Sunday, July 5, 2015

Oxi To Austerity

That's Greek for the unmistakable overwhelming No to the banking cartel currently trampling all over democracy, all over the world, one nasty grind of the hyper-capitalistic heel at a time.

 The Greeks not only stood up for themselves, they just did the whole rest of the world a giant favor, too. They exercised some good, old-fashioned, bottom-up democracy. They spoke out against a group of very powerful, very sadistic people who thought that they could exercise their will through the instillation of fear and mass suffering. The pluto-sadists still do think that, but at least they've been rendered a little more uncomfortable as they bask in their pathology.

The victorious Greek referendum makes me wish that we had a parliamentary system of government right here in the Birthplace of Freedom for the Propertied Classes. How awesome it would be, for example, if the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its evil offshoots were subject to a popular referendum instead of a quickie  ratification by a corrupt Congress! How democratically old-fashioned if we could all vote "no confidence" the next time the clowns manufacture their own debt crisis as an excuse to cut food stamps and unemployment insurance! Those aristocratic Founding Fathers that some of us celebrated yesterday knew exactly what they were doing when they invented "representative" democracy.

It's still too early to tell if democracy will prevail in Greece, the birthplace of true, bottom-up democracy. After all, remember when some naifs were silly enough to predict that such corrupt regimes as Goldman Sachs and Citigroup had gasped their greedy last back in 2008 when they were caught red-handed, wrecking the global economy?

 And then, spitting in the face of all that is decent and moral and humane, these same entities and their various subsidiaries were allowed to rise up again, bigger and more gruesomely powerful than ever before? 

Never satiated, the hedge fund operators, the private equity moguls, the too big to fail banks, the oligarchs, the rentier and investor class of billionaires --  are on a rampage, bleeding their victims dry before grinding them into pulp.

The financial terrorism now being practiced on Greece is nothing new. It got its start decades ago with the "Washington Consensus" method of plundering Latin American countries under the guise of "aid" provided by the International Monetary Fund (part of the troika imposing austerity on Greece). In exchange for loans to strapped or corrupt governments, the banksters  demanded and got "fiscal discipline" to curb budget deficits; a reduction in public expenditures; deregulation of the finance sector and the economy, with interest rates determined by "the market"; trade deals that favored American multinationals over local companies and sovereign governments; promotion of direct foreign "investment" with an ironclad guarantee of property rights for corporations.

This Washington Consensus (thought to have been discredited when Argentina told it to eff off) has been duly exported to the rest of the world, which of course now also includes such Wall Street-devastated All-American cities as Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore. Can you imagine if there were a Greek-style referendum in which people could just say "Oxi" to school closings and water privatization?

Legend has it that vampires die when they're exposed to the light. Dracula Neoliberalus has become so monstrous and so strong that it probably will require multiple exposures to light (and a banshee wail of populist noise) before finally crumbling.





It needs multiple stakes of truth through its corrupt heart. It's become so used to getting its own way, sucking up bailouts and corporate welfare with such bloodthirsty abandon that it thinks it is invincible. And it very well might be.

So there is much work to be done. The first task is to debunk the propaganda which dictates that the world is one vast open-air marketplace devoid of national legislatures and judiciaries and governments for the greater good of all. Trickle-down prosperity is a lie that won't easily die. Repeat early, repeat often: the production and sale of goods is not the heart of civilization. People are.

Rather than pursuing the public good, neoliberalism employs technocrats (the IMF, the World Bank, the World Trade Association, the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, etc.) who treat individual governments as businesses ripe for the plucking.  They treat people as consumer-workers who must pay the price whenever the bankers and the bosses (whose greed has made them terminally stupid) make their inevitable bad deals and bad choices.

Engaged, caring citizens are anathema to Neoliberalism. We must refuse the directive to become "entrepreneurs" acting in our own self-interest, clawing our individual ways up ladders of opportunity.

