Media (culture)

Not What We Mean When We Say Foreign Service

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A protester holds a photo of journalist Jamal Khashhoggi, later acknowledged to have been slain by the Saudi government. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)

Annieli, at Daily Kos, writes:

Those who wonder why we should care about Khashoggi’s death should ask whether we want an autocratic thug to be directing US foreign policy? Why is America’s president covering up a brutal extra-territorial murder? All this whabboutery serves MBS. Is that what we want?

And this is an important question: All of President Trump’s equivocation and excuses serve foreign interests.Remember that Donald Trump still thinks he is doing business, and this is reflected in conservative language; among Republican excuses for the President’s behavior, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), often seen as a critic of the administration, mewled and rolled over:

A key consideration in the administration’s mind, according to Republican Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), is the belief that the crown prince can salvage Kushner’s stalled peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians. “A lot of the Middle East peace plan is based upon their support. They feel like they have a lot of equity there,” Corker said.

(Dawsey, Hudson, and Gearan)

“Equity” is a curious word. Certes, the Trump family has invested tremendous “political capital”. There are a handful of Congressional Republicans willing to speak against President Trump, and the general criticism runs that tweeting disapproval is pretty much all they do compared to their voting records. And in this moment, Mr. Corker, the retiring U.S. Senator, is lending his voice in aid and comfort to presidential pandering on behalf of foreign interests. The Washington Post goes on to explain:

Trump allies acknowledged that the White House’s equivocations would probably result in growing calls from Congress for a more credible accounting of events from Saudi Arabia, but they doubted it would damage the president politically.

Equity. This is just an investment. And if Sen. Corker, a Republican, wishes to be seen in opposition to President Trump, “equity” is the wrong word. Consider an actual Trump ally, such as evangelical preacher Pat Robertson:

“We’ve got to cool the rhetoric,” Robertson said. “Calls for sanctions and calls for punitive actions against the Saudis is ill-advised … You’ve got a hundred billion dollars worth of arms sales—which is, you know, that’s one of those things—but more than that, we’ve got to have some Arab allies. We have to have it! We cannot alienate a biggest player in the Middle East who is a bulwark against Iran.”When Robertson’s co-host Wendy Griffith argued that we cannot have governments killing critical journalists with impunity, Robertson dismissed those concerns.”We’ve had so many people killed,” he responded. “We’ve had CIA people killed in Lebanon. People have been taken hostage over the years. I know it’s bad, but we’ve had all kinds of stuff, but you don’t blow up an international alliance over one person. I mean, I’m sorry.”

(Mantyla)

(more…)

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What They Voted For (No, Really)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Corpus Hypercubus', by Salvador Dali, 1954.

A couple points come to mind:

United States President Donald Trump reacts to being laughed at during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, 25 September 2018. (Image credit: FOX News)An evangelist pastor criticized religious leaders who are “trading their moral core” by supporting the Trump administration solely due to their stance on abortion.

Doug Pagitt, a Minneapolis-based pastor and executive director of Vote Common Good, wrote in USA Today Sunday that white Evangelicals are blindly support Trump and the GOP-led Congress.

(Gstalter)

First, the question of evangelicals cleaning up their own houses, as such, is fraught and grim.

And for a bonus, there is the mystery of what happened in the last copy edits of the first two paragraphs of the the article.

Image notes: Top — Detail of Corpus Hypercubus, by Salvador Dali, 1954.  Right — United States President Donald Trump reacts to being laughed at during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, 25 September 2018. (Image credit: FOX News)

Gstalter, Morgan. “Pastor tears into Evangelicals for supporting Trump due to abortion stance.” The Hill. 21 October 2018.

A Moment Significant of Either Something Important or Nothing In Particular

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Lucifer', by Franz von Stuck, 1890.

There is this, from Jacob Hamburger for L.A. Review of Books

What exactly are the ideas that have made people like Weinstein, Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Christina Hoff Sommers into what a recent New York Times profile described as intellectual “renegades”? According to the Times writer Bari Weiss, most emphasize the biological differences between men and women, a feeling that free speech is “under siege,” and a fear that “identity politics” is a threat to the United States’s social fabric.

A listener of Harris’s podcast might add to the list a vociferous defense of the validity of genetic explanations for IQ differences between racial groups, a follower of Peterson’s videos might insist on the nefarious influence of “postmodern neo-Marxism” on college campuses, and a fan of Ben Shapiro might contribute a skepticism toward the reality of “transgenderism.”

