Friday, October 19, 2018

Commentariat Central: Fear and Despair Edition

 **** Annual Fundraiser!  Please help me to keep this place going if you can afford to do so. Sardonicky receives many hundreds of visitors every day, so if each reader gave a one-time donation of even $5 or $10, it would really help me to keep doing this for hopefully another seven years. For those of you who don't want to use the PayPal donation button, please email me at to get my physical address to mail your check. Thank you!****

The closer we get to the Most Important Elections Ever in History, the more the Duopoly is ramping up the fear factor. The end of the world is nigh, not so much because of the ongoing climate catastrophe, but because neither of the two corporate political parties we're stuck with thinks that more than a billion dollars in campaign contributions is enough.

A glance through your inbox gives you the impression that every day is a deadline of doom. The money-raking professionals are getting more brazen, going from begging to demanding, informing you that your payment is past due and that you only have until midnight tonight to fork it over.

And what if you don't? I really hate to tell them this, but the democracy repo man came and went decades ago.

So they'll try to scare you silly anyway. Always near the top of their bag of tricks to get you to fork over the cash before voting is the warning that "they're coming after your Social Security and Medicare!"  

Democrats say this of Republicans, and Republicans say this of Democrats (and also about "illegals" and welfare cheats.)

As is his convenient wont, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman limits his own critique of the continuing attack on the New Deal and Great Society programs to the Republican Party and to the deplorable Republican voters who get all their information from Fox News. That he again fails to mention that it takes two corrupt bodies to tango comes as no surprise, although I do happen to agree with him that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blatantly announcing his attack plan before the midterms was pretty shocking.

My published comment:
The timing of McConnell's threat surprised me too. The only explanation is that he so secure in his iron grip on both Kentucky voters and the Senate that he's willing to play "bad cop" for the duration.

The first step in this stale old routine is to gaslight and terrorize the sick, the old, and the poor. Demonizing people and calling them fraudsters works wonders in the divide-and-conquer department.

The Dems, as they have done before, might react to his snarling cruelty by offering to snip and slash here and there to save what is little is still left of our social programs.

Trump might even achieve the "Grand Bargain" with Congress that Obama and Boehner could not, thanks to the Tea Party faction insisting that the cuts weren't cruel enough.

He could accept slightly less sadistic cuts in exchange for the building of his nasty wall. Who knows? I wouldn't put any subterfuge past any of them. This is, after all, government of, by and for the oligarchs, who really comprise one political party unto themselves, the Pathocratic Party. Their unbridled greed to possess everything and to control everybody has reached truly pathogenic proportions.
 They need to go, and we need to make them go.

So let's tell the Democrats in no uncertain terms that we will agree to no more of their "pay-go" rules, aka robbing from the poor and working class to keep our social insurance on life support.

Stop the trillion-dollar wars if you want to tame the deficit. And soak the rich.
Now we come to Times columnist Michelle Goldberg's piece addressing the despair of women in the Age of Trump.  Her solution?  Get involved working for the Democratic Party, and do it for free! Or at the very least, chat with some party activists to cheer yourselves up. (That this advice column is directed at affluent women not having to work at multiple low-paid gigs is punctuated by the accompanying feel-good photo showing a Democratic candidate hugging an unpaid campaign worker in a room full of white people.) 

Goldberg writes:
There is, I find, only one thing that soothes my galloping anxiety, and that is talking to women who are actually doing the work of campaigning. The people who are knocking on doors and organizing rallies tend to be much more cheerful and confident than those who spend too much time on Twitter obsessing over each new poll....

 Now, part of the job of a good politician is projecting optimism. But again and again over the horrible months of Trump’s reign, I’ve found that spending time with the women who are working their hearts out against him is at least a temporary cure for despair. So if you, too, are scared, or furious, or despondent, find a Democrat close to you and go canvass for her (or him). “It’s the best way to feel good about the world and connect with people,” (Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen)Whitmer said.
Heaven forbid that you should storm your local social services office, go on a wildcat strike, or join Cindy Sheehan in the anti-war Women's March on the Pentagon on Oct.20-21!  If you're nervous or depressed from spending too much time stressing over Trump all by your lonesome, then put all your energies into joining others in fixating obsessively on Trump, and forgetting all about the toxic neoliberal system that created him. If you're affluent, you will benefit mentally under a more rhetorically tasteful Democratic majority and thereby save yourself all those trips to the therapist.

My comment, trying to gently change the subject from the "liberal women are emotional wrecks and victims of Trump" trope, with its artificially narrow emphasis on gender/reproductive rights, to the wider economic justice/class struggles that are so ignored by the liberal elites during this campaign season:  
The more that Donald Trump denigrates women, the more obvious it becomes that he is terrified of women the same way that a middle school pre-adolescent boy is afraid of girls. His rallies are fascist iterations of the Little Rascals' He-Man Woman-Haters Club.

We should treat Trump with all the derision we can muster. He is a weakling at his core.

We must treat the establishment which spawned him with equal derision as a balance to our well-placed fear. We should also recognize that this is essentially a class war. The Republicans under Mitch McConnell have made no secret of the fact that the next big item on their agenda is to slash Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, and Social Security. The citizens who depend the most on these programs are women and children.

Trump's tweets calling women names might sting and cause outrage. But the economic attacks on women's pocketbooks and pantries literally endanger our lives, if we are not so lucky to reside in the top 10% of income earners.

Rather than merely demand protection for the increasingly whittled-down social insurance programs we contribute to all our working lives, we must insist upon their enhancement. The Democrats have to do more than pay lip service to diversity and gender rights. We have to ensure not only equality of opportunity, but basic fairness of economic outcomes.

Repeat after me, ladies: Conservative men are afraid of you. Use the power that has been within you all this time. Make them even more afraid of you.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Damaged Dem Dames Distract From Climate Change

Two of the corporate Democratic Party's campaign narratives against Donald Trump have boomeranged right back at them this week.

First, their virtue-signaling about inclusive diversity turns out not to be so virtuous after all. Presidential contender Elizabeth Warren, like Julia Alvarez before her, fell smack dab into the identity politics trap when she revealed in a slickly-produced video that she does indeed have some remote aboriginal ancestry, dating back at least 10 generations.

 So not only did she fall into Donald Trump's race-baiting trap, she is, according to many critics, displaying her own colorblind racism by "appropriating" native lineage without informing or asking permission of the Cherokee Nation. And if that weren't bad enough, she is doing it right before the Midterm Elections and messing with her party's chances to win more congressional seats!

