplistic and borderline dishonest (yes, Biden did repeatedly praise racist ubermensch John Stennis), and completely missed the point, Harris did Trump a major favor.

It’s always the same with conventional identity-politics liberals, such as Harris: they pose a false dichotomy. In this case, that the “choice” was between forcing white kids to be bussed to shitty, predominantly black schools an hour away from their homes, or be “racist.”

This totally misses the point: Why are some schools shitty, with damn near no money, and others aren’t? Unequal funding!

The bussing “solution” to this is to maintain unequal, shitty schools in black areas (and around here Mexican areas), but to subject some white students to them as well to subject most black students to them, and to give a few black/Mexican students access to better “white” schools.

Can you think of a better way to set black and white (and Mexican) working people at each other’s throats? Why not equal funding across district lines? Or, better, across state or federal lines.

Why not? Why not equal funding? The status quo is called “artificial scarcity.” It’s how they manipulate us.

It serves the interests of the powers-that-be very well. Divide and conquer.

No one — not a single one — of the Democratic candidates, not even Bernie Sanders, had the guts to point this out. Not a one had the guts to point out that the very obvious solution is to get away from property-tax funding of schools and to turn to equal state (better, federal) funding for every damn school in the country.

No one called Kamala Harris on this. No one called her out on playing the false-dichotomy, racial-division game.

All successful improvement programs (notably Social Security, Medicare), are universal. They benefit everyone. To do less, as Harris (and Biden, and Clinton, and Obama) did is to set us up for division along racial lines — perhaps deliberately. Which plays into the hands of the GOP racists/enemies of humanity.

And let’s not even start on “reparations.” The fundamental assumption of this is that things are basically okay, but for racial disparities. Really? What reality are you living in? What about the Mexicans who the border crossed? What about the Native Americans? What about the illiterate European immigrants who died working in abusive, exploitative conditions (e.g., one of my grandfathers — an otherwise horrible excuse for a human being — who died from from silicosis after working for decades in awful conditions in a foundry — I remember at five, in the 1950s, watching him hurl his lungs up on my parents’ back porch, and then die, strangling before my eyes.) Yeah, I’m “privileged.”

Please. Stop dividing us. Please stop patting yourselves on the backs for how “woke” you are, and please shut the fuck up — please get over yourselves, stop getting in the way of real change. Real change means betterment for everyone.

Unless Kamala Harris stops playing the identity-politics card, unless she starts talking about and emphasizing measures that will make life better for everyone (regardless of race and gender), she’s playing Trump’s game.

 


(This is an update of a post I wrote about 18 months ago, and have updated a couple of times since.)

No, I’m not kidding. Trump has actually done a number of good things.

First, let’s list only the unalloyed positives:

  • Trump has armed the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) fighting ISIS in northern Syria, much to the annoyance of Turkish Islamist would-be dictator and ISIS enabler Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Update: As of January 2018, the U.S. is planning to keep 30,000 troops in northern Syria — the Kurdish part of Syria — and is promising to help the Kurds builda protective border wall on the Syrian-Turkish border, where for once a wall will be a good thing.)

As for the Kurds themselves, the YPG, a major part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, is the most effective military entity fighting ISIS in Syria. It’s also the only secular, democratic, libertarian (with a small “l”) force in the region in which gender equality is actively promoted. (There are all-women YPG units.)

It’s worth noting that to appease Islamist thug Erdogan, Hillary Clinton, had she won, would probably not have armed the YPG. All of the facts noted above have been obvious for years, yet Obama refused to arm the YPG. It’s a good bet that former Obama Secretary of State Clinton wouldn’t have, either.

Update 12-23-18: Trump, as was predictable, just betrayed the Kurds by announcing a US pullout from Syria. There were only 2,000 US troops there, but they served as a trip-wire preventing invasion by Ergoghan’s, Assad’s, Putin’s, and the Iranian ayatollah’s thugs. Trump just betrayed the only real allies the U.S. has in the region, the only ones effectively fighting ISIS. God help the Kurds. And god help the people in the region once ISIS comes surging back, like a virulent case of syphilis after an inadequate course of antibiotics.

