Sunday, February 28, 2016

Up With Outrage!

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here.

 That's the message we're getting today from the mainstream media in the wake of Bernie Sanders's terrible, horrible, most epic defeat ever in the history of political history. It is the sad duty of the Punditocracy to gleefully inform us that Bernie has been smashed into South Carolina roadkill by the unstoppable Hillary Clinton juggernaut. And just on the off-chance that he's still barely twitching, there's always Super Duper Terror Tuesday. That is when Hillary's metaphorical drones are poised to finish the job with the old one-two punch, aka the double-tap. They hope to finally render Bernie and his swarms of crazy unicorns into naught but a warm fuzzy pink mist of a memory.

But not so fast! We haven't reached the lowest circle of hell just yet. We're still breathing and intact, despite that vaunted Firewall.

Whatever the ultimate outcome of what is essentially a rigged primary process orchestrated by a corrupt party machinery, there is nothing that says the revolution cannot continue. I've said right from the get-go that we mustn't put all our eggs into one Bernie Basket. Let's face it: political parties, especially the Democratic Party, have historically been where popular movements go to die. 

Dejection is the enemy. So is cynicism. The powers-that-be are extremely and inordinately anxious to curb our enthusiasm. And since widespread enthusiasm and trust in a Hillary Clinton presidency is not yet in the offing, despite her very best efforts to portray herself as Wartime Granny Populist, they'll use the fear card to get our votes. Elect the Lesser Evil if you want to survive Benito Trump: that is the not-so-subliminal message of the Clintonian neoliberal thought collective.

And that brings me to Henry A. Giroux, prolific author and public intellectual. In a Truthout interview coinciding with the publication of his latest book, America's Addiction to Terrorism, Giroux says:
We no longer live in an age of long-term possibilities. The certainties of a long-term job, a better future and hope have disappeared in the age of what Zygmunt Bauman calls liquid modernity. We now occupy an era of precarity, uncertainty and insecurity. Yet, these conditions do not constitute some inevitable historical evolution. They are politically and socially constructed and just as they were made by human beings, they can be unmade. I think it is precisely this concern about imagining a future that is not a repeat of the present that offers an inroad into addressing the current crisis of historical and political agency at work in the United States. I'm concerned with how you mobilize existential despair away from a paralyzing cynicism and depoliticizing dynamic into a sense of political outrage that can be marshaled into collective action. Trauma is not a psychic phenomenon alone, but can also be a steppingstone to mobilization.
Henry Giroux (who is not endorsing any particular candidate) lists three essential methods by which we can overcome the existential despair that is the byproduct (and pretty much the intended purpose) of neoliberalism: 
There are three pre-requirements for being able to think in utopian terms - that is, in terms that are capable of producing a militant form of hope that not only imagines a better society but also inspires collective action based on such desires. First, a utopian imaginary must embrace history as a resource, willing to engage its "dangerous" memories and to use it as a resource for challenging those discourses that have frozen the present. Second, educators, artists, intellectuals, workers, young people and others must find a way to construct not only a discourse of merciless critique but also a discourse of possibility. Thirdly, politics has to be reinvented so as to recognize that power is now global and that politics is still tied to nation-states.
There's a lot more to the interview. Read the whole thing, and you will probably not only feel better, you'll feel energized and inspired. Better yet, you'll feel the outrage. It's the perfect antidote to the gloom and doom of the New York Times and Politico and the entirety of the corporate owned media/political complex, which would like nothing better than for us all to lay down and curl into the fetal position on the yellow line in the middle of the neoliberal highway to hell.

We must not give in to despair, no matter the outcome of any one election or endless series of elections. Onward and upward!

For your further viewing pleasure and energization:


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Flipped-Out Flappers

 (Optional soundtrack)

I've been trying to ignore the saga of Paul Krugman and the Four Wonks of the Apocalypse (or as Bill Black hilariously calls them, The Gang of Four.) To briefly recap this epic of wonkishly Wagnerian proportions, the Fab Four wrote a letter earlier this month to an economist (not affiliated with or even backing the Bernie Sanders candidacy) who'd predicted mega-growth if Bernie's New Deal of a stimulus package ever got passed. They debunked the math without even bothering to supply their own counter-math. Krugman jumped right in, and the resulting  opera of a wonkish Whine Journey was just this side of the Republicans accusing each other of wetting their pants.

Well, Krugman seems to finally have gotten tired of the whole Gotterdammerung. His blogpost today makes a feeble attempt to mend fences with his disgruntled readership and a valiant attempt to salvage his own damaged reputation. He writes, that yes indeed, there is still a case to be made for public  investment. Can't we all just get along and agree that infrastructure spending is good and austerity is bad? He even supplies some of his famous charts. But then he can't resist the subtle jab at the Bernie Bro Mean Unicorn Squad, and makes his lede a passive-aggressive little bitch-fest of Heathers proportions. (Heathers, imho, is one of best cinematic satires of mean girl-dom ever made. It is not often aired any more on commercial TV, because it shows a kid with a gun blowing up a school at the end. And then kids really did start shooting up schools).

