Friday, November 24, 2017

LaVar Ball: Ass-Clown of the Year

The arrest of three UCLA basketball players in Hangzhou for shoplifting early this month was shameful enough. But it’s the reaction to the event by LaVar Ball, father of one of the players, that takes the cake for clueless. I nominate him Ass-Clown of 2017.

The debate over whether the man should thank the US president for getting his son out of ten years jail time in China is one thing. Of course he should thank him. He’s a moron for not doing so. But it’s not just that. What most people are forgetting in all this is what it means to be part of a nation, part of the United States.

China is our main global competitor at present. The shoplifting by these "students" (I’ll use the scare quotes because I don’t think athletic scholarships should even be a thing) was of course widely reported in the Chinese press. Think about that for a moment. Given China's population of 1.4 billion, that means hundreds of millions of Chinese, catching this event in the news, were confirmed in their prejudice that America people of color are troublemakers and losers. Good job for your son there, LaVar.

LaVar said he would have thanked President Trump if he’d flown his kid home on Air Force One. “There’s a lot of room on that plane,” he said on CNN. Uh-huh. Does the man really have no idea what it means for national leaders to visit another country? Imagine how it would have played in Chinese media if our president, after getting them bailed out for their criminal behavior, had actually then flown these entitled "student" morons home in the presidential jet. Imagine the message it would convey, how the Chinese media would use it to dis American common sense in general and America’s leader in particular.

Rather than being a smart ass on national TV, LaVar Ball should be hanging his head in shame. Ball's son, a youth representative of the US, disgraced tens of millions of Americans in front of literally hundreds of million Chinese. And yes, he and his two teammates disgraced people of color. Why aren't more black Americans calling out the father on his cluelessness? This “father” thinks his son stealing is no big deal; and the Chinese, reading American reports, will naturally assume this to be typical of how American blacks think.

That CNN treated LaVar Ball with anything but contempt tells you something about CNN. Not thanking your country’s president for saving your son’s future? Shoplifting “ain’t that big a deal"? It's true I myself have never given much of a damn about ball players. But as for this ex-ball player and his "father", they are trash role models and a disgrace to America.

My novel A Taipei Mutt is now in print. The Asian capital unmuzzled.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Russiagate Shuffle: More Pathetic Pleading from NYT

One of my more liberal friends recently challenged what he called my “cynical” attitude toward the big names in American journalism: the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. “There is a thing called skepticism,” he wrote, “and a thing called cynicism. You are really starting to fall into the latter.”

Ironically, not a day later, he sent me a link to an editorial in the New York Times which, he said, conveyed his own thinking on why Mueller’s Russia investigation was important. He thought the piece was spot on. It was David Klion’s “Why Don’t Sanders Supporters Care About the Russia Investigation?” When I read it, I was really almost flabbergasted.

This is what you send me to demonstrate my cynicism is misplaced?

Let me explain. I’ve lived in Asia for decades now, in Taiwan, and have keenly watched the political shifts in my home country, the US, with a feeling of ever more distance. And not a small amount of shock. In recent years, what’s especially struck me is the degree to which some of my sharpest friends from the past have become what I’d call zombified. I really can’t comprehend their inability to see things that are glaringly obvious. There are many such things, a growing heap, but surely the Top Thing at present is the absurdity of Russiagate. The shabby editorial my old friend sent me—a friend, by the way, who graduated from one of America's top universities—how could he not manage to see what it was about?

Since I went out of my way to snap my old friend out of his NYT-induced funk, I’ve decided to post my remarks here:

-----Yes, David Klion’s piece underlines a lot of key themes relative to the problem of globalized corporate oligarchy. And these problems are obvious. But sit back and think for a minute. Fighting corporate oligarchy was not the reason Mueller was put in charge of the Russiagate investigation. The reason the investigation was launched was to find evidence of the Trump administration colluding with Russia that would amount to tampering with the 2016 election. And surprise: NO EVIDENCE HAS BEEN FOUND.

In short, this NYT piece is yet another example, and a pretty transparent one, of trying to milk something newsworthy out of Russiagate. But the problem to me seems this: Russiagate is by definition NOT newsworthy. It's not newsworthy because it doesn't exist. There was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to sway the election to his advantage. If there had been, it would have been found out many months ago.

So what we have here from the NYT, sorry to say, is just a new example of what has infuriated me and many others about the "journalism" coming from the NYT/WaPo/MSNBC/CNN axis. I'd like to call them the Axis of Feeble. Because if, like me, you've been following the Russiagate business from the start, you will see that when one claim falls apart, this little press axis just shifts to implying that the investigation is about some other claim. It's gotten downright mendacious.

Let's take a moment, old friend, to consider how this new piece works. Or tries to work. Bear me out, and I think you'll come to see what I've been seeing for many months. The reason for what you call my cynicism. At least I hope you see it.

