Thursday, April 19, 2018

Speaking Ill of Barbara Bush Is Deemed Un-American

Randa Jarrar, a tenured creative writing professor at Cal State Fresno, is being investigated by her employer for tweeting: "Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal.”

This amazing departure from the flood of hagiography on the late Barbara Bush has evoked the wrath of decent people and Internet trolls all over America. Their belief in the First Amendment is apparently not as important in their belief in Emily Post, not to mention their belief a wrathful Old Testament God.

It is deemed improper to speak ill of the dead no matter how awful they may have been in life. And when an awfully important and powerful person dies, it is especially incumbent upon all good nonthinking Americans to pretend that they were living saints, regardless of whether you "agreed" with them or not. Death is a magical thing to magical-thinking people. It bestows upon the corpse, especially the still-warm corpse, a glow of righteousness for the mere fact that it no longer breathes. Speak ill of the dead, and you risk the dead person striking you dead, whether it be from their exalted perch in heaven and from the lowest circle of Hell. Even the most enlightened and liberal Americans can harbor an atavistic belief in ghosts and divine retribution.

And even if you don't believe in ghosts, and you have not joined in lockstep awe of Barbara Bush, you should feel ashamed of yourself for dissing her while her loved ones are still grieving. This is despite the fact that her loved ones are not so grief-stricken themselves that they canceled their previously scheduled plutocratic confab in Dallas. (see my previous post.) Just like a multi-day wake, it will end on the very day of Barbara's funeral in a Christian church.

Even though some of America's richest people are now gathered together at Dubya's presidential shrine to talk about money and power and influence instead of gathering to pray for the Matriarch, Professor Randa Jarrar and all of you heretics should at least feel ashamed of yourselves for not being in lockstep with our beloved awesome liberal ex-presidents, who are falling all over themselves in awe of Barbara Bush. 

The Washington Post leads its own smear piece on the comparatively powerless Professor Jarrar by juxtaposing her irreverent tweet with the bland words of two of the most powerful men in the country:
In the hours after Barbara Bush died Tuesday, even those who didn’t share the former first lady’s political views expressed their condolences and recounted warm memories of the Bush family matriarch.

Former president Bill Clinton, the man who once campaigned against her husband, called Bush “a remarkable woman” with “grit & grace, brains & beauty.” Another former president, Barack Obama, said she had “humility and decency that reflects the very best of the American spirit.”
The Post then goes on to compare these calm and reasonable words with the "rants" of Jarrar against the Twitter backlash. 
School officials also said they were reviewing the tenured professor’s position.
More than 2,000 people had replied to Jarrar before she made her Twitter account private, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Some were upset at what they viewed as her incivility about a woman widely regarded as genteel.
For others, the sin was more basic: She had spoken ill of the dead.
Jarrar pointed to the comments as an example of “what it’s like to be an Arab American Muslim American woman with some clout online expressing an opinion.”
“Look at the racists going crazy in my mentions right now,” she tweeted.
The Post quotes the college's president as saying that Jarrar's "taunting" remarks (including her snarkily referring Twitter critics to a suicide prevention hotline) "were beyond free speech. This was disrespectful. A professor with tenure does not have blanket protection to say and do what they wish. We are all held accountable for our actions."

Well, not so much if you started an illegal war and "tortured some folks" as did the honored and rehabilitated George W. Bush, or if you destroyed the entire global economy, as did the Wall Street bankers. This is, after all, Exceptional America. In any event, Jarrar has apparently so threatened Fresno State that officials have now put "extra security" in place in order to safeguard the safe-thinking population who harbor nothing but kind words and thoughts about Mrs. Bush.  And for further protection, in appeasement to the wrathful etiquette gods, the campus flags were lowered to half staff,  and College Republicans have scheduled a memorial service in her honor.

In case that isn't enough paranoia and superstition, the public shaming and virtual stoning of the free-thinking Professor Jarrar has even migrated to the Kingdom of Amazon where trolls have posted hundreds of harsh reviews on her books (which they haven't read) and thus lowered her ratings.

Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos, who owns both the Washington Post and Amazon, will deliver a sold-out speech at George W. Bush's shrine on Saturday. This appearance has nothing whatsoever to do with honoring Barbara Bush, and everything to do with burnishing his image and instilling hope in Dallas that he will pick that Texas city as his second US headquarters, at much taxpayer expense. 

Cash-strapped municipalities are in a virtual bidding war to become part of the Bezos Empire. In exchange for his promise to create an estimated 50,000 new low-paying jobs for the winning city, the winning city will be expected to foot the bill for the infrastructure to ensure the smooth and ceaseless flow of profits to the richest man in America as well the smooth and ceaseless flow of goods to America's good-thinking citizen-consumers.

Only in America could this oligarch, whose employees are so poorly paid that they qualify for food stamps and Medicaid, enjoy the respect and a greater right to free speech than a professor whose talent and specialty is creative writing. 

She not only thinks independently, she's in the business of teaching young people to think independently and then to convey those thoughts to others via the power of the written word. Randa Jarrar is therefore deemed to be a clear and present danger.

If you still had any doubts that the USA is a full-blown fascist state with repressive religious undertones, you might as well disabuse yourself of them right now.  

