Category Archives: Hypocrisy

Why comedians are our best Trump news source


American journalism has long been afflicted with the notion of objectivity, and objectivity of a peculiar nature.

We can’t even begin to number the times editors had told us “be sure to get the other wide.”

The notion of “the other side” is inherently flawed, the concept that truth is like a sheet of paper: First you see one side, then turn it over and you see the other side.

Fix news managed to invert the usual standards by offering “the other side of the story,” giving us the first overt American mainstream propaganda outlet of our own lifetime.

But truth isn’t bipolar. It’s multidimensional, and however thoroughly you dig, there’s always more to the story.

Even more significantly, sometimes the story is so absurdly obviously that that any pretense of objectivity lends it a dignity it doesn’t possess.

As in the case of our President-elect.

We offer two examples of the only way news make sense in the Trumpian era.

First up, a segment from Late Night with Seth Meyers:

Donald Trump’s False Claims and Foreign Policy Moves: A Closer Look

Program note:

Seth takes a closer look at Presidential-elect Trump’s willingness to make false claims and his shoot-from-the-hip foreign policy approach.

And then this from Full Frontal with Samantha Bee:

The Big Lie

Program note:

When you’re president, you can tell whatever lies you want. They just let you do it.

As Walter Cronkite, America’s most trusted television newsman of esnl’s early journalism years, used to say:

Headline of the day: Trumplandia™ swamp news


From the New York Times:

Lobbying by Bob Dole Led to Trump’s Call With Taiwan

  • The former senator turned lobbyist helped establish the high-level contacts that led to the call between Donald J. Trump and the president of Taiwan.
  • Mr. Dole’s firm received $140,000 from May to October for the work on behalf of Taiwan, according to disclosure documents filed last week.

Trump’s tweet addiction linked to narcissism


While this new academic study doesn’t mention Trump by name, the behaviors described fit no one better.

From the University of Georgia [emphases added]:

A new statistical review of 62 studies with over 13,000 individuals found that narcissism has a modest but reliable positive relationship with a range of social media behaviors. The largest effects were with the number of friends/followers narcissists had and frequency of status updates, followed by selfie postings, according to University of Georgia psychology researchers.

The two strains of narcissistic behavior — grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism — showed different relationships to social media use. Grandiose narcissism, the more extroverted, callous form, positively related to time spent on social media, the frequency of updates, number of friends/followers, and the frequency of posting selfies. Vulnerable narcissism, the more insecure form, did not show any relationship to social media, but there was relatively little research on this form of narcissism.

“The stories you have heard about grandiose narcissism on social media are probably true,” said the study’s senior author, Keith Campbell, a professor of psychology in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Campbell, co-author of the best-selling “The Narcissism Epidemic,” notes that “when you engage with social media, you will be engaging with more narcissism than might really exist in the world. This might distort your view of the world as being more narcissistic than it is.”

“It is important to remember that these are only correlations, however,” said the study’s lead author, Jessica McCain, a graduate student in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences Program in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of psychology. “This is not evidence that social media causes narcissism or vice versa. Theoretically, we suspect that individuals with pre-existing narcissism are drawn to social media, but the present evidence only establishes that the two are related.”

“Networks on social media aren’t designed by people in Silicon Valley,” Campbell said. “They are built one link at a time by users. And narcissists seem to be central to this build-out.”

The study, “Narcissism and Social Media Use: A Meta-Analytic Review,” was published in the early online edition of Psychology of Popular Media Culture and is available here [$11.95 to download].

The diagnostic criteria for grandiose narcissism

So what is grandiose narcissism?

