Saturday, January 31, 2015

Obama's Fascist Dog Whistle

In what President Obama grotesquely calls the fourth quarter of his game, he is simultaneously acting as both head cheerleader and star player of the plutocracy's burgeoning corporate global coup. Under the guise of a campaign called the "middle class economy," he's performing an epic fake on the heads of the populace and executing end-runs around democracy itself. And he does all of this while Deflategate is sucking up all the media oxygen in the room.

You have to hand it to Obama. Against all odds, his approval rating has clawed its way back to the 50 yard line. Fully half  the thirsty sponges that pass for the minds of the American consumer-spectators in the stands apparently believe the hype. He deserves a Super Bowl ring for being one of the most valuable players ever employed by the International League of the Oligarchs.

He exemplifies the power that propaganda has over desperate people during desperate times.

The Republicans have their racial dog whistle to divide and conquer the colonies of sponges. Obama has his fascist dog whistle to Wall Street, thrumming just below the surface of the populist song he croons to unite and daze and conquer the colonies of sponges.

His latest weekly address to the nation is a textbook example of the technique perfected by Joseph Goebbels. The title alone should give you an immediate heads-up: "A Path Towards a Thriving Middle Class."

It's only a path, mind you  -- not an actual destination. The fun of travel is not the being there, but the journey itself, and the anticipation of being there. And since you will be flying on standby, you can get bumped at any time. You can especially get bumped if Obama gets fast track authority from Congress to ram through an epic job-killing trade deal. So fasten your seat belts and enjoy the scenery while it lasts. This is your Captain speaking:
Hi, everybody.  At a moment when our economy is growing, our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s, and wages are starting to rise again, we have to make some choices about the kind of country we want to be.
 Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead?
 Pssst. Yo, Jamie and Lloyd and all you Too Big to Fails and billionaire donors. You are growing at warp speed, guys! You are creating crappy precarious low-wage jobs at the fastest hyper-capitalistic pace in decades. Your own wages are rising, at upwards of 300 times that of your average worker. That is the most extreme in the entire world. Obama might claim that wages for the proles are starting to inch up, but the reversal of fortunes of the working stiff is in negative territory. The grim reality is that paychecks are going down, down, down. David Cay Johnson has the lowdown and the charts over at Al-Jazeera. No worries, though, the Times  and the cable channels aren't covering this inconvenient truth. They're all on board with the president's new-found populism, treating his words as if they meant something. In the New Abnormal Economy, more tax breaks for child care expenses are considered "bold."

Now that he's set the stage for the rosy recovery, Obama immediately pivots to that telltale diversionary question-begging. He even pretends  to channel socialist Senator Bernie Sanders by stealing the phrase that "only a few at the top are doing spectacularly well." (Despite his gift for mimicry, Obama doesn't dare try to imitate the spluttering enraged Brooklynese "spectaculuh-ly well") The dog-whistled answer to the plutocrats to his first question -- will only a few do well? -- is a very definite "Yes We Can!"

The second rhetorical question tacitly adheres to Mitt Romney's criticism of the takers and the moochers, declaring through omission that the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the marginalized, the chronically unemployed will not have the same chance as the hard workers to "get ahead."
We’ll help working families’ paychecks go farther by treating things like paid leave and child care like the economic priorities that they are.  We’ll offer Americans of every age the chance to upgrade their skills so they can earn higher wages, with plans like making two years of community college free for every responsible student.  And we’ll keep building the world’s most attractive economy for high-wage jobs, with new investments in research, infrastructure, manufacturing, and expanded access to faster internet and new markets.
So many Orwellian obfuscations in just that one tiny paragraph.

First and foremost, Obama's populist initiatives have absolutely no chance of passing. They are not only too late, they are too little. One lousy week of paid family leave and free community college for "responsible" non-moochers are pathetic compared to the more generous safety nets and subsidies in other civilized nations. European countries commonly grant workers months or even years of at least partially paid time off to care for children or other family members. Many, including Germany, offer free four-year university education to all. So why then, since even crumbs for the struggling have no chance, didn't the president go really big?

 Because even hopeless ideas always have an outside chance of sticking, and offer the merest possibility of being implemented in some future, more lefty administration. Obama is not about to take even a rhetorical chance.

