Monday, April 24, 2017

"Shattered": A Slog of a Reading Experience

 It's not until the end of their gossipy rehash of the doomed Democratic presidential campaign that the authors of Shattered finally get around to dishing out their biggest scoop.  RussiaGate was the brainchild of Hillary Clinton herself. Her campaign has never really ended at all, because it was just one subsidiary of the Clintons' vast financial and political global empire.

So once she got past the brief shock of "conceding gracefully" to Donald Trump, Clinton was back in campaign mode with a vengeance. Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen write:
On a phone call with a longtime friend a couple of days after the election, Hillary was much less accepting of her defeat. She put a fine point on the factors she believed cost her the presidency: the FBI (Comey), the KGB (the old name for Russia's intelligence service) and the KKK (the support Trump got from white nationalists.)....

"She wants to make sure all these narratives get spun the right way," this person said.

That strategy had been set within four hours of her concession speech.
 Clinton operatives got right to work in Brooklyn headquarters. "For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument."

And thus does Hillary's campaign as a sort of empress in exile continue. After a much-publicized sojourn in the woods designed for purposes of humanization, she has emerged as the face of Resistance,Inc. Still not learning the lesson of what happens to an anointed presidential candidate who abandons the working class, she's restricted her emergence only to those locales where the rich and famous gather. Her most recent event was, ironically enough, at a Tribeca Film Festival discussion about saving elephants.

I'm a person who can never quit a book once I'm past the midway point, so I spent much of the weekend reliving the depressing slog that was the Hillary Clinton coronation crusade. If you happen to enjoy reminiscing about the pettiness and backbiting and divide and conquer tactics of any office job you've ever held, then this book will truly resonate. Shattered has the same dull throbbing effect as discordant church bells echoing through the Slough of Despond.

  To get Hillary's minions to talk to them, Parnes and Allen promised each of them total protection and anonymity in order to elicit maximum invective and optimum dirt. The authors are quick to confess that on the numerous occasions when they purport to know what their sources were thinking, they mean that their sources actually told them what they were thinking. You'd think that stream-of-consciousness was a whole new literary device in nonfiction political writing.

If their thought-narrative explanation is true, then the gossipy sources of Shattered include not only the hired help, but such luminaries as Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton. Obama, for example, "thought" that Hillary looked sick and terrible at the Democratic National Convention. Bill "thought" that Donald Trump was lowlife scum for bringing Bill's female victims to one of the debates. Bill, alone out of all the clueless people who appear in Shattered, had bad vibes about his wife's chances from early on. He correctly thought, in several sentences and over many pages, that the election was going to be a repeat of Brexit. He comes across as one of the few intelligent people in this whole literary slog, as a matter of fact.

Hillary herself is directly outed as a source for the book via this passage:
'I'm no longer a candidate or public official,' she thought. I'm not going to be the leader of a party in the future. I want to exit with grace - and do it quickly.'
And we can assume that her next unspoken thought was to come out of the woods after the shortest possible decent interval in order to force an exhausted public to relive the campaign into eternity and beyond.

Shattered is being widely praised (and maligned, as the partisan case may be) as a scathing exposé of Hillary Clinton and her cadre of grasping sycophants. But the book only scratches the surface of the rot, delving as it does mainly into gossip and character attacks. There is no reporting on such dirty Party tricks as the herding of Vegas casino workers into one huge venue to force public bloc voting in the Nevada caucus, and the later purging of voter rolls in the New York primary. There's no reporting on the scheme to bypass campaign financing laws by directing her donors to contribute to state parties, which then rerouted the cash right back to her. The authors, who so ably burst the bubble in which the Democratic nominee and her campaign resided, themselves write from deep within the bubble of establishment Beltway journalism. Their previous book about Clinton's reign as Secretary of State, for example, was so fawning to powerful actors that it was considered "required reading" for Washington insiders.

No wonder that People on the Inside were so ready, willing and able to anonymously spill their deepest and nastiest guts and thoughts to this reporting duo. It must have helped immensely that co-author Jonathan Allen is a revolving door alumnus himself, swirling at various times between working for politicians and covering them as a Beltway journalist. At one point, he ran former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz's congressional PAC. Since DWS is treated harshly in this book - even her curly hair is witheringly mocked - I can only assume that the experience ended as badly for Allen as the experiences of many a Clinton operative given leave to speak off the record, in the spirit of operative solidarity.

And it does get nasty. Campaign Manager Robby Mook, for example, seems to have been universally disliked.

"He was more interested in "maintaining the castle than winning the war," an unnamed somebody groused.

And Mook wasted no time in neutralizing the worshipful founders and volunteers of the Ready for Hillary super PAC once their free services were no longer required. "As one Democratic insider familiar with Mook's thinking put it, 'When you're done with a condom, you throw it out.'"

Throughout the book, Hillary herself wobbles between two stereotypical roles: victim and bitch. Her heart really wasn't ever in it, we're told at the outset.The only reason she ran was because she thought nobody else in the party could win. Her big mistake was then to assign too many cooks to one curdling pot.

There were so many actors and so many servants that "Clintonworld looked like a traffic jam on a Venn diagram, with so many interlocking and concentric circles that it was next to impossible to determine who was in Hillary's ear."

She "had set up rival power centers everywhere. And no one had enough authority to make the others play nice. Nor was anyone empowered to both enforce Hillary's will and tell her when she was wrong without fear of reprisal."

As a further indication of their own Washington media insularity, Parnes and Allen dutifully toe the line in parroting the disdain which the establishment had and still has for Bernie Sanders and his supporters. He is once again stereotyped as an old coot with the cheap suits and the wild hair and the flailing arms. The phrase "pie in the sky" is the common descriptor of his campaign platform throughout the book. Just because they aim to tell the whole unvarnished truth about Hillary Clinton doesn't mean they want to do any favors for Bernie, whose fans are characterized throughout the volume as "dead enders" and "haters."

In the chapter "Feeling the Bern," the co-authors just can't resist indulging in the usual silly false equivalency. When you adhere like a tick to the extreme center, there can be no discernible difference between the radicals of the Tea Party and the radicals of Occupy Wall Street:
"They scapegoated different segments of society -- immigrants on the right and bankers on the left, for example." 
Yep, those poor Wall Street tycoons take just as much undeserved crap as a sub-minimum wage farm worker or restaurant line cook.

