Archive for March, 2016

TONIGHT (3/25/16): Chomsky, Snowden and Greenwald — A Conversation on Privacy

Posted in GOP, Politics on March 25, 2016 by The Management

I beg you to watch this instead of March Madness.  Brought to you by the invaluable The Intercept  (Glenn Greenwald’s new project).

Here’s the link.

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This Idea That Bernie is Somehow Making Hillary More Liberal. . .

Posted in Politics on March 21, 2016 by The Management

You frequently see this concept floated in the dozens of monthly thinkpieces, oftentimes even plainly stated as if it’s somehow incontrovertible that Bernie’s campaign will “at least” result in Hillary having to adopt some of his platform for her general election run.  Like he’ll rub off on her or something.

The problem is that it’s utter bullshit, and it betrays whichever you think is better: a) a smarmy, patronizing disingenousness, or b) a frightening and shameful naivete conerning the reality of 21st century politics.  If you haven’t learned the pandering game by now, you were either born yesterday — I mean literally that you’re young and forgivably ignorant, born in the last twenty years or so — or you have been viewing political proceedings through a blindfold for the last few decades.

It’s a phenomenon that everyone old enough and aware enough has seen before: primary season is for the base, so the candidates go extreme to the ends of their respective spectra.  (Incidentally, on the Republican side, years of this pandering to the most extreme elements has finally culminated in the ongoing disgrace that is Donald Drumpfism.)  Then, once they have the nomination sewn up, they perform the notorious Pivot, where they essentially abandon their base — they shift their pandering from their base to the newly interested moderates, independents and undecideds.

There’s nothing controversial here.  It’s widely acknowledged, accepted and excused.  It’s even difficult to meaningfully argue that it should be any different.  It’s just the way our political process works.  Without spending too much time to check I would imagine it has worked this way for decades, even generations.

In this context then, everything Hillary is saying right now is more liberal by several degrees than what she will be saying in a few months.  Depending on which Hillary you accept as “real,” it’s more liberal than what she actually believes.  Her record definitely indicates that she is much more conservative than she has been sounding around Bernie.  Regarding foreign policy, she is as hawkish as most Republicans.  Regarding Wall Street. . . well, I think people who have been paying attention pretty much know what we’re getting with Hillary and financial regulation.  Regarding criminal justice, the two biggest factors I can see are her support for her husband’s horrendous reform bill 20 years ago, and the fact that she received about $130,000 from the private prison lobby (which she has since returned, likely as part of her pandering efforts once it got exposed).

In fact, Hillary is actually only “progressive” in a few domains, at least in the sense that many progressives understand the word.  One of these is health care, where she likes to trumpet her efforts in the 1990s to pursue Universal Health Care.  She has backed off that goal considerably since then, which is almost certainly related to her accepting millions of dollars in donations from the pharmaceutical and insurance industries since her first Senate run in 2000.  If you asked her about the correlation I’m sure she would deny it in mock outrage, just as she accused Bernie of “impugning (her) character” with relation to Wall Street donations.  Impugning character, or stating a fact and then drawing a logical conclusion from that fact?  You say tomato, I say to-mah-to.

With regards to health care these days, Hillary is only “progressive” in the sense that she doesn’t want to repeal Obamacare.  In other words, she’s not a rabid industry shill like the batshit insane GOP, so she’s therefore liberal.  That’s a false dichotomy folks.  In actuality, the only areas that Hillary is truly progressive anymore are with respect to women’s rights, immigration, and gun control.  Of course her position on immigration is “evolving,” to quote the fashionable parlance, as just a couple years ago she was advocating for the deportation of child refugees from Central America, and just this year refusing to state that she would not do it again.  She’s still more progressive, however, than Republicans on the issue, and immigration along with women’s rights and gun control are admittedly significant areas.  But they’re not more significant than income inequality and starting wars, and in most other fields Hillary is barely distinguishable from one of the few remaining moderate Republicans.