Sinclair Lewis was right. Fascism arrived cloaked in the American flag, emblazoned with a cross, as evidenced most recently on the campus of Fresno State.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Mourning Barbara: The Bush Way of Death

George W. Bush finally explained himself this morning on Fox Business News. What more perfect venue could there be for a bereaved plutocrat for whom capitalistic life must go on regardless of the fact that his mother Barbara is not yet decently buried?

The day after Mrs. Bush's death at the ripe old age of 92, a tearless, stoically jovial George told Maria Bartiromo that as Babs lay moribund she joked to the doctor, "You want to know why George is the way he is? Because I drank and smoked when I was pregnant with him!"

Calling Doctor Freud. Spoiled son blames Mom for his personality disorder, which as far as we know first manifested itself in the 1950s when he stuffed firecrackers up the rectums of frogs just to watch them blow up. Could the frat boy draft dodger who went on to send lesser mortals to their deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq be a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome?

The glowing New York Times review does not go there. It's too soon. It is especially too soon to speak ill of the war criminal sons of newly-dead ruling class matriarchs. Instead, we are regaled in article after article about Barbara Bush's iconic "saltiness" vying with her down-to-earth grandmotherly persona, and how she kept George and the rest of clan laughing their asses off right up to her final dying breath. And beyond. Because as far as Dubya is concerned, there's no such thing as tear-stained laughter. Leave that maudlin stuff to his daughters grieving over their "Gammy." In his septuagenarian world of grief, there's just the usual unseemly preppie guffawing. We saw this in action at a 2016 memorial service for the slain Dallas police officers, when George showed his sorrow by giggling and swaying back and forth in a kind of goofy dance.

Dubya couldn't go on TV soon enough to tell his heartwarming anecdote about his life in utero. To be fair, the interview had already been scheduled long before Mrs. Bush decided to forgo further treatment for her failing heart and lungs. And he will also nevertheless persist in hosting his annual "leadership forum" to be held today at his presidential shrine in Dallas (Mom will be interred on the grounds of the first President Bush's shrine on Saturday). The Times reported approvingly, 
“My mother would say, ‘Make darn sure you participate fully in the leadership forum,’” he said. “In other words, ‘Don’t sit around and feel sorry for me or yourself, more importantly, but move on with life.’ And that’s what we’re doing.”
Nothing, not even the death of a mother, will ever get in the way of End Stage Capitalism as practiced by America's great ruling class dynasties.

The honored guest at this year's confab will be Priscilla Chan, wife of embattled Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg. She'll be talking about school privatization and machine learning for plutocratic fun and profit.
 “We’re thrilled that Priscilla Chan will lend her visionary expertise to a conversation around how our children learn and the future of how we educate students in this country,” said Ken Hersh, President and CEO of the Bush Center. “Education is core to our mission at the Bush Institute, and we share The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative’s belief that every child should have the opportunity to recognize their full potential. I look forward to an important conversation around how parents, educators, organizations, and communities can contribute to learning environments that meet the needs of all children.”
If nothing else, her discourse is sure to beat the grief-addled Dubya's plaintive "the question must be asked: is our children learning?" back when he was pushing his repressive No Child Left Behind initiative for plutocratic fun and profit. Chan reportedly will also talk about "access to" affordable housing - as opposed to, say, the actual building of affordable housing for the poor financed by the tax dollars of the wealthy, or an actual increase in federally subsidized rent assistance programs.

It's so heartwarming that Bush's oil tycoon pal Hersh can also get past Barbara Bush's death and gush that every child should get just enough education to "recognize" their potential, as opposed to oil tycoons like himself getting fairly taxed to make sure that poor children can realize their full potential and avoid going to their own deathbeds saddled with onerous college and medical debt.

Also appearing at the non-cancelled Leadership Forum will be former Federal Reserve Chairman and Brookings fellow Ben Bernanke: New York Times op-ed contributor and American Enterprise Institute president Arthur C. Brooks; Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace. Closing the festivities will be America's richest oligarch, Jeff Bezos, founder of the Amazon oligopoly and owner of the Washington Post.

Sadly, both the Forum and the Funeral will be closed to the public. Because privatized plutocratic life must always go on, and George W. is absolutely convinced that Mom is fondly looking down on the whole charade from her own privileged perch in heaven. To paraphrase Babs herself, she was privileged to begin with, so this is all working out very well for her whole family and their close circle of friends. It will work out so well for them, in fact, that they'll even save themselves the expense of an extra-long trip on their private Lear jets to attend her funeral in Houston.

May they all rest in the peace and knowledge of their own exalted rectitude.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Fraudulence of the Democrats

In the interests of my mental health, I've taken a break from the Nooze and the Internet and blogging for the past several days.

So I have nothing to write about the media feud between Donald Trump and James Comey, because spats between plutocrats have no bearing on how the bottom 90 percent of the American population struggles to survive day to day. I also skipped the over-hyped interview on ABC Sunday night, and I don't plan to waste my time slogging through Comey's self-serving book, let alone perusing the morning-after annotated transcripts of the George Stephanopoulos gab-fest being served up by the New York Times and the Washington Post. Comments sections are limited to readers picking a side and rooting for their favorite rich guy. Thanks, but no thanks.

As for the bombing of Syria, it is really quite amazing that the mass media aren't falling in line this time around, and calling Trump "presidential." As a matter of fact, the president has fallen so far within the approved line of expressing venom toward Russia that their whole #Russiagate narrative would be falling apart were it not for Comey keeping it on life support. (Yes, even though I boycotted the Nooze, it was impossible to completely avoid the multiple teasers of Comey saying it was "possible" that prostitutes were peeing all over each other, if not upon Trump directly.)