 Krugman gets his unicorn-jab in early:
  One of the annoying aspects of the Sanders/Friedman flap was the assumption of many Sanders supporters that anyone who doesn’t accept extravagant economic projections is against a big program of public investment. Actually, it was destructive as well as annoying; aside from being an insult to progressive economists who believe in infrastructure but also believe in arithmetic, it created at least the possibility that other people would take the crash-and-burn of a particular piece of analysis as evidence that the whole case for spending more is wrong.
My published response:
One of the most annoying aspects of the "Sanders/Friedman flap" is that PK is memorializing it as the Sanders/Friedman flap.
Right from the get-go, it was a smear-by-proxy campaign against Bernie Sanders, launched by four Clinton-supporting neoliberal economists. It got a whole lot of traction thanks to PK's influence. It became a news story in itself: The Wonks vs the unicorn-loving rubes out here in the boondocks. It so reeked of the class war that the wonks never even saw fit to supply us with a crash course in remedial wonkery to lift us out of our abysmal ignorance, not to mention our mass psychosis. Actually, in following this whole desperate saga, I felt like Alice down the rabbit hole when Krugman began complaining that it was the scolding wonks who were the victims -- heaven forbid that the victims should be the 30 million Americans who still lack health insurance.
 Forget about the Wonks of the Flapping Gums Flap. What we need is a major flap about the most extreme wealth inequality in modern history, a 20-25% child poverty rate, and the corruption of our politics by big money.
So it is a relief that PK declares himself so, like, totally over his totally manufactured flap, and is doing what he does best: championing stimulus, and debunking the deficit hawkery of the austerians.
P.S. If FDR had had to deal with such wonkery, we probably never would have gotten the New Deal. Ditto for LBJ's Great Society.
It's not the math. It's the humanity, stupid.

 Bernie Bro Unicorn Fights Back

Friday, February 26, 2016

An Appeal for a Fellow Blogger

Prolific New York Times commentator Rima Regas and her family are about to be evicted from the hotel they've called home ever since losing their condo last year. To make matters even worse, her disabled daughter must undergo surgery this week to correct a previous procedure for a seizure disorder.

Rima, who also runs her own blog, has as a last resort started a GoFundMe campaign in hopes of raising enough cash to purchase a motor home for the family to live in. Any help from Sardonickists to help the Regas family realize their dream of a permanent home would be greatly appreciated. 

Rima is not alone. Many freelancers are suffering greatly in this New Sharing Economy. Think of us as the buskers of journalism. We survive on tips and donations. Long gone are the days when writers would get paid by the word.  Online journalism is increasingly solicited as free content for site operators, and it shouldn't be this way. Unpaid writers work every bit as hard as salaried writers. For every hour spent on actual writing, several more hours are spent on reading, researching, and just plain hard thinking.

In her most famous extended essay, Virginia Woolf said there are two basic things a writer needs: money, and a room of one's own. 

Fast forward to 21st century precarious America, and we can downgrade that to a bare-bones existence and a roof over one's head. It's hard to think, let alone write, when you're literally out on the street.

For further information on how to help, please go to Rima's excellent site:

http://www.rimaregas.com/

Hillary Clinton's Racism

The forcible removal of a female Black Lives Matter protester from a Hillary Clinton fundraiser this week, and the shocking, forcible removal of a female black student from a classroom last October, differ only in the level of state-sanctioned physical power employed.

Each incident occurred in South Carolina. Each incident was an example of white supremacy at its most blatant. Each incident was designed to belittle the alleged culprit and to put her in her place. Each incident was a power play with the express objective of emotionally scarring the target and protecting the designated authority figure. 




While the expulsion of Ashley Williams from Hillary's high-end fundraiser was accomplished relatively gently, due to the venue and a sensitive audience of the rich, powerful and white, the other incident was effected violently in a high school classroom peopled mainly by poor students of color. The fundraiser ejection occurred in a milieu whose inhabitants are used to being coddled and given an outsize voice. No expensive furniture was overturned or otherwise damaged. The school ejection occurred in a milieu which is authoritarian and oppressive by its very nature, where docility and silence are expected from the audience, where both the plastic furniture and the bodies are expendable. 

When Ashley Williams interrupted Clinton, demanding that she apologize for having once called black youths "superpredators," all it took for the security detail to spring into action was Hillary's own reaction to the protester. When Hillary made it abundantly clear to her armed guards that she was miffed and uncomfortable, her questioner was escorted out (despite having paid the $500 price of access to the candidate). The audience immediately sided not with the evictee, but with the most powerful woman in the room. They all breathed a sigh of relief, showing class and racial solidarity with the powerful woman who was there to listen to their express concerns. "Okay, back to the issues," barked Clinton. Or should I say, "dog-whistled Clinton?"

When the South Carolina student refused to stop talking on her cell phone last October, the school cop upended her desk and body-slammed her to the floor before dragging her out of the room. That audience did not cheer or sigh in relief. Not at all. They were in shocked disbelief. One of them later would later share cell phone video of the incident with the whole world.



Racism in schools and the existence of the school-to-prison pipeline has long been a reality accepted by most people with eyes, ears and brains. Racism at a Hillary Clinton fundraiser, however, was more than a little eyebrow-raising, given that the candidate is running as a champion of black people, and is even said to possess a magical Firewall in states and counties with majority black populations.

The whole impetus of the fundraiser protest was an old speech that the then-First Lady gave while lobbying for the infamous crime bill which has sent record numbers of black people to prison over the last two decades. The video of the confrontation is now going as"viral" as the previous South Carolina incident, and right on the eve of the South Carolina primary. Hillary Clinton is still expected to win it handily. This is due to the special bond that she and Bill have always enjoyed with black voters (or more accurately, the special bond they have elicited from the black political establishment.) It will be interesting to see whether the final tally reveals any breakdown between older and younger black voters. It will be interesting to see whether voters declare their emancipation from the Clinton Protection Racket and the younger generation goes for Bernie Sanders's inclusive platform of social, economic and racial justice.

Hillary and Bill have always been dog-whistling, if not outright, racists. Before Bill, as primary presidential candidate and Arkansas governor, executed a brain-damaged black man named Ricky Ray Rector in order to give himself an electoral boost with the law-and-order crowd of Reagan Democrats, before he played golf at a segregated country club and then claimed it wasn't really segregated because it employed black people as waiters and caddies, before his rebuke of Sistah Souljah over rap lyrics, Bill used convict slave labor at the governor's mansion. He allowed the Confederate flag to fly high above the state capitol.