(For more info, see “The Anarchists vs. the Islamic State.“)

  • Trump killed the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a “free trade” pact and mutant descendant of NAFTA. (I won’t even get started on NAFTA here; for now, suffice it to say that it screwed American industrial workers and Mexican small farmers — spurring a wave of jobless workers across the border,  desperate to provide for their families — while vastly benefiting transnational corporations.) Among other things, the TPP would have a allowed commercial “courts” to overrule U.S. laws, would have made the already atrocious copyright situation even worse, strengthening the hold of the media conglomerates, would have allowed U.S. pharmaceutical firms to force companies in signatory nations to stop producing affordable versions of life-saving drugs, and would have allowed foreign firms to sue the U.S. and U.S. state governments over “loss” of projected profits caused by environmental regulations.

Clinton was in favor of the TPP abomination, calling it the “gold standard” of trade agreements. Until she wasn’t in favor of it. If she’d won, there’d likely have been a few cosmetic changes to it which would have made it “acceptable” to her. And we’d have been further screwed. Trump just did her one better by denouncing NAFTA and then delivering . . . . . NAFTA.

Update: Trump just delivered the rather gay-sounding USMCA. (He even mimed “YMCA” in celebrating it.) It’s essentially NAFTA with minor tweaks and a few minor provisions thrown in from the TPP.  Its $16-an-hour provision might, might, serve as a very minor brake to the export of jobs overseas. (Check out what just happened with GM if you believe this.) At the same time, it contained a provision screwing Canadian and Mexican patients in favor of big pharma by increasing the length of time before generic drugs are available.

  • Trump is reportedly going to crack down on H-1B visa abuse. This type of visa allows employers to hire foreign workers for jobs for which there supposedly aren’t enough qualified American applicants. In practice, this program provides employers with indentured servants working for half the prevailing wages (often in the computer industry). Even worse, some “employers” have been more slave traders than job creators, hiring H-1B workers and then renting them to actual employers while taking part of their wages. (Ironically, in 2017 Trump took advantage of the closely related H-2B program to hire 70 low-skilled workers [cooks, maids, food servers] for his Mar-a-Lago resort.)

Update: Nothing has changed.

  • Trump, almost certainly out of personal pique against CNN, has opposed the ATT-Time-Warner merger, which would have further consolidated media control into fewer and fewer hands.

Update: The merger went through.

  • Trump, through his defeat of Clinton, has partially broken the hold of the corporate Democrats on the Democratic Party — the Republicans’ junior partner in the looting of the American working class — and made it at least possible that the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will ascend.

For decades, the corporate Dems have had a stranglehold on the party as they’ve catered to the corporate elite (e.g., Obama’s refusal to prosecute any of the banksters responsible for the financial crash), taken massive amounts of money from the corporate elite, and refused to advance policies (most notably “Medicare for all”) favored by a large majority of Americans, and an even larger majority of Democrats.

At the same time, the corporate Democrats have been chasing the chimera of the “center” (the maybe 10% of eligible voters who are so poorly informed that they can’t make up their minds until the last minute) while ignoring the vastly higher number of those eligible to vote who don’t even bother to do it (41% in 2016), largely because of disillusionment, largely because they can’t see any real differences between the parties (at least in terms of economics).

Next, a mixed but overall positive move:

  • Trump has been pressuring U.S. allies to increase their military spending to bring it more in line with U.S. spending and thus, in theory, relieve financial pressure on U.S. taxpayers. Thus far he seems to have had some success with Canada, which will increase its military spending by 70% over the coming decade. This would be far more impressive if the U.S. didn’t already account for 43% of world military spending, and if Trump didn’t want to drastically increase that spending.
  • Trump recently signed a judicial sentencing-reform bill. It doesn’t go nearly far enough but it’s a good first step in ending America’s mass-incarceration nightmare (under 5% of world population; 25% of the world’s prisoners).

