Category Archives: media

On Being Mesmerized by Donald Trump

On Being Mesmerized by Donald Trump

I Fear Progressives Are Being Mesmerized by Donald Trump. We have been outraged by his positions, and frightened by the support he has received. And that is understandable. So we have focused our attention and mobilized our supporters in opposition, as if his success would be the worst thing that could happen to this country. And, in our determination and narrow-minded focus, I fear we have lost sight of the bigger picture, and the far more serious threats that are being hidden behind the Trump phenomenon.

No question that Trump’s policies, such as one can make them out, are real threats to the humanistic and progressive values we cherish. And there can be little remaining doubt about his significant character failures. But the fact remains, that his positions, bad as they are, are not nearly as bad as those of all of the other establishment Republicans who rightly feel threatened by his ascendency.

The so-called Conservative establishment is a systematic and organized attack on LBJ’s Great Society and FDR’s New Deal, and even on much of the best from the Progressive Era. And our exclusive attention to Trump has led many to feel that even Ted Cruz — who is the closest thing we have in current mainstream politics to a Fascist — is preferable to Trump. That, for example, was precisely the position that Bill Maher expounded this past Friday. And even the “progressive” media seems to be falling for the same line. Meanwhile, much of the mainstream of the Radical Right, such as The National Review, know that Trump is no “card-carrying” member of that mainstream. (He doesn’t even call for the destruction of Social Security.)

And while we, and the mainstream media, are transfixed by the Trump phenomena, and many are even tending to speak nicely of the “moderate” John Kasich, we are failing to pay attention to the real dangers lurking off stage, such as the Republican and corporate donor class preparing to bring a white knight, such as Paul Ryan, to the rescue. While Trump would be a real disaster for the country, he is clearly the most defeatable Republican candidate. But Paul Ryan, whose policies are straight out of a corporate America’s wet dream, has been lionized by the mainstream media as a “new face,” as a thoughtful policy wonk who offers real solutions to America. And he is young, dynamic, attractive, and supposedly not even trying for the job. The age contrast he would present to either Democratic nominee would play well in American media.

In short, he, and most any other Republican “savior” who is likely to emerge from a successful stop Trump movement, would be both far more threatening to humanistic and progressive values, and far more likely to be elected than would Donald Trump. So let’s stop being mesmerized by, and singularly focused on, Donald Trump, and keep our eye on the ball. The Republican Party has been taken over by The Radical Right — there is nothing “conservative” about them. They are committed to eviscerating the social safety net, environmental safeguards, labor rights, and so much more. And in important and complex ways, Donald Trump threatens even that establishment. His candidacy could vastly weaken the Republican brand, and certainly help the Democrats regain national ascendancy, including in the Supreme Court. While the Bernie phenomena, regardless of its own electoral success, can provide the groundwork for moving the entire country leftward. But this will not happen if the Republicans can derail Donald Trump, and replace him with a “white knight.”

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The Truth Revealed, Definitively

I couldn’t resist this comment, which finally puts to rest the entire fabricated “Deflategate” controversy. As I have said almost from the beginning (see my Blogs to that effect), it was a fabricated attack fueled by ignorance and resentment directed at the New England Patriots — but its wider ramifications concern the ability of established forces to use the media to fabricate a reality for ulterior motives. That’s why I long ago linked it to the Bush Adminstration’s fabrication of a case for its criminal invasion of Iraq. With the so-called “Deflategate” controversy, however, we now have a patently clear demonstration that this alternate reality was fabricated. (Will Mike Francesa at WFAN ever apologize for his outrageous behavior in condemning the Patriots from Day One, and in refusing to countenance any alternative comments on his radio program? But I doubt it.)

For the details, see today’s New York Times article by Joe Nocera;

True Scandal of Deflategate Lies in the N.F.L.’s Behavior

BY JOE NOCERA

A scientific consensus that deflation of footballs in the 2015 A.F.C. title game could be explained by physics has not done anything to mitigate the Patriots’ punishment.

