Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Cult of Russophobia

At the rate the American Inquisition is going, before long they'll require us to take a loyalty oath swearing that we're not Russian agents.

An op-ed published in Wednesday's New York Times comes mighty close, what with the accusatory headline "Why Don't Sanders Supporters Care About the Russian Investigation?" It is accompanied by a garish graphic of an American flag emblazoned with the visage of Vladimir Putin.

Since the whole piece, written by one David Klion, is built on a fact-free foundation of quicksand, his whole premise quickly sinks into the ridiculous. The lede paragraph is a masterpiece of the standard Russophobic form:
Nearly every day, new details emerge about the relationship between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. The extent of the alleged collusion, which may ultimately endanger Mr. Trump’s presidency, has yet to be determined, but the scandal has dominated news coverage and enthralled Washington.
Certainly, new stories emerge every day, but the details are seriously lacking, unless one counts the details of the speculations and the suppositions which substitute for clear, hard evidence. Even the so-called "smoking gun"  of Donald Trump Jr.'s email correspondence with WikiLeaks has already been exposed as a phony starter pistol. The original story in The Atlantic was misleading to the point of journalistic malpractice, since writer Julia Ioffe appears to have deliberately doctored one email with the result of altering its entire meaning. Of course, it's already way too late. It's enthralled Washington so much that it's already accepted as dogmatic fact by virtually the entire establishment pundit class.

And so naturally it behooves the Times to constantly remind readers that because RussiaGate has "enthralled Washington"  it behooves those doubters out there to jump on the enthrallment bandwagon. But in a good way, of course, not as a slave is in thrall to his master. They will gladly rent us the requisite ladders of opportunity to enthrallment Nirvana.

To try to prove his thesis, Klion names several prominent left-leaning writers, not all of whom are even Bernie Sanders supporters, who have cast doubt on the "narrative" and smeared it as variously a distraction, a conspiracy theory, a minor issue. And then he proceeds to one of the establishment's favorite methods: gaslighting.

If leftists refuse to believe that Russia has infiltrated our democracy, then they are also in cahoots with polluting capitalists. Klion writes,
American corporations have lobbied against recognizing Mr. Putin’s human rights abuses and have sought to exploit Russia’s natural resources. Energy companies like Exxon Mobil, whose former chief executive, Rex Tillerson, now serves as secretary of state, have partnered with Russia and have sought waivers from international sanctions to drill for oil in Russia. A new Cold War would be dangerous, but so would a warmer United States-Russia relationship that enriches oil company executives in both countries.
In other words, if you don't cheer for the new Cold War devised by liberal Democrats as a substitute for an actual New Deal platform to make your life better, then you will be partly to blame for a new Hot War funded by the climate change-denying oil companies. These are disturbing echoes of the neocon George W. Bush's Manichean admonition to patriotically support his illegal invasion of Iraq. You're either for us, or you're against us.

My published response:
 The headline implies that Bernie supporters are heretics for not "believing" in RussiaGate.

Despite what the pundits say, his supporters are no more a cult or a monolithic entity than are the supporters of other politicians.

Plus, not all leftists in this country are even Sanders supporters. There are plenty of people who think his ultimate function as a candidate was to herd disaffected people into the Democratic Party and into the voting booth for Hillary.

So please, credit the so-called heretics with a little nuance and ability to think critically. Speaking only for myself, and based on the evidence so far, I do think that Trump and his kin and associates had some pretty seamy dealings with Russian oligarchs, not least because the high-end Manhattan real estate empire at the center of their world is a prime place for foreign tycoons to park and/or launder their money. I hope the Mueller investigation, like the Paradise Papers, opens many cans of many worms.

Do I think that Putin literally "hacked" the presidential election, or swayed undecided voters through the placement of some truly cheesy Facebook and Twitter ads? No. And frankly, the Democrats' complaints that "Russia" is sowing social divisions in the US is laughable on its face. This red-baiting trope has been going on for about a century now. How about they take a good long look at the manufactured wealth inequality in this country, and admit that the big money which controls them is the real Enemy Within?

In other news-suppressing news, the Democratic Party-aligned Huffington Post scrubbed, with no explanation, an article on the origins of RussiaGate written by award-winning journalist Joe Lauria, author of "How I Lost, By Hillary Clinton" with a foreward by Julian (gasp!) Assange. You can, however, still read the forbidden material here.

In his Change.Org petition demanding restoration of his piece, Lauria writes,
Like the word fascism, censorship is over-used and mis-used, and I avoid using it. But I can come to no other conclusion than that this is an act of political censorship. I am non-partisan as I oppose both major parties. I am a reporter who follows the facts where they lead. And they lead to an understanding that the Jan. 6 intelligence “assessment” on alleged Russian interference in the election was based on opposition research, not serious intelligence work.
In the same week that the Huffington Post axed Lauria's article, the Russian Government-owned TV network RT America was pressured by the US Justice Department to register as a foreign agent. This draconian assault on the First Amendment follows on the heels of a hysterical hit job on RT funded by the Czech Republic-based "European Values" think tank - which just happens to be bankrolled by both the US Government and major Democratic Party donor George Soros. The report, written by Monika Richter, implicitly warns all prominent guests to stop appearing on the network, or else risk being branded a "useful idiot," or worse. Richter is "credentialed" by the Reuters Journalism Institute, which also happens to receive a lot of money from the ubiquitous George Soros.
  She names more than  2,000 names of the useful idiots who've appeared on RT, including such well-known US  figures as Robert Kennedy Jr., Ralph Nader, Robert Reich, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, Rep. Keith Ellison, Gen. (ret.) Wesley Clark, former Defense Secretary William Cohen, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sen. Chris Murphy, Sen. John McCain, and even former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Richter's shtick in her paranoid report is spreading conspiracy theories about facts that she doesn't like. She thinks, for example, that the idea that the US invaded Iraq under false pretenses is a conspiracy theory. She also thinks that the riots in Ferguson, Missouri were the result of a Kremlin conspiracy rather than the historical racial oppression and ongoing police brutality in this country.

And even when she grudgingly admits that RT performs laudable journalism,  "the critical point here is that RT’s treatment of these events is not motivated by a genuine commitment to principled, balanced journalism, but rather by opportunism to demonise the US government for its apparent contradictions and democratic shortcomings."

So add mind-reading to her many magical skills.

