Tag Archives: Trump

The Weaponization of Language (Part 2a): Censorship update

From The Guardian the day after I posted The Weaponization of Language (Part 2): Censorship

Faced with an appalling US coronavirus death toll, the right denies the figures

Fox News is foremost in promoting the idea that official figures are inflated, whereas experts believe more people have died

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As Donald Trump agitates for the US to reopen, the American right appears to have found a novel way to deal with the rising coronavirus death toll: deny it altogether.

Top Trump officials, huddled in the White House, itself the subject of a coronavirus outbreak, have according to reports begun questioning the number of deaths – and the president is among the skeptics.

It’s a handy thought process for an administration desperate to send Americans back to work even as deaths from the virus rise each day, with marked surges in some traditionally Republican states.

. . . . 

Worryingly, the disinformation push seems to be working. An Axios-Ipsos poll found that the death toll has become a political issue, 40% of Republicans believing fewer Americans are dying from coronavirus than the official toll says.

A separate study, published at the end of April, revealed the stark consequences of prominent figures underplaying the impact of Covid-19. A group of researchers tracked the spread of coronavirus among viewers of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, after Hannity spent weeks downplaying the threat.

“Greater exposure to Hannity,” the researchers wrote, “leads to a greater number of Covid-19 cases and deaths.”

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Trump is Merely the Distraction

A little rant:

No-one with “every single thing that could be wrong with a human being” could just walk in and become President of the United States without a little help from somewhere. So here we are, people going crazy with frustration as Trump does and says more and more wrong things. The “wrong things” are why his base loves him, of course. It’s a serious situation.

The real fault surely, as we all must know, is that

a. the Republicans know that supporting Trump is their only chance of protecting the economic and class interests of those they represent;

b. the establishment Democrats represent the other wing of the same economic and class elites as demonstrated by their nominations for Hilary Clinton and now Joe Biden to represent them.

The Coronavirus represents another opportunity for the corporations to entrench their power and wealth at the expense of the rest of the nation. As long as everyone is focused on the idiot showman and all of his nonsense they can get away with it largely unnoticed.

Meanwhile, the showman has accelerated a total breakdown in any ability of his supporters and opponents to actually talk and debate with each other. All criticism has been branded “fake news” of persons with some sort of mental syndrome. If one side attempts to focus on the facts of a record of behaviour the other side focuses on a selection of words and facts that portray an “alternative reality”. There is no common ground in the “conversation”.

A showman and an audience divided into two competing “realities”.

Meanwhile, untouched, the real powers who benefit from this whole scenario.

Elections are bought. The debates focus on the criminal clown and people rage within the echo chambers of different “realities”. Even if one reality is indeed “the” reality, the focus is still on the showman.

Somehow the focus needs to be redirected against those who buy the elections, that is against those who are benefiting from the political system that represents the corporate capitalist elites, against those politicians who are benefiting from all the attention, both supportive and critical, being on Trump.

The corporate capitalist system makes a mockery of what is called a “democracy” and is driving us all to any number of disasters.

End of my little rant.

The Dumbing of America

In a single Easter weekend (that still has a day or two to go) . . . .

From happy slaps on the back for the most solemn day of the Christian calendar . . . .

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to understanding the “real” reason he has critics . . .

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to catching up with ten-day-old news and proving he didn’t even read it anyway . . .

(I first read that “First” news in a 2nd April article of The Intercept: Coronavirus Started in China, but Europe Became the Hub for Its Global Spread. “NAMED sources” in the New York Times article are . . .

    • Harm van Bakel, a geneticist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
    • Adriana Heguy, a member of the N.Y.U. Grossman School of Medicine
    • Maciej Boni of Penn State University
    • Trevor Bedford, an associate professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington
    • Sidney Bell, a computational biologist working with the Nextstrain team
    • Peter Thielen, a molecular biologist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory)

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to not knowing the difference between bacteria and viruses . . . .

So…he doesn’t even remember that antibiotics can’t touch viruses? They must have told him, they must have told him a hundred times, because that’s who he is, but I guess a hundred times he didn’t listen. (Ophelia Benson)

Jesus christ, the man is an idiot . . . . He’s never more stupid than when he pretends to be smart. (PZ Myers)

TRUMP: “Antibiotics used to solve every problem and now one of the biggest problems the world has is the germ has gotten to brilliant that the anti-antibiotic can’t keep up with it. … there’s a whole genius to it … not only is it hidden, but it’s very smart.”

