Friday, April 28, 2017

Trumpcare 2.0 Sign of Political Weakness

Trump is being ridiculed for a second rushed attempt to repeal Obamacare. The accepted point of view is that he is taking a stab at Trumpcare 2.0 in order to have a legislative achievement to celebrate his 100 days in office, which occurs this weekend (Saturday). But more importantly I think Trump knows how to read his base. His flipflopping on almost every single campaign promise has left him vulnerable, even if his (poor) poll numbers show that his stalwart backers are not abandoning him (for now).

If there is one issue on which the Trump True Believer can't abide a flipflop, it is the repeal of Obamacare. The fact that Trump can't wrangle it through the House is proof of his political weakness.

Trumpcare 2.0 brought on board the assassins, the Freedom Caucus, of Trumpcare 1.0 by allowing states to seek waivers from the federal government in order to dispense with basic features of Obamacare -- providing essential benefits, as well as the restriction on charging more to those with preexisting conditions. But Trumpcare 2.0 apparently lost moderate Republicans afraid of voter wrath for taking coverage away from sick people. As Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear explain in "Health Law Repeal Will Miss Trump’s 100-Day Target Date":
The latest House plan to repeal and replace the health law would include an amendment drafted by Representative Tom MacArthur, Republican of New Jersey and a leader of a centrist bloc of lawmakers called the Tuesday Group.
Mr. MacArthur’s amendment would allow states to opt out of certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including one that requires insurers to provide a minimum set of health benefits and another that prohibits insurers from charging higher premiums based on a person’s health status.
Republicans say the federal mandates drive up costs, but Democrats say they provide important protections for consumers.
Under Mr. MacArthur’s amendment, states could obtain waivers letting them redefine the “essential health benefits,” which now include maternity care, emergency services, mental health care and drug addiction treatment.
Republicans say their bill maintains protections for people with pre-existing conditions. But Democrats say the waivers would severely weaken these protections because insurers could charge higher premiums to sick people who wanted to buy insurance after a gap in coverage.
Republicans say their bill offers billions of dollars that states could use to operate high-risk pools or other programs to provide or subsidize insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.
The American Medical Association and AARP, the lobby for older Americans, oppose the latest version of the Republicans’ health care bill.
“Although the MacArthur amendment states that the ban on pre-existing conditions remains intact, this assurance may be illusory, as status underwriting could effectively make coverage completely unaffordable to people with pre-existing conditions,” said Dr. James L. Madara, the chief executive of the American Medical Association.
Mr. MacArthur said Thursday that his amendment had won over some of his Republican colleagues, though not enough to pass the bill. “But we are closer today than we’ve ever been,” he said. “We’re getting there.”
At the same time, his amendment highlighted the gulf between hard-line conservatives and more moderate Republicans when it comes to how to go about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
For the Freedom Caucus, which shouldered much of the blame for the House bill’s failure last month, the amendment functioned as a way to shift any finger-pointing to a different bloc of members.
But the latest version of the House bill seemed to offer little that would entice anyone with reservations other than the hard-line conservatives.
“The proposed changes to this bill would leave too many of my constituents with pre-existing conditions paying more for health insurance coverage, and too many of them will even be left without any coverage at all,” Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, said Thursday.
The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, argued on Thursday that the core of Mr. MacArthur’s amendment would violate the budget rules that Republicans must follow in order to sidestep a Democratic filibuster.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Now That THAAD is Nearly Operational U.S. War Drums Being Muffled

A good rundown of yesterday's developments in the Trump administration's war moves toward North Korea is provided in "White House briefing signals escalating war preparations against North Korea," by Mike Head writing for World Socialist Web Site:
US Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris, who would lead any attack on the Korean Peninsula, gave an indication of the Pentagon’s message. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, he asserted that denuclearisation by North Korea—the goal outlined publicly by the White House—is no longer a realistic option.
Harris said he had no confidence that North Korea would refrain from “something precipitous” should it succeed in miniaturising a nuclear weapon to mount on a ballistic missile. He said the US had “a lot of preemptive options,” but declined to provide specifics.
The admiral advocated greater shows of military force, including overflying the Korean Peninsula with nuclear-capable B-1 and B-52 bombers. This would be on top of the current visits and exercises by two US destroyers, the guided-missile submarine USS Michigan and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike.
Harris acknowledged that possible reprisals stemming from a strike against North Korea would place at risk the lives of millions of Koreans and Japanese, as well as the 28,500 US troops in South Korea. But he argued this danger was outweighed by the prospect of “a lot more Koreans and Japanese and Americans dying if North Korea achieves its nuclear aims.”
In another indication of war planning, Harris urged Congress to add ballistic-missile interceptors to installations in Alaska and California, and to “study” placing interceptors in Hawaii while immediately bolstering defensive radars there.
Harris took aim at China, saying it had substantial leverage against North Korea. He labeled as “preposterous” China’s alleged pressure on South Korean companies to stall the placement of a US Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile battery in South Korea.
The US claims the THAAD facility is a purely defensive weapon to intercept incoming missiles. In reality, its radar capacity is designed to probe deep into China and the system’s underlying purpose is to block any attempt by North Korea or China to respond to a US first-strike nuclear attack.
Defying protests by China, as well as hundreds of local residents, US personnel yesterday began to install the THAAD equipment at a former golf course in Seongju. It was an earlier-than-expected move, effectively preempting South Korea’s presidential election on May 9.
Television footage showed military trailers carrying large units, including what appeared to be launch canisters, on to the site. Protesters hurled water bottles at the vehicles, despite the efforts of thousands of police to block them.
Baek-Gwang-soon, 73, who has lived in Seongju all her life, told the Guardian she was “speechless with anger.” She explained: “This is a quiet place, where we welcome outsiders with open arms. Now it’s being ruined by the arrival of American weapons that have turned us into a North Korean target.”
The THAAD deployment provoked further alarm bells in Beijing. Yesterday’s editorial in the state-run Global Times declared: “It is infuriating that the US and South Korea have stabbed China in the back at a critical time when China and the US are cooperating to prevent North Korea from carrying out a new nuclear or missile test.”
At the same time an Op-Ed in the Peoples Daily, the official organ of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, continued to plead for an accommodation with Washington. Citing this month’s meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the commentary held out the hope that such “high-level dialogues” should “help dispel the old idea that the two sides are destined for war.”
In reality, yesterday’s developments demonstrate an escalating confrontation, driven by Washington’s determination to assert unchallenged hegemony over the Asia-Pacific region, at China’s expense.
While the official organ of the Chinese Communist Party is soft-pedaling the possibility of war, so too is the official organ of the U.S./global deep state. The New York Times's Mark Landler writes in "The Drumbeats Don’t Add Up to Imminent War With North Korea" that
President Trump summoned all 100 members of the Senate for a briefing by his war cabinet on the mounting tensions with North Korea. An American submarine loaded with Tomahawk missiles surfaced in a port in South Korea. Gas stations in the North shut down amid rumors that the government was stockpiling fuel.
Americans could be forgiven for thinking that war is about to break out. But it is not.
The drumbeat of bellicose threats and military muscle-flexing on both sides overstates the danger of a clash between the United States and North Korea, senior Trump administration officials and experts who have followed the Korean crisis for decades said. While Mr. Trump regards the rogue government in the North as his most pressing international problem, he told the senators he was pursuing a strategy that relied heavily on using China’s economic leverage to curb its neighbor’s provocative behavior.
Recent American military moves — like deploying the submarine Michigan and the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson to the waters off the Korean Peninsula — were aimed less at preparing for a pre-emptive strike, officials said, than at discouraging the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, from conducting further nuclear or ballistic missile tests.
“In confronting the reckless North Korean regime, it’s critical that we’re guided by a strong sense of resolve, both privately and publicly, both diplomatically and militarily,” Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the Pentagon’s top commander in the Pacific, told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
Similar soft-pedaling can be found in this morning's Situation Report.