And Hillary was just fine with that, despite her current boasts of "fighting for" the rights of black children under her erstwhile mentor, Marion Wright Edelman. (As has been widely reported, the Edelmans broke with the Clintons 20 years ago, when the First Couple championed passage of welfare "reform," and sent millions of mothers and children into outright poverty at the stroke of a triangulating pen.)

I wrote about Hillary's adventures with her black slave convicts in a previous post, quoting directly from her own book, "It Takes a Village". She wrote her neoliberal polemic on the care and treatment of children at about the same time that she made her "super-predator" speech. It dog-whistles its racism right on the front cover, which shows  three white children standing nearly at a level with the great lady herself. The much shorter, token black child in the picture has the entire bottom part of his or her face cut off.  It's impossible to tell the race or ethnicity of the fifth child.




Clinton's opinions on child-rearing and behavior are based partly upon her personal experience directing the unpaid labor of her black prisoners. Although she was careful to repudiate "The Bell Curve" eugenics theory of race and intelligence then in vogue, she didn't entirely rule out biology-as-destiny as a factor in black crime, either. She did what the Clintons have always done best. She triangulated. She professed surface sympathy for black youths at the same time that she blamed them and their parents for their own behavior. Never did she blame wealth inequality or white racism. "It Takes a Village" was, in fact, a not very subtle dog-whistle to liberal white racists.

A 1995 pop psychology book by Daniel Goleman called "Emotional Intelligence" provided the intellectual basis for her theories on young black offenders who "need to be brought to heel." Their problem, she theorized, is that they are unable to integrate their rational brains with their emotional brains.
The power of emotion is equally dangerous if it is not harnessed to reason. People who cannot control their emotions are often prone to impulsive overreaction. They may be quick to perceive threats and slights even when none are intended, and to respond with violence. They are in Goleman's phrase, "emotional illiterates." Many of the gang members interviewed as part of a recent study released by Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the illegal use of firearms fit this profile. More than one in three said they believe it is acceptable to shoot someone who "disses" them -- shows them disrespect.
So many dog-whistles in just one little paragraph. Leave aside that Clinton quotes the uber-racist Janet Reno's alleged study --  Clinton absolutely does equate gang members with vicious dogs which must be brought to heel. I imagine that one out of every three pit bulls also tends to overreact when its personal space is violated. What Hillary is essentially claiming is that black youths are biologically violent, due  both to their untrained emotional brains, and their underdeveloped rational brains.

She then liberally allows that early experience also plays a role in the neurobiological basis for black youth crime.
Some experts speculate that the brains of emotional illiterates are hard-wired early on by stressful experiences that inhibit these mechanisms and leave people prey to "emotional hijacking" ever after. Most of us don't habitually react with impulsive violence, but most of us "blow our tops" from time to time.
This paragraph is another dog-whistle: blame the epidemic of black youth crime on Reagan's welfare queens. The Clintons' solution? Reduce the welfare rolls by 60 percent by the time they leave office and force poor mothers to virtually abandon their infants. This abandonment will supposedly save the children from all that bad mothering and mental abuse and brain pathology. Hillary lectures on:
Most people learn how to avoid emotional hijackings from the time they are infants. If they have supportive and caring adults around them, they pick up the social cues that enable them to develop self-discipline and empathy.
Hillary's glib solution to the alleged epidemic of bad black mothering and her goal to "bring civility our streets" is to teach children empathy in the classroom. Even when black people become adults, she boasted, it's never too late for white people to teach them how to behave, whether it be in the workplace or in the prison. She should know. She was a virtual schoolmarm to her own Arkansan black slave convicts back in the day:
The structure imposed by the responsibilities of work and the enlightened assistance of concerned people in the prison system and at the governor's mansion helped those onetime murderers I knew in Arkansas to achieve a greater understanding and control over their feelings and behavior.
Hillary Clinton makes right-wing New York Times columnist and "black culture" concern-trolling expert Ross Douthat seem like a raging progressive.

I'll say it again. Once a Goldwater Girl, always a Goldwater Girl. It's ironic that a woman professing to be such an expert on "emotional intelligence" resides in a plutocratic bubble so largely devoid of it that she sees no problem in accepting millions of dollars from the same banks that have evicted thousands of black and poor subprime mortgagors from their homes while also engaging in a long-standing policy of racist real estate red-lining.

In any event, the emotional intelligence theory also has its own dark side. The teaching of it can actually enable some bad people to hide their own natures more effectively. One of the main talents of psychopaths is to project a glib, slick set of of emotions that they don't inherently possess. If emotional intelligence can be acquired, it can also be used to fool people. I suppose we should be grateful that Hillary has not yet mastered this "I feel your pain" art as well as her husband. Most people do not trust her, and with very good reason.

If the pundits are right, the next presidential contest will be between two unabashed racists. That one of them has a flimsy, damaged filter, and the other (Trump) has no filter at all, is moot. If either one of them is elected, unabashed fascism will remain a feature, not a bug, in the Feudal States of America.

Hillary Clinton is again trying to do damage control, issuing a written apology for her super-predator comments. "I shouldn't have used those words, and I wouldn't use them today," she told The Washington Post. She didn't say anything about retracting claims made in her first memoir, however. Maybe somebody will read it, and confront her on her characterization of black youths as "emotional illiterates."

Ms. Williams is still awaiting an apology from Clinton, both for her racist remarks "pathologizing black youth as these criminal, animal people" and for having her evicted from a function which she had paid to attend. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Dispatches From Nevada, Part 2

(This concludes the chronicle of the nurse-practitioner from Northern California who volunteered as a precinct captain in Saturday's Nevada Democratic caucus.)

