Friday, November 16, 2018

The Accidental Indictment of Julian Assange

What many have long suspected has finally been confirmed. Julian Assange of Wikileaks is indeed under sealed federal criminal indictment.

The secret Assange indictment was (ahem) "accidentally" cut and pasted by prosecutors on an unrelated court filing where it sat ever so passive-aggressively until some roving reportorial eye finally spotted it. Or, more likely, was tipped off by an official who was not allowed to speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the matter. Oops.

Here's my suspicion: prosecutors and the spy/police agencies have been itching for years to get their anxious claws on the most famous whistleblower of all time, but could not do so for a number of reasons.

 First, they were loath to set a precedent by going after someone who, for all intents and purposes, is a publisher, and not a hacker or a thief. If embarrassed officials in the Bush and Obama administrations had charged or seized Assange, they would rightly have been seen as the enemies of the First Amendment that they were, and still are. And then there was the pesky little matter of Ecuador then being led by a socialist government who took the concept of democracy more seriously than the US hegemon.

Second, they would have been put in the awkward position of appearing hypocritical if they did not also indict the New York Times, the Washington Post, and all the other quasi-official house organs upon whom they traditionally rely to sell their wars and to selectively leak their self-serving secrets and "narratives" explaining why, for instance, we cannot have non-profit single payer health insurance.

 Such a messy court case against the free press would have dirtied the hands of all manner of corporatists working both within and without the government and the military-industrial-media complex.

But with the advent of Trump, the aromatic bloom on Assange's rose has sufficiently faded in the sensitive eyes and mental nostrils of the public. The man once lauded by liberals as a hero for his exposure of the war crimes of the Bush administration is now anathema because of x degrees of separation from the Trump victory over Hillary Clinton. And once the Wikileaks documents (from SONY and other Hollywood bigwigs, the Democratic Party, and the sordid Clinton campaign) began to surface during the Obama years, Assange quickly morphed from the most important and successful journalistic muckraker in modern history to a Russian stooge, a traitor, and worst of all, a good pal of the Donald Trump machine.

Therefore, the punishing surveillance and carceral state will bite while the biting is still good, realizing that the public will not only not make a stink about his arrest and extradition, they will be cheering it on like the good little authoritarian subjects that they are. London, moreover, is currently in a state of chaotic disarray because of the Brexit finale, so complicit British officials can thus be held harmless in the event of a midnight raid on the embassy. It helps that Ecuador, whose embassy currently shelters Assange, itself is now controlled by an authoritarian right-wing regime anxious for US dollars and protection at the expense of its own citizens. 

And last but not least, the increasingly cornered and legally jeopardized Trump can be made to appear "serious" about going after Putin by seriously going after Wikileaks, which he once sarcastically urged to release more of Hillary's emails in the closing days of the 2016 campaign.  

The only problem is that the US government seems to have zero proof that Assange acted in concert with either Russian operatives or Trump to publish the DNC and Clinton (via her adviser John Podesta's account) emails. Even the sycophantic press can only say, with the usual obfuscatory language, that the usual anonymous officials have "a high degree of certainty" that Assange and Trump and the Russians were all in cahoots to subvert our non-existing democracy. It's nothing but a vain and dogged attempt to translate mere suspicion into absolute proof in the minds of the audience.

The government has no case. 

But I see this as a glass half-full scenario for a number of reasons.

First, prosecutors will now be pressured to outline whatever case they do have against Assange sooner rather than later. Second, the "accidental" filing brings his plight back to the forefront of public discourse, where it belongs. While Assange has been holed up in the Ecuador Embassy in London for many years, both his mental and his physical health have reportedly deteriorated. If he is extradited back to the US, he will at least (presumably) have his teeth seen to. And should he be treated as cruelly as his Bush-era source, Chelsea Manning, was, and locked up in solitary for a lengthy period without a trial, the liberal class will be forced to confront its own hypocrisy as it pertains to its outrage over Trump's own serial assaults on the rule of law.

This will be especially true if Assange is charged as a terrorist or an enemy combatant and sent to the Guantanamo gulag, a military prison and even perhaps "renditioned" to a secret CIA black site.

The liberal class will rightly be made to feel uncomfortable making a stink about CNN's Jim Acosta being barred from the White House, and not making a similar stink about Julian Assange being prosecuted - or persecuted - for simply telling the truth about corrupt government and corporate officials.

Finally, the failure of prosecutors to bring an imprisoned Assange to trial in a timely, constitutional manner might even force them to admit that #Russiagate itself has always been nothing but a big fat propaganda campaign dreamed up by Clinton operatives as a tool to absolve her of any responsibility for her own loss. 

The New York Times, in its own account of the secret indictment filing, twisted itself into a pretzel by parroting the evidence-free propaganda that it was "Russian intelligence officers" - and not another inside or outside source - who stole the DNC emails and handed them over to Assange - while at  the same time tacitly acknowledging that Assange himself was merely acting as a publisher and a journalist. If it can happen to him, it can happen to them as well.
WikiLeaks published thousands of emailsthat year from Democrats during the presidential race that were stolen by Russian intelligence officers. The hackings were a major part of Moscow’s campaign of disruption.
Though the legal move against Mr. Assange remained a mystery on Thursday, charges centering on the publication of information of public interest — even if it was obtained from Russian government hackers — would create a precedent with profound implications for press freedoms.
If Assange does go on trial, the American media and the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights will go on trial right along with him. Publishers and reporters will be called as witnesses by both the prosecution and defense and asked to explain why they chose to disseminate stolen information. The Fourth Estate, whose traditional mantra is to "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted" will be plopped center-stage in a legal and ethical drama which, for a refreshing change, might finally force them to play themselves rather than the trite group-thinking #Resistance against Donald Trump, fighters-for-hire in the service of the corrupt neoliberal system that produced Trump in the first place.  