So at least they're finally making a stab at going after Trump's sleazy business empire by way of his "fixer," Michael Cohen. This is decades after they gave him a free pass over his sleazy gambling empire in New Jersey, for the mere fact that even in bankruptcy, he was deemed too big and newsworthy to fail on the public stage. Plus, too many corrupt Jersey politicians (in both parties) and law enforcement officials had been in cahoots with him.

 Meanwhile, centrist Democrats, through one of their favorite media spokespeople, are still doubling down on running as the true party of fiscal responsibility and thinking that they can win the midterms on the same wonkish pragmatism that cost Hillary Clinton the presidency. More likely, they're not really interested in regaining the majority at all, because raising money off the largely astroturfed #Resistance and keeping Trump and the GOP right where they can self-righteously flail at them in outrage is really their endgame. What would they possibly do without Trump to kick around? People might start realizing they're still the liberal wing of that Bird of Prey that Upton Sinclair wrote about a century or so ago.

So the gist of David Leonhardt's New York Times column is not that deficits shouldn't matter when people are needlessly suffering and dying and struggling in the richest country on earth. What he finds outrageous is that the Republicans are fake deficit hawks, and the Democrats are the true deficit hawks.  Pundits have finally - finally - realized that media darling Paul Ryan was a con artist and a phony hawk this whole time, what with those humongous  tax cuts for the rich and all. A phony epiphany is apparently better than no epiphany at all.

Still, Leonhardt thinks the Dems aren't getting the credit they deserve for being the more honest Social Darwinists. Whenever they give crumbs to one group of vulnerable people, they always neuter themselves by taking from another vulnerable community. It's what Barack Obama often insipidly called his "balanced approach." (Too bad, according to Leonhardt, that the media also refuse to acknowledge that Obama's great failure as president was his refusal to carpet-bomb Syria's chemical weapons arsenals when he had the chance. Letting Trump claim that glorious victory is almost too much for the liberal class to bear, apparently.)

But back to the main Dollars Over the Demos theme, as Leonhardt writes:
Ever so slowly, conventional wisdom has started to recognize this reality. After Ryan’s retirement announcement last week, only a few headlines called him a deficit hawk. People are catching on to the con. But there is still a major way that the conventional wisdom is wrong: It doesn’t give the Democratic Party enough credit for its actual fiscal conservatism. Over the last few decades, Democrats have repeatedly reduced the deficit. They have raised taxes. They have cut military spending and corporate welfare. Some of them have even tried to hold down the cost of cherished social programs. Obamacare, for example, included enough cost controls and tax increases that it’s cut the deficit on net....
 So it would certainly be false to claim that Democrats are perfect fiscal stewards and that Republicans are all profligates. Yet it’s just as false to claim that the parties aren’t fundamentally different. One party has now spent almost 40 years cutting taxes and expanding government programs without paying for them. The other party has raised taxes and usually been careful to pay for its new programs.
The Dems' claim to having cut military spending on paper (due to the bipartisan Sequestration fraud of an excuse to punish regular people in the name of fiscal responsibility) was more than offset by a sleight-of-hand maneuver, appropriating billions of dollars in unaccountable "contingency" funding to the Pentagon during Barack Obama's presidency. This included half a billion dollars in 2016 alone for more of the Predator drones used in Obama's secretive and unaccountable assassination program, as well as $8 billion for the military's slush fund for miscellaneous secret programs that year.

My published comment on Leonhardt's deeply dishonest piece:
Nowhere in this column is there any mention of the bipartisan profligacy of the permanent war/surveillance state. Congress traditionally has given the Pentagon and the "intelligence" community carte blanche to do their violent unaccountable things with only the slightest levels of token oversight.

Yes, Democrats are more "fiscally responsible" regarding taxes. But during the cycles that they're in power, they're very willing to wheel and deal with the GOP on cuts to the social safety net. It was only due to the recalcitrance of the Tea Party that President Obama was unable to achieve his own "Grand Bargain" with House Speaker John Boehner, after the so-called Cat Food Commission for Fiscal Responsibility had also failed to make "sensible" cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

The Democratic Party abandoned the poor and working class decades ago in the name of this "fiscal responsibility." And they wonder why millions of financially strapped people turned to the fake populism of Donald Trump in the last cycle.

Desperate people don't vote for wonks, pragmatists, fiscal hawks and a better life for themselves someday, but just not right now. If you don't believe me, look at what's happening to Gov. Cuomo in New York State. The Working Families Party abandoned him for the sole reason that he has stiffed working families in the interests of his oligarchic backers.
It's a testament to its hard-centrist ideology that the Times dismissively characterized this rather bland offshoot of the Democratic Party (they ditched Zephyr Teachout for the thuggish Andrew Cuomo in his second campaign) as "progressive die-hards." It's also a testament to the corporate capture of labor unions that several of them ditched the Working Families Party over the weekend in order to display their own slavish Trump-like loyalty to Andrew Cuomo.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Zuck Gets the Senatorial Spa Treatment

I have to laugh at all the "Zuckerberg Gets Grilled!" headlines today, or the equally annoying ones that insist he was raked over the coals or pounded flat on the congressional cutting board.