As for other good things Trump has done deliberately, none come to mind. But he has also inadvertently done some good:

  • He’s laid bare the hypocrisy of the Republican Party on healthcare. Republicans had seven years in which to prepare a replacement for Obamacare, and, after they unexpectedly won the presidency in 2016 (plus both houses of Congress), they had to scramble to come up with a nightmarish mishmash of cuts and half-measures that would have cost 23 million Americans healthcare coverage.
  • Trump has laid bare the hypocrisy of American foreign policy rhetoric. For decades, American “leaders” have been spewing the same line about “defending democracy,” while they’ve been supporting many of the world’s most barbaric dictators and authoritarian regimes. Trump’s praise for Putin, Erdogan, mass murderer Duterte, and our war-criminal, Islamist Saudi “allies” brings out in the open America’s support for dictators and authoritarianism.
  • He’s laid bare the racism of the Republican Party. For half a century Republicans have catered to racists — restricting voting rights of blacks and latinos, persecuting undocumented immigrants, promoting the war on drugs that has devastated black and latino communities, promoting “tough on crime” (tough on poor people) laws, and promoting outright slavery of the incarcerated — while at the same time hypocritically hiding behind code words and insisting that they aren’t racist. Under Trump, Republican racism is out in the open. (Unfortunately, that racism sometimes takes physical form; the assaults and murders it produces are a hideous byproduct of it.)
  • By acting as an apologist for neo-Nazis in the wake of Charlottesville, and by pointing out that Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders, he’s put a spotlight on a seamy side of American “revolutionary” history that virtually no one talks about. (For more info on this see “A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn.)
  • Trump, by announcing the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, has ended the sick charade of the U.S. government’s pretensions of being an “honest broker” in the Middle East. In regard to Middle East policy, for decades the government has been hostage to the extreme right wingers in AIPAC, and to a lesser extent the religious right (some of whom want Armageddon), and has actively aided, abetted, and financed the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. Trump just tore away the “honest broker” mask.
  • Trump has interrupted the creeping fascism that has been strangling America since at least the time of Truman, in favor of galloping fascism. The good news is that Trump is so repulsive and so inept — good only at manipulating and swindling the fearful, desperate, uninformed, and angry — that he likely won’t succeed in destroying what’s left of our freedoms.

Had Clinton won in 2016, creeping fascism would have continued; nothing would have fundamentally changed; popular discontent and resentment would have continued to fester; even while they controlled both the House and Senate, Republicans would have blamed everything that’s going wrong on the “liberal” (she isn’t) Clinton; and an overt, more competent Republican theofascist would probably have taken power in 2020, which, had Clinton won in 2016, could have meant “game over” for American democracy.

  • Without intending to do it, Trump has spurred a wave of political activism in the U.S., the like of which hasn’t been seen in nearly half a century. This is a good thing for American democracy.

Contrary to popular belief, Trump’s victory in 2016 hasn’t been a total disaster, and in the end might turn out to be a good thing — assuming he doesn’t start a nuclear war or crash the economy. In the long run, a Clinton victory could (in my view would) have turned out a whole lot worse.

Of course, things could and probably will, for now, get worse under Trump. He and his minions will continue to degrade the environment, abet the banksters and other corporate thugs in the looting of the economy, and will continue to impose the evangelical theofascist social agenda on all of us.

Still, they’re probably too inept to stage a Reichstag Fire and get away with it. But god help us if there’s a major terrorist attack. Naomi Klein at The Intercept offers a cogent analysis of this possibility in “The worst of Donald Trump’s toxic agenda lies in wait — a major U.S. crisis will unleash it.”

For now, just be glad that Hillary Clinton isn’t in the White House, and let’s hope for a wave of new social movements; let’s also hope that in the meantime the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will at least temporarily stave off the corporate-lackey Democrats and the theofascist Republicans until there’s an opening for real social change.