The contradiction here is that in order for this strategy of constantly ratcheting up military threats to work, stories can't appear in official publications proclaiming them nothing but parade exercises. Once Pyongyang processes this information, not to mention Beijing (unless Beijing is collaborating with Trump here) then the stated goal of all this saber-rattling, keeping the North Koreans from conducting another nuclear test, will be lost as Kim Jong-un will have nothing to fear.

Then what does Trump do? As Landler admits:
None of this is to say there is no risk of miscalculation that could escalate into hostilities. Mr. Trump’s penchant for provocative statements introduced an element of unpredictability to a relationship in which the uncertainty has historically been on the North Korean side. How Mr. Kim reacts is the major variable in a complicated equation.
Much of this seems directed at the good citizens of South Korea who filled the streets and brought down the business-as-usual corrupt president Park Geun-hye. South Koreans are also opposed to THAAD. When you want to cow the citizenry mock up or actually go to war.

It's a real problem. But now that THAAD is nearly operational hopefully the war drums will go silent.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The French Take a Turn Blaming Assad for Khan Sheikhoun: Expect More False-Flag Attacks

The White House failed. Now it's France's turn. As reported by John Irish of Reuters, "French intelligence says Assad forces carried out sarin attack," the argument basically remains the same: "Trust us. Khan Sheikhoun was hit with sarin bombs dropped by Syrian warplanes." The rhetorical French flourish is to identify hexamine as an element found in the sarin sample that somehow uniquely identifies the Syrian government as the perpetrator of the attack:

The six-page French document - drawn up by France's military and foreign intelligence services and seen by said it reached its conclusion based on samples they had obtained from the impact strike on the ground and a blood sample from a victim.
"We know, from a certain source, that the process of fabrication of the samples taken is typical of the method developed in Syrian laboratories," Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters after presenting the findings to the cabinet.
"This method is the signature of the regime and it is what enables us to establish the responsibility of the attack. We know because we kept samples from previous attacks that we were able to use for comparison."
Among the elements found in the samples were hexamine, a hallmark of sarin produced by the Syrian government, according to the report.
It said the findings matched the results of samples obtained by French intelligence, including an unexploded grenade, from an attack in Saraqib on April 29, 2013, which Western powers have accused the Assad government of carrying out.
"This production process is developed by Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) for the regime," the report said.
The United States on Monday blacklisted 271 employees belonging to the agency.
Syria agreed in September 2013 to destroy its entire chemical weapons program under a deal negotiated with the United States and Russia after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack in the outskirts of the capital, Damascus.

The report said that based on its assessments, there were "serious doubts on the accuracy, completeness and sincerity of the dismantlement of Syria's chemical arsenal."
There are of course holes aplenty in this. Where is proof of the chain of custody showing the sample came from the purported Khan Sheikhoun impact crater? Otherwise, we are once again being asked to take on faith that an intelligence agency that seeks to subvert a sovereign state is in this instance acting in an objective, impartial manner.

Also, none of the by now well-circulated Postol analysis is engaged with in the slightest -- that the sarin was not distributed by a missile dropped from a plane but a device detonated on the ground; that the alleged impact crater could not have been the site for the sarin dispersal because after-incident photos showed bare-faced rescue workers handling dead birds. If sarin had been present these men would have died.

The importance of the French intelligence report is the last paragraph above, the one in red. The soil is being tilled for another false-flag sarin attack. The argument is that despite what the OPCW said, Syria still retains a sarin stockpile, and it will use it until the West bombs it out of existence.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

North Korea Will Not Relinquish Nukes: Trump on a Glide Path to War

A particularly good Situation Report this morning on the continuing escalation towards military conflict between the United States and North Korea:
The guns of April. Happy Tuesday, which the regime in North Korea marked by launching a massive live-fire artillery exercise. The South Korean news agency Yonhap said that as many as 400 pieces of long-range artillery participated in the exercise, and were the same type of guns which are stationed along the border with South Korea, putting the 10 million residents of Seoul well within their range.
The exercise marked the 85th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean army and popped off the same day the USS Michigan, an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, made a port call in Busan, South Korea intended as a show of force. The Michigan can carry about 150 cruise missiles and launch Special Operations teams while submerged offshore.
Speeding up. The Trump administration has shown a sense of urgency in dealing with the North and its ongoing missile tests, and expected upcoming nuclear test, which would be its sixth in the past decade. The New York Times’  David Sanger and William Broad write that the urgency stems from a “a stark calculus: a growing body of expert studies and classified intelligence reports that conclude the country is capable of producing a nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks.”
In a meeting with members of the United Nations Security Council at the White House on Monday, Trump told the diplomats it is “time to solve the problem” of a nuclear North Korea. That meeting will be quickly followed up on Wednesday by a remarkable gathering of all 100 U.S. Senators at the White House for a classified briefing on North Korea, and a Security Council meeting on Friday chaired by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that will be focused on the rogue nation. 
North Korea is not going to relinquish its nuclear program as the Iranians did. The country's leadership understands the obvious: You trumpet your nuclear-free status and you end up bombed by the West, as was the case with Serbia and Libya. Plus, look at Iran. Has the nuclear agreement brought economic integration with the West? A few trade deals, yes. But not economic integration. If anything Iran bought herself a few years. But with a new president who loves kowtowing to al-Saud, the U.S. gunboat is wheeling back around. War is on the horizon. First things first though. Regime change in Syria.