He further dog-whistles to Wall Street by giving credence to the much-debunked "skills gap" excuse used by the right wingers and the ultra wealthy, tax-averse job creators for not hiring people at liveable wages. There is no skills gap -- there is only an empathy gap. But Obama buys into this blame-the-victim theme because it enables using public money to train workers for private profit. The community college funding idea is very much of a piece with the fascist policies now euphemised as "public-private partnerships." It's the privatization of profit and the socialization of risk and cost.

Obama really pulls a fast one by coupling "expanded access to faster internet and new markets." Everybody wants faster internet service, so why not tack on "new markets" as code for the job-killing, planet-polluting corporate coup of the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Be very vague while presenting it as good thing for regular people. It is such a grotesquely bad thing that even the glib Obama can't bring himself to say its name right out loud. It's such a bad thing that he refuses to divulge what's actually in it.

Of course, he couldn't afford to be so circumspect with Congressional Democrats this past week. He warned them to "keep their powder dry" on the TPP and not to read the Huffington Post. He apparently didn't realize that one of his propaganda hacks had just signed Obama's name to a Huffington Post editorial published only the day before. Hilarity ensued. Even Obama warns us not to believe Obama.
We can afford to make these investments.  Since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds – the fastest sustained deficit reduction since just after the end of World War II.  We just have to be smarter about how we pay for our priorities, and that’s what my budget does.  It proposes getting rid of special interest loopholes in our tax code, and using those savings to cut taxes for middle-class families and reward businesses that invest in America.  It refuses to play politics with our homeland security, and funds our national security priorities at home and abroad.  And it undoes the arbitrary, across-the-board budget cuts known as “the sequester” for our domestic priorities, and matches those investments dollar-for-dollar in resources our troops need to get the job done.
Obama still pretends that austerity worked. He still brags about cutting programs and prolonging suffering. But now he is willing to ease the suffering somewhat, because he's got world wars to fund and defense contractors to enrich and citizens to spy upon. He's in his last quarter.He needs to get the job done.  And that job is total weaponized domination of the globe and permanent feudalism here at home.
Now, I know that there are Republicans in Congress who disagree with my approach.  And like I said in my State of the Union Address, if they have ideas that will help middle-class families feel some economic security, I’m all in to work with them.  But I will keep doing everything I can to help more working families make ends meet and get ahead.  Not just because we want everyone to share in America’s success – but because we want everyone to contribute to America’s success.
This is the part in virtually every Obama speech where he poses as The Adult in the Room. This is the part where he appeals to the tribalistic instincts of the sponge colonies and pretends that the bad GOP won't let him get stuff done. The truth is that Republicans very much agree with his approach. They're anxious to give him unitary executive fast track authorization to complete the trade deals for the oligarchs served so well by both political parties. They agree with his bloodthirsty foreign policy of total world domination, the only minor quibbles being with the timing and locations of the various invasions and bombings and plunder-fests. They have willingly relinquished their own advise and consent duties, letting Obama as well as Bush bomb at will. They agree with his shielding of Wall Street criminals and CIA torturers. They think it's fine that he has the power to drone people to death. They are totally down with his administration's record deportations and prosecutions of whistleblowers and his war on journalism. 

And they definitely agree with the penultimate graf in his weekly address: they sincerely want everyone to contribute to America's success -- be it by their minimum wage precarious labor, the use of their bodies as cannon fodder, their forced contributions to the predatory medical insurance industry, their occasional votes to pick among pre-approved corporate shills to pose as their representatives.
 That’s the way the middle class thrived in the last century – and that’s how it will thrive again.
The middle class thrived in the last century with a strong labor movement and a 90-plus percent tax rate on obscene wealth under the Eisenhower administration. The middle class thrived because a  president named Franklin Delano Roosevelt welcomed the hatred of the same breed of sociopath that Obama now fawns over.

From FDR's April 1938 Message to Congress:
The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.
The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.Both lessons hit home.
Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.
Are we tolerant immobile sponge-colonies? Or do we become activist citizens?