By E. O'Meara

Saturday morning, I drove to the Washoe County Democratic Headquarters for a 7 a.m. meeting in which I was to get instructions on what kinds of suspicious activity to look out for at the caucus. But when I arrived, the building appeared empty and the door was locked. I stood around outside for 45 minutes until a young woman arrived (with a key). She knew nothing about my meeting, explaining that she was there as an HRC volunteer. I thought at first that those initials stood for a human rights group, until it dawned on me that they stood for Hillary Rodham Clinton.But as it turned out, the woman was also member of a human rights group that had endorsed Hillary!

Everybody in my training session was from California. When I'd gone to my initial caucus meeting on Presidents Day, I was told they only had about 60% of the precinct captains they needed from Nevada, and so had to seek out-of-state volunteers.


We all got a 35-page "NVDEMS Temporary Precinct Chair Caucus Day Guide." Our instructor had only one hour to get through two or three hours' worth of material as she outlined, with the aid of Power Point, all the steps and procedures we were to take.

At the end of this crash course, one HRC volunteer was visibly upset. "I have a degree and have had a successful career," she complained. "But this is too much to learn! What are the consequences if we don't do it right?"

"Focus on the math," the instructor soothed. "The math is the most important thing to get right."

The HRC people were assigned to Hug High School, and left by bus. Ten of us out-of-staters remained behind, including one self-described lawyer-engineer, who proceeded to perseverate for at least five minutes on repetitive math questions. (The math was in the guide and also on an enlarged worksheet for easy reference.)

The office Dems were waiting to get calls from precincts that needed help. Seven of the remainders were assigned as temporary chairs to three different locations. I joined two others on a trip to Shaw Middle School in Sparks, where 30 precincts would be caucusing. While we were waiting to get on the bus, the large screen TV in Dem HQ was tuned in to the Scalia funeral on MSNBC. So it was a relief to finally get out of there around 10:15 a.m.

We'd had been advised at our training session that it was OK to wear candidate buttons but "in your face" apparel such as shirts were forbidden. Stickers and signs also were not allowed. Still, there were multiple Clinton lawn signs right near the entrance of the school. People inside were wearing printed "Precinct Captain" T-shirts: purple for Sanders and blue for Clinton. Most shirts had buttons and stickers on them as well. I had on my black "Bernie for President" shirt underneath a vest and jacket -- and I kept it under wraps like a good student.

We met the site coordinator, who gave each of us a packet for temporary precinct captains.

Two of us went to a Spanish classroom, in which five precincts would be represented. I thought it was appropriate to get a classroom with a "Dreamers" poster on the wall outside.




Around 11:30, we got things started by selecting a permanent chair for each precinct. I went to check the entrance and noted that volunteers were using laptops and personal smartphones to sign people in. The line of caucus-goers was out the door, and the parking lot was overflowing. 




It was nearly noon when three other temporary precinct captains arrived in our room, probably having done double duty signing voters in. Two more were last-minute volunteers who needed an immediate crash course about various procedures. In our room, eleven caucus-goers showed up for five precincts in order to claim one delegate per precinct, broken down as follows: 4:3; 3:1; 1:0. These groups did not have to calculate viability (majority rules when there is one delegate up for grabs.)

One of the caucus-goers said she felt uncomfortable about being forced to make her choice in public, because her precinct consisted of her small street in an isolated area. She was fearful about potential harassment from her neighbors.

In two of the caucus groups, nobody wanted to be a delegate. My own assigned precinct had zero turnout! So who knows how that delegate will be assigned, if at all?

Meanwhile, at a Reno elementary school with three-precinct coverage, my girlfriend Karli was in a group that was 4-4 with a ninth delegate up for grabs. They almost broke out the deck of cards (no coin toss in Nevada!) but a recount gave the last delegate to Sanders.

Our precincts were done before 1 p.m. and we submitted our results by either calling them in or texting them.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fear and Loathing, 2016

What better setting for the triumph of the casino capitalism that Hillary Clinton represents than an actual Las Vegas casino? What better venue than Caesar's Palace for the political enforcer known as Harry Reid to ensure the survival of the oligarchy for one more election cycle?

"Saturday may well be the day," caustically wrote Nevada journalist Jon Ralston, "that altered the course of the Democratic presidential race, when Hillary Clinton blunted Bernie Sanders’ campaign, when she was forced to work as hard as she ever has for a week (with a little help from a lot of friends) and slingshotted her with new momentum into South Carolina and then Super Tuesday. Nevada may indeed prove to be the day that saved Hillary Clinton’s campaign."

 Like Roman slaves let out for a brief Saturday airing, in full view of their masters, Nevada gambling and hospitality workers were herded into the caucuses. They cast their votes, not behind the usual private curtains, but in the full view of their employers and union bosses and blinding TV lights. It was a true Circus Maximus vibe, complete with hordes of salivating media predators pawing for release behind their cages as the mobs entered and exited through carefully placed vomitoria.  

America's Voting Booth
 
Even unabashed Hillary supporter, Chris Matthews of MSNBC, wondered aloud whether the caucus-goers were feeling any pressure to vote a certain way. TV correspondents, who seemed to outnumber actual citizens in some locales, complained that attendees were loathe to discuss whom they might be voting for. Some workers appeared fearful about backing a candidate not acceptable to their bosses.

Elsewhere in the state, though, wage slaves were not given an extended lunch break to do Reid's bidding. Only an estimated 17% of registered Democrats turned out to caucus. Many people, as reader E. O'Meara noted in a post from Reno last week, could not get the time off from work to vote. They only were granted a one or two hour window of opportunity to make their voices heard. That seems to have been a feature of the process, not a bug. 

That the Empress in Waiting barely squeaked out a "victory" by five percentage points over an underdog Democratic Socialist behind by double digits only a few weeks ago is testament to the emptiness of her campaign message of "Same Old Shit".