Former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, who later did the same job for David Cameron's conservatives in Great Britain, tweeted out:
Argue the substance all you want, but why 22 days before a crucial election where we MUST win house and senate to save America, why did have to do her announcement now? Why can’t Dems ever stay focused???
 Democrats cannot disown Elizabeth Warren fast enough. It's not so much her falling for Trump's trolling, it's the inconvenient timing of it, right at the end of their record-breaking season of fundraising. No matter that Warren herself has been a prolific fundraiser for the party. She has been declared non-presidential material.

My view is that her big announcement about her DNA results is more than a little bit passive-aggressive. Warren has been under pressure for years to run for president and for years she has resisted, until very recently. So perhaps her ham-handed video is her way of either deliberately or unconsciously sabotaging her own chances to ensure that she is pre-emptively forced out of the race so as to avoid criticism from refusing to run in the first place. She will be way more effective going after the corrupt financial system in the Senate, in my view. That is, if she even cares to remain in the Senate.

I once half-jokingly predicted (see the Salazar link above) that the Democrats are so into ethnologies and family histories that before long, candidates will be producing their DNA results along with their tax returns. The flaunting of one's genetic biology for the sole purpose of gaining political power is a kind of inverted fascism and hearkens back to the US eugenics craze of the early 20th century, which became the direct inspiration for Nazi race policies.  

So much for the inherent shallowness and cynicism of the Democrats' identity politics. Now we come to the Democrats' shallow, cynical, corporate version of feminism.

We all know, of course, that Hillary Clinton used her own Senate seat as a stepping-stone to her first presidential run, and her first presidential run as a stepping-stone to the State Department, and the State Department as a stepping-stone to her second presidential run, and her second presidential run as a stepping-stone to permanent martyrdom, big bucks in the speakers' and memoir circuits - and who knows, maybe even a third presidential run. Just think of the ratings and the billions of dollars in bucks for everybody concerned: churnalists, strategists, cable TV networks and corporate advertisers with all that hoarded untaxed money to burn.

Although the Democratic Party faithful became incensed during the 2016 campaign whenever Donald Trump's sexual predations were compared to Bill Clinton's sexual predations, and whenever critics noted that Hillary had hypocritically trashed her husband's female conquests and victims while standing by her man, even her erstwhile supporters can no longer ignore or stomach her hypocrisy.

Correction: they could stomach her hypocrisy extremely well, provided it was not on full display only weeks away from The Midterm Elections. Her grousing on national TV that Monica Lewinsky was not the victim of her husband's abuse of power, but a fully consenting adult, would be fine with them were it not so allegedly endangering Democratic fortunes. It kind of exposes the party's cynical appropriation of the #MeToo movement, and the party's campaign platform of "Donald Trump is a sexist pig" in all its shallowness and hypocrisy.

Shockingly, the very same liberals who so recently have been bending over backward for Hillary Clinton, and propping up her endless blame-game tour, and making her loss to Trump the prime focus of the Women's March movement, are now telling her to shut up and go away so that the party can "focus."

She has been relegated to that dreaded category of "distraction." I could almost feel very slightly sorry for her.

But, as the New York Times's Michelle Cottle puts it,

In these furious, final days before the midterms, Democratic candidates need to be laser focused on their message to voters. They need to be talking health care and jobs and other issues of intense, personal concern to their electorate. They do not need to be talking about impeachment, or about the results of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s DNA testing. And they definitely do not need to get distracted by unnecessary drama generated by comments from one of the party’s most iconic, and most controversial, figures.
And yet, there was Mrs. Clinton, in an Oct. 9 interview with CNN, sharing her take on the need for Democrats to — as Michelle Obama might have put it — go low with today’s Republicans. As Mrs. Clinton sees it, “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.”
She's a great woman and a great leader, says Cottle, but speaking her mind this close to Election Day is "problematic" for the party, which, she insinuates, would otherwise be dreaming up all kinds of wonderful new programs to benefit ordinary people. 

The Democratic Party sounds like it needs medication for its attention deficit disorder, which in my opinion is simply crass malingering to distract us from the fact that they are beholden to the oligarchy.  

My published response:
 "...this close to Election Day, discussing hot-button issues in national interviews is nothing but problematic for her party...."

Bingo! It's her party and she'll kvetch if she wants to. She has to go on TV to raise her visibility so she and Bill can sell lots of high-priced tickets for their tour. These TV spots, in their own turn, generate even more free press, as in this column. So what if it's bad press? It generates more publicity! And don't forget the ad revenue.

As far as Hillary's "distractions" from Democratic messaging are concerned, most of the campaign rhetoric I've been hearing is of the "we're not Trump" genre. A recent survey by "The Hill" of the ranking House Democrats reveals that their top priority, if they win, will be hauling cabinet officials before their committees. Then, they'll be "shoring up" Obamacare and protecting the weak Dodd-Frank bill. Not one potential committee chair voiced support for Medicare For All. Nor will House Dems put our endangered planet's climate emergency on their to-do list -- because, they say, why even try? "Resistance" has replaced a proactive progressive agenda.

The few times they do talk tough, they end up apologizing for giving the impression that they're inciting violence. Never underestimate their capacity to snatch defeat from the jaws of their victories.

Maybe if we ever get the $$$ out of politics, the media- political-oligarchic complex will stop treating elections like soap opera ratings bonanzas.
The Warren/Clinton hand-wringing is, of course, the corporate Democrats' way of saying how much they care about you. This pearl-clutching is in fact a distraction from the real scandal: that the party will do nothing to address the climate change catastrophe should they win back some power.  

While busily distracting us with the Dem dame duo who are doing so much damage to diversity, they're also very quietly damping down hopes for a climate agenda in the upcoming session. They are being very honest about it in the sneakiest way possible so as not to be accused of making promises they can't keep once they're sworn in. Maybe they figure that our immersion in the double boiler of propaganda and planet-death will keep us properly and rigidly fixated on Trump's latest tweet calling another woman a nasty name.

