Consider this your weekend open thread to comment/kvetch about whatever, within reason or unreason as the case may be.
As promised, here's the dump of my New York Times comments from the past week or so, (excluding the ones already embedded in blog-posts here) in no particular order. Links to the original op-eds and articles are provided for your contextual pleasure.
Clinton Rules (Paul Krugman) 9/24:
The real Clinton scandals have harmed millions of people. They are NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the end of direct cash aid to the poor. The Clintons have had some shady dealings post-presidency too. But we can't expect them to suddenly turn squeaky clean in their dotage, can we?
And the Bush dynasty's dirty laundry goes back whole generations. What I really looking forward to reading are those 28 redacted pages of the 9/11 Commission Report. They allegedly show some sleazy relationships among the attacks, the Saudi royals and the Bushes. For some reason, the current administration keeps protecting the previous Reign of Torture. Why? We're not allowed to find out, because it might damage "national" (read: plutocratic) security.
I think the Clintons should allow an outside auditor to go over all their books. And that auditor should not be Chelsea or anybody connected to Clinton World. I guess that leaves everybody out. But I hear Eric Holder just became available. Oops, I forgot.... Marc Rich.... Pardongate.
The only smear on Hillary that I can remember from 2007-08 (besides the diss over her meeting with Mellon-Scaife) was the "D-Punjab" memo anonymously sent to various media. It accused her of influence-peddling among Indian-Americans and collecting hefty speaking fees from Cisco, a company that outsourced workers to India. More here:
Regret Over a Drone's Deadly Damage (NY Times editorial), 9/25:
The Senate last year quietly removed an amendment to an intelligence bill that would have required President Obama to release details -- names, ages, deaths, injuries -- of every one of his drone strike victims.
The president could have engaged in soul-searching and transparency a year ago. But like the inscrutable Bartleby the Scrivener, he preferred not to.
Since he's already broken his first pledge of openness on his drone assassination program, and since Congress displays zero interest in holding him (and future presidents) to account, take his latest pledge with a grain of salt.
Obama's terse apology might have seemed heartfelt, but he has always displayed a disturbing callousness when it comes to other casualties of what the CIA calls The Disposition Matrix. When a Pakistani father and his children traveled to Washington in 2013 to testify before Congress about a drone strike that had killed the family matriarch, few reps even bothered showing up. Records show that on the day of their testimony, Obama himself was meeting with the CEOs of drone manufacturers Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin.
Obama has just O.K.'d the sales of armed drones to foreign countries. What could possibly go wrong? Nobody could ever have predicted. Mistakes are made. Blowback.
Love and Merit (David Brooks), 4/24:
Oh, the agony of affluenza.
Because David Brooks isn't talking about the poor and working classes here. He's talking about the rich. In the bubble which he inhabits, the most pressing problem for families is not where the next meal or paycheck is coming from, but which Ivy will accept their child.
The rich and the politicians they own are fond of speaking of kids as commodities. They're investments, just like pork belly futures. The rich want a return on their investments, and kids are no exception. It's no surprise that the suicide rate among young people in Silicon Valley is on the upswing. They are abused by wealth.
So their parents need an intervention. Their excess income needs to be trimmed, and their kids need to be let out of their gated communities. The curriculum has to be modeled less on careerist success, and more on social and economic justice for all.
Extreme wealth inequality is bad for everybody, both rich and poor. Die from indigestion or die from starvation, both are painful. So why not level the playing field and let everybody live, David? The cruel social policies born of Reagan and his paramour Thatcher have metastasized to lethal proportions. We are the sickest, most indebted, most overworked, insecure people in the civilized world, and the most pessimistic about our children's futures.
Social Darwinism is coming back to haunt its right-wing perpetrators where they live and breed. So tax the rich. Their spawn will thank you.
Zombies of 2016 (Paul Krugman), 4/24:
A fat zombie from Jersey lumbering and wheezing around the countryside eating up the poor, the sick and the struggling: what a perfect trailer for Ayn Rand's Apocalypse Now.
It's not only the greedy politicians and the complicit media who've been consumed by extremist right-wing ideas: it's our whole system of "justice." Too big to fail banks get a free pass to launder money for vicious drug cartels and hide the untaxed wealth of plutocrats, while the poor get jailed for the crime of being poor. Debtors' prisons are back, to contain the humanity that fat zombies chew up before spitting out in disgust.
There's a reason we have the highest incarceration rate in the world: convicts are disenfranchised, and Chris Christie & Co would just as soon "those people" not even vote.