Let’s face it: Barack Obama paved the way for Donald Trump. Trump would never have been elected without Obama.

I’m not talking about the overt, always blatant racism of Trump and (since the mid 1960’s with its “Southern Strategy”) the GOP. That’s a given. Divide and conquer, a strategy they’ve been pursuing relentlessly since the ’60s, with great success. They’ve bullshitted their racist victims into voting for them and directing their anger onto scapegoats.

How do the Democrats fit in, how do they help convince the victims of economic injustice and exploitation to kiss the butts of their victimizers?

Going back just a decade, it’s easy now to see how Obama and his Wall Street backers did it: In 2008 the economy was in freefall, and with plentiful corporate money behind him Obama served up heaping helpings of vacuous “hope and change” bullshit. He won big, but didn’t deliver. He betrayed the people who elected him.

It would have been remarkably easy for him to have been a transformative president, to do great good. But, despite his rhetoric, he had no intention of doing so. He had huge majorities in Congress, could have raised the minimum wage, instituted mass public works projects that would have put millions to work, given relief to foreclosure victims, and at least tried for Medicare-for-all.  Instead, he chose to be Mr. Do Nothing, Mr. Status Quo. He proposed and got a stimulus just big enough to save the big banks, but not the eight million Americans who lost their jobs and/or houses. (About eight million jobs vanished and there were about eight million house foreclosures.) So, since Obama did nothing to help them, those who lost their jobs and homes sank into an economic abyss. He very evidently didn’t give a shit about them, and as a result they didn’t give a shit about him, and either sat on their hands or voted against Obama’s party two year later.

Instead of real change, he delivered a quarter-of-a-loaf healthcare package that left tens of millions uninsured and preserved the profits of the parasitic insurance industry and big pharma, with the pathetic real benefits delayed until 2014. What an achievement.

Not a one of the banksters who caused the collapse was ever charged with a crime. Not one. In the greatest financial crime in human history. Not one, thanks to Obama.

As for the disaster in 2010, he’s entirely responsible. People knew he’d betrayed them and stayed away from the polls in droves or voted for the Republicans. There’s no way to disguise this. (Hillary Clinton, the ultimate status-quo candidate, whose slogan should have been “No we can’t!” also bears large responsibility for the election of Trump and the Republican congress in 2016.)

When you see entertainers and pundits such as Steven Colbert and Rachel Maddow cozying up to Obama and Hillary Clinton, please remember that they have historical amnesia, are cozying up to those responsible for the 2010 and 2016 disasters, those who paved the way for Trump. And if the Democrats nominate another corporate tool, such as Booker or Biden, they’ll pave the way for a less personally loathsome, but smarter and even more dangerous fascist than Trump.

Obama et al. paved the way for the electoral disasters in 2010 and 2016. The first step to avoid an even worse disaster (and I very much hate to say this) is getting out and voting in November.

Do it. Vote the Republicans out. Then let’s organize for real change.

 

 


(No links here to document anything. No need. Those who pay attention to multiple news sources and have some respect for objective reality already know all of this and/or can easily check it with google, Bing, Yahoo, or Duckduckgo [no record of your doing it] search. The members of the cult are immune to evidence.)

Let’s talk instead about the Trump Cult, the approximately one-third of registered voters who worship the glorious leader and take his latest lies as the gospel truth — never mind his daily contradictions and/or the abundant video evidence of him saying the exact opposite of what he most recently said — and the approximately half of white male voters who are members of the cult.

Rather than asking “What the hell is wrong with them?” let’s take as a given that they’re bad at evaluating evidence, aren’t the sharpest tacks on the board, search for even the sketchiest evidence confirming their biases, can’t read scientific studies contradicting their beliefs, are angry and frustrated, and want to lash out and hurt the first handiest scapegoats.

So, how do we on the left appeal to such people? Showing them evidence that they’re wrong doesn’t work. It just further maddens them. It might and probably does help with those on the fence, but it doesn’t help with hardcore, true-believing cultists.

