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Reality-Denial Among America’s Democratic Party Faithful

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I used to be a Democrat, until the majority of Democrats in the U.S. Senate voted in 2002 for George W. Bush’s 2003 catastrophic invasion of Iraq, even though everything that Bush and his Administration were alleging the invasion to be based on were mere lies, by him and his Administration. A Senator or Representative is supposed to represent the interests of the American public, not of the billionaires who control Lockheed Martin and ExxonMobil and Halliburton, etc., but those Democrats (and virtually all Republicans also) represented those billionaires, and certainly NOT the American public. Among the 29 Democratic Senators who, on that fateful day of 11 October 2002, voted to authorize Bush to invade Iraq, were the Party’s 2004 Presidential nominee John Kerry, and its 2016 Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and its likely 2020 nominee Joe Biden. (Barack Obama wasn’t yet a member of Congress in 2002.) In other words: the Senators who did, included the ones whom Democrats chose (and still are expected to choose) as their Presidential nominees. There is no apology for such treachery as those Senators (and 68% of the House, too) perpetrated by authorizing that criminal invasion, other than to say “I made a mistake,” but if I could see, even at that time, that it was all mere lies, then were they, our most successful Senators (and Representatives), really such nitwits that they could not — they, who are surrounded by lobbyists and not actually by the people they are supposed to represent? They joined in with George W. Bush’s lies, because they chose to be surrounded by such lobbyists, even though all of Bush’s efforts to get the U.N. to endorse an invasion of Iraq turned out to be fruitless. And, then, on 17 March 2003, he, our American President, suddenly warned the U.N. weapons-inspectors to leave Iraq immediately so Bush could invade that country, which had never invaded, nor even threatened to invade, the United States. This was a clear case of international aggression, just like what Justice Robert Jackson who headed the U.S. prosecution team at the Nuremberg Tribunal after WW II charged Hitler’s top henchmen for having done, and for which those men became executed. Why not Bush, now, for Iraq; why not Obama, now, for Libya; why not Obama, now, for Syria; why not Trump, now, for Syria; why not Trump, also, for Venezuela, if he also invades there? Fascists, all of them, but in today’s America, the public are unconcerned about that, and respond only as political partisans, supporting Democratic Party billionaires’ candidates against Republican Party billionaires’ candidates, or vice-versa, and not even giving a damn about the millions of senselessly slaughtered in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere, for which America’s top responsible officials should therefore be internationally prosecuted, and perhaps hung (like at Nuremberg). So, the only reason, now, to have any loyalty to either of America’s Parties is a mixture of stupidity and psychopathy. And that describes today’s Democrats, just as much as it does today’s Republicans.

The leading political news-site for Democratic-Party operatives and loyal followers is politicalwire.com, and their reader-comments display starkly the mentality that — on this Party’s side — guides the Party’s electorate. Those reader-comments display a Party that’s a dream for the Democratic Party’s billionaires, because the mentality they display is slavish — not physically slavish, but mentally slavish, the slavery of people who hug their prejudices, and who hate anyone (even fellow-Democrats) that challenges their prejudices (tries to help free them from their mental slavery). So: Democratic Party voters’ prejudices have become locked-in, and those people refuse to allow any way out of their existing prejudices. These operatives and voters insist upon retaining their prejudices, exactly as they are. For the Democratic Party’s billionaires’ lobbyists, and media, and think tanks, to have their way with those people, is so easy — it’s like dealing with a slave who says, “Whip me again, Mas’r.” It’s a pathetic political form of self-flagellation, which views the master as being rightfully superior to one’s self — to one’s own mental faculties — handing the whip to that ‘superior’ or master. Is this what American politics has now come down to? It’s what has caused the Democratic Party to be as neoconservative — American imperialist — as is the Republican Party.

On August 8th, Political Wire headlined “Russian Interference Likely Did Not Affect 2016 Result”, and summarized, and linked to, an extremely careful and well-planned and executed, thoroughly scientific, study, which concluded that, “I find no evidence that Russian attempts to target voters in key swing states had any effect on the election results in those states. Instead, the results were almost totally predictable based on the political and demographic characteristics of those states, especially their past voting tendencies, ideological leanings, and demographics.” He found absolutely “no evidence” that it “had any effect” upon the electoral outcome. Anyone who would have clicked through there to the actual study itself would have seen that it was definitive on its subject, and that there is no reasonable basis for accepting Hillary Clinton’s distorting insinuations that she had lost the election because of Russian interference. This study’s author accepted unquestioningly the Mueller Report in its allegation (on its page 19) that Russia’s Government “sought to influence [American] public opinion through online media and forums … as early as 2014.” However, even the Mueller Report doesn’t anywhere allege that Russia “tried to” or “attempted to” cause America’s voters to prefer one candidate over another candidate in the election. Even an allegation like that  would have been devoid of even that Report’s own shabby evidentiary standard to become cited. In other words: even the Mueller Report doesn’t play so fast-and-loose with truth for it to allege anything that is at all contradictory to anything in this scientific analysis and conclusion about the matter: that Hillary Cinton’s defeat cannot rationally be even hypothetically blamed on ‘Russian interference’. If there was such interference, no one has yet nailed it. Insinuations have replaced it. Anyone who believes such an allegation is a willing mental slave. How common are such slaves, actually?

