Monday, March 15, 2021

Does it have to be a whale?

"On Shedding an Obsolete Past" (Bacevich):

"Not all historians bow to the iron logic to which the Blob subscribes, however. Recent events are prompting a few dissenters to entertain second thoughts. Among them is Professor Martin Conway of Oxford University. Now, Professor Conway is anything but a household name. When it comes to name recognition, he doesn’t hold a candle to Dennis Ross, nor is he someone the New York Times consults on issues of the day.

So should we attend to Professor Conway’s contrarian perspective? Very much so and here’s why: Compared to Ross or the sundry Blobbers now in Joe Biden’s employ, Conway is not a prisoner of a curated past. He’s open to the possibility that the sell-by date attached to that taken-for-granted past may well have expired.

Consider his provocative essay “Making Trump History,” recently published online in H-Diplo. (A more accurate title would have been “History as Illuminated by Trump.”)

By and large, Conway writes, scholars deem Trump to have been “an insult to the historical narrative,” a living, breathing “refutation of deeply held assumptions among historians about how the democratic politics of the US are supposed to work.” Their reflexive response is to classify Trump as an outlier, a one-off intruder, a conviction seemingly affirmed by his failure to win a second term. With his departure from the White House, the resumption of normalcy (or at least what passed for the same in Washington) has theoretically become possible. Biden’s job is to hasten its return.

Conway entertains another view. He speculates that normalcy may, in fact, be gone for good. And the sooner the rest of us grasp that, he believes, the better.

Conway boldly rejects the media’s preferred Manichean account of the so-called Age of Trump. Rather than insulting the traditional Washington narrative, he suggests, Trump simply supplanted it. Wittingly or not, the new president acted in concert with political opportunists in Great Britain, Hungary, Poland, and elsewhere who, in advancing their own ambitions, trampled all over the familiar storyline devised and refined to make sense of our age.

As a first step toward grasping what’s now underway, Conway urges his fellow historians to “bury their narratives of the twentieth century” — on a par with asking Ohio State or the University of Alabama to give up football. Conway then suggests that a new past he calls a “history of the present” is emerging. And he identifies “three trig points” to begin mapping the “uncharted landscape” that lies ahead.

The first relates to the collapse of barriers that had long confined politics to familiar channels. Today, democratic politics has “burst its banks,” Conway writes. The people once assumed to be in charge no longer really are. Presidents, prime ministers, and parliamentarians compete with (and frequently court) “footballers, TV celebrities, and rap artists” who “communicate more directly and effectively with the public.” Who do you trust? Mitch McConnell or George Clooney? Who has your ear? Nancy Pelosi or Oprah Winfrey?

Conway’s second trig point references the bond between citizens and the state. The old contract — individual duties performed in exchange for collective benefits — no longer applies. Instead, the “new politics of the bazaar” shortchange the many while benefiting the few (like the mega-wealthy Americans who, during the coronavirus pandemic, have so far raked in an estimated extra $1.3 trillion). Egged on by politicians like Trump or British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the less privileged have figured this out. Biden’s efforts to pass yet another Covid-19-related relief bill responded to but could not conceal the real story: the emergence of an anti-establishment populism.

His final trig point wipes out the old-fashioned “political frontiers of the left and right.” In the History of the Present, politics emphasize “identity and grievance.” Citizens lend their support to causes centered on “emotions, group identity, or aspirations,” while rendering once-accepted notions of class and party all but irrelevant. “Institutional structures, ideological traditions, and indeed democratic norms” are being “replaced by a less disciplined and more open politics.” Passions govern, imparting to the History of the Present unprecedented levels of volatility.

Conway doesn’t pretend to know where all this will lead, other than suggesting that the implications are likely to be striking and persistent. But let me suggest the following: For all their rote references to new challenges in a new era, President Biden and the members of his crew are clueless as to what the onset of Conway’s History of the Present portends. Throughout the ranks of the establishment, the reassuringly familiar narratives of the twentieth century retain their allure. Among other things, they obviate the need to think."

"The Longer Telegram: To Contain China or the USA?" (Black):

"The paper repeats the mistake inherent in all American thinking about the world, of inventing a rival that does not exist, and then positing strategies to deal with this fiction. This delusory thinking has led the United States into one defeat after another and caused the world untold troubles as it tried to throw its weight around to secure markets and resources for its industries and capital. The destruction of one country after another to achieve that objective, the deaths of millions, the immiseration of entire regions of the world are nothing to American capital so long as it can make money.