But the press courtiers chuckle and write up his Soprano jokes, not daring to admit that it's all a scam run by a legitimated mafia, a permanent cabal of ruling class racketeers. No surprise they want to raise the Medicare age and repeal the ACA: an estimated 17,000 people a year are dying already in states where the GOP has refused to expand Medicaid. Their mouths are watering.
The mega-rich sucked up more than 90% of the gains since the '08 meltdown, and CEOs now make 350X the pay of the average worker. But they're never replete.
The GOP zombie hordes peddle hyper-greed, hyper-nationalism, hyper-fear, hyper-ignorance -- and they peddle it all in the name of God.
They need an exorcism.
An Exclusive Arrangement on a Clinton Book, and Many Questions (Margaret Sullivan), 4/23:
t's unfortunate that Peter Schweizer has damaged his credibility by associating himself with right-wing think tanks and doing partisan hack work alongside some pretty solid investigative reporting. Like most journalists, he is probably hard up for cash.
His book "Throw Them All Out," about insider trading by congress members, led to the bipartisan legislation known as the STOCK Act. Of course, the crooked politicians swiftly got around their self-reform fig leaf of a law by simply using family members' names for future insider trading.
Schweizer took particular aim at Spencer Bachus, ranking GOP member of the House financial services committee, who profited big-time off the Wall Street meltdown based on info he'd gleaned from Fed chairman Ben Bernanke. Schweizer's investigative reporting was widely featured and lauded by the "liberal" mainstream media (60 Minutes, MSNBC) at the time.
He says he is hated by both big money parties. Sounds like the classic definition of an old-school "afflict the comfortable" journalist to me. So it's all the more baffling that he'd also indulge in shlock oppo research and demagogy for Breitbart and others.
There is a lot of "shoot the messenger" going on here, not helped by either the timing of the Clinton book or the Times' rather sloppily worded explanation of its collaboration with Schweizer. Like the Clintons' newly-exposed uranium wheeling and dealing, even the mere appearance of impropriety is cause for concern.
Hollywood Trumps Harvard (Frank Bruni), 4/22:
Wikileaks has exposed the tangled web of sticky threads interconnecting Hollywood, the White House, the Pentagon, corporations, think tanks and academia.
Gates wrote that Affleck's censorship attempt was strangely misplaced, given that his slave-owning ancestor "wasn't even a bad guy. We don't demonize him at all."
Wow. That a respected scholar would whitewash history by showing the professed owner of human beings in a positive light is indeed akin to TV hucksterism in the Land of Oz. As was Gates's angst that his civil rights history "brand" might be damaged.
In another leaked email, Lynton refuses Gates's request to travel East to personally bestow the W.E.B. Du Bois award on Democratic mega-donor/mega-producer Harvey Weinstein, who'd apparently been a controversial choice in the first place, due to his "personality." (but not his bucks or his connections, obviously)
The whole pay-to-play culture is exposed for all to see. Money and propaganda and favors and pettiness flow like champagne.
We learn that Hollywood hates the Fair Use law. Not only are the big studios lobbying heavily for passage of the top-secret corporate giveaway known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they are also among its main architects, personally dictating its draconian intellectual property law clause. We learn that Hollywood freaked out when Wikileaks spilled the TPP beans.
So thank you, Wikileaks.
Lessons from #RaceTogether (Joe Nocera), 4/21:
Starbucks is among the more than 600 multinational corporations lobbying heavily for passage of the job-destroying Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is a member in good standing of the Grocery Manufacturing Association, which is behind the TPP clause allowing for for looser regulations in food labeling, specifically the labeling of GMO food.
Have you checked out the Starbucks menu lately? The restaurant chain, which prides itself on its liberalism, does not disclose the chemicals and additives in either its food treats or its coffee confections (heavy on proplyene glycol, high fructose corn syrup and artificial food colorings). So theoretically, if one of the countries signing the TPP decides to ban a chemical contained in a Starbucks snack or beverage, Starbucks could sue for lost profits in a secretive investor state tribunal court. It could even help appoint the lawyers posing as judges deciding such cases.
#RaceTogether to Stop the TPP.
Greece On the Brink (Paul Krugman). 4/20:
The ruling class racketeers might not want Greece to fail, but nor do they want people to prosper, when bleeding them dry is so much addictive fun. The sight of Syriza prevailing might give the rest of us too many ideas of our own.
It would signal that things don't have to be this way. It would prove that extreme wealth inequality and social ills are not "natural phenomena." Debt can indeed be cancelled, and the Richie Riches of the world can indeed take their haircuts without so much as a blip on the radar. The elites' moral outrage, their demands that the poor suffer and pay for the misdeeds of their selfish leaders through a massive bloodletting that never ends, would be exposed as one big plutocratic temper tantrum, signifying nothing.