The banksters running the world have three distinct Washington Consensus-spawned policies that perpetuate their reign of error and terror: deregulation, corporatization via "free trade," and privatization of public goods and services. Social safety nets are slashed in favor of welfare-to-work schemes paying subsistence wages. Interest rates are kept artificially low to keep the non-existent inflation "bogeyman" in check. Offshore tax havens sheltering trillions of dollars in hoarded wealth are set up. All of this is done with the cooperation of "think tanks" and a media-political conglomerate that broadcasts the neoliberal agenda in forms designed to alternately tease, appease and enrage a victimized, exhausted public. (Things will get better someday.... here's some health insurance for a lucky few... close our borders to people not profits.... watch TV.... drink.... take prescription drugs.)

The Greeks said Oxi. Not only do they deserve debt relief, we owe them a huge debt of our gratitude. 

Democracy is catching on. Plutocracy is trembling in Dracula's Castle.

Here, for example, is what happened at a Brussels conference promoting the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership:







Thursday, July 2, 2015

Links/Open Thread (Neoliberal Edition)

"Graft is a byword in American life today. It is law where no other law is obeyed. It is underminding the country. Virtue, honor, truth and the law have all vanished from our life."  -- Convicted mobster Al Capone, Liberty Magazine interview, Oct. 17, 1931.

 ***

Puerto Rico needs debt relief (New York Times): A bill allowing the territory's government to restructure its debt in bankruptcy court is currently before Congress, "but has not advanced due to the opposition of some hedge funds." (also see my previous post.)

***

Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson claims that he has lost millions of dollars betting on the successful failure of both Greece and Puerto Rico. (Fortune) He bet big-time on hopes that thirsty jobless Athens residents would be forced to pay for privatized water, and it just didn't happen.  One of his investment arms owns a whopping one-third of all bank deposits in Greece. You know -- the recycled bailout money from the Troika washing machine. The banks are closed and on the brink of insolvency. Last year, he bought over a billion dollars' worth of tax-exempt Puerto Rican bonds, which the government now says it can't pay back. Anybody want to bet on whether Congress sides with millions of struggling people over John Paulson? Actually, it is a safe bet that the big banks are already shorting their customers and hedging their bets on Grexit and regime change, and the downfall of Puerto Rico into a failed colonial state. Heads they win, tails you lose.

***

Chelsea Clinton's hedge fund manager husband also has lost "a ton of money" betting on a Greek "recovery" from more austerity via an abject submission by the Syriza government to the Troika finance capital vampires. ( Business Insider.) But Chelsea is doing her plucky best to stem the bleeding, having recently charged $65,000 for a ten-minute speech, a short Q&A and photo-ops at a publicly-funded university. What a trouper for the neoliberal cause. She didn't even personally pocket her fee, instead tossing the cash into the churning money laundry spin cycle of her family's "charity" -- for altruistic tax-avoidance purposes.

***

Not to be outdone by the global banking mafia's assaults on Greece and Puerto Rico, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced more than 1400 new teacher layoffs and $200 million in public education cuts to pay for tax breaks for the hyper-rich as well as for the Wall Street looting of their pension fund. Teachers, students and parents planned a mass rally in front of City Hall today to demand such alternatives as a luxury tax, financial transaction tax, and tax penalties for employers who pay workers so little that they must go on public assistance. Reaction by the teachers' union to Mayor One Percent's austerity announcement is here:





Not to be outdone by his pal Rahm, President Obama is going to bat for Big Phat Pharma in an even more rapacious way than we knew. According to another draft document from Wikileaks, drug companies stand to squeeze trillions more dollars from the citizens and taxpayers of the 12 nations affected by the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If the agreement is ratified as the draft now stands, manufacturers of cheaper generics would be squeezed out of existence in those countries (including the US, which already pays through the nose for medicines.) Out-of-pocket payments from Medicaid and Medicare subscribers would also be jacked up if the deal goes through. There is absolutely no distance between what the predatory drug manufacturers want, and what the Obama administration is willing to give them, according to a spokesman from Doctors Without Borders.

Obama does have a self-glorifying library shrine to build on public property in cash-strapped Chicago, after all.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Neoliberals Without Mercy

If you're a Puerto Rican resident suffering through that territory's current manufactured, Greece-like debt crisis, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has some friendly advice for you:

 Move.

