Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pity the Poor Upper Middle Class

By the time I finished reading the third page of Richard Reeves' Dream Hoarders (Brookings Institution Press, 2017) I realized that I was an interloper. At worst, I felt a bit like a burglar rifling through the silver in a McMansion; at best, I felt like the hired help eavesdropping at a centrist Washington cocktail party That's because the author of this neoliberal cautionary screed makes it abundantly clear right at the outset that I, a widow on a fixed disability income, am definitely far, far outside his target demographic.

But rude upstart that I am, I barged right in.  Somebody had better call the Class Police before this slim volume gets into even more unqualified hands than mine! Seriously though, I did learn a lot of Inside Info, much of it distinctly unflattering to the "American dream-hoarders" of the top quintile. Their enrichment, by about 44 percent over the past half-century, is largely the result of the decline of trade unions, a shift away from full employment, downward pressure on wages from globalization and job outsourcing, and something Reeves calls "skill-biased technological change."

Reeves studiously avoids mention of the class war and class struggles originating from the bottom, and he never mentions the dread phrases "democratic socialism" or "income redistribution". Instead, we learn that "human capital development gaps" begin in the womb, because wealthier, more educated parents are more likely to have planned for a baby from within a distinctly Brave New World-ish framework. The following segment is apparently not parody:
"A couple I know gave a name to the task of raising their daughter successfully: Project Melissa. This began with the vitamins they both took before they even started trying to get pregnant., continued through the educational games of the early years, selection of great K-12 schools, vibrant family dinners, help with homework and college applications, through to helping Melissa land a plum internship. Project Melissa has lasted a quarter of a century (so far); but it started with the care with which she was brought into the world in the first place."
Reeves' stated purpose in writing his book is not so much to champion the struggling and the destitute as it is to warn the "merely rich" that their privilege does have some built-in dangers and social costs. Consider it a friendly reminder to the haute bourgeoisie that without a little more voluntary empathy and a little less conspicuous snobbery,  the rabble will only grow more boisterous. After all, enough of them voted for Donald Trump.
"Trump exuded and validated blue collar culture and was loved for it. His supporters have no problem with the rich. In fact, they admire them. The enemy is upper middle class professionals: journalists, scholars, technocrats, managers, bureaucrats, the people with letters after their names. You and me."
Roughly defining the upper middle class as the top fifth of the population who earn six-figure incomes, Reeves gently admonishes his readers to at least become more "woke." Anything less than solicitous finger-wagging on his part might hurt his book sales, after all. He even mentions that a friend had begged him to hold off on publication last month until his daughter secured an unpaid internship at an organization which his charitable foundation funds.

Aspirational critic of haute bourgeoisie greediness though he may be, Reeves still can't avoid more than a little humble-bragging snobbery of his own. In case you missed the exclusivity message the first time, he keeps reminding you of it at regular intervals. Take this placatory goo for the unduly sensitive:
"As a Brookings senior fellow and a resident of an affluent neighborhood in Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside of DC, I am, after all, writing about my own class. This is not one of those books about inequality that is about other people - either the super-rich or the struggling poor. This is a book about me, and likely, you, too."
I think that might have been my cue to quit reading a book that is above my pay scale and social station. But I forged ahead anyway. It's a very slim volume, and about a quarter of it is footnotes from other neoliberal sources, like the New York Times and the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation.

So let's get right to it.

The prelude to Reeves' seven-step recovery program for the merely rich is to simply acknowledge that they - oops, I mean you - have an addiction to advantages, and that everyone else is being left behind in the dust. So please do stop your whining, Upper Middles. Just because you're not a plutocrat doesn't mean you're a pauper. After all, $2.7 trillion of the gains since the economic crash went to the 19 percent right below the top 1 percent. You now hold more than half of America's wealth, So stop being so resentful, claiming that the oligarchs are gaining at your sole expense. Believe it or not, there are actually people worse off than you.

It is this strange resentment which the merely rich harbor for the super-rich that makes so many Upper Middles determined that their own children will one day reach the ranks of the plutocracy, if not the actual Forbes 400. Reeves describes the manufacture of a "glass floor" to both shield merely rich kids from downward mobility, and to prevent poorer children from upward mobility. This glass floor/ceiling can take the form of wealthy school districts funded by high property taxes on big houses, private lessons and activities, and the cult of unpaid internships giving richer kids an unfair head start in the job market.

Reeves views this institutionalized privilege as undesirable because after awhile, the less intelligent Upper Middles will end up running things to the ultimate detriment of the Upper Middles as a class. "We have to stop rigging the market in our children's favor," he warns.