The triumph of what Hillary Clinton calls "everyday people" is unthinkable in this Age of Neoliberalism. And that's why we should all be rooting for Greece. It's where democracy was born, after all.
And Paul Krugman deserves praise for venturing out and visiting people
where they are suffering -- besides giving his professional advice to Syriza leaders. Because not only does the Troika seem bent on forcing "failure" on the Greeks, their cruelty is literally shortening their lives.
As the late Eduardo Galeano observed, predatory capital views a small nation like Greece as "no more than a hurdle to leap -- for sovereignty can be inconvenient -- or a succulent fruit to devour."
What if we all stood together and refused to be eaten?
Granny Get Your Gun (Maureen Dowd), 4/18:
The only thing possibly worse than the GOP misogynists attacking Hillary is Hillary's supporters accusing progressives of being anti-feminist if we choose not to support her based purely upon her XX bona fides. Willingly impaling myself on falling glass ceiling shards and then washing myself pink with trickle-down corporate feminism is not my idea of democracy.
Then there's the dire warning that unless we vote the We Suck Less party, progressives will be totally to blame for the collapse of civilization. Not to mention the transformation of the Supreme Court into a Black Mass cult of neoliberal theocratists. We certainly don't want to risk another Harriet Miers.
We're already being pre-Naderized, and the "free" election is a year and a half away.
Elizabeth Warren, though not a candidate, is nonetheless waging a highly effective issues campaign against Hillary. She's come out strongly against the TPP, and this week again called for the breaking up of the Too Big to Fail criminal banking cartel. Yes, Hillary has chided Wall Street, but they all know it's part of the game. They know she doesn't really mean it.
Meanwhile, fast food workers are striking and black lives are mattering and wages are starting to rise. Not because of Hillary or any other politician, but because of ourselves.
I plan on concentrating on my state and local elections where I might still make a difference. The national contest is already is a predetermined sham.
Checking Charlie Hebdo's Privilege (Ross Douthat), 4/18:
The abortion rate is at its lowest level since Roe v Wade was enacted. The child poverty rate, on the other hand, is at its highest level in 50 years. Is it a coincidence that the states with the most penury are in Deep South GOP territory?
This is closely followed by the misery in the Midwest rust belt, where NAFTA and globalization have closed the factories and depressed the wages. In Detroit, the water has been turned off in homes with children whose working parents don't earn enough to pay the bills. The Michigan poverty rate is actually worse than it was in 1960. And thanks to GOP intransigence on immigration reform, the child poverty rate in California is at a record 27%. Immigrant families are denied even the most basic help if they are undocumented.
According to the Catholic charity Bread of the World, race is even more of a factor than geography. In corny Iowa, for example, the poverty rate for black children is higher than that of Mississippi. It's Eugenics 101 by any other name, and it's the deliberate product of the primitive right wing brain.
Meanwhile, Ross chides progressives for political incorrectness, for not linking Je Suis Charlie with Je Suis Fetus. Je suis fed up with his serial shallow sermonizing to straw men. His red pill is a poison pill.
It's of a piece with Gwyneth Paltrow's celebrity food stamp challenge. It takes the basic ingredients of a selfish rich person's high colonic and calls it nourishing empathy for the downtrodden.
Obama and the Republicans Agree on the Trans-Pacific Partnership... Unfortunately (Mark Bittman).4/22:
Thank you for calling out the TPP in all its corrupt ignominy because, as Senator Bernie Sanders noted, the rest of the corporate media have been criminally negligent in not bringing this assault on democracy to the public's attention.
Nobody should be surprised that Barack Obama is pushing the TPP with all his might, telling us it's such a great deal for "folks" that its contents have to kept from our eyes for the usual reason: our "national security."
In 2006, then-Senator Obama appeared before the Wall Street-funded Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institute to assure what essentially was a presidential candidate vetting committee that he was a hardcore free-trader, acknowledged that NAFTA hurt working people, and that the future destruction of American lives and livelihoods as a result of globalization would not be a "bloodless process." Chillingly, he didn't utter one single word against this "process.":
It's worth remembering that besides the Opium Wars mentioned by Mr. Bittman, "free trade" was also the euphemism used by European and American capitalists for hundreds of years as they kidnapped human beings to sell on the open market. Slavery dies hard, whatever form it might take.
The TPP is a war of economic aggression against humanity.
"These historical antecedents teach us that free trade and other such monetary freedoms are to free peoples what Jack the Ripper was to St. Francis of Assisi." -- Eduardo Galeano