In a blog-post that reads like it came straight from the devil's workshop of the conservative Heritage Foundation, Krugman says:
 And outmigration need not be such a terrible thing. There is much discussion of what’s wrong with Puerto Rico, but maybe we should, at least some of the time, just think of Puerto Rico as an ordinary region of the U.S.; at any given time, we expect some regions to be in relative and maybe even absolute decline, as the winds of technology and global trade shift. I wonder, in particular, whether Puerto Rico is suffering from the forces that seem to be leading to a general shortening of logistical chains and the “reshoring” of manufacturing to advanced economies.
Sure, just pack up and leave and travel more than a thousand miles by sea or by air with all your household possessions in a suitcase or trunk, in a pleasure-quest to that great job awaiting you on the mainland. Leave behind your family, your friends, your language, and your culture. 

Krugman doesn't even suggest, like odious American Enterprise Institute hack Michael Strain, that this not-terrible outmigration be subsidized by the government. And, as one commenter astutely replied to this multimillionaire columnist: "Moving from Puerto Rico to the mainland would be significantly harder than relocating from Princeton to New York City."

(Krugman recently devoted a couple of posts to the travails of packing up his papers and relocating from Princeton to the Big Apple. Outmigration must be a wonderful thing if you're rich and famous and can afford to hire a moving van.)

Krugman treats globalization and corporatism not as deliberate, sadistic man-made policies, but as natural winds and shifts. It's simply "logistics" that causes the detritus of humanity to drown while their livelihoods are passive-aggressively "reshored." Too bad Puerto Ricans don't live in an "advanced" economy like the rest of us, huh?

Among all the other things "wrong with Puerto Rico," Krugman also has a problem with its geography. It's inconveniently located right in the middle of the friggin' ocean! There aren't enough beaches. There is too much "inland" and too many people, who don't possess enough skills.  How can this crisis be, when even Appalachian rednecks from West Virginia know enough to move when the mines shut down! Why can't the Latinos pick up and leave when Big Pharma closes down its drug factories for the greener pastures of India?

Why can't Puerto Rican human capital get with the globalization program like the rest of the underclass?

What Krugman neglects to mention is that Puerto Ricans lack citizenship status, they're only represented by one non-voting Congress critter in the lower House, and are barred from voting in presidential elections. But he absolutely remembers to mention that "out-migrants" are usually young people, leaving the left-behind old folks depending on the government safety net.

Really. You have to read his post. It is pure Heritage Foundation, whence also came the Affordable Care Act. I'm even beginning to suspect that David Brooks might have hacked into Krugman's account in order to troll "those people."

I haven't been to the island in decades (my late husband had and still has family there) but three things stood out then: a tiny pocket of extreme wealth ( the beachfront condos were like fortresses, all their windows barred), a stunning amount of poverty, and a very obvious American military presence, particularly in the glitzy, touristy areas. That military presence is not so evident nowadays; thus the willingness of the neoliberal elites to give a giant middle finger to Puerto Rico. It's outlived its plunder possibilities. Cuba is no longer a looming Communist menace. The US Imperium has "pivoted" to the Middle East, Eastern Europe/Russia and China/Asia by encircling those chunks of real estate with ever more military bases.

Here's my published comment to The Conscience of a Liberal, actually in response to a reader named Nancy, who also seemed pretty miffed at Krugman.  (be sure to read the other comments, a few of which are critical):
I found the dismissive tone of this post offensive as well. It's indicative of the attitude of a super-power whose colonial outpost has outlived its usefulness for plunder and military "defense."
That Puerto Rico is now in such dire economic straits is no accident. This is a direct result of its diminished territorial status. But the elites will blame the unemployed, the retired, the old, the young, the geographical location (all of a sudden it's as inaccessible as Mars!), the lack of skills. It's the neoliberal way.

Residents of Puerto Rico might be citizens, but they are second class citizens. Despite being "represented" (in only the lower house of Congress) and invited to national political conventions, they are not allowed to vote in actual presidential elections. They are, however, military fodder. Puerto Rico is home to 10,000 veterans of the American armed forces.