As The Hill reports,
With President Trump in the White House and Republicans favored to keep the Senate next year, climate legislation would face stiff headwinds, and pushing it could spark backlash from the right — both now and after the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Considering those “constraints,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Democrats should “focus on the practical and the opportunistic” to make short-term progress while fighting for bolder measures — “the aspirational goals” — over the longer term. 
“It’s going to be, I think, more of an opportunistic strategy, where, in various pieces of legislation, across the board, we’re going to insert measures that address climate change,” said Connolly, a leader in the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition.
"Aspiration Not Inspiration" might make a catchy campaign slogan for the 2020 horse-race, don't you think? It sure beats "Expiration Not Aspiration," which would be a real downer. It might put a real damper on firing up voters if they honestly just announced that all living things are going to die premature deaths because of their failure to address the climate emergency, as both corporate parties continue raking in all those polluting Koch Brothers and Exxon-Mobil dollars and continue to exempt the trillion-dollar military machine from even the mild emissions rules that are attached like a flimsy bandage to a suppurating wound.

It's almost as bad as believing that Republican "headwinds" are more powerful that the Category Six hurricanes that climate scientists predict will blow the place apart and dampen the earth to epic flooding proportions sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Other F Word

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we are all f***ed. The question is whether Trump-style fascism is shafting us, or whether neoliberal capitalism is doing the job.

As Henry Giroux posits, it's both: a deadly hybrid combined into a humanity-destroying racist, sexist, xenophobic greedzilla of doom. Or, as Black Agenda Report's Glen Ford views it, it's the modern Democratic and Republican parties acting as two bickering factions of the same fascist regime.

I've been reading a lot of books about fascism lately in preparation for a blog post, only to discover that I've amassed enough material to write another book about it. And I'm still not done. And I still have more questions than I do answers.

What I can say is that there are two main categories of books about fascism. The first set includes scholarly volumes of history, psychology, sociology and politics, written long before Donald Trump ever arrived on the scene.  The second set belongs to the new genre of alarm-bell fascism, which either is arriving fully formed on our shores in the person of Donald Trump all dressed up as Hitler, or is still only kind of scary-ghosty, with Donald Trump secretly wearing his swastika armband high enough on his fleshy arm so nobody can see it, even when he's playing golf.

The best example of this genre has been on the bestseller list for months. It's called Fascism: A Warning" and its author is Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. You might remember her as the Clinton official who told CBS that the price of half a million Iraqi children dying of starvation as a result of US economic sanctions had been "worth it." She doesn't delve, in her version of fascism, into one of its main tenets being expansion of the nation into the far corners of the earth. But that's not her point. Her point is falsely equating Donald Trump-style fascism with Hugo Chavez-style socialism and trumpeting the need to vote Clintonite Democrats back into power before Russia takes over and the New World Order goes kaput. You see, "liberal interventionism" killing is not the same thing as conservative imperialistic killing.

And now that the midterm elections are nearly upon us, the liberal media itself is getting into the Albrightean act with a vengeance. If you won't accept that we're either living under Nazi rule or about to, you're part of the problem. Be very, very afraid. And get out there and vote as though your lives depended on it!

The Huffington Post got into the act over the weekend with a banner scare headline announcing that a white supremacist hate group had invaded New York City. This was slightly misleading, given that at most, about a dozen alt-right "Proud Boys" beat up an antifa protester outside a Republican club which had just featured an alt-right dude as its featured speaker. The HuffPo has since removed the scare-mongering headline of its piece.

Another example of the genre is a video editorial posted in the New York Times on Monday. The star of this show, which is preceded by a Democratic Party campaign ad, is a Yale philosopher and fascism expert named Jason Stanley. He provides us with plenty of easy evidence showing that Donald Trump talks the fascist talk and walks the fascist walk: his ultra-nationalistic, racist and xenophobic rhetoric combined with the relentless repetition of Goebbels-style lies and the well-televised Nuremberg-style campaign rallies for his hordes of besotted fans and greedy cable infotainment outlets. After the good professor explains to us that too often, politicians resort to calling one another fascists as an all-purpose insult, his talk becomes replete with graphics showing Trump  dressed up as Hitler, and lots of video of the real Hitler, and even a clip of a Madison Square Garden Bund rally from the 30s.  

After spending his allotted few minutes explaining why fascism is so awful, and that we should be very afraid of both it and Trump, he runs out of time before he can explain just how this ideology can gain national power in the first place, and what we can do about it other than simply running out to vote for the allegedly lesser evil Democrats.

My published comment:
While Jason Stanley correctly describes the techniques of fascists like Trump, he ignores the situations which permit fascism to rear its ugly head in the first place.

The previous major outbreak occurred in the aftermath of World War I and the worldwide depression. Combined with pre-existing anti-Semitism and the weakness and corruption of liberal democracy and the mutual hatred of both the right-wingers and the "liberals" for communists, it allowed Hitler to step into the vacuum.

Despite the Depression, fascism didn't similarly catch on in the US as a mass movement because first, the war had been fought across the ocean, and second, FDR enacted the New Deal under pressure from a then-vibrant left wing, aka socialists. The Nazi rallies in Madison Square Garden soon became a thing of the past.

Fast forward to Trump. Decades of neoliberal capitalism have created severe wealth inequality, with most Americans not even having $200 saved up for a household emergency. Only the poor and working class fight in our endless wars. Politicians from both parties are beholden to the rich.
So yes, we should be very, very afraid of fascism while acknowledging that a form of it -- corporatism - has been suborning democracy for quite some time now. We cannot expect to defeat Trump and the GOP without transforming our government into a force for good for all the people, not just for a handful of oligarchs.
Otherwise, the next fascist leader will make Trump look downright benign.
So far, anyway, Donald Trump is simply an aspiring fascist leader, spending most of his time tweeting and flailing about in the Oval Office as the derogatory leaks from his staff are nearly a daily occurrence. At best, he is only a semi-successful fascist leader. He commands no mass movement. He has not shut down any TV stations or newspapers nor thrown any reporters in prison, despite his dangerous rhetoric about them being enemies of the people. That big military parade in his honor has been called off indefinitely.

But he's getting there. His imprisonment of migrant children in holding pens and tent cities is a step up from the Obama administration's draconian deportation crusade and  "family detention centers," which at least kept mothers and kids together and therefore were not subject to widespread criticism by liberal pundits and the Democratic Party faithful. The fascistic tendencies of Obama and his predecessors were of the sort called "friendly fascism" or what the late Sheldon Wolin termed "inverted totalitarianism." 