The first and last points of Trump's strategy on North Korea appear to be scaring China into acting. But this assumes that China has the ability to denuclearize the North. It doesn't. I don't even think that any type of oil-for-inspections hooey is possible at this point.

No, it looks like we are on the glide path to war.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Neoliberal Rebirth? How About a Web Editor Who "Danced Alone Long After the Crowds Have Left"

There is so much self-congratulation in the mainstream media today regarding Emmanuel Macron's top finish in the first round of the French presidential vote that populism is being declared dead. This takes real chutzpah and contradicts much of the reporting in the prestige press. Macron won by a couple of points; his brand of neoliberalism was not fulsomely endorsed.

The big takeaways from both the Adam Nossiter and Alissa Rubin stories were 1) the established parties absolutely cratered for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic (this is a misleading aspect of the reporting because Macron's En Marche! was the same old soda pop just in a different can), and 2) lesser-evil voting was the bedrock of Macron's support -- not a renaissance of faith in the neoliberal center.

Alissa Rubin is one of the Gray Lady's better reporters. Like Tim Arango and David Kirkpatrick, she toils for the flagship publication of the U.S. deep state, but she does so in such a way that at least the reader can perceive cracks of daylight. In her story on the election yesterday she includes some wonderful quotes:
Although Ms. Le Pen has younger, more high-tech voters, she also represents the France that feels left behind: the workers whose jobs have moved to cheaper countries, such as those in Eastern Europe and Asia.
She represents young people who have to go to work early in life to help support their families, and who do not have the advanced degrees that afford them a good income. And she represents people who feel threatened by the immigrants thronging to Europe.
“Marine will fight for the young people — for their future, for their freedom, for their job, for their family,” said Aurore Lahondes, a resident of the central-west city of Angers. She called Mr. Macron, a onetime investment banker at Rothschild & Company, “the candidate who is the most far away from the people.”
“He is the candidate of the financial part of the world,” Ms. Lahondes, 19, said in an interview at a bar that had been rented out by the local National Front federation. “He is the candidate of the European Union.”
Mr. Macron represents a more educated and cosmopolitan France. His voters are not all privileged by any means, but they believe that looking beyond the country’s borders will enrich them in every way, economically and culturally. Mr. Macron’s challenge will be to convince more of the French that globalism has as many rewards as it does costs.
Globalism has positive effects, but it also increases precariousness and inequalities,” said Thomas Guénolé, a political-science professor at Sciences Po.
In the meantime, Mr. Macron appears to have been in the right place at the right time, with mainstream candidates falling on either side and a far-right candidate whom many in France cannot imagine having represent the country.
That does not mean that people favor him, but rather that he was the “least worst” vote: an especially weak position for a candidate with no real party base behind him.
“I chose a ‘useful vote’ for the first round, and it really breaks my heart — it’s the first time I’m doing this,” said Monica Craignou, 40, who works in digital development in Paris.
Others saw in Mr. Macron the possibility for France to keep up with global changes. “We need someone young,” said Karine Filhoulaud, a 45-year-old web editor, who was at Mr. Macron’s victory party and danced alone long after the crowds had left. “He lives the transition: the environmental one, the digital one, the societal one.”
What a terrific way to end Rubin's piece. All the adulation for the reborn neoliberal center is reduced to a web editor dancing alone long after the crowds have left.

U.S. Democrats Should be Concerned About Results of French Presidential Election

There is much to be disappointed with in the first round of France's presidential election. Though The New York Times ("Emmanuel Macron Mounts a Patriot’s Challenge to Marine Le Pen") is celebrating Macron's top finish as a sigh of relief for defenders of liberal democracy (née neoliberal plutocracy), leaders of the Democratic Party in the United States, if they're paying attention, can't be relieved. Benoît Hamon, the standard-bearer of the French equivalent of the Democratic Party, the Socialist Party, received a ridiculous 6.4% of the vote. The scandal-plagued conservative François Fillon received more than three times the votes.

In order for the neoliberal center to triumph it had to go engage in the kind of new party hocus pocus that worked so well for the traditional Republicans in the wake of the 2008 Obama landslide. Macron's En Marche! is another Tea Party, the difference being that En Marche! is organized entirely around the youthful former Rothschild banker, whereas the Tea Party was organized out of a racist, anti-government antipathy for the first black president in U.S. history. The malign effigy that motivates En Marche! is of course Marine Le Pen.

What En Marche! accomplished in France is something that Establishment mouthpieces like Thomas Friedman and David Brooks have been demanding for years -- a new centrist political formation in the United States, one that can join suburban GOP moderates with college-educated liberal Democrats, a party that focuses on neoliberal economic orthodoxy but is socially permissive; in other words, the status quo.

France and Macron prove it can be done. U.S. election law makes it almost impossible. But the right billionaire could pull it off. (Bloomberg flirted with such a presidential run several times.)

Read Yves Smith's excellent "Democrat Disunity: Hypocritical Media Attacks on Sanders" that was posted this morning. The war continues to rage between the discredited Democratic Party leadership and Bernie Sanders, the most popular Dem politician in the country now.

After reading Smith's post, it becomes clear that if the Bernistas were ever successful at wresting control of the Democratic Party from the neoliberals, a U.S. version of En Marche! would quickly take shape.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Exit Polls Show Macron and Le Pen Ahead

According to early results:

Macron 23.7%

Le Pen 21.7%

Fillon 19.5% 

Mélenchon 19.5%

Emmnuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are one and two in the first round of French presidential election. Fillon and Hamon have both conceded; Mélenchon has not. Reporters are already accepting the Macron-Le Pen May 7 runoff as a done deal.

Turnout was estimated to be just a few points lower than it was in 2012. So a big wave of voter disgust manifesting itself with blank ballots or by staying at home proved unfounded. What does appear to have happened is that Fillon's apparent comeback never made it to the polling station.

No surprise that Socialists are lining up behind Macron, but so is Fillon. Macron's candidacy and En Marche! itself is a ruse like the U.S. Tea Party -- a re-branding scheme meant to quickly remake a discredited ideology.

Early estimates are that Macron-Le Pen combined for 45% of the total vote. If Mélenchon is stuck at 19%, it is not looking good for his chances. Some of his supporters are vowing to sit out the second round. In that case I think Macron wins. Le Pen would need to capture most of Mélenchon's vote to have a chance in the second round.