She is so imperious, so tone-deaf, that she couldn't even resist dinging the younger voters she will need to win the general election should she machinate and lie and triangulate and pander her way to the Democratic nomination. Echoing the loathsome Tweeting Clinton bundler I profiled in my previous post, Hillary went into full hectoring mode.

If you've been evicted, poisoned by filthy water, can't afford your medicine and get beaten by cops because of the color of your skin, don't expect any single payer health care or free public college tuition or a break-up of those really yuge casinos known as Wall Street banks. Hillary will give you just what Obama and Bill and Bush and Reagan have always given you: imaginary ladders of opportunity by which to hoist yourself up by your own bootstraps.

There will be no FDR-style Works Progress Administration or Job Corps. There will, however, be more trickle-down austerity -- or as Hillary put it in her neoliberal pep talk, "unleashing the innovation of our entrepreneurs and small businesses." Translated into plain English, this means more feeding at the public trough by private corporations, and tax breaks for such small business enterprises as yacht and luxury vacation home rentals.

And she had a very special tough-love message for America's lost generation, whose members now overwhelmingly identify as socialist:
But, I want you to think about this.

It can't be just about what we're going to give to you, it has to be what we're going to build together. Your generation is the most tolerant, and connected our country has ever seen. In the days ahead we will propose new ways for more Americans to get involved in national service and give back to our communities because everyone of us has a role to play in building the future we want.
I can't wait to hear her new proposals. They will probably involve no actual salary. Because unlike humanist Bernie Sanders, Clinton does not even pay her own young campaign workers. So I imagine that a Hillary Youth Movement would be modeled after Obama's Organizing for Action astroturf machine, which largely involves enlisting volunteers to propagandize for such job-destroying corporate initiatives as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And given Hillary's own hawkishness, she'll no doubt want to continue Michelle Obama's militaristic Joining Forces campaign, the brainchild of the Center for a New American Security think tank founded and staffed by "interventionist" Clinton Democrats, Wall Street investors, and defense contractors. 

Give back and give often. Give again and again for the good of the plutocracy, and Hillary will make you feel like you're really part of something as you struggle to survive.

Do I even need to tell you that after her very marginal victory in Nevada, her Editorial Enforcers are out in full force today, once again declaring that their candidate is Inevitable?  In a break from tradition and a slap in the face to democracy, the New York Times is already running Bernie's obituary on the front page. Even though, last I checked, he is not only still breathing, he's tied with her in (elected) delegates and is still ahead in some national polls.

Hillary kind of reminds me of Caesar Augustus's influential wife, Livia Drusilla. If you've ever read Robert Graves' I, Claudius or seen the BBC version, you know exactly who I'm talking about. In case you missed it, the series is still running on Hulu.

The big difference is that in Roman times, scheming political wives would poison or otherwise destroy their rivals in order to ensure the succession of their own sons. Livia, though, broke the glass ceiling of Caesar's Palace and became empress in her own right. Who needs sons, when you yourself can become the sun around which the planets of the corrupt ruling class and the sycophantic press can mindlessly revolve?

It's the 21st American century, thank goodness. So who needs to kill one's rivals, when you have the New York Times to do your character assassination for you?

 Of course, you still need heirs. And it's always a yuge campaign selling point to tell the masses how much you love being a Grandma. Livia was a doting Grandma, too. Her grandson was named Caligula.  






Friday, February 19, 2016

The Donors of Clinton World

 Part One of a continuing series.

"Dear Millenials" (sic), read the Tweet,"you, are entitled to nothing. You deserve nothing. And nothing is ever, ever free. t"

This Gingrich-like threat comes not from the GOP.  Rather, it was Tweeted out by Democratic campaign bundler Allan Berliant in conjunction with a closed-door fundraiser he hosted for Hillary Clinton last week. The Empress-in-Waiting was too busy campaigning to attend in person, but she sent the ever reliable Bill in as a sloppy second. Here's a selfie that Berliant posted of his private party. He calls it "Hangin With Bill."


 Misery You Can Believe In: No Free Lunch, No Free Tuition


Berliant himself has worked very hard for his money, having married into it. He got his start in nutrition and non-union labor working for Tyson Foods, the Arkansas-based factory farm corporation which helped bankroll the Clintons' initial rise to power back in the heyday of the Reagan Revolution. Berliant left the company around the same time that Bill and Hill left the White House. He then started a new, Cincinnati-based firm called BestEXPress. Originally limited to the simple marketing of name brand junk food, it has since expanded into "manufacturing" its own culinary products, with mass-produced frozen pizza for school cafeterias its homegrown appetizing specialty. But its main function remains searching out the most advertised packaged food on the market, repackaging it, and then selling it at a markup to time-strapped consumers as a brand-new product. Berliant works very hard shopping for high-nitrite Oscar Mayer bologna, Tyson mystery meat, and high-fat Pillsbury Doughboy rolls to sell to all those lazy "Millenials." (He obviously didn't work too hard in school actually learning how to spell. It's Millennials, Berliant! Three Els and two Ens. If you're going to insult and castigate an entire generation of people, the least you can do is spell their cohort correctly and learn proper comma etiquette!)


Let, Them Eat Pizza With a Side of Pancakes. Rrrrich!


In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer published in 2001, Berliant talked about his company's ethos: Convenience, Convenience, Convenience.
  “The industry flat out has not been meeting the needs of a changing consumer world. Companies have put out low-quality low-end products. We bring higher-quality products and the comfort of brand to consumers. With the brands come an expectation of quality.”
 While the unhealthy food is designed to appeal mostly to those lazy kids he seems to so despise, adults scrambling from one crappy part-time job to the next can find that a Berliant ready-to-eat meal is as close as the neighborhood 7-11 or gas station vending machine. They can eat and gain comfort from brand names all in one meal-bolt. Prepackaged breakfast, lunch and dinner is a billion-dollar-a-year business. Sales are ballooning as fast as the waistlines of low-wage workers, stressed out on both cortisol and empty calories. 