And of course, if you are a black person in America, you have indeed been living under de facto fascism for probably your whole life. Three out of every 10 black males are imprisoned at least once during their lifetimes. Three people, mostly black, are killed by law enforcement in the United States every single day. Michael Bloomberg, the "moderate" mayor of New York City who is now contemplating a challenge to Trump on the Democratic ticket, instituted a policy of Stop and Frisk directed against all black men. This thuggish practice finally got overturned by the courts, just as many of Donald Trump's own anti-immigrant and racist policies have been.

And, since under the Obama administration the longstanding law known as Posse Comitatus was overturned by Executive Order, we've all been living under technically fascistic authoritarian rule for the past eight or nine years, whether we've been blissfully unaware of it or not. If enough of us ever take to the streets in unsanctioned mass protests, the military now has the authority to turn against its own rebellious citizens by whatever means necessary. It is even deemed technically legal for our government to assassinate us by remote-control predator drone, should the rights of the ruling class to ownership and control of everything become seriously threatened.

So insofar as Trump is a fascist, he inherited the fascism, and has remade it into his own brand.

Meanwhile, the term "fascism" is so hard to define precisely because it is inherently self-contradictory. It is both radical and reactionary. It picks and chooses among several "isms," discarding its beliefs and policies willy-nilly, and does the same thing with its leaders and supporters, as the need arises. Its main requirement is a constant state of crisis, whether real or manufactured, alongside maintaining a permanent mythic core leading to a new revolution growing out of the old order. (Make America Great Again. Drain the Swamp.)

As Roger Griffin writes in "The Nature of Fascism," 
On susceptible people, it has the almost magical power to transmute black despair  into manic optimism and thus enable a party that promotes this vision to win a substantial mass following. It promises to replace gerontocracy, mediocrity and national weakness with youth, heroism and national greatness and put into government outstanding personalities instead of non-entities. If the times are ripe, the vague or contradictory implications of the policies proposed to realize such nebulous goals do not diminish their attraction because it is precisely that mythic power that matters, not their feasibility or human implications.
Hope and change, We are the ones we've been waiting for. Yes, we can! America is already great, because America is good. We are the One Indispensable Nation. 

(Griffin doesn't consider Trump to be a bona fide fascist, by the way, simply because he has not met the strict requirement of ordering or even advocating for the overthrow of democratic institutions. But does he really have to, when staffing them with incompetents and corporate infiltrators does the job just as well, if not better?)

Arthur Koestler writes in The Ghost in the Machine that our human brains have not kept pace with science and technology, which have at least partly replaced religious belief in modern civilization. Thus has come the rise of ultranationalism, because people still desperately need something to believe in, especially when economic times are hard.
In the case of fascism, its core myth of the regenerated national community led by a revolutionary elite calls a priori for an act of identification, a neurologically based mischanneling of the human drive for self-transcendance. This engenders a paranoid, dualistic mindset conducive to boundless idealism and fanatical devotion toward the embyonic new nation, coupled with ruthless violence directed at its alleged enemies.
In Escape From Freedom, Erich Fromm noted of Nazi Germany and other fascist regimes that although many people were able to take advantage of the freedom engendered by industrial progress, others felt increasingly unmoored and thus turned to authoritarian leadership to avoid an all-pervasive loneliness.

For the past half-century, we have been living under the regime of neoliberalism, or corporatism, where all lives are defined or dominated by market forces, and in which we are judged primarily on our ability to earn and consume. When people lose these abilities, as they have in vast numbers since the 2008 financial collapse and the transfer of 94% of all that "lost" household wealth to the moneyed elite, they become depressed, confused, and insecure. Millions of them have turned to Donald Trump, who alone among the other presidential candidates at least addressed the unfairness and corruption, albeit only for his own nefarious and self-interested purposes.

Roger Griffin lists four pre-conditions for the rise of fascistic leadership:
1. the presence either of native currents of ultra-nationalism, or of fascist role models to build on.

2. Adequate political space in a "modern" society is undergoing a structural crisis, for example, after an economic collapse and costly war.

3. An inadequate consensus on liberal values. Fascism can only break out of the lunatic right when society is struck by a crisis. Even then, the  seizure of actual power is doubtful.

4. Favorable contingency. Chance or "destiny" comes into play. A charismatic leader with a flair for propaganda and self-advertisement and co-option of human psychology, emerges.  The "elective affinity" with fascism is experienced by every individual involved in it, from the leader to the most lukewarm fellow traveler, is the product of unique psychological predispositions which are reducible to tendencies, patterns and types. The "chance" factor also relies on the vagaries of the electoral system.
Taking this list of requirements into account, there is a case to be made for Barack Obama as the charismatic "friendly" proto-fascist, whose cult of personality swept him into power. After all, he did win the "advertiser of the year" award after his first campaign. His sellout of his voting base to corporate interests, ironically juxtaposed with the pre-existing "native currents" of racism in this country, paved the way for the decidedly uncharismatic Donald Trump, whose very loathsomeness is his paradoxical attraction for the cynical as well as for the desperate. He also profited by the "chance contingency" factor of the archaic Electoral College system, winning the office despite massively losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.

As a bundle of inconsistencies, he simply represents the vicious, built-in contradictions of fascism which make the term so hard to define. But since he is not a fanatical ideologue, and since we still live do in a putative democracy with three branches of "checks and balances" government, and the Constitution remains more or less intact, Trump is no Hitler.

Maybe Mike Pence can be more successful, especially since he is the one who filled the White House with all those oligarchic enablers, and since he is the one who is a true believer in the subversive Prosperity Gospel and hardcore Christian fundamentalism. Perhaps he will strive to become the leader of a full-blown fascist theocracy. Cue The Handmaid's Tale.

And of course, don't rule Hillary Clinton out just yet, despite her and Bill embarking on the lucrative paid speaking circuit. If Trump has accomplished anything, it is showing that you can still win high office despite shady financial dealings.

As Wikileaks revealed (and as even the New York Times reported) Hillary certainly fills the fascistic requirement of unlimited brute-force national expansionism:
When she became secretary in 2009, she posed a question about China to an Australian leader: “How do you deal toughly with your banker?” In the Goldman transcript, she suggested that she had answered her own question when sparring with the Chinese over its claims in the South China Sea.
“I made the point at one point in the argument that, you know, you can call it whatever you want to call it,” she said. “You don’t have a claim to all of it. I said, by that argument, you know, the United States should claim all of the Pacific. We liberated it, we defended it. We have as much claim to all of the Pacific. And we could call it the American Sea, and it could go from the West Coast of California all the way to the Philippines.”
 (my bold.)