The truth can be so horrific sometimes that one simply has no other choice but to shoot its messengers - if one wants to continue collecting a paycheck, that is.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Moralizing Collides With Spectacle: The Louis C.K. - Obama Effect

Disgraced comedian Louis C.K. has not only had his movie premiere and TV deals cancelled after he confessed to masturbating in front of women. He's also been slapped with the ultimate punishment dreaded by A-Listers everywhere - he's been unceremoniously dumped from the latest in an interminable series of star-studded charity spectaculars which have come to substitute for public policy in this country.

HBO execs made the moralistic announcement that the reality-based selfish depravity of a comic, whose filthy, funny mouth has been so lucrative for them, will not be tolerated:
"Louis C.K. will no longer be participating in the Night of Too Many Stars: America Unites for Autism Programs, which will be presented live on HBO on November 18. In addition, HBO is removing Louis C.K.’s past projects from its On Demand services....”
 Jon Stewart is hosting Night of Too Many Stars, which will include stand-up performances, sketches and short films. Created by comedy writer and performer Robert Smigel, it raises money for autism schools, programs and services. C.K. was scheduled to appear along with the likes of Stephen Colbert, Abbi Jacobson, Jordan Klepper, Hasan Minhaj, John Mulaney, Olivia Munn, John Oliver, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and more.
The autism fundraiser has been held for many years, but this is the first time it is being nationally televised as a true media spectacular. Because in this age of record wealth inequality, it increasingly behooves wealthy liberal celebrities to ostentatiously "give back" before the largest possible audience as they inveigle their millions of fans into sending money for causes which used to be funded by taxing wealthy people like themselves to the hilt.

Federal funding for autism research has declined in recent years, like most social programs a victim of the bipartisan austerity imposed during the Obama administration.  But not to worry -  the ensuing cascade of fundraising extravaganzas on TV gives celebrities all the more free P.R. and airtime to say how much they hate Donald Trump and to virtue-signal how much nicer they are than that mean old president.

More ominously, though, these nonstop neoliberal charity bazaars give the uber-rich a chance to actually dictate policy. Witness the XQ Superschool Live education "reform" spectacular aired in September on all four major broadcast TV networks. The propaganda product of billionaire philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, the show was essentially one long infomercial against teachers' unions and for charter school privatization, corporate testing schemes, and the concentration of secondary school curricula to the STEM field.
Jobs... donated half of the reward for a $100 million competition calling for new high school designs. Roughly $10 million was awarded to 10 schools last year through the XQ Institute, an independent affiliate of the Emerson Collective, which Jobs started to focus work on social justice issues. XQ is continuing its work to use technology to “transform” high school, with the Web page promoting the show quoting Jobs as saying: “We all know America’s high schools need to be transformed to prepare students for jobs that don’t yet exist and a future that we can never see with perfect clarity.”
Into whose pockets all the money raised will actually go is also not seen with perfect clarity. But because Jobs inherited a fortune from her husband Steve, the co-founder of Apple, she apparently sees more clearly than most people, and therefore has no need to explain what, exactly, it is about high schools that actually need to be transformed. But I suspect that the technology used for this reform will have the ubiquitous Apple logo plastered all over it. With the magic  of unsullied star power, and billions of dollars and the co-optation of the "disruptive" discourse of social movements, public education is being turned into a private charity for the ultimate benefit, not of students, but of private corporations and oligarchs.

Laurene Jobs started her education privatization crusade in 2015 under the auspices of her think tank, the Emerson Collective, by enlisting the help of the Obama administration, including his first education commissioner, Arne Duncan. Duncan now serves as her managing partner, and both Obama and his wife Michelle began speaking at her think tank's events even before they left the White House. According to her website, Jobs plans a whole "series of ongoing conversations and efforts by the President and Mrs. Obama to explore partnerships with the private sector, non-profit organizations, NGOs, and other government entities that are committed to tackling violence, poverty, and unemployment in communities around the country. The Obamas say they look forward to working with organizations similar to CRED. Their eponymous foundation and the My Brother's Keeper initiative are both already committed to bringing much-needed opportunity expansion to Chicago neighborhoods."

Sadly, though,  Jobs's other brainchild, a liberal magazine to be run by former New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier, recently ran into its own Louis C.K.-type roadblock. It emerged that Wieseltier has had his own sordid history of sexual harassment in the workplace. If there's anything that the philanthro-capitalist class never likes to be confronted about, it's their hypocrisy. The dogma that their money possesses some kind of moral power over the rest of us must not be exposed as the fraud it is. And so we witness them breathlessly racing to cut all ties with the predators who give predatory capitalism such a bad rap. Laurene Jobs scrapped her whole magazine before the ink was dry on the revelations about her newest partner.

Celebrities, billionaires and former presidents are naturally drawn to natural disasters, as well as to the standard manufactured ones like "our failing public schools" and the "skills gap" which conveniently explains why workers are so poorly paid. So the trifecta of hurricane relief spectaculars this fall popped up almost faster than the ruling class racketeers can divest themselves of the latest predator. These disaster appeals are both substitute and supplement to the delayed and denied and deficient government allocation of funds to the victims.

Hurricane Harvey made the occasion especially heartwarming when all five living ex-presidents managed to put aside their pseudo-differences and war crimes to tell folks to send money, fast, and get FEMA off the hook. Their appeal for charity in lieu of a call for a massive public expenditure to get the downtrodden and displaced off the hook even garnered praise from the future living ex-president, Donald J. Trump.
 The stars got to show their faces, and their designer duds, and the regular folks out in the hinterland got guilted into sending in their ever-dwindling dollars to such money-laundering charities as the Red Cross. If George Clooney and Tom Hanks and Barack Obama are on the case, who needs the government? Meanwhile, actual hurricane victims are still faced with disease, homelessness, and joblessness as the stars go on to the next big noblesse-obligatory thing.

The next big thing for a few of them was canoodling at Barack and Michelle's  excellent propaganda reunion in Chicago last month. Although it didn't rate the star-studded TV spectacular treatment, it was live-streamed all over the planet. Chance the Rapper and Prince Harry of Britain showed up, along with Barack's favorite cultural sidekick, Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame.

Miranda has even taken time out of his busy charity performance schedule to schedule a few performances in Puerto Rico this winter. What's more important to starving, sick residents of a de facto US colony than a few hours of revisionist rap biography of the founding banker of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Slave?