Of course, the biggest spanner in the works of justice for Julian Assange could be Donald Trump himself, tweeting loud and tweeting often about how unfairly he thinks the Wikileaks founder is being treated and casting him as a major player on the same victimized-by-Mueller team. That might be the ultimate kiss of death for Assange in the court of liberal public opinion, which has already turned so hypocritically against him. 

The best thing that could happen to Assange would be for the ever-contradictory and unpredictable Trump to suddenly begin bellowing  "Lock Him Up!" at his Nuremberg-style rallies. And presto-change-o, the new enemy of their enemy would morph right back into being the best friend a liberal ever had.

Liberals are a fickle bunch. And stranger things have happened. Just look at their recent miraculous rehabilitation, if not downright beatification, of George W Bush.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Kings, Queens, and Luxury World Disorder

There's the Cult of Trump, which used to be known as the Republican Party.

There's the "resistance" Gentry Party, which still insists upon calling itself the Democratic Party, despite its having little to do with ordinary people.

And then there's the Empire of Amazon, whose ruler Jeff Bezos is coming ever closer to his goal of conquering and controlling not only the corrupt US duopoly but the whole planet and even outer space. It's no wonder that Wannabe World Dictator Donald Trump can't stand him. Not only is Bezos the richest man in the world, he's rubbing it in by horning in on Trump's old stomping ground, the outer borough of Queens, New York.

While Trump got rich from his father's enterprise of bilking poor tenants in his rundown buildings (when he wasn't refusing to rent to them because of their skin color), Bezos aims to constructively evict them with the placement of one of his "secondary" headquarters in Long Island City. Not only will the residents be expelled sooner rather than later, they'll also be parted from their dwindling funds sooner rather than later, via the estimated $3 billion in public subsidies which the Gentry Party elders have promised him. This includes a pricey new helipad. Because if there is one thing our modern-day oligarchs need, it's the ability to stay above the fray and make a fast getaway in case the dispossessed rabble gets too irate. That, too, will happen sooner rather than later.

Trump is probably kicking himself with bilious envy. It was his monstrous tax giveaway to the obscenely rich, after all, which designated the already-gentrifying Queens neighborhood an "opportunity zone" for investors to set up shop and either enslave or expel the existing denizens as the whim grabs them.

This assault by Bezos is so Trumpily egregious, in fact, that the more progressive upstarts in the Gentry Party are making a stink about it. It certainly doesn't help the Gentries that New York State is now entirely ruled by the Democratic Party and therefore, liberal pols will no longer have the nasty old Republicans to blame if and when Bezos gets his way.

But at least they'll put on a show of resistance to prove to their constituents that they care, even as they feebly explain  that "nobody could ever have predicted" that Amazon had any designs on the Empire State. Just because the Gentries stealthily had offered Bezos incentives in the billions of dollars to please, please, please pick them as the big winners doesn't make the corruption a completely done deal, at least not quite yet.

As CNBC reports:
Local Democrats, with a few high-profile exceptions, swiftly criticized Amazon. They raised concerns about cost of living increases, a potential lack of benefit to local community members and state tax incentives going to a large corporation rather than residents. The response sets up a political clash for Amazon — a company that has had no shortage of battles with officials as it extends its reach across the country and globe.
Democratic Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will represent parts of Queens and the Bronx starting in January, said early Tuesday that her future constituents raised concerns about the Amazon offices. In a series of tweets, she called it "extremely concerning" that Amazon would get tax breaks "when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less."
And that, of course, is why the constituents will pay for a helipad for the world's richest oligarch. He doesn't ride the subways.

Ocasio-Cortez rather tepidly added in a tweet that "we need to focus on good healthcare, living wages, affordable rent" and that "corporations that offer none of those thing should be met w/skepticism" while insisting she is not trying to "pick a fight."

That's a little too kind. The Queens residents of one of the country's largest public housing projects aren't doubtful or skeptical. They're frightened, they're broke, and they're outraged. 

The hearty partiers of the Gentry, meanwhile, point to the derelict conditions of the housing in question, in probable anticipation of the sad need for them to eventually just tear it all down to make room for all that sacrosanct progress in the name of progress. Therefore, the main improvements which the government plans to make are not mold amelioration, or guaranteeing heat and hot water to the tenants.

 It's installing millions of dollars' worth of new surveillance cameras and security lighting.

 The Gentries are refusing to divulge the totality of the Trump-like corrupt wheeling and dealing that has gone into the Bezos bribery scheme. It's none of the public's damned business how they conduct their shady business. But I wouldn't be surprised if one of the incentives was awarding Bezos the no-bid contract to spy on the poor via all that Amazonian surveillance technology as they await their eviction orders from the Panopticon. The oligarchs always try to squeeze every last dime from the indigent before disposing of them, whether the destination be a private prison or the streets... or the morgue.

