Sunday, May 22, 2016

Blackmail 2016

 (*Updated below)

The Democratic Party is sounding a lot like the House Un-American Activities Committee these days.

HUAC was the star chamber convened in the late 1930s for the ostensible purpose of rooting out Communists and other subversives in government, the media, and the entertainment industry. It was finally disbanded in 1975 in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

HUAC's main underlying agenda, however, was the dismantling of the New Deal. If proponents got smeared along the way, too bad. They were the collateral damage of the right wing counterrevolution.The public was supposed to be scared witless into taking money away from social programs and plunking billions, and later trillions, into Superpower's global agenda of regime change and corporate hegemony. The Red Menace was the manufactured terrorism of the day, and the effectiveness of its propaganda lasted until the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Fast forward to 2016. The New Deal is still barely hanging on, with FDR's social programs either long gone, whittled down, or under constant threat of dismemberment.  And then along comes Bernie Sanders, exposing the bipartisan right wing for what it truly is: The Island of Doctor Moreau. The Republicans are the main torturers and sadists. The Democrats are the grisly lab assistants who will occasionally sneak up to the cages to give the victims an anesthetizing choice morsel or two to make their trip to the vivisection table more befuddled.

The audience was never supposed to know about the subplot. After all, they are merely the audience and not the actors. And if millions of people did have an inkling, they had nobody to represent their interests and nobody to amplify their voices. Until Bernie came along, giving Hillary Clinton a run for her corporate, anti-New Deal money.

Clinton, who merely vows to "protect" Medicare and Social Security from GOP depredation, has a long sordid history when it comes to the New Deal. Specifically, she was the impetus behind the 1996 destruction of FDR's Aid to Families With Dependent Children and transforming it to the cruel Temporary Aid to Needy Families. The result has been the doubling of extreme poverty after the Clinton deregulation bubble finally burst from the excesses of its own greed.

Sanders, meanwhile, wants to actually expand Social Security as well as increase Medicare benefits to all citizens, regardless of age, health and financial status. He wants to lessen the power of behemoth financial institutions by reinstating the Clinton-demolished Glass-Steagall Act.  His proposals, taken as a whole, would actually go beyond the New Deal reforms.
 Thus the Democratic bosses of Psy-Ops "There is No Alternative" Theater are all in a tizzy, because the denouement of the movie -- the vindication and the  coronation of their neoliberal heroine -- is coming up in only two months. The star is in danger of being upstaged at her own premiere. Instead of throngs of cheering, adoring fans lining the red (ooh, scary!) carpet, she might be faced with throngs of protesters.

So the Party and its mouthpieces are going all HUAC on Bernie and the Sandernistas. It's a coordinated media campaign which sounds, ironically enough, as if it comes straight out of Pravda. Either Bernie and his supporters take the loyalty oath to the Empress-in-Waiting right now, or the election of Donald Trump and the rise of a fascist state will be totally on them. The inherent corruption and weakness of Hillary herself will have nothing at all to do with it. When Clinton backers accuse Sanders of not being a "real Democrat," the dog-whistling subtext is that he is not a real American. It's just a more subtle variation on the anti-Obama "birther" theme rhapsodized to perfection by Donald Trump himself.

  "Party unity" is suddenly trumping (sorry!) the interests and rights of the body politic. Protest at your own peril, people! And anyhow, resistance is futile.

(graphic by Kat Garcia)

To his credit, Sanders is not caving to the Party psy-ops offensive, which has included a nonstop barrage of ad hominem attacks by such Democratic luminaries as Paul Krugman and Barney Frank. He's apparently morphed from progressive saint to violence-enabling demagogue overnight, breaching some invisible red line into traitorous anti-American territory. "Even progressives are criticizing him now after he's shown a harder edge!" shrills Politico. Flying chairs and flying broomsticks abound in Liberal Land.

But without even one speck of flying spittle in evidence on the Sunday talk show circuit, Bernie calmly noted that if Hillary Clinton hopes to ever rise above her "lesser evil" status, then it is actually on her - not us - to change her tune.
“I have every confidence that if Hillary Clinton is prepared to stand up to the greed of corporate America and Wall Street; is prepared to be really strong on the issue of climate change; support, as I do, a tax on carbon; is prepared to say that the United States of America should join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all people, paid family and medical leave; is prepared to say that the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality today in America, where almost all new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. If she is strong on those issues, yeah, I think she will win and win by a large vote,” Sanders said.“But if she is not, she's going to have her problems.”
Corey Robin (author of the book The Reactionary Mind) has written a short but brilliant critique of the ongoing inverted totalitarianism posing as a free and democratic electoral process. Admonitions to liberals and leftists to cease and desist from all legitimate criticism of Hillary lest it empower Trump are actually steeped in the Leninist dogma. To wit, "The principle of democratic centralism and autonomy for local Party organisations implies universal and full freedom to criticise, so long as this does not disturb the unity of a definite action; it rules out all criticism which disrupts or makes difficult the unity of an action decided on by the Party."

Wow. Robin then points to the recent smear headline in the New York Times as a prime example of the authoritarianism attempting to choke out civic dissent:

“Bernie Sanders, Eyeing Convention, Willing to Harm Hillary Clinton in the Homestretch."

Haul him before the ghost chamber of HUAC - pronto! 

Robin also likens the Democratic establishment's attempt to suppress dissent against Hillary Clinton to the late unlamented Antonin Scalia's justification for handing that other rigged presidential election to George W. Bush. "The counting of votes that are of questionable legality does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner [Bush]," he wrote in that infamous decision.

Double wow.

The Clintonites are smack dab in the extreme center. Their anointed candidate might be a skunk adorning a solid yellow line, but Her Supreme Zombie-ness must and will lurch all the way to the finish line. 