So let’s consider this idea again, that Bernie will somehow force Hillary to be more liberal.  I’ve even seen arguments for him staying in the race until the convention just so the DNP will be forced to include Bernie’s items on their official platform.  In anything other than the immediate, temporary sense, this is obviously mistaken.  Hillary is wearing the progressive mantle like she’s a spokesperson at a photo op — she can’t wait to shrug out of it and relax at home in her center-right bathrobe. In fact, the pivot has already begun, with her speeches beginning to eschew progressive rhetoric in favor of attacks on Donald Drumpf’s divisiveness.

Regardless of how one feels about Hillary, the Pivot is something that happens with everyone, all but the most virulently ideological politician.*  Even the outrageous Drumpf has shown signs of pivoting lately, occasionally tying on psuedo-civil rhetoric to see how it hugs in the crotch.  Given this, everyone should know that Hillary, in the next few months, will become significantly more moderate.  Even Hillary’s opponents recognize how capable a politician she is, and she’d be a very incompetent politician indeed if she weren’t planning to pivot, and soon.  Exactly which of Bernie’s raging liberal policies do we expect her to take with her on this upcoming journey?

This would all be problematic enough if there weren’t also significant evidence that Hillary was never that progressive to begin with.  From foreign policy to prison reform, Wall Street and trade (where she supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership before Bernie cajoled her into opposing it, and after which she will almost certainly support it again)**, it is abundantly clear to those who care for facts that Hillary has only been saying progressive things for the last several months in order to appeal to Bernie’s voters.  When those voters are out of the way she won’t have to pander to them anymore, and she can go back to being her center-right self.***

The point is, Bernie is not pushing Hillary to say anything right now that any other liberal candidate would not have similarly achieved.  And the amount of time he remains in the race will mean precisely nothing come summertime.  Will some of the progressiveness that would have slid off her had he exited in March now somehow “stick” because he hung around another month or two?  Will Hillary, a highly intelligent, 60-something person suddenly realize she hasn’t been progressive enough her entire life, and engage in a reflective re-assessment of her political views?  Or will Hillary just go back to being the person she’s been for at least the last two decades and probably longer?  Which is more likely?

The root of the issue is that many choose to see Hillary as a liberal-at-heart who has to frequently disguise herself as a centrist in order to Get Things Done.  The truth, however, appears to be exactly the reverse: Hillary’s core is precisely how it has appeared through her actions for the vast majority of her political career; the leftist disguise is what she puts on every now and then, when she has to go trolling for progressive votes.  Actions speak louder than words, folks.

I understand the urge to seek a silver lining in Bernie’s demise.  Or perhaps it’s an urge for rationalization among Hillary’s more liberal supporters.  But the bottom line is that both camps are fooling themselves.  Hillary is and will be who she always has been: an ambitious, craven public servant who will say whatever the polls and her donors tell her to (but probably not in that order).  In other words: a superb politician.  And a superb politician don’t let no Bernie Sanders throw her off her game plan.

———-

*The astute among you will wonder: well what about Bernie?  He’d pivot too, wouldn’t he?  Not that it’s relevant — because the question is whether or not Bernie will somehow make Hillary more liberal — but I would bet against it if I had to.  Granted, we’ll never know because he’s not going to win the nomination, but he’s a guy who only adopted the “Democrat” label for publicity and has kept to his decades-long platform of Democratic Socialism with remarkable tenacity.  He would have little to gain and much to lose by trying to moderate himself in pursuit of centrist voters.
**By the way, on that Politifact article please note the dramatic change in rhetoric from her last available comment in November of 2012, until almost two years later when she knew she’d be running for President.
*** And just look what she’s saying about Israel/Palestine WHILE BERNIE IS STILL IN THE RACE.  Clearly a real human rights champion, eh?

Things to Know. . .

Posted in Feminism, GOP, Politics on March 19, 2016 by The Management
  • Glenn Greenwald discusses what’s truly going on in Brazil right now, including important historical context and the U.S.’s responsibility for the current situation.
  • A brilliant article by Eric Levitz of The New Yorker about why the GOP must answer for the disintegration of Kansas and Louisiana, the two states that have been laboratories of pure conservatism for the last several years.
  • Jason Linkins explains just why Hillary is allowing a failed CEO to host her fundraiser.
  • Kathryn Joyce reveals a deeply disturbing culture of male chauvinism and sexual harassment in U.S. national parks and forests.