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To the Dumbing of America . . . 

 

(I have since discovered Susan Jacoby has an article titled Dumbing of America in a 2008 edition of The Washington Post. To bring her point to the level of the Presidency of the U.S. she compared George W. Bush’s “I am the decider” dismissal with F.D. Roosevelt’s invitation for his radio audience to have open maps before them so they could more completely follow his speech. Little could she expect what was to come.)

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Every Single Thing . . . 

Every single thing that could be wrong with a human being is wrong with him. But the single most dangerous thing about Donald Trump is how unbelievably stupid he is. It’s not the most dangerous thing in someone who has no responsibilities, but in a President it’s the most dangerous thing.

(Fran Lebowitz in interview with Michael Schulman, H/T Butterflies and Wheels)

What I’ve Learned This Week about the U.S. and Impeachment

As an Australian I am not as immersed in U.S. political news as some readers of this blog but I try to keep up with the main points that I think have some relevance for the rest of the world. A few days ago I naively posted Woops! thinking it was going to cause some sort of crisis for Trump. Naive was the word. At that time I had not fully appreciated (perhaps I had forgotten) the extent to which an impeachment process is not bound by formal judicial processes, but rather . . .

Professor and impeachment expert Michael Lawlor says that members of Congress don’t have to act anything like attorneys, judges or even jurors when investigating, authoring or considering articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

That’s because impeachment is inherently political–not legal, according to the University of New Haven associate professor of criminal justice. Lawlor explained how the law doesn’t strictly apply to impeachment via an op-ed in The News-Times on Monday.

“This is not a criminal trial,” he notes. “There need not be specific allegations at first. When articles of impeachment are considered, they need not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In fact, there is no evidentiary standard. Hearsay, conjecture, your own political instincts are all fair game. There is no appeal from your decision.”

As Law&Crime previously reported, impeachment is a quasi-legal process that only bears many striking similarities to bona fide legal inquiries largely because that’s what people, including members of Congress, think impeachment is supposed to look like–since that’s how such proceedings have often looked before. . . . 

“This is a political remedy to a political problem,” Lawlor continues. “It is a process that frustrates and confounds the best criminal defense attorneys. It is not court. You must not be distracted by legal arguments that assume trial-like procedures and standards.”

The op-ed also features a relevant quote from former president Gerald Ford–himself somewhat familiar with impeachment: “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

Kalmbacher, Colin. 2019. “Legal Expert on Impeachment: You Don’t Need ‘Specific Allegations at First,’ Hearsay Is ‘Fair Game.’” Law&Crime. October 3, 2019. https://lawandcrime.com/high-profile/legal-expert-on-impeachment-you-dont-need-specific-allegations-at-first-hearsay-is-fair-game/.

That Bolton revelation meant nothing to the realities of the process. Chomsky seems to have his head screwed on right and what he said before the Bolton news could just as well have been said afterwards:

“Don’t think it matters,” Chomsky told Law&Crime of Harvard Law Professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz’s latest bid for publicity by joining Trump’s legal team. “It’s all predictable.”

I think the impeachment process, which avoids Trump’s major crimes and keeps to the fact that he tried to harm a prominent Democrat (like Watergate), will end up being a gift to Trump and may send him back to office. A tragedy.

“The worst crimes by far are those that literally threaten human survival, not in the distant future: his policies on escalating global warming and the race to develop still more destructive weapons,” Chomsky told Law&Crime email. “But the Dems would never agree that these are ‘high crimes.’”

. . . . also said that Democratic Party leadership would never think to consider the Trump administration’s alleged human rights abuses along the U.S-Mexico border as impeachment-worthy crimes. Chomsky said that the situation was the “same” regarding Trump’s arguably unlawful use of military force against sovereign nations in the Middle East.

“How could the Dems regard it as ‘high crimes’ to carry out more deportations than any predecessor and a global assassination campaign of unprecedented scale?” Chomsky asked out loud—referencing the immigration and national security apparatuses and policies put into place by former president Barack Obama and taken to their logical extreme by Trump.