Now, to be as perfectly clear as Laurene Jobs herself, the Obamas weren't money-grubbing for one specific cause or disaster other than their own future $500 million shrine. So to get the public on board with their zombie neoliberal agenda, they're just going the touchy-feely moralizing route for now. Any scolding they do is purely generic and not aimed at Louis C.K. or even at their erstwhile sugar daddy and BFF, Harvey Weinstein. The Obamas' new shtick is community organizing on an epic global scale.

According to Politico's coverage of the two-day event, Obama is staying true to form and still modestly "leading from behind." As political dynasty scion Caroline Kennedy schmoozed onstage with Miranda (or was it Prince Harry?) Obama had literally slipped into a back row seat, unannounced. Until he softly spoke up, that is, and the whole audience reportedly swooned at his blazing, amazing star power.

Who needs a roster of A-Listers when one is an A-List Superstar unto oneself? Who needs to agitate for gun control legislation just days after the latest massacre when all the world really needs is a 70s-style Encounter session with the Obamas? Their biggest claim to fame, after all, is that they avoided the usual slimy scandals during their entire eight-year stay in the White House. No extramarital affairs for Barack, no consulting astrologers or insider trading for Michelle. And let's face it: the Kill List president's extra-judicial drone assassinations of thousands of civilians simply do not count as a scandal in the moral political universe known as the USA. Unlike Louis C.K., Obama never operated the joystick himself. At the very worst, he just liked to watch.

As Politico frames it, if the Obama summit accomplished nothing else, it provided an escape from reality for the reality-based community. 
There was a morning meditation and yoga session, and an evening community concert with Chance the Rapper and The National. And in between breakout sessions with titles like “The Adventure of Civility” and “Who Narrates the World?,” people took pastel-colored chalk and filled out a blackboard customized with “I hope _______.” (Samples: “we speak better and listen,” “Americans will see each other,” “my nephews can escape toxic masculinity”).
“Therapeutic,” said one attendee. “The sanity bubble,” said another. An alternate reality, all the attendees at the kickoff of Obama’s new foundation acknowledged, some with nervous snickers, some with big, relieved belly laughs.
Who needs Louis C.K. with Obama still around to regale us into such paroxysms of yuks? He's even gotten the Emerson Collective's Arne Duncan to run interference for him against the hundreds of Chicago South Side residents who have turned out to protest the gentrification of their neighborhood and public park by his planned museum and professional golf course. To accomplish this repressive feat, the Obama Foundation has created a non-profit subsidiary whose only purpose is to convince residents that gentrification and globalization will literally save lives by helping get black boys off the streets and onto those strategizing ladders of opportunity. Now, where have we heard that joke before?

Obama even makes former President George H.W. Bush, who got a magical free pass from the media for hilariously groping women's behinds as "David Cop-A-Feel," look dour and dull in comparison.

Hilarity Ensues After Harvey: The Night of Too Many Presidents

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Trumpiversary Follies

Democrats swept the state houses of Virginia and New Jersey Tuesday while scoring dozens of victories in smaller races. This, according to mainstream liberal pundits, is both a slap in the face to Donald Trump and all the proof you'll ever need that the "monied burbs" that Barack Obama once owned have now returned to their pre-Trumpian state of sanity.

Self-congratulations are echoing throughout the Land of the Upper Ten Percent.

"Whoever said that identity politics is dead is brain-dead" they crow in unison. Now, they enthuse, let's get down to the hard work of wooing back the rest of the wealthy conservative turncoats to join us in common cause with all that the Democratic Party has to offer: transgender bathroom rights, ladders of opportunity, an ostentatious display of exotic diversity, and hatred of all things Russia and Donald Trump.

Oh, and forget about angry voters - especially non-credentialed angry white male voters. If you're mad as hell at anything except the permissible Donald Trump, you obviously are not college-educated and moderate enough for the New Democratic Party. As chronically overwrought New York Times columnist Charles Blow writes about his party's favorite deplorably nasty straw men:
We can’t warp liberalism into some sort of big-tent utopia where the lion can lie down with the lamb. We should stop trying to placate those who chafe at the very values that liberalism espouses. We don’t bend; we become a beacon.
We slough off this silly, racial romance dream of chasing chimerical, oppressed, forgotten, aggrieved, angry white men. Stop trying to convince us that their American dream is now a pipe dream. Stop trying to tell us that they alone should be the focus of our pity and the subject of our weeping.
 At this rate, Donald Trump might not even reach it to the Terrible Twos stage.  Only one year into his presidency, and still barely able to toddle and babble, he's already been sent to the Naughty Chair. Meanwhile, the hapless parental figures in the Democratic pundit class can't seem to make up their minds whether to brag, or to keep complaining about their defeat at the hands of a tantrum-throwing bully.

