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

In his interview with Sharmini Peries (formerly of Democracy Now!), Lawrence Wilkerson has it exactly right: Whether we’re talking about torture overseer/proponent, Gina Haspel, or raging neocon, John Bolton, the key, defining attribute of both individuals is their astonishing INCOMPETENCE. Like most corporate “journalists” today, Haspel and Bolton are grasping careerists who simply do the bidding of the most rabid of our elites.

(AKA, “Yes Men.” Simpering toads.)

Haspel and Bolton are dead wrong about Venezuela, just as they were 100% wrong about torture’s alleged efficacy and the wisdom of invading Iraq.

I’ll admit that it’s good to see Trump finally squaring off, somewhat, with Bolton, and backing off — at long last — from the establishment’s long-term regime-change op in Venezuela. As much as our last few presidents have endeavored to overthrow the South American democracy that sits upon the world’s largest proven oil reserves, there’s no sane way forward.

(To hell with the plundering plans of Pompeo, Abrams, and Bolton — serial war criminals, all. And if an egomaniacal, narcissistic demagogue, like Trump, is what it takes to scuttle their despotic agenda, so be it… though it seems the neocons are still driving the buggy, where Iran is concerned.)

Before closing, I’ll also note that it’s positively bizarre to see Rachel Maddow urging her “liberal” audience toward sympathy with John Bolton, who — per Maddow — is “only a human being” in addition to being a “fearless truth-teller.” (Poor John Bolton has to deal with “Putin’s puppet” in the White House, aka, Donald Trump: the far-right jerkoff who wants to back away from WWIII.)

Unrecognizable Maddow offers her Bolton apologia in the name of Russiagate and xenophobia — still peddling the New Cold War, because that’s all she knows how to do anymore.

Apparently, this is what happens when the party of the “Left” and the party of the “Right” co-mingle and take turns playing the Hawk. In this Good Cop/Bad Cop waltz/Kabuki, it’s the Blue Team’s turn to warmonger and tout the unimpeachable integrity of various neocons and our noble intelligence agencies.

And what a tragedy that represents for so-called liberals (utterly lost, both to themselves and the actual left).

From the article appearing in CommonDreams.org:

“National security adviser, John Bolton, echoed Rubio’s insistence that Guaido’s actions—supported by group of heavily armed soldiers—’is not a coup.’

“In response, Gerry Condon of Veterans for Peace wrote for Common Dreams, ‘And night is day… Pompeo and Bolton blame the Cubans and the Russians for supporting the democratically-elected president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro… They threaten the Russians with consequences, but they save their bitterest bile for the ‘Cuban thugs.’ Thugs? Who are the thugs? Who are the punks? Who are the bullies? Let me say their names again. Donald Trump. Mike Pence. John Bolton. Mike Pompeo. Elliott Abrams. Marco Rubio.’

“Following a day of chaos sparked by the Guaido-led ‘uprising’—which resulted in dozens of injuries and at least one death—Venezuela’s elected President Nicolas Maduro delivered a speech late Tuesday declaring victory over the ‘coup-mongering far right.’

“‘They failed in their plan. They failed in their call, because the people of Venezuela want peace,’ Maduro said.

“‘I truly believe… that the United States of America has never had a government as deranged as this one,’ Maduro added…”

*       *       *

Once again, Trump’s one value in the White House is that he handicaps the neo-fascist world order erected and normalized by the last several U.S. presidents: the ruthless, warmongering, genocidal, and omnicidal Corporatocracy: http://invitation2artivism.com/?p=2167

If the Democrats’ refusal to run an un-rigged primary means that we have only two choices for president — an incompetent, inept, overtly racist, neo-fascist Republican or a deftly competent, institutionally racist, neo-fascist Democrat who advances the far-right’s agenda beyond imagining — then we might as well have the incompetent twit.

(That said, my preference, by now, should be crystal clear: As novel a concept as it may be, I’d like a non-fascist president, like Bernie Sanders or Tulsi Gabbard promises to be. Like Dennis Kucinich promised to be… But our thoroughly corrupted system no longer allows for such leaders. The last such leaders we had were FDR and JFK — and how did that go? The deep state attempted to remove FDR in a military coup, which was unsuccessful, thank goodness. But they controlled his successors, Truman and Eisenhower, like obedient puppies. And when JFK came along and tried to restore democratic, humanistic, liberal values to the White House, he was summarily butchered. We haven’t had a democracy since, as anyone who’s been watching closely knows.)