After years of despoiling the island of Vieques with their bombs, the powerful US Navy was finally blockaded from their weapons testing grounds by both permanent residents and activists from the mainland. (Another reason that Big Uncle Sam is now thumbing his nose?) That was in 2003. The island, accessible from Puerto Rico proper by both ferry and plane, is now a growing (and comparatively affordable) tourist destination and has some of the top-rated beaches in the Caribbean. Its bioluminescent bay is one of the most famous and beautiful in the world.
But as the Daily News' Juan Gonzales has written, the American Imperium has left behind an unknown number of unexploded bombs in the waters off the island.
 Half the people of Vieques still live in poverty. The island has the highest cancer rate of any municipality in Puerto Rico. Studies by Puerto Rican scientists have found 34% of residents with toxic levels of mercury, 55% contaminated with lead, and 69% with arsenic.
Paul Krugman would probably tell them to move to New Jersey. Barack Obama is just telling them to drop dead.

The good news? Not that you'd know it if you get all your news and views from the New York Times, but there have been absolutely massive protests against austerity in Puerto Rico, and they've been going on for months. It seems that young people would prefer not to "outmigrate," after all. They'd much rather stay, and fight.



 



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kinder, Gentler Points of Blight


David Brooks got the 3 a.m. phone call from the Board of Overlords:

Culture wars and right-wing wedge issues are Out. Diversity and loving-kindness are In. Otherwise, Ted Cruz might win the nomination and lose to Hillary Clinton. So enough already with the bigotry and the religious paranoia. Up with Obama-style centrism (social liberalism balanced with economic conservatism.)

Taking a page from the postmodern GOP playbook (see my previous post) Brooks told the reactionary Christian Coalition wing of the party to stuff it for awhile, and play the part of Obama-style community organizers. It worked once for a Democratic corporatist, so why shouldn't it work for a Republican corporatist too?

Of course, this synopsis is only the crass political subtext of today's New York Times column from the Pundit to the Plutes. Telling moralizers like his colleague Ross Douthat to stop moralizing over the scourge of birth control and gay marriage, Brooks moralized:
These conservatives are enmeshed in a decades-long culture war that has been fought over issues arising from the sexual revolution. Most of the conservative commentators I’ve read over the past few days are resolved to keep fighting that war.
I am to the left of the people I have been describing on almost all of these social issues. But I hope they regard me as a friend and admirer. And from that vantage point, I would just ask them to consider a change in course.
Otherwise, rich Republican politicians might lose a few, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio might plummet from 350:1 to 348:1 under a Clinton restoration, and there might not be any more Scalia clones to amuse us to death once the original disappears into a puddle of bile. So think before you hate, haters!  Here's the Brooksian formula as dictated by the Wall Street wing of the party:
Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely.
The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.
Notice how Brooks strains to emulate Obama's "We Shall Overcome" eulogy. He even dips into Biblical anaphora -- the rhetorical device often used by the president (and preachers) which repeats the first part of sentences over and over again  -- "those are the people" -- for maximum emotional, moralizing, co-opting impact.

Here is my published Times response to Rev. Mr. Brooks:
 They thought their southern strategy to suck up the votes of poor white people was safe for all eternity, until a mass shooting in a Black church made everybody notice what a hateful symbol the Confederate flag truly is.

Their sustained ACA-repealing dog-whistle, sending the message that Poors and Blacks don't deserve to live, just got a big wad of gum stuck in it, courtesy of the Court.

And marriage equality becoming the law of the land in all 50 states? It's been a perfect trifecta of loss for the GOP.

So what to do, now that the rebel yell is losing its oomph? The GOP changes course overnight, resurrecting the stale Poppy Bush-era propaganda of "compassionate conservatism" This column is a very cute way of both endorsing Jeb! and repudiating such losers as Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee. There's an election to be won, bloodthirsty Neocons waiting to claw their way back into power, fear to be struck into the hearts of America in the name of "national security."


While reciting his Christian litany, Brooks is very careful to emphasize that love for the poor will be purely voluntary. The hyper-rich will not be taxed as they "tithe and nurture" on their own private terms. Opportunity will still abound for pathologizing poor people as conservatives dellcately venture into "underprivileged areas" for daytime photo-ops, and then slash the social safety net to ribbons under cover of darkness.

Brooks's litany of hypocrisy is the smell of GOP desperation in the morning.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Propaganda On Steroids

Silly, sleepy me.

