Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Power of Propaganda

This is the most damning 20 minute attack on Hillary Clinton that I have seen. Is it propaganda? Of course; look at how the brief clips jump the decades and select out-of-context quotes. That is not to say there is no truth here; rather that there are truth and lies cleverly blended and slanted for Bernie against Hillary. Had it widely appeared in January, HRC would have had to deal with it and do some serious explanation or refutation of the charges. There is much left out about Bernie's own support for regime change, as well. But I see clearly from this short video just where the hate comes from, how Bernie supporters are so angry and on the point of violence as the convention nears. The message on this video is not one I buy, as well made and clever as it is. It shows the brilliance of Jon Stewart. It also makes more possible the Trump takeover of the country. Someone with the know-how should take on this damnation of Hillary with a video that is just as good a rebuttal. It has not convinced me of much of anything other than that it is volatile and dangerous. It shows how damaging and powerful propaganda can be. Nader appears, arrogant as always, taking no blame for anything but eager to cast it on Democrats. We should all hope Bernie does not put on Nader's hollow crown.
demopocalypse jon stewart comes out of retirement - watch this video, or you can download it here.
Jack Miller It is astounding how well propaganda can work with distortion. I watched the debate from which the long clip from Bernie was taken where he makes the case against regime change. Hillary Clinton's reply should be shown as well; but of course it isn't, as if she is unaware of his simplistic and oft repeated recitation. Bernie actually did vote for regime change and for other bills he attacks her for supporting. The charges against the Clinton Foundation are also skewed and leave out way more than they include. If anything the video makes me more inclined to vote for her, not less; but it does reveal to me the virulent source of all the Hillary hate out there. This is journalism gone awry, used not to give an honest view, but to put one candidate on a pedestal while smearing his opponent. I watched it carefully twice and I find it shameful in its slander, not unlike that of videos produced in totalitarian states.
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Jack Miller If you want no involvement with the Middle-East, no interference with the struggles of other countries, the Libertarian Party is what you are looking for, perhaps. Of course the sad truth is that a huuuge percentage of the electorate is indifferent, gullible, easy to manipulate and persuade with the sophisticated advertising methods now in use. Think how quickly Trump has gone from being a joke to having the support of almost half of those being polled. Extremists of all stripes and spots latch onto slogans they want to hear; just push their buttons. Plato saw it all 2500 years ago and warned us what comes next. https://upload.wikimedia.org/.../Plato_Silanion_Musei...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trust Hillary

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall,
Who's most honest of them all?

Do you realize how many articles have been written about who is most corrupt and who is most trustworthy of the 2016 candidates? The very liberal and trustworthy The Guardian has a long, well-documented article on the fact that Hillary is less a liar than any other candidate (see below). Bernie makes great points; but he is not exempt from the same sorts of charges made against Hillary. I'm not thrilled about our system; but I do know it could be far worse. The power of the Republicans in Congress and the tie on the Supreme court should be part of any consideration we make. Most voters really don't care that much and just shrug when you mention corruption or the influence of oil companies, corporations, and Wall Street. I am glad Bernie has attacked the system; but making it much worse is not the change we need. Look at the history of the presidency and you see plenty of corruption and the rule by special interests. Change has to come from the bottom up. Didn't Bernie himself say that? We need to support Green and progressive candidates at the local level; create a less corrupt alternative in Congress and state politics. Despite all the attacks on Hillary, despite her seeming acceptance of much of the unsavory aspects of U.S. politics, she has also done much good, especially in domestic policy. If we keep focusing only on the negative, we are going to end up with a president who would make Bush look like a liberal hero. Have we already forgotten what Trump said about torture? The nasty put downs of women? the Cruz religious fanatics he would choose for the courts? We need to focus on him now, instead of bashing Hillary Clinton

It’s impossible to miss the “Hillary for Prison” signs at Trump rallies. At one of the Democratic debates, the moderator asked Hillary Clinton whether she would drop out of the race if she were indicted over her private email server. “Oh for goodness – that is not going to happen,” she said. “I’m not even going to answer that question.”
Based on what I know about the emails, the idea of her being indicted or going to prison is nonsensical. Nonetheless, the belief that Clinton is dishonest and untrustworthy is pervasive. A recent New York Times-CBS poll found that 40% of Democrats say she cannot be trusted.
For decades she’s been portrayed as a Lady Macbeth involved in nefarious plots, branded as “a congenital liar” and accused of covering up her husband’s misconduct, from Arkansas to Monica Lewinsky. Some of this is sexist caricature. Some is stoked by the “Hillary is a liar” videos that flood Facebook feeds. Some of it she brings on herself by insisting on a perimeter or “zone of privacy” that she protects too fiercely. It’s a natural impulse, given the level of scrutiny she’s attracted, more than any male politician I can think of.