So, what is fascism anyway? The answers are still as varied and as confusing as Hillary Clinton's American Sea is wide.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Merchants of Death Hit a Snag

It's hard out there for oligarchs and their pimps when they suddenly try to do the right thing, only to discover that what passes for their souls or moral compasses has been missing in action for decades, if not centuries and epochs.

Last week the hypocrisy became all too painfully evident when the ruling class and their media sycophants announced, after the seating of predator Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, that it is time to stop your kvetching and  move on to the most important event ever in their lifetimes, your lifetimes, in anybody's lifetime in all of human history - the 2018 Midterm Elections.

There is too much divisiveness and backlashing in the populace going on for the comfort of the ruling class. So shut up, and register to vote if you have not done so already.  Their comfort depends upon you as you avail yourself of the last crumb of democracy they have deigned to heap upon your plates.

Michelle Obama is certainly doing her part to Get Out the Vote. She even redundantly redeemed war criminal frat boy George Bush on the Today Show last week. You might remember that it was Bush who'd gotten the whole Kavanaugh ball rolling when he promoted his prized preppie minion to the federal bench from his White House position of writing legal briefs justifying torture and death. He'd even set Kavanaugh up with his own personal secretary and the two eventually married.

So lest Bush be newly tainted by the Brett Mess, Michelle gushed that she and Bush function as "partners in crime" whenever the ex-presidents gather, and as such, "I love him to death."

This paints such a warm fuzzy picture of George Bush loving millions of innocent people to death with his illegal invasion of Iraq, before enjoying his retirement years painting warm fuzzy pictures of maimed veterans. This undeserved comfort was all made possible because Michelle's husband refused to investigate his administration -- which included Brett Kavanaugh -- for its crimes against humanity. 

So everybody get out there and vote!

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the elected #Resistance miraculously got over their token disgust with Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh long enough to quietly fast-track a whole new slew of ultra-right Trump court appointees. Schumer altruistically caved to Trump's blackmail threat to keep Congress in session during campaign season, and thereby prevent our good liberal representatives from raking in all those hundreds of millions in corporate cash during the run-up to the most important event in their lifetimes, our lifetimes and anybody's lifetime in all of human history. 

They nobly sacrificed governing in the public interest just so that you little people could enjoy the privilege of getting swamped with their negative TV commercials and their slick glossy campaign mailers for the entire month of October. So do your civic duty. Stay glued to your TVs and Internet screens and always answer your door whenever one of their unpaid volunteers comes a-knocking. Democrats are an endangered species, suffering as they do from both osteoporotic spines and gonadal insufficiency. Keep them on life support as "they make a serious run" at saving their own hides if not yours.

 And get to the polls on 11/6!

They need you so very much every two and four years, that it's all that their propagandists and sugar daddies can do to maintain the fleeting illusion that you matter more to them than money and power does. 

But wouldn't you know it?  Just when they had you almost convinced that they hate murderous despots like Vladimir Putin, their hypocrisy has become painfully exposed in L'Affaire Jamal Khashoggi.

Little did I, or perhaps most of us, know that even as the New York Times was railing against Donald Trump, Russiagate, and the absolute pressing necessity of voting for Democrats in November in order to keep the fascism at bay, the Paper of Record had been sordidly investing its time, record-breaking subscription revenue and journalistic talent into propping up the murderous and repressive Saudi Arabia dictatorship.

It turns out, though, that even late-stage capitalism on steroids has its limits, its momentary surges of conscience whenever bad publicity threatens. This moral compass was certainly moribund as the debonair crown prince of Saudi Arabia was recently feted by the American ruling class despite his regime's long history of bombing Yemeni civilians and beheading its own dissenting citizens. But when he stooped so low as to order the torture, murder and dismemberment of an important rich professional just like themselves, the Ruling Class Racketeers must at last pretend to act shocked and appalled. After all, this time the victim was a wealthy man who spanned the worlds of diplomacy, mainstream media propaganda and power-broking. He was one of them.

The Times simply cannot avoid owning up to its own complicit role in boosting the Saudi dictatorship, but tries nonetheless to save face by soft-pedaling it as ruefully as it possibly can. After all, even the most important media outlets and personalities and billionaires and corporations were duped by all that money and all that sparkling Saudi royal charm as the crown prince schmoozed them to death. There hasn't been anything like it since the Bernie Madoff debacle exposed the greed and stupidity of the upper echelons when his investment scheme collapsed in 2009.

  Media critic Jim Rutenberg writes,  

Vanity Fair noted at the time that the festivities were not marred by talk of civilian deaths in Yemen from Saudi-led airstrikes; the crown prince’s “anti-corruption” move to imprison scores of Saudi businessmen, including the owners of Saudi television networks and key rivals, at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton; or the five-year prison sentence the Saudi royal court handed the journalist Saleh al-Shehi for criticizing the government.
The embrace between the American establishment and the leader known as M.B.S. was set to continue in Riyadh later this month at a business conference hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed. The sponsors, partners and participants of the conference — known informally as “Davos In The Desert” — included a number of media companies: CNBC, The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Economist, CNN and Fox Business Network.
So even Donald Trump of all people is making empty threats to the Saudis. He won't stoop so low as to stop selling them billions of dollars worth of the weapons they need to keep killing Yemenis, because that might hurt the livelihoods of the Americans who manufacture these weapons. Let's face it -- the well-being of our nation is grotesquely defined by the stock market, which in its own turn is largely measured by how many people our elected representatives can impoverish, maim and kill. The business of America is death. Their lives and livelihoods depend on it.

Therefore, don't forget to cling to your own health and life long enough rush right out to vote for which team you'd like to do the killing and the weapon-selling for you, either Democrat or Republican. Because when it comes to war and obscene war profits for billionaires, no debate is ever needed. All they need is the fig leaf of your participation in their free and fair elections.

  As Trump told CBS News, which broke momentarily from the mainstream media script of pretending to despise him because of their mutual addictive dependence on lies, cash and weapons:
 "I'll tell you what I don't want to do. I don't want to hurt jobs. I don't want to lose an order like that. And you know what, there are other ways of punishing.
There's a lot at stake. And, maybe especially so because this man was a reporter. There's something, you'll be surprised to hear me say that, there's something really terrible and disgusting about that if that were the case. We're going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment."
He'll keep braying that refrain until November 6th. After that, Khashoggi will most likely go the way of Kavanaugh, down the Orwellian memory hole of public discourse. Money will quietly change hands, deals will be struck in back rooms, the story will be buried in favor of the next nugget of manufactured outrage, and everything will be tempered by the usual feel-good fluff about the doings of the rich and famous.