Or, copy and paste this URL into your browser: http://nyti.ms/1PbrjC6

Here’s a brief excerpt from that article:

“John Leonard is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who roots for the Philadelphia Eagles, listens to sports talk radio when he is exercising, and teaches a class called Measurement and Instrumentation. When the Deflategate story broke after last year’s A.F.C. championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, he found himself fixated on it, yearning to dig into it from a scientific point of view….

Numbers in hand, (finally,) Leonard went to work. He bought the same gauges the N.F.L. used to measure p.s.i. levels. He bought N.F.L.-quality footballs. He replicated the temperatures of the locker room, and the colder field. And so on. When he was done, he concluded that Exponent (the company hired by the NFL’s investigators) had made a series of basic errors. Leonard’s work showed the exact opposite of Exponent’s conclusions: The drop in the Patriots’ footballs’ p.s.i was consistent with the Ideal Gas Law; the smaller drop in pressure in the Colts’ balls was not. (Leonard surmises that because the Colts’ balls were tested after the Patriots’ balls, they had warmed up again.)

By early November, he had a PowerPoint presentation with more than 140 slides. By the end of the month, he had given two lectures about Deflategate, the second of which he had videotaped and posted on YouTube. A viewer who watched the lengthy lecture edited it down to a crisp 15 minutes; Leonard agreed to let him post the edited version.

The edited lecture went up on YouTube on Dec. 1 and has been viewed more than 17,000 times. It is utterly convincing. Leonard told me that if an M.I.T. undergraduate made the kinds of mistakes that Exponent made, “I would force them to repeat the experiment and correct the analysis.” Based on his study of the data, Leonard now says: “I am convinced that no deflation occurred and that the Patriots are innocent. It never happened.””

The Ambiguous Legacy of Barack Obama

The Ambiguous Legacy of Barack Obama

There is much for which to credit Barack Obama, from the creation of national health insurance and the stimulus legislation (in spite of their many limitations), through the more recent agreement with Iran, the opening up to Cuba, and the recently concluding international climate agreement. And there is much to criticize, from his failure to hold anyone responsible for the disastrous invasion of Iraq and the systematic use of torture, to the uncompromising pursuant and punishment of any and all whistleblowers, and the vastly expanded deportation of documented individuals.

But the most fundamental failure of his administration, to my mind, was his almost constitutional incapacity to recognize and respond to the all out ideological warfare that has been orchestrated by a Republican Party that has been captured by the Radical Right, joined to his corporate economic vision and program that has contributed to the ideological legitimation and institutional empowerment of right-wing political economics.

His corporate liberal agenda was signaled from the outset be his choice of Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, and Alton Goosby, as his key economic advisors. This was followed not only by a refusal to hold any of the corporate crooks responsible for the Great Recession, but by his unmitigated support for the Bush-Paulsen bailout – with practically no strings attached – of the banking community. He thus “owned” the corporate bailout, which fueled a widespread popular outrage, and vitalized the emergence of the Tea Party (itself financed and operating in the service of that very corporate agenda.)

That “conservative” economic agenda was further legitimated by Obama’s acceptance of the bogus concern with the deficit, which found additional expression in his creation of the Simpson-Bowles Commission to orchestrate the right-wing corporate attack on the so-called “entitlements” of Social Security and Medicare — with the camouflage of trying to “reform” them to address the claimed future shortfall.

It was this right-wing economic ideology and program, focused around the primacy of the deficit and the ideological opposition to universal health care, that set the stage for the overwhelming right-wing successes in 2010 that gave Republicans such overwhelming control of Congress and state governments, allowing them to effectively gerrymander their institutional electoral control of the House of Representatives and many state governments for the foreseeable future. And Obama now seeks to cap off this corporate economic agenda with the outrageous assault on democratic self-government and our domestic economy that is the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

It is these positions that have both fueled and popularly legitimated the right-wing corporate and Tea Party movements, and initially demoralized American progressives. It was thanks, first to Occupy, and then to Elizabeth Warren and now Bernie Sanders, who have re-lit the flame for the Progressive left. And it will be for our national organizations to build on this momentum to carry these movements into 2016 and beyond, as we fight an uphill battle against the right-wing ideology, media, and institutional corporate and political infrastructure. Of these efforts, more next time.