The lips of the Gentries, most notably those of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill "Tale of Two Cities" de Blasio, remain stubbornly pursed as regards the power of the purse.

Or, as the New York Times more squeamishly puts it: "It is still unknown what financial incentives city and state officials may have offered Amazon or what, if any concessions, they have extracted from the company to help the neighborhood."

The idea that corporations and billionaires are ever extracted from is really kind of quaint.  But getting the Times to admit this would be like pulling teeth. This is the same establishment mouthpiece that just hosted a Luxury Conference for transnational oligarchs. The Times and its advertisers and corporate partners are so resistant to Trumpian kitsch, which has given such a bad tasteless name to unbridled hedonism, that they had to jet all the way to Hong Kong to bitch and moan among themselves.

The theme of this year's confab was, appropriately enough, The New Luxury World (Dis) Order:
This November, Vanessa Friedman and The New York Times brought together top C.E.O.s, policy makers, entrepreneurs, celebrities and thought leaders at the annual International Luxury Conference in Hong Kong.
In these tumultuous times of rapid political and economic change, unpredictability is constant and competitive forces necessitate taking bold chances. Luxury’s decision makers are facing challenges that continue to transform their industry — from constant technological evolution to a dramatic shift in the retail world, to what’s next for China, India and the West to the pervasive demand for transparency and moral equity.
Through provocative interviews with powerful and influential figures, Friedman and her colleagues explored how luxury companies can win in a world where the only constant is change, and the biggest risk is taking no risk at all.
Thomas Frank already wrote a great book about these awful people. Published in 2012, it's called Pity the Billionaire. And needless to say, the Times gave it a rotten review. If you scathingly and hilariously criticize pathocratic rich people, it simply proves that you are a jealous grouch, wrote the reviewer. And then if you dare criticize the great Barack Obama, who so nobly "gave us health care" and "tough new financial protections for consumers" it makes you even more of an ungrateful envious wretch. Rise of the American Oligarchy? No such-a thing!

And then along came Trump. Along came Bezos. But nobody could ever have predicted....

We will not go gentrified into that good night.

Friday, November 9, 2018

About Those "Grassroots" Pro-Mueller Rallies

To read and listen to all the media reports, Thursday night's nationwide protests against Trump's firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and in support of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's Russiagate probe arose almost spontaneously.

From CBS News:
Protests have sprung up across the country Thursday night calling for the protection of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible collusion between President Trump's campaign and Russia. Several hundred had gathered in New York's Times Square and other places like Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, North Carolina, Tennessee and Philadelphia.
In New York, demonstrators could be heard chanting "Hands off Mueller" and "Nobody is above the law" as they marched downtown. The Associated Press reported some held signs like "Truth Must Triumph" and "Repeal, Replace Trump."
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois joined several protesters in Chicago's Federal Plaza, AP reported.
Organizers of the protest said the naming of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was a "deliberate attempt to obstruct the special counsel's investigation," according to AP.
Thursday's show of disapproval came a day after President Trump asked Jeff Sessions to resign as the nation's top law enforcement official. He was then replaced by Whitaker, Sessions' chief of staff, who has been critical of Mueller's investigation.
Whenever an elected politician joins a "spontaneous" grassroots uprising, your bullshit detector should immediately escalate into the red zone.

What the corporate media carefully doesn't tell you about the protests' organizers should disabuse you of any notion that these protests simply "sprang up" out of any mass outrage over the discredited Russiagate probe, which has been going on for almost two years and has resulted in just a handful of indictments against Russian troll farm workers and the usual sleazy mix of money launderers and low-level political operatives.

Polls show that most people don't put the alleged Trump-Putin "collusion" to swing the 2016 election away from Hillary Clinton even close to top of their list of concerns and fears. Politico even recently warned all those Russophobes out there to tamp down their enthusiasm for any earth-shattering revelations or indictments from Mueller's office. And even if Mueller has or will uncover Trumpian malfeasance, his findings may never even be made public.

Therefore, the concern and the fear must be manufactured and packaged and marketed in order to get the citizenry ready for an otherwise issue-free Democratic Party presidential campaign season. It's slick, but it's also painfully obvious. 

I mean, what harried citizen would have the wherewithal to spontaneously construct a glitzy neon sign showing support for Iraq War cheerleader Robert Mueller, of all people? Summoning the proles to "save" this plutocrat is almost as bad as Trump summoning the proles to his neofascist rallies.

All you have to do to discover the powerful individuals and organizations and the scads of money behind these spontaneous grassroots protests is to visit the NobodyIsAboveTheLaw website and look for the fine print hidden beneath all the hype. Buried deep within the astroturf is a whole treasure trove of former and current Democratic Party politicians and consultants, alumni from the Clinton and Obama administrations, representatives of the permanent Security-Military State, and a healthy smattering of billionaire venture capitalists and hedge fund honchos.

Whether they realize it or not, the thousands of well-meaning participants in Thursday night's rallies were manipulated into serving power just as creepily as Trump's fans have been manipulated into serving power. The corporate media covering the rallies deliberately suppressed this vital information from its readers and viewers.