Until I read all about it in today's New York Times, I'd been totally, unforgivably oblivious to having just lived through a monumental event called "The Liberal Spring."

In the space of just one week, a tsunami from "the left" has apparently changed the entire ideological landscape of America!

Jonathan Martin explains it all to ignoramuses like me:
A cascade of events suggests that 2015 could be remembered as a Liberal Spring: the moment when deeply divisive and consuming questions of race, sexuality and broadened access to health care were settled in quick succession, and social tolerance was cemented as a cornerstone of American public life.
Happy days are here again! The skies above are clear again! We can sing a song of cheer again! We all have guaranteed health care for life,  gender and sexual equality is here to stay, and institutional racism has disappeared as quick as you can tear down a Confederate flag.

And lest we be deemed ungrateful, we must give all the credit for our unexpected salvation to Obama Triumphans.  He is being widely portrayed in the corporate media as a latter-day Joshua. The president miraculously escaped from the Egypt of Lameduckville to finish leading the refugees of America into the neoliberal promised land of brand-name milk and honey. All it took was one off-key but sonorous rendition of We Shall Overcome to further cement mass delusion as a cornerstone of public life.



The Times piece continues,
Yet what appears, in headlines and celebrations across the country, to represent an unalloyed victory for Democrats, in which lawmakers and judges alike seemed to give in to the leftward shift of public opinion, may contain an opening for the Republican Party to move beyond losing battles and seemingly lost causes.
OK, now that we got spring out of the way, we can get into the nitty-gritty of what the permanent ruling class really wants. And that is the GOP repudiating the Tea Party in order to get back to its big business roots. As fast as pro-market forces once tore down the Berlin Wall, as fast as Obama tore down the walls of racism, John Boehner is purging Congressional committees of those anti-trade, anti-government, anti-corporate welfare ideologues. Newly empowered by their partnership with Obama's Wall Street Democrats, the Wall Street Republicans aim to make the world safe for plutocracy.
But even as conservatives appear under siege, some Republicans predict that this moment will be remembered as an effective wiping of the slate before the nation begins focusing in earnest on the presidential race.
 As important as some of these issues may be to the most conservative elements of the party’s base and in the primaries ahead, few Republican leaders want to contest the 2016 elections on social or cultural grounds, where polls suggest that they are sharply out of step with the American public.
Polls, shmolls. More than measuring public opinion, polls actually serve to influence it. Witness the recent Pew Poll purporting to show widespread domestic and international support for the anti-democracy job-destroying Trans-Pacific Partnership. What reasonable person doesn't support free trade? Never mind that the respondents were not allowed to actually see what is in the classified TPP  Nor did the pollsters bother to inform the people whom they called about the various leaked portions of the agreements.
 
As G. William Domhoff further elucidates in Who Rules America?:
Polls also can be used to suggest that a public opinion exists on issues for which there is none. This does not mean people do not have general opinions, but that they often make it up as they go along when responding to specific questions about policy preferences. If questions about affirmative action or oil drilling are framed in one way, they yield one answer, but framed in another way, they yield a different answer, especially for those without knowledge or firm opinions.
Obama the Joshua-Josher and his plutopals know full well that ordinary people would never support the replacement of  local and national justice courts with fascist Investor State Dispute Tribunals. They know that people would never agree to become personally financially liable for the "lost" corporate profits of Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Tobacco. Therefore they keep the whole deal secret while at the same time cynically ordering rigged polls which falsely show public support for programs that are precisely antithetical to the public interest.

The Pew polls are funded by the Pew Charitable Trust,  a think tank originally funded and still largely controlled by the conservative heirs of the Sun Oil Company. They're also in the astroturf business, hiring advocates to appear on TV and before congressional committees, poll results clutched tightly in their hands as evidence of public support for filthy rich interests.

