Friday, August 2, 2013

Lies & Whispers

Edward Snowden may be free, but we, his grateful compatriots, remain forever in chains. Thanks to the double-shredding of both Rousseau's Social Contract and the Magna Carta, American feudalism continues apace. What an irony that Russia, that bastion of repression, is now sheltering an American from the freedoms he could enjoy if he ever set foot in the Homeland again. It's just too bad that Putin's public relations coup is spoiled by his recent criminalization of gay pride. Hypocrisy, it seems, is an equal opportunity international personality trait wherever you look. 

Is it me, or has the pace of the disintegration of this country been ratcheted up a notch? Even if we aren't hurtling toward destruction at Mach speed, there's enough regression in the air to unequivocally prove that we are at least sliding backward. Even former President Jimmy Carter recently acknowledged that we no longer live in a functioning democracy.

Take the latest Washington soap opera, in which the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve has now been elevated (or sunk) to the level of palace intrigue, circa 1787. Obama -- he who so righteously scoffed at Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" remarks, even as his hypersecurity forces were literally binding a couple of Green Party female political opponents to metal folding chairs lest they interrupt his bullshit -- is now openly embracing perhaps the worst caricature of misogyny and greed ever dreamed up by a Dickensian brain. That, of course, would be Larry Summers. Larry, one of the chief architects of the 2008 collapse, has been rightly lambasted throughout the blogosphere after word leaked out (official, cowardly, and unprosecuted) that Obama wants to appoint him to the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve over the much more qualified and populist-leaning Janet Yellen. Barry became so incensed at the blowback to his wishes that he quickly morphed from simply whispering his desires to "full-throatedly" endorsing his pal behind closed doors to some Congressional Democrats, while lambasting the "liberal media". So much for that much-vaunted transparency and phony populism. I think the best we can hope for is translucency, filtered through a fog of propaganda, lies and doubletalk.

In his pro-Janet Yellen column today, Paul Krugman managed to skewer the White House whisperers without even once mentioning Obama by name: a true achievement by any journalistic measure. According to Krugman, there are two factions at work: the subtle VSP ("New Democrat"/ Wall Street/Gravitas) whisperers, and the more blatant and unhinged GOP misogynist whisperers who are equating a possible Yellen appointment with the feminization of the dollar... whatever that might be:
The point is that while the gravitas types like to think of themselves as serious men (and I do mean men) who are willing to do what needs to be done, recent history suggests that they’re actually men who are eager to prove their seriousness by doing what doesn’t need to be done, at the public’s expense.
Also, there was a time not along ago when almost everyone in the gravitas crowd, if asked who possessed that mystical quality in its purest form, would surely have answered “Alan Greenspan.” How well did that turn out?
So is Janet Yellen the only possible candidate to be the next leader of the Fed? Of course not. But the case for someone else should be made on the merits — and, so far, that hasn’t been what’s happening.
Since Krugman did not mention He Who Must Not Be Named by name, I did the honors in my Times comment: 
Sexism has been festering in the White House ever since Barack Obama took office.
His problem with women, combined with his groveling to rich and powerful Wall Streeters like Summers, is well-documented. As told in Ron Suskind's appropriately titled "Confidence Men," chief White House economist Christina Romer was quickly forced out. Elizabeth Warren, along with her consumer protection bureau, was duly marginalized by Timothy Geithner. Janet Yellen already belongs to a very special sisterhood.
According to Ezra Klein, the White House remains paranoid about the possibility of another economic collapse. Should that occur, the Fed Chair would become the go-to savior. The alpha males deferring to a woman? The very thought must be making the testosterone drain right out of their bodies. They're reduced to anonymously whispering their angst to obliging media stenographers.
Still, the president had no problem loudly touting infrastructure investment in Florida, where a tiny percentage of the privatized profits could magically trickle down from contractors to "that waitress wanting to buy an iPod." (I wish I were kidding. He really did say that.)
Then, it was on to an Amazon "fulfillment center" where struggling Americans with "grit and resilience" can order protein powder from middle-class careerists earning a whole 12 bucks an hour.
Reaganomics, sexism, and obscene wealth disparity posing as prosperity. A trifecta for the One Percent, and a triple-whammy for the rest of us.
Another commenter (male) took issue with my view of Obama as  sexist, saying it could not possibly be so because he likes and respects the women closest to him:
Obama fought for and got Susan Rice and Samantha Power. His closest adviser has always been Valerie Jarrett. His first Secretary of State was Hillary. He is close and respectful to a very strong wife. His is entirely wrapped around the fingers of his girls.
I just do not see sexism in him. Nor do I see him permitting it around him.
Now his economic policy does not at all please me, and the bums he has chosen to listen to are all men. But I don't think that is sexism. That is something else.
My response:
 Obama's is the "benevolent" brand of sexism. Of course it's not even close the misogyny-as-policy openly embraced by Republicans. But it's there, and it rankles. Examples:
"As the father of two daughters" he ordered his female HHS secretary to ban the Plan B contraceptive for teenage girls, who he predicted would be bopping into drugstores buying up birth control like it was gum. Sexist much?
He made public remarks about Kamala Harris being the best looking attorney general in the country. Many women found this demeaning, as "well-intentioned" as it may have been.
We should begin comparing what John Kerry is doing as Sec of State to what Hillary did. Obama seems to be giving him much freer rein in the Middle East peace talks. We'll see how this develops. Hillary, you may remember, was deemed "likeable enough" by Obama during the primary debates. Benevolently dismissive and criticized as sexist by many women.
According to the female White House staffers interviewed by Ron Suskind for his book, the hostile workplace atmosphere was such that in the private sector, it would have amounted to grounds for a sexual harassment suit. A lot of this had to do with Larry Summers. Larry Summers is definitely a misogynist. So if the president loves Larry, what does that make him?
I guess you have to be a woman to "get" this. A few isolated gaffes are one thing. But then a pattern emerges. Combined with the economic policy, it just adds to the toxicity. And the annoyance.
To which more hilarity ensued, including the usual redundant cut-and-paste jobs from the dregs of the Obama Truth Squad: accusations of "hatchet job" and  "Obama can never do right by Ms. Karen!". Good to know there are still a few die-hards left out there.