“Same as Watergate,” Chomsky explained. “There was an attempt, by Robert Drinan, to include [Richard] Nixon‘s real crimes, like the bombing of Cambodia, in the bill of impeachment, but that was cut out and the focus was on an attack on Democrats, much as today.”

Rev. Drinan was a prominent Jesuit priest, leftist, anti-war activist and Democratic Party representative from Massachusetts who drafted and introduced the original resolution calling for Nixon’s impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1973. Ultimately frustrated by liberal members of his own party, Drinan’s language regarding Nixon’s secret and unlawful bombing of Cambodia was swapped out for the Watergate charges.

“Can we be silent about this flagrant violation of the Constitution?” Father Drinan asked his liberal colleagues at the time. “Can we impeach a president for concealing a burglary but not for concealing a massive bombing?”

House Democrats answered that question in the affirmative—setting a behavioral precedent and squeamishness with criticizing war-making that has continued to the present day.

“The message appears to be the same: a real crime is attacking the powerful,” Chomsky continued. “It’s okay to murder [Black Panther leader] Fred Hampton (or any number of Cambodians, etc.), or to send children to concentration camps, and all the rest. But not to undermine those with power here.”

Chomsky’s impeachment-focused comments are in keeping with his prior public statements about the Democratic Party’s prior single-minded focus on the ultimately ineffectual Robert Mueller investigation.

“The Democrats invested everything in this issue,” Chomsky said at a forum with progressive radio host Amy Goodman in April of last year. “Well, turned out there was nothing much there. They gave Trump a huge gift. In fact, they may have handed him the next election…That’s a matter of being so unwilling to deal with fundamental issues, that they’re looking for something on the side that will somehow give political success.”

Kalmbacher, Colin. 2020. “Noam Chomsky Torches Democrats’ Narrow Trump Impeachment: ‘A Tragedy’ That ‘May Send Him Back to Office.’” Law&Crime. January 21, 2020. https://lawandcrime.com/high-profile/noam-chomsky-torches-democrats-narrow-trump-impeachment-a-tragedy-that-may-send-him-back-to-office/.

So predictable, as he said:

Barring a lightning strike or some other miracle, the impeachment process is all done but for the final, predictable votes.

It has been a cringe-worthy process that almost certainly has further deepened divisions. The Republican Senate majority has shown its willingness to follow party loyalty right out the window, throwing out a truckload of traditional values.

Do we believe in fairness, in truth, in fact?

The trial process put forth zany legal arguments seemingly spun of whole cloth to protect Donald Trump. So what about the radical reinterpretation of the Constitution’s division of governmental responsibilities? Who cares about the simple understanding that doing bad is something to be excised and punished?

Do we really accept that a president, particularly one who has made self-aggrandizement a hallmark, can do anything to get re-elected? Is it “in the public interest” as proclaimed by presidential defender Alan Dershowitz?

. . . . L’etat, c’est Trump.

Schwadron, Terry H. 2020. “Now We Know What Trump Really Thinks of Us.” DCReport.Org (blog). January 31, 2020. https://www.dcreport.org/2020/01/31/now-we-know-what-trump-really-thinks-of-us/.

And here was me thinking the Bolton news was going to at least bring about some pause towards the “predictable end”.

It’s a worry. I have been doing lots of reading lately related to ancient history so what I’m seeing happen now between Trump and the Senate carries a strange echo of another time when a Roman Senate cowered before Augustus Caesar, yielding all power to him through flattery and a pretence of a restoration of republican values. But those Senators had an excuse. They knew the consequences of disloyalty to the imperator could be lethal.

Dangerous Charisma, 2: How the Leader (Cult, Trump . . .) Unlocks the Followers

What follows is not an attempt to explain every person who supports Trump. But if the shoe fits, wear it, as the saying goes. What is uppermost in my mind as I read Post and Doucette’s analysis of the dynamic between a certain kind of charismatic leader and his/her followers is my own experience of strong attachment to a cult leader. Does it fit? Does it seem to apply in non-religious settings? I have posted much about the process of radicalization (especially why people join terrorist groups) and found strong similarities in the psychology involved there and the process of conversion to cults. Let’s see what Post and Doucette say about “the charismatic leader-follower relationship”. This post is a survey of their chapter 7. Bolding and formatting are my own in all quotations. Page references are from the electronic version.