Since Mister Meritocratic Market God will remain our Lord and Savior, we can forget about a new New Deal, when neoliberal concern-trolling of the poor can serve as a glossy substitute. Because goodness knows, the poor cannot help themselves, especially since "we" are so averse to legislation guaranteeing a living wage, a universal guaranteed income, and universal guaranteed health care. Privilege has its privileges, and human rights have little or nothing to do with it.

Flitting off into the safe space of the Extreme Center, Reeves suggests seven steps to close the "class gap."

1. Since poor women shouldn't be reproducing themselves so much, give them more contraception. Meanwhile, let the Upper Middles turn marriage into an affluent "child-rearing machine for the knowledge economy." Thus we may avoid what Nobel economist James Heckman has called "the biggest market failure of all: picking the wrong parents."

2. "Invest in" visiting the abodes of the poor in order to lecture them on proper Upper Middle parenting skills. Reeves gives a plug to programs which outfit indigent parents with language pedometers to bring their children's vocabulary up to satisfactory levels and bridge the "word gap."  Besides being demeaning to poor people and an invasion of their privacy, it's been largely discredited, based as it is on a study of only six families.  But maybe Project Melissa can lend a hand.

3. Pay "the best teachers" to work in poorer schools. He doesn't say where, how much, and when. Vagueness suffices; what else is a Post-Truth Society for?

4. Make college funding "more equal." Remember, though, that some animals are more equal than others. Rich people with high IQs tend to marry other rich people with high IQS and thus they tend to have high-IQ children. All the children are at least above average, and some children are more above-average than others. Although, of course, if given the right opportunity, high-IQ poor children can also succeed once given a ladder and a level playing field and an equal head start.

5. Make land use regulation more fair by doing away with "exclusionary zoning" and related tax breaks based solely upon property ownership. This doesn't actually include guaranteed housing, of course, but it is a warning to affluent zoning boards that the rabble is noticing what they're up to.

6. Abolish "legacy admissions" to expensive colleges and universities. Reeves specifically points to Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner who, despite  his "less than stellar" grades and SAT scores, got into Harvard based mainly upon his father's generous donation to the institution.

7. Open up internships to the lower classes by subsidizing a few of the positions.

Sure, there are "price tags" to these trickle-down incremental policies, but the Upper Middles can help. "We" can afford to. The only thing standing in the way is a resistance to recognizing one's own privilege. Do we want to be selectively and minimally generous, or do we want to be downright mean, yanking up all those ladders of opportunity to keep the Lessers out? Do rich liberals really want to come off looking like a watered-down version of the Trump dynasty?

The main thing to worry about is the reputation-salvaging of the "elites" during this perilous time of Trump-inspired resentment. While the Upper Middles are easily ridiculed for such things as the Melissa Project, they should not be mocked for treating child-rearing in terms of the stock market. They are indeed superior parents. After all, they've actually succeeded in turning "parent" into a verb.
"It is easy to parody overzealous affluent 'helicopter' parents shuttling our children from after-school tennis practice to cello lessons to a Chinese tutor. But the truth is that we are doing a lot of things right. High-income parents talk with their school-age children for three hours more per week than low-income parents, according to research by Meredith Phillips of UCLA.
This investment goes well beyond numeracy and literacy. The skills required to ensure upper middle class status are not just 'book smarts' but also social skills, self-regulation, and a wide cultural vocabulary. Oh, and a strong work ethic, too. This is an important point: we are not talking about a leisure class here. Most of us in the upper middle class work very hard indeed, both at our day jobs and also at our evening and weekend job of cultivating our children's life chances."
Methinks Reeves might be protesting a bit too much here, not least because he never explores in his book why poorer parents allegedly don't spend as much time with their children. He doesn't mention that too many moms and dads have to work several low-wage jobs or "gigs" simply to make ends barely meet. Many are just too dog-tired and stressed out to have sparkling dinnertime conversations with their offspring. Many are too cash-strapped to even buy, cook and serve decent, regular meals. At least a fifth of all American children are considered food-insecure, with lack of nourishment a prime cause for their failure to learn. Level playing fields are the least of their problems.

Still, Reeves plods on, alternating between pretend-scolding his cohort and defending them. Although he and his fellow Upper Middle dads absolutely adore the hit TV series Mad Men, for example,"we don't come home to drink a cocktail, we come home to help with the homework: to Mandarin, rather than to a martini."

Well, good for him.

No wonder that Reeves includes those subtle yet implicit "may not be suitable for all readers" warnings at the beginning of his book. Not only is parent now a verb, but you can only be a successful parenting unit if you're proficient enough in Mandarin to help your kid with it.