Creeping Fascism is no longer creeping

For years now, many, myself included, have warned of creeping fascism in the United States. We have seen it: with the growth of a Radical Right Evangelical movement; with the violent attacks on women’s health clinics; with the growth of Radical Right talk radio, and the neo-fascist Fox News; with the vast transfers of wealth to the corporate establishment and the 1/10th of 1%; with the increasing disenfranchisement of the poor and minorities; with the use of gerrymandering to insure Radical Right control of the electoral process, vastly augmented by outrageous Supreme Court decisions that unleash corporate money while restricting the ability of the populace to reign in corporate abuse; and with the use of a radicalized class of increasingly economically threatened white working class as quad-storm troopers to threaten or harass those who do not support this Radical Right agenda. We have effectively seen a coup d’etat by which this corporate funded, talk radio motivated Radical Right has taken over the Republican Party, and installed an American version of neo-fascism. And yet the political and media establishment, for by far the most part,  does not recognize and describe this neo-fascist takeover, but  continues to treat our electoral process as if its politics as usual — just more of the same two party competition. They still insist on referring to the Radical Right as conservative, when they are anything but!!! And this only plays into the hands of those on the Radical Right who wish to present themselves as a legitimate democratic alternative. We must stop treating the Radical Right — and that means almost all contemporary Republican leaders, as if they are conservative. We must begin to call them what they. And respond to them as the danger to American democracy that they most certainly are!!!! And no one better exemplifies this American neo-fascism than Ted Cruz. Though the rest of the Republican Presidential field are not mush better — though, clearly driven by their need to appeal to the corporately mobilized “storm troopers” of talk radio and the Evangelical Radical Right — all, with the partial exception of John Kasich, who is just a very conservative rightwing Republican — someone who should be a marginalized right winger in any normal democracy. We must see the Republican Party for what it has become, and recognized that we are no longer dealing with politics as usual, but with a straight forward attempt to take over what is left of American democratic institutions. That’s the challenge before us. From now on, I will regularly comment on what is happening to our democracy — and what we can do about it. Let me hear your thoughts — and stay tuned.

“Deflategate” and the Invasion of Iraq

As Roger Goodell prepares to hear the appeal of Tom Brady, it is perhaps appropriate to reflect on the parody that is so-called deflategate, and to ask ourselves how and why this happened. And what I mean is not how and why the Patriots deflated some footballs, but why and how this manufactured reality was brought about. And it is also to reflect on the lessons to be gleaned from a fabrication of evidence and the media’s rush to judgement that characterized both the football world’s condemnation of the New England Patriots for its purported inflation of footballs and the Bush Administration’s orchestration of the invasion of Iraq due to its supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction. In both cases, I believe, vested interests were able to play on public biases to manipulate a gullible and biased media to create a fabricated reality with significant policy and personal consequences. Of course, so-called “Deflategate” pales in comparison with the significance of the Iraq invasion. That fiasco was probably the worst foreign policy disaster in U.S. history, the destructive consequences of which will almost certainly be with us for the indefinite future. And that, without even considering the human cost in lives killed or mangled, whether American or Iraqi, and civilizations and cultures across the Middle East deranged and devastated. But we can better appreciate the way in which the media can be used to create such a manufactured “reality” by seeing how it was able to manufacture the reality of “Deflategate”.

Let me make clear that my beliefs are based on the facts as so far revealed. A full and independent investigations — should we ever have such, which I doubt — may bring forth new facts that would show that I am in error. Further, I confess to not being a completely impartial observer, since I am a Patriots fan, and would like the evidence to support their innocence. But I have been outraged from the very inception of this situation, by the pervasive bias that led to the Patriots being convicted and almost universally condemned before any investigation even began. And the “evidence” was regularly constructed and presented in such a way as to reinforce that pervasively desired conclusion. We can speculate why that was the case. It is my suspicion that it results from a combination of resentment at their years of success and an orchestrated pre-existent public belief that they are cheaters, as expressed by those who have renamed their coach Bellacheat. But the evidence that is so far available not only does not support that conclusion of their guilt. Far more astounding still is the fact that it suggests that actually NOTHING at all unusual really happened. That the entire “crisis” was fabricated. So let’s look at the facts.