Allen and Parnes are also careful to disguise the lobbying career of Minyan Moore, one of Hillary's "Super Six" cabal of unpaid secret campaign overseers. While working for the campaign, Moore continued her employment with Dewey Square, a notorious astroturf operation responsible for crafting such sleazy initiatives as Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson's Fix the Debt initiative to cut Medicare and Social Security. The authors don't inform their readers about this fact, because generalized political corruption is not a part of their chosen narrative. Instead, they describe Dewey Square as a public service organization.

Once I got past the chapter on Bernie, I started to read with a more critical eye. It dawned on me that Parnes' and Allen's main self-assigned task was to critique a candidate who failed to protect the endangered Neoliberal Project for the benefit of the establishment. Hillary wasn't as suitably proficient as Barack Obama. She failed to co-opt the rabble. Once I received that epiphany - that the authors of Shattered have no beef with the actual oligarchic system -  their tell-all tome lost much of its muckraking luster for me. It became a slog, something to be gotten through.

This is not to say that are no masterful barbs and illuminating goodies to enjoy during the rehash of this memory lane trip through political hell. The following anecdote, about an August 2015 conference call in the wake of Hillary's private email server scandal, left me both laughing and wondering who to despise more: the Clintons, or their spineless careerist minions:
Hillary's severe, controlled voice crackled through the line first. It carried the sound of a disappointed teacher or mother delivering a lecture before a whipping. That back end was left to Bill, who lashed out with abandon. Eyes cast downward, stomachs turning - both from the scare tactics and from their own revulsion at being chastised for Hillary's failures - Hillary's talented and accomplished team of professionals and loyalists simply took it.... It was hard to tell what was worse -- getting hollered at by Bill or getting scolded by the stern and self-righteous Hillary. Neither was pleasant. 'You heard him,' she admonished 'Get it straight.''
It was an astonishing moment -- and one that would stick in the minds of Hillary's aides for the rest of the campaign -- for two reasons. First, Hillary was already inaccessible to most of her own staff, preferring to communicate through Abedin. So, a phone call featuring both Hillary and Bill was a real rarity. But more important, the scapegoating tone and tenor revealed that the Clintons were either living on another planet or at least having emotional and intellectual difficulty coming to terms with the reality that only Hillary was culpable and only Hillary could turn things around.
Her economic message wasn't getting through, her aides realized, because she hadn't told the truth to the public about her emails and she was under federal investigation.
From hippies scapegoating Wall Street tycoons to Hillary scapegoating the hired help: will the inhumanity never cease? As Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri is quoted as whining, "We (Clinton and her staff) aren't ever allowed to have nice things!"

Another surprise, for me at least, was the extreme and paranoid lengths to which both the Clinton and the Sanders camps went to ensure that the Philadelphia convention we saw on TV was totally different from what really went on in the Wells Fargo arena. A special "boiler room" was set up so that "every time a Bernie supporter raised an anti-Clinton sign, a whip team member in the convention hall could relay the message quickly to the boiler room. The team there would send a note to Bernie and Hillary aides on the floor, who would ask the person to take it down. The flash-speed communications network would turn out to be a major factor in transforming what was a tumultuous convention into a unified one on television."

Remember all the times the crowd began chanting "USA! USA!" at inappropriate times during Clinton's acceptance speech?  What many of us suspected at the time was all too true: it was an orchestrated performance to drown out the hecklers.

The tacit message in Shattered is that if the Democratic establishment wants to find successful candidates to keep the neoliberal dream alive, they'll have to be more like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama than Hillary. According to Parnes and Allen, this is where Hillary so abjectly failed:
She had to explain why the turn-back-the-clock promises of politicians like Sanders and Trump were empty and why voters' anger had to be converted to a commitment to policies that would bring their communities into the future. It was a bank shot compared to a vow to end trade and resurrect coal jobs. Bill was a much better explainer  than Hillary, but she had to do something to bridge the distance between what she thought these voters thought they wanted and what Hillary believed would be best for them."
She failed to convince the ignorant rabble about their overlords' core beneficence. She failed to convince enough of the people enough of the time to allow themselves to be co-opted in the service of elitism. She wasn't a genuine enough huckster.

And she had, and still has, the unmitigated gall to blame her failure on everyone but herself.

 "In her view, it was up to the people she paid to find the right message for her - a construction deeply at odds with the way Sanders and Trump built their campaigns around their own gut feelings about where to lead the country."

I give Shattered a solid C, with an additional "minus" for the stupid denigrating trope of Bernie Sanders acting out of the same pure gut feelings as Trump.

For all their clever repartee and their access to insiders both large and small, the real gutless wonders are Parnes and Allen. The underlying exposé of their book is that mainstream media functions largely as a protection racket. This book ultimately fails to hold anybody directly accountable for Donald Trump, least of all the media and Barack Obama and Trump himself. Like so many other explainers of its kind, it focuses on mistakes in "process" as it mind-numbingly accentuates the horse-race aspect of the presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, Obama's own political campaign continues. He was in Chicago today with the specific goal of inspiring the next generation of Barack and Michelle Obamas.

I can hardly wait for the slog through their $60 million twin memoirs.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Scandal Wrapped in a Smear Inside of a Calumny

 Why worry about World War III when the only fallout we have to fear is the politically radioactive detritus from the scandal known as RussiaGate? A fate even worse than massive death and destruction would be the tragic loss of public confidence in our benevolent Surveillance State.

So whispered a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee into the sympathetic ear of New Yorker columnist and CNN talking head Ryan Lizza.

In a delicate little convoluted pretzel of a story, Lizza strives in fine Orwellian fashion to obfuscate rather than to enlighten. As Donald Trump recklessly goads a cornered North Korean dictator into a nuclear confrontation while mindlessly bombing thousands of people to death throughout the greater Middle East, Lizza idiotically complains that "the most reckless lie" of Trump's entire career has been the one about the Obama wiretapping. It's even worse, apparently, than Trump's whopper about the American Armada encircling Korea even as the Carl Vinson chugged thousands of miles away in a completely opposite direction.

Were it not for Republican Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, making such political hay out of our patriotic spies just doing their normal thing and sweeping up and transcribing the international phone conversations of Trump associates, the future bright prospects of the great surveillance state would not now be in such danger. 