Now, back to the latest Times propaganda effort in the service of the plutocracy:
“Every once in a while, we bring down the curtain on the politics of a prior era,” said David Frum, the conservative writer. “The stage is now cleared for the next generation of issues. And Republicans can say, ‘Whether you’re gay, black or a recent migrant to our country, we are going to welcome you as a fully cherished member of our coalition.’ ”
The critical question is whether the Republican Party will embrace such a message in order to seize what many party officials see as an opening to turn the election toward economic and national security issues.
It's almost enough to make you root for the Tea Party. What the Establishment really fears is the extra-partisan, left-right coalition against the TPP and other corporate coups, along with widespread transpartisan, populist disgust with mass surveillance, the bloated Pentagon and Wall Street crime. What the Establishment really loves is Obama-style bipartisanship in the service of those who run the place and who matter only to themselves. Remember that it was the Tea Party "crazies" who put the kibosh on the Boehner-Obama Grand Bargain of Social Security and Medicare cuts.

The reason that marriage equality has sailed through in record time has just as much to do with gay rights being a non-issue for the hyper-rich as it does with popular demand. Either marriage equality doesn't affect the interests of the Power Elite, or it has affected them personally enough to make them devote their money and their influence to getting it done. If millionaires and billionaires aren't gay themselves, they statistically have a family member, friend or business associate who belongs to the LGBT community. Granting marriage equality in all 50 states, regardless of class, has the double advantage of being no skin off their uplifted noses and a deflective public relations ploy. The granting and mass celebration of "diversity" by the Imperium gives the Imperium a false patina of morality as a cosmetic healing of class divides is broadcast by media conglomerates. Rich gays and poor gays join together to march in parades. Even lowly cannon fodder has been granted marriage equality. (although sex crimes in the military have now reached epidemic proportions, due in part to Obama's strange refusal to take prosecution of them out of the corrupt chain of command. But, hooray anyway.)

So on with Extreme Centrism, as told by the New York Times for the benefit of #WealthyLivesMatter:
While acknowledging that the country has become more tolerant and, in some ways, culturally liberal, many Republicans contend that America is still receptive to a more conservative approach on economics and national security. After all, the same week that highlighted the ascent of cultural liberalism also illustrated the limitations of economic populism, as organized labor was unable to block a measure giving President Obama expansive trade authority.
"America," aka the rich, is more open to a "conservative approach", aka austerity for the masses. It is in the interest of both wings of the Big Business Party to marginalize organized labor, which, despite the fact that it's been marginalized for nearly half a century, still occasionally manages to be a pesky thorn in the side of the GOP-New Democrat partnership. Therefore, if the presidential debates can be restricted to scaring the voters to death over phony foreign terror threats while deflecting our attention from the real economic and social threat of a global oligarchy gone wild, it won't much matter to the ruling class whether Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush gets "elected". The oligarchy will not only have won, it will be able to claim with a straight, stuffed face that it was a legitimate populist victory.



(Needless to say, despite his growing popularity with the actual populace, Bernie Sanders' name did not appear one single time in today's Power Elite-dictated, fair & balanced front page Times "news analysis.")


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Links/Open Thread

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare subsidies for all 50 states.... because love for the predatory insurance cartel trumps hatred for regular people.

***

Charles Blow: removal of the Confederate flag is only about a tenth of the battle against institutional racism. My comment:
Forget the Confederate flag: institutional racism is as all-American as the Stars & Stripes. It's as hushed up as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Whose jobs do you suppose will be the first to disappear when this right-wing corporate power-grab gets ratified? Black and brown people were disproportionately affected by the unemployment and wage suppression wrought by NAFTA -- and the TPP has been described as NAFTA on steroids. Since it will inordinately reward the largely white plutocracy. and inordinately punish already impoverished people both here and abroad, the TPP is the very epitome of institutionalized racism.

Those Confederate flags that Walmart stocked were probably sewn by Asian slave labor. Racism knows no boundaries, nor does the capitalistic greed that perpetuates it.

Red-lining exists in all 50 states, despite the laws on the books. As an article in today's Times reveals, middle class Black families are still being steered into poor neighborhoods. Minorities pay more for groceries in "food deserts," and courts rubber-stamp gerrymandering. If that brand of disenfranchisement doesn't work, record incarceration does. There are more Blacks in prison today than were enslaved in the decade preceding the Civil War. The War on Drugs is racist; affluent white kids rarely go to jail when they get caught with dope.

The first step toward getting rid of racism is getting rid of wealth inequality. We need a government jobs program, and we need to tax the rich.