If you actually watched all or part of Tuesday's Senate hearing pretending to explore what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg knew about Cambridge Analytica and when he knew it, you would have realized that he was being massaged like the tiny loaf of pasty white dough he so closely resembles. You knew he was in for a luxurious kneading when Sen. Jon Tester praised his tax-evading fortune as a "charity" before he got the first question.

You knew who really was in charge of this puff pastry lesson when Zuckerberg prefaced almost every evasive answer to a softball question with a condescending, "That is a really good question, Senator."

You could almost see Zuck patting each of their empty little heads as he took frequent sips of the US Senate-brand bottled designer water. It was the only sign that he was even remotely nervous. In fact, he must have felt like the Pillsbury Doughboy after awhile, because the over-hyped Grand Inquisition consisted of one ticklish finger-jab after the other. The disingenuous queries about whether he is afraid Facebook might become a monopoly were particularly amusing.

He got so confident, in fact, that he actually pulled a Hillary Clinton and credited himself with inspiring the #MeToo movement. This is really pretty amazing, given that he originally started Facebook as a hacking tool to shame and rate the bodies and faces of his female Harvard classmates. But no matter. The way he told it to the senators, he started Facebook because he wanted to make the world a better place. His only fault, he implied, was that he was just a wee lad of 19 when he had his utopian brainstorm in his humble dorm room. Callow youth that he was and still is, he never dreamed that his apps and his algorithms could be abused by "bad actors." If the old Coke theme song selling perfect harmony and a smile on the face of an earth e-moji had started echoing through the Senate chamber during his testimony, I would not have been surprised. 

Zuck's real ace in the hole was when he coyly let out that Facebook has been subpoenaed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and that he will gladly be cooperating with the investigation of Donald Trump, and Russian meddling and other colluding things. Beyond that, though, he can't be more specific lest national security be threatened. But of course, he'll be glad to tell them everything he knows in a more secret setting so that actual people can be kept in the dark. Just as he is opaque about how exactly his apps and his algorithms suck up and misuse the information of billions of global Facebook users, he will be opaque about his own exalted role in both bringing down a president and helping the "intelligence" communities simultaneously censor users and spy upon them.

Not that he himself knows much of anything, of course. Callow idealist that he is, the details have escaped him. But he'll have "his team" get back to the Senate team. Because they're all on the same team. And we're just bystanders who are too stupid to read the fine print of the convoluted user agreements we sign as we sell our souls to the Silicon Valley devils.

As the New York Times reported in its own rehash of the "grilling,"
The technological gap between Silicon Valley and Washington was apparent when Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican of Mississippi, asked about internet regulation.
Mr. Zuckerberg explained that when thinking about regulations, government officials need to differentiate between internet companies like his and broadband providers, the companies that build and run the “pipes” that carry internet traffic, like AT&T and Comcast. 
The difference is at the heart of net neutrality, a hotly debated regulation that was overturned last year. The rules prevent internet service providers from favoring the flow of all internet content through their pipes.
“I think in general the expectations that people have of the pipes are somewhat different from the platforms,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.
“When you say pipes, you mean?” Mr. Wicker asked.
Zuckerberg must have felt like Julia Child trying to teach a first-day class of culinary students who'd never boiled an egg in their lives how to prepare Beef Wellington.

Another plutocrat has hit the jackpot. It's the Luck of the Zuck, or as it's more commonly known among the ruling class racketeers: "the house always wins."

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Tinfoil Hat Time

I don't know if I'll end up on Homeland Security's watch list of "hundreds of thousands" of journalists and bloggers. But since I do know that Google has drastically suppressed search results and traffic to this site, it might be just a little harder for even Big Brother himself to track me down. 

And while I don't know who-all will end up in the database, I do know that Homeland Security is contracting out this creepy new job. This means that the government can declare itself totally unaccountable for the mistakes that will be made and the damage that will be done to individual psyches, careers, and livelihoods, not to mention the violations of the First Amendment.

From The Independent:
The DHS Media Monitoring plan would allow for “24/7 access to a password protected, media influencer database, including journalist, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc” to identify “any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event.”
DHS spokesman Todd Houlton tweeted to say that despite what was being reported this was nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media.
If I do nothing, say nothing, write nothing, or think nothing wrong, then I will have nothing at all to worry about! Phew. I'm so glad that got all straightened out ahead of time, because now I can safely say that Homeland Security is nothing but an out-of-control paranoid fascist state within a fascist state, and that smarmy creep Todd Houlton can kiss my grits.
I don't know whether the FBI's raid on Donald Trump's lawyer's office will turn up any smoking guns on graft and corruption, or whether Michael Cohen is not as dumb as his client and therefore proactively shredded, burned, ate or otherwise destroyed any incriminating evidence. But I do know that the timing of this raid is suspicious, given that the permanent political establishment is champing at the bit for an all-out war in Syria against Russia and Iran. So maybe this raid served as a not so subtle nudge to a president who only last week had uttered the blasphemy of wanting to bring the troops back from Syria.

This is a guy who on more than one occasion has been unable to tell the difference between the country and his company. So when Trump fumed that the FBI raid was "an attack on our country" and since he has a history of poor impulse control, perhaps the Neocons will succeed in manipulating his elevated adrenaline levels at the object of their own desires, a/k/a Assad the Animal. John Bolton simpering in the background behind his foamy-white mustache as Trump foamed at the mouth for the TV cameras was not a pleasant sight.