A good indication of how common they are is the Disqus thread (the reader-comments) to that Political Wire summary of the scientific study’s findings:

As was earlier noted, readers at that site are Democratic Party operatives, and extremely loyal Democratic Party voters. Overwhelmingly, those readers are sloughing off that scientific study and analysis of the data. Some do so by attacking its author, as being just “one person with one opinion,” and referring (mainly) to the extremely partisan Democratic Party propaganda-organ the New Yorker, and its rabidly partisan Jane Mayer’s 24 July 2018 “How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump”, which summarizes Kathleen Hall Jamieson’s book, Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President — What We Don’t, Can’t, and Do Know, which book was effectively and accurately destroyed in a two-star review of it at Amazon, by a “B. Wilson,” titled, appropriately, “Little if any real proof is established that the Russians swung the election. A top 10 list.” Looking at the Jamieson book itself, one sees no consideration whatsoever of the data and issues which were dealt with — quantitatively, and on the basis of high quality empirical facts — in the scientific study. Instead, Jamieson’s work is a non-quantitative ‘analysis’ that’s actually loaded with, and built upon, hedged assertions, such as “We can surmise the probable although not certain impact Russian shenanigans had on the balance of messages between the two major party campaigns” — and no data, and no counts, but pure hypothesization, without clear derivation from specific instances of anything. Her book is even less trustworthy than the Mueller Report that it cites so frequently. In short: it’s trash. But that’s good enough to override science, in the minds of believing partisans — mental slaves: people who ignore proven truth, in order to sustain their existing prejudices.

Jane Mayer said of Jamieson’s book, “In two hundred and twenty-four pages of extremely dry prose, with four appendixes of charts and graphs and fifty-four pages of footnotes, Jamieson makes a strong case that, in 2016, ‘Russian masterminds’ pulled off a technological and political coup. Moreover, she concludes, the American media ‘inadvertently helped them achieve their goals.’” Anyone who thinks that American media were predominantly slanted for Trump instead of for Hillary is beyond all reason and evidence — but there they are at Political Wire, as readers, commenting upon a squib, which summarizes this scientific study (the first and only one on the subject).

Of course, such closed-mindedness is good for sustaining any political party, but it can destroy any democracy.

NOTE: Incidentally, while I consider that scientific study to be definitive on its topic, I strongly disagree with its author’s analysis, in his 2018 book, The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation, and the Rise of Donald Trump, to the effect that “elites and activists” haven’t shaped “the American social and cultural landscape” of our time. As a historian (which he certainly is not — he’s a political scientist), I believe that, specifically (and ever since at least the time of FDR’s death in 1945) the wealthiest Americans (and not merely ambiguous “elites and activists”) did shape it, to become, as it now is: fascist. That’s why both Parties now are fascist — one liberal fascist, and the other conservative fascist. Liberalism is not  progressivism. And fascism (extreme conservatism) is the opposite of progressivism. By contrast, liberalism mixes together those two opposites.  (Fascism is the modern form of feudalism, and derives from that. Progressivism is the anti-fascism.) Furthermore, by now, there exists massive empirical evidence that the U.S. Government, at least ever since 1981, is no democracy, at all, but is instead ruled only by its very wealthiest and well-connected citizens, so that, as the first of these studies phrased this matter: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” (A superb 6-minute video summary of that landmark study is here.) Consequently, that book is bad even within its own field of political science. The book’s author, furthermore, displays there a strong prejudice favoring the Democratic Party. Fortunately, however, his scientific analysis of the 2016 election was unafflicted by that, or any other, prejudice. It was straight science. Furthermore, any ad-hominem attack (such as is common in the Political Wire reader-comments) is entirely unscientific regarding any study, including that author’s. Virtually all of the reader-comments at that Political Wire article reflect mental slaves. Instead of their being grateful to the study’s author for freeing them from lies which afflict them, they insult that messenger of science.