Our very survival depends on our answers to those questions.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Anti-Terror Task Force to Target Protesters

So much for the dawn of a new day for police-community relations in the wake of the Eric Garner chokehold death and other high profile homicides-by-cop:
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced Thursday that the NYPD is establishing a new anti-terror strike force.
The unit of 350 cops will be specially trained in high-tech weaponry to deal with protests, “lone wolf” attacks and evolving threats posed by terrorists, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported. The Strategic Response Group, Bratton said, will be dedicated to “disorder control and counterterrorism protection capabilities.”
This makes Sen. John McCain's (R-Senility) "Get out of here, you lowlife scum!" snarling directive to Code Pink protesters harassing Henry Kissinger (War Criminal-Senility) yesterday look positively beneficent.
 “It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris,” the commissioner said.
Bratton compares the peaceful protesters of #BlackLivesMatter to the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. He actually thinks that the people staging die-ins at Macy's are just as dangerous as the terrorists who blew up a hotel in India. He thinks that anybody who speaks out against state-sponsored violence and economic oppression is not only low-life scum, but low-life scum deserving to be executed on the spot. With machine guns.
Funding for the new squad is expected to come from both the city and federal Homeland Security grants. “They’ll be equipped and trained in ways that our normal patrol officers are not,” Bratton said. “They’ll be equipped with all the extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns — unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances.”
At least he admits that the anti-personnel squads will be abnormal. At least he admits that New York City will now have its own jackbooted Gestapo. Because those "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" signs present a clear and present danger to the powers that be. Bottom-up democracy rearing its ugly head is an imminent threat to fascism. People congregating in public spaces and raising their voices represent an unfortunate instance of independent thought and action that shall not be tolerated by the Homeland Security State. Also, since the weapons manufacturers need a constant stream of revenue, and the politicians require a constant stream of bribes from the high tech weapons industry to maintain their own tenuous holds on power, the new task force is a creative new excuse for the rich assholes of the military-industrial complex to make a whole bunch more money.

They are actually selling this brutal campaign against citizens as a plus for community policing. See, the anti-protest terror squad is designed to free up the regular cops from having to deal with demonstrators and terrorists, allowing them to canoodle more with the folks in the neighborhoods. The brass does not address the possibility that the folks in the neighborhoods are often the same people who join in the protests.

Is this another iteration of the Good Cop/Bad Cop divide-and-conquer method of controlling the serfs? It sure sounds that way.  This new strategy will absolutely separate the good cops from the bad cops, relieving the stress of never knowing precisely what their job description is supposed to be.
Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association, said he supports the move. “That’s a great idea,” he told Kramer. “To the extent that you relieve the drain on resources in the neighborhoods by assigning an officer to an anti-terror function … I think that’s a very positive thing.
“There’s been a dialogue that’s been happening, which is  positive. Any time you have a dialogue and develop a relationship and can see the people you’re speaking to, so this further assists that,” Richter added.
And let's not forget the subways. Somehow, I don't think Bratton's placement of cameras in every car is designed to catch those dreaded "manspreading" perps. I think the cameras will simply make people aware that Big Brother is always watching them, make them think twice about abusing public transportation in order to exercise their rights of free speech and assembly.
The commissioner said he will also ask Mayor Bill de Blasio for more funding to buy more Tasers as an alternative to the use of force. Bratton reportedly wants at least 450 cops — five or six at each of the city’s 77 precincts — to carry Tasers on them, not leave them in their cars, Kramer reported.
Tasers as an alternative to the use of force? People have been known to die from being tasered. Tasers have been known to be over-used by police officers. How about some lessons in street psychology and public relations instead?
Bratton admitted he had more work to do to bring up the morale of the department. A poll done by the NYPD found that a majority of cops fear getting sued or being disciplined by the department.
OK, they finally cut to the chase. This ever increasing, heavy duty weaponization of the police, this characterization of protesters as scary criminals, is just being done to assuage the hurt feelings of the cops. It's all a big fat sham, a bribe for the union rank and file to prevent any more turning-of-backs against the mayor at police funerals. Machine guns are a testosterone booster for the armed servants of the ruling class and a buffer between struggling oppressed people and the thugs of hypercapitalism.

It's not a coincidence that New York City has the highest wealth disparity in the country. It has the highest concentration of billionaires in the world juxtaposed with some of the most extreme poverty. And it wants to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Them Drones Gonna Rise Again

Six years in office, countless hundreds of drone strikes, and thousands of casualties later, President Obama has finally called for stricter regulations on the flying robot industry.