So what does work? Rational argument and evidence don’t.

First off, offer them a better alternative — something that will address their desperate, day-to-day needs, the needs that produce their anxiety and fear. (Medicare for all comes to mind as a good first step).

Then show them the obscenely luxurious lifestyles of the 1%, the parasites who don’t work and live off the work of the rest of us. Ask them if that’s fair. If those doing no work deserve such luxury. (That the cultists will get no benefit from Trump’s tax scam will help here.)

Then ask them what’s wrong with their daily lives. How do they want things to be? What do they want for their kids?

Show them how Trump et al. can’t and refuse to deliver. And in turn be prepared to deliver — in spades.

The Obama/Clinton corporate-whore Democrats can’t and won’t deliver — remember Hillary’s “no we can’t” mantra, heaping scorn on Bernie’s common-sense, mildly reformist proposals. So the corporate, do-nothing Dems have got to go.

If we do all this, we might peel as much as 10% or 15% off of Trump’s core cult supporters.

The rest will remain the type of people who would have forced Jews onto boxcars 75 years ago.

But they’re a minority. (Thank what passes for god.)

If we can peel off that 10% or 15% and offer even mild relief to the miseries afflicting the others (and all us), that’ll do it.

For now.

La lucha continua.


Four-and-a-half years ago I published a piece — reproduced below — analyzing whether MSNBC was as bad as Fox News. The verdict was that it was bad, but not as bad as Fox.

Since then, things have apparently deteriorated at MSNBC. (I cut the cable cord  in late 2014 and have seen little of MSNBC since then.) Former MSNBC host Ed Schultz (who died recently) revealed a few months ago that MSNBC deliberately limited coverage of Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016, that MSNBC president Phil Griffin “often” told hosts what to talk about on their shows. and that he was fired because of his support of Sanders.

That was bad enough, but over the last year or two MSNBC’s support of Hillary Clinton and the rest of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party has become even more overt and has taken a very ugly turn: redbaiting of those on the left opposed to the corporate-lackey Democrats. This redbaiting includes the broadcasting of outright lies by at least one of the “analysts” from the intelligence agencies and Pentagon that MSNBC employs. Almost worse, when the blatantly false nature of the smears was revealed by one of their victims (highly respected journalist Glenn Greenwald), MSNBC not only took no action against the liar/smear-merchant, they didn’t even broadcast a single retraction. Greenwald has an informative post about the matter on The Intercept: “MSNBC Does Not Merely Permit Fabrications Against Democratic Party Critics. It Encourages and Rewards Them.”

At this point, MSNBC seems to have morphed into a mirror image of Fox “News.” Neither by any stretch of the imagination is a real news organization. They’re both propaganda machines whose primary difference is that they serve different masters.

My piece from 2014 on MSNBC and Fox is reproduced below.

* * *

MSNBC and Fox News are comparable in some ways, but differ in others. They’re similar in that they’re primarily opinion channels, and they both have political agendas. Fox is unabashedly right-wing evangelical Republican and outright Obamaphobic, while MSNBC is moderately secular-Democratic and outright Obamaphilic. Both have hired politicians as hosts and commentators, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin being the most prominent GOP politicians on Fox, and Washington Democratic insiders Chris Matthews and Lawrence O’Donnell being the most prominent on MSNBC.

But that’s where the similarities end. Fox at least makes a pretense of being a news channel, while MSNBC doesn’t–it consists of little but pro-Obama opinion. Fox spends about four times as much as MSNBC on news coverage, though the quality of that coverage tends to be poor. Fox viewers are the least well informed of all news viewers. They’re so poorly informed that people who do not follow the news at all are better informed, while MSNBC viewers are just barely better informed than those who don’t follow the news.