Meghan and Harry are pregnant! is already doing the diversionary trick on the front pages and breaking news emails.

Now get out there and vote. 

And while you're waiting for your five minutes of democratic fame, do what they did in the future home of the Obamas' $500 million shrine on Saturday. 
 Thousands of people have marched through downtown Chicago to express their displeasure at President Donald Trump and encourage voters to go to the polls for next month’s midterm election.
The march took place Saturday after a rally in Grant Park organized by Women’s March Chicago. The group dubbed the event March to the Polls.
A sea of people took to the streets, chanting “Let’s go vote!” as they walked from Grant Park to Federal Plaza. Some voters cast ballots at nearby early voting sites. Chicago is a Democratic stronghold.
Needless to say, there was none of what the corporate media is wont to describe as egalitarian "clashes" between the marchers and the police. This was a rally and march sanctioned by the powers that be, not by the powerless themselves.

Maybe when all that's left of The November 6th Event are tattered campaign fliers and broken promises, the people will finally take it upon themselves to march on behalf of themselves and their fellow human beings.

One can only hope. And agitate a whole hell of a lot. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Get Ready For the Great Blue Ripple

The  Democratic leadership has two big goals if they win back control of the House next month.

First, there will be nonstop political theater and grandstanding as they haul various Trump officials before their committees in an effort to expose (not necessarily punish) the sordid corruption. Second, they will "shoring up" such  corporation-friendly enterprises as the Affordable Care Act and the increasingly watered-down Dodd-Frank financial reform package.

Since Democratic members with the most longevity lead committees and control the House legislative agenda, there will be no real efforts to implement Medicare For All and living wage legislation, nor will the Democrats move to reverse Trump's massive, trillion dollar-plus  transfer of wealth to the already financially bloated ruling class contained in his tax package.

Why should they? As the New York Times reported over the weekend, the Democratic Party is getting about a third more Wall Street money than the Republicans are for the midterm elections.. A huge wad of this cash comes courtesy of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who just registered as a Democrat for a possible run against Trump in 2020. 

The Hill interviewed the Democratic committee leaders about their big, bold and "ambitious" plans to make life absolutely great for the "good rich" and maybe even just a wee bit better for the rest of us.

Nita Lowey, Appropriations: Lowey, who's represented wealthy Westchester County in New York for the past three decades, is already satisfied with the bipartisan bill just passed, which added a billion dollars to the 2017 spending package, with extra funds to fight opioid addiction and aid medical research. If you want to know what she'll do if she wields the gavel next year, look for more of the same bipartisanship. Because cooperation and "order" in the House mean so very much to her. There is no word from her on addressing the root causes of addiction (not least of which are the despair and poverty engendered by neoliberal corporatism) or the fact that medical research is another name for pharmaceutical industry subsidies, that is, corporate welfare. 

Adam Smith, Armed Services. The Washington State Democrat will not do anything so drastic as to slash eternal war machine's obscene, nearly-trillion dollar annual budget, although he does think we probably have too many nukes. He also thinks that as long as we wage so many wars, the American public might appreciate a little more "transparency" about the damage and death being caused in all our names, especially in Africa. That would supposedly tamp down all the protests and anti-war sentiment currently tearing us apart. Of course, I jest. There is nothing close to an anti-war movement, given that it's mainly the poor and minorities who serve endless tours of duty out of sheer financial desperation. Smith, fine identity politics Dem that he is, also wants more financially desperate transgender people to retain their full rights to fight and die for oil companies and other multinationals.

John Yarmuth, Budget: It's the era of Big Data and oppressive algorithms, so this Kentucky rep wants his committee to have more of a data-gathering role and duplicate the work already being done by the Congressional Budget Office. Regular people don't need more money as much as our lawmakers require as much "discussion and analysis"as possible in order to maintain the status quo.

Frank Pallone, Energy and Commerce: Late-stage capitalistic commerce requires endless polluting energy to help speed humanity over the environmental cliff. So this might be why the twin evils are joined into one handy committee, to avoid any more silly redundancy. New Jersey's Pallone states that "stabilizing Obamacare" and keeping private insurers comfortable and their investors energized with never-ending profits will be his most pressing concern if his party regains power. He also just can't wait to rail against the "culture of  corruption" which exists only in the nasty old Trump administration, which seriously undermines whatever protections that health care "consumers" enjoy while going broke paying their high premiums and deductibles.

Maxine Waters, Financial Services: This California Democrat is among the least-bad of the party leaders and therefore strikes a lot of theatrical fear into the heartless hearts of the Republicans. She was even known to occasionally criticize Barack Obama, back when he was overseeing the biggest transfer of wealth from the working class and poor to the plutocracy in modern US history. Therefore, she looks forward to hauling Trump officials before her committee, and has reportedly singled out HUD Director Ben Carson and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for special scrutiny. This should make for some pretty good reality TV and plenty of campaign cash for presidential contenders from both parties.

When Trump editorialized that the Democrats are raging socialists who want to remake the country in the image of Venezuela, he was no doubt thinking of Waters's possible control of a committee which has the potential power to somewhat discommode the oligarchy. These people can't stand even the mere thought of a drop of anticipatory nervous sweat marring their pristine privileged selves.

Bennie Thompson, Homeland Security: The ranking member from Mississippi hopes to call more attention to the Trump administration's abysmal response to Hurricane Maria as well as to expose the "vulnerabilities" in the Transportation Security Agency's sometimes lackadaisical screening of American airline travelers, a/k/a suspected terrorists. Rather than stupidly support Trump's stupid border war to keep out Mexican and Central American immigrants and refugees, Thompson wants to push "smart technology" to give bipartisan anti-immigrant sentiment a nicer, and less openly paranoid and medieval, feel. He also wants criminal gangs to be deported before non-offending undocumented people are deported. Unlike Trump, his priorities are in order.

Adam Schiff, Intelligence: The former prosecutor from California aims to enhance his already glowing media star quality to near-blinding proportions. Therefore, RussiaRussiaRussia. And then when he's done with that, RussiaRussiaRussia. And Russia.