  I imagine that if Hillary Clinton is elected to the White House, all of Michelle Obama's good work on healthy eating might be in danger of going right down the tubes. That is, if the research by Gilens and Page is correct, if it's true that political donors tend to get whatever they want. Perhaps Hillary, as a "pragmatic progressive" will split the difference and put pizza and vending machines back in lunchrooms as long as the kids are willing to work hard and clean the cafeteria and the bathrooms after they eat. It will certainly save on unionized janitorial overhead. Plus, it will bring back fond memories of the time when Bill triangulated with that daddy of all millennial-haters, Newt Gingrich, to end welfare as we know it. 

One of the places where Bill sent those welfare moms was his old sponsor, Tyson Foods. The women were "sanctioned" -- the Clintonoid euphemism for threatened cut-off of their benefits -- to go to work at this low-wage food factory and other "Direct Job Placement" centers in order to trim the welfare rolls. As Hillary bragged in her memoir, the "trimming" involved slashing mothers from public assistance at a rate of 60 percent. Poor women with very young children were, and are, "lifted out of poverty" by facing the choice between working and starving.

As the late Christopher Hitchens wrote in his blistering anti-Clinton polemic, "No One Left to Lie To," (published before he tragically went over to the dark side of neoconservativism)
Supplied by the state with a fearful, docile labor force, the workhouse masters are relatively untroubled by unions, or by any back-talk from the staff. Those who have thus been "trimmed" from the welfare rolls have done no more than disappear into a twilight zone of casual employment, uninsured illness, intermittent education for their children, and unsafe or temporary accommodation. Only thus - by their disappearance from society - can they be counted as a "success story" by ambitious governors, and used to qualify tightfisted states for "caseload-reduction credits" from the federal government. 
The chairman of Tyson, Hitchens wrote, was so thrilled with all the new cheap labor afforded by Clinton's Welfare "Reform" that he transformed his man-cave into a facsimile of the Oval Office, with even the doorknobs shaped in ovals to resemble chicken eggs.

As Tyson alum and loyal Hillary Clinton bundler Allan Berliant puts it to the youth of America: "You are entitled to nothing. You deserve nothing.  And nothing is ever, ever free. Work For It!"

Nothing will ever, ever change in Clinton World, no matter how populist and progressive Hillary Clinton makes herself out to be. 

She is marketing herself the same way that Berliant markets his junk food. She collects ideas and borrows sentences from the Bernie Sanders campaign, repackages them up into slick infomercials, and then passes them off as her own creation. 

Even her smile looks flash-frozen.


Workin It: Berliant and Clinton At a Fundraiser Last Summer.
Guests Were Invited to Pay $2,700 for Their Own Photo With Hillary

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Kitchen Sink #4: "Left-Leaning Economists"

Major Bernie Scandal Alert! Four Democratic economists who served at various times as economic advisers to Presidents Clinton or Obama have written a scathing open letter, accusing another economist not even affiliated with the Sanders campaign of doing math which does not add up to their unspecified specifications.

Gerald Friedman of UMass-Amherst, who recently received progressive accolades for his own scathing takedown of a Wall Street Journal hit piece falsely asserting that Sanders's single payer health care plan would bankrupt the middle class, now finds himself the target of attacks from the neoliberal centrist faction of the Democratic Party. And Bernie Sanders himself has been declared guilty by association.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, in one of a whole series of recent breathless posts damning progressive "unicorns," and other perceived enemies of the Neoliberal Order, is demanding that Sanders immediately disown Friedman -- with whom he has no direct association at all. "Sanders needs to disassociate himself from this kind of fantasy economics right now," Krugman shrilled. "If his campaign responds instead by lashing out — well, a campaign that treats Alan Krueger, Christy Romer, and Laura Tyson as right-wing enemies is well on its way to making Donald Trump president."

 As I responded in my published comment, this kind of fear-mongering McCarthyesque attack is reminiscent of the media hysteria over the Obama-Jeremiah Wright controversy during the 2008 campaign. As you may recall, Obama dutifully "disowned" Wright after the pastor preached what were deemed by the Establishment to be un-American sermons.

The source of the latest angst is a newer analysis by Friedman, leaked to CNN, which purportedly claims that Medicare for All would boost economic growth by more than five percent. 

The false equivalency engine immediately went into overdrive. The Four Wonks of the Neoliberal Apocalypse took up their pens of outrage, even going so far as to set up their own WordPress blog which they call "letters to sanders." So I guess we can expect more scathe in the future. Here is their first entry, in its entirety:
  Letter from Past CEA Chairs to Senator Sanders and Professor Gerald Friedman -- Posted on
Dear Senator Sanders and Professor Gerald Friedman,
We are former Chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers for Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. For many years, we have worked to make the Democratic Party the party of evidence-based economic policy. When Republicans have proposed large tax cuts for the wealthy and asserted that those tax cuts would pay for themselves, for example, we have shown that the economic facts do not support these fantastical claims. We have applied the same rigor to proposals by Democrats, and worked to ensure that forecasts of the effects of proposed economic policies, from investment in infrastructure, to education and training, to health care reforms, are grounded in economic evidence.  Largely as a result of efforts like these, the Democratic party has rightfully earned a reputation for responsibly estimating the effects of economic policies.
We are concerned to see the Sanders campaign citing extreme claims by Gerald Friedman about the effect of Senator Sanders’s economic plan—claims that cannot be supported by the economic evidence. Friedman asserts that your plan will have huge beneficial impacts on growth rates, income and employment that exceed even the most grandiose predictions by Republicans about the impact of their tax cut proposals.
As much as we wish it were so, no credible economic research supports economic impacts of these magnitudes. Making such promises runs against our party’s best traditions of evidence-based policy making and undermines our reputation as the party of responsible arithmetic. These claims undermine the credibility of the progressive economic agenda and make it that much more difficult to challenge the unrealistic claims made by Republican candidates.
Sincerely,
Alan Krueger, Princeton University
Chair, Council of Economic Advisers, 2011-2013
Austan Goolsbee, University of Chicago Booth School
Chair, Council of Economic Advisers, 2010-2011
Christina Romer, University of California at Berkeley
Chair, Council of Economic Advisers, 2009-2010
Laura D’Andrea Tyson, University of California at Berkeley Haas School of Business Chair, Council of Economic Advisers, 1993-1995
Mind you, this letter was written immediately after renowned economist Thomas Piketty published an op-ed in praise of Bernie Sanders and his tax-the-rich, New Deal agenda. It follows a grand total of 170 economists who last month wrote their own letter endorsing Sanders's and Elizabeth Warren's plan to break up the big banks. (h/t Meredith.)