The movement sees itself as an alliance that defies established political categories in order to defend these ideas against the creeping influence of thought control. This leads us to another important meaning of the term intellectual dark web, the suggestion that its ideas are not only controversial, but particularly innovative in our political moment. If the dark web arouses the anger of certain commentators in the media or the academy, it is for the same reasons that new technologies in the internet age are “disruptive.”

It would take a short memory, however, not to notice that these sorts of polemics over political correctness are anything but novel: they have been around for at least 30 years, ever since a strikingly similar set of media debates centered around college campuses took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Toward the end of the Reagan years, political correctness became a favorite bugbear of conservative intellectuals, who believed that college professors had latched onto illiberal or totalitarian notions of equality, and were indoctrinating their students with a subversive view of American society. Today’s “dark web” provocateurs rarely mention these predecessors, who not too long ago occupied a similar place in national media debates. Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 17 July 2018.But the comparison suggests that the “iconoclastic” ideas of these figures are actually a well-established institution in American discourse: an institution whose home is on the political right.

—and what stands out is that we really ought not be surprised. To the one, the general point is nothing new; to the other, what is the significance of this particular discussion getting this press at this time?

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Image note: Top — Detail of Lucifer, by Franz von Stuck, 1890.  Bottom — Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via The Nib, 17 July 2018.

Hamburger, Jacob. “The ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Is Nothing New”. Los Angeles Review of Books. 18 July 2018.

A Note on Civility and Equivocation

#wellduh | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Radical Centrism 101: Detail of cartoon by Matt Lubchansky, via The Nib, 31 May 2017.

In such time as we have to reflect on notions of civility and politic, and observing its coincidence in which we grasp both desperately and often belligerently after comparisons in history, it does occur that sometimes these lines of thought and inquiry merge or intersect or whatever else they might do, and from this nexus arises a question worth considering:

• While rhetoric of conservative backlash often drew puzzlement and even mockery, and centrists, liberals, progressives, and leftists alike have scrambled to remind women, queers, and blacks what happens when we make too much uncivil noise, like winning court cases or wondering who would actually claim a religious right to actively sabotage health care, there is also an iteration of Green Lantern Theory whereby President Obama could reconcile the political factions by simply charming and schmoozing Republicans enough, including that he should never speak common platitudes of empathy because, being a black president, doing so apparently means one is trying to start a race war; and, yes, it seems worth wondering just how much worse the conservative and crossover payback would have been had the nation’s first black president gone on to prosecute war criminals, including the white woman recently minted Director of CIA.

When questions of civility arise, perhaps we ought to consider just how we might answer such demand for civility that torture and white supremacism are not somehow uncivil.

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Image note: Radical Centrism 101 — Detail of cartoon by Matt Lubchansky, via The Nib, 31 May 2017.

The Silence of Cowardice

#AmericanAtrocity | #WhatTheyVotedFor

For the fourth straight day there was no WH briefing. No officials to explain how the admin plans to return the separated kids to their parents. This is how the briefing room looks.. a few reporters waiting for answers that aren't coming yet. #whereistheplan #whereispresssec [Jim Acosta (@Acosta), via Twitter, 22 June 2018.]

This spectacle is precisely what it looks like. Jim “The Animal”α Acosta tweeted, Friday

For the fourth straight day there was no WH briefing. No officials to explain how the admin plans to return the separated kids to their parents. This is how the briefing room looks.. a few reporters waiting for answers that aren’t coming yet. #whereistheplan #whereispresssec

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)—and that is the Show. Regardless of whether Sarah Huckabee Sanders is able to cope with her job or, after all this, notβ, the Trump administration has skipped out on the daily briefing since, and every little bauble of temptation, we look at, each pretense of a shiny new thing we give our attention, is not the American atrocity playing out before our eyes.

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α See Gstalter, whose ironic headline for The Hill, “Fox News’ Jesse Watters: Reporters who act like ‘a wild animal’ should lose press passes”, ought to make some sort of point.

β See, Nuzzi, “CNN reported that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn’t want to do the briefing alone, and was waiting for Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to arrive and enter the room with her”. Nor should anyone pass over the point that the Nielsen briefing on Monday was the last before the press room silence Acosta records.