Here are the diagnostic criteria from the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard reference for psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. We opted for it rather than the subsequent fifth edition, which uses a lot more words to say the same things:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

And something to help you with the diagnosis

From a fascinating collection of Trumpisms assembled by author Eliot Weinberger for the London Review of Books:

  • ‘My entire life, I’ve watched politicians bragging about how poor they are, how they came from nothing, how poor their parents and grandparents were. And I said to myself, if they can stay so poor for so many generations, maybe this isn’t the kind of person we want to be electing to higher office. How smart can they be? They’re morons.’
  • ‘The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.’
  • ‘I fully think apologising’s a great thing – but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologise sometime in the hopefully distant future if I am ever wrong.’
  • ‘I love women. They’ve come into my life. They’ve gone out of my life. Even those who have exited somewhat ungracefully still have a place in my heart. I only have one regret in the women department – that I never had the opportunity to court Lady Diana Spencer.’
  • [On daughter Ivanka]: ‘She does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.’ ‘Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father…’
  • ‘My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.’
  • ‘My IQ is one of the highest – and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.’
  • ‘We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.’
  • ‘With nuclear, the power, the devastation is very important to me.’
  • ‘Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is a man who is certain about what he wants and sets out to get it, no holds barred. Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money.’
  • ‘When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.’
  • [When confronted by the father of a Muslim U.S. army captain killed in Afghanistan angry over Trump;’s virulent anti-Muslim rhetoricm, who asked the Donald what sacrifices he had made for his country] ‘I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.’

Headlines of the day: Oh, isn’t that rich? Really rich


“That” being the Trump cabinet.

First from the Washington Post:

Donald Trump is assembling the richest administration in modern American history

  • Trump is putting together what will be the wealthiest administration in modern American history. His announced nominees for top positions include several multimillionaires, an heir to a family mega-fortune and two Forbes-certified billionaires, one of whose family is worth as much as industrial tycoon Andrew Mellon was when he served as treasury secretary nearly a century ago.
  • Rumored candidates for other positions suggest Trump could add more ultra-rich appointees soon.
  • Many of the Trump appointees were born wealthy, attended elite schools and went on to amass even larger fortunes as adults. As a group, they have much more experience funding political candidates than they do running government agencies.

And from BBC News:

Trump assembles America’s ‘richest cabinet’

  • US President-elect Donald Trump took a populist tone on the campaign trail, pledging to stand for a beleaguered working class abandoned by the elite.
  • Mr Trump, of course, brings immense wealth to his new role. The property tycoon’s worth is estimated at $3.7bn (£3bn) by Forbes magazine, with more than 500 businesses in his empire.
  • But he might not be the richest member of his team. His nominee for education secretary, Betsy Devos, is the daughter of Richard DeVos, who founded the Amway retail giant. Forbes puts their family wealth at $5.1bn.
  • Next up is Wilbur Ross, the president-elect’s pick for commerce secretary. Forbes puts the wealth of Mr Ross, who headed Rothschild Inc’s bankruptcy practice before starting an investment firm, at $2.5bn.
  • Mr Ross’s deputy will be Todd Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, who has an estimated wealth of $1.75bn.

Finally, the front page headline on the New York Times:

Trump Cabinet Choices Signal Embrace of Wall St. Elite

  • Donald J. Trump picked Steven Mnuchin, a hedge fund manager, to run the Treasury and Wilbur L. Ross Jr., a billionaire investor, to head the Commerce Department.
  • The choices have been cheered by investors, but they stand in stark contrast to the populist campaign that Mr. Trump ran.

And while not headlines, two of this morning’s tweets from Sen. Bernie Sanders add some perspective:

blog-sanders-cabinetblog-sanders-rigged

As does the editorial cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times:

David Horsey: Trump gets comfy in the Washington swamp

blog-horsey

Headline of the day: Isn’t there a name for that?


From the Washington Post:

Giuliani made millions consulting for Mexico’s most anti-Trump politician

  • Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was paid millions under a contract arranged by a Mexican politician who is likely to run for president of Mexico in 2018 on an anti-Trump, Mexico-first platform. That could be a conflict of interest if Giuliani is named secretary of state and tasked with renegotiating NAFTA and trying to get Mexico to pay for a border wall.
  • Giuliani’s many foreign business entanglements as a private citizen are often cited as the primary reason President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is wary of him being appointed the nation’s top diplomat. Giuliani’s contracts with the government of Qatar and the Venezuelan-owned state oil company Citgo and his paid speeches for a shady Iranian dissident group that was listed as a foreign terrorist organization have all received attention.
  • But Giuliani’s first foreign contract could be the most relevant if he were in charge of the State Department because that contract involved Mexico’s leading leftist, populist and anti-Trump politician.

