Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sucked Into Vortex Theater

It's memoir season. It's celebrity elevator fights and office intrigue season. It's the overlapping of the acts in never-ending presidential campaign season theater season. Contenders for high office fall all over themselves pretending to be for the little guy, while actual presidents  no longer need even pretend to be for the little guy. Instead, they're in campaign mode for impending Private Life as they openly play golf with vulture capitalists and give speeches at Walmart and praise financial predators for their social impact efforts. (And to stave off the lame duck boredom, still enjoy the power to order drone strikes and plot coups during normal business hours.)

First, the memoirs. I've listened to Elizabeth Warren read her own book (she also wrote it herself, judging from the emotion behind every single word. I don't know how she can maintain the outrage without exploding.) I've listened to an excerpt from Hillary Clinton's memoir (she got a lot of scripting help, judging from the robotic flow of the few words she's teased us with with so far.) I am avoiding Timothy Geithner's book, because the avoidance of Timothy Geithner in all his manifestations is probably a mentally healthy thing to do. But judging from the reviews, his tome is destined for the bargain bins, even as he pockets his outrageous advance and speaking fees and mirthlessly chuckles all the way back to the bank.

As much as I want to root for Jill Abramson, the deposed New York Times editor, I simply cannot whip myself into a froth of outrage over her firing. For despite her shoddy treatment at the hands of a trust fund brat and a whole cavalcade of snivelling men in suits, her own hands are dirty. Most recently, she has overseen  the paper's disgraceful stenographic coverage of the US-sponsored coup in Ukraine and the publication of phony photographic evidence backing it up. She did not order a retraction or issue an apology. So, I can think of plenty of other downtrodden women to root for besides a multimillionaire who will not have to apply for food stamps as she juggles the myriad offers.

It's kind of the the same feeling I get now that Hillary Clinton's mental status and age are being openly questioned by Turd Blossom Rove. The pseudo-liberal female chorus erupts into new stanzas of "You Go Girl!"  I can think of plenty of other role models for vicarious victimhood besides a woman raking in millions in book deals and Goldman Sachs speeches.

It's like the suffocating feeling I got when I read the latest drama critique from Times columnist Frank Bruni, who today pontificates on Hillary's obstacle course while ironically complaining about the coverage swirling like an F-0 tornado all over the mass media landscape.  Such columns, of course, elicit standard partisan outrage and a rousing chorus of "You Go Girl!" with the Lesser Evilism 2012 back-up singers of "Supreme Court, Hold Your Nose!" fame.

I couldn't take it any more. I couldn't seem to help myself. I got sucked into the swirling maelstrom of meaninglessness. I jumped in with a Reader Comment:
"Hard Choices" -- the title of her forthcoming memoir -- should also be our first clue about what a Clinton third term forebodes. Because "hard choices" is also the common euphemism employed by the plutocratic deficit hawks from both parties to describe the planned gutting of FDR's New Deal and other social programs. As in, "you common folk have to make the hard choice to trim Social Security benefits so as not to rob future generations, while we oligarchs make the hard choice of reaping all the benefits."
Hillary, judging from the age of her recently deceased mother and her gold-plated health insurance, should live long and prosper.
Meanwhile, something she said recently should have us asking the tough questions about the hard choices:
"The 1990s taught us that even in the face of difficult, long-term economic trends, it is possible, through smart policies and sound investments, to enjoy broad-based growth and shared prosperity."
Long on platitudes, short on substance. Nothing, for instance, on taxing the rich or reining in the too big to fail/jail banks. The 90s brought us the end of direct aid to the poor and the reckless repeal of Glass-Steagall, which led directly to financial catastrophe, mass foreclosures and unemployment. The so-called Clinton boom years were a bubble.

Hillary has obstacles from her past, all right. They're named Rubin, Greenspan, Summers, and NAFTA.

Her present obstacles include Warren, Sanders, and the lingering power of the Occupy movement.
Mark Leibovich, who wrote his own memoir ("This Town")  of Beltway intrigue as practiced by the rich and shallow, has now written a bitingly hilarious preview of the Clinton opus. Here's an excerpt:
Hard Choices” was no doubt similarly prosecuted into existence by an army of ghostwriters, editors, researchers, fact-checkers and “superlawyers” who have presumably weeded out the tiniest specks of Benghazi cover-up catnip, bitterness over 2008, discord with Bill or second-guessing of Obama-Biden in the White House. Even if its newsworthy revelations are negligible, the “rollout” in advance of its June 10 release date will be staged at Normandy levels of intensity. There will be the requisite negotiations and strategic media “leaking” and the parceling out of “exclusives” like, say, the testimonial for Hillary’s late mother, Dorothy Howell Rodham, which landed in Vogue just in time for Mother’s Day.
 “Hard Choices” also seems to borrow from another trope of its species. Regardless of what the author has accomplished, in the self-mythologizing world of Memoir Land, a life is cast as a riveting series of pivotal moments — choices, calls, decisions, things requiring courage. Politicians love to fetishize themselves as the makers of really tough decisions, befitting their leaderly burdens, as if no one else in the world has ever had to pick between unsavory outcomes. These sagas place the protagonists in a special class of “decider,” to use the term popularized by George W. Bush, author of a memoir, “Decision Points.”
If you're looking for a genuinely gripping and ripping good read, meanwhile, I plugged one in my comment on Paul Krugman's own review of Timothy Geithner's memoir yesterday:
One of Geithner's most ridiculous conceits is that he was a "public servant" and not a creature of Wall Street. As president of the powerful N.Y. Fed, he was, in fact, a banker's banker, the fox who guarded the henhouse, the guy that the sociopaths of finance could rely on. And given the deregulation spree that had gained steam under Reagan, loaded up on steroids under Clinton, and turned into an imperialistic blood-bath under Bush, collapse was inevitable.
As Nomi Prins lays out in her excellent book, "All the President's Bankers," when the Fed was first dreamed up by the original savvy robber barons after a panic in the last gilded age, its mandate to ease unemployment was a fig leaf to ensure congressional approval. It wasn't meant to be taken seriously, then or now.
From 2002 to 2007, says Prins, the biggest US banks created nearly 80 percent of $14 trillion worth of global mortgage backed securities, asset backed securities, collateralized debt obligations and other toxic brews. Yet, in a 2004 report, Geithner assured everybody there was no risk of a housing bubble.
And when it all went kaboom, he blasted right into the White House, failing upward just like the rest of his cohort. He ensured, as Elizabeth Warren tells it in her own truthful book, that TARP "foamed the runway" so the banks could spread out foreclosures, thus doubly victimizing the public.
Bankers are richer than ever, more reckless than ever. The next big crash is not a matter of if, but when.
So, Krugman is finally implicitly criticizing the Obama administration. So, the Democratic strategy seems to be going something like this:

Play up the inequality angle for all it's worth. Ignore Obama, and let Warren run wild through the mid-terms in hopes of Democratic sellouts squeaking through to victory on her coattails and fundraising acumen. Put Michelle and Eric Holder out there as born-again civil rights leaders to drum up enthusiasm from disaffected civil rights nostalgia buffs. To avoid appearances of a coronation, perhaps let Warren or Bernie Sanders pretend to mount a primary challenge. Hillary will pretend to be pushed left, perhaps even tapping Warren as her running mate and thus restoring the credibility of the Democratic Party.  Assuming she does, and she wins, what better way to neuter Warren and get her off her anti-banker soapbox  and onto a very short Clinton leash, soon to be assimilated into the Clinton vortex.

Must. Resist. The. Suck.


Kat said...

Hey Karen-- did you see this?

Is this via "social impact bonds"?

Well, if a smart guy like Jamie Dimon is at the helm, what could go wrong?
glad you commented on "Hard Choices". Yes, I believe the title is a harbinger of things to come--
"I made my hard choices, now it's your turn!" (You don't have a choice in the matter, by the way.)

annenigma said...

It's off topic but I hope you don't mind my pasting a comment I sent to the NYT today in regard to 'New York Is a Hub in a Surging Heroin Trade'. I just had to get it off my chest!

Koyaanisqatsi - life out of balance. Heroin use is just one symptom of many, not the disease. Is it any wonder our kids have no hope and turn to drugs? Even adults are destroying themselves, although usually more slowly, with prescription drugs and booze.

One of the the biggest killers is loss of HOPE, and one of the biggest contributors to loss of hope in this country has been the death of a large, promising mass movement, killed by the person who sparked it to life - Mr. Hope and Change, Barack Obama.

In 2008 we were a force and spirit to be reckoned with - young and old who were organized, energized, and committed to changing the course of events in this country. We could have been POWERFUL force for good after the election - which apparently was exactly the problem. Instead, we were thrown under the bus and the limousines pulled up. They received handwritten invitations while we were invited to send our kids to war and keep voting.

It wasn't just our idealism that died. It was our kid's futures and lives. The wealthy have purchased the government from the politicians who willingly sold it to them for their mutual enrichment. Our kids are the victims. Their kids are the beneficiaries.

What happened to that President who was supposed to reveal his true colors when he no longer had an election to worry about? Are the two years left enough time for him to do something for our kids besides pinning medals on their military uniforms before they commit suicide?


Pearl said...

Karen, lest we forget, Hillary has a great record for supporting the war in Iraq as well as other hawkish adventures, some during her husband's tenure. She would become the equivalent of Margaret Thatcher should we be so unlucky as to be saddled with her in the Oval Office.
However, many interesting things may happen before she runs for office - like a repeat of the Great Depression and her multimillionaire status may not sit well with the struggling citizens.
I also appreciate the critique of Jill Abramson as I didn't sense she was the poster lady for women's lib. But how will this affect the NYTimes point of view on complicated issues? How about a critique of her successor?

James F Traynor said...


No, it is, sadly not off topic. Probably one of the things Karen knows; the bastards double-crossed us, are double-crossing us and will continue to double-cross us. Karen's column today is just a variation on the same goddamn, fucking double-cross theme.

Ah, that felt good.

And I didn't have the hope in Obama you apparently had, but I did expect him to re-institute the regulations abandoned in the Clinton administration and strengthen accounting rules and regulations. It was simple self defending common sense for the whole goddamned economy. Ah shit, I can't continue.

As much as I hate it, hate it, the time has come to fight - peaceful demonstration, but violence with violence if need be.

Will said...


Our pussy countrymen won't rise up in rebellion until things get MUCH WORSE. Or, in other words, when the police start treating suburban whites like they do urban blacks every day of their lives.

Margaret Kimberly tweeted this tonight:

NYPD push boy through window. EMTs argued to get cuffs off. Mother not allowed to see him. Human rights suck in U.S.