Our authors do not believe much can be gained by either a study of the psychology of Trump or the psychology of his followers, but what is of interest is a study of how the two feed off each other, the dynamic between the two.

The relationship between Trump and his hard-line followers represents a charismatic leader-follower relationship, whereby aspects of the leader’s psychology unlock, like a key, aspects of his followers’ psychology.

Remember the Jonestown massacre. Post and Doucette cite work by Abse and Ulman who studied the psychological dynamic between Jim Jones and his followers.

[I]n times of crisis, individuals regress to a state of delegated omnipotence and demand a leader who will rescue them, take care of them.

(p. 110)

I have skipped past Post and Doucette’s analysis of Trump himself so permit me to simply state things will have to be justified in a future post. The idea expressed is that Trump “feeds off the adoration of his followers”. What has led to this type of personality is an “injured self” that finds remedy in the confirmation and admiration of others. Where does an “injured self” come from? Two roads lead to it:

  • the individual who has been deprived of mirroring adoration from rejecting parents,
  • and a more subtle variant, the individual who has been raised to be special, contingent upon his success.

In the second pathway, a very heavy burden can be placed on a child. Expectation of success can generate troubled insecurity. That’s the kind of person who “feels compelled to display himself to evoke the attention of others.” The attention seeker who is never satisfied, who is constantly seeking new audiences for ongoing recognition.

People who are constantly craving attention and admiration do best when they have the ability “to convey a sense of grandeur, omnipotence, and strength.

And here’s the hard part for many of us:

Leaders such as Trump, who convey this sense of grandiose omnipotence, are attractive to individuals seeking idealized sources of strength; they convey a sense of conviction and certainty to those who are consumed by doubt and uncertainty.

(p. 111)

I recall the many stories of fellow members of the cult of how “God called” each of us through some crisis in our lives. We were ready for the taking, experiencing doubts and uncertainty.

Now obviously not everyone who goes through a time of “doubt and uncertainty” is going to join a cult or vote for Trump. But it is a factor for many and it is at those times that most of us are vulnerable:

This was evident in Trump’s support from rural areas and the working class, where Trump’s motto “Make American Great Again” (MAGA) had a strong resonance. Despite his lack of any concrete policy, his tweets concerning “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS” had resonated with many of his followers, especially those who are struggling and feel abandoned by the last administration.

(p. 111)

We all see how Trump loves large rallies; even after the election was over he has continued with them. In the cult I don’t think we were disloyal enough to commit the thought-crime that our grandiose leader, “God’s Apostle”, “God’s End-Time Apostle”, was basking in the admiration of his followers even when the stood to applaud whenever he entered and left an auditorium on a speaking tour.

The leader thrives off the admiration of the crowd; his insecurity and self-doubt are buried in it. But the crowds need the leader as much as he needs them.

There is a quality of mutual intoxication for both sides, whereby Trump reassures his followers who in turn reassure him of his self-worth. Even before current rallies, his followers will line up hours early, waiting to fill even sports stadiums that can seat 10,000, continuing to chant “Lock her up!” During the rallies, Trump continues to use his externalizing rhetoric attacking any opponents or focusing on the immigrant crisis, despite calls from fellow Republicans to focus on issues like the economy. But it is this rhetoric that draws in his followers, who chant, “Build the wall! Build the wall!” One can compare it to a hypnotist mesmerizing his audience. But the power of the hypnotist ultimately depends upon the eagerness of their subjects to yield their authority, to cede control of their autonomy, to surrender their will to the hypnotist’s authority.

(p. 112)

read more »

Woops!

H/T Ophelia Benson @ Butterflies and Wheels


President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.

The president’s statement as described by Mr. Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including [the two Bidens].

Mr. Bolton’s explosive account of the matter at the center of Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, the third in American history, was included in drafts of a manuscript he has circulated in recent weeks to close associates. He also sent a draft to the White House for a standard review process . . . 

Fake news, of course.

Over dozens of pages, Mr. Bolton described how the Ukraine affair unfolded over several months until he departed the White House in September. He described not only the president’s private disparagement of Ukraine but also new details about senior cabinet officials who have publicly tried to sidestep involvement.