Jerrold Nadler, Judiciary: The only justice that the liberal faction of the Ruling Class wants us to care about is the Mueller investigation of Donald Trump. Therefore, Nadler will make no real effort to impeach either Trump or Justice Brett Kavanaugh if he wins control of the gavel. So besides "delving into" family border separations, lax gun laws and protecting the for-profit insurance industry from more Trumpian depredation, Nadler will also "fight for" legislation to protect Robert Mueller's job. Don't you feel better already?

Raul Grijalva, Natural Resources: This Arizona progressive is also among the tiny less-bad faction of the party leadership. Therefore, his most pressing task in preventing a quicker death for our rapidly ailing planet will be to demand accountability from corrupt Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and perhaps gain a little more time for all living things without really changing the trajectory. To his credit, Grivalja is one of those rare committee leaders who wants to do more than simply rein in or embarrass Trump. He gives priority to strengthening - not just restoring - laws protecting our air and water and endangered species.

Elijah Cummings, Oversight and Government Reform: The rep from Maryland is one of the most powerful Democrats in the House. As such, he will maintain the status quo of private, for-profit health care. He also plans a deluge of political theater in an effort to embarrass Trump and damage his chances for re-election. He told The Hill he hasn't exactly figured out how to do this yet, but by golly, this "tearing apart of the foundations of our democracy has got to stop!" Maybe he can even stage some more sit-down protests and walkouts to show how hard he is Fighting For Us while issuing his hundreds of subpoenas.

Peter De Fazio, Transportation and Infrastructure: This Oregon Democrat is also one of the good, or less-bad guys. He wants to protect airline passengers from financial abuse by the transportation oligarchs, and he actually has detailed legislation in hand for the repair of the nation's crumbling bridges and roads. These positive goals take precedence over any desire on his part to shame the Trumpies in nationally televised hearings.

Richard Neale, Ways and Means: The Massachusetts Democrat says he wants to "revisit" the way that Trump's massive tax overhaul was rammed through Congress. "Democrats are not opposed to the tax package on the whole, but are eyeing changes that would shift the benefits from the corporations and the wealthy to middle class workers," The Hill quotes him as saying.

This is another way of selling debunked, right-wing trickle down economics. When Democrats talk about "middle class workers," they're talking about their base - the merely affluent professional class, or the top 10 percent of income earners, whose property tax deductions have taken a big hit in the Trump tax code.

But lest all you tired, poor, or retired people feel left out, Ways and Means under Democratic control would also have the power to seize Trump's tax returns and read them behind closed doors. That should make the oppressed and struggling feel ever so much better.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Commentariat Central: Post-Kavanaugh Blues

As long as the New York Times keeps ignoring the war-mongering Atlantic Council's advice to shut down reader commentary, I'll keep shoving my two cents into their digital piggy bank of views, which they euphemize as "sharing our thoughts."

It seems like only yesterday that the liberal press was editorializing against Brett Kavanaugh, and it seems like only today that we're being advised to put all those bad memories of rape and corruption and mendacity behind us and redirect our energies toward the vaunted Blue Wave, and support corporate Democrats.

In his latest column, Paul Krugman describes the trauma of Christine Blasey Ford as being of "of secondary concern" within the big picture of looming Republican authoritarianism and Trumpist brownshirts. His colleague Charles Blow sarcastically tells readers to "rue the day and rend your garments" like hormonal lunatics, because Kavanaugh should suddenly be the least of your enemies. "Liberals get so high-minded, they lose sight of the ground war," he chides, referring to the looming midterms.

And about those loudmouthed protesting women beating on the doors of the Supreme Court:
On one level this would provide relief and release for a pent-up demand by most Americans to be heard and to calm some of the chaos. But, catharsis is an emotional response and an emotional remedy.
Hear that, ladies? Charles Blow says it's time to stop emoting and follow the sage advice of Charles Pierce, scribe of Esquire, "the magazine for men", and get to work fighting the racist Constitutional originalists by organizing a brand new constitutional convention which will require the permission of only two-thirds of our divided states.

First, my response to Blow (much inspired by my current reading of "Black Reconstruction In America" by the great socialist W.E.B. Du Bois):
If the Kavanaugh Caper proves anything, it's that the white men of the GOP are pining not so much for the Founders as they are for the oligarchic slave-owning planting class of the antebellum South.

Here's looking at you, Mitch McConnell.

This isn't a new civil war, as some pundits claim. The old civil war never ended. It's been going on with varying intensity more than 150 years. Donald Trump just ushered in one of its greatest revivals yet, abandoning the smarmy dog whistle for a bullhorn.The GOP has likewise stripped itself bare, flaunting its racism and sexism in an orgy of shamelessness.

That's not to say we should therefore put our blind faith in the Democratic Party, some of whose leaders are already urging us to "move on" for the sake of our sacred institutions, as they abandon any idea of impeaching Kavanaugh. That would be too, too unseemly. All you "purists" must realize that if the Dems pull this stunt, the GOP will only get their revenge down the road. And anyway, as the Times just reported, Wall Street is putting its corrupt money on the Democrats this year.

The media coverage of Trump's "victory" this week has also been downright disgusting. How quickly the pain of Dr. Blasey Ford and countless other women has been forgotten in the group-think coverage of horse race politics.

Co-opting, dividing and conquering regular people is how the ruling class racketeers roll. Don't fall for it. Vote, and then keep afflicting the comfortable.
And in response to a critical reader who thought I was unfairly sliming Trump voters as one bigoted monolithic voting bloc:
To clarify: I'm talking about the white male leadership of the GOP, not white male voters who vote Republican. Trump has displayed his own racism and sexism in countless ways, both verbally and operationally - his Access Hollywood remarks, describing Mexicans as rapists, his attempted dismantling of social safety programs, and of course his notorious birther campaign.

He co-opts the white working class male just as the oligarchic planters did during slavery. Poor whites fought the Civil War for the rich and were the hired overseers of slaves and bounty hunters of slaves so that the rich could bask in their own laziness while producing absolutely nothing. They deflected their own bad qualities on their enslaved work force and propagandized to the poor whites that with a little hard work, they too could aspire to the owner class. Likewise, Trump pretends to be on their side because after all, they have their white masculinity in common.
 Slavery ended, but the propaganda has proved more or less successful ever since. This is what I mean by divide and conquer. Our rulers would hate for the white working class and the black and brown working class to get together in solidarity against the modern day oligarchy.