Another place in which Fox and MSNBC vary is in their approach to news and opinion. Fox “News” hosts get daily directives from the head of Fox “News,” Roger Ailes. Ailes tells them what stories to emphasize and even, apparently, the talking points they should use, as witnessed by the identical and near-identical phrasing Fox hosts routinely employ. (Catch “The Daily Show” for examples of this on a regular basis.) As well, Fox day in and day out does its best to manufacture stories that will benefit the Republican Party, reinforce Republican positions, and bolster the fears and hatreds of Fox viewers. Examples include outright false reports about ACORN perpetrating voting fraud; grossly exaggerated reports about the tiny New Black Panther Party intimidating voters; repeated reports about the relatively few cheaters using the SNAP program (food stamps–most beneficiaries are children and the elderly); and the never-ending blather about the “war on Christmas” and supposed attacks on religious freedom, which invariably turn out to be the government’s refusing to allow right-wingers to use public facilities for religious purposes or the government refusing to give bigots the right to discriminate based on their religious “principles.”

Rather than employing the same Machiavellian manipulation of the news, MSNBC takes a simpler approach: It seems to hire only hosts who share the same rather narrow, Obama-worshipping ideological views. Several of MSNBC’s most prominent hosts–Chris Matthews, Ed Shultz, Al Sharpton–virtually never criticize the Obama Administration for anything, while routinely heaping fulsome (in both senses of the word) praise on it. Other hosts will occasionally criticize Obama and his administration, though their criticisms tend to be muted, and they also routinely defend Obama. The most prominent hosts in this category are Rachel Maddow and Laurence O’Donnell. One suspects that even the most independent host on MSNBC, Chris Hayes, who dares to routinely criticize the Obama Administration from a left-leaning/civil-liberties viewpoint, mutes his criticism.

This brings up another apparent part of MSNBC’s approach: self-censorship. MSNBC hosts avoid certain topics like the plague. One very noticeable example is the Israeli brutalization of the Palestinians, and more especially the stranglehold of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) on American politicians and policies regarding the Middle East. MSNBC hosts never examine this stranglehold, and rarely mention it even when AIPAC (which represents the Israeli extreme right) and its numerous minions in Congress are trying to stampede the U.S. into war on Israel’s behalf.

Other matters that MSNBC hosts do their best to avoid include the Obama Administration’s assault on whistleblowers and civil liberties, and its massive, illegal surveillance program. Some MSNBC hosts even take the part of the Administration. Ed Schultz, for example, called whistleblower Edward Snowden a “punk,” and Lawrence O’Donnell a few nights ago smirked about Snowden’s being unable to criticize Putin’s policies in Russia because the U.S. government has trapped him there.

MSNBC is also careful to avoid critical examination of the role of the media in politics. This is especially so in its failure to analyze or to report on the role of the media in the run-up to the Iraq War. Last year’s documentary by Rachel Maddow, “Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War,” is the prime example. Remarkably, in this documentary, Maddow only analyzes the actions of Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, et al., not those of the media. This is remarkable, because without the active complicity of the media (including MSNBC), Bush and company would never have gotten away with the massive con job that resulted in the Iraq disaster.

Maddow apparently made a deal with the devil. She apparently thought that telling half the truth to a relatively large audience was better than telling the whole truth to a smaller one (that is, not on MSNBC).

Her documentary exemplifies the primary difference between Fox and MSNBC: Fox actively manufactures “news” to fit its political agenda, while MSNBC avoids news that threatens its political agenda.

Beyond that, Fox appeals to the absolute worst in its viewers: cruelty, a preening “patriotism,” feelings of victimhood, and fear and hatred of scapegoats–poor, black, brown, gay, feminist, and nonchristian human beings. By and large it succeeds in this.

MSNBC appeals primarily but not exclusively–there’s a heavy dose of hero-worship/bootlicking in the mix–to the best in its viewers:  hope and compassion. And then it strives to turn those admirable qualities into support for politicians who cynically and systematically betray its viewers’ hopes.