Katha Pollitt manages to outdo Charles Blow in the hand-wringing, hair-tearing follies department as she describes how her previously serene life has changed in the past year.
But the main difference is that I hate people now. Well, not all people, of course. Just people who voted for Trump. People who do their own “research” on the Internet and discover there that President Obama is a Muslim and Michelle Obama is a man. People who use the n-word and can’t even spell it right, because—have you noticed?—Trump supporters can’t spell. Well-off people who only care about lowering their taxes. People who said they couldn’t vote for Hillary because of her emails. Excuse me, sir or madam, can you explain to me what an email server even is? People who didn’t believe Trump would bring back coal or build the wall or Make America Great Again, but just wanted to blow things up. Congratulations! We are all living in the minefield you have made....
Actually, Trump voters are not the only people I hate. I also hate Jill Stein voters and Gary Johnson voters and Bernie deadenders with their ridiculous delegates math and people with consciences so delicate they could not bring themselves to pull the lever for Hillary so they didn’t vote at all. I hate everyone who thought there was no “real” difference between the candidates because Hillary was a neoliberal and a faux feminist and Trump was not so bad. I hate people who spent the whole election season bashing Hillary in books and articles and Facebook posts and tweets, and then painfully, reluctantly dragged themselves out to vote for her, as if their one little, last-minute ballot cancelled out all the discouraging and dissuading they’d spent six months inflicting on people. I especially hate everyone who thought that electing a reactionary monster would be okay because it would—or could, or might, who can tell?—bring on the revolution. Looking at you, Susan Sarandon and Slavoj Zizek! You are idiots and my heart seethes with wrath against you.
So much for "It's the Economic Inequality, Stupid!" as a "woke" Democratic rallying cry. It's all about the #Resistance of the affluent professional class against the Basket of Deplorables. It's all about keeping elite anti-democratic resentment alive as a substitute for social and economic justice for all. The New York Times gushed,
The American suburbs appear to be in revolt against President Trump after a muscular coalition of college-educated voters and racial and ethnic minorities dealt the Republican Party a thumping rejection on Tuesday and propelled a diverse class of Democrats into office.
From the tax-obsessed suburbs of New York City to high-tech neighborhoods outside Seattle to the sprawling, polyglot developments of Fairfax and Prince William County, Va., voters shunned Republicans up and down the ballot in off-year elections. Leaders in both parties said the elections were an unmistakable alarm bell for Republicans ahead of the 2018 campaign, when the party’s grip on the House of Representatives may hinge on the socially moderate, multiethnic communities near major cities....
 The Democrats’ gains signaled deep alienation from the Republican Party among the sort of upscale moderates who were once central to their coalition.
Democrats not only swept Virginia’s statewide races but neared a majority in the House of Delegates, a legislative chamber that was gerrymandered to make the Republican majority virtually unassailable. They seized county executive offices in Westchester and Nassau Counties, N.Y., and carried bellwether mayoral elections in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Manchester, N.H., all races that appeared to favor Republicans only months ago.
 The self-congratulators have somehow failed to notice that not all Democrats who won office this week are representative of the Monied Burbs. Many are actually of the socialist variety, or at least of the democratic-socialist variety. Not a few of the winning candidates were  even shunned by the same Democratic National Committee fundraising apparatus now patting itself on the back for winning back a handful of the hundreds of state seats lost to Republicans during the eight years of Obama.

In all, at least 15 Democratic Socialists were victorious nationwide on Election Day. This represents a 75 percent increase in seats won by members of Democratic Socialists of America in just the past year. One of them, Lee Carter, won his Virginia state legislative seat in the monied burb of Manassas. Something tells me he didn't run on a platform of tax breaks for the rich, with just a smidgen of trickle-down for transgendered residents and the requisite narrow number of minorities who've shown more than your average bootstrapping ability.

To the contrary: Carter was ignored by the centrist Democratic machine because he espouses Medicare for All and openly opposed construction of a gas  pipeline through residential neighborhoods which was supported by "moderate" state Democrats. In keeping with the party's red-baiting agenda, they trashed him as a "Stalinist."  Nevertheless, he beat the arch-conservative GOP incumbent by eight points.

The mainstream media is celebrating newly-elected Knoxville (Tennessee) City Council member Seema Singh Perez mainly on grounds of her gender and ethnic diversity while even the local newspaper skated past the equally important fact that she is a socialist.

Up in rural Cheektowaga, New York, where Trump yard signs dotted the landscape only a year ago, Democratic Socialist Brian Nowak won a seat on the Town Council. And in deep-red Pleasant Hill, Iowa, which is about as far away from the monied burbs as you can get,  Democratic Socialist Ross Grooters won his own municipal board seat. The list goes on and on.

There haven't been this many socialist victories in the United States since the Eugene Debs era. But you wouldn't know it from reading the wealth-serving New York Times and other mainstream outlets.

Neoliberalism will not go down without a fight. So stayed tuned as billions of dollars' worth of oligarch-funded political speech go soggily circling down the drain. Money still burbles in the burbs, of course, but not quite as loudly as the New York Times seems to think it does.


I almost forgot about this. Back on Monday, when polls showed that Virginia looked very dicey for the centrist gubernatorial candidate, and centrist Dems were in a frenzy of hand-wringing over the Donna Brazile revelations, the aforementioned Charles Blow attempted to somewhat distance himself from the party by writing that a little extra-party discourse might not be such a bad thing after all. Because whether from within or without the party, what's more important to desperate people than #RussiaGate and impeaching Trump? Certainly not economic and social justice for the bottom 90 percent. It's all about winning power and holding on to it at any cost.

He wrote, "Liberalism has leapt over the Democratic Party. Liberalism has its eye on a new beginning, while the mainstream party is stuck looking backward and bickering. The Resistance isn’t part of the old Democratic Party; The Resistance is the new Democratic Party, or at least its future."

Hmm... I guess he means the New New Democrats as distinguished from the Clintons' failed New Democrat coalition of "Third Way" neoliberals.

My published response: 
Wow, already a whole year since Trump "won" thanks to the miracle of the archaic Electoral College. Time has both flown by and oozed like rancid molasses. Every time I see his face on TV I feel like I'm watching a surreal pastiche of 1984 and Groundhog Day.

CNN broke into its coverage of the latest mass shooting Sunday in order to air his grotesque boilerplate jive from Japan. At two points. the transmission feed froze. The first image caught him in a snarling rictus, but with his words flowing on in distorted slow-mo. The second time, his mouth just gaped open with nothing coming out of it at all. Bingo!

And is it me, or do massacres seem to be occurring more frequently since Trump blustered his way into the highest office in the land? Before he came along, I like to think that people who leaned in that direction had at least partially internalized social taboos against acting out their violent fantasies. Now, not so much. Trump has made it safe to be a fascist again.

And this brings me to the Democrats. It's really getting kind of stale, blaming everything on RussiaRussiaRussia, especially because it was the $5 billion in free coverage gifted to Trump by the US media that made it impossible for anyone to avoid him. As Les Moonves chortled, "Trump may not be good for America, but he's damned good for CBS!"

And lighting a fire under the DNC's withered posterior may not feel good to the party elders, but it can and it must and it will be damned good for America.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Monsters of the Week

One man destroyed bodies, the other man destroyed souls. One was a marginalized loser, the other a powerful Hollywood mogul. But despite their  class difference, the sagas of Devin Kelley and Harvey Weinstein are eerily similar. That's because the institutions tasked with protecting the public from their extreme criminal predatory behavior were not only useless, they were complicit.

Kelley, who gunned down 26 people in a Texas church on Sunday, had once broken the skull of his toddler stepson, a felony for which he spent only one year in a military brig after pleading guilty in a court martial. And when he was dishonorably discharged from the Air Force, his superiors forgot to add his name to a national database which supposedly prevents dangerous people from purchasing firearms.

 It's also just come to light that he had escaped from a mental hospital after threatening his superiors. If Kelley's history of abuse didn't raise about a hundred red flags, what ever will? The system itself is incurably and incredibly sick. How did he pass mental screening tests to get into the armed services in the first place? 