 The letter from the Fantastic Four dovetails ever so nicely with a New York Times editorial posing as a news story by Jackie Calmes, whose unabashed slant-fest was obliterated very ably by Doug Henwood, writing for FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.)

Henwood notes that most Bernie-bashing from professional Left-Leaners uses the same formula. Show some initial surface sympathy for his agenda (I always loved Single Payer!) before immediately pivoting to concern-trolling its "impracticality" in the Current Climate, and then finally building up to a crescendo of outright derision and mockery and straw man attacks. The mockery, as practiced by Krugman's Puppies, Rainbows and Unicorn-Hating Coalition, has now achieved true art form, iconic status. Henwood also reminds us that concern-trolling economist Goolsbee is the same duplicitous political operative who once assured the Canadians that Obama didn't "really" plan to overturn NAFTA. Goolsbee, since leaving the Obama administration and writing nasty Open Letters, also advises hedge funds in his spare time.

I wrote two separate responses to both of Krugman's authority-appealing posts on the Four Worried Wonks:
The four worried wonks worked for two centrist administrations. They falsely equate fraudulent GOP trickle-down with righteous FDR-style trickle-up/opening of the floodgates.  Krugman tellingly does not define "winners and losers." Could it be that under a President Sanders, the losers would be the plutocrats and the winners ordinary people now struggling just to survive?
The Four Wonks of the Apocalypse work for a party which has not served the interests of the plebes since the Clintons surged to power on the second wave of Reaganism. This neoliberal "Third Way" is loosely defined as free market conservatism loosely papered over with "social responsibility." 
 The select Democratic Wonk Committee on Bernie-Bashing Paranoia is about the fortunes of the Party, not the fortunes of the people. Why else would the DNC try to limit its primary debates? They were worried that the "conversation" would extend beyond the acceptable arguments between centrists and right-wingers. As Simone Weil wrote, political parties have one main goal: their own continued existence and hold on power. Once they gain power, they tend to forget the basic social contract.
Many of us are simply disgusted with this spate of fear-mongering and concern-trolling. We're all too aware that recent columns by Brooks, Blow, Friedman and Krugman all sound the same. And no, they're not corrupt or looking for jobs. They're simply banal.
The only logical response to these elite "concerns" is a big, fat group Meh.
A big, fat Meh.

And my follow-up to his Worried Wonkopalypse follow-up post, demanding that Bernie disown Friedman, himself, and us..... because if he doesn't fall into line, we'll get ourselves a President Trump:
OK, now I get it. Gerald Friedman is to Bernie Sanders what Rev Jeremiah Wright was to Barack Obama. The concern trolls are demanding A Major Disowning Speech. They want reassurances from Bernie that the teeming masses are not really coming after the sensitive elites with their pitchforks. They want Lloyd Blankfein to get over his crippling pathological fear that millions of bank-evicted unemployed people are lurking just beyond his heavily guarded compound(s.) And all Blankfein ever said was that struggling people shouldn't count on getting Medicare and Social Security while he rakes in a cool billion!
I'm not a wonk myself, so I have no way of knowing whether Friedman's math adds up. But this is just a distraction. Nobody is asking Hillary Clinton how her own math adds up. Campaigns are by their nature aspirational rather than mathematical. Politicians do want people to show up to vote, or so I would assume.
 Bernie Sanders is being held up to an impossible standard.
I stand by my comment in the previous thread. This is all about the Wall Street wing of the Democratic establishment wanting to hold onto power. Lesser Evilism is way past its sell-by date. The days when pundits and plutocrats could manufacture the consent of the masses through fear and smears are gone, baby, gone.
Friedman doesn't work for Sanders. Nor does Sanders refer to the Four Worried Wonks as right-wingers. Nor is he treating them with any disrespect (though god knows they mightily deserve it.)
Update: The Unicorn-Hating Collective is now a news story unto itself. Legions of aggrieved Wonks are joining Krugman (and of course Hillary Clinton herself) in playing the victim card. The Bernie Bashers are getting bashed all over the place by mere plebes. They're getting called out on their insufferable wonkitude, and their feelings are apparently hurt. I mean, the fact that we live in the only country on earth without basic health care for all its citizens is simply a matter of charts and math that the wonks work so tirelessly to invent. The New York Times, as ever, is On It: 
But there may be something broader going on here beyond the specific disagreements about growth assumptions, or cost savings from a single-payer health system, or how to regulate the financial system.
Behind closed doors, among the left-of-center policy types who populate the congressional offices, executive agencies and think tanks of Washington, I’ve seen enough eye rolls when Mr. Sanders’s name comes up to suspect something more tribal is going on.
The wonkosphere vs. Bernie clash is not just a story of center-left versus left-left. It is also a clash between those who have been in the trenches of trying to make public policy for the last seven years versus those who can exist in a kind of theoretical world of imagining what public policy ought to be.
Don't you lowly people realize that Wonks work all night on your behalf? Do you really think that politicians only have to answer to their constituents? Bernie Sanders will never, ever be able to make nice with the Wonk Collective, which realistically admits that lobbyists and bankers are people, too!