Meanwhile, if 1787 all over again is getting you down (nostalgia just ain't what it used to be) then fast forward to 1984 this weekend for an anti-surveillance celebration in a city near you. Big Brother has seen enough, and we've had enough. Marchons.

23 comments:

James F Traynor said...

Brookesly Born, Sheila Bair, Elizabeth Warren, Gretchen Morgenstern, Yves Smith ad ininitum. And I could start out at the other end, beginning with (choke, gag, choke) Ayn Rand, Hilary Clinton...

For Christ's sake! The first women I named would probably make perfectly good Fed chairmen (women), infinitely better than Summers or any other of that testicle slinging bunch . I don't think it's male chauvinism with Obama. He'd use any strategy to keep Wall Street from getting its knickers in a twist as the Brit would say.The son of a bitch is a skillfully manipulative sociopath who will use the biases of others to achieve his ends. If that bias is male chauvinism, well hell, so be it!

ea veltri said...

A great piece of writing once again by Karen who I consider to be a great thinker and defender of the American people(in spite of their woeful ignorance). It is indeed ironic that Putin great KGB persona and autocrat as he is, is defending a brave young whistleblower who if he had acted against Mr. P's country would have most probably gotten a plutonium injection for the gout.
It is certainly true that the U.S. of Corporate Hegemony is becoming more and more a fascist and feudal state. That OBummer would even consider such a corporate stooge as Summers is certainly proof that the last thing he cares about is reconstructing the middle class. However I believe that all that is happening with our supposed dysfunctional government is just a grand piece of Kabuki theater. The corporate types who created the disaster of 2007-09 couldn't be happier and I believe orchestrated all this continuing theater to help to give cover to the political class for the sequester which they love(everyone is crying oh my I did not intend this and wanted none of it). While all the money is pouring into corporate bottom lines as the working class is thrown under the bus. The tea partiers themselves are even off the hook because they represent constituencies that have been gerrymandered into idiocy.
With regard to Obummer's possible mysiogyny, I do not have enough knowledge. However I think the most important point is that there is certainly enough evidence that he(OBummer) is definitely a moderate Republican.

Pearl said...