I would be “dead rich”, to adapt an infamous Clinton phrase, if I could bill for all the hours I’ve spent covering just about every “scandal” that has enveloped the Clintons. As an editor I’ve launched investigations into her business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage. As a reporter my stories stretch back to Whitewater. I’m not a favorite in Hillaryland. That makes what I want to say next surprising.
Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy.
The yardsticks I use for measuring a politician’s honesty are pretty simple. Ever since I was an investigative reporter covering the nexus of money and politics, I’ve looked for connections between money (including campaign donations, loans, Super Pac funds, speaking fees, foundation ties) and official actions. I’m on the lookout for lies, scrutinizing statements candidates make in the heat of an election.
The connection between money and action is often fuzzy. Many investigative articles about Clinton end up “raising serious questions” about “potential” conflicts of interest or lapses in her judgment. Of course, she should be held accountable. It was bad judgment, as she has said, to use a private email server. It was colossally stupid to take those hefty speaking fees, but not corrupt. There are no instances I know of where Clinton was doing the bidding of a donor or benefactor.
As for her statements on issues, Politifact, a Pulitzer prize-winning fact-checking organization, gives Clinton the best truth-telling record of any of the 2016 presidential candidates. She beats Sanders and Kasich and crushes Cruz and Trump, who has the biggest “pants on fire” rating and has told whoppers about basic economics that are embarrassing for anyone aiming to be president. (He falsely claimed GDP has dropped the last two quarters and claimed the national unemployment rate was as high as 35%).
I can see why so many voters believe Clinton is hiding something because her instinct is to withhold. As first lady, she refused to turn over Whitewater documents that might have tamped down the controversy. Instead, by not disclosing information, she fueled speculation that she was hiding grave wrongdoing. In his book about his time working in the Clinton White House, All Too Human, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos wrote that failing to convince the first lady to turn over the records of the Arkansas land deal to the Washington Post was his biggest regret.

The same pattern of concealment repeats itself through the current campaign in her refusal to release the transcripts of her highly paid speeches. So the public is left wondering if she made secret promises to Wall Street or is hiding something else. The speeches are probably anodyne (politicians always praise their hosts), so why not release them?
Colin Diersing, a former student of mine who is a leader of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, thinks a gender-related double standard gets applied to Clinton. “We expect purity from women candidates,” he said. When she behaves like other politicians or changes positions, “it’s seen as dishonest”, he adds. CBS anchor Scott Pelley seemed to prove Diersing’s point when he asked Clinton: “Have you always told the truth?” She gave an honest response, “I’ve always tried to, always. Always.” Pelley said she was leaving “wiggle room”. What politician wouldn’t?
Clinton distrusts the press more than any politician I have covered. In her view, journalists breach the perimeter and echo scurrilous claims about her circulated by unreliable rightwing foes. I attended a private gathering in South Carolina a month after Bill Clinton was elected in 1992. Only a few reporters were invited and we sat together at a luncheon where Hillary Clinton spoke. She glared down at us, launching into a diatribe about how the press had invaded the Clintons’ private life. The distrust continues.
These are not new thoughts, but they are fundamental to understanding her. Tough as she can seem, she doesn’t have rhino hide, and during her husband’s first term in the White House, according to Her Way, a critical (and excellent) investigative biography of Clinton by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta, she became very depressed during the Whitewater imbroglio. A few friends and aides have told me that the email controversy has upset her as badly.

Like most politicians, she’s switched some of her positions and sometimes shades the truth. In debates with Sanders, she cites her tough record on Wall Street, but her Senate bills, like one curbing executive pay, went nowhere. She favors ending the carried interest loophole cherished by hedge funds and private equity executives because it taxes their incomes at a lower rate than ordinary income. But, according to an article by Gerth, she did not sign on to bipartisan legislation in 2007 that would have closed it. She voted for a bankruptcy bill favored by big banks that she initially opposed, drawing criticism from Elizabeth Warren. Clinton says she improved the bill before voting for passage. Her earlier opposition to gay marriage, which she later endorsed, has hurt her with young people. Labor worries about her different statements on trade deals.
Still, Clinton has mainly been constant on issues and changing positions over time is not dishonest.
It’s fair to expect more transparency. But it’s a double standard to insist on her purity.


Sunday, May 15, 2016


Just another day in the Jewish Palace, having Nova Salmon Benedict and musing with Darryl about our country being ruled by a spoiled, self-absorbed, adolescent Chanticleer of a mirror-pecking President, preening himself in the White House.