The fact that Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, was also just doing her normal national security thing by "unmasking" some of Trump's associates is not proof of a political conspiracy to damage Trump's candidacy. That is because when she unmasked them, she had no idea what she was looking for. Most of the names in the examined transcripts remain masked anyway.
It is now clear that the scandal was not Rice’s normal review of the intelligence reports but the coördinated effort between the Trump Administration and Nunes to sift through classified information and computer logs that recorded Rice’s unmasking requests, and then leak a highly misleading characterization of those documents, all in an apparent effort to turn Rice, a longtime target of Republicans, into the face of alleged spying against Trump. It was a series of lies to manufacture a fake scandal. Last week, CNN was the first to report that both Democrats and Republicans who reviewed the Nunes material at the N.S.A. said that the documents provided “no evidence that Obama Administration officials did anything unusual or illegal.”
Notice how Lizza glibly avoids any investigative journalistic effort of his own by ceding authority not only to both corporate political parties, but to his own war-hungry employer, CNN. If Republicans and Democrats have bipartisanly decreed that the Obama administration is innocent and the Trump administration is guilty, and establishment propaganda organ CNN then obediently reports their findings, all Lizza has to do is obediently re-report the approved reporting for maximum public acceptance.

But just to make doubly sure that his readers keep feeling as informed as it is possible to feel while flailing in the miasma of manufactured journalistic confusion, he next employs the old propaganda trick of using one anonymous source to confirm the findings of another anonymous source:
I spoke to two intelligence sources, one who read the entire binder of intercepts and one who was briefed on their contents. “There’s absolutely nothing there,” one source said. The Trump names remain masked in the documents, and Rice would not have been able to know in all cases that she was asking the N.S.A. to unmask the names of Trump officials.
Lizza cleverly doesn't inform his readers whether it was the primary source or the secondary source who told him that there is no there there. I imagine that it would be very easy for an unnamed invisible source who wasn't actually there to honestly and conveniently assure our intrepid reporter that there was nothing there.

Now, we get into the real nitty-gritty nuclear fallout aspect of Lizza's piece: it's not the fact that the United State spies on every man, woman and child in the country, even the world, sucking up all our phone records and all our emails and all our Internet searches. It's the fact that the Republicans are reminding us of it, and wrenching us out of the our miasma of ignorance and blind compliance with the inexorable, largely unnoticed, and very bipartisan destruction of the Bill of Rights.
Nunes is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee because, in talking about the documents, he may have leaked classified information. But this is like getting Al Capone for tax evasion. The bigger scandal is the coördinated effort to use the American intelligence services to manufacture an excuse for Trump’s original tweet.
The intelligence source told me that he knows, “from talking to people in the intelligence community,” that “the White House said, ‘We are going to mobilize to find something to justify the President’s tweet that he was being surveilled.’ They put out an all-points bulletin”—a call to sift through intelligence reports—“and said, ‘We need to find something that justifies the President’s crazy tweet about surveillance at Trump Tower.’ And I’m telling you there is no way you get that from those transcripts, which are about as plain vanilla as can be.” (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)
Translation: everything the Surveillance State does is as pure and comforting as a dish of ice cream. Only Trump would find evil in an innocent dish of ice cream, or discern porn on prim little sheets of frosty white vellum.
 The fallout from Trump’s tweet could have grave consequences for national security. The law governing the N.S.A.’s collection of the content of communications of foreign targets is up for renewal this summer. Known as Section 702, part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, it is perhaps the most important intelligence tool that America’s spy agencies have to gather information about potential terrorist attacks and about the intentions of regimes around the world. There are legitimate privacy concerns about allowing the N.S.A. to vacuum up such an enormous amount of communications. A report from 2014 by the Obama Administration’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board identified several areas that might be changed to increase the privacy protections for Americans, but the board also “found no evidence of intentional abuse” of the program.
 Remember, citizen-consumers, be afraid only of the things, like Russia, which they tell you to fear. Trump's stupid Tweets are far deadlier than any atomic weapon. You can only be safe as long as all your emails, all your phone records, and all your Internet searches can be vacuumed up by government bureaucrats for future reference.  Although they abuse your privacy rights on a constant basis, their intentions remain as pure and as sweet as a dish of all-natural vanilla ice cream.

What is really scary to the establishment is that those annoying "questions are being raised" by politicians who refuse to loyally adhere to the extreme center. The surveillance state is having its own privacy severely damaged, and it's all Trump's fault:
Some American intelligence officials are now concerned that Trump and Nunes’s wild claims about intercepts and Rice have made Section 702 look like a rogue program that can be easily abused for political purposes. The intelligence source said, “In defense of the President, Devin Nunes and some other partisans have created a huge political problem by casting doubt, in the service of Donald Trump, on these intercepts.” Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, a leading critic of Section 702, has been using the episode to rally libertarians. He recently tweeted, “Smoking gun found! Obama pal and noted dissembler Susan Rice said to have been spying on Trump campaign.” Democratic critics of Section 702 have also been emboldened. “Section 702 of FISA allows warrantless searches on Americans. That’s unconstitutional & must be changed,” Representative Ted Lieu, the Democrat from California, tweeted last month, during the controversy.
So, when it is correctly pointed out that all of our emails, phone records and Internet searches are being swept up, it becomes a "wild accusation" - especially if this fact is pointed out for purposes of craven political gain. This unmasking unfairly politicizes the intelligence agencies, which actually exist at the funding pleasure and unquestioning behest of the politicians both in the White House and in Congress. The intelligence community wants to have its cake and ice cream, and eat them too.
“They manufactured a scandal to distract from a serious investigation,” Eric Swalwell, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, who would not comment on the N.S.A. documents, said. “And the collateral damage is the public confidence in our intelligence community when we need to count on them now more than ever. Considering the threats we are facing right now from North Korea and ISIS, it’s a pretty dangerous time to undermine the I.C.’s credibility to make a five-yard sack in the Russia investigation.”
There's nothing worse than a silly distraction from a serious distraction. This silliness distracts the tired, the hungry, the jobless from what really counts: Russia, and voting for a Democratic Party whose sole remaining purpose is to serve its pathologically rich cadre of donors. It's a distraction from fighting a terrorist group which itself was manufactured by the same "intelligence community" which is now pretending to do battle with it. But pointing this out would be a huge distraction from Ryan Lizza's convoluted little propaganda piece. 