For a clue, read "Irregular Army," in which Matt Kennard outlines how troubled young men, even gang members and neo-Nazis and convicted criminals, are increasingly being accepted by the Pentagon for training on how to handle lethal weapons and how to become expert sharpshooters and snipers. Some of them become recruiters themselves. Standards for basic intelligence and body weight also went out the window during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Meanwhile, just when you thought the story of serial rapist Harvey Weinstein couldn't get any worse, it just got much worse. Women who threatened to spill the beans on his criminal behavior were victimized a second time when Weinstein sicced lawyers and former Mossad agents as silencing or threatening tools. His operatives even pretended to be women's rights advocates as part of the ploy to importune victims and misdirect reporters to a "preferred narrative."  When that pretext wasn't feasible, he just went at it the old-fashioned authoritarian way: he paid spies to investigate and intimidate the journalists who were writing the stories.

David Boies, the celebrity lawyer who argued for marriage equality before the Supreme Court and who represented Al Gore in the 2000 contested presidential election recount case, drew up the contracts allowing for the dirty tricks and abuse. This ruling class racketeer also possibly violated both professional ethics and the law because he represented Weinstein at the same time he was on retainer for the New York Times, which broke the original stories on his long history of sexual abuse.

Despite all the horror, it is somewhat refreshing that, as Donald Trump marks his first year turning the US presidency into an international joke, the military-industrial-entertainment complex itself seems to be falling apart like a house of cards. (Here's looking at you, too, Kevin Spacey!)

Donna Brazile blew the whistle on the corrupt inner workings of the Clinton machine and the Democratic Party. A global consortium of investigative reporters has lifted a lid on the Paradise Papers, which detail how the world's wealthiest people hide their money from the tax collector. And that's only in the past week. Maybe there's still some room, after all, for truth and justice in the all-American way.

Friday, November 3, 2017

"We Want Information"

Despite what they claim, the congressional inquisitors who browbeat Silicon Valley executives this week are not particularly interested in suppressing those amateur-hour political ads coming out of "troll farms" with easily manipulated Russian I.P. addresses. Haven't any of them ever heard of proxy servers?

Their real goal seems to be gaslighting the American public into wondering whether that next protest march they join, or the next independent news site they click on is "legitimate" -- or as even the Democratic inquisitors put it, "real American."  And to make sure that the US public is getting the stern message, the committees are demanding that the tech giants Google, Facebook and Twitter willingly hand over information about their posters and users to Congress and, by implied extension, to the CIA and the FBI. And that is so weird. Because their demand simply reveals that the NSA, which was outed by Edward Snowden as the collector of every bit of Internet info on every man, woman and child in the world, is apparently not too adept at actually filtering out the mounds and mounds of cyber-information they continue to vacuum up, willy-nilly, for storage in a massive facility out in the Utah desert.

Watching Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) machine-gun out his accusatory questions at the bemused-looking tech lawyers and executives unpleasantly reminded me of the opening scene of the surreal British TV series called The Prisoner.

The co-equal partners of Congress and the "intelligence community" desperately want the private information on social media users which the tech giants have scooped up for their own purposes of advertising and endless profits. Reactionary politicians are using the contrived RussiaGate scare and "national security" concerns as the pretext to get what they want out of the sub-nation of Silicon Valley. "You have transformed the way we do everything from shopping for groceries to growing our small businesses," Warner, who made his own millions in tech and private equity, railed in righteous fury. "But Russia’s actions are further exposing the dark underbelly of the ecosystem you have created!"

Pop Quiz: Find the Dark Underbelly For Extra Points

"And if you won't do it, we will," vowed Dianne Feinstein (D-CIA), with the requisite scare-mongering about "us" being at war with Russia, and accusing the Kremlin of being the major sower of social divisions in the United States, simply by pasting up a bunch of truly cheesy-looking ads on the Internet.

This One Swayed Bernie-Supporting Atheists & Convinced Ted Cruz True Believers 

The aim of the congress-critters could not be any more transparent. By accusing a foreign power of creating social unrest in the most unequal advanced country on earth, they save themselves the trouble of exploring the true, historical roots of these social problems, not to mention doing anything about them. It all boils down to government of, by, and for an oligarchy which has replaced representative democracy.

It's easier for them to crazily claim that 10 million American citizens, or roughly one-thirtieth of the entire population, have been hypnotized into eyeballing an estimated 3,000 ads emanating from Petersburg. Even crazier is the claim by Facebook that more than 100 million - meaning one out of three Americans - viewed the ads. This exposure allegedly has caused people to start hating individuals and groups they would not otherwise have hated, and voting for a reality show huckster they would not otherwise have even noticed outside the $5 billion worth wall-to-wall free coverage of his hate-speech granted him by the domestic mainstream media. These claims simply beggar belief.  

  Despite carefully labeling their witch-hunt a patriotic effort to weed out Putinesque propaganda, committee members did slip up a few times during their series of hearings, admitting that they're also trying to suppress or weed out left-leaning domestic news sites and blogs and social justice organizations. During the House's own separate fishing expedition, Intelligence Committee Co-Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) groused that search engine algorithms don't do enough to cull any kind of content that is "fear-based, or anger-based." In other words, this is any content not sponsored by corporations, such as on the fear-mongering terror channel, CNN, or the anger-spreading, lie-spreading Fox News.

Why doesn't Schiff just cut to the chase and add some more oomph to the Congress-enabled opioid epidemic by giving every American a lifetime prescription for Xanax or Valium? We simply can't have the poor, the overworked, the underpaid, the jobless and the uninsured getting so damned mad all the time about their all-American allotted stations in life.

On the one hand, elected officials bitch and moan that people are too dumb to figure out that a primitive cartoon ad which casts Hillary Clinton as the devil attacking Jesus isn't really Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, they bitch and moan that people are too smart for their own good, and know only too well how badly their leaders are screwing them over. 

Congress wants to have it both ways. They want a populace smart enough to track down approved sources of information, and then limit their consumption to six major media conglomerates. They also want a populace dumb enough to actually believe what these six major conglomerates spoon out to them.

