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Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons

“We come here battling like Bilgesnipe… In my youth, I courted war.” — Thor of Marvel Studios

As much as I respect Infinity War/Endgame — great rides, both — Avengers I remains my favorite in the series. The first time watching it, two-thirds of the way through the film, my cynicism crumbled, and I realized that I actually loved the film.

With its subtle anti-torture, empire-criticizing politics and its magnificent super-violence, it had won me over — even after I’d passed on a number of Marvel Studios’ previous entries and regarded the franchise skeptically.

When Thor of Asgard swooped down to the terrace of Stark Tower to confront his duplicitous brother, Loki (after Iron Man and Captain America had rescued the Shield “Helicarrier” in dramatic fashion, after the Incredible Hulk had kicked Thor’s arrogant, Mjolnir-dependent ass all over the place), I found myself saying, “(Self), this is something extra special. Star Warzy, even.”

By the time Hulky roared Tony Stark’s motionless form back to life, I was metaphorically in hog heaven. And the final, post-credits Shawarma scene, with Bruce nodding (finally at peace) is the ultimate post-movie Marvel moment, IMHO.

When I saw that, I knew I was witnessing cinema history.

Few Americans know that with the signing of the First Step Act, the preeminent racist scumbag of our times, Donald Trump, has done more to roll back the New Jim Crow than either of his abysmal predecessors (Bush-Obama) came close to doing.

And there’s no point in bringing up Reagan through Clinton, who only advanced modern slavery, incarcerating (and putting to work) well over a million Americans — disproportionately people of color, especially African-Americans and Hispanics — disenfranchising them, confiscating their basic rights, and denying them services related to housing, higher education, and more… years after they’d “paid their debt” to society (and to Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Victoria’s Secret, Proctor & Gamble, McDonald’s Corporation, Fruit of the Loom, ExxonMobil, AT&T, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and other corporate benefactors of America’s captive workforce).

But the truth is that thousands upon thousands of incarcerated people, disproportionately people of color, are now going to be released “early” and have certain of their freedoms restored, thanks to the liberal-reformist crime bill that Donald Trump unequivocally supported and subsequently signed.

Some judicial discretion has been restored. Certain automatic penalties have been repealed. Thousands of prisoners are going to be granted their freedom.

And the president who can take credit for this minor rollback of the draconian “tough on crime” legislation of the 1980s-90s is a nakedly bigoted demagogue.

Talk about ironic!

Bernie Sanders has gotten too big for the establishment to simply ignore. Indeed, that had happened by the time the 2016 Democratic Primary was even half over — when the corporate media pivoted from ignoring Bernie entirely to slandering his name with calumnies authored and disseminated by Sec. Clinton’s very own “Karl Rove,” the notorious spreader of lies, Mr. David Brock.

Here is just one example of Brock’s handiwork:

“The dossier, prepared by opponents of Sanders and passed on to The Guardian by a source who would only agree to be identified as ‘a Democrat,’ alleges that Sanders ‘sympathized with the USSR during the Cold War’ because he went on a trip there to visit a twinned city while he was mayor of Burlington. Similar ‘associations with communism’ in Cuba are catalogued alongside a list of quotes about countries ranging from China to Nicaragua in a way that supporters regard as bordering on the McCarthyite rather than fairly reflecting his views.”

(Three years later, in 2019 — despite the formal end of the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s 1991 dissolution, despite Gorbachev and Reagan’s summit, despite Bush-Obama’s frequent cooperation with Vladimir Putin — it seems that the U.S. political-media establishment simply refuses to let McCarthyism die… or the Cold War, for that matter. Similar McCarthyite smears would be launched at Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate for president, and, of course, Donald Trump, helping the neocons launch the New Cold War following Sec. Clinton’s improbable loss to an obvious degenerate, fake-billionaire, and star of reality-TV.)

Returning to the source of such smears, that ratfucker par excellence, David Brock…

A confessed liar and a despicable one, Brock is the rightwing slander-merchant whose “a little bit nutty, a little bit slutty” character assassination of Anita Hill helped confirm serial sexual-harasser Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court — with a considerable assist from then-Senator Joe Biden (aka, Uncle Gropey). From his 1990s work for the rancorous Arkansas Project to his malicious takedown of Prof. Hill to his scruple-free service to the 2016 Clinton campaign, David Brock has demonstrated an unflinching willingness to manufacture grody fabrications on behalf of right-wing conservatives.