If his class really were that virtuous, of course, Reeves never would have needed to publish his book in the first place. But I'll give him credit where due: he does at one point chide the parents in his own wealthy school district for some pretty grotesque selfishness:
"Suggestions a few years ago from our local school board members that parental contributions should be pooled so that resources could be channeled to those most in need were met with a combination of incredulity and fury. And this is a liberal area."
He is careful to somewhat disown Randian writer Charles "The Bell Curve" Murray, while agreeing with him that the merely rich merely should consume less conspicuously and develop better moral sermonizing skills in order to keep themselves secure in their class niche and the lower orders in theirs. But Reeves boldly brings it up one meager virtue-signalling notch:
In fact, Murray explicitly says, 'I am not suggesting that they should sacrifice their self interest'. I (Reeves) am suggesting that we should, just a little.
That is also the agenda of the Democratic Party, of which the Brookings Institution is an integral, policy-making part. Rather than the "fierce urgency of now," the Upper Middles are merely advised to press the pause bottom, and reflect upon a further bare minimum of cosmetic sharing in order to keep the neoliberal idea (and the Democratic Party serving it) surviving against all odds.

Meanwhile, there's still the inconvenient bottom 80 percent of us.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Put the Politeness Back in Predation

The political/media complex were making another spectacle of scratching their groupthink heads today. In one of those periodic discussions about why people are getting so damned irate and uncivil, they're appalled that "it" has now even escalated to the point of anti-VIP violence in a bipartisan baseball field. It's the tone, it's the divisiveness, it's the un-American way! The pat solution, once again, is for the millionaires of Congress to learn to get along. And then we proles would automatically follow our leaders' high moral example, and we could all get along too.

What they don't admit is that the Uniparty absolutely does already get along when it comes to funding the wars, rewarding the wealthy, and preying upon the vulnerable. The dreaded Gridlock they love to bitch about is mainly a scam for them to get donations and lobbying cash.

Meanwhile, there was this inconvenient spanner in their propaganda works from the New York Times' Gretchen Morgenson:
Even as Wells Fargo was reeling from a major scandal in its consumer bank last year, officials in the company’s mortgage business were putting through unauthorized changes to home loans held by customers in bankruptcy, a new class action and other lawsuits contend.
The changes, which surprised the customers, typically lowered their monthly loan payments, which would seem to benefit borrowers, particularly those in bankruptcy. But deep in the details was this fact: Wells Fargo’s changes would extend the terms of borrowers’ loans by decades, meaning they would have monthly payments for far longer and would ultimately owe the bank much more.
Just in case you were still wondering why Congress and the Security State are also so united and so hell-bent on fingering Donald Trump for "collusion with Russia to meddle in our elections," it's to deflect attention from the series of fresh hells they're creating for ordinary people at a near-constant clip. Politicians from both sides of the Uniparty have bent over backwards to protect Wells Fargo and other TBTFs. Because without the tycoons to fund their campaigns and write their laws, where would they be in the intervals not devoted to calling for unity and civility and solidarity among thieves? If they were to go after Trump for his real crimes and misdemeanors  - garden variety fraud and larceny going back for whole generations - then they would also have to implicate themselves. The unpleasant truth would definitely out.

Trump has been taking advantage of this protection racket for years. He and the political establishment have been partying hearty in a decades-long orgy of mutual greed. Their lobbyists write the tax and bankruptcy laws benefiting only the wealthy. Nobody has any qualms about preying on the most vulnerable people. As Jared Kushner bragged recently about his slumlord enterprise, the poor and the struggling and the bankrupt are considered a very lucrative "asset class" for the Predatory Industrial Complex.

The poor always have to pay their debts to the rich. It's the law. It's legal. It's desirable. It's painful, but there is no alternative. If you think otherwise, then you're a unicorn fetishist, or even worse, a Bernie Bro or a Deplorable. And you are definitely a convenient scapegoat.

In its latest guilt-by-association attack on the left, the New York Times tried to counterbalance the fact-based article by Morgenson with yet another smear job (h/t Jay-Ottawa) on Bernie Sanders supporters. Progressives allegedly face a day of reckoning because Wednesday's assault on the VIP ballers was committed by a former Sanders volunteer.

Nina Turner, the prominent Bernie campaign surrogate, quickly and unfortunately caved under this accusation, obsequiously telling the Times' Yamiche Alcindor: "Both sides need to look in the mirror. We have to decide what kind of language we are going to use in our political discourse."

So calm the hell down and look over there, TV audiences of America!  Stand politely united as we catch the Trump family canoodling with the Russian ambassador and the same Russian oligarchs who robbed their own country blind before they were permitted by the American ruling class to quasi-legally launder billions in stolen loot in American luxury real estate -- with much assistance from the TBTF banks. Donald Trump might well be considered a TBTF bank in his own right. He knows how to play the leverage game to the bombastic hilt. If his head ever rolled for the right, fact-based reasons, then so would a lot of other heads. This must not be permitted to happen.