Meanwhile, the hordes of trolls are all tangled up in the Internets. There are Trump supporters playing sexist Sanders supporters, Clinton supporters playing "recovering" ex-Sanders supporters. and bona fide Clinton supporters just into shaming and blaming desperate people into abject submission to their fate. A red-baiting troll responded to my own latest Times comment by saying that my "credentials" are not in order, and must be examined. The anonymous poster didn't say who exactly should investigate my bona fides, keeping me in much suspense. (Mind you, the Times comment threads are supposedly strictly moderated, so the censors are obviously okay with scaremongering McCarthyesque rhetoric.)

Of course, the Clintonoids disavow their own part in the rampant trollery, despite a PAC called "Correct the Record" which supposedly pays trolls to attack her critics online. 

Now comes Raw Story's "exposé" of a nefarious Trump plot to "divide the Democratic party" via a nasty online comment offensive. Perhaps, however, we should question whether the Trump trolls playing Democratic trolls aren't really Clinton trolls in the first place. After all, one of the silliest  talking-point accusations of the Clinton trolls is that Bernie supporters are really Republicans in disguise. "Have you now, or have you ever been, a member of any party that does not unquestioningly support Commandant Hillary?"


Maureen Dowd took a break from her "Tete-a-Tetes With Trump" series to castigate Hillary Clinton for her delay in defeating Bernie Sanders. Not that Dowd had anything nice to say about Sanders, of course. In true arch "Style Section" fashion, she wrote:
Everyone just laughed when Sanders, a cranky loner from Vermont with a nondescript Senate record, decided to challenge Queen Hillary. Clinton and her aides intoned — wink, wink — that it would be healthy to have a primary fight with Sanders and Martin O’Malley.
But Bernie became the surprise belle of his side’s revolutionary ball. And now he has gotten a taste of it and he likes it and he won’t let it go. He’s bedeviling the daylight out of Hillary.
 The Bernie bro violence — chair throwing, sexist name-calling and feral threats — at the Nevada state party convention last weekend was denounced as “a scary situation” by his Senate colleague Barbara Boxer.Sanders condemned the violence while stoking the outrage, urging the Democratic Party to “open the doors, let the people in.” He flashed a bit of Trump, so sure in his belief that the system is rigged that he fed off the nasty energy.
My published comment:
Rather than examine the legitimate reasons why Hillary can't vanquish Bernie Sanders, Dowd finds it easier to reduce him to a grouchy cartoon character in order to make her point that Clinton is one of the most ineffectual presidential candidates in history.
Rather than examine why the "Berniebros" raised such a ruckus at the Nevada convention, it's easier to go with the MSM flow and airily dismiss them as a bunch of rude dudes. In keeping with the prescribed narrative, it must be all about the hurt feelings of multimillionaire Barbara Boxer and the angst of White House insiders too cowardly to be named.
No mention that the youth unemployment rate in Nevada reached Great Depression levels in the years after the crash, and that the state has had one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation.
 People are irate because the jobs haven't come back and the wages are stagnant. Most Americans report not having an extra $1,000 saved up for a household emergency.
Women aren't "swooning" over Bernie. We don't vote with our XX chromosomes based upon the charisma of the candidate. Many of us like Sanders because of his proposals: universal health care, debt-free college, and getting the corrupt oligarchic money out of our politics once and for all.
All the voters need to be heard, regardless of his slim-to-none chance for the nomination. Contrary to the propaganda, he is not in it for himself. He never has been.
Trump v. Clinton is not an election. It's emotional blackmail.

Update, 5/24

Well, well, well. The embattled Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic politburo blinked first. Was it the specter of her primary challenger, Tim Canova, raising some seriously big bucks and publicity off the Sanders surge that convinced them to give him an "unprecedented" one-third of the party's platform committee delegates? Partially. But I think it's really Hillary's tanking poll numbers that propelled such a magnanimous (and desperate) gesture on their part. Clinton will have to continue to pretend to pivot leftward for awhile longer, at least until after the convention, to broadcast the illusion of "party unity."
And by the way, the inclusion of such party "outsiders" as leftist firebrand Cornel West and Palestinian rights activist James Zogby at this corporate-sponsored convention is great news, despite the fact that party platforms usually turn out to be nothing but public relations window dressing.

The much-maligned "rudeness" of the Sandernistas is already reaping some rewards and concessions. The next step is how, where, and when the surge of progressivism will continue, outside and past the presidential nomination and election processes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Asses Clutching Pearls

The Democratic Party bigwigs won't be satisfied until Bernie Sanders packs up his whips and heads straight out to Vegas to give a personal spanking to all his rude supporters. Although only one upended chair (as far we can tell from watching the video*)  landed on absolutely nobody, harming absolutely nobody, the whole class must be punished. A sternly worded message must be sent in order to bewilder the herd.

 Bernie is also supposed to don his Sherlock Holmes deerstalker and put a trace on a bunch of threatening phone calls and emails to the state's party chairwoman. Apparently, the Vegas police are too busy pulling over drunk gamblers to bother with run-of-the-mill harassment cases. Funny that party leaders haven't demanded any such investigation by law enforcement.

And after Sanders is done whipping the whippersnappers and tracking down the trolls and stalkers (who might even be paid Trump or Clinton black ops provocateurs for all we know) he is then supposed to give A Major Speech to condemn himself and his campaign. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was shocked and appalled when Sanders suggested that it was his supporters who are the victims of a rigged system, that it is the Democratic bigwigs themselves who were the provocateurs when they refused to give his delegates a seat and a voice. Reid expects Sanders to disown all who dared loudly complain about the dirty tricks at the weekend party convention.