I don't know if there really was a gas attack in Syria right before the FBI raid, or whether the "unverified" footage of children foaming at the mouth was both a nudge to Trump and a clumsy means to get a war-weary American public to believe that the perfect way to avenge a hundred deaths of innocents is to kill a thousand or a million more innocents. But I do know that it's very easy to make chlorine gas. I manufactured it once myself, totally by accident, about 30 years ago. Having run out of laundry detergent one day, I thought it would be OK to mix Dawn dish detergent with bleach in the washing machine. Luckily, the laundry area was in the basement, so I was able to shut the door and evacuate the premises at the first asphyxiating whiff. So for the pols and TV news personalities to rail that Vlad Putin lied about arranging for Assad to rid his country of chemical weapons is really kind of silly.

I don't know whether Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's media circus testimony before Congress this week will result in any punishment or government control. But I do know that the senators railing about the dangers to our privacy are cynical or disingenuous at best, and as dumb as they look at worst. The government needs Facebook as much as Facebook needs the government. How else will politicians directly target their ads at us? How else will Homeland Security keep track of all our thoughts and our wildcat strikes and our dissenting opinions and protest rallies that are not directly sanctioned by the Democratic Party/Hollywood #Resistance, Inc.?

Since many if not most congress critters receive generous campaign donations from Silicon Valley and relentless visits from its lobbyists, don't look for them to impose punitive new taxes on Big Tech any time soon, either. Since we the people are only as valuable to the oligarchs as our data, perhaps a direct tax on the data he's extracted from us will hit Zuck right where it hurts. So would a law requiring him and other tech giants, like Google and Amazon, to share their secret algorithms and data-collecting tools with the public. 

These billionaire nerds are acting just like impervious banks. They're misusing our information as wantonly as Wall Street gambles with its customers' money. As big as whole countries and with revenues and assets far exceeding those of most countries, these monstrosities consider themselves too big to fail.  Goldman Sachs and Citigroup still own the place, of course, but Amazon and Facebook and Google are literally giving them a run for their money, if not outright usurping the throne.

"Finance capitalism will be as old-fashioned as Flower Power. Some may miss it dearly, but that fondness will be little more than nostalgia," predict Oxford economists Viktor Mayer- Schonberger and Thomas Ramge in "Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data."

  "Using rich information streams is superior to relying on money alone. As the economy shifts to data-rich and thus more efficient markets, most of the information necessary for these markets to function will no longer flow through banks," they observe.

And established public companies in Silicon Valley attract more and more concentrated globs of capital, for no other reason than that they can. No wonder the media-political establishment is coming to the defense of the vampiric Amazon, which has lost billions of dollars in stock value since lesser oligarch Donald Trump decided to pick a fight with the greatest oligarch now living: Jeff Bezos. The definition of democracy is capitalism on crack, and don't let us ever forget it.

So Zuckerberg probably has as much to worry about as his fellow "thought leaders" in the East Coast division (Wall Street) did when they were hauled before Congress in 2009 and castigated for ruining the whole economy and sucking trillions of dollars from the homes and savings of ordinary people. Mistakes were made then, too, because of complex algorithms that ordinary people (including even congressional multimillionaires) couldn't possibly understand. Unaccountability is built right into their self-serving system.

The bankers lackadaisically left the hearings in their limousines and openly laughed all the way back to their banks in their Lear jets. Zuckerberg will probably be a little more circumspect. He'll probably contain his own glee behind the charming smirk and crocodile tears he's been coached to project by some of the same political operatives employed by the congressional inquisitors themselves.

It's the permanent closed feedback loop of the permanent ruling class. Money begets power begets more money begets more power.  Not only are we not in their big club, they're pounding us over the head with it at every opportunity.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Fear and Fawning In Hillaryland

"I should tell you that Hillary did try to warn me," confesses Jennifer Palmieri in the latest memoir about the ill-fated Clinton campaign. "On March 23, 2015, my first day on the campaign staff, Hillary sat me and communications director Kristina Schake down and basically vomited up what it was like to have been her for the past twenty-five years."

Even if you've grown tired of the nauseating "everybody is to blame but Hillary" literary genre, you still have to give Palmieri's "Dear Madam President" props for at least graphically feeling our pain while she goes to great gut-wrenching lengths to blame everybody but Hillary for losing: particularly, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Former FBI Director James Comey, Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange, and Donald Trump; and more generally, millions of anonymous sexist men. And of course, Palmieri also beats herself up on almost every other page. Masochism does have its rewards:
Friends, #DearMadamPresident is a NYT bestseller!!! I may faint. So grateful to all who bought the book & see their own story reflected in it. Please continue to tell your family & friends. Word of mouth & belief in your own power is how this happened. So grateful 🙏 ❤️…
2 hours ago · Twitter
The money quote in the book comes early:

"We (Hillary's campaign staff) failed. It was on us to save America and we let her blow up." 

(I think Palmieri is referring to the country, and not to her candidate. I can only surmise that the publishing deadline must have gotten in the way of the editing.)

Palmieri is the campaign communications director who, just one day after the election, helped set in motion the Russiagate propaganda franchise and the beginnings of Cold War 2.0. So it's telling that she readily admits in her memoir that she was not living in a reality-based community in the days and months following the election.
 "This campaign is going to have to go all the way to December 19 and win the electoral college. Another five grueling weeks of campaigning in overtime. Then we'll look back on this bleak Wednesday when we get a glimpse of what life would be like in the dark, parallel universe where Donald Trump actually won, and we'll laugh "'Remember how unfathomably awful that Wednesday morning felt?'"
Do we ever, especially as the Cold War turns into a Warm War, threatening to blow us up. And given the unfathomable campaign that is Russiagate and the interminable sore-loser war being waged by Hillary herself, it's the booby prize that keeps on giving.