Images, flags, burning desires, and Vietnam


Following up on our previous post about Donald Trump’s to criminalize and deport folks who burn flags as a means of protesting malignant policies of the American government, we are old enough to remember the Vietnam War, the American government’s failed effort to cement a regime in then-South Vietnam that would dance to a tune orchestrated in Washington.

At the start of World War II, Vietnam was part of the French colony of Indochina, and during the war, Japan invaded and seized control of the region, and a powerful guerilla movement spring up under Ho Chi Minh — who was provided with arms and advisors by the Allies.

Nine years after the war’s end, Vietnam was ruled by Emperor Bao Dai, who had grown increasingly unpopular, Ho’s forces, meanwhile had turned against the French, inflicting a disastrous and decisive defeat of a trapped French army at the battle of Dien Bien Phu on 7 May 1954.

As a result, the nation was partitioned at, with the north governed by Ho and his allies, and Bao Dai ruling in the South, with an election to be held in 1956 to decide on reunification and the leadership of a united Vietnam.

But with U.S. back, Ngô Ðình Diêm defeated Bao Dai in a 1954 election in the south, and the U.S. began pouring in military aid while cutting off the north from sorely needed access to resources.

That same year, as the Pentagon Papers noted, “President Eisenhower is widely quoted to the effect that in 1954 as many as 80% of the Vietnamese people would have voted for Ho Chi Minh, as the popular hero of their liberation, in an election against Bao Dai.”

Since neither the U.S. nor the South Vietnamese governed had signed the treaty calling for the elections, the vote was never held [talk about yer foreign interference in an election. . .].

The stage was thus set for war, and events in Vietnam were elevated into a major Cold War confrontation, with the Soviet Union backing Ho and the U.S. backing Diem.

The U.S. spent lavishly supporting Diem’s military, while Soviewt aid to the North was less extensive, although it did include the war’s decisive weapon, tjhe virtually indestructible AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle, a weapon more durable than any then used by the U.S., and still in use among guerilla forces around the world.

The North supported guerilla forces in the south, the famous Viet Cong, and they steadily eroded the Diem military.

Under John F. Kennedy, American military “advisers” were dispatched to the South, quickly assuming combat roles before becoming the dominant force supporting the Diem regime.

But Diem, a member of the country’s small Catholic community, was immensely unpopular among the country’s majority Buddhists, and the first and most dramatic instance of protest involving fire occurred on 11 June 1963, when in protest of Diem’s repression of the country’s Buddhists, a monk named Thích Quang Duc immolated himself at an intersection just a few short blocks from the Presidential Palace in Saigon.

Images of the act prompted a wave of outrage against Diem that swept around the world:

blog-fire-monk

As the war intensified, the draft began to loom larger in the lives of young American men, many of whom could see no valid reason for killing and being killed in a nation many had never heard of before the war flared into a raging conflagration.

One young man who received his draft notice announced he would not servem declaring:

“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. . .Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

A year later he would declare:

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father.”

And thus Muhammad Ali earned a federal prison sentence, emerging from behind bars to prove himself the greatest pugilist America has ever produced.

Organized protests began to arise [some of which we participated in], and on 15 October 1969, more than two million Americans marched against the war.

One emblematic action of protests throughout the Vietnam war was flag-burning, here illustrated by protesters demonstrating at the 20 January 1969 presidential inaugural of Richard M. Nixon:

blog-fire-flag

Needless to say, the flag-burnings outraged Republicans of the day.

But the most potent and iconic symbol of the war was the result of the American military’s use of fire bombs during the conflict, delivered sometimes by U.S. jets and, in this instance, by American-supplied South Vietnamese fighter-bombers.

It happened on 8 June 1972, when the village of Trang Bang was targeted with napalm bombs because of intelligence suggested that it harbored Viet Cong guerillas.