Obviously taken aback by what he perceived to be non-collegiality on the part of Sanders, Reid sputtered on the teevee with all the incoherence he could muster: "Bernie should say something and not have some silly statement. Bernie is better than that. He should say something about this and not have some statement someone else prepared for him. Bernie needs to say something and not what he said, but something he would say. I expected words to come out of his mouth as if they were his. Um, not read them and uh, prepared. Prepared by someone else. Bernie really should have said something."

(Bernie apparently is not up to par on that whole Homeland Security directive to rat out your fellow citizens whenever you see them driving wearing a hijab or typing on an iPad with a long dark beard in an airport. If he saw film of chair-throwing by those always-suspicious working class white dudes, he should likewise say something.)

To be fair to Reid, though, the intra-party cluelessness on display is actually deeply ingrained and endemic. Maryland Democratic Chairman Bruce Poole, for example, groused: "I think Bernie has got to watch it, because at some point he's got to be accountable and if he allows this to go from debate and democracy to mayhem, there will be backlash."

Poole seems to think that Bernie set the debate schedule, and that democracy is something more than a public relations concept. He forecasts "backlash," but doesn't specify its source. If he were honest, he would admit that any mayhem that broke out in Nevada was instigated by the party machinery itself. The backlash is already here, Bruce.

DNC chair and Clinton supporter Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not accepting Bernie Sanders's statement calling for nonviolence, because he had the unmitigated gall to also address the psychic violence of the party machinery itself. “With all due respect, when there is a ‘but’ in between condemnation of violence generally, and after the word ‘but’ you go on to seemingly justify the reason that the violence and intimidation has occurred, then that falls short of making sure that going forward this kind of conduct doesn’t occur in the future,” she said.

But-Haters of the World, Unite!

I haven't heard one politician, other than Sanders, point to the root causes of the popular outrage that has fueled both his campaign and that of Donald Trump. Nevada was hit especially hard by the housing crash, with foreclosure and eviction rates among the highest in the nation. Even though the unemployment rate has decreased in the state over the past few years, wages are still low and jobs are still precarious.  The psychological effects of man-made recession can last a lifetime. And at one point, the unemployment rate among Nevada youth shot up to above 20 percent, very similar to the statistics of the Great Depression. And both parties have reacted by imposing austerity and by cutting New Deal and Great Society social programs such as Job Corps and food stamps and direct cash aid to the poor and unemployed.

The Nevada Democratic leadership should count itself blessed that Saturday's meeting was actually as restrained as it was. They act as if it was an armed attack, with guns a-blazing. A couple of shoved chairs and an outbreak of yelling and screaming at officials is nothing compared to the corporacracy-sanctioned harshness that some of the youthful participants in the political process have endured in their own lives.

Bernie Sanders is perfectly right and just in putting their interests above those of the tone-deaf, self-interested Democratic machine. If his original function was to be a sheepdog, he seems to have abandoned it and instead donned his pit bull duds. Spiked collar and no muzzle. I hope it lasts!


Paul Krugman of the New York Times was even more inchoate than Harry Reid when he began one of his shocked, shocked I tell you blog-posts yesterday with: "Ugh. More primaries today. Do they matter?" (Does this guy write just like Thurston Howell III talks, or what? I keep picturing the monocle fogging over with disgust before it slides completely off so as to save him from reading any more of his imaginary Berniebro Tweets.)

Krugman seems to think that the main problem of millions of suffering people is not social and economic injustice, but rather a math disability coupled with a failure to perceive reality. And with a few carefully chosen words, he actually proceeds to dehumanize them.  "If news reports say that he 'won'  tonight, they’ll persist in their illusions — and the narrative that Clinton is somehow stealing the nomination will continue to fester." (Like suppurating sores, Lovey. Ugh!)

I admit that I took the toxic click-bait, and bit down hard:
Icky poo, for sure. Democracy keeps rearing its ugly head, persists in delaying the inevitable coronation. The great unwashed masses are just too stupid to gobble up the yummy reality that the elite consensus-builders keep patiently serving up. What is wrong with these Sanders supporters anyway?
I assume that at least some of them are hoping for an indictment or a scandal based on some actual reality and evidence, as opposed to the vast right-wing conspiracy. But I think what a lot of them have trouble wrapping their heads around is the reality that political parties are not inherently democratic. They are actually closed, private corporations with rules that ensure their own survival and nothing else. They exist for the sole purpose of perpetuating themselves, raising money from wealthy investors, and maintaining their power. They'll invite you in on occasion for public relations purposes, but if you don't behave yourselves, they'll either disinvite you or kick you out. And Paul Krugman will even add his own very special "Ugh" to give the slobovians an extra inkling of just what the establishment expects of them.
 Sanders told his supporters last week that he should not be considered any kind of hero. He will endorse Hillary Clinton after all the voters have had a democratic chance to cast their votes. My hope is that this endorsement will be as tepid as decently possible and that he will then go on to inspire, perhaps even lead, an extra-party movement from the ground up.
The elites are afraid, because their main electoral platform of NotTrump, presented by one of the weakest and most loathed candidates in modern history may, in fact, end up with the election of Donald Trump. I'm even beginning to suspect  that these miscreants would rather have a President Trump than a President Sanders, despite all their hectoring that Bernie supporters are the depraved anarchists in the mix.


Sanders, meanwhile, essentially tied Clinton in Kentucky and beat her handily in Oregon.

 Here's his entire statement on the Nevada controversy:

“It is imperative that the Democratic leadership, both nationally and in the states, understand that the political world is changing and that millions of Americans are outraged at establishment politics and establishment economics. The people of this country want a government which represents all of us, not just the 1 percent, super PACs and wealthy campaign contributors.

“The Democratic Party has a choice. It can open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change – people who are willing to take on Wall Street, corporate greed and a fossil fuel industry which is destroying this planet. Or the party can choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy.