Furthermore: on 14 June 2016 (just 17 days after Trump won the Republican nomination) Dylan Matthews at Vox had headlined “One of the best election models predicts a Trump victory. Its creator doesn’t believe it.” Matthews opened: “One of the most respected and accurate forecasting models in political sciences says that Donald Trump will win the 2016 presidential election, and by a fairly comfortable margin at that. There’s just one problem: Its creator doesn’t believe his own forecast.” That author, Professor Alan I. Abramowitz’s, formula for predicting U.S. electoral outcomes will probably now become standard. (Trump had actually won by slightly less than Abromowitz’s model predicted, and this is what Abromowitz’s 8 August 2019 article was now documenting. He points out there that especially in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — the three states which decided the election’s outcome — Trump’s victory-margin was, in fact, lower than Abromowitz’s model had predicted it would be. So, when that Political Wire commenter attacked this author, as being just “one person with one opinion,” he was attacking the one person who had actually predicted accurately not just the 2016 Presidential election’s outcome, but the reasons why Trump was heading for victory. He was attacking the only person who had publicly figured these things out, in advance of the outcome.)

To be a mental slave is to be a believer in lies. This type of slavery was first documented anecdotally in Charles Mackay’s 1841, 500+page, classic, Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds. How is democracy possible with so many willing mental slaves voting — regardless of what the particular Party is? Is democracy impossible? Is the political situation actually hopeless? Shouldn’t overcoming prejudice — anti-scientific thinking (a tendency to believeonly what one wants to believe) — be actually the chief purpose of all publicly financed education?

Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Hardened US and Iranian positions question efficacy of parties’ negotiating tactics

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The United States and Iran seem to be hardening their positions in advance of a resumption of negotiations to revive a 2015 international nuclear agreement once Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in early August.

Concern among supporters of the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program which former US President Donald J. Trump abandoned in 2018 may be premature but do raise questions about the efficacy of the negotiating tactics of both parties.

These tactics include the Biden administration’s framing of the negotiations exclusively in terms of the concerns of the West and its Middle Eastern allies rather than also as they relate to Iranian fears, a failure by both the United States and Iran to acknowledge that lifting sanctions is a complex process that needs to be taken into account in negotiations, and an Iranian refusal to clarify on what terms the Islamic republic may be willing to discuss non-nuclear issues once the nuclear agreement has been revived.

The differences in the negotiations between the United States and Iran are likely to be accentuated if and when the talks resume, particularly concerning the mechanics of lifting sanctions.

“The challenges facing the JCPOA negotiations are a really important example of how a failed experience of sanctions relief, as we had in Iran between the Obama and Trump admins, can cast a shadow over diplomacy for years to come, making it harder to secure US interests,” said Iran analyst Esfandyar Batmanghelidj referring to the nuclear accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, by its initials.

The Biden administration may be heeding Mr. Batmangheldij’s notion that crafting sanctions needs to take into account the fact that lifting them can be as difficult as imposing them as it considers more targeted additional punitive measures against Iran. Those measures would aim to hamper Iran’s evolving capabilities for precision strikes using drones and guided missiles by focusing on the providers of parts for those weapon systems, particularly engines and microelectronics.

To be sure, there is no discernable appetite in either Washington or Tehran to adjust negotiation tactics and amend their underlying assumptions. It would constitute a gargantuan, if not impossible challenge given the political environment in both capitals. That was reflected in recent days in Iranian and US statements.

Iranian Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested that agreement on the revival of the nuclear accord was stumbling over a US demand that it goes beyond the terms of the original accord by linking it to an Iranian willingness to discuss its ballistic missiles program and support for Arab proxies.

In a speech to the cabinet of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, he asserted that the West “will try to hit us everywhere they can and if they don’t hit us in some place, it’s because they can’t… On paper and in their promises, they say they’ll remove sanctions. But they haven’t lifted them and won’t lift them. They impose conditions…to say in future Iran violated the agreement and there is no agreement” if Iran refuses to discuss regional issues or ballistic missiles.

Iranian officials insist that nothing can be discussed at this stage but a return by both countries to the nuclear accord as is. Officials, distrustful of US intentions, have hinted that an unconditional and verified return to the status quo ante may help open the door to talks on missiles and proxies provided this would involve not only Iranian actions and programs but also those of America’s allies.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks seemed to bolster suggestions that once in office Mr. Raisi would seek to turn the table on the Biden administration by insisting on stricter verification and US implementation of its part of a revived agreement.

To achieve this, Iran is expected to demand the lifting of all rather than some sanctions imposed or extended by the Trump administration; verification of the lifting;  guarantees that the lifting of sanctions is irreversible, possibly by making any future American withdrawal from the deal contingent on approval by the United Nations Security Council; and iron-clad provisions to ensure that obstacles to Iranian trade are removed, including the country’s unfettered access to the international financial system and the country’s overseas accounts.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks and Mr. Raisi’s anticipated harder line was echoed in warnings by US officials that the ascendancy of the new president would not get Iran a better deal. The officials cautioned further that there could be a point soon at which it would no longer be worth returning to because Iran’s nuclear program would have advanced to the point where the limitations imposed by the agreement wouldn’t produce the intended minimum one year ‘breakout time’ to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

“We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely. At some point, the gains achieved by the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) cannot be fully recovered by a return to the JCPOA if Iran continues the activities that it’s undertaken with regard to its nuclear program…The ball remains in Iran’s court, and we will see if they’re prepared to make the decisions necessary to come back into compliance,” US Secretary Antony Blinken said this week on a visit to Kuwait.