Among the protests' funders is Stand Up America, an astroturf propaganda mill started by Facebook billionaire Sean Eldridge, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2016 in my district after purchasing a mansion for that express purpose.  His top issue is not health care, civil rights or gun control. It is protecting Robert Mueller's investigation and by extension, vindicating Hillary Clinton and maybe even setting her up for a third run -- or as she seems to prefer, a coronation by acclamation at the 2020 party convention when the Superdelegates take over after an orchestrated first ballot failure.

So naturally, the Clinton fan club called Pantsuit Nation is also one of the main organizers of the spontaneous protests. It describes its main mission as "story-telling."
Libby Chamberlain created Pantsuit Nation as a “secret” Facebook group in late October 2016, inviting about thirty friends to wear pantsuits to the polls on Election Day. The group's emphasis on “going high” and a commitment to creating a troll-free space in which Clinton supporters could enthusiastically support their candidate struck a nerve. In the span of twenty-four hours, the group exploded to 24,000 members (new members can only be added by friends already within the group). Within a few weeks, group membership exceeded 3 million people. Our current membership is over 3.8 million people around the world.
Wow. "Exploding" sounds so much more spontaneous than "springing up", don't you think? There's nothing like spontaneous combustion to set all that plastic astroturf on fire and create a lot of smoke in the process.

And how grassroots can it possibly be without billionaire venture capitalist Tom Steyer's NextGen outfit in the mix? Maybe he can extend his get-out-the-youth-vote and impeachment franchise into petting zoos and puppies to keep the spontaneous protesters warm, if not fired up, on the next big march or rally.

One thing you can't help but notice as you click and scroll through all the grassroots "partners" is how eerily similar their websites appear, right down to the fonts and the layouts and the mission statements. As a matter of fact, many of them are renamed clones of one another, with the same consultants and directors. This broadcasts the message that there are many, many more spontaneous groups than really exist.

One such group,dubbed Every Voice, appears to be nothing but a re-tweeting platform and clickbait email aggregator whose Board of Directors all hail from the other organizations listed on the main NobodyIsAboveTheLaw website, including the Sierra Club and Democracy Matters. Those busy folks from the Democratic Consultant Class sure do get around, don't they? As a matter of fact, NIATL itself is the spontaneous creation of  MoveOn.Org, one of the Democratic Party's major clicktivist veal pens whose original purpose was to urge liberals to "move on" from the Lewinsky scandal.  It's a tangled web, for sure.

If it's a more diverse feel-good solidarity that you crave, then do check out the Truman National Security Project partner of the grassroots uprisings. I mean, any group named after the president who atom-bombed Hiroshima just to send a hegemonic message to the world and who later approved the unaccountable regime- changing CIA has got to have law and order on its side, right? Included on the board of directors is Hunter Biden, son of Joe, whose Ukrainian oligarchic connections are in direct capitalistic competition with Russia. Unlike Trump, though, he and Dad are apparently far, far above the law. Joining him is Steve Israel, late of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whose job is to advance centrist candidates and to bury progressive ones. 

If you joined Thursday night's marches, you might even think that its backers are also fighting Trump's mendacious campaign against Medicare for All, because a group calling itself Health Care Voter helped pay for some of those glitzy pro-FBI/Mueller signs. Fugeddaboutit. It's nothing but a campaign commercial boosting centrist Democrats whose aim is merely to "protect" the profit-driven Affordable Care Act from GOP assaults. 

Then there's a site called Rapid Resist, whose director, Yoni Landau, hails from Bill Clinton's White House Office of Management and Budget and whose assistant, Jacinth Yohi, has overseen digital operations for Democratic candidates when not engaged in "community-building" at Google and Uber, where the de facto salary for its gig drivers is less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

That's only a small sampling of the interconnected anti-Trump partnership of Democratic consultants, donors and other operatives who orchestrated Thursday's grassroots uprising. Read them and click through them until your eyes glaze over from all that spontaneous and very lucrative redundancy. 

Meanwhile, some cynics are even suggesting that liberal activists start a GoFundMe page for the ousted Jeff Sessions, whose last desperate act before being kicked out of office was ordering a halt to federal consent decrees to curb police brutality and other law enforcement abuses of the poor, the black, and the brown. Of course, these decrees have traditionally been nothing but unenforced slaps on the wrist and warnings to offending police agencies in such poverty-stricken cities as Cleveland. 

Still, Sessions managed to dig in the racist knife even further, by ordering that political operatives - not career nonpartisan lawyers from the Justice Department - will now have the power to "discipline" police agencies. Additionally, such decrees will have sunset clauses, meaning that the offending departments can simply run out the clock and do nothing to reform themselves as they continue to act with impunity toward an increasingly vulnerable and disposable population. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Red Fascists, Blue Fascists, Old Fascists, New Fascists

With the Democratic Party and its various media sycophants and fund-raising offshoots now planning mass rallies in support of fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, I think it's safe to assume that fascism has officially arrived in America. 

Rather than march against Trump's militarization of the border, or for that matter, the US's brutal global militarization in general, liberals will be marching to express their shock and displeasure at the ouster of one of the most racist and xenophobic officials in modern American history. 

House Speaker-in-Waiting Nancy Pelosi got knocked off the playground seesaw within 24 hours of verbally pandering to Trump - in the name of "national unity" - in the wake of her party's feeble midterm victory, and immediately characterized the firing as a "constitutional crisis" because it endangers the interminable RussiaGate investigation of Trump by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is subordinate to the Attorney General.  