“Within the last few days there have been a number of criticisms made against my campaign organization. Party leaders in Nevada, for example, claim that the Sanders campaign has a ‘penchant for violence.’ That is nonsense. Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high-crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence. Our campaign of course believes in non-violent change and it goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals. But, when we speak of violence, I should add here that months ago, during the Nevada campaign, shots were fired into my campaign office in Nevada and apartment housing complex my campaign staff lived in was broken into and ransacked.
“If the Democratic Party is to be successful in November, it is imperative that all state parties treat our campaign supporters with fairness and the respect that they have earned. I am happy to say that has been the case at state conventions in Maine, Alaska, Colorado and Hawaii where good discussions were held and democratic decisions were reached. Unfortunately, that was not the case at the Nevada convention. At that convention the Democratic leadership used its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place. Among other things:

    • The chair of the convention announced that the convention rules passed on voice vote, when the vote was a clear no-vote. At the very least, the Chair should have allowed for a headcount.
    • The chair allowed its Credentials Committee to en mass rule that 64 delegates were ineligible without offering an opportunity for 58 of them to be heard. That decision enabled the Clinton campaign to end up with a 30-vote majority.
    • The chair refused to acknowledge any motions made from the floor or allow votes on them.
      The chair refused to accept any petitions for amendments to the rules that were properly submitted.
“These are on top of failures at the precinct and county conventions including trying to depose and then threaten with arrest the Clark County convention credentials chair because she was operating too fairly.”

*Update: Please see comments for more links to film of the Nevada "chaos." It seems that the footage I embedded in Monday's post was from only one strategic angle, making it appear as though somebody had deliberately tossed a chair. Other angles tell a whole different story.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Monday Maunderings

You might be wondering why I stopped reposting my New York Times comments to this blog, as per reader requests.

Quick answer: I don't comment nearly as much as I used to. For one thing, responding to the constant barrage of stories about Donald Trump's latest belch,  Queen Hillary's daily crumbelievable a la carte wonk offering, or Barack Obama's self-referential legacy tour of glory was getting too depressing. And also too scary, given the downward spiral in the general quality of the allegedly moderated comments. Comment threads are getting nasty in this atavistic election season, in which every vote surely counts equally! When anonymous posters hurl vitriol at you from behind the cowardly safety of their home computer screens, it stings. It really does. I admit it, I am averse to conflict when I don't even get to know who I am conflicted with.

At a time when politicians are so loathed, and the paranoid overlords of the ruling class are doing everything in their power to tamp down the populist impulse, the pulsating comment threads kind of remind me of the swarm of bees that nearly took over my town last week. 

Some genius, or practical joker, left several crate-loads of bees on the side of the road. Lacking a hive and desperately needing to protect their Queen, they became became very confused and irate. They attacked every breathing thing, out of pure tribal instinct. My daughter Kat was walking near our apartment complex when she became a subject of their wrath. They aimed right for her head. As she screamed for help when they literally got stuck in her hair, the cars just whizzed merrily by until finally a Good Samaritan stopped to assist her. She was fine, but another victim was rushed to hospital after suffering an allergic reaction to the stings.  Flashing lights were eventually posted and a cop stationed by the side of the road to monitor the situation, which lasted the better part of a day. One plucky college student had the wherewithal to make a video, which the local newspaper published. The film immediately goes into slo-mo as soon as the driver spots the cop on the side of the road. Ever seen a stoned bee? Well, now you have!


A much, much scarier situation occurred over the weekend in Nevada, where the Democratic Party showed its true undemocratic colors for the whole world to see. If these authoritarian bigwigs can freak out over a couple of extra moot Bernie Sanders delegates crashing their elite party, I can only imagine what the national Philadelphia confab will look like. Sanders might not have a chance to win the nomination, but the police state antics displayed over the weekend are making me cheer on the Bernie Or Bust movement. I hope that its spirit and its activism survives long, long after Hillary or Donald takes the oath of abusing their office.  I also hope that no innocent people get hurt. But with enough people already getting hurt by this country's crushing, inhumane neoliberal policies, that is a risk that the desperate ones are willing and able to take. 


Now, back to the Times. I did actually break down and write three comments within the past week, but only because silence in the face of such cloying mendacity and superficiality was just not an option for me. I broke down. I took the loathsome bait.

First to annoy me was Frank Bruni, who emitted a sickeningly sweet and colorblind racist ode to Barack Obama, which he called "Obama's Gorgeous Goodbye." Bruni was especially tickled that Obama again scolded the Black Lives Matter activists during his Howard University commencement speech. Young black people who have failed to mind their manners when dealing with candidates who talk down to them is apparently one of Bruni's, and Obama's, biggest pet peeves.

My not very popular sarcastic response: 

This was a gorgeous addition to the ongoing Obama legacy tour. It truly captured the president's mythos and the spirit of compromise for which he does deserve much credit.
My quibble is this: why lecture the Black Lives Matter movement in such a scolding way? When black people are getting killed by a law enforcement at the rate of about one per day, they rightly protest, march, interrupt fundraisers of a politician who once called young blacks "super-predators who must be brought to heel," and make all the noise they can to try and stun our elected officials into paying attention to them. This is an existential crisis, not a tea dance or Aspen Ideas forum.
 Obama has been criticized in the past, notably by Ta-Nehisi Coates, for using graduation speeches to very successful young black people as a way to "dog-whistle" a reassuring message to white people. There is none of Martin Luther King's "fierce urgency of now" rhetoric coming from his lips. Then again, he's often said he is president of all the people, even the angry white dudes who can't find work because of off-shoring trade deals that have profits over people as their implicit mantra and their only objective.
We need to examine and acknowledge the root causes of their despair before lecturing people about their excessive "purity." There's nothing wrong with young people afflicting the comfortable when they refuse to budge from their comfort zones. When your very life is on the line, politeness seems almost suicidal.
One commenter actually gushed, "If only all black people could be like the Obamas!"