Image note: Top — Tweet by Jim Acosta (@acosta), 22 June 2018.  Right — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

@Acosta. “For the fourth straight day there was no WH briefing. No officials to explain how the admin plans to return the separated kids to their parents. This is how the briefing room looks.. a few reporters waiting for answers that aren’t coming yet. #whereistheplan #whereispresssec”. Twitter. 22 June 2018.

Gstalter, Morgan. “Fox News’ Jesse Watters: Reporters who act like ‘a wild animal’ should lose press passes”. The Hill. 14 June 2018.

Nuzzi, Olivia. “Inside the Disastrous White House Briefing on Trump’s Child-Separation Policy”. New York. 19 June 2018.

Somewhere in the Range ‘Twixt Apt and Emblematic

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspects the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army at an undisclosed location, 14 August 2017, in image released by Korean Central News Agency. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

“Well, this about sums it up: when you’re blinded so much by partisan tribalism that you like a totalitarian dictator who executes people with flamethrowers for his viewing pleasure more than *gasp* a Democrat.”

Brian Klaas

This is the bouncing ball: Columnist Brian Klaas tweeting Axios coverage of an Ipsos/Daily Beast poll. Regarding that last:

A coin for a planned US-North Korea summit, later canceled, displayed in Washington, D.C., 21 May 2018. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)The poll of roughly 1,000 adults aged 18 and over was conducted June 14-15, shortly after President Trump’s historic summit with the North Korea dictator. According to the results, 19 percent of Republicans indicated they had a favorable view of Kim with 68 percent saying they had an unfavorable view (12 percent of voters overall had a favorable view of Kim, compared to 75 percent who viewed him unfavorably). That compared slightly better than the perception of Pelosi, who had a 17 percent favorable, 72 percent unfavorable rating among self-identified Republicans.

Pelosi, nevertheless, was only the second-most disliked figure on Capitol Hill. Her overall 29 percent favorable, 47 percent unfavorable rating was slightly better than the numbers for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell had an overall favorability rating of 20 percent with 43 percent viewing him unfavorable. (Self-identified Democrats, for what it’s worth, had a significantly more favorable opinion of McConnell than of Kim Jong Un.)

(Resnick)

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Image notes: Top — North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspects the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army, 14 August 2017, in image released by Korean Central News Agency. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)  Right — A coin for a planned US-North Korea summit, later canceled, displayed in Washington, D.C., 21 May 2018. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

@brianklaas. “Well, this about sums it up: when you’re blinded so much by partisan tribalism that you like a totalitarian dictator who executes people with flamethrowers for his viewing pleasure more than *gasp* a Democrat.” Twitter. 19 June 2018.

Ipsos. “American Public Does Not See Celebrity Candidates as the Answer”. 18 June 2018.

Resnick, Gideon. “Kim Jong Un More Popular Than Pelosi Among Republicans: Exclusive Poll Results”. The Daily Beast. 18 June 2018.

Sykes, Michael. “Poll: Republicans favor Kim Jong-un more than Nancy Pelosi”. Axios. 18 June 2018.

What They Voted For: Screaming, Flaming Handbasket

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen answers questions during a press briefing at the White House, in Washington, D.C., 18 June 2018. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

This is one of those that doesn’t so much go downhill from there, but, rather, is a screaming, flaming handbasket in medias res:

On Monday, new reporting continued to reveal the realities of the Trump administration policy of forcibly separating children from their adult guardians who cross the border without U.S. citizenship. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly are both on record endorsing the practice as a means of deterring undocumented immigrants from entering the country.

Yet the president and members of his staff have repeatedly and falsely blamed Congress—in particular congressional Democrats—for the nearly-2,000 children who have reportedly been taken into federal custody in just the last six weeks.

(Nuzzi)

The flashback, then:

When top members of Donald Trump’s team add the word “period” to their most outlandish claims, it’s a safe bet they know they’re lying. The day after the president’s inauguration, for example, then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer angrily told reporters, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period.”

(Benen)

Something about ominous setups goes here; unfortunately, all we find is a sick punch line:

Nielsen, in a speech to the National Sheriffs’ Association in New Orleans, said the children are provided food, medical attention, education and anything else they might need.

“We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job,” she said. “This administration has a simple message—If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you.”

Nielsen spoke hours after taking to Twitter to vehemently deny that her department’s border policy dictates separation of children from their parents.