And since a media blackout of Bernie Sanders (of the late-2015/early-2016 variety) is simply not an option this time around, the establishment is doing what it can to recycle some of Brock’s 2016 smears: “Bernie is doddering,” “Bernie alienates people of color,” “Bernie only appeals to misogynist young white men,” “Bernie tolerates sexual harassment by his staff,” “Bernie is too extreme to appeal to the mainstream,” “Bernie is a whackadoodle socialist,” “Bernie is the progressive equivalent of Donald Trump, an angry, dangerous demagogue with bullying, lunatic followers…”

Yes, we’ve heard it all before, slime-peddlers. Years later, we’re hearing it all again: aimed at Bernie (more cautiously, this time around) and at Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the only other progressive in the 2020 race (and the smears against Gabbard have been no-holds-barred, much like the 2016 smears against Sanders).

But what has been most disheartening — and tragic — has been the dogpiling of nominal progressives who have willfully joined in on the fusillade of lies aimed at genuine progressives.

In 2016, Sec. Clinton didn’t have to rely solely on the mainstream media: NBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, the Washington Post, New York Times, Politico, The Guardian, etc. While the corporate behemoths did plenty to spread Brock’s slander, their efforts were greatly magnified and augmented by a slew of once-progressive outlets and individuals: The Nation (especially Joan Walsh), Mother Jones, Slate, DailyKos, Gloria Steinem, Tom Hayden, Dolores Huerta, Rep. John Lewis, and others. Markos Moulitsas went so far as to declare his site a “pro-Clinton only” hub, purging all Hillary critics, no matter how popular their work or how long they’d been contributing.

And here we are again. In the 2020 cycle, we have seen The Nation’s Eric Alterman reviving the old attacks on Bernie Sanders. And we’ve seen The Young Turks, Jacobin Magazine, and The Nation, among others, repeatedly attacking Rep. Tulsi Gabbard with outright slander, including gross distortions of her record. The establishment’s entire 2016 progressive-smearing playbook is being thrown at Gabbard, who the oligarchs seem to fear even more than Sanders. But on the hopeful side, the backlash against these malicious attacks has been every bit as vehement as it was when progressives were forced to defend Sanders in 2016 (check out the comments responding to The Nation’s anti-Gabbard hit-piece — their readers are livid at the writer’s willingness to parrot ratfucking lies against the best anti-war presidential candidate since Rep. Dennis Kucinich).

The latest hit-piece comes from the editor of The Progressive, Ruth Conniff. Yesterday, on, a progressive hub for news, I took issue with Ms. Conniff’s latest offering, in which she subtly disparages progressives’ best hope for defeating Donald Trump in 2020 — while promoting, simultaneously, a host of “centrist” Democrats who will clearly not fight for single-payer healthcare or a Green New Deal… and will almost assuredly lose to Donald Trump.

(I single out this piece because it is illustrative of the way the establishment-left is coming at Bernie differently, this time around. In contrast to the vitriol they spewed at Bernie in 2016, they’re tiptoeing in 2019 because they know how popular Bernie has become. But the smears are basically the same, even if their approach is more subtle.)

My response to Conniff’s article is as follows:

You can always count on Ruth Conniff to toe the party line and peddle establishment talking points:

1. She makes sure to hit Bernie with some ageism (echoes of 2016);

2. She follows the establishment playbook precisely, talking up Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren’s “support” for Medicare-for-All (even Klubuchar’s!) when the truth is that both of those frauds have signaled their willingness to simply shore up the ACA and back off of single-payer (signaling surrender before the debate even begins, classic neoliberal “Democrats”);

3. Conniff fails to mention Harris’s “New Jim Crow” policies (including her initiative to incarcerate parents of truant students and her efforts to keep prisoners incarcerated longer than necessary in order to keep disproportionately black and Hispanic Americans slaving for corporate America and fighting fires for pennies an hour);

4. She glosses over the blatantly rigged 2016 primary and neoconservative Sen. Warren’s shameful betrayal of progressives, backing the most corrupt Wall Street toady in the history of Democratic presidential politics (also a member of the neocon vanguard, as extreme as Dick Cheney on foreign policy, and historically a greater enemy of people of color than even Trump, as Michelle Alexander and James Rucker noted in 2016 – one of the first to practice “Birther” politics against Obama in 2008, the welfare-slashing, “super-predator” hunting, prison population-doubling “co-president” who insinuated that Barack Obama might not be a Christian, and said flat-out that she is the candidate of “hardworking, you know, white, people”);

5. Conniff brings up the old “Bernie Bro” smear contrived by the Clinton folks, alleging his supporters were unusually bellicose, misogynistic, and bullying – when it was the Clinton people, a sea of belligerent bots, who constantly resorted to ageism, sexism, insults, and old school ratfucking slander, with David Brock following in Mark Penn’s footsteps (the senior Clinton campaign adviser and longtime confidante who tried to tarnish Obama with ghetto-izing drug references and worse in 2008); suddenly Bernie appealed only to “young, white males” and was never a part of the Civil Rights movement;