The article conveniently forgets to mention that Bernie once suggested Paul Krugman, wonk extraordinaire, to lead the Treasury Department. Methinks those wascally wonks doth protest way too much.



Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Dispatches From Nevada

Note from Karen:

Reader E. O'Meara of Northern California has been emailing me about her adventures the past several days, canvassing for Bernie Sanders in Reno and training as a leader for this weekend's caucuses. With her permission, I am sharing her journey with Sardonicky readers. Some names, including that of the author, have been changed in order to protect their privacy. The emails have been very lightly edited.
  

February 14:

I am working as a nurse practitioner in my local county jail, which has half its 400 population comprised of immigration detainees. 

My girlfriend/fiancee lives in Reno. There was outreach to Northern California peeps (I live 126 miles from her house) to help with canvassing this weekend, and I volunteered. Two days before coming out we found out Bernie was actually going to be there for a rally prior to the canvassing. There were only a few hundred people who came to the Reno rally (it's good to see that Las Vegas rally was better attended), but the energy was so good it was almost overwhelming to me at times. We saw Bernie and his wife a few minutes after the (four I think) Secret Service men arrived. Bernie was pretty punctual. He spoke for about 12 minutes, didn't say anything new, but he did speak to the Nevada issue of the solar business being busted by the PUC (Public Utility Commission).

The volunteers did a good job of getting everyone who came to canvass into groups. My girlfriend, Karli and I were joined by a very cool retired Indian man (his bumper sticker said "Medicare for None" with the Romney/Ryan name and logo beneath it). We were sent to a very wealthy, very Republican area with lots of space between lots. We were unable to finish all the houses on our lists (I hit about 30 houses) before calling it a day. It was a pretty discouraging experience, canvassing that area.

Three interactions stand out.

The first one was a 74 year old woman who had been identified as a "lean Bernie" Democrat. I asked if she would be going to caucus, and she didn't hesitate to say "No. Bernie's too old".

The second one was at a house where a female voter had been identified as Independent, I think (for sure not Republican!). A ruddy-faced, mustached white male in his late 50's or older answered the door and wouldn't let me speak with the person in question. "I'm not voting for him because he's a socialist!" Okay, but may I speak to so-and-so? "We're not voting for him because he's a socialist!"

At a third house, I asked the man answering the door if he was going to the caucus. "No," he replied. "I'm going skiing."

Since tomorrow is a holiday (and I have it off because I belong to a union!), I am going to a caucus training at the Washoe County Democratic HQ. I will volunteer to work at the caucus next Saturday. I was told they have 600 precincts to oversee, and they won't have too many volunteers. Besides the usual stuff, they also need people to be on the lookout for illegal antics from the other side; they want people to record suspect behavior.

Karli and I went to see the Michael Moore movie ("Where To Invade Next") today. It's not showing in my town theater (such a redneck place it is), but I am taking my kids to see it an hour away this coming Wednesday evening because it is such an important movie. 

(Ed. note: So much for claims from Clintonites that Bernie is a one-note campaigner: The New York Times covered his Reno visit here. A more extensive account of the rally from the Reno Gazette Journal is here. )

Feb. 16:

I went to a caucus training on Monday at the Washoe County Democratic HQ.  I knew nothing about caucuses until this election. My girlfriend didn't even know Nevada had a caucus until this year.

Nevada switched from the primary to the caucus in 2008 with the help of Democrat Harry Reid, since an early Western state was wanted and the demographics in New Hampshire and Iowa weren't representing the party well anymore. The Republicans and Democrats are caucusing on different  dates, the former's being three days after the South Carolina primary. Independents can't participate in the caucus.

http://nvdems.com/caucus/how/

People must be in attendance at a caucus to let their will be known. The window for being allowed to get into the caucus is very small: 11 am to 12 pm for Democrats on Saturday, Feb. 20. The Republican caucus is on Tuesday Feb. 23 in the evening (they have to bring photo ID, but the Dems don't). For the Dems, one must be inside or in line by 12 pm. Anyone arriving after that time doesn't get to participate.

After formalities, people get into groups depending on their chosen candidate. Some people may be undecided, and they get their own group. Using a mathematical formula based on allotted delegates for that precinct, the number of voters present, and the number in the individual groups, "viability" is determined. If a group is not viable, its members may decide to switch to a different group or not be part of one, after members of the other groups have a chance to convince them to go to their side. Once the viable groups have been set, the number of delegates they have won are determined based on a mathematical formula, then chosen from the group to go on to the county convention. (Interestingly, an undecided group can potentially be viable.  It behooves each group to select their allotted number of delegates, because if they don't, the delegates that are then chosen by the Party don't get to go beyond the state convention. (It's county, state, then national)

Why a caucus over a primary? There is no way everyone who wants to participate can. Although a Saturday is preferable to a weekday, people must work. A one-hour window is seriously inferior to the 12-hr window when voting in person, or the days-long window for mail-in ballots. And what about voters who are home-bound? Agoraphobic? Not willing to sacrifice their weekend?

But I think I found out why: parties pay for the caucuses; taxpayers pay for the primaries. Nevada had a $500,000 bill one primary with a low turnout. Also, for whatever reason, the parties had wanted two early primaries and two early caucuses. Both of the primary slots and one caucus slot were already taken.
They need lots of volunteers to help with the 600 precincts in Nevada. We out-of-staters have been asked to show up at HQ at 9 am on caucus day and await instructions on where to go based on needs as they arise.

I'll write again after the Saturday caucus.