Which is worse, the cynicism and viciousness embodied by Fox, or the cynicism and betrayal of hope embodied by MSNBC? You decide. I can’t.

 


The Water Will Come front cover(The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, by Jeff Goodell. Little Brown, 2018, 340 pp., $28.00)

 

It’s easy, even if you accept the science, to think of global warming as an abstraction, because, as regards the human perception of time, it’s a long term trend. That’s true even in many places which are already being affected, such as Southern Arizona, which is projected to suffer the highest temperature increases of anywhere in the lower 48.

We’re already experiencing drastic warming. Last year was the warmest ever here, we had our hottest June ever, with three days at 115F or above (46C), and we had almost no winter (well, what passes for winter down here: It’s below 70? Break out the parkas!).

The change in the weather is already affecting vegetable and fruit tree planting seasons here: What I and other gardeners used to plant in October, we now tend to put off until November (hottest ever last year). Or December. (It was so warm this winter that I’ve put off buying and planting a peach tree until this fall, hoping for cooler weather then.)

So, I’m already affected by long-term temperature increases, if only as a minor annoyance. But most people here don’t garden, are caught up in daily life, and find it easy enough to ignore gradually warming temperatures — at least until the next 116 or 117F day, which they’ll promptly forget once it cools down even slightly.

But it’s not so easy to ignore global warming in other places, specifically low-lying coastal areas and islands.

Hence the value of Jeff Goodell’s latest book, The Water Will Come. It serves as a timely reminder to those of us who live inland, those who are climate-change deniers, and those with head-in-the-sand attitudes living in low-lying coastal areas, that climate change (with a focus on ocean warming and sea level rise) is all too real, is already having drastic, destructive effects in some areas, and that the destructive effects will get worse, especially if we don’t do anything to mitigate them, while we still can.

Goodell, in plain, “just the facts, ma’am” prose, explores what’s already happening in places as diverse as Alaska (Inuit villages falling into the rising sea), Miami (ever-worse flooding), and the very low-lying Marshall Islands (which will disappear). Goodell does this through not only presenting the scientific facts, and through descriptive passages, but also through interviews with many local people who provide graphic illustrations of the effects of sea level rise on daily life.

While that’s valuable, I wish Goodell would have spent more time on mitigation efforts and ways of reducing CO2 emissions in the short term. But that’s not the point of The Water Will Come — those are topics for other books. Goodell’s point is that we have a real problem, and we need to start addressing it now.

If there’s one real fault with The Water Will Come, it’s that Goodell gives the Obama Administration, and Barack Obama himself, a complete pass in regard to dealing with climate change (and everything else). There are several passages in the book dealing with Goodell’s interviews with Obama Administration officials, and one with Obama himself, and the tone in those passages borders on worshipful.

Given how awful Donald Trump is, there’s a tendency on the part of liberals to venerate Obama while ignoring the fact that he was a lousy president who betrayed those who voted for him.

When he had real power, with big majorities in both houses of Congress during his first two years, what did Obama do? He produced a grossly inadequate stimulus package that was just large enough to save the big banks, but not the millions upon millions who’d lost their jobs and homes — for them, he did next to nothing; he pushed through a grossly inadequate healthcare measure (Michael Moore called it a “quarter of a loaf” measure) that was designed to preserve the parasitic healthcare insurance industry and big pharma; and beyond that, he didn’t even try to accomplish anything significant regarding climate change or much of anything else. (For more on Obama’s betrayal of the people who voted for him, see “Obama and His Base: An Abusive Relationship, part 3.“)

(I mention all this for two reasons: 1) one always suspects, generally correctly, that when writers treat politicians reverentially, it’s because they’re not fully doing their jobs — as Frank Kent famously said, “The only way a reporter should look on a politician is down”; and more importantly 2) because, if we elect another business-as-usual, corporate Democrat in 2020, it’s a good bet that his or her response to the climate crisis will be, as usual, very inadequate.)