Look at the article's first paragraph: "Nearly every day, new details emerge about the relationship between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. The extent of the alleged collusion, which may ultimately endanger Mr. Trump’s presidency, has yet to be determined, but the scandal has dominated news coverage and enthralled Washington."

This is a statement of fact that doesn't amount to anything. What is stated? "Every day, new details emerge." Of course every day new details emerge. The problem is that none of those details is evidence of collusion or even very interesting in itself. Are Paul Manafort's dealings in Ukraine many years ago newsworthy as far as the 2016 election? No. Is Flynn's undisclosed meeting such a big deal? Hardly. Plenty of people in both parties have had plenty of meetings with Russians, as they've had meetings with Germans, Chinese, and Indians. Meetings don't mean anything. After a full year of this sordid business, there is still NO SMOKING GUN. And there won't be. (A recent article by Caitlin Johnstone does a good job of explaining just why there won't be. Check her out.)

The other statement in the first paragraph, namely that "the [Russiagate] scandal has dominated news coverage and enthralled Washington"--yes, that's true too in a bland and irrelevant way. Because what does it even mean? It only means that establishment Washington, loathing Trump, can get excited over a conspiracy theory and that, to its shame, can continue to PRETEND to be excited long after it's clear the theory points to no concrete truth.

After the article's first few paragraphs (which quote a few sane people like Noam Chomsky) did you notice how THE WHOLE FOCUS OF THE ARTICLE SHIFTS? No more is there anything about the 2016 election; rather it's all just bromides about international capitalism. You could write the same article substituting the names of other countries in for Russia. Because there are dirty deals and money laundering from one side of the globe to the other. And probably Trump's friends and Hillary's friends and Manafort's friends have their fingers in various of these global pies. We all know this, and the Russiagate investigation is not going to help a democratic citizenry fight such wheeling and dealing. Nor is the NYT going to help much either, when push comes to shove.

In short, this article is an exercise in BAIT AND SHIFT. Honest analysts on right and left are all saying that the Russiagate investigation is, in terms of its original mandate, an utter joke. Your NYT article does its best to imply that they're wrong about that because, you see . . . oligarchy. The writer's trying to save face for the establishment press by not-so-subtly re-purposing the investigation.

How can you not see this? Sure, parts of the article reflect your thinking on oligarchy, but c'mon--that question is NOT what the investigation was about. Was Mueller tasked with investigating the Trump team in order to find arguments for leftists to use against apologists of globalized capitalism? No. He was tasked with finding out how Russia colluded with Trump to sway a democratic election. He has found, and will find, NOTHING.

Two more things:

1) Note how the name UraniumOne doesn't even appear in the article. That's just another example of our paper of record at work. They're afraid a new investigation will be launched, and that their gal will be under the lens. If there's any story that might give us an object lesson in how corporate backroom deals with politicians subvert national interests, UraniumOne is at least as worthy a story as Paul Manafort's greed.

2) Note that even Masha Gessen--diehard Putin foe and Russian-American LGBT activist, a woman who loathes Trump almost as much as she does Putin--note that even she is quoted in the chorus of those pointing out the Russiagate investigation is a waste of time. Gessen is not always honest in her writing. But she has to admit the truth on this one. And that should tell you something. Because Gessen is a woman who would like Trump impeached and Putin roasted alive.

This article may seem worthy to you in some points it makes, I don't know. But to me, honestly, in terms of a coherent editorial, it's trash. It's a cheap rhetorical game, nothing more. It's like a man who says he wants you to try a new lager and ends by putting an iced green tea in front of you. Oddly, you raise the glass to your lips and say, "Wow, that's a good lager!"

I just don't get it. Really.

* * *

I'm still waiting for my friend's reply to these remarks.

My novel A Taipei Mutt is now in print. The Asian capital unmuzzled.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Gospel of Mark: a World-Historical Text

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter. --Mark 1:40-45

This passage appeared in a friend’s post. Mark, the earliest of the the Gospels, and the shortest, is also in many ways the most powerful--a brilliant, world-altering text. Think about it. Whoever this author was, he created a new genre of writing to communicate a new reality that had entered the world. Scholars point out that his Greek was crabbed, uncouth. But his narrative skills were immense.

In Mark we see the human side of Jesus. We see him almost as a man reeling from his own powers. Much in the narrative also indicates a closeness to the crowds that thronged to get near this power.

Erich Auerbach, the first couple chapters of whose Mimesis are sheer brilliance, points out that Mark was the first writer in the ancient world to write of the lower classes as fully human characters. He brought into writing an entirely new, and more fully human, way of communicating social reality. I would suggest that this is because, like many a first Christian, he recognized that Jesus' coming radically altered social reality as such.


Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. at and begin the long, hard reckoning.