For example, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged privately that there was no basis to claims by the president’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani that the ambassador to Ukraine was corrupt and believed Mr. Giuliani may have been acting on behalf of other clients, Mr. Bolton wrote.

But but, . . . read more »

Dangerous Charisma, Cults and Trump

Hypotheses:

“in times of crisis, individuals regress to a state of delegated omnipotence and demand a leader (who will rescue them, take care of them)”

and that

“individuals susceptible to (the hypnotic attraction of) charismatic leadership have themselves fragmented or weak ego structures.”

Jerrold Post believes the above hypotheses find support in clinical studies of persons who join charismatic religious groups, those with narcissistic personality disorders, and “psychodynamic observations of group phenomena”. Post and Doucette in Dangerous Charisma

describe the consequences of the wounded self on adult personality development and emphasize how narcissistically wounded individuals are attracted to charismatic leader-follower relationships, both as leaders and as followers.

As I read Dangerous Charisma I was regularly reminded of the time I joined a religious cult years ago and the stories that were regularly shared among members of “how God called us into his church”: certainly most, if not all, of the personal narratives involved tales of some kind of crisis each of us experienced and how “God rescued us” through leading us to encounter his “end-time Apostle”. After I left the cult I attended several other churches for a time and found the same sorts of experiences being “witnessed” even among less extreme fundamentalists or evangelical type Christians. Another perception that hit me, disturbingly, after having left the cult was seeing many of the same vulnerabilities, errors in thinking and willingness to rationalize the irrational and unprovable in society generally. Indeed, Post and Doucette make the point that the model they describe can work for good as well as evil: in times of crisis many turned to the charismatic Churchill, but that after the crisis was over the need for that sort of leader also passed and he was voted out. Other positive instances of such relationships involved Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi. But we all know there are weeds in the garden as well as fruit.

Two types of personality are described:

The mirror-hungry personality

This is the cult leader, whether religious (Herbert W. Armstrong) or political (Donald J. Trump)

The first personality pattern resulting from “the injured self” is the mirror-hungry personality. These individuals, whose basic psychological constellation is the grandiose self, hunger for confirming and admiring responses to counteract their inner sense of worthlessness and lack of self-esteem. To nourish their famished self, they are compelled to display themselves in order to evoke the attention of others. No matter how positive the response, they cannot be satisfied, but continue seeking new audiences from whom to elicit the attention and recognition they crave.

The ideal-hungry personality

This is the follower who is nourished by the above leader and who in turn nourishes that same leader:

The second personality type resulting from “the wounded self” is the ideal-hungry personality. These individuals can experience themselves as worthwhile only so long as they can relate to individuals whom they can admire for their prestige, power, beauty, intelligence, or moral stature. They forever search for such idealized figures. Again, the inner void cannot be filled. Inevitably, the ideal-hungry individual finds that their god is merely human, that their hero has feet of clay. Disappointed by discovery of defects in their previously idealized object, they cast him aside and searches for a new hero, to whom they attach themself in the hope that they will not be disappointed again.

The wounded self can arise from social, economic, personality crises. Job and economic and health insecurities, fears of one’s neighbours and newcomers and of conspiracies of powerful forces in government.

Post and Doucette emphasize that this model does not tell the whole story of Trump or political movements arising from the dynamics of the two types feeding off each other, but it does offer some insight into “charismatic leader-follower relationships.”

The charismatic leader as the mirror-hungry personality

The mirror-hungry leader requires a continuing flow of admiration from his audience in order to nourish his famished self. Central to his ability to elicit that admiration is his ability to convey a sense of grandeur, omnipotence, and strength. These individuals who have had feelings of grandiose omnipotence awakened within them are particularly attractive to individuals seeking idealized sources of strength. They convey a sense of conviction and certainty to those who are consumed by doubt and uncertainty. This mask of certainty is no mere pose. In truth, so profound is the inner doubt that a wall of dogmatic certainty is necessary to ward it off. For them, preserving grandiose feelings of strength and omniscience does not allow acknowledgment of weakness and doubt.

The leaders love the adulation of the crowds and can often speak for hours basking in their admiration; and the crowds love to be there, feeding and feeding off them.