But aside from the Obama worship, there’s little to dislike in The Water Will Come. The book is a useful reminder and illustration of the seriousness of the global warming problem, how bad its effects already are in some places, and how much worse those effects are likely to get — especially if we don’t start making real changes now.

Recommended.


It’s been a while since we put up an installment in our ongoing “interesting an marginally useful internet crap” series. Well, wait no more. Hold onto your hats and enjoy. We’ll start with the mind-bogglingly sick:

  • Let’s says you’re a religious organization with a history and ongoing problem of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. How do you deal with it? Well, the first step is easy: you continue to present yourself as a paragon of virtue, the ultimate moral authority. But beyond that? If you’re the Catholic Church, you transfer the problem to another parish. If you’re evangelical, you forgive the transgressor and welcome him back (and keep sending him “prayer offerings” or voting for him) as long as he says he repents — never mind his actually doing anything about his transgressions. (Among innumerable examples, see former U.S. Senator David “Diaper Man” Vitter and Jim “Weasel Jesus” Bakker.)
  • But what do you do about abuse if you’re the squeaky clean Mormon Church? Let’s say your clergy (in most cases bishops) get requests from wives for counseling about violent physical abuse from their husbands? What to do? If you’re a Mormon bishop, the answer is obvious: tell the women that the abuse is their fault, that they should stay in the abusive relationship, and that if they leave they’re risking their eternal salvation.
  • Speaking of creepy things Mormon, it’s a normal practice in that church for grown men, Mormon bishops, in one-on-one “worthiness” interviews, to grill and shame prepubescent and pubescent boys and girls about their sexual fantasies and masturbation. Lately, victims of this abuse have recorded some of these disgusting sessions and have then taken the recordings to a Mormon whistleblower site, Protect LDS Children, where they’ve been posted online. The Mormon hierarchy’s response? Are they ending this horrible, abusive practice? Nope, far from it: they tried to get the Utah legislature to change the state’s wiretapping law so as to prohibit the recording of the invasive interviews.
  • And while we’re on the topic of disgusting things . . . Donald Trump. (Apologies to Steven Colbert for stealing that joke.) Trump famously bragged that he could kill someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it. We’d go further: Donald Trump could strangle a dog and then sodomize its corpse on national TV, and his followers would praise him for it, speaking admiringly of how “out of the box” and what a “different kind of president” he is. So, even though Trump’s minions seem immune to reason and allergic to objective reality — in fact, they seem proud of being willfully ignorant — if you have friends or relatives who are Trump supporters but don’t yet have that glassy-eyed, thousand-yard stare, you might point them in the direction of “101 Ways Donald Trump has Betrayed his Populist Agenda.”
  • As well, James Risen, the former New York Times journalist Obama’s “justice” department came close to jailing in Obama’s anti-whistleblower jihad, has a lengthy, highly detailed and well worth reading series on The Intercept titled, “Is Donald Trump a Traitor?
  • While we’re on the topic of assholes, Deadspin recently put out its annual post compiled from emergency room reports, “What Did We Get Stuck In Our Rectums Last Year?
  • In the “please, please, tell me this isn’t true” category, a right-wing Swiss politician, Daniel Regli, has blamed gay suicides on “incontinence due to weakened anal muscles” rather than on homophobia, discrimination, and gay bashings.
  • We can’t think of a good transition to this one, so we’ll just say that for once an Onion piece is not only amusing but has useful and timely information: how to delete your Facebook account.
  • If you’d like some good news (yes, there actually is some), TechXplore has a short article explaining energy-source economics, “Fossil fuels blown away by wind in cost terms“; the piece also covers photovoltaics in addition to wind.
  • Finally, every now and then a news item just makes you want to smile. The BBC recently published such an item: “South African lions eat ‘poacher’, leaving only his head.” The BBC quotes Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe as saying of the victim, whose head was found next to a loaded hunting rifle, “They ate his body, almost all of it, leaving only his head and some remains.”

And, other than saying Bon appetit! . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . That’s all folks!

Porky Pig