All in all a dispiriting first round. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Let's Hope for the "Doomsday Scenario" Sunday

The segment below is from  "Who will be the next French president: The six scenarios facing France," which appears in yesterday's The Local, 'France's news in English,' prior to the Kalashnikov-on-the-Champs-Élysées shootings,

The news cycle has been dominated by the shootings for the last 24 hours.The headline became a Trumpline when the addled POTUS inserted himself into the French presidential election by predicting that the terror attack would benefit Marine Le Pen. Trump is probably right.

But it is not good enough for Le Pen to make it to the final round. We need her to be joined by a real leftist, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. What the mainstream media in France is referring to as the "Doomsday Scenario."

It is Doomsday for the neoliberal center because the purveyors of the bankrupt status quo would have no mount in the race. Hence, the problem -- Who to demonize, Le Pen or Mélenchon? Mélenchon would probably be the one to wear the goat's horns since he favors communistic prescriptions -- a universal basic income -- as well as pacifistic ones -- withdraw France from NATO.

It is hard for me to comprehend how a plurality of French, let alone a majority, could vote for Macron. It is all the same stuff -- anti-labor, pro-intervention, the celebration of the rich and the elite -- that is destroying not only Western Civilization but the planet itself.

Let's hope the French can show as much personal courage as the English.
The doomsday scenario  
Just imagine the shock when at 8pm (or perhaps later, this year) on Sunday French TV stations broadcast the images of the two winners and it’s the face of hard left anti-EU, anti-globalisation Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s alongside the anti-EU, anti-globalisation figure of Marine Le Pen.  
It would for many French voters, be the nearest thing to getting tasered. For those who work for the EU in Brussels it would more like getting tear gassed. 
A battle between Mélenchon and Le Pen was described by former presidential favourite Alain Juppé as being like “the plague vs cholera". 
Macron supporting veteran centrist François Bayrou said the prospect was "terrifying for the country and for its image and its future." 
A “French Hugo Chavez” against a “French Donald Trump”. 
There is talk of a Black Monday with the financial markets going into meltdown the day after the result is announced due mainly to fears over a Frexit and talk of an imminent mass exodus by French entrepreneurs. 
With Le Pen wanting to pull France out of the euro and Mélenchon wanting to introduce a 32-hour work week and tax earnings over €400,000 by 100 percent, French business leader Pierre Gattaz said a run-off between the paid would force France to choose between “economic disaster and economic chaos.” 
Edouard Lecerf from polling agency Kantar Public believes this pairing of the two anti-system is still the most unlikely scenario because it would mean the whole centre of French politics would be eliminated. 
Who would win? 
Polls suggest the far left Mélenchon would win fairly comfortably by around 60 percent to 40 percent.  
Real losers? 
Le Pen or Mélenchon because both would then struggle to get a majority in parliament, plus those twitchy investors. 
But the real loser would of course be François Fillon, who would be “crucified”, as one party big wig put it. Macron might also want to try and get his old job back at the bank. 

Interestingly, of the six scenarios -- Le Pen-Macron; Le Pen-Mélenchon; Macron-Fillon; Fillon-Le Pen; Fillon-Mélenchon; Macron-Mélenchon -- Macron is the only candidate who was not out-polled in the second round. Next up is Mélenchon. Then Fillon. Dead last in the second round is Marine Le Pen who is incapable of polling above 42%.

A lot of this is hogwash. In a head-to-head contest margins will tighten between Sunday and May 7. I do think Le Pen is vulnerable because of the institutional odor of the National Front.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

NYT Damns Macron with Faint Praise

Alissa Rubin, "Macron Wants to Change France. But Will Voters Elect an Unknown?," provides NYT readers one more puff piece before the French vote on Sunday in the first round of their presidential election:
The race is truly up in the air. As much as 30 percent of the French electorate is still undecided, and four of the 11 candidates, including Mr. Macron, are polling within three or four percentage points of each other. The top two vote-getters in the election’s first round will face off in a final vote on May 7.
What's interesting about Rubin's story is how faint the praise is. Clearly the 37-year-old Macron is a recognizable shill. Even the prestige press that puffs him can't obscure the fact.

Rubin repeats Macron's famous faux pas when he responded to a heckler by telling him to get a job so he could buy a fine suit.
Those who have worked closely with Mr. Macron, both in government and in the private sector, are almost uniformly impressed by his grasp and dedication, but some said that at times they felt misled as Mr. Macron pursued his ambitions.
At his recent rally in Pau, the crowd seemed a bit more enthusiastic before he spoke than afterward when some seemed baffled by his lofty proposals. He has been criticized as being technocratic, abstract and sometimes lacking in empathy.
An episode last year during a visit to an event in southern France, when Mr. Macron was heckled by a 21-year-old union activist in a black T-shirt, seems emblematic.
The young man called out to the neatly attired former banker, saying he had “not a penny to pay for a suit like that one.”
Mr. Macron responded: “The best way to pay for a suit is to work.”
“I’ve worked since the age of 16,” the man shot back, in an exchange popularly interpreted as having put Mr. Macron in his place.
It is hard to believe the French are so gullible as to pass Macron through to the second round. But if you look at the polling it does seem like he's going to make it.

Then again there are the huge number of undecideds. Plus, how fervent are Macron supporters?

So the ingredients are there for a Le Pen-Mélenchon final or even a Le Pen-Fillon final.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ossoff Comes Close

UPDATE: FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten ("5 Takeaways From The Georgia 6 Special Election") is pretty much in line with what I think Ossoff's showing augurs for Democrats nationwide -- good but no realignment:
The result is consistent with a pro-Democratic national environment
There’s some chatter out there that Ossoff’s showing is a bad sign for Democrats. He didn’t clear 50 percent, they say, and he barely improved on Clinton’s performance in Georgia 6.
I think that’s a flawed argument.
For one, Clinton had already greatly improved on previous Democrats’ performance in Georgia 6. She lost to Trump there by only 1.5 percentage points. Former President Barack Obama lost the district by 23 points in 2012, as did Democratic congressional candidate Rodney Stooksbury in 2016.
So if you’re just looking at the 2016 presidential result as your benchmark you’re probably missing something. Instead, our best estimate of the partisan lean of a district is to take a weighted average 2 of its past two presidential election results. By that measure, a Democrat would be expected to lose Georgia 6 by 9.5 percentage points in a neutral national environment (one in which the two parties fought to a tie nationally). Democrats did far better than that on Tuesday, losing by 2 points. The Democratic candidates combined took 49 percent to the Republicans’ 51 percent.
What this means for the 2018 midterm is less clear 
The Republican +2 aggregate margin in Georgia 6 implies a national environment in which Democrats are competitive in a bunch of GOP-held House seats in 2018. According to the weighted average of the past two presidential elections, there are 48 House districts that were won by GOP candidates in 2016 that are bluer than Georgia 6. The district’s Round 1 results suggest Republicans could lose a good portion of those 48 seats. And Democrats need to win just 24 Republican-held seats for control of the House.
That’s clearly a good sign for Democrats.
Of course, the national political environment could change between now and November 2018. Moreover, the Georgia 6 result isn’t anywhere near as strong for Democrats as last week’s result in the special election in Kansas’s 4th Congressional District. The Georgia 6 Democrats outperformed the weighted average by 7.5 percentage points. In Kansas 4, Democrat James Thompson beat it by 22 points.
Still, that’s the difference between a good Democratic year in 2018, with the House in play, and a crazily, ridiculously good Democratic year, with the House a foregone conclusion to flip to Democratic control. (Again, that’s if the national political winds don’t shift between now and then — an unlikely proposition.)
The truth is we need a larger sample size of special election results before understanding what Kansas 4 and Georgia 6 tell us about the midterms.