A Friendly, Open Letter to Film Marketing Folks (In Helpful List Form!)

Posted in Cinema on March 18, 2016 by The Management

Dear Madams and Sirs –

Please. . .

  1. Stop putting spoilers in your trailers.
  2. Stop telling us the entire story of the movie in the trailer.
  3. Stop releasing three or four trailers when two (at most) will do.
  4. Review the recent “Star Wars” marketing campaign and take detailed notes.
  5. Re-watch the 2nd “Batman v. Superman” trailer and the 2nd “Terminator: Genisys” trailer and brand them onto your sizzling brain in whatever cortex governs what not to do.  (Also refer back to Item #4, which absolutely applies to well-known franchises like these).
  6.  Review the “Deadpool” marketing campaign and try to get creative.
  7. Aim for 90 seconds of trailer.
  8. Don’t cut two different versions of your trailer and release them at the same time in different markets when one of them is significantly better than the other.
  9. If marketing for Marvel/Disney, please have items #1-3 tattooed somewhere on your body (at a location of your choosing).

Sincerely,

Somebody helping out of the kindness of his heart but who will also gladly accept payment for said help.

NPR Dropped the Ball at the End of the Orrin Hatch Interview

Posted in GOP, Politics, Supreme Court on March 17, 2016 by The Management

This morning NPR interviewed Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) concerning the GOP’s unprecedented and shameful obstruction of Obama’s nominee to replace deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The interview went about as you expected, with Hatch predictably reiterating the GOP’s obstructionist position, proclaiming that “voters deserve a say” in who the new Justice will be while clearly neglecting that voters already had a say in 2012. . . unless he and the rest of his brigade are somehow implying that voters in 2012 were ignorant of the presidential term length, or perhaps that they voted for Obama but with the caveat that he only have power for three years instead of four.

There was mild news in the sense that Hatch left open the possibility of eventually confirming Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, but only after the elections in November.  Clearly this would only happen if Hillary wins and if Republicans then calculate that she’s likely to nominate a more liberal candidate than Garland.  I’m not sure what factors would go into such a calculation, and I’m personally skeptical they’d have anything to worry about given that Clinton is a Republican herself on every issue except for women’s rights and health care.

But all in all, nothing new.  We knew all this already.  People paying attention know how hypocritical it is of Hatch to block Garland (no matter what he wants to call it), since Hatch is on record as extolling Garland as essentially an ideal bipartisan nominee from a Democratic president.  Reasonable people know that the Republicans are committing dereliction of duty for purely political motives.

The most interesting comment for me came at the very end, and it’s where NPR dropped the ball.  Hatch, winding down, explicitly stated that Democrats would be doing the exact same thing if the positions were switched.

Now two questions immediately occurred to me upon hearing this, and the NPR interviewer asked neither of them.  The first was simply, “How can you know that?”  I mean, he stated this weird hypothetical so confidently that you’re tempted to believe it’s a statement of fact.

But if you think about it for even a second you realize that not only is there no way he could know that for sure, but his opinion doesn’t even follow logically, knowing how meek and cowardly Democrats typically act in the face of Republican belligerence.  It’s almost impossible for me to even imagine the Democrats doing this.  Which rabid Democratic senators would be leading the charge.  Reid?  I guess it’s possible.  But who would support him?  Hatch’s statement is simply and outrageously ignoring the huge disparity in extremism between the two parties.

Let’s say Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away suddenly at the end of a Republican administration.  Democrats would most likely hem and haw a little bit about how they hoped the president would at least select a more moderate judge considering he was on the way out and was replacing a liberal stalwart.  Then, after the president nominated the 2nd Coming of Scalia, they would whine a little bit about how unfair it is but then cave in once Republicans began berating them nonstop about how obstructionist they’re being.

How many of you honestly believe Hatch’s version is more realistic than mine?

In any case, the second question that occurred to me would have been more useful, though it wasn’t as instinctual as the first so I don’t necessarily blame the interviewer for not asking.  It was, “Granting your hypothetical, if Democrats were blocking a Republican nominee as you claim, what would your reaction be?”