The media-political complex is shocked, shocked that Trump would replace Sessions with a DOJ "loyalist," who, we learn almost in an aside, has also been employed by CNN as a legal affairs talking head.

The outrage is not so much that Matthew Whitaker crossed the red line between public service employment and private media employment, but that he allegedly is a hypnotized Trilby to Trump's Svengali.  

The New York Times editorialized:

 Mr. Whitaker — who has been called the “eyes and ears” of the White House inside the Justice Department by John Kelly, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff — has expressed a Trumpian degree of hostility to the investigation he is now charged with overseeing. He has called it a “witch hunt” and, in its earliest months, wrote an opinion piece arguing that Mr. Mueller was coming “dangerously close” to crossing a “red line” by investigating the president’s finances. He has suggested there was nothing wrong in Mr. Trump’s 2017 firing of James Comey, the F.B.I. director, and he has supported the prosecution of Hillary Clinton. In an interview last year he described “a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment, and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.” In 2014, he headed the political campaign for Iowa state treasurer of Sam Clovis, who later became a Trump campaign aide and, more recently, a witness in the Russia investigation.
Rather than criticize the glaring conflict of interest in Whitaker's recent post at CNN, the Times carefully limits its ire to Whitaker's conflict of interest regarding the Russiagate investigation. That's because emphasizing the CNN connection would not be in keeping with the "narrative" that Trump persecutes the corporate media and its various personalities by calling them "fake news" and "enemies of the people."

As I wrote in my published response to Charles Blow, whose own column on the subject also concentrated on Whitaker's pro-Trump verbiage on CNN rather than on this Department of Justice official's monetized connection to CNN:
The only thing more (ahem) shocking than Trump firing Sessions is that his successor, Whitaker, also works as a paid CNN legal contributor. The conflicts of interest in this American oligarchy, which still ridiculously poses as a republic, extend so far beyond the Trump gene pool, it isn't funny.
You'd think that Trump would disqualify Whitaker because of his connection to CNN. But the truth is that Trump loves the corporate media, and they love him right back. They give him all the free air time he requires, and then some. He, in turn, supplies them with record-breaking ad revenue and viewership.
The back-and-forth at the post-midterms press con between Trump and CNN star Jim Acosta appeared completely staged to me. These men are filling their required roles for "The Spectacle" (in lieu of gathering actual news or discussing the problems of ordinary people.)
Trump relishes this role because casting himself as a beleaguered victim-warrior endears him even more to his fans, who have been manipulated into channeling their very real grievances into the Trump "kampf." The Republicans owned by the wealthy stay silent because plutocrats and fascists have historically made very cozy bedfellows. I think it's now safe to declare that fascism has arrived, blue wave or no.
What if Trump held a rally or a press conference and nobody televised it? He'd immediately collapse like the over-inflated balloon of fetid hot air that he is. And the corporate sponsors would be very sad.
For those of you who missed it, here's the full clip of Wednesday's press conference:

 As presidential press conferences go, it was a riveting and bizarre treat, an entertainment special tailor-made for the profit driven corporate media. It even has a sequel, with the White House later accusing Acosta of "touching" the White House intern who'd attempted to remove his microphone, and then revoking his press access to the building. As if that wasn't enough, Trump Press Secretary Sarah Sanders began sharing a doctored video of Acosta accosting the intern. And that has led to  further outrage from the champions of a free corporate-sponsored press who simultaneously and hypocritically applaud the censorship efforts of Facebook and Google as pertain to more independent (unapproved) news outlets. 

 All concerned are playing their parts to perfection. Nothing buries popular demands for the public good, such as Medicare for All, like Democrats attacking Trump from the right and rallying neoliberal neofascists to protest the firing of their new confederate anti-immigrant hero, Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III. It's a professionally coordinated "rapid response" astroturfed uprising reminiscent of the Tea Party.

Wall Street has declared itself well-pleased with all the outcomes of the Midterminals, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average shooting up more than 500 points after the cosmetic restoration of two-party, duopolistic rule. The record $5 billion invested by the oligarchy into the one democratic vestige we still have left was money very well spent indeed, because most of the Democratic wins came in affluent Congressional districts.

When, in her post-midterminal victory speech (pre-Sessions ouster), Nancy Pelosi gushed that these meager victories prove that "we have a marketplace of ideas that makes our democracy strong" she wasn't kidding. The emphasis on the "we" serves to define unfettered capitalism as democracy for the very few and the very privileged who. she said, "have all had enough of division." Oh, and maybe they'll even give a little token relief to "hardworking Americans" who can demonstrate a lot of skin in their game. Pelosi is so into plutocratic unity that she even cadged a page from the Trump playbook and promised to Drain the Swamp of dark unaccountable money.

"Let's hear it more for pre-existing medical conditions!" she unnecessarily added to the cheers of an exclusive crowd of party operatives and donors and, of course, those dedicated and unpaid volunteers.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Bitter Little Blue Pills

Are you still feeling positively giddy and drunk on your Blue Wave cocktails on this Midterminal Morning After? Or are you already hung over and in dire need of a jolt of reality-based caffeine?

To borrow some of the cool media parlance currently in vogue, let's unpack the hidden meaning of the outcomes by taking a deep dive in a search of multiple takeaways of all the myriad things you need to know this morning.