A couple points shy of avoiding a runoff in Georgia's 6th CD, Democratic Great White Hope Jon Ossoff will now face Republican Karen Handel in a June second round.

At 48.1%, Ossoff probably hit the upper end of his support in the district. It is going to be hard for him to keep his professional staff and volunteers together over a two-month spring stretch.

The race was noteworthy in the final days for Trump inserting himself directly. As Jonathan Martin and Richard Fausset point out in "Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, Narrowly Misses Outright Win in Georgia House Race":
In an illustration of how nationalized the race became, 95 percent of Mr. Ossoff’s fund-raising haul was from out of state, and even more was from outside the district, where the candidate himself does not reside (though he grew up there).
Republicans blistered him on this score and much else, a kitchen-sink campaign that totaled $5 million yet also stirred muttering within the party about why there had not been a more coherent approach to a district they knew would be competitive, given Mr. Trump’s weakness here. But the unrelenting Republican assault eventually paid off, raising Mr. Ossoff’s negative ratings and nudging conservative voters to show up for an unusual spring election.
A combination of non-stop attack ads and the difficulty of keeping people motivated month after month means that Ossoff likely loses in June. Not the singular realigning election moment that the Democratic Party was seeking.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Other Wars

With so many wars being fought, and potential wars soon to become actual wars, certain theaters of conflict go dark in the mainstream media. For example, Libya and Yemen are only sporadically covered in The New York Times. If it wasn't for the fact that Libya is a major launch point for refugees entering Europe, that country's civil war would be covered even less.

Yesterday there was this important story on News24, "Libya govt urges 'intervention' over southern clashes":
Libya's unity government has called for "urgent intervention" by the international community to end military escalation in its south, warning of a possible "civil war".
For more than a week, militias allied to the UN-backed Government of National Accord have fought off rival forces trying to capture an airbase in the south of the North African country.
"We ask you to take a firm and decisive stance with regards to this escalation and we will support all decisions to re-establish security and stability in Libya," GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj wrote in a letter published on Saturday.
Sarraj called for an "urgent intervention" from the international community "to end the deterioration of the situation in south Libya", in an open letter addressed to bodies including the European Union, the United Nations and the Arab League.
He did not specify the nature of what form such intervention could take.
Clashes erupted last week after the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, commanded by military strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and loyal to Libya's eastern authorities, battled to seize the Tamenhant air base from militias backing the GNA.
"This sudden and unjustified escalation... puts the country on the brink of civil war", Sarraj said.
The GNA, which both Haftar and the eastern-based parliament have refused to recognise, has announced a counter-offensive against the LNA.
The LNA has said the Tamenhant base was a launching pad for fighters who seized key oil terminals from its control last month, before the LNA retook them days later.
But the unity government has denied any link with the attacks on the oil facilities in Libya's northeast.
The GNA, which was born of a UN-brokered deal signed in late 2015, has struggled to assert its authority nationwide since taking office in Tripoli in March last year.
Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi, with rival militias and authorities vying for control of the oil-rich country.
The air base at Tamenhant is where Italian troops reportedly have been stationed. So we have a situation where Haftar, backed by Russia and France, is doing battle with tribes backed by Italy. Are Italians special forces fighting Russian special forces? It seems unlikely, but we would never know because there has been almost no reporting.

On the war in Yemen there is blurb in today's Situation Report:
Here’s your interagency process. Humanitarian groups and the U.S. State Department are pushing back against a plan by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen to take a key port city with help from the U.S. military, Buzzfeed reports. The Pentagon is in favor of providing more logistical support to the Gulf coalition's plan to retake the city of Hodeida, believed to be a major hub for Iranian weapons shipment to Houthi militants in Yemen. But the State Department and aid groups have opposed the plan, saying the operation would likely take longer than the Pentagon's estimated four to six week time frame and exacerbate Yemen's humanitarian crisis by interfering with food and aid shipments. For more on U.S. military policy in Yemen, and what the Saudis might be looking for, check this recent story by FP’s Paul McLeary and Dan De Luce.
As wars multiply, the situation in Syria -- where the CIA backed jihadis while the Pentagon supported anarcho-feminists and the two sides actually fought each other -- will become more commonplace.

Monday, April 17, 2017


Last summer's failed coup no doubt paved the way for Erdogan's narrow win in a referendum that moves Turkey from a parliamentary system where the president was a ceremonial position to a system where the president is the "Maximum Leader." Without the purges and jailing of political opponents, not to mention a hot war being waged against the Kurdish population in the country's southeast, Erdogan's Justice and Development Party would not have won the turnout game. Repression works.

One big election down, and  a couple more to go in the next seven days.

Jon Ossoff, a young Democrat running in Newt Gingrich's old congressional district, Georgia's 6th CD, has been designated the avatar of #Resist. If Ossoff is able to win outright tomorrow by garnering 50%-plus-1 of the vote, he will be on the front page of The New York Times. The GOP will definitely be in trouble. The problem for Ossoff is that most polls show him in the mid-40s, while the numerous Republican candidates add up to over 50%. So if Ossoff cannot wrap things up tomorrow, chances are good that he will lose in the runoff.

What's interesting about the race is the extent to which Trump's 180 of the last two weeks has an impact. The anti-Trump protests on Saturday were larger than I expected. Trump's wholesale abandonment of his campaign pledges will erode the motivation of his most committed supporters. That will have an impact.