Bagels in Atlanta, GA

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Guardians (American Secret)

We all know that the United States is not a pure democracy. There are too many people for that. No, we have a representative democracy, as we have learned in school for centuries. We elect people who represent us in the Congress and the Presidency. 
Since the excesses of the 19th Century, we have deplored the rise of an oligarchy of the rich, the captains of industry, who have amassed great power and wealth at the expense of others. Who, we might ask, has saved us from these immoral oligarchs who literally, or indirectly, have enslaved millions of us?

There are obvious heroes: Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt to name three. They brought to a halt, or at least slowed, the rampant greed of materialistic oligarchs. They tamed the plutocrats.

Democracy won out, we reassure ourselves. Yet, aren't the oligarchs themselves the ones who rescued us-- the oligarchs who rose not because of money, or despite it, but because of their intelligence and experience?  The guardian class, Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, and the guardian general Washington, have ruled wisely for the greater good. Not that they did not have selfish streaks, not that they were perfect, or even crime free. They were simply aware of a greater good, a benevolent goodness, for which they usually aimed. 

Ironically, it was the most democratic of presidents and leaders who brought the greatest harm, starting with rabble-rouser Andrew Jackson, finally to be rightly ripped from the $20 bill. Wherever the mob gathers, there we must take caution. Beware all those militant rallies.

As the 2016 election unfurls, with flags of many colors, we might rethink whether there is such a thing as a good oligarchy. Call it an aristocracy -- not of the elite-- but of the best, of the most intelligent and most experienced. From Plato to Jimmy Carter, who wrote, Why not the Best,  people have repeatedly faced a choice between the popular, entertaining, good old boy; and the boring, intelligent, not so entertaining, but dedicated candidate. Think Reagan for the former, Gore for the latter. Is the electorate wise enough to choose the better oligarchy, including those who will run the Senate and the House of Representatives? Or will voters go for entertainment and style, for the demagoguery of a pompous ass, or of the perfect democratic socialist, regardless of what lies ahead? Does the electorate even have the sense to care about Congress at all? We may find that oligarchy was far better than dictatorship and what it spawns.

The future is now.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Narcissus/ Trump

Narcissus, spawn of Fascism and Capitalism ?

Salvador Dali sold out to capitalism and fascism; Federico Lorca did not; Franco had him shot. As Bernie and Hillary get nasty with each other, Trump ascends the polls. Plato observed how the mob loves to rally 'round the most pompous ass who struts the stage.

NYRB  Essay:

 "From his first words he welcomes us in and his very self-absorption, the narcissist’s fascination with his own sweet self, is the secret of the alarmingly mesmeric quality of his speeches. His one and only subject is himself and if he is frankly fascinated then so are we. We are all enfolded in the warm grandeur of his narcissism."

The Magic of Donald Trump

Observe the celebrity known as Donald Trump saunter onto the stage at Boca Raton...

Narcissus by Dali

Saturday, May 07, 2016

The Bankruptcy of the Self-Righteous

No Evil: Photograph I made in Nikko, Japan

2016 is hardly unique. There have been potential voters who have sat out elections many times before. If the politician you admire, the one who roused your hopes, got you to vote in a primary, or spoke the truth dear to your heart and mind, does not become the nominee, why should you vote for someone else? Write in your chosen one. Stay home. Don't settle for the "lesser of two evils."

Sounds good. Only it isn't. What about Congress? Sometimes it seems as if ardent supporters of a presidential candidate have no idea how our government works. Our President can do very little without a cooperative Congress (Ask Obama). Will you sit out those elections as well? As the existentialists point out, you are condemned to be free. What that means is that you are responsible for your actions. Not voting has consequences. If you do not vote, you are responsible for the election of the person who wins. Those who voted for Ralph Nader, despite their vehement denial, must take responsibility for allowing Bush to take power, especially if they voted in Florida or New Hampshire.  A non-vote for someone who really cannot win is a .5 vote for the person who does win. Claiming no part in the election is "bad faith," as the existentialists warned, a form of in-authenticity.

2016 will most likely offer us the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. There are also many, many Congressional elections. It is a stark choice, one that could not be more radical. To refuse to choose between the two parties is morally bankrupt. It is the kind of passivity and indifference that allows dictators to come to power. It is immoral because it turns a blind eye to the vast destruction that could follow, to the sufferings of the poor and low-income workers, to the struggle for preserving civil rights, to the importance of a Supreme Court appointment essential for justice and election reform. If Hillary Clinton represents only a weakened version of many of the ideals of Sanders, Trump represents their reversal. Being self-righteous, being too pure and privileged to cast a vote for one or the other, or to support the Democrats in all offices, is to be a key part of the  evil itself. You are free to make this evil choice; but if you are unwilling to be a complete hypocrite, reason forces you to be aware of the danger, destruction, and grief you are bringing to millions of others. It means that morally, from the standpoint of democracy, you are not a good person.