It seems that a drone operated by an intoxicated geopolitical intelligence expert accidentally wandered into the Temp Emp's personal space and had a great fall. All the Secret Service tech geeks and all the Secret Service men had no way of either detecting it or stopping it. And obviously they couldn't put it together again, because it was a crappy piece of junk purchased in a Radio Shack.

But be afraid. Be very afraid. Barack surely is, though he hides it very well. Two years after telling the nation that he planned to rein in the drones, he finally means business. Well, sort of:
"You know that there are companies like Amazon that are talking about using small drones to deliver packages... There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife." Obama said. "But we don't really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it....These technologies that we're developing have the capacity to empower individuals in ways that we couldn't even imagine 10-15 years ago," Obama said, pledging to work to create a framework that "ensures that we get the good and minimize the bad."
It's the balanced approach for which Obama is so famous. Ban oil and gas drilling in the Arctic, but approve it in the Atlantic. Ban drone use by drunks and idiots, but allow it for oligarchs and corporations and presidents and CIA dudes drunk on power. Differentiate between frivolous drone use and serious drone use. Suggest even the merest possibility of regulations, then sit back and smirkingly wait for the political donations and lobbying junkets to start flowing and flying in. If a drone bearing bribery cash crashes in the thicket of Congress, it's not that people might not hear it. It's that nobody actually gives a shit. Corruption is now perfectly legal.

Americans also don't care much about drone crashes that occur in other people's yards in other people's countries, or even about the maimed and dead human beings (militants) or victims (extremists) having the poor taste to live in a "tribal area" or who've made the poor choice of being born to the wrong parents.

Meanwhile, everybody in Amerika is either guffawing or freaking out about the Great White House Drone Incident. Gail Collins wrote her usual lighthearted column on the subject of drones in general, envisioning such hilarity as drone-borne pizza deliveries creating pie in the sky over Brooklyn. But seriously, folks:
The public conversation instantly turned to terrorism and whether a maniac could use a recreational drone to drop a bomb, or start a chemical attack. This is a terrible worry. But at least we have multitudes of dedicated, vigilant public servants, virtually all of them totally sober, working night and day to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen.
However, we’re not giving enough attention to the threat of normal American idiots. The kind of people who think it’s fun to sit in the backyard and point laser lights at the cockpits of incoming planes, or participate in a YouTube challenge that involves trying to snort a condom up one’s nose. The folks for whose benefit countless utility companies have written tips that include “don’t look for a gas leak with a candle or lighted match.”
OK, so now I get it. The problem is not with drones per se, but with the idiots who operate drones. We've come back full circle to the all-American dogma of Personal Responsibility. Here's my comment to Collins:
Could a maniac use a recreational drone to drop a bomb, or start a chemical attack?
NIMBY! Those drones are called Predators and Reapers, and they're way out of the price range of the average intelligence agency drunk. And forget those tribal people out in the middle of nowhere. They're pretty much permanently hunkered down, because the constant sound of drones over their heads makes the kids too afraid to leave the house and go to school, let alone go wild in a drone toy store.
To soberly operate a weaponized drone joystick, you always, always wait for the official Kill List. If the horror of what you actually do ever hits home and the PTSD hits, then you can hit the bottle -- because it's still a long wait to see a VA shrink.
See, there are times when mistakes are made and collateral damage happens, when even whole wedding parties get droned instead of "militants" (defined by responsible leaders as any male in the age range of pre-puberty through senility). There was that one stray Hellfire missile that only last week rendered an 11-year-old boy into "bugsplat" (how droners describe a direct hit on a dehumanized person). Of course, he'd exhibited bad judgment by living too near his dad in the Disposition Matrix.
And since the Senate passed a bill last year absolving the president from having to divulge names of drone victims, we can all rest easy and pretend that the only drones that matter are the irresponsible ones landing in the White House veggie garden.
Maybe the drunk drone operator mistook his drone for a salad shredder. But true American patriot that he is, he "self-reported" his little mishap (not to be confused with self-deported, needless to say, since there apparently will be no banishment to Kochistan or elsewhere in the prison-surveillance complex.)

The New York Times described the incident as a "drunken lark." That is just so Gray Lady-stuffy; I personally prefer "tipsy ode to a nightingale," given that it occurred around 3 in the a.m.