The Language of Splitting is the Rhetoric of Absolutism

Central to the rhetoric is the “us-them”, the “me-not me”, the “good versus evil”, “strength versus weakness”, you are “with us or against us”. There’s nothing new here:

Maximilien Robespierre: “There are but two kinds of men, the kind that is corrupt and the kind that is virtuous.”

Hitler dwelt on the themes of strength and weakness, purity and impurity, the chosen (Germans) and the not chosen (Jews). The world is divided and one must conquer the other or be conquered.

We see this mindset in leaders who are convinced, and whose followers are also convinced, they are called on a religious mission. Followers often see the power of God behind them and the entire world of Satan is their opposition. read more »

Did the Saudis Talk Trump Out of War with Iran? — or am I just dreaming?

It sure looked like Trump was going all out to provoke a war with Iran — or maybe he was too stupid to think through the consequences of assassinating Qassem Soleimani [link is to Vridar post on QS’s bio] that far in advance. Then came this tweet:

And that tweet seems to have been forced out of him only after the Saudi’s themselves announced the meeting: see White House Press Association Rebukes Trump Administration for Secret Saudi Meeting in Oval Office.

The Saudis are having a hard enough time with the Iranian backed Houthis in Yemen and they recently saw how vulnerable their oil depots were to drone strikes. Anyway, Trump suddenly started talking of de-escalation and allowed the Iranians to respond so long as they gave warning so that no lives would be lost.

U.S. and Israeli hawks have long been itching for war with Iran, and that war would have been a perfect deflection from the impeachment mess. One can’t help but wonder what was discussed at that meeting with Trump and the Saudis.

Or am I just being alt-conspiratorial?

One thing is for sure, though. Obama managed with international support to “guarantee” Iran’s security if they gave up on a nuclear weapons program. I somehow find it inconceivable that Iran won’t have a nuclear weapon relatively soon. Trump’s action seems to have made that almost inevitable — so it seems when I read Dana Kennedy’s article in DCReport.org: The Suleimani Assassination May Set Back U.S. Intelligence Gathering: Striking the General Revealed NSA Capability to Spy on Top Iranians and Their Nuclear Weapons Program. After all, Trump does have a history of letting little secrets slip. Terrorists have learned not to use cell phones when they communicate; no doubt (given Dana Kennedy’s article) Iranians have now learned a similar lesson with respect to a (surely revamped) nuclear weapons program.

Iranian leadership would surely be even more madly insane than Trump if they don’t go all out to get a nuclear weapon now. How else could they “guarantee” their security from invasion or “shock and awe” bombing?

Meanwhile, the U.S. troops who continue to occupy the country they “liberated” have been obliged to turn away from their stated goal of “mopping up the remnants” of ISIS and standing guard against Iranian proxy attacks.

A nuclear-armed Iran (may not be such a bad thing for the immediate future), a resurgent ISIS — even a restored caliphate?, an inevitable eventual withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan and Iraq — unless, perhaps, the Saudis change their minds and offer to flatter Trump if he changes his mind once more on Iran.

But I’m only musing. I have no idea. A mere citizen who tries to keep on top of the news and what’s happening, or seems to be happening.

“How Money Won Trump the White House”

From Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen:

As our Table 4 above showed [not shown here], Trump had largely financed his primary campaign with small contributions and loans from himself. As late as mid-May, he remained convinced that his success in using free media and his practice of going over the head of the establishment press directly to voters via Twitter would make it unnecessary for him to raise the “$1 billion to $2 billion that modern presidential campaigns were thought to require” (Green, 2017).

As the convention approached, however, the reality of the crucial role of major investments in political parties started to sink in. Some of the pressure came from the Republican National Committee and related party committees. Their leaders intuitively grasped the point we demonstrated in a recent paper: that outcomes of most congressional election races in every year for which we have the requisite data are direct (“linear”) functions of money (Ferguson et al., 2016). The officials could safely project that the pattern would hold once again in the 2016 Congressional elections (as it did – see Figure 3).56 But the Trump campaign, too, began to hold out the tin cup on its own behalf with increasing vehemence. As we noted earlier, small donations had been flowing steadily into its coffers. Unlike most previous Republican efforts, these added up to some serious money. But in the summer it became plain that the sums arriving were not nearly enough. In many senses, Trump was no Bernie Sanders.

. . . . .