(P.S. -- Now that anti-racism is being concern-trolled across the political spectrum, I think it's important to keep hammering away at how terribly racist and classist these so-called "trade" deals truly are. What politician wants to be called a racist, after all? Maybe we can convince them to do the right thing in their own political self-interest if not in the public interest.)

***

On a related note, would CIA whistle-blower Jeffrey Sterling be in prison if he were white?

***

Speaking of the CIA and racism, tomorrow is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. To mark the occasion, one hundred civil rights organizations are demanding that the UN call out the US for its abject failure to give justice to both the perpetrators of torture and the "folks" (Obama's word for the victims)  who have been tortured. From the ACLU website:
Shockingly, the Justice Department declared to a U.S. court that it has never opened the full report it received from the Senate, let alone reviewed it for evidence of human rights violations and criminal wrongdoing. And yet yesterday, in response to a new letter from the ACLU, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch — supported by more than 110,000 signatures calling for comprehensive criminal investigation — DOJ spokesman Marc Raimondi told The Miami Herald:
In 2009, the Attorney General directed a preliminary review of the treatment of certain individuals alleged to have been mistreated while in U.S. Government custody subsequent to the 9/11 attacks. That review generated two criminal investigations, but the Department of Justice ultimately declined those cases for prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain convictions beyond a reasonable doubt. Those investigators have also reviewed the Senate Committee’s full report and did not find any new information that they had not previously considered in reaching their determination. This inquiry was extraordinarily thorough and we stand by our previously announced decision not to initiate criminal charges.
The Justice Department’s reluctance to order a new independent criminal investigation defies any common sense and fundamental principles of the rule of law. It also flies in the face of U.S. and international law obligations and sends a dangerous message to U.S. and foreign leaders that torture has no legal consequences.
Can we finally just be honest and admit that the Justice Department is nothing but a corrupt public relations agency when it isn't hounding and harassing journalists who are trying to do their jobs?

***

Hillary Clinton tells a Black audience that Her Life Matters. Backlash ensues. For all her millions, she keeps forgetting to replace that gosh-darn battery in her Miracle Ear for chronic tone-deafness.

"Shut Up," He Explained


"No. No. No. No. No. No. Nono, nuh-no,non, n...n...nonono. NONONONO. NO! NO -NO-NO!"



  Temp Emp (emperor pro tem) Obama is usually sanguine about hecklers, but only when he's parachuted down into Flyover Country and mixing with the lumpen-proletariat where they live. He is not OK with interrupters when he invites them to his house (formerly known as The People's House) to eat his snacks and drink his booze in their capacity as human props for a White House propaganda event.

Obama's pride was hurt at a reception for Gay Pride activists in which an activist got verbally active, demanding that he stop imprisoning and deporting  transgender political refugees back to Central American countries where there's a brutal history of  not taking kindly to such folks. (Democracy Now! has more on the activist, Jennicet Gutierrez.)

"O-bam-A, O-bam-A," bleated the LGBT crowd, who booed Gutierrez as Joe Biden tenderly rubbed Barry's back in manly solidarity. The poor president was reduced to having to ask Security to escort the woman out. Usually, the Secret Service completes such human refuse removal tasks without being told, allowing Obama to appear above the fray. During carefully orchestrated closed receptions, the security detail is probably not as highly alert as they would be in a public space. After all, visitors to Obama's castle have already gone through metal detectors and gotten pat-downs at various checkpoints before finally being allowed in his august presence. The Palace Guard was asleep at the switch during Wednesday's event. Maybe it was all that free booze the Temp Emp was bragging about. Truth be told, with all his stammering No-nos and playground bully language (This is MY house, nonny nonny boo boo) the Temp Emp seemed half in the bag himself.

"Shame on you," scolded Obama. prissily wagging his finger (index, not middle for a change)  half-seriously, half-mockingly. Was he addressing the protester, or his bouncers?

"This is really what the White House is all about. It’s the People's House," Michelle Obama once burbled.

Yeah. As long as The Peeps don't make a peep once they're inside.
 
"Sweetie, aren't you getting a little ahead of your skis?"

(optional soundtrack here)