And then there was Maureen Dowd, with yet another breathless insidery account of one of her regular exclusive tete-a-tetes with The Donald. Some might call her series of pieces, showcasing the Raw Trump at his rawest, an example of the arch, deadpan satiric style with which she is capably comfortable. But her latest offering just struck me as lazy and dead. I responded thusly:
I really feel for Maureen Dowd. A whole week has gone by since her Trump satire, and the prospect of actual journalism has proven to be way too daunting. But kudos anyhow for the volcano metaphor and the heads-up that this op-ed would be a banal convergence of farce and tragedy.
Here's an energy-saving suggestion for the next installment in the Dowd-Trump saga. Rather than feed us an allegedly verbatim account of yet another vacuous, one-sided conversation with The Donald, how about a podcast to save both yourself or your assistant(s) the trouble of typing out 800 whole words of exhausting stenography? I mean, although the titters and the air kisses were way too implicit in this piece, I am dying to hear them actually vocalized. I also want the sound effects of the call actually going through on speed dial. As a paying subscriber I deserve it.
And just think how many remunerative clicks that such an "I Hear It Now" Murrow-esque piece would get you.
I won't even bother asking whether you have any shame.


Last and definitely least is the latest from Paul Krugman, a/k/a "Clinton Operative K." (h/t Naked Capitalism.) Riffing on Hillary's ghost-written 90s ode ("It Takes a Village") to herself, Krugman first gloats over Republican pedophilia in high places before pivoting to Clinton's own incremental great love for children, equaled only by Krugman's own sudden and great piecemeal love for children.

My comment:
Krugman is only concerned about details when it comes to, say, single payer health care. Hillary's plan is also big on aspirations and short on specifics, but it's given a miraculous pass.
Of course, her ideas are good ones, especially better pay for workers and subsidized day care. But they still have neoliberalism (market-based solutions to social problems) written all over them.
The first clue is that Krugman and Clinton talk about kids as investments, from which the plutonomy expects to derive big dividends as tomorrow's worker bees and payers of regressive taxes.
Well, guess what? Children aren't cattle futures.
They need enough to eat, today. Growing bodies can't thrive on "increments." But year after year, food stamp stipends get cut. Republicans demand starvation ("he who eats must work") and then Democrats agree to give the nippers a wee nip and tuck here and there.
 Parents need jobs and living wages, today. Hillary should demand reversal of the repeal of FDR's Aid to Families With Dependent Children. Bernie Sanders's shocking claim that Clintonoid welfare "reform" has doubled extreme poverty in the US in the past two decades was deemed accurate by fact-checking organizations.
Kids require shelter, today. The rents are too damned high. Every year, 2 million kids face homelessness. Evictions are the new normal. We need a federal guaranteed housing policy.
Human rights can't be doled out in increments for the sole purpose of placating the Market God.
(Don't even ask me to re-post all the readers' responses to my offering. Let's put it this way: some of them make the Angry Bees of New Paltz seem like butterfly kisses with gossamer wings.)

Go to Hillary's Website for the Only Truth There Is, You Lefty Child Hater!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Charity Begins in the Castle

Charity Of, By and For the Rich: the Berggruen Philosophy Study Center

Just because they're the feral rich doesn't mean they lack ethics. Far from it. When they call themselves philanthrocapitalists, they are not kidding. They quite literally love their own capitalistic humanoid gene pools above all else.

Their philosophical conceit - that one simply cannot help the teeming masses without first giving precedence to oneself and to one's own class - is all too evident in Town and Country's latest annual list of the Top 50 Philanthropists.

Each plutocrat (or more likely, the designated PR flack) was asked to give a brief synopsis (their "Grand Plan") of his or her goals for humanity. Following is a sampling of the winning entries - with the usual gratuitous supplemental explanations in parentheses provided by your helpful Sardonickist:

Whitney Williams's Grand Plan - "To help the high-profile - Ben Affleck, Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton, etc. - put their money and influence to seriously good use." (The serious good use is centered in extremely poor parts of Africa, which are in dire need of some good old fashioned high-profile corporate plunder investment. And this philanthrocapitalist should know: Whitney got her start as trip advisor to First Lady Hillary Clinton and later worked as finance chair for Clinton's first presidential campaign. )

Emily Tisch Sussman's Grand Plan - "Reduce gun violence, among other things, as campaign director at DC-based think tank Center for American Progress."  (Among the other things, presumably, is the election of the seriously high-profile Hillary Clinton, whose lobbyist-campaign adviser just happens to be the founder of the corporate-funded Center for American Progress. Emily's parents, donors to the Clintons, are part owners of the New York Giants football team.  Daddy founded the Loews Corporation, and Hubby is a private consultant to the Pentagon... among other things.)

John Steinbaugh's Grand Plan - "Stop deaths from hemorrhage among soldiers on battlefields through RevMedx's invention of the life-saving syringe." (Why have a grand plan to actually stop war when your company-slash-charity can also be the lucky winner of many a Pentagon contract for many an endless war? You can't get blood from a stone, after all. You still need human bodies.)

Jessica Seinfeld's Grand Plan - "Break the cycle of family poverty through the cookbook author's nonprofit Good+ Foundation." (No government-funded food stamp increases or jobs programs or wage increases for hungry poor families are needed as long as you have a wealthy comedian's wife to share her tips and tricks.  And just so you know, that cookbook she's selling to help poor moms feed their kids might be unoriginal, but it was not plagiarized. So shut up, all you haters and class enviers!)