The women that Obama has surrounded himself with (including his family) are all part of his elitist vision. Supreme court appointees have not turned out to be flaming liberals, and Hillary is merely an extension of himself while the advice from Valerie Jarrett has merely helped to create what he has wanted to be. So it seems to be an aversion to anyone of either sex who does not represent his view of himself or his ambitions which is paramount.

Surely he cannot be accused of being friendly to the left of center crowd in the Democratic Party so he is an equal opportunity male/female sexist in my view as many strong women or men who oppose his visions are dismissed. The male commenter that you replied to that brought this all up as examples of his love
of women, included the respect for his strong wife as well, and of course
Michelle is part and parcel of his agenda which she pushes hard for. It is difficult as a result to put the finger on whether it is better or worse for him to keep all women in place, or to completely dismiss those who politically oppose and see through his facade. Neither is a
flattering picture of the man but I guess he could have picked more women
for advisors, etc. but then the results could have been equally destructive.
Just looking at the voting records for women is discouraging.

James F Traynor said...

@Pearl

You're right.

Zee said...

@Karen and @All--

Ré Edward Snowden, I thought this was interesting as it comes from a Fox News “contributor,” Judge Andrew Napolitano (No relation to Big Sis that I know of.):

“[Edward] Snowden spoke the truth. Knowing what would likely befall him for his truthful revelations and making them nevertheless was an act of heroism and patriotism.”

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/06/27/truth-shall-keep-us-free/

I came to really appreciate Napolitano after his famous—at least to some of us—on-screen rant “How To Get Fired From Fox Business in Under Five Minutes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QT8Q-Hcll0

Worth listening to, even if you've heard it before.



Zee said...

@Karen and @All--

The simple fact that Obama would hang out with the likes of womanizing, lying, cheating, Tiger Woods immediately indicated to me that, not-so-deep-down in his heart, Obama must indeed be a misogynist.

But I don't think that Obama really respects anyone, when it comes right down to it. I'm convinced that, long ago, Obama persuaded himself that he is always “the smartest guy in the room,”
or, at least, the one with the most “political-animal” cunning.

And why shouldn't he believe so?

After all, he's a guy who, prior to being elected to the Presidency, had virtually no tangible, identifiable accomplishments that anyone could point to. Yet the mainstream media and presidential “historians” were fawning all over him, claiming that his IQ is “off the charts” (completely without proof), claiming that he was a “very serious and capable leader,” and MSNBC commentators confessed that “thrills” were running up and down their legs at the very mention of Obama's name, and etc., ad nauseum

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c50JUQohYwY

And it seems that most of America's electorate were completely suckered, not just once, but twice.

Hell, if people talked about me that way I might actually start to believe that I'm Galileo, Newton, or Einstein, rather than acknowledging that I'm really just a journeyman experimental scientist of very modest credentials and accomplishments.

But even though I didn't vote for Obummer either time, I can't claim any kind of superiority. Wish I could, but I can't. As Judge Napolitano said, we've ALL BEEN HAD.

Zee said...

@Karen--

Could you provide a link to the Klein story? I couldn't find it with Google.

If the White House is so paranoid about another collapse, why isn't it doing something to rein in the current madness on Wall Street?

Thank you!

Karen Garcia said...

Zee,

Added a link to the Klein piece -- "The Case for Larry Summers" -- in the post above ( click on "According to Ezra Klein").

Their muddled thinking is that since Larry was physically present during past crises and did not emotionally fall apart, then he is their guy. In other words, it takes a thief. The exact quote is "The White House is particularly attuned to the fact that the economy can fall apart at any moment." Totally opposite of the bright-sided cant they spew to the public on a daily basis, huh?

Zee said...

@Karen--

Thank you for that not-so-reassuring link to the Klein article.

“ "The White House is particularly attuned to the fact that the economy can fall apart at any moment."

Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

Most of us out here already know that, but the administration keeps touting an economy and employment on the upswing, and lauding the soaring stock market, the last of which will crash the second that the Fed stops its “quantitative easing.” And the mainstream media go along with this Big Lie.

If the administration really is "particularly attuned to the fact that the economy can fall apart at any moment," then why the hell not be strengthening Dodd-Frank—or trashing it all altogether and starting over—and putting the skids on the Wall Street banks, which are, by all accounts back to their same old tricks that brought about the financial disaster of 2007-2008?