6. She regurgitates the vile slander that Sanders’ message of economic justice “helped elect” the vile Donald Trump (BS! Sec. Clinton elected Donald Trump all by herself, after spending 2016 cheating her party’s base, giving them the finger, “I’m winning!”, and running well to Trump’s right, with regard to regime-change wars, “No-Fly zones” risking WWIII, Russiaphobia, slavery normalizing/sovereignty-effacing/regulation-nullifying “trade” pacts, the restoration of Glass-Steagall, and more);

7. Conniff repeats – in her thesis – the establishment trope that Bernie will never be able to appeal to rural America, when the polls consistently show that he is one of only two left-of-center politicians who can draw independent and GOP voters away from Trump’s base (the other being Rep. Tulsi Gabbard); and yet,

8. Even though Conniff says Bernie’s problem is with rural Trump whites, she incoherently repeats the canard that Bernie has his work cut out for him if he’s ever to “shore up his support among black voters” – more repetition of the Clinton campaign’s baseless 2016 smears; Conniff fails to note that Bernie’s strongest demographics, respectively, are black Americans and Hispanic Americans, among which groups he polls far better than white males (white males being one of his worst demographics, despite being the most popular politician in the country; Bernie also is viewed more favorably by women than men, not that Conniff has noticed); and finally,

9. Conniff follows the establishment playbook to a “T,” talking up charlatans like Warren, Booker, Biden, and Klobuchar – who in her eyes have all “moved left” (not just posturing to draw votes from Bernie) – and fails to mention the most progressive, viable, Trump-defeating candidate in the 2020 race: REP. TULSI GABBARD.

Conniff is supporting Sen. Warren, that much is clear. She seems to prefer the longtime Republican who hung with Reagan and Bush Sr. through their entire monstrous 12 years in office. She likes the “progressive” Warren, who remained a Republican throughout most of Newt Gingrich’s career, back when he was partnered with Tom DeLay, dismantling the nation’s media ownership rules, Wall Street regulations, and other democratic institutions with that other “progressive,” Bill Clinton.

Conniff champions the supposed “anti-Wall Street” crusader (grandstanding fraud) who chose to back Wall Street’s favorite minion when the chips were down, a primary was being stolen, and America had the chance to elect the most progressive, FDR-like candidate in generations. That was when Warren exposed herself as an utter charlatan – ignoring the fact that she has long been a supporter of regime-change wars and neoconservative foreign policy, AWOL on NSA spying, GITMO, the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists, and more…

Establishment voices will always regurgitate establishment talking points. Why Ms. Conniff gets to do that here, on a progressive website, is a mystery to me.

From Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges’ article:

“From the CIA’s funneling of over a billion dollars to Islamic militants in the 1970s war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union to the billion dollars spent on training and equipping the radical jihadists currently fighting in Syria, the United States has repeatedly empowered extremists who have filled the vacuums of failed states it created.”

…“The radical jihadists… are often deliberately armed and empowered by the U.S. national security apparatus, along with Israel, as a way to pressure and topple regimes deemed antagonistic to Israel and the United States. Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, in audio leaked from a closed meeting with Syrian opposition activists, admitted that the U.S. had used Islamic State (IS) as a tool for pressuring the Syrian government. He also acknowledged that Washington’s complicity in the growth of IS in Syria was the major cause for Russian intervention there.”

…“Israel seeks to create buffer zones between itself and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. It sees its neighbor Syria, because of its alliance with Iran, as a mortal enemy. The solution has been to cripple these traditional enemies by temporarily empowering radical Sunni jihadists and al-Qaida. There are numerous reports of Israel, along with the United States, using its aircraft and military in Syria to aid the very jihadists Washington and Jerusalem claim to want to wipe from the face of the earth.”

…“The corporate state, its legitimacy in tatters, seeks to make us afraid in order to maintain its control over the economic, political and military institutions. It needs mortal enemies, manufactured or real, at home or abroad, to justify its existence and mask its mismanagement and corruption. This narrative of fear is what Antonio Gramsci called a ‘legitimation doctrine.’ It is not about making us safe—indeed the policies the state pursues make us less secure—but about getting us to surrender to the will of the elites. The more inequality and injustice grow, the more the legitimation doctrine will be used to keep us cowed and compliant. The doctrine means that the enemies of the United States will never be destroyed, but will mutate and expand; they are too useful to be allowed to disappear.”

*          *          *

Thank you, Mr. Hedges!

I’ve been trying to draw attention to Mujaheddin 2.0 for quite some time, myself. Thanks to the essential reporting of multiple-Pulitzer-winner Seymour Hersh (way back in 2007), I had the sense to investigate the origins of the conflict in Syria in its earliest days, long before half-a-million Syrians had been needlessly butchered and 10 million Syrians had been turned into refugees.