But this isn't about you, the "people", and it never was. "And now she suffers this," Palmieri laments, claiming that Hillary had this "cosmic foreboding of disaster" even before she had to be "convinced" by the Democratic Party to enter the race in the first place.

The memoir, which purports to be an extended inspirational pep talk to some mystery woman who will one day become the president of the United States, actually comes across like a discouraging dud. To be fair, Palmieri admits she hastily cobbled her slim tome together only after the "Game Change 3.0" movie she was working on with accused sexual harasser Mark Halperin fell apart. The #MeToo movement is what she says then "empowered" her to tell her own story.

"Brace yourself," she chides her hypothetical Madam President. "Nothing draws fire like a woman moving forward." 

You have to keep in mind when reading this memoir that it's the job description of a political communications pro to spit words out in quick, easily digestible, sloganeering soundbites. If you're a centrist Democrat, it's also smart to emulate Facebook COO and bestselling author Sheryl "Lean In" Sandberg, who is currently missing in action.

 You don't even have to worry about always writing the absolute truth, as in Palmieri's preposterous claim in Chapter One that Hillary was the first woman to run for the Senate. I think she probably meant she was the first First Lady ever to run for the Senate. What happened to her pal Dianne Feinstein, to name just one? The longest-serving woman, Margaret Chase Smith, must be rolling in her grave and choking on her cigar.

"Before I delve into all that happened in the campaign, I want to be clear that while misogyny and sexism were a problem on the campaign trail, I don't believe that everyone who voted against Hillary did so for sexist reasons," Palmieri allows, before glibly double-talking it with "But I do think we encountered an unconscious but pervasive gender bias that held Hillary back in many ways."

One of Hillary's biggest problems, Palmieri writes with an apparent straight face, was that she wasn't self-centered enough. She was too invested in "helping others." If only people didn't praise her all the time for "serving" as a male president's Secretary of State instead of for her actual alleged accomplishments in that and other posts! According to the author, public service as it's applied to women politicians is too uncomfortably close to the stereotype of women as caregivers.

More tidbits, all presented as concerned warnings for any future "Madam President":

-Hillary's private email server was an issue "we just couldn't put to bed." It was unfair that people demanded that Hillary apologize for something that hurt her, and only her. "The American people weren't the injured party here," Palmieri sniffs. "They didn't want her to apologize. They wanted her to confess to a crime." Harrumph.

-It is absolutely necessary to keep reliving and rehashing the Hillary Clinton campaign in order to clear the path for the next woman president, who will be inundated by haters as Proxy Hillary. The Clintonites have to keep complaining and blame-gaming to try to altruistically "sort everything out" for the sole benefit of the future female candidate.

-Jennifer Palmieri, as a self-proclaimed member of the permanent political establishment, is not ashamed to name-drop early and name-drop often. She's been in the "world's most powerful rooms" -- the Oval Office, the prime minister's inner sanctum at No. 10 Downing Street, the German Chancellor's office in Berlin, the Blue House in Seoul, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo... even The Kremlin! This memo to a future Madam President obviously doubles as her C.V. and job application. As Obama's deputy communications director, for example, she was a member of the Boys' Club and she knew when to "lean forward". This was easy, mainly because Obama was so adept at relieving the stress she chronically felt over the gossip rag stories in Politico. Obama sounds like Valium in a suit with a Zen chaser.

  -Hillary's female campaign staffers, on the other hand, were way too "zipped-up and agreeable" - and stoic. If only Palmieri had cried more, she might not have landed in the hospital in August 2016 due to an unspecified illness whose after-effects still bother her. Hillary was actually nice enough to send her a get-well OMG!! email in ALL CAPS. And then Hillary came down with pneumonia. Neither of them took care of themselves, and that is a very toxic thing that women do to themselves. "Let's nod less and cry more... crying isn't a sign of weakness, it's the ultimate female power play!" she writes. And you'll pleasantly discover that whenever the fawning media cover your meltdown, they're apt to say trite things like "she was visibly moved" or "she got all choked up." So accepting defeat graciously with a stony face is just so yesterday.

-When the Obamacare Marketplace website crashed in 2013, it was kind of a "silly crisis" and despite the media hype nowhere near as bad as the Ebola outbreak. There was no time for crying then, though, because there was too much positive spinning to be done. Palmieri stoically found a few people who had successfully signed up for health insurance, and then she put them right on TV. Zen Master Obama, though, wisely cautioned her that the story wasn't going away until they got the website working. What a stress-reliever he was! So all they had to do was sell a story that "the work was being done" and set up a few photo ops of nerds tinkering with the computers, and it all worked out so well in the end.

-After James Comey reopened the email investigation right before the election, Hillary bought a tearful Huma Abedin and Jennifer ice cream sundaes to cheer them up, and everybody acted very stoical and pretended not to care.

- Jennifer Palmieri's facial wrinkles tell a story she wants the world to see. "Embrace your battle scars," she says to her Madam President. "They will show us all what you endured in your life and in this job."