Williams Hughes Mearns sums up the mainstream media's distractionary angst quite nicely in the famous ditty Antagonish (originally and aptly part of a play called Psyco-ed.)
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
I wish, I wish he'd go away...

When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn't see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don't you come back any more
Go away, go away, and please don't slam the door.
Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who was not there
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Moveable Feast: Open Thread/Links

Happy Easter, Passover, or whatever resurrection or exodus holiday you may or may not be celebrating during this glorious American tax season.

On that note, this weekend's official Trump resistance movement event doesn't  involve protesting our looming entry into World War III, or the dropping of the biggest bomb in the history of bellicosity. Rather, we're urged to restrict ourselves to kvetching about Donald Trump's tax returns.  Without the release of his tax returns, we might remain woefully ignorant of the fact that he is a global kleptocrat whose sojourn in the White House was only made possible by the worst bombed-out presidential candidate in the history of dynastic politics.

Let's hope that Trump is not watching TV or reading newspapers this weekend. Because if he sees the pictures of Kim Jong-un watching his glorious parade of tanks and goose-stepping soldiers as he taunts Trump to Bring It On, our president might get upset and jealous enough to "act." Remember, Trump very much wanted a North Korean-style parade at his inauguration. So when a hysterical nut like Lil Kim orders the USA to end its "dangerous hysteria" you kind of get the inkling that the world is in deep, deep trouble.

On that note, the remaining Lucky Seven death row inmates in Arkansas must be breathing a sigh of relief knowing that at least they won't die any more prematurely than the average American prole or collaterally damaged human being in the permanent war zone. It turns out that state officials had tried to pull a fast one. When ordering their lethal execution drugs, they failed to inform the lethal drug manufacturer that its potent sleep medication was to be used for purposes of endless sleep. Plus, it's bad public relations to kill too many people too enthusiastically all in the same week. One must always deploy one's state repression privileges responsibly. 

On that note, prison officials should probably take a propaganda tip from the good folks at the exclusive Choate Rosemary Hall boarding school. After many decades of sexual abuse of students by teachers, the school is patting itself on the back for sending out "proactive" emails confessing to the crimes. Since Choate caters to the scions of the ruling class, the New York Times has also done its due deference, first burying the blockbuster story on Page A19, and subsequently downgrading rape in high places to a poorly managed breach of etiquette:
A disturbing picture emerges of top school officials treating recurring cases of sexual impropriety as isolated personnel problems, not as a structural issue that should have been managed comprehensively. The same administrators handled situations on an individual basis, over and over again.
This is the same newspaper which persisted for years in euphemising the CIA's torture orgies as an "enhanced interrogation" program.

Oh brave new world, that has such peeps in it. 

Update: This just arrived in my in-box from Mar-A-Lago:
You’re invited to the Official Trump Store Easter sale!

Shop now to save 25% OFF Trump gear with Promo Code: BUNNY. 
Take 25% off with promo code: BUNNY

Fill up your Easter basket with exclusive merchandise from the Trump store.
This spectacular Easter deal will not last long, so act now to claim your 25% OFF anything in the store.
Show your support for President Trump and stock up on iconic pieces for your closet.

P.S. - Don’t forget to use Promo Code: BUNNY at checkout to take 25% OFF your order.
  What - are these "iconic pieces" not worthy of proud display right out in the open? Must my exclusively spectaculuh Trump coffee mugs and medallions be forever doomed to gather dust in a dark closet along with the PTSD-inducing high school yearbooks? Is Trump really so cruel as to want to give the millions of kids already terrified of the closet monster something more tangible to cry about?

We can only hope that Trump is so busy running his empire and building his brand and getting off on fluffy pink bunnies and overdone steaks that he'll forget all about terror-bombing a few more hundred or thousand people over this Easter weekend, just for the Viagra-fueled fun of it.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Clump in the White House

(Clinton + Trump = Clump) 

I'm not hallucinating, and neither are you. The Donald Trump presidency is swiftly manifesting itself as almost the exact same presidency that Hillary Clinton envisioned for herself.  Same war-hungry neocon generals, same neoliberal Wall Street bankers, and of course, the same kind of palace intrigues and unforced errors for which the Clintons have been so rightly famous throughout their own political careers.

Politics is entertainment, in case you hadn't noticed. Unless, of course, you're one of those people on the receiving end of the Tomahawk missiles, the Predator drones and most recently, the Mother of All Bombs. Only in America could the biggest piece of weaponry ever dropped upon the earth be described in such grotesque maternal terms.

The populism of Trump is (surprise!) turning out to be just as fake as the populism of the Clintons. As the late Christopher Hitchens noted in his scathing book about the Clintons (Nobody Left to Lie To) these politicians achieved their initial success by co-opting regular people in the service of the ruling class elite. Hillary's problem during the past election cycle was that she was a stale, boring, wonkish liar, while Donald was the more colorful and amusing fibber.

And so far, Trump hasn't been forced to pay for his lies because he has utterly succeeded in normalizing the political flip-flop and making ignorance a virtue. Nobody expects him to tell the truth about anything, and so the constant fact-checking of his statements is getting more tedious and exhausting by the day. Stop the presses! Trump lied again! In relentlessly informing his fans about something they didn't already know, the fact-checkers only keep proving what stuck-up snobbish sticklers they are.

We exceptional bootstrapping Americans are far too enthralled by the dogma that the end always justifies the means, and that nothing succeeds like success, to really take Trump to task.  As Jeremy Peters writes in the New York Times:
No matter how many people try to tell them they have been played for fools, much to their annoyance, that is not a conclusion they seem likely to reach before Mr. Trump even marks his 100th day in office.
They knew all along that they were not voting for a man with concrete convictions. And they continue to see that lack of rigidity — his preference for the transactional over the dogmatic — as a quality they want in a chief executive.
So while much of the country sees the swerving on policy as another sign of White House dysfunction, many conservatives shrug it off as esoteric jockeying over foreign alliances, currency manipulation and economic policy. They are focused more, they say, on what they see as a litany of recent victories.
With Trump's unabashed love of international violence and sanctioned terrorism now on full display, the phony opposition party known as the Democrats hasn't even got a feeble leg to stand on. There's been nary a peep from the Clintonites on his ever more lethal rampages, including the dropping of "Mother" and a whole series of other utterly unintentional bombings of hundreds (if not thousands) of innocent bystanders in his first hundred days in power.