Justin Rockefeller's Grand Plan - "Convince the wealthy not only to invest their money in a socially responsible manner, but to do it more effectively through the ImPact." (You can make a ton of money by slushing giving just a little of it away. Poor people are opportunities. Incidentally, Justin apparently is a real Rockefeller, unlike that con-man murderer Clark Rockefeller, who also convinced the wealthy to give him their money by way of class affinity fraud. Justin is redundantly described as both a venture capitalist and a Democratic activist. His daddy is former Senator Jay Rockefeller)

Bill Pulte's Grand Plan - "Rid Detroit of blight by tearing down houses and making room for safe communities." (Translation: buy up properties for pennies, evict tenants, tear down, gentrify, get rid of "black crime", re-sell to white people or rent back to evictees at a markup, ka-ching. Pulte is a private equity mogul, a/k/a Master of Creative Destruction. And wouldn't you know it, the brother of Mitt Romney  (the founder of vulture fund Bain Capital) just happens to serve on this "charity's" board. Double ka-ching!)

Deval Patrick's Grand Plan - "Prove that you can make money and do good at the same time by starting a new division of Bain Capital that focuses on investment opportunities that benefit society by still turning a profit." (It's a small world, after all. Patrick, like Romney, is a former governor of Massachusetts; they must have met on one of their revolving door trips.  Patrick also served on the board of subprime lender Ameriquest, which turned a profit by foreclosing on thousands of poor people's homes in Detroit and elsewhere.) 

Kim Fortunato's Grand Plan - "Reduce childhood obesity and hunger through Campbell Soup's  signature philanthropic program, Campbell's Healthy Communities." (One small serving of Campbell's Healthy Request soup contains more than half the daily recommended allowance of sodium. The company actually increased the salt in its products after an initial ballyhooed reduction depressed sales. Since the mega-charity, the American Heart Association. also added its healthy logo to the cans of salinated soup, both it and Campbell's were the subjects of a class action lawsuit, charging fraud.)

The Cucinelli Family's Grand Plan -"Prove that capitalism and humanism can co-exist through business and the Brunello and Federica Cucinelli Foundation..." (Never mind that capitalism is to humanism what cancer is to a body. In his native Umbria, Cucinelli, known as the King of Cashmere, reigns as a literal feudal overlord. In a real castle, no less, with real-live peasants toiling in the surrounding countryside to provide some co-existing ambience.)

Anida Kamadioli Costa's Grand Plan - "Ensure that an iconic brand puts its money where its mouth is on such issues as conservation through the Tiffany & Co. Foundation." (The issues apparently don't extend to Tiffany divesting from the part of its gem supply chain allegedly responsible for Middle Eastern massacres.)

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg's Grand Plan - "To give away 99% of their Facebook stock, currently worth $45 billion,  through numerous nonprofits like the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative." (As has been widely reported, this charitable endeavor is not only a tax dodge, it aims to supplant democratic programs, such as public education. The bulk of the excessive Facebook cash is parked in a Delaware LLC.)

Nicolas Berggruen's Grand Plan - "Create a space to shelter the world's elite thinkers in a peaceful yet intellectually fervid sanctuary for reflection and dialogue through the Berggruen Philosophy and Culture Center." (Even rich thought leaders need charity and safe spaces. Berggruen was once known as the "homeless  billionaire" because he was reduced to living in his private jet after losing a third of his fortune in the Wall Street crash. But now he's opened his new lush California Zen paradise to such wealthy war-mongering luminaries as Tony Blair and Condi Rice, who can fervidly shelter in place for "Thing Long" bull sessions with their class peers.

It's one more example of charity literally beginning right in the home. Or, if not in an actual castle, at least in the second, fourth or eighth vacation home.

Now, this isn't to say that all 50 of the winning philanthropists showcased in Town & Country are as crass as the individuals and corporate persons I highlighted above. There still exist the usual rich people giving and raising money to study diseases which have personally afflicted them or their family members. There are the usual celebrities and their sincere pet causes. For example, Matt Damon modestly aims to provide clean water for the whole wide world, while Stephen Colbert is merely trying to humor regular people into donating supplies to public, not private, schools. There's no money or investment opportunity in it for them, other than the positive publicity and maybe a clever tax write-off of some sort.

So read more about the leisure class at your own leisure. You are guaranteed to be amazed and perhaps even inspired to add an updated chapter or two to Thorstein Veblen's landmark sociological study on the rich. Stung by accusations that they're a bunch of wealth-hoarding greedsters, the plutocrats have joined forces to create their own "Idle No More" movement. They're very busy conspicuously helping one another to aspire to help others to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. It's a hard knock life for sure... for the rich.

Pop quiz questions: What, if any, difference is there between conspicuous consumption and conspicuous giving? 

Is it uncharitable to ask whether we can actually afford rich people?

Campaign '16: Media Lothario Wars

Who's the more disgusting dirty old man, Donald Trump or Bill Clinton? Well, it kind of depends on which cheek of the duopoly you happen to favor.

Fox News got the Lothario sweepstakes started on Friday, with the revelation that Clinton was much more frequent of a flyer on convicted billionaire sex offender Jeff Epstein's jet than inquiring minds ever cared to know. The Big Dog took more than 26 separate international trips on the "Lolita Express," giving a whole new meaning to the Clinton Global Initiative. The plane was so named because it contained a bed for pig-men to have sex with underage girls. Mind you, there has never been proof that Bill Clinton himself victimized any teenagers on his trips, which date back more than a decade.