The 12 footballs prepared before the game by the Patriots were measured by the Referee to be at 12.5 PSI, while the Colts footballs were found to be between 13 and 13.1 PSI. (By regulation, they are required to be between 12.5 & 13.5 PSI at game time.) At halftime, the Patriots footballs were measured again, by two different gauges. One found 11 out of 12 to be excessively deflated, being up to 2 PSI below the 12.5 legal limit, while another gauge found 3 out of the 12 to be significantly under-inflated. And then 4 of the Colts footballs were measured, and all were found to be within acceptable limits.

BUT, there were two gauges used, and there was a significant difference in the measurements by the two gauges, with one clearly giving a reading approximately .4 PSI less than the other. The referee who did the initial measurement believes (but is not certain) that he used the gauge that gave the higher reading before the game.

In addition, physics tells us that for every 10 degrees cooler the ambient temperature there is a reduction of air pressure about .4 to .5 PSI. These two facts on their own are quite sufficient to account for the purported “under-inflation” of the Patriots footballs, particularly if you take seriously the Referee’s statement (which the Wells Report discounted) that he used the gauge that gave the higher reading before the game. (Since combining the use of the higher reading gauge before the game with the expected pressure drop due to the outside temperature would be expected to have given a reading at half-time of between 1.5 and 2 PSI below the legal limit.)

But many people claim that the “smoking gun” of Patriot malfeasance is the fact that none of the Colts footballs tested at half-time were found to be under-inflated. But only four of the Colts footballs were in fact tested, and that was because the second-half of the game was about to begin, and the balls were needed for the game. But that fact makes clear that the Colts footballs were only tested toward the very end of the half-time, which means they were sitting inside for almost 15 minutes — far more than enough time for them to regain their original internal pressure, which is only what should have been expected. While the Patriots footballs were obviously tested right at the beginning of half-time, when they would have still been much colder.

In fact, if there’s a real smoking gun, it points in the reverse direction. For a Colt player did intercept a Brady pass in the first half. He then brought the ball to the sidelines and said that he thought it was under-inflated. That ball, taken directly from the cold playing field, was immediately tested, and it was found to have a PSI clearly within an acceptable range. If any ball should have been excessively under-inflated, it would have been one taken directly out of play. But it was not!!

In sum, there is NO evidence that anything unusual happened!!! Only that a reality was contrived to convict the Patriots of cheating for reasons about which we are all free to speculate. But the ability for a manipulable and/or gullible media to create such a false reality in order to promote vested interests should certainly be an object lesson to us all.

Let my last words be those of the recent and highly credible American Enterprise Institute independent investigation of this situation and their highly critical evaluation of the Wells Report. They write in “the Summary of (their) Findings”: “The evidence we present points to a simple—and innocent—explanation for the change in pressure in the Patriots footballs. The Patriots balls were measured at the start of halftime, whereas the Colts balls were measured at the end of halftime, after sufficient time had passed for the balls to warm up and return to their pregame pressure. There is no need to consider the alternative hypothesis—that the Colts illegally inflated their footballs—because a simple physical explanation is available.

The fact that the average pressure of the Colts balls was significantly above the prediction of the Ideal Gas Law, while that of the Patriots balls was not, is inconsistent with the findings of the Wells report. Our conclusion that the warming of the balls during halftime is the key factor overlooked in the Wells report is supported by the observation that the readings of the intercepted Patriots football, measured separately from the other Patriots balls, came in almost precisely at the prediction of the law. Under the hypothesis asserted by the Wells report, the odds of this Patriots ball matching the Ideal Gas Law prediction were between 1 out of 3 and 1 out of 300. It is therefore unlikely that the Patriots deflated the footballs.”