And it probably explains why Senate Democratic leaders are acting so curiously sanguine about their GOP colleagues destroying Medicaid in a secret rampage of sadism. As long as the Republicans are agreeing to play along with their RussiaGate charade, it simply makes no sense for Democrats to "fight back against" the AHCA when they'd only succeed in delaying a vote by a couple of weeks anyway. This nefarious wheeling and dealing is criminal collusion - euphemised by them as collegiality and solidarity and unity - at the very highest levels.

And still, they pretend to marvel that ordinary people are becoming so irate and so uncivil. They still pretend to wonder why they get the occasional death threat on their Facebook pages.

Pretending is what they do. How else could they ever live with themselves?
 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

American Tragedies

My thoughts go out today to wounded Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

The House leader's life was saved not only by his heavily armed security detail, who killed the alleged shooter, but by some of the physicians who have given up practicing medicine in order to practice nihilistic politics. Who knew that among the reactionaries who'd gathered to practice their baseball skills were medical doctors whose version of the Hippocratic Oath is first, do no harm by withholding medical care from as many poor people as possible?

As Donald Trump initially Tweeted in reaction, today's event was a true American tragedy, ostensibly because a manly GOP man was wounded right in the hip. In keeping with solemn presidential tradition, Trump added the obligatory prayers to what passes for his thoughts.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans, under cover of darkness, were busily trying to make life worse for ordinary Americans by throwing some 20 million of them off their market-based health care and plotting the morbidity and mortality of tens of millions more through the vicious gutting of Medicaid. The only point of contention among them is whether to kill poor and elderly people slowly and mercilessly, or quickly and mercilessly.

As Axios reports, they're refusing to release a draft of their death panel legislation because they're not stupid. It would be "premature" of them to warn people that they can now expect to die even more prematurely than they already are.

Meanwhile, Steve Scalise was said to be in "good spirits" as he prepared to undergo surgery. And why wouldn't he be? Not only was he blissing out on I.V. painkillers, he will likely never even have to look at a hospital bill.

Meanwhile, the Democrats still seem more interested in searching for the ephemeral "smoking gun" in #RussiaGate than they are in speaking up for some actual gun control and agitating for some actual single payer health insurance.

 But several of them did gather on their own baseball practice field to pray for the cameras.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Desperate Dollar Democrats

Russophobia and Hillary Clinton's blame game tour must be losing a little steam, because the anti-Bernie Sanders concern trolls are back. Too many people are still Sanders supporters, and that's making the party leadership a tad nervous.

So the New York Times has been performing its own due diligence with several prominent articles in recent days gently "raising questions" about the legitimacy, if not the basic sanity, of the Bernie faction. On Sunday, the newspaper groused on its front page that Democratic "militants" are making it so hard for the Wall Street faction to achieve the real goal: winning. The Times version of a Democratic militant is somebody who is crazily demanding health care for everybody.

In effect, that makes the majority of the United States one big pitchfork-wielding mob, given that eight in 10 Democrats want single payer insurance, and three out of 10 Republicans do. Therefore, "hippie-punching" is being elevated to a whole new level by the increasingly desperate Neoliberal Thought Collective of which the Times is such a faithful mouthpiece.

As Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin inform their readers:
 Democrats are facing a widening breach in their party, as liberal activists dream of transforming the health care system and impeaching President Trump, while candidates in hard-fought elections ask wary voters merely for a fresh chance at governing.
The growing tension between the party’s ascendant militant wing and Democrats competing in conservative-leaning terrain, was on vivid, split-screen display over the weekend. In Chicago, Senator Bernie Sanders led a revival-style meeting of his progressive devotees, while in Atlanta, Democrats made a final push to seize a traditionally Republican congressional district.
All that centrist Democrats are saying to voters is, please, give the superior knowledge class of the plutocracy one more chance to do right by you. All they want is to govern you as responsibly, as freshly as a sprig of plastic-wrapped mint. The Berniecrats, on the other hand, are just a ragtag bunch of tent revival militants smoking a lesser herb. Sound familiar?

Since that particular article didn't go over so well within the reader commentariat, the Times has now proceeded to play the age card. "Is Sanders, At 75, Too Old for 2020? His Fiercest Fans Say No" is the headline of the piece written by Yamiche Alcindor.

This headline contains two implicit messages: yes, of course Bernie is too old, you dolts! And you progressives who agree with his policies can't possibly be serious, mature voters. You are "fierce fans" who operate with your emotions rather than with your rational minds and your own agency. You see Bernie not as a politician in a representative oligarchy, but as a Mick Jagger-type rock star in a democracy who will instantaneously grant your most whimsical wishes.
With their idol turning 79 in 2020, some fans of Senator Bernie Sanders who had gathered for the second annual People’s Summit were thinking wistfully about the next progressive hero who could take the presidential baton: Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts might make a good next leader, though she at times appears too cautious.
The subliminal message: you're smoking way too much hash. Grow the hell up.