The most hopeful prospect is the continuing surge of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France's presidential election, which takes place Sunday. The most motivated voters are clearly Le Pen's and Mélenchon's. The French elite are beginning to show their concern, as Adam Nossiter reports in "Left-Wing Politician Shakes Up France’s Presidential Race":
“Mélenchon: The Insane Program of the French Chávez,” the right-leaning newspaper Figaro blared in a front-page headline last week. The candidate was delighted by this jittery jab.
“What is the liberty of the employee who is fired for not working on Sunday?” he asked the crowd, delivering repeated thrusts at capitalism. “What is the liberty of 120,000 families whose water is cut off because they can’t pay the bill?” His advisers depict him as a kind of French Bernie Sanders. Unlike Mr. Sanders, though, he has no vigorous party establishment to block his way.
“Masters of the earth, you have good reason to be uneasy!” Mr. Mélenchon yelled at the festive, youthful crowd on Sunday, some wearing revolutionary Phrygian caps, as he stabbed the air with his fist and paced back and forth on the stage. “Give it up! Give it up!” the crowd yelled, a message clearly intended for Mr. Mélenchon’s opponents.
“There must be decent salaries,” Mr. Mélenchon shouted into the microphone. “That’s why the minimum wage will have to go up!”
The youth vote was supposed to have gone to the youthful Macron. Mélenchon's rise in the polls is the worst possible news for the neoliberals.

Friday, April 14, 2017

War Scare with North Korea Directed at South Korean Voters

The war of words between North Korea and Trump has been mostly soft-pedaled this past week in the "newspaper of record," though this morning there is the appropriately alarming dispatch, "North Korea Says Nuclear War Could Break Out ‘At Any Moment’," by Gerry Mullany and Chris Buckley:
HONG KONG — North Korea said on Friday that nuclear war could break out on the Korean Peninsula “at any moment,” accusing the United States of escalating tensions that have set off fears of war and calls for calm by countries in the region.
Alluding to the Trump administration’s decision to send a naval flotilla to the region amid fears that Pyongyang is about to test a nuclear weapon, North Korea accused the United States of introducing “nuclear strategic assets” to the peninsula and of “pushing the situation there to the brink of war.”
“This has created a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out any moment on the peninsula,” the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Disarmament and Peace said in a statement published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency. 
Recent satellite images from North Korea suggest that it might soon carry out another underground detonation, analysts say, despite pointed warnings by the United States not to do so. On Saturday, the North will celebrate the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il-sung, and it often uses such occasions as an opportunity to show off its military advances. A United States Navy strike group led by the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson has been diverted to the region in a show of resolve.
China, North Korea’s main ally, warned on Friday that regional tensions could run out of control. “The United States and South Korea and North Korea are engaging in tit for tat, with swords drawn and bows bent, and there have been storm clouds gathering,” China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said in Beijing, according to Xinhua, the state news agency.
Yesterday Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe added to the anxiety by tapping into newly aroused fears of a chemical weapons attack:
The Japanese news media reported that the government’s National Security Council had been discussing the possible evacuation of an estimated 57,000 of its citizens in South Korea, should war break out. “We will take all necessary steps to protect our people’s lives and assets,” said Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary. The Kyodo news agency said the council was concerned about the possibility of North Korean refugees arriving in boats on its shores.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan expressed concern on Thursday that North Korea could have the capability to deliver missiles equipped with sarin, the nerve agent whose recent use against civilians in Syria prompted Mr. Trump to order a missile strike there.
The gist of Trump's plan to deal with North Korea is to bribe China; that, and obliquely threaten a first-strike decapitation of Kim Jong-un.

South Korea is about to elect a progressive leader, Moon Jae-in, though a deep-state-friendly candidate, Ahn Cheol-soo, is being puffed at the eleventh hour. A lot of the U.S. saber-rattling, diverting the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to the Korean peninsula, is really intended for South Korean voters. Moon is opposed to the recent U.S. installation of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Ahn was originally opposed and then reversed himself.

THAAD is a key part of U.S. strategy to keep the Chinese Dragon penned in. Moon's election creates real problems for the U.S. What better way to mobilize conservative voters than to mock up a thermonuclear crisis?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

"What is to be Done?"

“What is to be done?” A question that is being asked now that Trump has performed an about-face less than three months into his presidency. No longer is he the people’s tribune battling the many-headed Hydra of the deep state. Now he is the deep state’s colossus.

The first thing that can be done is that communist Jean-Luc Mélenchon can knock off Emmanuel Macron on April 23 and qualify for the second round of the French presidential election, along with the National Front's Marine Le Pen. This will send a message loud and clear that neoliberal orthodoxy is kaput as a viable political program. Markets will panic. The media monopoly with have nowhere to turn because Macron, Fillon and Hamon will be sidelined.

If Mélenchon and Le Pen cannot box out the neoliberals, and Trump can pull off his 180 without suffering an enormous setback during the 2018 midterms, then Tariq Ali is probably right. The radical center can probably lurch along from one crisis to the next for another ten to 20 years.

Let's hope that elections still matter, and that Mélenchon and Le Pen come out on top April 23.

Anti-Syrian Western Propaganda Beginning to Fall Apart

I imagine how it works is a guy like Max Fisher gets his assignment: "Write a piece convincing readers Assad will continue to use chemical weapons." The case for Syria's use of sarin at Khan Sheikhoun is already falling apart, but clearly part of the rebooted regime change operation is for more false flag chemical weapon attacks.

So the Western media monopoly -- already running white hot trying to make a case that Assad, on the doorstep of military victory after a brutal six-year war against a foreign invasion, would risk losing everything by using sarin for negligible gains against a town behind the front lines -- has to in a sense "square the circle" and justify why Assad would use chemical weapons yet again.

It is absurd to say the least. But it is Max Fisher's assignment in "Why the Syrian Chemical Weapons Problem Is So Hard to Solve." One can go through and refute each argument that Fisher makes, like the first one, that chemical weapons are extremely effective and make up for the Syrian Arab Army's (SAA) manpower shortage. Chemical weapons are actually very difficult to use effectively. And the SAA has far more popular support in Syria than Nusra, ISIS or the Free Syrian Army.

But you know you are dealing with a stressed show pony when the writer contradicts himself in the same article. After arguing in his opening that Assad will continue to use chemical weapons because they are the most uniquely effective given Assad's manpower shortage, Fisher concludes by saying,
In waging total war against rebels and his own population, Mr. Assad has backed himself into an all-or-nothing conflict. Even if chemical weapons play only a secondary role in his political and battlefield strategies, he faces margins too slim and stakes too high to abandon them without a fundamental shift.
Wait. I thought Assad used chemical weapons repeatedly despite continuing denials because they offered him a game-changing advantage. But here Fisher says they are of only secondary importance.