Hear the word of the lord. No drones for wacky immature revelers:

They need to grow up to become responsible drone operators, who love and respect their drones as much as the technocrats who govern them. Let the wholesome, benumbed, all-American, well-balanced bluebirds of happiness drone on... and on... and on.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Dollar Duopoly

Why bother pretending any more that we have a representative democracy? Sure, we're still allowed to vote, and we're even allowed to vent out loud every once in a while. But when you read stuff like this, as commenter Ste-vo says, all you can do is stare in mute disbelief:
The political network overseen by the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign, an unparalleled effort by coordinated outside groups to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history.
The spending goal, revealed Monday at the Kochs’ annual winter donor retreat near Palm Springs, Calif., would allow their political organization to operate at the same financial scale as the Democratic and Republican Parties. It would require a significant financial commitment from the Kochs and roughly 300 other donors they have recruited over the years, and covers both the presidential and congressional races. In the last presidential election, the Republican National Committee and the party’s two congressional campaign committees spent a total of $657 million.
In other words, the Kochs are not only a political party unto themselves, they are a nation unto themselves. If you're rich, your country is named Kochtopia. If you're poor, you're trapped in Kochistan. 

Not that the Democrats are much better, offering at best only the most anemic of populist agendas just in time for the endless pregame extravaganza. Hillary Clinton, the nominee-in-waiting, reportedly will forgo debating in the primary season. So if, like me, you were looking forward to Bernie Sanders at least pretending to challenge her for an hour on national TV, you're probably going to be disappointed. She can afford to elide the quaint democratic process. Why not? She's not only preempting fellow Dems, but is poised to knock even the Koch competition on its well-padded ass -- not with better policies or ideas --  but with "money like you've never seen." From The Hill: 
Major donors are ready to announce huge financial commitments to Hillary Clinton as soon as she announces a second run for the White House, according to Clinton allies and Democratic fundraisers. 
The Clinton team wants to build excitement about her campaign launch, which is expected in March or April. The money blitz would be a show of Clinton’s strength meant to scare away potential primary rivals.
“The floodgates are going to open immediately, and there’s going to be a rush to get on the team,” said Don Peebles, the real estate mogul who served on President Obama's national finance committee. “There’s nobody in the Democratic Party who can match her. Not even close.”
“It’s going to be like nothing you’ve seen,” added one top Democratic donor, who supported both of Obama’s presidential campaigns and plans to throw big support behind Clinton. “The numbers will be astounding.”
The oligarchs themselves disdain and openly scoff at participatory democracy. It's not letting the best man or woman win, but the most easily bought. The concept of the divine right of kings has arisen from the ash heap of history, and the deity bestowing the honor is named Mammon.

According to Mike Allen of Politico, Hillary's winning strategy includes playing nice with the press, selling the Lesser Evilism brand as she gobbles up all that bribery big donor cash from her corporate sponsors.  She'll bring such progressive icons as Robert Reich and John Lewis into her "big tent" as window dressing so asto fool some of the people all of the time. And she will behave very, very 'umbly and carefully pretend that she is not inevitable. Her possible running mates are already being carefully vetted, with minority Wall Street centrists like Cory Booker or Julian Castro high on the list to give her candidacy the necessary "diversity cred."

The Democratic answer to the Koch fund-raising monster is to fight money with more money, and include the proles in so we feel like at least our wallets are living in a representative democracy. I got a whole new batch of self-righteous, money-grubbing emails just this morning. From MoveOn, slugged "Koch Brothers Shocker!" 
This is what buying our democracy looks like. But we've got a plan to fight back.
The key is to turn this massive Koch spending into a political negative for any candidate who gets their cash, by focusing on the Kochs' long history of outsourcing jobs, polluting the environment, driving down wages, and crushing local businesses.
If voters know the truth, they'll immediately become suspicious of any candidate with strong Koch backing. Will you chip in $3 to help fight back?
Not one mention that President Obama is himself doing the Kochs' bidding by pushing for the polluting, job-killing, finance mafia-rewarding Trans-Pacific Partnership. (see my previous post -- Progressive Plutocrats, Inc.)