-Palmieri and other operatives thought Hillary Clinton's biography wasn't all that compelling. Hillary hadn't had enough struggles in her life. But that's our fault, too, for not appreciating her innate value "in real time." Still, Palmieri has to agree that Hillary does have a grating voice. To which criticism Hillary responded, "What would really help Hillary is if they could tell you the name of a woman on the world stage who does it exactly right."

(Oh, I don't know... Oprah?)

-Hillary's Blame Game Tour has been so worth it. "She keeps going, and eventually her story was heard. In the end, much of the press ended up applauding her candor during her book tour," Palmieri writes approvingly.

 What end? As far as Hillary is concerned, it's always the cosmic and candid and authentic beginning. Again and again and again. She might even think that Palmieri's book is an encouraging paeon to her, Hillary 3.0. And she probably wouldn't be wrong.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

#MeToo For Executioners

Thank goodness for the crusading New York Times. Unfortunately, though, the Gray Lady sometimes gets her priorities mixed up, and buries the lede. 

Hypocrite that I am, I'll be burying the lede myself, but only to show you how the Paper of Record buries the lede. But here's a hint: it's a class thing, and an identity politics thing. The Times places the interests of the professional class above the rights of the downtrodden. Please bear with me for a minute and read on....

 As a result of inquiries related to the newspaper's #MeToo investigations, the lawyer in charge of the Justice Department's death penalty unit has been removed from his post and transferred on grounds of sexual harassment. This comes after he spent eight years making life and death decisions, despite never having personally prosecuted, or even sat through, a death penalty case in open court. That's the lede, and it gives only the slightest hint of the real blockbuster yet to come. Pretty compelling so far, though.

In its article titillatingly headlined "At Justice Dept, Claims of Gender Bias and Groping," the paper also reports that D.O.J. lawyers immediately complained when the Obama administration appointed Kevin Carwile to the job in 2010, because as tradition dictates, only a prosecutor who has actually looked a convicted criminal right in the eye and then eloquently begged for his death in front of a jury can be qualified to later push a lot of papers around as the leader of the Capital Case Division.

This is despite D.O.J.'s own official policy statement, in which the division's lawyers merely "refer" cases to the Attorney General and don't ever prosecute them personally. That's the job of the president-appointed U.,S attorneys, who rely on the career D.O.J. lawyers to do most or all of the vetting. From the Department's website:
The Capital Case Section is primarily responsible for assisting the Attorney General's Review Committee on Capital Cases (AGRCCC) in its evaluation of capital cases submitted by United States Attorneys to the Department of Justice for review and recommendation to the Attorney General concerning the appropriateness of seeking the death penalty.  The CCS conducts a preliminary analysis of all cases in which the United States Attorney charges a defendant with a crime punishable by death and advises the AGRCCC of the factual and legal issues that are relevant to the Committee's recommendation to the Attorney General whether to seek the death penalty.
In addition to providing the expertise and analysis necessary to complete the preliminary capital review process, CCS attorneys provide legal, procedural, and technical assistance to United States Attorneys in capital investigations and prosecutions; develop policies and procedures for Federal capital prosecutions; provide training for Federal capital litigators; draft legal memoranda and pleadings; maintain a resource library on capital issues; and provide assistance in capital trials, appeals, and post-conviction litigation.
  So despite all the office kvetching back in 2010, Carwile's ultimate (transferable) offense was not that somebody higher up in the D.O.J. food chain finally got wind of his lack of prior direct death advocacy experience. His offense was that he "promoted gender bias and a sexualized environment" in the workplace. He was transferred out of the division when the Times started asking questions about the complaints against him.

Katie Benner writes in the Times:
 He fostered a culture of favoritism and sexism, according to court records, internal documents and interviews with more than a half-dozen current and former employees. In one episode, his deputy groped an administrative assistant at a bar in view of their colleagues, according to some who were present. Mr. Carwile asked the witnesses to keep it secret, one said.

 Employees of the unit, the capital case section, complained about the issues to Justice Department officials, the inspector general and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at least 12 times. Some allegations went unaddressed for years. In cases that were investigated, the accusers were never told what investigators found. Both Mr. Carwile and his deputy, Gwynn Kinsey, remained Justice Department employees despite the inquiries.

 Six employees, including the administrative assistant, said they eventually left the section or quit government altogether in part because of the toxic climate. A defendant in Indiana has asked in court for the government to drop the death penalty recommendation in his case because of the unit’s emerging conduct issues.
It must be so hard discussing which arcane mixture of toxic chemicals can be used to kill convicts, when the decision-making environment itself is so toxic.  I am sure that 61 federal death row inmates are breathing a sigh of relief today as they learn that at least one Chief Proxy Executioner is gone, and that a more "woke" bureaucrat might soon be taking his place. Chances are that many, if not most, of them will die in prison of natural causes before their sentences are carried out anyway.

The mention of the "Indiana defendant" is, to be fair, something of a teaser for the buried lede. More about that later.

The relief must be especially poignant because, as the Times uncritically writes, President Trump now wants to make drug dealers (hear the dog-whistle: Mexicans and other foreigners) subject to the death penalty. So the capital punishment unit is therefore expected to balloon in funding, staffing, power, and stature. Whether this new improved unit will adhere to all the legal niceties decreed by Clinton administration Attorney General Janet Reno after the federal death penalty was revived in 1988 remains to be seen, however. She was very keen on avoiding any appearance of racial discrimination by lawyers recommending an execution. Trump isn't really all that into appearances.