But if the Democratic leaders are having any second thoughts about their own recklessness, goading Trump into adopting a more bellicose policy in response to their accusations of Kremlin puppetry, they're keeping such thoughts to themselves. RussiaGate is still a thing, albeit a less discussed thing this week, now that Trump is going into full neocon overdrive.

Trump is Obama's third term, Bush's (both pere and fils) third term, Clinton's third term and Reagan's third term. He is continuity of government of, by and for the richest of the rich. He combines the very worst that the duopolistic enterprise has to offer to us, and he offers it with a vicious relish so lacking in his more circumspect predecessors. He doesn't lie and pander with their glibness and charm and folksiness. He wears his heart, clogged and shriveled as it probably is, right on his sleeve.

Nepotism? He's proud of it. As Jack Shafer points out in Politico, Hillary Clinton would have established Bill as co-president by now, with Ivanka's BFF Chelsea doing the honors as first lady. And without the ethical baggage and the grandstanding of permanent congressional investigations, where would our reality show of a democracy be?
Remember how Trump’s surrogates said during the campaign that a Clinton presidency would be too hobbled by the ongoing FBI investigation to govern effectively? Instead, we’ve gotten a Trump presidency tainted by an FBI investigation of several of his top campaign aides. During the campaign, Trump beat on Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen with the baseball-bat fury of Joey Ramone. “To a certain extent, I think she should be ashamed of herself,” he said. That statement is now inoperative, replaced with the “I like her, I respect her” statement he gave to the Wall Street Journal. Reappointing her to the Fed is not outside the realm of possibility.
Ivanka's and Jared's personal lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, who opined that there is nothing at all shady about the Kushners' use of public office for private gain, is an alumnus of the Clinton administration. In her capacity as Bill's deputy attorney general, she became embroiled in the Fannie Mae accounting scandal and also wrote the memo segregating intelligence agencies from one another. That decision, which disallowed the sharing of information among the agencies, led to the series of unfortunate miscommunication events which culminated in the 9/11 attacks. The War on Terror has continued raking in the cash for the plutocrats ever since.

 Gorelick later acted as chief counsel for BP in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill. And besides imparting lucrative legal advice to Jared and Ivanka, she also sits on the boards of Amazon and the giant weapons manufacturer and major polluter known as United Technologies.

You obviously don't hear establishment Democrats lambasting Trump for stuffing the White House with the same Goldman Sachs people who paid the Clintons their hundreds of millions of dollars in speaking fees. That's because Wall Street is the living continuity of government so essential to the ruling class racketeers who run this country as they fund and control both political parties.

Gary Cohn, the Democratic Goldman Sachs COO in charge of Trump's National Economics Council, is another testament to the fact that despite what the entertainment media dubs The Wild West Wing, everything is running very smoothly, exactly as it is meant to run in a feudal society. Slate's Daniel Gross explains:
The National Economic Council was created during the first year of the Clinton administration. Its inaugural director was Robert Rubin, the co-head of Goldman Sachs who was an influential early Clinton adviser. After two years at NEC, Rubin was promoted to Treasury Secretary. Rubin’s partner in running Goldman in the 1990s was Stephen Friedman. Friedman left the firm in 1994 but in 2002 was named to succeed Larry Lindsey as—yup—director of President George W. Bush’s National Economic Council.
Friedman and Rubin were succeeded at the helm of Goldman by Jon Corzine, who went on to run successfully for U.S. Senate and then governor after he was ousted in 1998. Corzine was replaced by Henry Paulson, who had been the chief operating officer. And when Paulson’s time at chief executive at Goldman came to an end, he skipped the NEC and went directly to the Treasury Department.
The Clintons and the Trumps are both New York limousine liberal dynasties residing in the same physical core of the Plutonomy.  Therefore, the core accusation in RussiaGate -- that Trump is beholden to, and financially embroiled with, Putin's oligarchs -- is simply a partisan red herring. High-end New York real estate could not exist without the global oligarchy. Luxury buildings and apartments in Manhattan are just like unregulated banks: they're a place for obscenely rich and tax-averse tycoons to park their billions. The purchasers of these luxury digs rarely if ever even set foot in them, even as the homeless population in the Wealth Disparity Capital unconscionably increases.

Joel Kotkin writes in "The New Class Conflict", 
Fifty percent of buyers in some urban areas are foreigners seeking pied-a-terre in what is increasingly an exclusive global club. This concentration of wealth begins to change everything in the political realm as well. In New York (...) the finances of the country's largest municipality are now entirely at the mercy of a few thousand very rich taxpayers....

Increasingly, in this era of Oligarchs, certain cities are not so much centers for upward mobility as preferred locales for the successful, talented and wealthy.... The rich cluster in the center and the poor serve them from the dreary periphery.
It should come as no big shock, therefore, that Russian oligarchs have invested some of their ill-gotten gains in Trump properties and hidden their ownership beneath limited liability companies for the tax-evading purposes which our corporate-owned Congress have deemed perfectly normal and legal. Rare would be the real estate tycoon or associate who avoided interacting with them.

As I wrote during the Clump campaign last year, Hillary and Donald actually have more in common than either they, or the corporate media profiting so intensely from the electoral charade, were willing to publicly admit. They did not, for example, heed my suggestion to hold one of their debates at their mutual homestead, located at 1209 Orange Street in Wilmington, Delaware.  This is just one of the domestic havens where both Hillary and Donald hide their excess cash from the tax collector.

Something invaded our democracy, all right, and the invasion was born within our own national boundaries. These boundaries are, of course, perfectly porous. Capital flows freely, but human bodies do not.

There's never been a more apt bipartisan time for Congress to change the name of Washington, D.C. to Wall Street-Upon-Potomac.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Desperately Seeking Squealers

The premier think tank of the Democratic Party is asking that the public supply it with damaging information on Donald Trump's associates, and associates of his associates of his associates.