All their rhetoric about “human rights” “democracy” and other such platitudes is just a cover for maintaining their economic hegemony and keeping everyone else down. They even sometimes admit this. In the National Defence Strategy issued in 2018, the real reason for the slanders against China, the constant provocations in Hong Kong, and the South China Sea is stated clearly. “Failure to meet our defense objectives will result in decreasing U.S. global influence, eroding cohesion among allies and partners, and reduced access to markets that will contribute to a decline in our prosperity and standard of living.” Of course even this is a lie since American capital does not care at all about the standard of living of the American people, only about the prosperity and standard of living of the big capitalists. The world can see what conditions are in the United States. The failure to protect their people from the Covid pandemic, the almost daily extrajudicial killings of blacks and poor people, the hollow promise of Biden to institute a higher minimum wage, the collapse of the power grid in Texas are eloquent expressions of the contempt and disregard big capital has for the common people.

The document describes a China that exists only in their furtive imaginations; an “authoritarian” country whose communist rulers are divorced from the people they rule, in which President Xi is described as more or less a warlord surrounded by “cronies,” enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else, and who have visions of ruling the world. This fantasy is in fact a mirror image of the United States. The author sees China as he has been conditioned to see America, and then projects that outward to any nation that attempts to develop its economy and improve the conditions of its people. And just as the forces of capital in the United States manipulate elections and the political system to guarantee their power in order to feather their own nests, the author of the Longer Telegram accuses the President of China of doing the same in China, of using his position for his own benefit. It then offers recommendations on how to try to split the Chinese leadership from the people, and even on how to split the Communist Party from its membership and the people, using false claims as propaganda to undermine social cohesion."

"The Walking Dead: How Washington and Brussels Are Still Run by Liberal International Zombies" (Sieff):

"Once again we see the same monstrous triad of nightmarish, and absurd policies: Fighting unwinnable foreign wars, fanning endless racial and now even gender divisions in one’s own country through policies meant to banish them and economic policies that bring impoverishment, joblessness and ruin instead of the growth and prosperity they endlessly promise.

All three “legs” of this liberal policy triad were supposedly discredited forever 50 years ago after the catastrophic presidency of Johnson bequeathed his successor the glowing heritage of race riots and hatred at home, the worst inflation in U.S. history and the Vietnam War. To see them all now raging more thoroughly than ever, half a century on, is an exercise in bloodcurdling horror. It exceeds anything we can watch on “The Walking Dead.”

The parallels are obvious. What died 50 years ago refuses to recognize it. Dead ideas and their eager acolytes still walk."

The Cult of Personality:  "The Great American Delusion – Just That One Guy" (Armstrong).  Part of this is marketing, and the technique of warmongering through fixating on one 'evil' individual, e.g., Saddam, Assad, Putin, Milošević, Castro, Hitler . . . 

Thread by David Sheen on Israeli election ads, exactly what you would expect them to be!

I'm old enough to remember when Charlie Hebdo was a celebrated champion of free speech, at least when it was mocking Muslims.

"Alexander Reid Ross, disgraced author of several retracted articles, works with ex-cops, CIA spies, and DHS agents" (Norton/Blumenthal).  Blob-adjacent 'progressive' grifter writers - the real dirtbags - are actually a thing.  "Daily Beast thrashed over op-ed that ‘dirtbag left’ is actively courting the far-right" (Goforth).

"Doxing The Doxers: Antifa’s War Against Regular Americans Is Run By Spoiled Rich Kids" (Kessler).

"Governed by Geezers" (The Z Man).  Gerontocracy.  It is difficult not to think that the incompetent elite response to the pandemic was a subconscious desire to protect the olds - the only people initially in danger from the virus - while balancing the main goal, always the main goal to the extent it could be seen as the only purpose of modern politics, to increase the wealth of the billionaires.  None of the political or bureaucratic class is fit to run a dog pound, let alone the world.

Tweet (Michael Tracey):

"It's very important for entry into the Democratic Party professional class to require perfect lifetime obedience to a set of interpersonal behavioral strictures that were invented in the year 2017"

"swollen, asian eyes".

Tweet (Michael Tracey):

"Speaking of Scotland's ruling party, they've also just ushered through a new "Hate Crime" bill which criminalizes "stirring up hatred" by "displaying, publishing or distributing" materials which members of various identity groups may "reasonably" deem "threatening or abusive""

"Greenwald: The Leading Activists For Online Censorship Are Corporate Journalists":

". . .  it is often media companies that are the cause of Silicon Valley censorship of and interference in political speech of the kind outlined above. When these social media companies were first created and in the years after, they wanted to avoid being in the business of content moderation and political censorship. This was an obligation foisted upon them, often by the most powerful media outlets using their large platforms to shame these companies and their executives for failing to censor robustly enough. 