We are able to source the revenues to individual big businesses and investors and aggregate them by sector (Table 6) and also by specific time intervals. Our data reveal aspects of the campaign’s trajectory that have received almost no attention. It is apparent that Trump’s and Manafort’s efforts to conciliate the Republican establishment initially met with some real success. The run up to the Convention brought in substantial new money, including, for the first time, significant contributions from big business. Mining, especially coal mining; Big Pharma (which was certainly worried by tough talk from the Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, about regulating drug prices); tobacco, chemical companies, and oil (including substantial sums from executives at Chevron, Exxon, and many medium sized firms); and telecommunications (notably AT&T, which had a major merge merger pending) all weighed in.57

Money from executives at the big banks also began streaming in, including Bank of America, J. P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo. Parts of Silicon Valley also started coming in from the cold. Contrary to many post-election press accounts, in the end contributions from major Silicon Valley firms or their executives would rank among Trump’s bigger sources of funds, though as a group in the aggregate Silicon Valley tilted heavily in favor of Clinton. Just ahead of the Republican convention, for example, at a moment when such donations were hotly debated, Facebook contributed $900,000 to the Cleveland Host Committee. In a harbinger of things to come, additional money came from firms and industries that appear to have been attracted by Trump’s talk of tariffs, including steel and companies making machinery of various types (Table 6).58 The Trump campaign also appears to have struck some kind of arrangement with the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns more local TV stations than any other media concern in the country, for special access “in exchange for broadcasting Trump interviews without commentary (Anne, 2017).”

Crisis

In mid-August, as Trump sank lower in the polls, the crisis came to a head. Rebekah Mercer had her fateful conversation with Trump at a fundraiser. Manafort, already under pressure from a string of reports about his ties with the Ukraine and Russia, was first demoted and then fired. Steve Bannon took over direction of the campaign and Kellyanne Conway was promoted to campaign manager (Green, 2017). . . . .

Breaking Through

read more »

many of them tribal

 

Of course, the Arab or Kurd is only ever in it for the money and tribal warfare is their way of life. How happily enlightened we are.

On an “Independent” Mainstream Media Standing Up to Trump

The Lesson of the Watergate affair:

The major scandal of Watergate as portrayed in the mainstream press was that the Nixon administration sent a collection of petty criminals to break into the Democratic party headquarters, for reasons that remain obscure. The Democratic party represents powerful domestic interests, solidly based in the business community. Nixon’s actions were therefore a scandal. The Socialist Workers party, a legal political party, represents no powerful interests. Therefore, there was no scandal when it was revealed, just as passions over Watergate reached their zenith, that the FBI had been disrupting its activities by illegal break-ins and other measures for a decade, a violation of democratic principle far more extensive and serious than anything charged during the Watergate hearings. What is more, these actions of the national political police were only one element of government programs extending over many administrations to deter independent political action, stir up violence in the ghettos, and undermine the popular movements that were beginning to engage sectors of the generally marginalized public in the arena of decision-making. These covert and illegal programs were revealed in court cases and elsewhere during the Watergate period, but they never entered the congressional proceedings and received only limited media attention. Even the complicity of the FBI in the police assassination of a Black Panther organizer in Chicago was not a scandal, in marked contrast to Nixon’s “enemies list,” which identified powerful people who were denigrated in private but suffered no consequences. As we have noted, the U.S. role in initiating and carrying out the first phase of “the decade of the genocide” in Cambodia entered the Watergate proceedings only marginally: not because hundreds of thousands of Cambodians were slaughtered in the course of a major war crime, but because Congress was not properly notified, so that its privileges were infringed, and even this was considered too slight an infraction to enter the final charges. What was true of Congress was also true of the media and their investigative reporting that “helped force a President from office” (Lewis) in what is held to be a most remarkable display of media independence, or arrogance, depending on one’s point of view.

History has been kind enough to contrive for us a “controlled experiment” to determine just what was at stake during the Watergate period, when the confrontational stance of the media reached its peak. The answer is clear and precise: powerful groups are capable of defending themselves, not surprisingly; and by media standards, it is a scandal when their position and rights are threatened. By contrast, as long as illegalities and violations of democratic substance are confined to marginal groups or distant victims of U.S. military attack, or result in a diffused cost imposed on the general population, media opposition is muted or absent altogether. This is why Nixon could go so far, lulled into a false sense of security precisely because the watchdog only barked when he began to threaten the privileged.