Apparently losing patience with the slow investigation into RussiaGate by America's 17 official interconnected police and spy agencies, as well as the slugs of Congress, the Center for American Progress (CAP) blasted out its anxious email this week to all the aspiring amateur snitches of Joe McCarthy's America:

Uncovering the Truth About Trump and Russia

Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election was an unprecedented attack on American democracy and a deliberate attempt to place Donald Trump in the White House. Given Trump’s obedience to Vladimir Putin and the deep ties between his advisers and the Kremlin, Russia’s actions are a significant and ongoing cause for concern.
The Moscow Project is dedicated to investigating the extent, nature, and purpose of Trump’s ties to the Kremlin—but we need your help. By scouring the internet to investigate allegations, donating to fund our research, or sharing our findings on Twitter and Facebook, you can help uncover the truth about Trump and Russia.
You can also confidentially email the Moscow Project

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Centrist Dems: The Timing of Our Bullshit Is Everything

Although establishment Democrats say they're dipping their toes into the populist waters, they're not ready to take the plunge quite yet. It is simply too early to campaign on such policies as Medicare for All or enhanced Social Security.

After all, it's not the day-to-day pressing problems of their constituents that concern them. It's the optimal timing of their populist message to give them the best chance of winning more power for themselves in the 2018 midterm elections. If they demand too much for us too soon, their own personal chances might be damaged.

So right now, these affluent politicians are perfectly content to stand by and watch the Trump administration destroy itself, and by extension, the country and the entire world. Senate Majority Leader and career pol Chuck Schumer (D-Wall Street) blithely told Politico that there will be plenty of time to "hammer on" Democratic proposals next year. The fierce urgency of now simply does not apply within the smug Clinton/Obama wing of the party.
As the GOP suffers self-inflicted wounds on health care and Trump gets bogged down by an FBI probe of his ties to Russia, many in the party believe they should not risk getting in the way, at least not for now.
“It’s less important what our national message is right now, given that Donald Trump is sucking all of the oxygen out of the room,” moderate Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) told POLITICO.
“Quite frankly, the less we have to say about it, the better.”
Translation: let the oxygen-deprived masses eat Russian teacake as politicians feverishly fund-raise off all the fear they are instigating. Who needs to be socially or economically proactive at a time like this? Certainly not the oligarchs who profit every time there is a manufactured crisis. There's plenty of time for the next periodic onslaught of bullshit and empty campaign promises. 
The task ahead for Democrats, then, may be to bait Trump into swinging and missing on bread-and-butter economic issues just as he did on health care, while simultaneously plugging their own plan.
For now, Democrats are happy to stay on the sidelines while Republicans stumble through health care, tax reform and other red-meat issues.
Translation: the task ahead for Democrats is to act the part of good cops in the reality show which now substitutes for governance. Heaven forbid that they hoist their carcasses off the sidelines and enter the fray, demanding universal health care coverage. Heaven forbid they pay attention to the will of the people: liberals and conservatives alike are yammering for government sponsored single payer health care like never before.

The share of the US population saying that the government should be responsible for ensuring health care for everybody has increased to 60 percent, up nine points in just the last year. More than eight in 10 self-identified liberals believe that health care is a basic human right and should be guaranteed by government. And the fact that one in three Republican voters now believes it too is particularly striking.

As Ryan Cooper writes, 
The AHCA is extraordinarily unpopular because it takes coverage and subsidies away from people, and a majority believe that it should be the government's responsibility to make sure everyone is covered. Fundamentally, Medicare is very popular, a fact only partially covered up by generations of red-baiting and duplicitous austerian propaganda. If Democrats had simply bulled ahead with a single payer-esque plan in 2009, instead of the comlicated and heavily means-tested ObamaCare, they almost certainly would have done better than they actually did in the 2010 election.
But the heck with what's good for the American people, who are prematurely dying at near-record rates. Ask not what is good for you and your family. Ask instead what is good for the leaders of the Democratic Party.

And then ask yourself whether this exclusive party of wealthy lackadaisical spectators even deserves to exist any more.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Adventures in Hillaryland

I wrote a critical response to a New York Times column (originally and grotesquely titled Hillary - Free At Last!)  by Nicholas Kristof, who recapped his softball interview with Clinton at last week's Women in the World Conference. 

After my comment about the ignored class war was published, myriad digital tongues emerged from the ethosphere to castigate me for my blasphemy, and for my failure to properly appreciate all the good things that Hillary, her ultra-rich friends and donors, and our great transnational corporations have been selflessly doing behind the scenes for me and for all the other bitter and jealous have-nots of America. One disgusted Times reader actually demanded to know if I am a Russian.

It's getting bad -- oops, I mean divisive -- out there, people. Being affluent and stuck in those stages (denial, depression, anger) of Hillary grief must be such a dreadful thing. I'll write more about the cult of MccCarthyite Mourners later in this post - but first, I'll let Summit Founder Tina Brown explain the purpose of the confab in question on its official website:
The three-day Women in the World Summit, held at New York City’s Lincoln Center, presents powerful new female role models whose personal stories illuminate the most pressing international issues. They range from CEOs and world leaders to artists, activists, peacemakers, and firebrand dissidents. The Summit’s vivid journalistic narratives, high-impact video, and fast-paced staging have made it the premier platform to showcase women of impact. Increasingly, Women in the World also includes the participation, onstage and in the audience, of men who champion women.
Past participants have included Hillary Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Angelina Jolie, Diane von Furstenberg, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, Tom Hanks, Malala Yousafzai, Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand and many more amazing and inspiring women from all over the world.
A couple of truly memorable quotes from this year's "celebs and luminaries" page really stood out for me.

"None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something." -- Meryl Streep.

"There's a lot of estrogen in this room!" -- Katie Couric. 

Even though it's billed as a conference by, for and of females, the hosts always invite a few A-List men to the proceedings in order to prove that one can be male, hunky, powerful and feminist all in one package. This year's hotties were Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Kristof's fellow Times columnist and liberal interventionist Thomas Friedman.

Why not? The Times helped foot the bill for the show, after all, with other costs defrayed by the $350 price of admission along with generous donations from Toyota and a whole host of corporate sponsors. The luministas all dutifully posed on the red carpet in front of the car manufacturer's corporate logo: Let's Go Places!

So it was only natural that Kristof would be granted the first one-on-one interview with Hillary Clinton since the election, right? He begins his column with the requisite bathos:
 In the most wrenching, humiliating way possible, Hillary Clinton has been liberated. She is now out of the woods again, and speaking her mind.
As I noted, the original title of his piece was borrowed from the gospel song of enslaved people called Free At Last, which Martin Luther King also made the centerpiece of his iconic I Have a Dream speech. So in retrospect, it appears that wiser heads at the Gray Lady prevailed, and reslugged the Kristof column a more seemly Free to Speak Her Mind.