Trump won because neither the white nor the black working class in rust belt states turned out for Hillary Clinton. Many who'd voted for Obama picked Trump. It's wrong to call all Trump voters racist and sexist. Plenty are just plain fed up and desperate.
As far as Krugman's standard diatribe against Trump and the Republicans' "paranoid style of politics" and incipient authoritarian rule is concerned, I do admit that I let my feminist anger get the better of me, and as a result, did not get many recommendations for this response:
 How quickly liberal men are calling the seating of Kavanaugh "of secondary concern" or "time to move on." That's a pretty callous response to the millions of women whose own pain at the hands of predators was rendered newly raw by the testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford and others with the courage to speak out. Now that Kavanaugh's in, we're lectured that too many angry women might be spawning a backlash and endangering the so-called Blue Wave of the midterms. It's disgusting.

So let's pivot again to Trump, Trump and nothing but the Trump and ignore the fact that he is but the symptom of the equally noxious neoliberal style of politics which been devouring labor rights and the social safety net for going on half a century now.

Authoritarianism is already here. Just witness the recent "no debate needed" bipartisan appropriation by a near-unanimous Senate of nearly a trillion more dollars to the dreaded Trump regime to wage endless war.

  Look at Joe Biden, the current front-runner for the presidency. A "New Democrat," he impoverished millions of women in the 90s with his bankruptcy reform legislation and helped send millions of men to prison in the misguided war on drugs, which was really a war on black drug users. He will never prevail against Trump, who knows where all the bodies are buried... because they either aided his fraudulent rise to riches, or they turned a blind eye to it.

That's Trump's fascistic appeal. He pretends to eat his own, and his base feels replete.
Here's how a fellow reader named "Gerry" cut me down to size by erecting a straw-woman:
I think you paint with a too broad brush when you condemn liberal men as aiders and abettors of the Republican supporters of Trump. I don't hear any of my male liberal friends saying that the seating of Kavanaugh is of secondary concern and that it is time to move on. We are doing what we can to regain control of the House by volunteering and contributing. We are supporters of the Mueller investigation.
You sound mixed up to me. What are your politics?
My reply to "Gerry" --
 Um...Paul Krugman used the words "of secondary concern" right here in this column. He sounds like too many other liberal male pundits I've been reading and listening to these several days.

As far as my sounding "mixed up" is concerned, that his exactly how how Brett Kavanaugh and others described Dr. Blasey Ford. They also demanded to know what her politics are.

There has been much attempted gaslighting of women by both liberal and conservative men. The liberals concern-troll it by calling us emotional and confused, while the conservatives come right out and pronounce us nuts and liars.

But according to you, it's all good as long as Dems support Mueller and give money to candidates.

I rest my case.
The proscribing of the "narrative" to one's required membership in either right wing of the duopoly serves to stifle dissent. Liberalism is not the same thing as leftism, despite the ridiculous claims of Republicans who accuse the centrist business-friendly leaders of the Democratic Party of being Marxists. Thinking outside the corporate partisan box simply does not compute. The establishment media have done their job, and done it well.

Meanwhile, David Brooks, who is now practically indistinguishable from his liberal right-wing Times colleagues in their obsessive loathing for the lone corpus of Donald Trump, is back from book leave and has wisely completely ignored the Kavanaugh Caper and the midterm elections. 

Instead, he's shilling for another for-profit venture which involves corporations getting into community organizing by funding programs which use poor (mainly black) children as data banks. He desperately describes it as "A Really Good Thing That's Happening in America."

Visiting one South Carolina center called the "Spartanburg Academic Movement," or SAM, Brooks gushes:
SAM organizes the community of Spartanburg around a common project. Then it creates an informal authority structure that transcends public-sector/private-sector lines, that rallies cops and churches, the grass roots and the grass tops. Members put data in the center and use it as a tool not for competition but for collaboration. Like the best social service organizations, it is high on empathy and high on engineering. It is local, participatory and comprehensive.
SAM is not a lone case. Spartanburg is one of 70 communities around the country that use what is called the StriveTogether method. StriveTogether began in Cincinnati just over a decade ago. A few leaders were trying to improve education in the city and thinking of starting another program. But a Procter & Gamble executive observed, “We’re program-rich, but system-poor.” In other words, Cincinnati had plenty of programs. What it lacked was an effective system to coordinate them.
Yep, you guessed it. This is the same market-based neoliberal approach to government and social services that helped produce Donald Trump, and turned the Democratic Party into the Republican Party and the Republican Party into Insanity Central. Just the mention of P & G should set off alarm bells. It is what's called an oligopoly, a consolidated corporate behemoth which has cornered the market on most of the items you see on your grocery store shelves, with its garish plethora of brand names offering a false "choice" to consumers. 

That's the noxious genius of neoliberalism itself it just keeps rebranding itself. Life itself is just one great big advertisement.

David Brooks does not, of course, go there. Instead he is so excited about the continuing privatization of public spaces and the corporate enslavement of human lives that 
Frankly, I don’t need studies about outcomes to believe that these collective impact approaches are exciting and potentially revolutionary. Trust is built and the social fabric is repaired when people form local relationships around shared tasks. Building working relationships across a community is an intrinsically good thing. You do enough intrinsically good things and lives will be improved in ways you can never plan or predict. This is where our national renewal will come from.
My published response:
 While sounding warm and fuzzy, the gathering of data on children "from cradle to career" does have sort of an ominous Brave New World ring to it.

Who becomes the eventual recipients of all this valuable and intrusive data? Facebook, Amazon, the NSA, for-profit testing companies, anti teacher union PACs, or any corporate entity prepared to pay money for it?

This sounds suspiciously like another iteration of the increasingly discredited for-profit charter school movement which has sought to supersede good government education policy and the expenditure of public money on children.

So rather than unquestioningly celebrate the efforts of philanthrocapitalists and corporations seeking to burnish their public images with these kinds of slick "community" programs that purport to "measure" pupil progress, our free and fair press should dig deeper and do their journalistic duty: follow the money.

Rather than simply concentrate on kids "from cradle to career", America must start concentrating.on all its people from cradle to  grave. We already have some of the worst education and health outcomes in the civilized world.

A pivot to government in the public rather than private interest would include Medicare for All, debt-free college, a guaranteed federal jobs program... in other words, a rebooting of the New Deal for the 21st century.
If the wealthy investment class really wants to help poor children, let them stop bribing our politicians and start paying their fair share of taxes.