The Times did not mention that many Sanders supporters have increasingly been urging him to forget about reforming the Democratic Party from within, and instead help them form a brand new party. But as Sanders explains to Nina Turner in this Real News Network interview, he is still taking a wait and see approach. He's actually acting pretty cautiously and conservatively for such a "radical" politician.




Here's my published comment on Alcindor's story:
 In general, all politicians on the national stage are "too old." And too rich, and too esconced in near-permanent power to have any earthly idea how their putative constituents are struggling just to get by.

The divide between the centrist Democrats and the more progressive Sanders faction has as much to do with class and ideology as it does with age. And given that the rich are living longer, chronological age becomes moot. When you're a multimillionaire member of the Senate, for example, you have all the affordable health care you could possibly want.

The average age of the Democratic House leadership is 72. Unfortunately for us, the GOP leaders in that body are slashing the social safety net with youthful abandon: they're in the prime of their misbegotten lives, averaging out at just 42 years of age.

Eighteen of the 33 Senators running for re-election in 2018 will be 65 or older.

Even Elizabeth Warren will be close to 70 should she choose to seek her party's presidential nomination. In order for younger people to succeed at electoral politics, we have to get the money out. We should also impose term limits on congress critters, so that younger, poorer candidates have a fighting chance to get elected locally and then eventually run for president before their Medicare kicks in.
Down with the Oldigarchy.

http://blog.quorum.us/the-115th-congress-is-among-the-oldest-in-history-1

(Incidentally, the Times just announced that it has radically changed its commenting system. No more pre-publication human moderation, no more waiting for your remarks to be printed, no more preference given to elite green check commentators: a Google algorithm shall set you free, and most articles will now be open to comments. An explanation, of sorts, is here).

Saturday, June 10, 2017

People's Summit

The Real News Network is broadcasting a livestream of this weekend's People's Summit. You can watch it here.

Bernie Sanders was scheduled to be the keynote speaker tonight.

Update -- Bernie's entire speech:

 

Jeremy Corbyn's unexpected, de facto victory in the U.K.'s snap election has given added impetus and new optimism to stateside lefties, to say the least. The Guardian reports,
Bernie Sanders was among those to praise Labour’s result, saying it showed “people are rising up against austerity and massive levels of income and wealth inequality,” while left-leaning members of Congress said the victory would have major implications for the future of Democrats.
The question of course remains whether the "Democrats"  will also go enthusiastically left, embracing such programs as Medicare for All, or whether they will continue indulging their obsessive-compulsive Russophobic Disorder to their own ultimate detriment.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Calling Doctor Freud

My biggest "takeaway" (I do hate that word) from James Comey's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee is that Donald Trump equates being president with being the CEO of the biggest corporation in the world.  Either that, or his demand for "loyalty" from the FBI director shows that he equates being president with being the godfather of the global mafia.

And in a perverse sort of way, Trump would be absolutely right about both job descriptions. His problem is that he doesn't stay in his proper place. Presidents have heretofore acted as super-salesmen and propagandists for the plutocracy, dutifully using their private armies (the CIA and Special Ops) without bragging and Tweeting about them. Previous presidents have carefully kept their individual psychopathies away from public view, for the most part.

In some Freudian-slipped remarks at a pre-inauguration press conference on Jan. 11th, Trump bragged to the whole world:
"As president, I could run the Trump organization, great, great company, and I could run the company—the country. I’d do a very good job [at both], but I don’t want to do that."
He doesn't want to do a good job at both, because he views the country and his company as one and the same thing: a mega-merger for the ages, if not the greatest hostile takeover the world has ever seen.

Two months into his presidency, Trump was still persisting in his job description. He again called the United States a "company" during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel before, again, belatedly correcting himself.

As far as James Comey is concerned, has there ever been a more slippery character in the canon of Washington political theater? Now seemingly forgiven for having helped destroy Hillary Clinton right before voters went to the polls, he has morphed from villain to All-American hero, a multimillionaire golly gee willikers Boy Scout in a six foot seven frame. He pulled off the awesome stunt of forcing the Democrats and Republicans to act in the lockstep bipartisan manner so beloved of the Washington neoliberal establishment. 

He openly admitted having head-faked Trump by waving the discredited "urinating prostitutes" dossier in front of his face during the transition period as a subtle way of telling the president-elect that the Intelligence Community (another loathsome phrase if there ever was one) has what Chuck Schumer called six ways from Sunday of getting him to behave. He openly admitted to carefully transcribing every Trump conversation - a practice he never bothered with under his previous bosses, Messrs. Bush II and Obama. He openly admitted leaking these transcripts to the New York Times and other outlets - even though they are now so "classified" that he simply could not in good conscience share all the salacious contents with the American public on national TV.