In 2012, I created a resource-rich primer on the origins of that wholly unnecessary conflict, shedding light on the manner in which Washington and Riyadh had brutally appropriated Syria’s non-violent “Arab Spring” moment, flooding a nation at peace with suicide-bombing, head-chopping, genocidal Salafists… plunging Syria into years of war and horror.

Two years ago, I documented that Danielle Pletka, the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute’s most prominent public face, has, in fact, admitted that Washington, DC, effectively “subcontracted” its regime-change operation in Syria to Gulf dictatorships — knowing full well that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the world’s top sponsors of al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups.

In that same blog post, I noted that even The New York Times has reported on ISIS’s use of chemical weapons “at least 52 times” in Syria and Iraq. While the corporate media has endlessly repeated the unproven allegations that Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons in this conflict — allegations that have rarely, if ever, been investigated (allegations that President Obama’s top people advised him were unsupported by any “smoking gun” evidence) — they have rarely noted the scores of times that Washington’s foot soldiers in Syria have used such weapons.

Good journalism about the Syrian conflict is rare, indeed… but I’ve been trying for years to bring the best reporting I’ve found to the attention of my readers.

Seeing as I’ve had to “unsubscribe” from the mailing list of the Democratic National Committee at least six times in the last week — having to compose, each time, a new “Reason for Unsubscribing” message — I have decided that it might be helpful to have some text on hand for the next time I have to unsubscribe from their list… since they routinely ignore that request and more e-mails are surely coming.

Feel free to use the language from my latest “unsubscribe” message the next time you have to unsubscribe from the DNC:

Helpful, carefully considered verbiage for respectfully unsubscribing from the DNC's e-mail list...

CNN is the epitome of corporate news and they typically do the bidding of the corporatocracy and our neo-fascist, white-supremacist establishment. They marginalize the most authoritative experts and all independent voices in favor of industry mouthpieces and government flacks. They systematically obscure the most pressing issues of our time and promote the narratives of the MIC, PhRMA, AHIP, the American Petroleum Institute, AIPAC, Wall Street, etc. — generally at the expense of journalism, the marginalized, democracy, the environment, and world peace.

CNN’s birth virtually coincided with the selling of the first Iraq War. They pushed propaganda every bit as bad as FoxNews, including the “babies tossed from incubators” nonsense hatched in a Western PR firm, sold by the Kuwaiti ambassador’s daughter.

Then, as now, they did not subject warmongering claims to scrutiny, but promoted them 24/7. They did not, of course, cover the fact that GHWB (Bush I) had given Saddam the “green light” to invade to Kuwait — that it was a trap designed to lure Saddam’s forces into Kuwait and ultimately give the U.S. military bases in Iraq (following the attack on U.S. troops secretly based in Saudi Arabia, Washington and Riyadh wanted our troops out of the KSA). CNN also downplayed the fact that Kuwait had been “slant drilling,” effectively stealing Iraq’s oil. Instead, CNN favored the warmongers’ “Saddam is Hitler” refrain… a comparison that was patently insane and completely detached from any reading of history.

CNN covering the Iraq-Kuwait story’s key facts — rather than pushing baseless warmongering propaganda — would have been JOURNALISM. But that’s not primarily the business they’re in. The primary business they’re in is promoting the U.S.-based corporatocracy and its interests — at the expense of all else, including the lives of every living thing on Earth.

(All of this should come under the category of “DUH!” — but in the age of partisan reality-TV “news,” Americans have chosen sides and gotten all defensive… when the truth is that CNN/MSNBC/FoxNews, etc., are all in the same business and represent the same interests. The rest is mere branding. Duh, duh, DUH, for Chrissakes!)

Even so, while CNN is badly corrupt from a journalistic standpoint — and a dedicated agent of history’s worst empire — they do plenty of reliable, decent reporting. I readily concede that fact. While their anchors are vacuous, amoral careerists, they actually employ dozens of real reporters. It is their editorial policy that makes so much of their programming worthless.

As Jon Stewart said for years, CNN promotes “he said, she said” debates without sorting out the facts for their viewers, effectively propagandizing and dividing Americans while failing to illuminate important stories. Jon Stewart’s excellent Daily Show skewered CNN mercilessly for routinely promoting warmongering, neoconservative claims without investigating them. And on that front, in 2019, they’ve only gotten worse. Like MSNBC and FoxNews, they put one “analyst” after another on their programs, without revealing that they are HIGHLY PAID employees of neocon think tanks, the MIC, PhRMA, and other industries. It’s called dishonest reporting in the service of modern fascists.

My primary objection to their corrupt model of “journalism” is that CNN peddles pro-corporate propaganda that destroys millions of lives, through war, environmental destruction, and other forms of corporate predation.