Oh, well, we all know the answer to that question. Because the administration doesn't really give a damn. Wall Street will be OK after a collapse, and therefor, so will the administration.

James F Traynor said...

@Zee

Welcome to the Royal Order of The Shit House Rats.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Two stories in today’s NYT to keep us smiling sardonically:

The US State Department has issued a global travel alert and is noisily shuttering its embassies across North Africa and the Middle East. Ominous warnings in the air about unspecified Al-qaeda plots. Are you cringing in fear now? And at long last, do you understand why the NSA must be free to poke around where none have poked around before?
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/03/world/middleeast/qaeda-messages-prompt-us-terror-warning.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130803&_r=0

Steven Revolving-Door Rattner, the guy who was fined millions by the SEC for shifty moves on Wall Street after his good work for the Obama Administration, op-eds for Larry Summers today as the right man to replace Ben Bernanke at the Fed.
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/02/the-right-leader-for-the-fed/?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130803

To avoid following Rattner down the memory hole, it would be good to review wiki bios of both Summers and Rattner.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Summers
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Rattner

Zee said...

@James--

One of the things that I have found so fascinating by participating here is that though we seem to come from rather different backgrounds and perspectives, we so often arrive at the same, maddening conclusions. Maybe it's because we are both scientists.

That's what talking can do.

I will wear my “Royal Order of the Shit House Rats” sash and badge quite proudly.



Zee said...

@Jay--

Interesting—and costly—bios of Rattner and Summers.

Rattner pays some $16.2M in settlements and restitution while not admitting criminal(?) guilt for various offenses, and is later welcomed back into the arms of various institutions and organizations—including MSNBC and the NYT:

“ Early in 2011, he began contributing a monthly column to the Financial Times on subjects ranging from the Greek crisis to the U.S. budget deficit. He also became the economic analyst for the MSNBC news show, Morning Joe. And in June 2011, he was named a contributing writer to The New York Times Op-Ed page, publishing a first column on how government policies drive up corn prices.” --Wikipedia

As you say, such a “revolving door!” No sin is great enough not to be airbrushed (read: sandblasted ) away by the sands of time and some good PR.

Imagine if you or I had failed to pay the back-taxes that Geithner owed! Headed to the “big house,” for sure!

And Summers, supposedly a Master of the Universe, cost Hahvahd University HUGE LOSSES through his investments in financial derivatives, the same crap that brought the house down in 2008! (Not that I feel any particular sorrow for Hahvahd, a vastly overrated institution—like the rest of the Ivy League, and other “elite” institutions of higher learning—for the price.)

But all those sins wash clean inside the Beltway. It's an “insider world,” and outsiders of tangible accomplishment—and clean criminal records—need not apply.

I saw it at the place where I worked for 27+ years. The bigger the failure of a major insider “personality” on some project, the greater the next promotion. After all, it's not the failures that matter—it's the future contacts and connections to the other big-time failures that were developed along the way!

Just like what Janet (Big Sis) Napolitano will offer to the University of California! Contacts and connections.

Am I starting to sound like James?

4Runner said...

Notes from the road, along I-95 heading north from Florida. Stopped @ a Cracker Barrel in Georgia for dinner: our waitress, who has worked their for 17 years, told us she earns $4/hr. ( plus tips!!) working 7 days/week on the 6-10 PM shift. Meanwhile, the CEO of Cracker Barrel (also a woman) pulled down $4.4 million last year (but no tips!). Today we had lunch @ a Waffle House (we eat @ only the finest bistros) where our waitress told us she makes $3/hr as a new hire. Plus tips, of course...

Zee said...

@4Runner--

Who needs tips at $4.4M/year?

Jeez! One might hope that 17 years of loyalty at the "Cracker Barrel" might earn more than $4/hr (plus tips).

As James has said before, "Zee: God, you're naive."

Jay - Ottawa said...

@Zee

Thanks for being interested enough to open those more or less neutral, but eye-opening, links to Wikipedia. There's a pattern. Seems like Larry Summers morphs into Pandora's Box wherever he lands.