In the interest of bipartisanship, the New York Times today has its own big colorful spread on the misogyny of Donald Trump. However, in the more important interest of political correctness, the Paper of Record is framing its exploitative investigation into the seamy underworld of depraved plutocrats around how "uncomfortable" Trump has made various women feel over the decades. Dozens of women dished to Times reporters about how shabbily they've been treated by him both in the workplace and in private social situations. Bottom line and the Big Reveal: the Donald is unique among wealthy bosses. He is a pig-man extraordinaire, and the Times is on it. He therefore should not be allowed anywhere near the White House, which has such a grand history of treating women with the utmost dignity and respect.

 And in the meantime, the Gray Lady is not above titillating her readers just as much as Rupert Murdoch titillates his. What's an election for, if it's not about the ratings and circulation numbers of our famously free press?

It's going to be a very long six months, people.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Feeling the Brand

Granted that you have take anything you read in Politico with a grain of salt, but this little trial balloon sounds plausible enough if you happen to suspect that the Bernie Sanders campaign has already embarked on the first leg of its road to Clinton capitulation:
 A group of Bernie Sanders staffers and volunteers is circulating a draft proposal calling on the senator to get out of the presidential race after the final burst of Democratic primaries on June 7, and concentrate on building a national progressive organization to stop Donald Trump.
Operating under the assumption that Sanders will win the California primary but still fall far short of amassing enough delegates to claim the Democratic nomination, the document calls for the Vermont senator to exit the race and launch an independent political group far larger than any other recent post-campaign political operations, such as those started by Howard Dean or Barack Obama.
The main purpose of the so-called Revolution '16 movement would be to "mobilize voters under 30" to show up for down-ticket progressive candidates as well as for Hillary Clinton. The draft proposal also suggests holding a separate convention event for Sanders supporters to supplement his speech at the official (and closed to the general public) Democratic convention. Nothing like a party to soothe the feelings -- and the consciences -- of the uninvited and the disenfranchised!
If the group at first focused primarily on combating Trump, the thinking goes, it would provide those Sanders fans with justification for eventually voting for Clinton.
 “This is a populist year in American electoral politics with signs that it may mark the beginning of a populist era. It would be very unwise for the decidedly un-populist Hillary Clinton to move with too much confidence towards a full-on confrontation with Donald Trump,” they continue. “A Sanders-led (as opposed to Sanders-centered) independent entity could provide a much needed, articulate and energized economic populist voice to the anti-Trump effort without the intrinsic compromising effect posed by close association with Neoliberal Democratic elites, as well as weaning the volunteer base off total reliance on individual candidates during one-off election cycles.”
Of course, this is only a trial balloon coming from anonymous sources "close to and within the Sanders campaign". Bernie Sanders's hands are still clean. He will have the final say, depending on whether his "fans" are actually willing to pay the toll for this bridge too far. There's no immediate pressure for the candidate himself to don the full herding costume. The campaign has already sent out its pack of media cattle dogs to do the teasing preliminaries.

Meanwhile, that giant lasso is coming closer and closer, making the thundering herd a tad skittish.

 So in order to bewilder them and head off a threatened mass stampede for the exits, the humane neoliberal factory farmers will build a spanking-new shiny customized slaughterhouse large enough to hold millions of enthusiastic voters. And there will be plenty of cud to chew and lots of togetherness to keep the herd placid and compliant and anesthetized as the Hillary brand is seared slowly into their backsides.

So... what'll it be, proles? This:

Or this?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Nothing New Under the Corporate Media Sun

Even though Bernie Sanders now has little to no chance of getting the Democratic nomination, the media are not letting up on him. The fact that he is still campaigning and still railing against the malefactors of great wealth has the malefactors screaming for him to stop, just stop already and be quiet or go away and leave them alone unless it's to help "unify" their private, closed Party.

The latest incident that has them clutching their pearls in elite hysteria was his appearance last week on The Rachel Maddow Show, where he had the effrontery to criticize the corporate-owned media.

Though he speaks truth to power about the shallow, sporting-event, identity politics-driven nature of the coverage, his solution -- for a Democratic Party-financed TV network to counter Fox News propaganda -- had me scratching my head. I sadly suspect that his particular "revolution" is now devolving into a public relations battle between the two big business parties. Why not go whole hog and call for a resurgence of an independent socialist press that is not beholden to advertisers at all? He could have plugged Jacobin, Counterpunch or any of the several genuinely leftist outlets. 

I suppose I quibble. But personally, I wouldn't want Debbie Wasserman Schultz's lunch-hooks anywhere near a new progressive version of Fox.

 MSNBC, for years the unofficial house organ of the DNC and the Obama administration, only recently pivoted to general election coverage. Comcast is not stupid. The "overlords," as Maddow calls them, know a good Donald Trump deal when they see it. There is more advertising value in airing an empty Trump podium or an empty Trump suit for minutes or hours at a time than there is in discussing "issues" or covering a Bernie Sanders rally. 

Since Bernie is still out there, New York Times pundit Paul Krugman continues to falsely equate reactionary Trump supporters with "Bernie Bros," who allegedly are sending harassing Tweets to both himself and the Two Nates (Cohn and Silver) -- the duo who so successfully predicted a near-zero chance for a Trump nomination.