“We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period,” Nielsen tweeted late Sunday.

(Bacon)

(more…)

The State of the Department (Quack)

#AmericanPrestige | #WhatTheyVotedFor

With apologies: Altered detail from cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 17 April 2018.

“guess how many people are working on Iranian nuclear proliferation at the State Department? as of today....zero”

Anne Applebaum

We should be clear that by today, the columnist means Friday last, when she posted the tweet, which refers, in turn, to a report from Foreign Policy:

One of the State Department’s top experts on nuclear proliferation resigned this week after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, in what officials and analysts say is part of a worrying brain drain from public service generally over the past 18 months.

Richard Johnson, a career civil servant who served as acting assistant coordinator in State’s Office of Iran Nuclear Implementation, had been involved in talks with countries that sought to salvage the deal in recent weeks, including Britain, France, and Germany — an effort that ultimately failed.

Johnson’s departure leaves a growing void in the State Department’s stable of experts on Iran’s nuclear program and highlights a broader problem of high-level departures from government.

Officials say the trend is particularly evident at the State Department, where Trump sidelined career diplomats and morale plummeted under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The office Johnson led has gone from seven full-time staffers to none since Trump’s inauguration.

Today is Tuesday, and elsewhere in the commentariat Steve Benen notes, “The article didn’t explicitly say that Johnson resigned in protest, but there doesn’t appear to be much of a mystery about what happened here.”

(more…)

Capitalism Recovering Itself

[¡#zucked!]

Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., 10 April 2018. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

If the question is whether you want the lede or bottom line, well, it is Axios, and some days that pretty much makes the article. How about the headline: “Facebook stock has fully recovered from Cambridge Analytica scandal”.

What did anyone actually expect of capitalism? Of course Facebook stock has recovered. Public morality is also public relations, and that pretty much makes for the private limit. One thing about the Cambridge Analytica scandal is that it demonstrates just how valuable Facebook is to capitalists.

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Image note: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., 10 April 2018. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Primack, Dan. “Facebook stock has fully recovered from Cambridge Analytica scandal”. Axios. 10 May 2018.

The Pruitt Watch (Probably Not Pizza)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel): "During trip to Italy, SCOTT PRUITT dined at a 5-star restaurant with a Cardinal who is a climate change skeptic, even though @EPA staff knew the Cardinal was under investigation for child sex abuse. But they omitted the Cardinal's name from schedules released under FOIA. THREAD:" ―Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT): "FOLLOW ALONG WITH US HERE, as we walk through a FASCINATING collection of documents The NYT has pulled together about a certain dinner in Rome that EPA's Scott Pruitt had last June with Cardinal Pell, who is now facing sexual..." [via Twitter, 10 May 2018]

Rude balls and shitfire! (What? At least it’s not two-bit slapdash about what five-star pizza tastes like. No, seriously, what the hell is anybody supposed to say? Of all the extraneous scandals on the planet, five-star dinner in Rome with an accused child molesting Cardinal who just happens to be a climate change wan― . . . I mean . . . goddamnit!)

Oh, right:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, on Capitol Hill, 26 April 2018, in Washington D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)During trip to Italy, SCOTT PRUITT dined at a 5-star restaurant with a Cardinal who is a climate change skeptic, even though @EPA staff knew the Cardinal was under investigation for child sex abuse. But they omitted the Cardinal’s name from schedules released under FOIA.

Ken Vogel’s summary, via Twitter, suffices, but the real action, as he notes, is Eric Lipton’s tweet thread covering New York Times research and investigation into yet another scandal challenging EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

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Image notes: Top — Tweet by Kenneth P. Vogel, 10 May 2018.  Right — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, on Capitol Hill, 26 April 2018, in Washington D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

@EricLiptonNYT. “Follow along with us here, as we walk through a fascinating collection of documents The NYT has pulled together about a certain dinner in Rome that EPA’s Scott Pruitt had last June with Cardinal Pell, who is now facing sexual abuse charges”. Twitter. 10 May 2018.

@kenvogel. “During trip to Italy, Scott Pruitt dined at a 5-star restaurant with a Cardinal who is a climate change skeptic, even though @EPA staff knew the Cardinal was under investigation for child sex abuse. But they omitted the Cardinal’s name from schedules released under FOIA.” Twitter. 10 May 2018.