If the stakes Assad faces are "too high," why invite widening the war by using a weapon you know will be used by the West to justify attacking you?

Fisher sings for his supper. When you're on deadline mistakes are made. The important thing is the headline. But still, the Western media monopoly seems to be breaking down.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

U.S. Brief on Syrian Guilt for Khan Sheikhoun Collapses

The U.S. case that Syria is responsible for the sarin attack last week in the Qaeda-held town of Khan Sheikhoun is rapidly disintegrating.

Read Robert Parry's latest, "Trump Withholds Syria-Sarin Evidence," along with Moon of Alabama's devastating "White House "Intelligence Assessment" Is No-Such-Thing - Shows Support for Al-Qaeda," and Theodore Postal's "Assessment of White House Intelligence Report of April 11, 2017" demolition of the four-page NSC white paper.

It's the same-old same-old: "Trust us. We have this amazing SIGINT and INTELSAT that prove Assad pulled the trigger. We can't produce it though. We have to protect our sources and methods."

To which Putin responded,
The same thing happened back in 2003, when a pretext was concocted to justify sending troops to Iraq. The country was destroyed as a result, and it was after this that we saw the rapid emergence of various terrorist organisations and groups, the emergence of ISIS and other organisations. Everyone knows this, but here they go, making the same mistakes again.
Putin could have also mentioned 2013 because signals intelligence, azimuth data and the like was trotted out to justify a bombing campaign against Damascus at that time too.Obama's trigger finger was not as quick as Trump's. The U.S. hocus pocus pointing to Assad's guilt back in 2013 was thoroughly discredited. But the NSC white paper released yesterday accepts it as established fact.

To take it in one gulp what we are dealing with here compare Maria Bartiromo's obsequious Trump interview with Putin's "Interview to Mir Broadcasting."

The U.S. is hurtling towards a catastrophic failure. The profoundly delusional nature of U.S.-led groupthink is close to a tipping point. Political power has become so concentrated, so untethered from the fact-based universe, that we are about to witness its return to reality.

The Resistance Comes Up Short in Kansas' 4th CD

In its first chance to prove its electoral pop at the polls, the Resistance has come up short in Kansas' 4th Congressional District. Ron Estes, the state treasurer, beat civil rights lawyer James Thompson by seven points, 53% to 46%, in a special election to replace CIA chief Mike Pompeo.

Dems are celebrating the 24-point shift in a district that Trump won by 27 points, but a loss is a loss. And golden boy Jon Ossoff should be able to read the handwriting on the wall. #Resistance does not spell realignment. Just because the prestige press shows an interest in grassroots activism doesn't mean that historically red districts will suddenly be painted blue.

The Resistance needs a scalp badly, and it's not clear when, or even, if they will get it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Once Again: "Whose Sarin?"

In preparation for the release later today of a National Security Council (NSC) document that purportedly is to offer proof of the Syrian government's responsibility for the chemical attack at Khan Sheikhoun, it would be a good idea to consult rick Sterling's "How Media Bias Fuels Syrian Escalation," which appeared yesterday on the Consortium News website.

In terms of a concise, drink-it-all-in-at-once synopsis of chemical weapons as a casus belli in Syria, I don't think I've read any better:
But the real story behind the deaths in Khan Sheikhoun remains uncertain, with U.S. intelligence apparently still trying to unravel the mystery and with some logic pointing to the armed opposition as the perpetrators, not the Syrian government.
There are four basic theories about what happened:
-The dominant Western narrative is that the Syrian “regime” dropped illegal chemical weapons on civilians because it is simply barbaric or alternatively because it was celebrating its impunity following the Trump administration’s announcement that it was no longer seeking Assad’s ouster.
-Then, there’s the possibility of an accidental release of chemicals because an airstrike by the Syrian military hit an Al Qaeda weapons depot where chemical weapons were stored, rupturing the containers and causing the poison gas to spread over the area. The Russian Ministry of Defense says militants had a weapons production factory including chemical weapon ingredients.
-Another theory is that the deaths were part of a psychological operation in which the kidnapped civilians from Khattab and possibly others were killed or poisoned in a staged event prompted by the growing desperation of Al Qaeda and other rebel groups, especially after the late March announcement that the U.S. was no longer seeking Assad’s removal.
-There is also the possibility that an outside power, angered by the Trump administration’s announcement, assisted in the psychological operation by delivering the poison gas that was used on the town.
Despite Trump’s hasty decision to blame and punish the Assad government, U.S. intelligence analysts are reportedly still reviewing the evidence, which includes overhead surveillance of the area. However, because the President has already acted, whatever the CIA concludes – if it contradicts Trump – may remain secret for the indefinite future.
Still, there are facts, history and circumstantial reasons that would lead one to believe that it is far more likely the armed opposition is responsible than the government.
(1) The incident and publicity help the opposition and hurt the government.
Crime investigations usually begin with the question: Who has a motive? In this case, it’s strikingly clear that the armed opposition and their supporters benefited from this event. They have used the story to further demonize the Assad government and renew calls for the U.S. and “the world” to intervene. 
Not only did the incident cause the Trump administration to reverse its recently announced reversal of Obama’s “Assad must go” mantra, but the deaths came as the Syrian government is making steady advances in many parts of the country. The government had no reason to use chemical weapons even if it still had any after surrendering its stockpiles of such weapons in 2014. Indeed, the government had every reason NOT to use chemical weapons, knowing very well the armed opposition’s propaganda capabilities and access to the major Western media.
It is also relevant to consider timing. In this case, the events in Khan Sheikhoun occurred the day before an important conference on Syria was to be held in Brussels. The conference titled “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” has been effectively sidetracked by news about the chemical weapons attack and the Syrian government being blamed.
(2) Extremists were likely responsible for the August 2013 chemical weapon attack in Damascus.
Western supporters of the armed opposition were quick to blame the Syrian government for the chemical attack in Ghouta on Aug. 21, 2013. However, subsequent investigations by the most credible investigative journalists and researchers concluded the Syrian government was probably NOT responsible. Seymour Hersh and Robert Parry concluded the attack was most likely carried out by militants with support from Turkish intelligence.
The in-depth examination titled WhoGhouta concluded “The only plausible scenario that fits the evidence is an attack by opposition forces.” An MIT study made a detailed trajectory analysis and concluded that the sarin-carrying missile could not have been fired from government territory. The study challenged the unsubstantiated claims made in the U.S. “government assessment” white paper, which almost led President Obama to launch a military strike against Syrian government forces. “Faulty intelligence could have led to an unjustified US military action,” the MIT study said.
(3) Armed opposition groups have a history of staging incidents
From the start, the Syrian conflict has included an information war. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton boasted of “training for more than a thousand activists, students and independent journalists,” a program that amounted to an invitation for the armed opposition to sell its case to the West via propaganda on social media, including heartrending tales focused on suffering children and heroic stories of selfless “moderate” rebels and the even more selfless White Helmets “rescue workers.”
In December 2012, NBC journalist Richard Engel was reportedly kidnapped and abused by “shabiha” supporters of the Syrian government. Engel and his film crew were “liberated” by Free Syrian Army rebels after a gunfight with the supposedly pro-Assad kidnappers. In reality, the entire episode from kidnapping to rescue was a hoax designed to demonize Assad’s supporters and glorify the “rebels.” The true story emerged years later after the actual events were leaked. When it was going to be made public, Engel finally admitted the truth.
The world also now knows that the real kidnappers of Western journalists have been the jihadist rebels, who have decapitated hostages including Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
(4) Supporters of the armed opposition have a history of fabricating stories to demonize the Syrian government.
In February 2014, it was announced that a defecting Syrian military photographer, who was anonymous but code-named “Caesar,” had 55,000 photos documenting the torture and murder of 11,000 innocent Syrian civilians. This news received sensational media attention with live interviews on CNN and front-page coverage throughout the Western world. The news relied on the judgment of legal prosecutors who “verified” the story and produced a “Caesar Report,” released the day before the start of Geneva peace negotiations. It effectively disrupted the talks and facilitated the “rebels” refusal to negotiate and walk away.
In reality, the “verification” and report was commissioned by the government of Qatar, which has been a major funder of the armed opposition. Since then it has been discovered that nearly half the 55,000 photos show the opposite of what was claimed: they show dead Syrian soldiers and victims of explosions NOT tortured civilians, just one of the findings of fraud in this sensational story. [A concise expose of “Caesar” is here.]