Exactly the same lessons were taught by the Iran-contra scandals and the media reaction to them. It was a scandal when the Reagan administration was found to have violated congressional prerogatives during the Iran-contra affair, but not when it dismissed with contempt the judgment of the International Court of Justice that the United States was engaged in the “unlawful use of force” and violation of treaties—that is, violation of the supreme law of the land and customary international law—in its attack against Nicaragua. The sponsorship and support of state terror that cost some 200,000 lives in Central America in the preceding decade was not the subject of congressional inquiries or media concern. These actions were conducted in accord with an elite consensus, and they received steady media support, as we have seen in reviewing the fate of worthy and unworthy victims and the treatment of elections in client and errant states.

Herman, Edward S., and Noam Chomsky. 1994. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. London: Vintage. pp. 299-300

 

Two Styles

Who Knows How to Handle Jerks?

In a former life many years ago I learned was taught a great lesson by a junior girl in another part of our work area who had to process some of our work outputs. She was obviously being driven mad by our failure to follow some simple procedures we’d no doubt been told to apply many times before, so she sent us all an email that began, “Naughty cataloguers,  . . . ” That introduction was so disarming, it set us all in a positive frame of mind to meekly accept the “blasting” that came our way in a form of collegial correction.

We weren’t trolls or vicious jerks but that lesson came to mind again when I read the following news item: Twitch viewers harassed Aussie streamer PaladinAmber. She clapped back in the best way

The first time she called someone out happened by accident.

“Everyone just went crazy. They were like ‘this is exactly what we want on the news’. And I was like, we can absolutely do this every time,” she said.

“Comedy is the best way to deal with this because people will really prefer a slap on the wrist better if it comes with a giggle.”

There’s proof in the pudding too. Wadham says some of the trolls have even apologised after being called out.

. . . .

“I didn’t think people would appreciate somebody being so outspoken and obnoxiously loud about it,” she said.

“It’s [trolling] such a common occurrence. To have so many people going ‘oh yeah me too, but I wouldn’t say anything so thank you’, it’s just a little bit humbling.”

While it’s worked for her, Wadham is adamant no-one should have to confront online harassment like this if they don’t feel equipped to do so.

Dr Raynes-Goldie agreed, and highlighted how tricky it can be to push back.

“How do you make change in the world but also take care of yourself? Because it’s quite exhausting,” she said.

For Wadham, it’s by shining a light on the worst behaviour on the internet, one fake infomercial or breaking news segment at a time.

And all of that leads to this:

How to Beat Donald Trump

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The Real Deterrent Against War with Iran

Excerpt from Aljazeera’s How close are Iran and the US to war?

The “real deterrent” in the current situation was the fact “the Iranians were able to down the most advanced American drone using stealth technology with an Iranian-made surface-to-air missile,” he said, adding that Trump may have stood down because he recognised any Iranian response to a US attack would be “relentless and disproportionate”

In such a scenario, Iran was also likely to target US allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where the drone that was shot down reportedly took off from.

“I think it would be an enormous miscalculation on the part of the Americans to assume that the Iranian response to any strike would be limited.

“It will be larger than the initial strike, it will be disproportionate, and it will be relentless. And it will not only target the aggressor, it will target those countries – like the United Arab Emirates or perhaps Saudi Arabia – that allowed the US to carry out this attack.”

Mahjoob Zweiri, director of the Gulf Studies centre at Qatar University, said Trump’s actions towards Iran are designed to appeal to his support base in the US ahead of the 2020 presidential elections. 

“He has done what will make [his base] happy, he has withdrawn from the [nuclear] deal, he imposed sanctions, he basically made sure the economy of Iran was really falling apart. He has done everything he has promised his base. 

“Trump’s main focus is a second term. If any military action against Iran will affect this badly, he will never do it.” 

Zweiri said the escalating series of incidents in the Gulf may be an Iranian ploy to pile up pressure on the international community to act and protect Tehran from US sanctions. 

“They want to push more for the international community to act, to mediate, to push, to pressure the United States, to have a dialogue because this status quo is collapsing their economy and will have serious ramifications on the stability of the regime in Iran.