On second thought, let's not. I am too hung over from reading the multiple media accounts of The Results to think as clearly as I would like.

Just a few muddled preliminary thoughts then:

--Many of the Democrats who lost their Senate seats were de facto Republicans who might have been punished by voters for pandering too much to Trump and for not being progressive enough. Here's looking at you, Claire McCaskill and Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly. I have absolutely no facts to back up this supposition, but it's pleasant to think about anyway.

--On that note, although Florida's Democratic gubernatorial contender, Andrew Gillum, narrowly lost, Floridians still voted to re-enfranchise more than a million of the state's convicted felons, most of whom are black or brown people once brutally imprisoned on minor drug charges or other nonviolent crimes. If that isn't progressive, I don't know what is.

--Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R-Kochtopia) is finally gone. That is a mammoth blue wave in and of itself.

-- As far as the Dems controlling the lower house of Congress is concerned, I've already covered it in some previous posts. The new committee chairs will engage in a frenzy of subpoena-issuing to Trump's corrupt cabinet. Executive privilege will be invoked. Referrals will be made to the Trump-led Justice Department. Lather, rinse, repeat. The neoliberal Octogenarian Troika of Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn will make deals with the nasty Republicans in the interests of National Unity. The smattering of newly-elected "diverse" progressives will make fiery speeches on the House floor in an effort to get the cynical electorate herded back into compliance for Campaign 2020. Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump will seesaw from cooperation to bickering and back again to keep everybody off-balance and guessing and tuned in to the never-ending reality show that substitutes for representative democracy.

--We ordinary slobs have still got our work cut out for us, despite what the New York Times is breathlessly over-hyping as the End of One-Party Rule, equating the blue wave panacea for electoral dysfunction with that other over-hyped little blue pill for erectile dysfunction. Who are they trying to kid? 

It'll be the same as it ever was. And just in case you don't understand that fighting and resisting Trump is not the same thing as making people's lives better, the Times gnaws off the bottle cap of bitter blue pills for you to swallow:  
But after eight years in the minority, Democrats hoping to reclaim the White House in 2020 will also have to prove they are interested in governing — and temper the liberal ambitions of the party’s most ardent left-wingers....
Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader who now hopes to be its next speaker, pledged to “work for solutions that bring us together, because we have all had enough of division.”
Get the picture? When the Democratic leaders say they're willing to work with Trump, they mean that they will enthusiastically join his mendacious fight against Single Payer health care. This is despite the fact that more than two-thirds of the electorate are in favor of it. The Democrats' worst enemy was never really Trump. It's always been the Left. So now that you have done your civic duty and voted and provided them with the fig leaf they've so desperately craved to legitimize their power, you are hereby expected to shut up and let the ruling class racketeers just all get along with one another as they always have done. Sew up your mouths and stop sowing such divisions (with much help from social media security state censors) while they sew up their deals.

 The one solution that has always brought them together is the appropriation of untold trillions of dollars to the profitable and privatized and unified and unaccountable corporate war and surveillance and incarceration apparatus. But since the viewers at home must still be kept entertained and engaged, there will also be plenty of anti-Trump theater on offer between the stealthy appropriations and backroom deals. The price of admission is high, and the tickets will not be refundable unless enough people make enough of a noise about how badly they've been cheated.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Midterminal Blues

There's already enough churnalism on the midterm elections without my adding to the glut. 

I spent most of the weekend not answering the insistent pounding on my door from unpaid campaign volunteers and ignoring the incessant reverberations on my cellphone from racist robocallers. I wasted precious minutes of my life relegating to the trash folder the never-ending demands for cash flooding my email in-box.

 At least, since I no longer pay for the torture that is cable TV, I was spared the misery of watching what are alleged by cable victims to be some the nastiest political ads in recent memory. 

Nor will I add to the chorus of "voter-shaming" being brayed from political operatives and pundits from far-right, center-right and center-pseudo-left, who chide us that our failure (or more aptly, our refusal) to vote for the pre-vetted candidates of the oligarchy will endanger our very existence as human beings.

Me? I already voted early by mail, as I always do. I chose Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins for governor of New York over the terminally corrupt Democrat Andrew Cuomo. Hawkins has never won an election in his whole life, but he actually garners a respectable percentage every time he runs. He even got a fairly friendly write-up in the New York Times. The establishment paper of record usually gives friendly write-ups to politicians it doesn't consider much of a threat to the status quo. That way, they can appear to be fair and balanced to the despised left among their readership.

 Since Democrat Antonio Delgado and Republican John Faso are in a dead heat in my district, I am sad to report that I held my nose and voted for Delgado.... but on the Working Families Party line, not the D line. This is the very first time I have ever voted "strategically," because although I have absolutely no expectation that Delgado would actually do much of anything for "working" (what about the single, the retired, the unemployed and those still in school?) people if he wins, at least he would presumably not fall into the Trump tank and cheer for refugees to get shot or imprisoned at the border. Plus, he only has two years in which to do the bidding of Wall Street. Besides, the next two years in a Democratic majority House of Reps look to to be nothing but non-stop theater and grandstanding about neoliberal values vs fascist values, with a host of Trump cabinet officials getting hauled before committees. The shaming will have the main, if not sole, purpose of embarrassing Trump and boosting Democratic fortunes for the interminable presidential sweepstakes, which begin at precisely midnight tonight.