This was an apt choice, because there were relatively few women of color either on stage or in the audience of the Women in the World summit. As Antoinette Isama, a journalist who attended the event, writes:
As I walked in to receive my press pass, the production of event amplified the posh David H. Koch Theater with bright lights, a Women In The World Boutique, a lounge courtesy of Toyota and free refreshments and munchies courtesy of Pepsi (lol). It was a corporate company’s dream to rub elbows with an occasion such as this—because women rule the world, right?
Before the conversation between Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, with Katie Couric called “How To Raise A Feminist” began, there was an a cappella rendition of the unofficial theme song of the Women’s March accompanied by a montage of pink pussy hats. From the welcome speech by the Summit’s Founder and CEO, Tina Brown, it seems like the march, where millions of women gathered in D.C. and around the world in solidarity to stick the middle finger to patriarchy and Trump was the main theme to reflect on throughout the Summit.
Isama says that when she looked around the press section, she noticed that she was the only black reporter among a sea of white faces. Ditto for the wealthy attendees in the audience.
My experience at the Women In The World Summit pretty much confirmed why I don’t go out of my way to attend events like this. I don’t understand the point of having these grand and fancy events for [white] women to pat themselves on the back, singing several renditions of kumbaya through the tired tropes of heart wrenching and dramatic stories that come from women of color who participated. I would think, especially in our intense climate around the world, that it would be imperative to utilize this moment to drive folks to keep taking action and actually doing something instead of being reactionary.
Access was another huge issue for me. If I didn’t have the privilege of obtaining a press pass, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to attend. The first time I even heard this event was a thing was last year—and this has been a yearly event for 8 years now. There was a price range for tickets, where the highest priced at $350. So I had to ask myself—with the lack of people of color in the actual audience that I managed to see, who’s the intended audience for this? It may not be for people like me.
Oh, but despite all her own hardships and devastation, Hillary Clinton is finally free, people! Kristof quotes her as saying:
 "I just had to make up my mind that, yes, I was going to get out of bed, and, yes, I was going to go for a lot of long walks in the woods. And I was going to see my grandchildren a lot and spend time with my family and my friends. They have rallied around me in an amazing way.”
What - she thought Chelsea and the grandkids were going to snub her because she lost the election?

So now that she's finally out of her shell and free to speak "bluntly," Hillary Clinton's version of honesty is to continue blaming her loss on misogyny. The more successful a woman is, the more likely she is to be a victim of those who "unconsciously" resent people like her, she told Kristof. And she stayed stalwartly honest and true to the other official reasons that she lost: the Russian "plunder" of her campaign emails and the FBI investigation into her use of a private internet server.
Russia’s hacking of campaign emails “was a more effective theft even than Watergate,” she said, adding: “We aren’t going to let somebody sitting in the Kremlin, with 1,000 agents, with bots and trolls and everybody else, try to mix up in our election. We’ve got to end that, and we need to make sure that’s a bipartisan, American commitment.”
The most telling symbol of Hillary Clinton's freedom, according to Kristof, is that she is once again using "Rodham" as her middle name. Free at last, free at least, Great God almighty she's free at last.

Now, realizing that the New York Times reader commentariat is chock-full of Clinton supporters, I was as politely sarcastic, or sarcastically polite, as possible in my own published comment. which I think dovetails the classist aspect of the summit with Antoinette Isama's critique of its "colorblind" racist undertones. The current debate of classism v. racism is a false one, in my opinion, because neoliberalism relies on both for its continued survival. Plutocrats and philoanthrocapitalists love to showcase a certain select few black and brown people on the public stage, because it allows them to deny there is even such a thing as the class war. It shows citizen-consumers how liberal and magnanimous and socially responsible they are as they suck up even more of the globe's wealth for themselves.

The Women in the World summit series is nothing if not virtue-signalling writ large.

So here is my "controversial" comment (for once, mine was the first one submitted yesterday, so anyone interested in reading all the responses to it can easily find them lby selecting the "oldest" option.)
"Clinton acknowledged that Democrats need to do a better job reaching working-class Americans, but she added that part of her problem was that many voters were already struggling with tumult in their lives, 'and you layer on the first woman president over that, and I think some people, women included, had real problems.'”

Too bad that hardly any working class women were actually there to hear Mrs. Clinton's wise and heartfelt words. That's because  six out of every 10 American voters don't even have $500 in savings and thus couldn't afford the $350 cost of admission to the event, held in a glitzy venue which billionaire arch-conservative David H. Koch so humbly named after himself.

The millions of women working two or three part-time service sector jobs couldn't even get time off to be inspired long distance, via live-streaming, by Clinton and other media, Hollywood and Silicon Valley personalities.True, corporate sponsors including PepsiCo, P&G and AT&T did subsidize some tickets to the live event. But. like everything else in this Land of the Free, it was a high-odds lottery.

Yes, many Trump voters are misogynistic. Yes, Comey did Hillary wrong.

Still, to listen to her explain to a theater full of plutocrats that she lost struggling voters because of her "success" and gender feels only slightly less insulting than once again lumping them into her Basket of Deplorables.

But anyway, let us rejoice that she's out of her shell and free to finally be herself.
Several dozen readers reacted, some supportive and some critical. I'll only include the real doozies, just to show that liberalism does indeed seem to be inexorably moving to the right. And since comments were shut off before I could respond, I will include my reactions to these utterly enjoyable responses as well.
Ed Chang, NYC:  Wow, totally unfair. Just because you are unable to make it to the party doesn't mean that the guests are uncaring about your needs. I mean do you want Hillary to start touring Walmarts around the country? Is that really the best use of her time? Or, alternatively, speak to a high profile group of people who may be able to donate to her causes and at the same time get a high profile write-up in the Times, as well as a video archive of the entire event on YouTube? It's simply more efficient to do the latter.

Sadly this is more proof of the jealousy some women feel towards more successful women, hence the election loss.
(No, Ed, we wouldn't want Hillary to catch cooties from a Walmart greeter. Plus, I must compliment you on the nice use of one of my favorite neoliberal buzzwords: efficiency.)