Monday, April 10, 2017

Neoliberalism Flying High? April Elections in U.S. & France

It would've been hard to imagine last November, following Hillary Clinton's spectacular defeat by a reality TV star, that the corporate wing of the Democratic Party would be flying so high in April. Then, post-election, the widely held and uncontroversial conclusion was that Hillary lost because she was too close to Wall Street, too rigid a practitioner of "identity" politics and too hawkish. The only prominent "Not My Fault!" note struck was to blame FBI Director James Comey for reopening the investigation into Clinton's email less than two weeks before election day.

How times have changed. Just one example is today's "Gabbard takes heat from Dems for skepticism of Syria chemical attack" by Mike Lillis writing for The Hill:
Powerful liberal voices are calling for the ouster of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard over the Hawaii Democrat’s vocal criticism of last week’s U.S. strike against the Syrian government.
Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, both took to Twitter to bash Gabbard for what they see as a shameful defense of Bashar Assad, the Syrian president long accused of brutal attacks on his own people in the country's ongoing civil war.
They’re urging Hawaii voters to replace the third-term Democrat in 2018.
“People of Hawaii’s 2nd district — was it not enough for you that your rep met with a murderous dictator? Will this move you?” Tanden tweeted.
“This is a disgrace,” Dean echoed. “Gabbard should not be in Congress.”
You'll recall Tanden as the bitchy star of the Podesta Emails and Dean as the disgraced faux-populist candidate from the 2004 Democratic primary. What is happening is that the corporate Democrats are exterminating the peace wing of their party. All Gabbard has said is that no proof has been provided that the Syrian government is responsible for using chemical weapons at Khan Sheikhoun. That's it. But for this Dean and Tanden say she has to be rubbed out. This is evidence that we are living in a closed society.

Matt Taibbi predicted that this would happen, just not so soon. He was speaking more in terms of the next presidential election.

How have the Wall Street Dems been able to turn things around in a mere six months?

By engaging, with the fulsome support of the mainstream media, in a neo-McCarthyism so pervasive and devoid of content (instead of microfilm in a hollowed out pumpkin, we're supposed to sustain ourselves with Fancy Bears and office visits from Serge Kislyak) that it has to be classed as the most astonishing feat of propaganda in the 21st century, surpassing even the invasion of Iraq. (Today The New York Times announced that it has won a Pulitzer for "Russia’s Dark Arts: An investigative series on Russia’s covert projection of power.")

We'll see if this corporate McCarthyite rebirth of the Democratic Party has any pop at the polls when a special election is held next Tuesday in Georgia's 6th Congressional District to fill Tom Price's seat. Young spooky elite Jon Ossoff is running as a Democrat, and he has garnered an enormous amount of prestige press, partly because he has raised the unheard amount of money -- $8.3 million. The race is being spotlighted as a bellwether of the anti-Trump "Resistance."

Commentators have opined that Ossoff has to win more than 50% on April 18. If not, and he ends up in a one-on-one runoff with a Republican, he'll most likely lose. It is after all Newt Gingrich's old district.

Recent polling gives him a chance, a remote one, to win it all on the first ballot. I'm looking forward to a little schadenfreude at the neoliberal's expense.

The Sunday after the special election in Georgia's 6th CD the French hold the first round of their presidential election. The National Front's Marine Le Pen has had a brutal go of it lately. During last week's presidential debate, Le Pen was attacked as an out-of-touch elite by a Ford factory mechanic Philippe Poutour running on the New Anticapitalist Party ticket. The story received a lot of coverage. Now, after an interview Sunday, it is the old Holocaust-denial bugaboo that doomed her father.

All of this obscures some devastating appraisals of neoliberal savior Emmanuel Macron that have appeared lately. Not in mass publications mind you. But all -- "The Macron Phenomenon" by Christakis Georgiou writing in Jacobin; "Big Stakes in the French Presidential Election: Governance Versus the People" by Diana Johnstone writing in CounterPunch; "Candidate Macron" by Jeremy Harding writing in London Review of Books -- paint a very similar portrait of a technocratic shape-shifter spawned from the womb of France's corporate-liberal elite and whose mission is to erase the age-old left-right divide through some alchemy of propaganda to empower a new popular party -- with a mass base of support -- for the 1%.

This picture of Macron is so consistent, so easy to understand, it is hard to see how it doesn't filter down to the 99%; hence, the recent fusillade against Le Pen.

A silver lining is the recent surge by Communist Jean-Luc Melenchon, who polls show has replaced Francois Fillon for the number three spot behind Le Pen and Macron. Is it too much to hope for the Communist to knock off the neoliberal?