And I would have sincerely loved to hear his response to this one.

But yeah, NPR failed to challenge Hatch on his illogical closing argument, and they missed a wonderful opportunity to further expose GOP hypocrisy on this issue.  In a political and media age where truth is becoming increasingly scorned, and hypocrisy increasingly met with impunity, it is all the more incumbent upon our media members that they hold public servants’ feet to the flames.  Please get on your game, NPR.

Help us, non-corporate media — you’re our only hope.

The Calculated Lies of Donald Drumpf

Posted in Drumpf, GOP, Politics on March 14, 2016 by The Management

When you hear the phrase “calculated lie,” the connotation is usually reserved for some piece of misinformation that is deliberately, carefully and cynically crafted in order to delude a gullible audience.  But this is not at all the sense in which Donald Drumpf’s lies are “calculated.”

Drumpf’s lies meet the “cynical” criterion but fail the other two by a wide margin.  His lies are utterly casual and careless, almost in a way that leads one to believe they’ve become reflexive.  But this does not negate the notion that his lies are calculated; it merely reorients us as to the way in which they’re calculated.  The calculation of Drumpf’s lies do not apply to one specific lie, as we normally understand the term “calculated lie,” but rather to his general principle of truth, which is: it matters not one bit.

The calculation of Drumpf’s lies refer to the moment many decades ago when he consciously realized that he could say whatever he wanted with impunity.  He is not a brilliant man but he’s shrewd, and it must have occurred to him at a fairly young age that with his essentially unlimited resources and corresponding insulation from criticism (via either the media or the common citizenry), he could fabricate reality at will and never face any repercussions that he couldn’t buy his way out of.  With enough shamelessness he probably wouldn’t have to pay at all.

And it is the results of that calculation — you could call it the “Original Calculation” — that we see today in his brazen, breathtaking disregard for truth or reality.

You see it when he says the man who rushed his stage in Ohio was Isis and that he was dragging a U.S. flag on the ground, maintaining this fiction even in an interview where the journalist pointedly rebutted each facet of his statement.  You see it several months ago when he claimed to see broadcast video of New Jersey Muslims celebrating on the streets after 9/11.  You see it in the recent debate when he clearly stated he has been audited by the IRS for the last 12 consecutive years (and that’s why he can’t release his tax documents).  You see it when he calls into a show and states, for example, that John Oliver has invited him onto his show “four or five times,” when it simply hasn’t happened.

He does this because he has long since “calculated” that brazenly lying results in scant penalties and virtually unlimited rewards.  He crafts a fictional, emotionally appealing narrative that will attract loyal followers while building his own status, and he does it secure in the knowledge that fact-checkers will rarely get as much media attention.  Even if they do, the first, outrageous claim is usually the one that sticks.

And based on this calculation, Drumpf has effectively straitjacketed his honesty and can now confidently state literally whatever he pleases.  It’s not so much whether he knows or not that he’s lying anymore, it’s actually that he no longer cares and probably hasn’t for decades.  He doesn’t care because it’s in his brand’s best interest not to.  It’s analogous to sociopathy, where we don’t so much call the perpetrator “immoral” as “amoral” — they just don’t care about morality.

Similarly, Drumpf isn’t “not truthful,” he’s “a-truthful.”  It’s a no-lose situation for him, especially since he has long since lost both his integrity and dignity.

Interestingly, once you begin to listen to Drumpf through this filter, you can spot exactly when he’s lying.  He’s blustering and rambling, and amidst the bluster he spews some ridiculous factoid that simply sounds ludicrous.  You can almost hear in his voice that he doesn’t believe it.  Pay close attention to his facial expressions at these moments as you may be treated to a rare glimpse of the endangered species known scientifically as Conscientius drumpfanacus.

Unfortunately it is up to the national media to consistently and relentlessly expose these lies and hold him accountable, and I’m skeptical that they’re up to the task.  Honestly, at this point there’s no guarantee that he wouldn’t still win the public relations battle anyway.

The future of politics is here and it’s a shit-show.