Another US official suggested that the United States and Iran could descend into a tug-of-war on who has the longer breath and who blinks first. It’s a war that so far has not produced expected results for the United States and in which Iran has paid a heavy price for standing its ground.

The official said that a breakdown in talks could “look a lot like the dual-track strategy of the past—sanctions pressure, other forms of pressure, and a persistent offer of negotiations. It will be a question of how long it takes the Iranians to come to the idea they will not wait us out.”

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Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn

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Photo: Miller Center/ flickr

US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, had high hopes for the meeting in China. At first, the Chinese side did not agree to hold the meeting at all. The reaction had obvious reasons: Antony Blinken’s fiasco in Alaska left the Chinese disrespected and visibly irritated. This is not why they travelled all the way.

So then the State Department had the idea of sending Wendy Sherman instead. The US government actually needs China more than China needs the US. Sherman was in China to actually prepare the ground for Biden and a meeting between the two presidents, expecting a red carpet roll for Biden as if it’s still the 2000s — the time when it didn’t matter how the US behaved. Things did not go as expected.

Instead of red carpet talk, Sherman heard Dua Lipa’s “I got new rules”. 

That’s right — the Chinese side outlined three bottom lines warning the US to respect its system, development and sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, China wants to be left alone.

The bottom lines were not phrased as red lines. This was not a military conflict warning. This was China’s message that if any future dialogue was to take place, China needs to be left alone. China accused the US of creating an “imaginary enemy”. I have written about it before — the US is looking for a new Cold War but it doesn’t know how to start and the problem is that the other side actually holds all the cards

That’s why the US relies on good old militarism with an expansion into the Indo-Pacific, while aligning everyone against China but expecting the red carpet and wanting all else in the financial and economic domains to stay the same. The problem is that the US can no longer sell this because there are no buyers. Europeans also don’t want to play along.

The headlines on the meeting in the US press are less flattering than usual. If the US is serious about China policy it has to be prepared to listen to much more of that in the future. And perhaps to, yes, sit down and be humble.

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Why Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer

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When Sarah Huckabee Sanders showed up on the scene as White House Press Secretary, the reaction was that of relief. Finally — someone civil, normal, friendly. Jen Psaki’s entry this year was something similar. People were ready for someone well-spoken, well-mannered, even friendly as a much welcome change from the string of liars, brutes or simply disoriented people that the Trump Administration seemed to be lining up the press and communications team with on a rolling basis. After all, if the face of the White House couldn’t keep it together for at least five minutes in public, what did that say about the overall state of the White House behind the scenes?

But Psaki’s style is not what the American media and public perceive it to be. Her style is almost undetectable to the general American public to the point that it could look friendly and honest to the untrained eye or ear. Diplomatic or international organization circles are perhaps better suited to catch what’s behind the general mannerism. Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer, but a Sean Spicer nevertheless. I actually think she will do much better than him in Dancing With The Stars. No, in fact, she will be fabulous at Dancing With The Stars once she gets replaced as White House Press Secretary.

So let’s take a closer look. I think what remains undetected by the general American media is veiled aggression and can easily pass as friendliness. Psaki recently asked a reporter who was inquiring about the Covid statistics at the White House why the reporter needed that information because Psaki simply didn’t have that. Behind the brisk tone was another undertone: the White House can’t be questioned, we are off limits. But it is not and that’s the point. 

Earlier, right at the beginning in January, Psaki initially gave a pass to a member of her team when the Politico stunner reporter story broke out. The reporter was questioning conflict of interest matters, while the White House “stud” was convinced it was because he just didn’t chose her, cursing her and threatening her. Psaki sent him on holidays. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Psaki has a level of aggression that’s above average, yet she comes across as one of the most measured and reasonable White House Press Secretaries of the decade. And that’s under pressure. But being able to mask that level of deflection is actually not good for the media because the media wants answers. Style shouldn’t (excuse the pun) trump answers. And being able to get away smoothly with it doesn’t actually serve the public well. Like that time she just walked away like it’s not a big deal. It’s the style of “as long as I say thank you or excuse me politely anything goes”. But it doesn’t. And the American public will need answers to some questions very soon. Psaki won’t be able to deliver that and it would be a shame to give her a pass just because of style.

I think it’s time that we start seeing Psaki as a veiled Sean Spicer. And that Dancing with the Stars show — I hope that will still run despite Covid.

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