A Dead Cat Bomb on Google’s Dining Room Table

” A day after the dead cat was thrown on the table, [i.e., when Boris Johnson claimed he liked to make model buses out of old crates] twitter user @MrKennyCampbell realized that Johnson’s incoherent rambling about model buses was also a Google bomb. Previously, searches for “boris bus” on Google threw up that lie about how much the UK sent to the EU, and Johnson’s tacit agreement with it. Now the same search shows stories about Johnson’s passion for making model buses. References to the big red Brexit bus and its slogan have been pushed off the top Google hits, effectively consigning the story about Johnson to relative digital oblivion.

This is such a brilliant example of political search engine optimization that it’s hard to believe someone as buffoonish as Johnson would be capable of pulling it off intentionally. Nonetheless, whether it was fiendishly clever planning, or an unbelievably lucky improvisation, there’s no denying the episode stands as an object lesson in how to combine the dead cat strategy with a Google bomb to great effect.”

-Glyn Moody, “Boris Johnson, UK’s Answer To Trump, Offers A Masterclass In How To Use The Dead Cat Strategy Combined With A Google Bomb.” Techdirt.com. July 2nd, 2019.

Outer Limits — Real Life

“Today, one of the best predictors of one’s political orientation is the density of the neighborhood they live in; people who live in the suburbs are also more likely to get their news from broadcast and local television. Taken together, this means suburbanites see fewer strangers in their everyday lives, and fill that void with sensationalized accounts of ever-present, creeping danger.

This creates fertile ground for reactionary, conservative political movements. While most suburbanites still get a majority of their news from these older media sources, more of them are getting it from apps like Facebook and Nextdoor, where the ideas broadcast through outlets like Fox can fester person-to-person. In this way the suburbs get the social functions of the city street, but with suburban-style tools of control and segregation.”

—David A. Banks, “Outer Limits.” Real Life. June 20, 2019.

Something that occurs to me is that the prevalence of far-right conservative ideas among the 65 and older set in the United States might be a symptom of loneliness.

If you have few friends and little social connection, are unemployed, and are considered a marginal Other, you might start looking for belonging wherever you can find it. A Ku Klux Klan outfit might give a sense of relevance back to a person who has grown old and has no experience with being marginalized.

Chomsky Explains U.S. Politics on Democracy Now!

“Republicans face a difficult problem. They have a primary constituency, a real constituency: extreme wealth and corporate power. That’s who they have to serve. That’s their constituency. You can’t get votes that way, so you have to do something else to get votes. What do you do to get votes? This was begun by Richard Nixon with the Southern strategy: try to pick up racists in the South. The mid-1970s, Paul Weyrich, one of the Republican strategists, hit on a brilliant idea. Northern Catholics voted Democratic, tended to vote Democratic, a lot of them working-class. The Republicans could pick up that vote by pretending—crucially, “pretending”—to be opposed to abortion. By the same pretense, they could pick up the evangelical vote. Those are big votes—evangelicals, northern Catholics. Notice the word “pretense.” It’s crucial. You go back to the 1960s, every leading Republican figure was strongly, what we call now, pro-choice. The Republican Party position was—that’s Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, all the leadership—their position was: Abortion is not the government’s business; it’s private business—government has nothing to say about it. They turned almost on a dime in order to try to pick up a voting base on what are called cultural issues. Same with gun rights. Gun rights become a matter of holy writ because you can pick up part of the population that way. In fact, what they’ve done is put together a coalition of voters based on issues that are basically, you know, tolerable to the establishment, but they don’t like it. OK? And they’ve got to hold that, those two constituencies, together. The real constituency of wealth and corporate power, they’re taken care of by the actual legislation.”

—Noam Chomsky in an interview with Amy Goodman, “Chomsky: By Focusing on Russia, Democrats Handed Trump a ‘Huge Gift’ & Possibly the 2020 Election.” Democracy Now. April 18, 2019.

Of course, the Democratic Party has the same constituency, the wealthy and corporate power but focused on removing inefficiencies that come from discrimination, i.e., racism and sexism reduce the pool of workers and ameliorating the worst problems of late-stage capitalism.

How to Read the Mueller Report

“Even before Barr releases the report, those planning on reading it would do well to reflect on what it is — and what it is not. It is, by regulation, a report on the prosecutions and declinations the Mueller team took during their tenure.

It is not supposed to be, contrary to many claims, a report on everything that Mueller discovered. Already there have been hints that it will not include the second half of Rod Rosenstein’s mandate to Mueller — to figure out the nature of links between Trump’s team and Russia. If that stuff is excluded, then it probably will get reported, secretly, to the Intelligence Committees and no further. That’s important because the stuff that would compromise Trump — but would not necessarily implicate him in a crime — may by definition not show up in this report (though the stuff specifically relating to Trump may show up in the obstruction case).

Finally, it’s unclear how much Mueller will include about referrals and ongoing investigations. I expect he’ll include descriptions of the things he and Rosenstein decided deserved further prosecutorial scrutiny but did not fit under the narrow rubric of whether Trump’s team coordinated or conspired with the Russian government on the hack-and-leak.”

—Marcy Wheeler, “How to Read the Mueller Report.” emptywheel.net. April 15, 2019.