Meanwhile, they act out their drama of disingenuous confusion over this whole contrived chicken and egg dilemma. Which came first: the social unrest fueling the inflammatory content, or the inflammatory content fueling the social unrest? They might as well ask which came first: the pamphlets of the Sans-Culottes inflaming hatred for the French monarchy, or the French monarchy inflaming the hatred of the revolutionary masses? Congress is suddenly pretending that this question is not as old as humankind itself. Maybe they've been spending too much time watching and appearing on corporate propaganda-cum-news shows.

This latest inquisition might look like a mere fishing expedition for a relative handful of Russian trolls. What it is in reality is a shot across the bow against the First Amendment itself.

"We're just getting started," huffs Adam Schiff.  He's gung-ho for a brand new piece of legislation, oxymoronically called the "Honest Ads Act," or HAA. 

The Don Drapers of Madison Avenue must be laughing their asses off on that one, as they market the painkillers along with the drugs to counter opioid constipation. Be very afraid of cartoon Trumps and Clintons and pay proper attention to the diet scams, the local dark money political attacks, the banks, the airlines, the luxury cars, and the military recruitment come-ons produced for your viewing and reading pleasure by the six major media conglomerates. Join the defense of capitalism on steroids. It may not be truthful or just, but it's definitely the all-American way.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Donna Brazile, Whistleblower

The former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee has just thrown erstwhile pal Hillary Clinton right under the proverbial bus. Like so many other "woke" elites popping up like acne all over the face of the media-political-entertainment complex, Donna Brazile is rushing to cash in on her own disingenuous newfound awareness. It is suddenly so cool to admit that there is graft and corruption and fraud and abuse going on all over the place. You get instant good press whenever you screw up your courage to let the public in on all the "open secrets" of the high and mighty.

 Donna Brazile is the first, but hopefully not the last, high-ranking elite Democrat to finally screw up enough courage to share the dirt on Hillary. You might say she is the Ashley Judd of the political wing of the political-media-entertainment complex, except that in no way can she be considered the "victim" of a predator. She was more in the enabler class, such as those who knew about Harvey Weinstein for decades and still kept silent.

 The problem is that after awhile, belated celebrity regrets from high places can get to sound hypocritical, especially when the only price the revealed culprits ever seem to pay is some luxury therapy, or a non-disclosure agreement, or a get-out-of jail wrist-slap involving a civil fine.

And Donna Brazile is more preposterous than most of the Johnnie-come-lately's, especially when she claims that she did all this supposed "muckraking" for her new BFF, Bernie Sanders. He was cheated out of the nomination, and Donna Brazile is here to vindicate him by finally - finally! -  telling the truth as she knows it. Of course, it's not anywhere near the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Brazile is not about to destroy her own already-shaky reputation in the process of selling her "tell-all" potboiler of a book.

Brazile, savvy operator that she is, is unabashedly slathering herself with protective Bernie Sanders ointment and importuning him in the process. She knows which way the political wind is blowing. She knows that Bernie is now the most popular politician in the country.

 So in pleading total and unbelievable ignorance of the money-laundering operation at the very heart of her organization, Brazile is like the pathetic getaway driver in a bank heist. "It wasn't me, officer! All those bags full of marked cash exploding into a purple cloud as I drove? They not only blinded me, they gagged me!  I thought we wuz driving to the annual charity bazaar!"

More than a year after the heist, Donna Brazile is suddenly remembering a thing or three. So in exchange for a lighter sentence in the annals of revisionist history and for a generous publishing advance, she's turning informer and singing like a bird.

The big money scam at the center of the Clinton/DNC operation allowed deep-pocketed but maxed-out donors to give another $353,450 to an entity called the "Hillary Victory Fund," which then sent the money in $10,000 increments to some 30 state parties for ostensible use in their own local campaigns. The catch was that the "non-battleground" states were only allowed to keep a very tiny portion of this money. The rest was funneled right back to Hillary's Brooklyn headquarters.

Although the existence of this laundered slush fund became common knowledge in April 2016, when Margot Kidder broke the story on CounterPunch and other outlets soon followed up, Donna Brazile proclaims herself absolutely flabbergasted when she read about it the following July, in some of the leaked emails.The most shocking reality to Brazile was that Hillary Clinton was a grasping authoritarian, personally bailing out and imperiously controlling the DNC with wads of that ill-gotten cash - long before securing the nomination.

Brazile said and did nothing at the time. And while she now pats herself on the back for vindicating Bernie Sanders, she also passive-aggressively throws him under the bus by claiming that when he learned the details of the graft, he kept quiet about it too. Defeating Trump, even at the cost of their own moral values, was the only thing that really mattered to both of them.

Despite her firing from CNN last year for sneaking a question to Hillary Clinton prior to a debate with Sanders on that cable channel, Brazile now hilariously pretends to have entered a recovery program for enablers - but only after she'd eagerly helped Clinton to get away with it.
I'd promised Bernie when I took the helm of the Democratic National Committee after the convention that I would get to the bottom of whether Hillary Clinton’s team had rigged the nomination process, as a cache of emails stolen by Russian hackers and posted online had suggested. I’d had my suspicions from the moment I walked in the door of the DNC a month or so earlier, based on the leaked emails. But who knew if some of them might have been forged? I needed to have solid proof, and so did Bernie.
 So I followed the money. My predecessor, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had not been the most active chair in fundraising at a time when President Barack Obama’s neglect had left the party in significant debt. As Hillary’s campaign gained momentum, she resolved the party’s debt and put it on a starvation diet. It had become dependent on her campaign for survival, for which she expected to wield control of its operations.
It's getting to be very crowded under the Donna Bus. Can't you just picture  neglectful, narcissistic Barack curled up beside lackadaisical flunky Debbie as both of them fight for air and space in the pages of Brazile's truthy confessions? Since Brazile unquestioningly accepts the notion that the theft of the DNC emails was a Russian hacking operation and not an inside job, you also have to wonder whether the imputation of mere neglect and stupidity to two powerful Democratic politicians isn't also a useful cover for their own unethical, if not criminal, complicity.

While Brazile calls her book "Hacks," she sadly isn't talking about herself and other party operatives and factotums and corporate media pundits. She's talking about the Russians. If it weren't for the Russians and the leaked emails, she implies, she wouldn't be having to cry all these crocodile tears in her incipient best-seller.

Meanwhile, her complaint that Obama selfishly left the Democratic Party high and dry and $24 million in debt after his 2012 run rings absolutely true. He created a vacuum absolutely ripe for Clintonian graft and control. The fact that nearly a thousand Democratic seats in state and congressional elections disappeared during his eight-year tenure does point to one man sucking up all the money for his own political gratification at everyone else's expense.