Even so, Comey humble-bragged about the exhilarating freedom he now enjoys as a private citizen to destroy Trump by calling him a liar on national TV. This career prosecutor, steeped in the intricacies of criminal law, lays out a prima facie case for obstruction of justice and then sanctimoniously demurs from calling Trump's behavior criminally offensive. He is not enough of an expert.

And speaking of the subconscious, Comey's dramatic bodice-ripper account of his fraught private dinner with the Groper-in-Chief - he later told colleagues he never wanted to be alone with Trump, ever again - gains new meaning with revelations that he was once accosted as a teenager in his own suburban home by the infamous Ramsey Rapist. So Comey is apparently very sensitive to the vibes put out by serial predators.

His narrative has garnered for him empathy, if not admiration, from every woman who has ever felt intimidated by her boss.  It has also deprived Hillary Clinton of one of the main scapegoats for her election loss.

And just one more speculation before I quit: would there even be a #RussiaGate had Hillary prevailed?

I think not. After all, James Comey also unhelpfully mentioned that Vladimir Putin is an ecumenical abuser. Vlad wasn't just gunning for Hillary; he can't stand either side of the American Uniparty. He's not out to destroy the Democrats, who are already doing a pretty good job of destroying themselves.

The appeal of a liberal 21st Century Inquisition does have its limits, especially in the wake of the punishing bipartisan Age of Austerity. Voters will be apt to stay home when their only choice is between Donald "Berlusconi" Trump and the neoliberal McCarthyites of the Surveillance State.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Links

I haven't had time for original posting this week, so here are a few links to tide you over. If you'd like to comment on any of these, or on any other topic of interest to you, please feel free.

One Yemeni child is dying every 10 minutes and cholera cases have surpassed the 100,000 mark since the disease first broke out barely two months ago. This country is being blasted to smithereens by billions of dollars' worth of American and British weaponry sold to the Saudi royal family.

Even so, all Western eyes are being properly directed toward the soap opera known as As The Comey Worm Turns. From the ubiquitous countdown clocks to the special theatrical trailer scripted by the newly rehabbed ex G-Man himself, today's Senate Intelligence Committee hearing was being hyped as the blockbuster hit of the summer. If only the cable companies had been given more notice by the producers and directors of this political melodrama, I'm sure they would have upgraded it to a Pay-Per-View consumer experience.

Donald Trump chillingly boasts of despotic Saudi Arabia's infrastructure investment in the United States, and an unprecedented kleptocratic mass privatization of our public roads and public works and public services. Still, as we are persistently and forever reminded by the major media, the real crisis is that James Comey was afraid to be alone with Trump at sumptuous dinners while Yemeni children are starving. The pressure was simply unbearable.

Brits Go the Polls: The Tories are predicted to win. And why not, with savvy Obama campaign guru Jim Messina once again advising an ultra-conservative incumbent candidate? Somebody's got to manipulate the masses and preserve the Neoliberal Project and forever wars for posterity, after all.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

All the News That's Fit To Suppress

You might think that a Washington protest rally with only about two dozen participants wouldn't get much media attention. But since Saturday's event was organized by an anti-Trump, anti-Russian astroturf operation called March for Truth, funded by a group of plutocrats, "intelligence community" alumni, neocon war hawks, and centrist Democratic Party operatives, you would be thinking very incorrectly indeed.

Because of the importance of the big-money backers of Resistance, Inc., the New York Times plugged the "march" on its Facebook page before giving the small-ball event some truly big league coverage in the A-section pages of its Sunday edition. For without relentless publicity, how are we, the rag-tag citizens of America, supposed to remember that Russian Meddling in Our Democracy is the crisis of the century?

And with the Times' cooperative failure to reveal the names of the big players behind the scenes, the Powers That Be can cling to the illusion that they still actually have the power to mold public opinion, redirecting our angst from quotidian economic concerns to ginning up a patriotic fever for war against Russia. It's not for nothing that the newspaper also unceremoniously dumped both the public editor and the whole public editor desk last week. Accountability is so yesterday.

So we never learn from reading the fawning Times piece by Nathalie Nieves that one of the main organizers of #March For Truth is a writer and "activist" named Andrea Chalupa, who recently Tweeted, with no proof, that "WikiLeaks is a proven front for the Russian government."  Her sister, Alexandra, has been exposed as the probable developer of the discredited McCarthyite website PropOrNot, which published a blacklist of some 200 independent news organizations scurrilously accused of being "unwitting" agents for Vladimir Putin and stooges for Donald J. Trump.