Sometimes this pressure was politically motivated -- demanding the banning of people whose ideologies sharply differs from those who own and control these media outlets -- but more often it was motivated by competitive objectives: a desire to prevent others from creating independent platforms and thus diluting the monopolistic stranglehold that corporate media outlets exert over our political discourse. Further empowering this already-powerful media industry -- which has demonstrated it will use its force to silence competitors under the guise of “quality control” -- runs the real risk of transferring the abusive monopoly power from Silicon Valley to corporate media companies or, even worse, encouraging some sort of de facto merger in which these two industries pool their power to the mutual benefit of each."

Webb's cancellation by Patreon.

Thread by Robby Starbuck (one harsh law for thee, and no law for me):

"There’s a mask mandate in Los Angeles where violations can carry a $1,000 fine or 6 months in jail but apparently COVID isn’t a concern if you’re a celebrity at the #Grammys. Celeb parties are no big deal but have a family party in LA and the mayor can turn off your power."

Sounds right to me:  "American Pravda: Covid-19, Its Impact and Origins After One Year" (Unz) (the comments want Unz to completely disavow the virus as a hoax!):
"Given the conclusions suggested above, I think it may be useful for me to provide my own summary of a plausible scenario for the Covid-19 outbreak. Although I had already presented this outline six months ago in one of my previous articles, I see no need for any revisions. Obviously, this reconstruction is quite speculative, but I think it best fits all the available evidence, while individual elements may be modified, dropped, or replaced without necessarily damaging the overall hypothesis.

(1) Rogue elements within our large national security apparatus probably affiliated with the Deep State Neocons decided to inflict severe damage upon the huge Chinese economy using biowarfare. The plan was to infect the key transport hub of Wuhan with Covid-19 so that the disease would invisibly spread throughout the entire country during the annual Lunar New Year travels, and they used the cover of the Wuhan International Military Games to slip a couple of operatives into the city to release the virus. My guess is that only a relatively small number of individuals were involved in this plot.

(2) The biological agent they released was designed primarily as an anti-economy rather than an anti-personnel weapon. Although Covid-19 has rather low fatality rates, it is extremely contagious, has a long pre-symptomatic infectious period, and can even spread by asymptomatic carriers, making it ideally suited for that purpose. Thus, once it established itself throughout most of China, it would be extremely difficult to eradicate and the resulting efforts to control it would inflict enormous damage upon China’s economy and society.

(3) As a secondary operation, they decided to target Iran’s political elites, possibly deploying a somewhat more deadly variant of the virus. Since political elites generally tend to be elderly, they would anyway suffer far greater fatalities.

(4) The deadly SARS and MERS outbreaks in East Asia and the Near East had never significantly spread back to America (or Europe), so the plotters wrongly assumed that the same would be the case with Covid-19. Anyway, since international organizations always ranked the US and Europe as having the best and most effective public health systems for combating any disease epidemic, they believed that any possible blowback damage would be very minor.

(5) Only a small number of individuals were directly involved in this plot, and soon after the disease was successfully released in Wuhan, they decided to further safeguard America’s own interests by alerting the appropriate units with the Defense Intelligence Agency, probably by fabricating some sort of supposed “intelligence leak.” Basically, they arranged for the DIA to hear that Wuhan was apparently suffering a “cataclysmic” disease outbreak, thereby leading the DIA to prepare and distribute a secret report warning our own forces and allies to take appropriate precautions. 
(6) Unfortunately for these plans, the Chinese government reacted with astonishing determination and effectiveness, and soon stamped out the disease. Meanwhile, the lackadaisical and incompetent American government largely ignored the problem, only reacting after the massive outbreak in Northern Italy had gotten media attention. Since the CDC had botched production of a testing kit, we had no means of recognizing that the disease was already spreading in our country, and the result was massive damage to America’s economy and society. In effect, America suffered exactly the fate that had originally been intended for its Chinese rival."
"Jay Bhattacharya, Stanford Doctor, Calls Lockdowns the 'Biggest Public Health Mistake We've Ever Made'" (Impelli).

CDaN covers George Bush and the JFK assassination.

Rejection letter thread.  "First, we must ask, does it have to be a whale?"  The first one, by HST, is particularly good.
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