Mary Ann Donahue, NYS:  To Karen Garcia ~ I am disappointed that you, you who are well informed and well spoken would reduce Hillary Clinton's basket of deplorables comment to the oft repeated damning sound bite. Taken out of context, it distorts the understanding and compassion that Clinton conveyed in the full text of her remarks.
Here is the last paragraph just to remind people who are so eager and willing to diminish her that she is a woman of rare intellect, insight and work ethic. We would be a better nation if she had been elected.
""But the other basket -- and I know this because I see friends from all over America here -- I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas -- as well as, you know, New York and California -- but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change. It doesn't really even matter where it comes from. They don't buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead-end.Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.""
Thank you Hillary.
(I know, I know, there's a special place in hell for me and all women who didn't support Hillary. It's sad but true that the "deplorables" part of her full remarks is the one that will go down as one of the of the more tone-deaf recorded remarks in all of political history. Just as Clinton professed concern for the downtrodden at the Koch Theater event, she  made her previous infamous remarks at another venue catering the extremely wealthy donor class. Additionally, she showed her true neoliberal hand when she asserted that struggling people only "feel" that they have been let down. They have been shafted, screwed and cheated in actual fact. They do not suffer from an emotional problem, they suffer from a poverty problem and hunger problem and a jobless problem.)
Stephanie Sommer, St. Paul: Ah, the politics of resentment roars its ugly head once again. Her success isn't the cause of others suffering. Its not a zero sum game. Moreover, her policies would have addressed so much of the suffering you mention, and that is exactly why conservatives hate her.
(Her policies did not include Medicare for All or a $15 minimum wage or world peace or restoration of Glass-Steagall. The suffering would have gone on, the neoliberal dream would be alive and kicking, whether she was president or not.)
arbitrot, Paris:  Methinks Ms. Garcia is projecting her own guilt from the campaign, when she regularly expressed her displeasure with Sec. Clinton as opposed to another authentic hero, Sen Bernie Sanders.

Not that Ms. Garcia voted for Donald Trump, or even Jill Stein. I assume she pulled the lever for Clinton if only faute de mieux.

But I'll bet even Maureen Dowd did that.

Clinton didn't lose the 2016 election. Just a few too many self-righteous, woolly-headed, and downright politically naive Democrats did by trying too hard to cut Clinton down to their size.
("arbitrot" must possess magical thinking skills way across the ocean, purporting to know how I voted. And this is not the first time that my critiques of Democrats automatically turn me into Maureen Dowd. I always have to chuckle when this happens, because it is so sexist. Ever notice how women who write opinion pieces are often characterized as shrill, catty and bitchy?  And what's with the woolly-headed insult? I assume and hope that"arbitrot" implies that I'm stupid, and not that other meaning of the pejorative.)
David L. Jr, Mississippi:  Until your ardent desire to help the poor is trumped by your understanding of how they benefit from a growing private sector, your analytical absurdities will persist. Also, because you and Bernie Sanders often talk up Scandinavia: Scandinavians had greater levels of equality BEFORE their social democracies were built. Doesn't this tell you that it likely has more to do with culture than economics? Indeed, Nordics living in America outperform Nordic citizens themselves!

And David Koch is hardly conservative, whatever the media claims. There's nothing conservative about the man at all. He supports conservative candidates and then funds groups that pressure them into taking extreme anti-government economic positions, which aren't really "conservative" so much as revolutionary. He loathes their social views. While I disagree with him, I refuse to permit your implication that socialists care more about paupers than libertarians, which is false.

You really despise incorporation, don't you? Corporations built the modern world. Without them, it wouldn't exist. They didn't develop in the Islamic world; or in China, where hereditary bureaucrats oversaw state monopolies -- the one place where private companies did take hold in Asia, Japan, was a smashing success. Stratification is a product of the difference in ability as well as circumstances. Trying to level society in the name of an abstract idea is a recipe for disaster. You'll derogate anyone who succeeds in life.
(I can't even.)
 Lisa, Charlotte: And when all is said and done, Karen, you and the rest of Bernie's crowd own Trump. I won't insult you by pointing out he silliness of arguing that she should not have been speaking in a venue founded by David Koch. Lots of people did not like Hillary for lots of reasons. But surely you can't argue that her candidacy was in any way equivalent to Trump's because reality does not agree with you. I'd argue that this should have been blindingly clear to a person of your knowledge and intellect.
(I was wondering when somebody would finally blame me and the Berniebros for Trump. It's one of their favorite tropes. Who knew we had so much power?)
JS: I've seen her speak, free, to huge audiences in the poorest venues. Here she speaks and is heard around the world. A leader needs to do both, and she has, but only a woman is criticized in this manner, and that has to stop.
(Several readers accused me of picking on Hillary's greed just because she's a woman, and neglecting to ever criticize other politicians, such as Barack Obama, for doing the exact same money-grubbing. They obviously have never read my blog or previous Times commentary. And I have to ask, would Lucrezia Borgia be getting this kind of defense from modern liberals, with her XX chromosomes also becoming a protective shield from accountability?)
Michael Joseph, NYC:  Karen, you seem almost to take it as a personal insult that there are different classes in America, that corporations target certain populations, and that affluent people also have certain rights. I find it insulting that you would castigate all middle-class supporters of Hillary as plutocrats, that you assume a single-minded fixation on class constitutes some kind of "vision" or gives you moral superiority, and that you dismiss with a condescending sniff any injustice or tyranny "Yes, many Trump voters are misogynistic" that isn't Marxist-based. You exhibit the same limiting "foundational certainties" about class that the Trump people do, only from the opposing perspective. Both belief sets seem mired in the same 19th century ideologies that proved so disastrous for the 20h century.
(OK, I'll try to stay in my assigned place from now on.)
njlea, Seattle:  How much do The Con Don and Robber Barons - and their arm candy - spend on clothes, McCarthy?

What an out-of-touch comment. She is the most admired woman in the United States and one of the most admired women in the world. Women like other women to dress well. She is actually very conservative.

Are you Russian?
(No, but my paternal ancestors were. Catherine the Great gave them political asylum after they were persecuted in their native Germany on the basis of their religion. The clan, mostly independent farmers, later went back to Germany after one of the later czars, I think it was Alexander, tried to draft them into the armed services. So I guess you'd better squeal me out to PropOrNot, or if that fails, maybe alert the ICE goon squad.)