Indeed, the Times has engaged in a virtual coverup of the #March for Truth astroturf group's provenance. Nieves' article mostly consists of interviews with a handful of "just plain folks" who were ostensibly demanding the truth about TrumPutin complicity. (Nieves has to grudgingly admit, however, that most of the couple-dozen participants had really shown to protest against other things, like Trump's war on the environment) Still, she valiantly offers that such cool celebrities as Debra Messing have given money to "the cause" - thereby tacitly legitimizing the effort with that all-important Hollywood gloss.

We must look to the#March For Truth website for supplemental facts. (To give Nieves credit, she provided a link) All you really need is a Google and a dream to figure out what the Times doesn't bother telling you.

Perhaps what is most revealing about this astroturf movement is the involvement of so many Hillary Clinton donors and operatives, including the Chalupa sisters just mentioned. This involvement gives further credence to the largely ignored tidbit in the book "Shattered" that #RussiaGate was, in fact, the brainchild of the failed Clinton campaign itself. 

Some of the "partners" listed on the #March for Truth website:

Town Hall Project: founded by former Iowa Clinton campaign field organizer Jimmy Dahman. To its credit, this site and its app have enabled people to easily find the congressional town hall nearest them to agitate for all manner of progressive things, including single payer health insurance. To his own discredit, though, Dahman is choosing to emphasize Russophobia rather than the fact-based fear of getting sick while uninsured or underinsured. 

 "Across the country, constituents have flooded town halls to let their representatives know that they want impartial investigations into Russian interference in our elections," Dahman rather falsely brags on the March For Truth website.

Pantsuit Nation: a Hillary Clinton Facebook-originated fan group, whose founder, Libby Chamberlain, is now being harshly criticized for personally cashing in on the first person hard-luck stories of poor and minority women she collated. Therefore, Pantsuit Nation has expanded its tarnished brand into some lucrative Russia-blaming to help keep the dream alive.

Swing Left: founded by Ethan Todras-Whitehall (writer/teacher), Joshua Krafchin (marketer and entrepreneur) and Miriam Stone (brand strategist) They appear to be an honest trio of citizens just looking for congressional redistricting who now find themselves "veal-penned" into the RussiaGate franchise. This is ironic, given that the DNC had studiously ignored them, and the pro-Clinton Daily Kos had even once accused them of being Russian agents. The name Krafchin had apparently made the Russophobic hairs on the back of Democratic Party necks stand up. But now that Swing Left has been patriotically vetted, it's all good.

The Opposition - this is just another news aggregation site for anti-Trump stories. Since no actual names are listed on this blog, inquiring minds want to know: is it Hillary prop, or not?

  Stand Up America -  Founded and bankrolled by failed multimillionaire centrist carpetbagger Sean Eldridge and directed by Jessica Adair, who most recently served as Hillary Clinton's Women's Vote director in Nevada. DJ Koessler, head of Clinton's digital ops in Brooklyn HQ, is the digital director. Sean Quinn, digital strategist, formerly worked for Anne Lewis Strategies, a Democratic Party fundraising firm, whose own director previously worked in the Bill Clinton White House. This #March sponsor is so incestuous that it deserves its own diagram on Muckety.

Rise To Run:  this is one of several mystery sponsors of March of Truthiness that are so dark and so shadowy that they don't even have anonymous websites, let alone listing any human beings on them. Somebody had better check to make sure this isn't a KGB plant.

Stand Up Republic - Founded by Evan McMullin, former clandestine ops officer at the CIA and later a Goldman Sachs banker before he ran for president as an independent conservative. Co-director is Mindy Kaling (nee Finn), who worked on the Bush and Romney campaigns. Their fervid, jingoistic statement on joining the Russophobic Resistance Fighters is a real keeper:
"Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn founded Stand Up Republic to help Americans stand up in defense of the fundamental principles that have made this country the true home of liberty and a source of hope for many around the world. Stand Up Republic will build and organize a grassroots movement in defense of liberty, equality, and truth in America. Our priorities will be to uphold the Constitution and defend the democratic norms and institutions upon which the protection of our basic rights depend.
We invite all Americans committed to these timeless truths to join us today in this hallowed cause."
Party Majority - This sponsor of #March for Truth is definitely not interested in campaign finance reform. We must, they say, take full advantage of campaign finance law as it exists, not as "we" might hope it to be. Grassroots SuperPac ia not an oxymoron! But even so, this sponsor of Truthiness lies by omission in refusing to list even one single name of a person or an address on its website. Dark is Light. Ignorance is Strength. Money is money.

Rock the Vote -- "We're smart. We're passionate. We're badass. We get the job done."

 This group says its duty to democracy is to line up "cultural leaders," celebrity endorsements and fundraising concerts. Look how well that worked out for Clinton in Cleveland at the
Beyoncé gala.

Rock the Vote is run by former Chicago Democratic ward heeler Carolyn DeWitt, who has previously arranged DNC convention entertainment, groomed Democratic surrogates for media appearances, and coordinated messaging between the Democratic Party and Barack Obama's Organizing for America staffers. It was founded and bankrolled by Virgin Records mogul Jeff Ayeroff.