Summers is truly astounding. His market gambling while president at Harvard put that university in the hole for about $1 billion (yes, 'Billion'). Harvard was forced to pony up about half the money after the market crashed. As for the balance, there is some sort of opaque schedule arranged whereby Harvard must pay the remaining half billion over the next 30 to 40 years. What a mortgage deal that was, Larry!

The rest of the Wiki account on Summers recites one exciting failure after another. The guy is a brilliant loser but, as you describe the parallels on the Left Coast, because of connections to people who grow richer with every one of his mistakes, he continues to be promoted to greater responsibilities, where he can once again blunder with brilliance.

As he approaches retirement age, he seeks one more laurel, the Chairmanship of the Federal Reserve. That would likely round out his vita as one of the greatest screw-ups ever to hold a big job in Washington.

Alan Greenspan while at the Fed was hailed as brilliant by most economic journalists and Wall Street flacks. Then, after he left office, it was discovered he was clueless. Summers, if appointed, will probably surpass Greenspan in much the same way – if one cares to look at it from the worms-eye view of the 99%.

After Summers' forced resignation from Harvard, he landed big jobs with Clinton and Obama. Why? Because all of Washington regards him as the smartest moneyman inside the Beltway. As a consequence, it has become the whole nation's good fortune to be saddled with what is tantamount to a 30 or 40 year mortgage held by his friends on Wall Street.

But Obama feels the pain of all the folks he's screwed so far. And he's thinking more than ever about his legacy. So next month he's sure to heed Paul Krugman and appoint Janet Yellen.

Zee said...

@All--

As predicted, "If you build it, they will come."

"Other Agencies Clamor for NSA Data."

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/04/us/other-agencies-clamor-for-data-nsa-compiles.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

ste-vo said...

and I think Erskine Bowles' wiki entry is worth a read as well:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erskine_Bowles

Zee said...

@ste-vo—

I read Bowles' Wikipedia bio, and though he is certainly the consummate insider, I didn't see anything relative to “controversies” to match those of Rattner and Summers. He's got his tentacles into all manner of “public service posts,” corporations and universities—like Rattner and Summers—doubtless owing to the lifelong “connections” that he has developed, but I don't see that he has ruined anyone—yet.

Of course, what qualifications did he have to “run” the University of North Carolina? Like Janet (Big Sis) Napolitano and my alma mater, The University of California, he has none whatsoever that qualify him to manage a major public university, so that was doubtless some kind of quid pro quo. Just like Big Sis's.

He was one-half of the notorious “Cat Food Commission,” of course, but there were certain aspects of the Simpson-Bowles report that I thought should be given some consideration.

Did I miss something BIG in reading the bio?

annenigma said...

@Jay-Ottawa

Enjoyed reading your comment and the exchanges over at The Guardian. Now if we could just get Karen over there instead of wasting her time with David Brooks, she could end up writing a column of her own on the CIF page. Go Karen!

(I see Traynor making an appearance there too from time to time.)

Zee said...

So now the embassy closures and travel warnings have been extended for a week in order to ensure that we are suitably terrified and absolutely certain that NSA spying on all of us is absolutley necessary to keep us all "safe."

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/08/04/198521/embassy-closings-travel-warning.html#.Uf8LfX1MHMI

Sorry Barack, but I'm not buying it, and I'll sleep just fine tonight.

Zee said...

More likely misuse of the NSA database:

http://news.yahoo.com/exclusive-u-directs-agents-cover-program-used-investigate-091643729.html

Jay - Ottawa said...

@annenigma
I second the motion encouraging Karen to post (and maybe someday blog) at the Guardian.

She would also fit in quite nicely at La Jornada, another unusual daily I’ve mentioned before. (La Jornada will handle the translation.) What's surprising is that La Jornada, for all its daring, independent and leftist Latin perspective (refreshing), hosts -- you'd better sit down at this point -- an occasional David Brooks column -- wait, there's more -- wherein Brooks is transformed from Mr Hyde to Dr Jekyll. Here he is defending Howard Zinn, more or less.
http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2013/07/29/mundo/029o1mun

Clearly, La Jornada is starving for an American perspective and they deserve better. Brooks is, as the column states at the top, an "American Curiosity." If only Karen had an agent who could pitch her as "The Real Thing."