Ironically, reports the Times, Carwile's promotion eight years ago to the Capital Case Division was done as a direct result of his carelessly misleading the government over the "Fast and Furious" gun-running scandal that got Attorney General Eric Holder hauled before Congress and wrist-slapped. At the time, it was actually considered more of a demotion for Carwile (who'd previously headed the high-profile Gangs Division) than a promotion. After all, federal capital punishment cases are relatively rare, and are usually recommended for only the most egregious crimes, such as the Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma City bombing case and more recently, for the Boston Marathon bombing case and the Dylann Roof church massacre.

The Times doesn't explicitly state that it was Eric Holder who ignored the sexual abuse complaints, at least some of which were made during his tenure. But it does report that despite his appointee's alleged bad behavior, Holder had awarded him a "management excellence" prize, ostensibly for a record increase in the division's death penalty referrals. Carwile apparently took his job very seriously.

But of course, that creepy enthusiasm for executing more and more people is not why he lost his job. 

One female attorney complained that he'd sent her all the way to California to work a death penalty case, even though she lives in Connecticut. Her male colleagues, she said, were not similarly assigned to cases far from their own homes and families.

Another employee, a male, complained that Carwile took him to a restaurant staffed by "scantily clad waitresses," which made him very uncomfortable while discussing death penalty cases.

Buried Lede Alert!

It's only after 23 paragraphs and details about the numerous sexual harassment claims that the Times finally, but only partially, relinquishes its #MeToo narrative and arrives at what should be the gist of the story. 

Admittedly, these are far less salacious incidents of legal malfeasance than the alcohol-fueled groping of women described at division happy hours in local watering holes. They include lost or destroyed boxes of evidence, lawyers who quit for greener pastures right in the middle of arguing a death penalty case, and defendants who were interviewed without the presence of "law enforcement officers" and other witnesses whose job it is to take notes and to later act as trial witnesses. But far from voicing concern for the rights of suspects and prisoners, they complain in their court papers and other documents  that the government's cases are jeopardized by all the ineptitude and sniping from people other than themselves. This carelessness, complainants say, has had the awful result of tainting death penalty prosecutions and ultimately, messing with the Division's improved capital punishment statistics down the road.

A state-sponsored death, apparently, is a terrible thing to waste. This is the lede that the New York Times buried in order to advance the #MeToo agenda and narrative.
Rather than accentuating the rampant legal malpractice by federal prosecutors that harms the defendants facing the death penalty, (or any draconian sentence, for that matter) the Times also seems more concerned about the harmful sexist treatment of career death penalty attorneys. One female lawyer in the division actually filed papers claiming that Carwile took more seriously a male colleague's "gluten intolerance" than he did her recent surgery, and required her to travel. It is "insensitive," she said, to force ailing female legal execution advocates to make long trips, while male death penalty advocates are allowed to malinger behind their desks. 

The Times concludes:
Current and former employees said the public understandably expects death penalty cases to be handled with integrity. As Mr. Sessions and Mr. Trump push for more capital punishments, the section’s history, they say, could work against the Justice Department.
In other words, the bureaucracy is more important than the justice it claims to mete out, especially the justice meted out in the death chamber. No mention is made of the due process rights of the accused or convicted people moldering in their prison cells or on death row as they await their trials and appeals. The implication about the aforementioned Indiana defendant is that his lawyer is taking advantage of an unfortunate personnel situation, and nothing more. The implication is that Capital Punishment is spread way too thin, that it's being spoiled by sexism, that the solution is simply a change in qualified personnel, and that the damage done to high-powered careers always trumps the physical deaths of defendants who may or may not be guilty of what the government accuses them of doing. And naturally, more money will be needed to help root out the overwork and the toxicity, and attract more qualified legal personnel who will not be inconvenienced or exhausted by long-distance travel.

Sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace are terrible things, to be sure. But that a newspaper gives these wrongs more import than the scandal of federal prosecutors manufacturing, and often bungling, an ever-increasing number of death penalty referrals is downright grotesque. This enthusiasm for ever more capital punishment is only mentioned in the Times article as it pertains to the sexual harassment cases, and then almost as a side issue.

Just as more people are refusing to tolerate misogyny, more people are refusing to tolerate the cruel and unusual punishment that is the death penalty, whether lawyers advocate for it with "integrity" or not. According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of Americans now oppose capital punishment, and this opposition is at its highest among young people.

Most of it stems from the publicity on several recent botched lethal injections, as well as more death row inmates being exonerated as a result of DNA testing. And despite the Department of Justice actually rewarding its recently demoted death penalty expert for referring more such cases for prosecution, the actual total number of executions in this country has gone down, as have convicts sentenced to death.

Capital punishment in the United States might finally be reaching its own #Time's Up moment. Somebody ought to alert the editors at the Times, not to mention the legislators being prodded to inflate the Capital Cases Division with more proxy executioners, support personnel and of course, scads more money.

Should our congressional appropriators divert from type and experience a smidgen of doubt over the funding of America's myriad death squads, they will no doubt turn to conservative role model Joseph de Maistre and a book that might as well be re-titled "Executions For Dummies." 
"Just as it is possible that we are in error when we accuse human justice of sparing a guilty man, because the one we regard as such is not really guilty, on the other side it is equally possible that a man tortured for a crime he did not commit really merited punishment for an absolutely unknown crime."
This is exactly how the pathocrats sleep at night.