And that's all I have to say for now about the Midterminals.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Putting Lipstick On a Neoliberal Pig

 This "cure" for the chronic electoral failures of a Democratic Party in thrall to the oligarchy sounds even worse than the disease:  
It seems to me that the Democrats’ story has to be built around the simple idea of investing in middle- and working-class people. Not “spending,” but “investing.” Spending sounds profligate; investing sounds prudent.
This is not to be done for reasons of “fairness.” That’s an absolutely vital point. Liberals reflexively want to make economic arguments about fairness. But this persuades only liberals. People who aren’t liberals — three-quarters of the country — don’t especially care about fairness. They do, however, care about growth. So Democrats need to argue that these investments, not tax cuts for the rich, are the way to spur growth.
 So writes Michael Tomasky, one of America's leading self-described "progressive" pundits, in a recent New York Times op-ed. While pretending to explore the reasons why the Democratic Party keeps losing elections, he completely ignores the needs, wants and problems of its vaunted working class constituency.  He assumes, moreover, that tens of millions of precarious Americans do nothing but sit around all day and worry about economic growth and the national GDP.

These people desperately want to be seen as "investments" rather than as, say, human beings with immediate requirements for food, income, medical care, and shelter. Tomasky views them as mere commodities in dire need of some better messaging.

The problem, according to Tomasky, is that three-quarters of all Americans are conservatives who don't care a fig about their neighbors and about "fairness."

From a pundit whose purported mission in life is to fight Republican lies, this claim could not be further from the truth. It is a Big Lie.

Poll after poll after poll reveals that most Americans are, in fact, liberals and progressives if not downright socialistic. Peter Dreier of The American Prospect compiled a comprehensive overview last year. Tomasky might be surprised to learn that fully 65% of these selfish, ignorant Americans care very deeply about the economic unfairness unleashed by unfettered finance capital, with an equal proportion believing that money and wealth should be distributed more evenly. 

Ninety-six percent of Americans - and that includes most Republicans polled - believe that money in politics is to blame for political dysfunction, with three-quarters despising the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling which equates corporate money with speech. Eighty percent think corporations don't pay their fair share in taxes, with nearly the same percentage believing that wealthy people don't pay their fair share in taxes.  So much for Tomasky's spurious claims that the lesser people -- er, I mean human commodities ripe for investment -- don't care about economic justice.

It gets worse (for the oligarchs running the place, that is.) Two-thirds of Americans want the cap on Social Security taxes lifted so that the wealthy pay a larger, fairer share. Two-thirds, including 42% of self-described Republicans, support labor unions. Three-quarters, including Republicans, want paid parental leave. And at least two-thirds of all Americans support government-sponsored, single payer health care insurance. 

And despite President Trump's fear-mongering about the "immigrant invasion" from Honduras," 68 percent of Americans—including 48 percent of Republicans—believe the country’s openness to people from around the world “is essential to who we are as a nation.” Just 29 percent say that “if America is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.”

In light of these results, Tomasky's claim that Americans need any more "convincing" about what they do and should care about sounds increasingly more ridiculous.

So he does what all right-wing Democrats since Bill Clinton have done for the past several decades. He will feel your pain while promising you nothing but a good story:
The story could use a name. The venture capitalist Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu, a former Bill Clinton domestic policy adviser, coined “middle-out economics” five years ago. President Obama even used the phrase a few times.
The important thing is the idea. Democrats must persuade America that there’s a better way to expand the economy than the way Republicans have been advocating for decades. Just as inflation and other ills opened the door for critiques of Keynesianism in the 1970s, so have inequality and disinvestment done the same for critiques of supply-side today. Someone just has to make them.
Tomasky must have forgotten that Bernie Sanders has been making this critique for decades, and that it was only because of the deliberate squelching of this message by the Democratic Party and the complicit establishment media that more people did not hear it.

Corporate Democrats are worried for a good reason. People are on to their con, and the party bigwigs are running low on policy proposals. So caught between the rock of attracting more voters with advocacy for Medicare for All and debt-free college, and satisfying the donor class - which is adamantly opposed to programs for the greater good  - they are still opting for the latter.  Meanwhile, they are going on one "soul-searching" propaganda binge after the other.

The "market knows best" ideology of neoliberalism has run roughshod over ordinary people throughout the world, with inequality now so extreme that fully half the entire globe's wealth now rests in less than a dozen billionaire pockets.

  This is now such common knowledge that the centrist Democratic proponents of the Neoliberal Project have no other choice but to acknowledge this hard truth and pretend to want to rectify if while actually making it much worse with their pretty rhetoric and their cynical inaction.

Follow the money. Besides his gig as a "contributing op-ed writer" for the New York Times, Tomasky writes full-time for the liberal Daily Beast - a subsidiary of the international media conglomerate IAC, which is owned by Democratic mega-donor Barry Diller and where Chelsea Clinton sits on the board. IAC not only controls and distributes much of the information we see, hear and read, it also owns the websites of "more than 150 brands and products," including Vimeo and several Internet dating sites.