Oppstn.Org: Cool, edgy cyperspeak for "The Opposition," this is just another mainstream media aggregation site which "curates" anti-Trump articles and then rather dishonestly bylines them all with "By The Opposition." It thus turns out that linked corporate monstrosities like NBC-Comcast magically morph into The Opposition. 

Although he doesn't list his own name on his Oppstn site, Executive Director Jason Uhl does out himself on the #March for Truth sponsor page. A search reveals 16 different Jason Uhls on LinkedIn, none of whom appear to have a journalism background, nor even minimal stenographic credentials.

Meanwhile, Truth March fans are urged to Tweet and Facebook all their friends with quotes from such paragons of democracy as Obama Kill List creator and Bush torture-defender John Brennan:



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Give It a Rest, Hillary

Hillary Clinton's latest excuse for losing the election to Donald Trump is that nobody could have survived on her pedestal of awesome inevitability.

"I was the victim of the assumption that I would win," Hillary Clinton deadpanned in the latest episode of her perpetual Blame Game Tour.

That's like complaining you've been fired based upon the unreasonable expectation of your boss that you'd show up for work. That's like complaining that after you fell in an Olympic relay race you'd bribed your way into, it was all the fault of the greedy officials who let you on the track as well as the stupid rubes who bet on your victory.

I take full responsibility, but nothing is ever my fault. Hear me roar, whined Hillary to her well-heeled Silicon Valley audience. She presented her hosts with a complimentary bottle of an alcoholic concoction she called Rodham Rye. The stage was thus set for some sloppy softball mellowness to help make the vitriol go down.

"Goldman Sachs paid me!" she squealed in delight at one point during Wednesday's interview. But the fact that she also spoke to camp counselors balanced the whole thing out. Also too, she helped hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden. Plus, men get paid for the speeches they make.

 Also miffed that Trump is stealing the media-blaming limelight from her, Clinton accused the press of treating her use of a private email system "as though it were Pearl Harbor." She obviously didn't get the irony of that remark, given how she acted like a Kamikaze pilot during her presidential campaign. She bombed in one suicidal campaign appearance after the other.

She also had the nerve to rip the Democratic National Committee, which had bent over backwards to rig the nomination in her favor through, among other things, limiting the number of debates with Bernie Sanders and ensuring that their scheduling interfered with football playoffs and national holidays and weekends so as to attract the fewest viewers possible.

"I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party," she fumed, whereas Donald Trump got all his precious data handed to him on a silver platter. Harrumph.

But the real paranoid coup de grace of her performance at a California technology conference was her rambling attack on "Americans" who must have helped "the Russians" to meddle in her campaign. “I think it’s fair to ask, how did that actually influence the campaign, and how did they know what messages to deliver?” she said. “Who told them? Who were they coordinating with, and colluding with?”

After conjuring up an epic image of a thousand grotesque anti-Hillary bots and trolls cavorting about in cyberspace, she then paradoxically went on to call Trump a "very reactive personality" and questioned what, exactly, he means by the word "covfefe." It must be a secret coded dog-whistle to Vladimir Putin. That is the only possible, rational explanation. She was, after all, speaking at a Code Conference.

You can watch her whole spiel in the clip below. You are guaranteed to cringe in your seat as the litany of blame evolves into an ear-splittingly off-key crescendo of bilious self-pity.

If more than a few minutes of unbridled narcissistic victimhood are too much for you to bear, however, then I highly recommend the troll-hunting scene from Peer Gynt as a more healthful substitute. It absolutely captures the essence of where this woman's head is at:




Meanwhile, Hillary's more understated understudy Chelsea Clinton went on TV herself to trill that the dashing of stupid people's unreasonable expectations about her mother was actually "an unexpected blessing."

Chelsea said that although she's been told by outsiders that her family once planted petunias and tomatoes together when she was a tot, she has no independent memory of this event. All she can remember of her childhood is the hours of homework and the piano lessons that transformed her into the overachieving adult she is today.

Chelsea says she is imagining the childhood she might have had as she watches Bill and Hillary in their dotage dig in the dirt with her own daughter in a DNA deluge. "It was such an unforeseen gift that my daughter was giving me to see my parents in that way," Chelsea smirked to the ladies of The View.

As long as Hillary Clinton keeps telling us over and over and over again that she is doing O.K. despite her persecution complex, maybe some of her psychotic magic will start rubbing off on us too.

Long walks in the woods, organizing our closets, blaming Russians, guzzling the Chardonnay and the Rodham Rye like there's no tomorrow might help us forget all our unreasonable assumptions about there even being a tomorrow.

Skol. Hiccup. And then gag me with a Covfefe.