Although a power broker in the Democratic Party for decades, Brazile asserts it wasn't until taking over as interim chair after the 2016 convention that her ingenue eyes were opened by Gary Gensler, the former Goldman Sachs banker and Obama financial watchdog who went on to head Clinton's campaign finance division.
...I was livid. Not at Gary, but at this mess I had inherited. I knew that Debbie had outsourced a lot of the management of the party and had not been the greatest at fundraising. I would not be that kind of chair, even if I was only an interim chair. Did they think I would just be a surrogate for them, get on the road and rouse up the crowds? I was going to manage this party the best I could and try to make it better, even if Brooklyn did not like this. It would be weeks before I would fully understand the financial shenanigans that were keeping the party on life support.
Weeks? It's starting to sound as though Brazile was in a state of self-serving and party-serving denial, or at worst, cynically "running out the clock" until Election Day.

If she isn't careful, Brazile even threatens to overtake Hillary herself in the Blame Game Steeplechase, not to mention topping her on the Amazon and New York Times bestseller lists:
I wanted to believe Hillary, who made campaign finance reform part of her platform, but I had made this pledge to Bernie and did not want to disappoint him. I kept asking the party lawyers and the DNC staff to show me the agreements that the party had made for sharing the money they raised, but there was a lot of shuffling of feet and looking the other way.When I got back from a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, I at last found the document that described it all: the Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America.
That, right there, is the big tell. Donna Brazile was not worried enough to cancel her annual vacation in Martha's Vineyard, the playground of the rich and famous and well-connected. In her new career as an elite whistle-blower, she wants you to know that she's still got a lot more clout and leisure time than most people.
 The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and (Clinton campaign manager) Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.
I had been wondering why it was that I couldn’t write a press release without passing it by Brooklyn. Well, here was the answer.
Donald Trump is going to have a field day with this. And sad to say, he'll be perfectly justified in using it as a deflection and distraction from his own campaign's indicted money-laundering operators. 

Think of Donna Brazile's book as a preemptive unofficial plea deal. After all, if Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta can get caught up in the special prosecutor's net, none of them should be considered immune.

Meanwhile, the real distraction of these palace intrigues is that they divert media attention from such bipartisan plots as cutting social programs in order to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthy.

So many scams, so little time.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

More MIsery of the Elites

Paul Krugman's latest is yet another noodle-lashing of those nasty Republicans and their foul donor class whose added tax cuts won't put the slightest dent into their pre-existing conditions of meanness and misery.

The wealthy donors for whom the G.O.P. will apparently do anything, up to and including covering up for possible treason, will get no joy from their tax cuts.
I don’t mean that history will judge them harshly, although it will. I don’t even mean that plutocrats as well as plebeians will eventually suffer if America becomes a lawless, authoritarian regime. I mean that a few hundred thousand dollars extra will do little if anything to make the already wealthy more satisfied with their lives.

You might well ask, who cares? Even if tax cuts would make the rich joyful, this shouldn’t count against the sheer misery Republicans are trying to impose on the tens of millions of people they’re trying to deprive of health care, food stamps, disability benefits and more.
Still, for some reason I find it fascinating that all this misery, plus the possible destruction of constitutional government, may happen without even making the intended beneficiaries happy.
My published response: 
  Making this all about the feral GOP donor class lets the "good rich" off the hook. It isn't a matter of Republicans vs Democrats. It's a matter of the rich versus the rest of us. And it's bipartisan. Why else are "centrist" Democrats, like Wall Street mogul Steve Rattner, so rabidly against Medicare for All? 
As Gilens and Page established in their study of affluence and political influence, even most wealthy Democratic donors are against increased spending for public education and higher taxes to pay for true universal health care. As a result, more often than not, the beholden Congress does the exact opposite of what the voters want and need.
And as Forbes's latest annual wealth list reveals, the 400 richest US billionaires now own as much wealth as the bottom 60% of the population combined. This obscene inequality is making even the ultra-rich so nervous that one UBS banker suggested a "cure" of more public exhibits of plutocratic art, and more investment in sports teams. This noblesse oblige would not, however, extend to actual free admission for the public. Even the despots of the crumbling Roman Empire let their citizens watch the gladiators get killed for free.
So Trump isn't the only clueless tycoon who thinks that his dollars are equivalent to IQ points. Even if he were kicked out tomorrow, there's plenty more where he came from.

It's total war. It's 400 plutocrats' combined net worth of $2.68 trillion against the rest of us. It's the antithesis of democracy.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Misery of the Elites

I've always been a sucker for Halloween lit, so when I first glanced at Ross Douthat's latest New York Times column, my heart went pitter-pat with crazed excitement. Since he titled his effort "The Misery Filter" I thought it might be a squeamish conservative's guide to reading the Stephen King bestseller of the same name.

Reader, I read it. And its hypocrisy was every bit as terrifying as anything Edgar Allan Poe could ever have dreamed up.

For those of you who've blessedly forgotten the Reagan Wonder Years of the 80s, King's Misery is the story of a pulp fiction writer who is imprisoned and hobbled by a psychotic serial killer nurse named Annie Wilkes. She is so smitten with her captive's series of books about a heroine named Misery that she keeps him alive just so he can type out the next episode, exclusively for her. It's a kind of gender-reversal retelling of the Scheherazade story.

But much to my disappointment, it turned out that Ross isn't into Grand Guignol black comedy at all. Like so many of his Republican ilk, though, he is suddenly very much into "wokeness." The same misanthropes who've been howling like werewolves for decades about "unassimilated illegals"  and lazy "welfare queens" are suddenly realizing that empathy for others might be the better tactic if they hope to have a respectable journalistic career in this Trumpian age of cruelty.

Of course, when these conservative types talk about empathy, what they really mean is empathy for one of their own class or profession. This empathy tends to rise to the surface whenever one of them gets stricken with a terminal disease or other unexpected bit of bad luck. Even then, they persist in narrowly framing the definition of loving-kindness in terms of the political corporate Duopoly. In young Ross Douthat's own tell-tale column, the scolding is in terms of that old Nixonian standby, the "generation gap."