Krugman just can't seem to quit his angry white Bernie straw-dudes, even though the Left actually does include women, older people, and black and brown citizens to boot. The scary socialist trolls are as big on "empirical denial" of "center-left" facts as conservatives!
Although it’s a bit worse when some of those supporters are actual campaign surrogates. Of course, campaigns can’t be held responsible for everything their supporters say, all, we can ask whether Sanders himself is inclined to dismiss inconvenient facts. Well, as you know, I think the answer is yes, on issues ranging from economic projections to the sources of Clinton primary victories.
 I was therefore primed to notice when Sanders declared that Democrats need their own version of Fox News. What does he mean, exactly? Should the proposed network engage in similar factual distortions and outright falsehoods, except this time in the service of progressive goals?
 By the way, it wouldn’t work. Fox caters to an audience of angry old white men; the angry young white guys who would want a left-wing version of this message are fewer in number, have less purchasing power, and anyway don’t get their news from TV. But that’s a side point.
I broke down and wrote a response, because it seems that despite my avowed boycott, I just can't quit the habit of occasionally calling out the Conscience of a Neoliberal:
 Krugman is right. Some on the left, whom he persists in denigrating as "Bernie Bros", are indeed in empirical denial. They have trouble accepting the fact that wealth rules the world, and that the corporate-owned media do not represent the public interest.. They believe in a utopia of debt-free public education, health care for all, a decent job at a decent wage, a secure retirement, a more or less permanent roof over their heads. How silly of the desperate ones to want change today or tomorrow instead of 50 years from now, if even then. How anti-pragmatic of them not to get with the program, and join in the team effort of lambasting Trump and cheerleading Clinton to the finish line.
Why won't they listen to Krugman and former DNC Chairman Ed Rendell, who has already warned them not to make a fuss at the convention of party bigwigs?
What this is really about is a resurgence of socialist ideas, with or without Bernie Sanders. Back in the waning days of the last Gilded Age, vested wealthy interests were terrified of an anti-capitalist muckraker named Upton Sinclair. Getting the Bernie treatment in the NYT and elsewhere is nothing new. Sinclair even went so far as to measure the column inches devoted to plutocrats as opposed to humanitarians to prove his point.

Read "The Brass Check," his exposé of corporate journalism, and you will see that nothing much has changed, except that the media are much more consolidated.

The "facts" still have a well-known money bias.
My comment was inspired by Chapter XXII of Sinclair's book, which begins:
The thesis of this book is that our newspapers do not represent public interests but private interests; they do not represent humanity but property; they value a man, not because he is great, or good, or wise, or useful, but because he is wealthy, or of service to vested wealth. And suppose that you wished to make a test of this thesis, a test of the most rigid scientific - what would you do? You would put up two men, one representing property, the other representing humanity. You would endeavor rigidly to exclude all other factors; you would find one man who represented property to the exclusion of humanity, and you would find another man who represented humanity to the exclusion of property. You would put these two men before the public, having them do the same thing, so far as humanly possible, and then you would keep a record of the newspaper results.
Sinclair, never famous for personal modesty, compared his humanitarian self ("besides Jack London, the most widely known of living American writers throughout the world") to Vincent Astor, whose only claims to fame were first that he was born; second, that he lived on an estate; third, that he married money, and fourth, that he inherited $65 million -- at the time, beating the all-time record for inherited wealth. Sinclair continued,
And now for the action of the two men. It appears that the New York Times, a great organ of world capitalism, in its effort to camouflage its true functions, had resorted to the ancient device of charity, used by the Christian Church ever since it sold out to the Emperor Constantine. Early in December of each year, the Times publishes a list which it calls "One Hundred Neediest Cases" and collects money for these hundred families in distress. The Times never goes into the question of the social system which produces these harrowing cases, nor does it allow anyone else to go into this question; what it does is to present the hundred victims of the system with enough money to preserve them until the following December, so that they may never again enter into competition for mention in the list, and have their miseries exploited by the Times.
That should help answer Bernie's question. Plutocrats don't want you to know about their game, because what they don't want you know could hurt them, very badly. Sinclair self-published his book in 1919, ten years before the oligarchic greed he decried crashed the entire economy. Later, it was the activist pressure of the socialist movement that actually ushered in FDR's New Deal. If they'd had the likes of Hillary Clinton, Paul Krugman and their neoliberal free-market ilk around to lecture the proles and propagandize for the wealthy, who knows? We might never have gotten a national jobs program, publicly funded infrastructure, and Social Security.

The Times still does its annual charity drive as it serially glorifies the extremely wealthy all the year round. Just check out the real estate section on any given day, to see what kind of digs $10 million will buy you. 

 Were it not for real estate magnate Donald Trump's billions, do you really think he could have gleaned all his free front-page publicity from the Times and other outlets? You don't need a scientific study to prove that Trump has gotten more coverage than the Pope, Bernie Sanders and millions of actual poor people combined -- or anyone who can't afford the price of a subscription, let alone the price of a display ad.

Upton Sinclair finished his New York Times take-down with the following humorous anecdote. When he wrote an open letter to Vincent Astor in 1914, asking him to justify his lavish lifestyle when millions of his fellow citizens were starving, only one of the many city papers in circulation at that time published it. That was the New York Call, a small socialist paper. The Gray Lady turned up her nose at such a thing. An attack on capitalism? No way!

Then Astor got wind of the letter, and he answered it. Or, as Sinclair theorized, a shrewd family lawyer or a secretary probably answered it. Astor's reply was offered to every major newspaper, and every major newspaper published it. Most of them, including the Times, splashed it on their front page, with Astor's picture. They wrote glowing accompanying editorials about the magnanimous indignation of the young multimillionaire who deigned to defend himself against those nasty socialist attacks. Astor complained that Sinclair's ideas were "fallacious and impracticable," and that help for the needy would come over time, without the need for radical change. Besides, he sniffed, he'd spoken to experts, and was informed by experts that "the condition of laboring people has greatly improved over the last several generations."

Sound familiar? Upton Sinclair was a Bernie Bro.

And less than two decades later, the whole economic system came crashing down because of oligarchic greed and the media's enablement of it.

I have a feeling we won't have to wait 20 years for the next big "event." For one thing, the earth itself, drowning and burning and melting as it is, just never learned how to get with the incremental, pragmatic program. 

Mother Earth is an impatient Bernie Bro. Pass it on.