One of those burned by the napalm was a nine-year-old girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, and the image s of her flight from the devastation captured by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut burned their way into the American conscience, revealing the ruthless strategy employed by the United States to win at all costs:

blog-fire-vn

But a second photo, showing her grandmother carrying the seared corpse of one of her cousins is perhaps ever more devastating:

blog-fire-vn-2

Perhaps no one better captured the hypocrisy of criminalized flag-burning with the burning of human bodies by a detestable weapon of war that did esnl’s favorite alternative press cartoonist of the 1960’s, R. Cobb, in this brilliant 1967 graphic for the Los Angeles Free Press:

blog-fire-cobb

As for the legality of burning the American flag, here’s the bottom line from Texas v. Johnson, the 21 June 1989 Supreme Court ruling that is currently the law of the land:

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.

We have not recognized an exception to this principle even where our flag has been involved.

But with Republicans in full control of the White House and national legislature and poised to gain control over the Supreme Court, we expect that Trump will get his wish, one way or another.

Finally, back to Vietnam

The Vietnam War taught the American government two important lessons.

First was an end to the draft.

While virtually unreported by the American media, the real reason Richard Nixon realized he had to end the war was the rebellion of U.S. troops along the Demilitarized Zone [DMZ] separating the two halves of Vietnam.

That’s what happens when you draft young men to fight for a cause for which they see no valid reason to sacrifice their own lives.

Ripping unwilling combatants away from their homes, families, and jobs is a sure-fire way to foster resentment and rebellion, nowhere better shown that in Daniel Zeiger’s brilliant 2005 documentary Sir! No Sir!, recorded here from a broadcast on BBC:

Sir! No Sir! A Film About The GI Movement Against The War In Vietnam

America turns to mercenaries, embedded reporters

Since Vietnam, America has fought its war with mercenaries, soldiers recruited often from the nation’s poorest regions, where youths facing bleak prospects at home are drawn to the military by promises of job training, education funds, and a position they are assured will imbue them with self-dignity and respect.

No more unwilling combatants; rather, a military filled with those who see no other alternative than lives filled with misery.

The second lesson the Vietnam war taught Americans military and political elites was that free-roving reporters could capture images and stories threatening to their interests by revealing powerful counter-narratives to the official line.

Hence the evolution of the embedded reporter, carefully contained and controlled.

And by criminalizing flag-burning, Donald Trump would deprive protest movements of one of their most powerful symbolic acts.

Quote of the day: The Democrats’ identity crisis


From the always-perceptive University of Missouri-Kansas City economist Michael Hudson [previously], writing at his blog:

This election showed that voters have a sense of when they’re being lied to. After eight years of Obama’s demagogy, pretending to support the people but delivering his constituency to his financial backers on Wall Street, “Identity politics” has given way to the stronger force of economic distress. Mobilizing identity politics behind a Wall Street program will no longer work.

If we are indeed experiencing a revival of economic class consciousness, who should lead the fight to clean up the Democratic Party’s Wall Street leadership? Will it be the Wall Street wing, or can Bernie and perhaps Elizabeth Warren make their move?

There is only one way to rescue the Democrats from the Clintons and Rubin’s gang. That is to save the Democratic Party from being tarred irreversibly as the party of Wall Street and neocon brinkmanship. It is necessary to tell the Clintons and the Rubin gang from Wall Street to leave now. And take Evan Bayh with them.

The Democratic Party can save itself only by focusing on economic issues – in a way that reverses its neoliberal stance under Obama, and indeed going back to Bill Clinton’s pro-Wall Street administration. The Democrats need to do what Britain’s Labour Party did by cleaning out Tony Blair’s Thatcherites. As Paul Craig Roberts wrote over the weekend: “Change cannot occur if the displaced ruling class is left intact after a revolution against them. We have proof of this throughout South America. Every revolution by the indigenous people has left unmolested the Spanish ruling class, and every revolution has been overthrown by collusion between the ruling class and Washington.” Otherwise the Democrats will be left as an empty shell.

Now is the time for Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and the few other progressives who have not been kept out of office by the DNC to make their move by appointing their own nominees to the DNC. If they fail, the Democratic Party is dead.