Tomasky also is the full-time editor of the new-ish Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, whose own board of directors is a veritable who's who of the oligarchy. Under its glossy theme of "government for the public good" -- as shallowly opposed to the GOP's more brutal agenda - this quarterly journal espouses neoliberalism in its newly "progressive" form. You might call it neo-neoliberalism.

It is more than a little self-celebratory. The aforementioned Nick Hanauer, who runs/owns the place, wrote one recent article touting the alleged death of neoliberalism and praising his own "rousing speech" on why "Homo economus must die" upon his receipt of the Humanist of the Year award from MIT.

An excerpt:
Capitalism is the greatest problem-solving social technology ever invented. But knowing that capitalism works is different than knowing why it works. And contrary to economic orthodoxy, it is reciprocity, not selfishness that guides it—indeed—as if by an invisible hand. It is social reciprocity that builds the high levels of trust necessary for large networks of people to cooperate at scale. And it is only through these networks of highly-cooperative specialists that the complexity that defines our modern economy can emerge.
Hanauer, unlike your traditional rapacious Republican capitalist, is a member of the Good Rich Club. He comes not to destroy capitalism in its most brutally egregious Trump-like form. He comes to save it, He comes to put lipstick on an inherently antisocial pig. By equating democratic government with capitalism, the same as neoliberals always have, Hanauer is simply offering up more postmodern feudalism, with just the right dollop of noblesse oblige. (Invisible hands of highly cooperative "specialists" who work ever so nicely together, far from the prying eyes of the actual public.)

 Tomasky hilariously gushes in an accompanying article that his benefactor and de facto boss is the "plutocrat of the common man."

For further "balance," the latest issue of Democracy includes the obligatory homage to Democratic Socialist upstart Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who, we are assured, is really just an FDR-style liberal who has absolutely no intention of overthrowing capitalism. 

There is not one article in Democracy that is anti-war. War and death are the most profitable enterprises in our Democracy, after all.

 Besides a smattering of academics, including Robert Reich, with more or less bona fide credentials, its Board of Directors includes Robert Abernethy, vice chairman of the war-mongering Atlantic Council, which is also at the forefront of the Cold War 2.0 "Russiagate" propaganda campaign and a leader in the permanent Security State's call for censorship of social media and independent news organizations. Like several others on the Democracy board, he is affiliated with the neoliberal Aspen Institute and the Democratic Party's official think tank, Center for American Progress (CAP).

Melody Barnes, another director, is an alumna of CAP and the Obama administration who now works as a Wall Street lobbyist as well as serving on the board of Booz Allen Hamilton, the unaccountable private subsidiary of the National Security Agency which was made famous by Ed Snowden's theft of documents demonstrating the oligarchy's mass surveillance of every man, woman and child on the planet. This is what Democracy is all about, after all.

Then there's billionaire William Budinger of the Rodel Foundation, a school "reform" zealot who was among the very first mega-contributors to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. The destruction of teachers' unions and public schools have always been very high on his to-do list. Obama's Education Department, lead by charter school advocate Arne Duncan, certainly gave Budinger his money's worth. You might remember that when Obama's campaign offshoot, Organizing for America, made plans to go to Wisconsin to support teachers during the protests against Governor Scott Walker's war on public unions, Obama himself ordered their swift and hasty retreat.  

Anne-Marie Slaughter, liberal war hawk, nicely rounds out the Democracy advisory roster. (You can read the whole list of names here.)

 As Samuel Moyn observes, this Clinton State Department alumna and her cohort of "liberal internationalists have always endorsed a globalization that often ends up serving free markets more than it does political freedom, with economic equality its central omission and biggest casualty. Liberal internationalists have spoken admiringly of “the idea that is America,” in Anne-Marie Slaughter’s phrase, but the reality is that beneath the hype the United States has nearly always placed economic liberty first among its foreign policy priorities. Trump’s economic nationalism will hardly work either, but our main response to it has to be to invent a new form of liberal internationalism rather than fall back on the failed pieties and stale rhetoric that contributed to the ascendancy of Trump and other populists in the first place."

The writers and directors of Democracy can call themselves progressives all they want, but they can't put neoliberal lipstick on a pig without it leaving its telltale stains all over the place.

What if we, the designated pork belly futures of neo-neoliberal America's investment class, just turned up our snouts at the smarmy swill being marketed to us by pundits in service of the oligarchy? Maybe then they'd dispense with the lipstick entirely and simply offer us the whole unadorned pig to cuddle like a baby.   

Oh, wait. They already have!

(Photo credit: HuffPo)

  You might remember hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer as the impeachment guru and presidential contender who's spent millions of his own money bribing college kids to register to vote by staffing college campuses with cute puppies. Now, things have gotten so desperate for the Dems that Steyer is installing entire petting zoos all over the land to help those cynical kids get over their depression and college debt long enough to cast their votes for a Democrat With a Story.

His group, with the cool-sounding name NextGen, is also flattering the youth of America with free rolls of toilet paper. They don't explain why they think toilet paper is such a great bribery tool. Maybe they assume that the only time young people feel crappy is when they're on the can, and they will free-associate a roll of toilet paper with the squeaky clean Democrats who care so much about them. And then they'll get off their butts and vote!

The least that the corporate Dems could do for people is supply us with a free issue of Democracy for our bathroom reading pleasure.  Or better yet, old copies of the New York Times to stuff under our drafty doors in a futile effort to keep warm as winter approaches.