Naturally, the meme of the cluelessness of the generic college student is an ideal scapegoat for the causation of Trump. Those privileged young-uns, those coddled snowflakes, so totally explain why Donald Trump won, and Hillary Clinton did not.
Because this seems to me to be the signal failing of modern education — visible among my own peers, now entering the time of life when suffering is more the weather than a lightning strike, but especially among the generation younger than us, who seem to be struggling with the contrast between what social media and meritocracy tell them they should feel and what they actually experience.
In America we have education for success, but no education for suffering. There is instead the filter, the well-meaning deception, that teaches neither religious hope nor stoicism, and when suffering arrives encourages group hysteria, private shame and a growing contagion of despair.
How to educate for suffering is a question for a different column. Here I’ll just stress its necessity: Because what cannot be cured must be endured, and how to endure is, even now, the hardest challenge every one of us will face.
Even on Halloween, Douthat can't face the awful truth: that the force enabling Trump is the record economic and social inequality causing all this misery in the first place. Douthat's own clogged filter chugs out the same old exhaust, refuses to acknowledge that the polar opposite of empathy is not ignorance. Rather it is cold-blooded greed. It's personified not just by Trump, but by the outlandishly powerful, blood-sucking predators of the global oligarchy, a club in which only six or eight billionaires own as much wealth as the bottom half of the entire world.

 Therefore, Douthat has fashioned something called the "misery filter" - the ability of the coddled to ignore suffering, and the falsely equivalent incapacity of the suffering to embrace the virtues of stoicism, and or noble acceptance of their lots in life. It sounds every bit as appetizing as the medieval scold's bridle.

My published response:
 "What cannot be cured must be endured" was also the dogma of the Calvinist settlers who landed on Plymouth Rock. This cruel philosophy is the entire basis of wealth for the deserving few, and poverty for the unworthy masses.
Stoicism is what the ruling class dictates to the underclass as justification for their membership in the Ebenezer Scrooge Club. As Princeton's Gilens and Page established in their study of affluence and influence, the very wealthy simply don't want to be taxed to make the lives of ordinary people better. Rather than admit this selfishness, though, they preach such beatitudes as "blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Or, if they're really mean and nasty, they hire"values" politicians who preach to hungry children: "Those who do not work shall not eat."
In other words, there will be no decent wages, no secure jobs, no well-funded public schools and no guaranteed health care on Planet Plutocrat. Forget educating for suffering, Ross: the hyper-rich are desperate to privatize education to regiment the future wage slaves of America while putting all the dividends into their own deep pockets.
 Before people can develop hope, or stoicism, their oppressors need to develop some cognitive empathy. They should stop hoarding and virtue-signaling and lecturing people, and start imagining what life is really like in an oppressed person's shoes.

There's cruelty, and then there's benevolent paternalism. Both are inherently anti-democratic.


Since reading Douthat's version of misery left me with an unhealthy craving for some real Stephen King,  I picked up a book of his called Grave New World. I hadn't seen it on any recent bestseller lists, so I'd assumed it was a sequel to Pet Sematary or The Shining, and that I'd missed it.

Much to my horror, it was not only written by a different Stephen King, but by a Stephen D. King who is a chief economic advisor to the monster called HSBC. This is another too-big-to-die multinational behemoth, the seventh largest bank in the world. Among other things, it's been accused of money laundering for international drug cartels. Despite (or more aptly, because of) this criminal background, it thrives and it grows and it devours.

So, while King's book is in part yet another apologia from yet another "woke" neoliberal, at least it's a lot more honest than what Ross Douthat has to offer. For one thing, the "other" Stephen King outright accuses the saintly Barack Obama of lying about the benefits of the moribund Trans-Pacific Partnership. King acknowledges it was never a free trade deal at all, and that Obama's claim that it would protect the workers of the United States is ridiculous on its face. The TPP essentially was the core of Obama's aggressive "pivot to China" in the selfish interests of US-based corporations and billionaires.

The two Stephen Kings actually do have something in common: a macabre sense of humor. 

In his time-travel novel November 22, 1963 the novelist King describes the future in a world where John F. Kennedy was never assassinated. The 21st century he envisions is a dystopian mess ruled by President Hillary Clinton.  (To be fair, not even Stephen King saw Donald Trump coming.)

The economist King, on the other hand, wrote his book after Trump's election. In his version of events, although Hillary Clinton didn't get to reign in Dystopia USA, she did help to create it. She just couldn't hide her elitism, even flaunted it proudly in the form of a $12,495 Armani jacket at the New York City celebration of her primary victory over Bernie Sanders. "She fooled nobody," he notes drily. (Did I mention that he is British?)

King the economist also mocks the elitist horror of all things Trump, most notably the dirge over the death of "international norms" as moralized by the exceptional United States:
Too often, the three words used by politicians and news organizations lazily seeking to establish some sense of moral superiority are 'the international community.' If the government of a particular nation acts in a way that 'draws condemnation' from the international community, then it has apparently done something very bad indeed. If it has merely acted in a controversial way - perhaps impulsively, without spending enough time weighing up the evidence - its actions may be 'frowned upon by the international community.' If, alternatively, a government has done something that appears to be morally upstanding, its actions are 'applauded by the international community.'
King, in a refreshing departure from the wit and wisdom of Ross Douthat, aptly notes that the real division is not between political parties, or ethnicities, or genders, but between rich and poor. "That our international representatives tend to be more comfortable in each other's company than they are with the citizens they are supposed to represent is, in itself, a serious challenge to globalization, particularly if they insist on looking down on their fellow citizens from a great height," he writes.

While the novelist Stephen King is commonly lambasted by "serious" literary critics as being two-dimensional and lurid, the economist/historian Stephen King is lambasted for being too glum. 

In its own review,The Economist sniffed at his prescriptions, which include an economic United Nations and a breakup of the Eurozone. 

They didn't even like his entertaining closing chapter, a Grand Guignol imagining of Ivanka Trump as the GOP's 2044 presidential nominee (rather than as an inmate in the penthouse of a Club Fed.)  She enthuses to loud and sustained applause:
 Ladies and gentlemen. As president, I will always make sure that the United States of America is in control. I will engage only with those countries that believe 100 percent in the American way. And those who don't can expect to be faced with the full force of my proposed Pacifying Protectionist Regime (PPR). I'm fed up with countries using their cheap labour to steal from good, honest American workers. So tonight I pledge to protect remaining American jobs come what may!

 They don't call Economics "the dismal science" for nothing, even when the misery is so hilarious as to be absolutely supply side-splitting.