I understand that it’s tough to wrap one’s mind around this perverse truth, but while neo-fascism has advanced most dramatically under smooth-talking, outwardly civilized Democrats, especially Clinton and Obama, the repugnant Mr. Trump has inadvertently helped the world resist fascism — because he takes the mask off what U.S. policy has been for decades.

And now Washington’s second coup against the Chavistas, sought by the last three presidents, has failed.

Good.

Will the blustering imbeciles in Trump’s administration make good on their threats to militarily invade Venezuela? I hope not. But if so, that military invasion will fail, just as Bush’s did in Iraq, just as President Obama’s (covert one) did in Syria. And the last smudges of lipstick on the PIG that is U.S. foreign policy will finally be off.

“It was emotionally wrenching for me to see places like DemocracyNow!, The Intercept, The Young Turks (where I work) push RussiaGate. It… destroyed me, kind of, internally, right? It was way worse than the Iraq War for me, because at least during the Iraq War most of the people on the left were awake about it, right? But this was ubiquitous. It was just horrible…”

— Jimmy Dore from his segment “Mueller Report Drops! Aaron Maté Explains”

And here from that same segment is journalist Aaron Mate — just awarded the prestigious “Izzy” award (honoring the journalism of I.F. Stone) for his intrepid RussiaGate reporting — discussing the calamity that’s befallen journalism in America, even at supposedly independent/progressive media outlets:

“I can tell you that I tried to write this stuff at The Intercept. It wasn’t welcome there. I wrote one piece about Rachel Maddow… talking about how she covered Russia more than all other issues combined, and going through and debunking a lot of her conspiracy theories — basically arguing, very politely, that she was a propagandist. That piece did very well, but after that, I was never welcomed back at The Intercept again. And I tried.

“And I thought that… an outlet that calls itself fearless and adversarial would want to put resources to challenging the claims of intelligence officials like John Brennan (Obama’s “Kill List” managing, torture-defending DCI). And challenging this conspiracy theory that was so widespread across the corporate media… but they weren’t interested.”

“…to the Intercept’s credit, they publish Glenn Greenwald, who… pushed back on RussiaGate from the beginning (before I did). It was pretty much him and Bob Parry — the late, legendary Bob Parry (of Consortium News), a legend — so, Glenn and Bob Parry were among the first… Because Glenn has autonomy. He does whatever he wants. And they had nothing to do with what he did.”

(AUTONOMY! What a wonderful word!!!)

“Institutionally, there was a decision. This website that does such great work (they do! I love The Intercept, actually: I think it’s a great website) — but on this key issue, the one that was engulfing our politics… they made a concerted editorial decision to not be aggressive and adversarial, but to be careerist. And to go along with the prevailing narrative — and sort of burnish their adversarial bona fides through Glenn Greenwald, over whom (again) they had no editorial control.

”And that’s why, for example, they also published this really overhyped and overblown piece based on the Reality Winner leak about how Russia was trying to hack into U.S. voting systems. I mean, if you look at the actual document that they based their article on, the document itself doesn’t even show what they said it did…

“It also was basically a spearfishing attack that they were talking about, which they kind of minimized — spearfishing is not a sophisticated ‘hacking’ thing — as illustrated by the fact that whoever was carrying out this supposed ‘massive attack on our election system’ was using a Gmail address, impersonating a voting company with a Gmail address.

“And that’s why, when I had on James Risen… he couldn’t defend the substance of the article. And he hung up on me.”

“My former workplace, DemocracyNow!, which is my favorite news show, has the most noble, has such a noble legacy. And I’ve benefited a lot from it. But their top guest on RussiaGate was Marcy Wheeler, who is one of the most vocal conspiracy theorists out there…

“She also turned in her source to the FBI, who she said played a key role in what she called Russia’s attack on the election. Well, her source and her story are nowhere in the Mueller Report. And we haven’t heard her explain what happened there. And yet, she was treated (by many people) as a sort of a hero for turning in her source. When really, she was actually violating one of the core tenets of journalism: You don’t turn in your source to the government. And now we know, based on the fact that Mueller didn’t go anywhere with it, that it was totally baseless, as was her entire conspiracy theory…

“The fact that even our most noble outlets could drink the Kool-Aid and go along with it, I think really says something about how bad our media culture was.”

“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 CommonDreams.org, 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.