This is What Democracy Looks Like

“The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee warned political strategists and vendors Thursday night that if they support candidates mounting primary challenges against incumbent House Democrats, the party will cut them off from business…

…To apply to become a preferred vendor in the 2020 cycle, firms must agree to a set of standards that includes agreeing not to work with anyone challenging an incumbent.”

—Abelard Lacey, “House Democratic Leadership Warns It Will Cut Off Any Firms That Challenge Incumbents.” The Intercept. March 22, 2019.

Everything wrong with American “democracy” in a nutshell. If you aren’t part of the establishment, expect to be cut off from money, expertise, and other resources necessary to win elections.

Don’t worry. Establishment Democrats will bring all the necessary changes you need.

This is why electoral politics is largely a fool’s game. By all means, vote. But, if you think voting brings progress, however defined, you are deluding yourself.

The House Democrats’ “Rebuke” of Rep. Ilhan Omar is a Fraud For Many Reasons

It is, for instance, beyond dispute that what Omar is saying is true given that the very first bill passed by the U.S. Senate this year was one that allowed punishment for American citizens who boycott Israel, while U.S. citizens in 26 states are formally punished for boycotting this foreign nation, as we reported last month in the case of a Texas elementary speech pathologist who lost her job for refusing to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel (to keep her job with Texas, she’s allowed to boycott any other nation or even an American state: just not this one favored foreign nation).

Thus far, the two federal courts to rule on such laws have struck them down as unconstitutional violations of the free speech rights of American citizens on behalf of Israel.

How can anyone possibly pretend that it’s invalid or offensive to observe, as Congresswoman Omar did, that some in America demand allegiance to a foreign nation when American citizens are allowed to boycott American states but are punished for boycotting this one specific foreign nation?

—Glenn Greenwald, “The House Democrats’ ‘Rebuke’ of Rep. Ilhan Omar is a Fraud For Many Reasons, Including its Wild Distortion of Her Comments.” The Intercept. March 5, 2019.

And while there is a lot of speculation that President Trump might by compromised and be an agent of Russia, let’s not overlook the fact that there is a large contingent of the U.S. Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, that appear to be agents of Israel.

It’s a lie to equate criticism of the Israeli state with anti-Semitism. Government cannot be religious, only people can. Further, there is a lot of behaviors to criticize in respect to Israel, from their unwillingness to acknowledge their possession of nuclear weapons and sign on to the nonproliferation treaty, the committing of war crimes on a captive civilian population, the West Bank barrier, Arabs as second-class Israeli citizens, etc. But, here’s the one I’d like to talk about:

“To date, the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion (current, or noninflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding.

—Jeremy M. Sharp, “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel.Congressional Research Service. April 10, 2018.

How is this accomplished? Campaign contributions to members of Congress.

AIPAC is a significant player in terms of lobbying, accounting for the vast majority of lobbying spending by pro-Israel groups, spending more than $3.5 million in 2018. The organization was staunchly opposed to the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2015, lobbied extensively against it and supported the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the agreement.

Other pro-Israel groups are also prominent and active political spending forces each cycle. The 2018 midterms saw groups in the movement contribute more than $14.8 million, the highest total for them in a midterm since 1990. Contributions went predominantly towards Democrats who received 63 percent. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) received by far the most money from pro-Israel groups in 2018 with $546,507. In comparison, McCarthy received just $33,200 from pro-Israel groups in the midterms.

In all, 269 members of the House and 57 members of the Senate received some monetary contributions from pro-Israel interests in 2018.”

—Raymond Arke, “AIPAC doesn’t contribute directly to candidates. Which pro-Israel groups do?OpenSecrets.org. February 11, 2019

So, over half of Congress is in the pocket of pro-Israel groups for millions during the election cycle, which in turn, ensures that Israel continues to get billions of “foreign aid” from the United States every year. And to point out this fact is “anti-semitic”? It takes the freshman, first Muslim woman to Congress to get up the gumption to point to this outrageous fact, and she’s the one getting “rebuked”?

Can we get a little daylight between the United States and Israel? Our interests are not the same. I, and many other Americans, certainly don’t want billions to be sent to Israel, Saudi Arabia and others to fund military actions like the Gaza War, the current catastrophe in Yemen and so forth. It’s a travesty, and no one is going to say anything about it, Democrat or Republican, because so many members are bought and paid for by a powerful lobby. The fact that this lobby is primarily Jewish is besides the point.

To paraphrase Upton Sinclair a bit, “it is difficult to get a [Congressperson] to understand something, when [their campaign contributions] depends on [their] not understanding it.” So long as the difference in election outcomes is determined by these contributions, there will never be serious discussion and debate about U.S. foreign policy and Israel, which is part of the point of this “rebuke,” to make sure anyone thinking of bringing up will think it is more trouble than it is worth.

The Oppression of the Supermajority

“The defining political fact of our time is not polarization. It’s the inability of even large bipartisan majorities to get what [the public] wants…

…In our era, it is primarily Congress that prevents popular laws from being passed or getting serious consideration. (Holding an occasional hearing does not count as “doing something.”) Entire categories of public policy options are effectively off-limits because of the combined influence of industry groups and donor interests. There is no principled defense of this state of affairs — and indeed, no one attempts to offer such a justification. Instead, legislative stagnation is cynically defended by those who benefit from it with an unconvincing invocation of the rigors of our system of checks and balances.”

—Tim Wu, “The Oppression of the Supermajority.” The New York Times. March 5, 2019.