And here's some unintentional parody from the Progressives United Pac:
 The problem last year was that Democrats relied too heavily on old ideas and scary fundraising emails instead of lining up behind popular, progressive ideas that would have inspired more voters and more donors.
Will Democrats take another beating in 2016? With the Koch brothers alone already planning to funnel nearly $1 billion into next year's elections, it's up to us to make sure Democrats fight back the most powerful way possible: with popular, progressive ideas.Take the pledge: commit to fight with the president for a bold, progressive economic agenda.
Do I need to tell you that "taking the pledge" is defined as giving them your credit card info? That the only progressive ideas on the agenda are more fear factors and worse evils designed to extract millions of dollar bills from grassroots fighters like you?

And then there are the endless "RunWarrenRun!" obsessive-compulsive money-grubs,  asking me to hold house parties for Liz and become a citizen-bundler. Since Warren is not running, it is a given that any money raised for her non-existent campaign will go straight into the Democratic machine, to be spent for hors d'oeuvre for the donor class at their closed-door fundraisers, or just to pay for more email campaign for more PACs.

The inspiring message: Democrat David (so cool, so buff) will slay the Goliath of Republican filthy lucre with an equal or greater amount of money that is somehow newer, crisper, and purer. This utter lack of self-awareness is evidence that the political corruption is complete.

Not one of their missives even hints at a campaign to overturn Citizens United, or advocates for such popular initiatives as single payer health care or a government-subsidized jobs program. They're at best limited to the fake proposals put out by Obama at his state of the onion address. It's still money, money, money. D Money is not as stinky as R money -- what a vote-getter that'll turn out to be!  Dueling dollars instead of debates among human beings. It's like nothing we've ever seen before... since the mid-terms.

Getting excited and energized yet? Do you have the energy to even listen to any more of this claptrap? 

Neoliberal Death Match 2016: a public boycott of a sham national election like you've never seen.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Power to Hoi Polloi

The people of Greece finally had enough of the Troika extermination plot. "Austerity" being simply a euphemism for Social Darwinism, the Polloi threw caution to the wind and voted in the SYRIZA party over the weekend. The name is an acronym for the Coalition of the Radical Left. But when even Paul Krugman* says the winners aren't nearly radical enough to bring Greece out of its Great Depression, you begin to wonder if this victory is just more of the same Hope and Change rhetoric that we jaded Americans fell for, once upon a time.

It doesn't bode well that SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras's first order of business will be to meet and work with the same psychopaths who caused all the mess in the first place, to try and work out a debt deal to ease some of the pain. It harkens back to  Barack Obama's first order of post-election business:  the appointment of the same inept crooks who wrecked the economy to continue running the economy. Obama immediately held meetings with Republicans and conservative columnists to show his solidarity with austerity and deficit reduction, instead of showing solidarity with the Polloi by talking up a massive jobs program. 

The difference is that, unlike the European troika of sadists, the Obama administration dressed the gaping wound with an inadequate stimulus bandaid -- with simultaneous "quantitative easing" injections of public money (bond-buying) from the Fed into the coffers of the mafia -- to supposedly help blunt the effects of the incipient mass whipping. In other words, our elected officials committed reverse bribery by artificially propping up a criminal enterprise. The stimulus was supposed to shock the economy into health. But to many of us, the "recovery" has felt more like a Taser blast to the gut.

 The wealth gap grows apace, its severity promising to surpass that of the Gilded Age. According to Gini coefficient measurements, the United States is still the most unequal country on earth.

While the US unemployment situation is nowhere near as bad as Greece's 27% rate, the "recovery" here can only be called the New Abnormal. People who found work again are working for much less money and with much less job security.  The parts of the stimulus that were supposed to help ordinary people -- extended federal unemployment benefits and expansion of the food stamp program -- are things of the past. The TARP bailout, theoretically designed to help people stay in their homes, was another boom for the banks.  In the infamous words of former Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, it served to "foam the runway" so that the criminal banking cartel wouldn't have to suffer from the epidemic of foreclosures coming down the pike.

Main Street got evicted. Wall Street got richer than ever on the public dime.

The middle class is now the Precariat.

So while we're celebrating the Greek people giving a giant middle finger to the plutocrats, here's a dose of reality from the World Socialist Website:
In the run-up to the elections, Syriza officials were busy behind the scenes reassuring journalists, economists and politicians that an election victory posed no danger to the banks. European news site EurActiv wrote: “Key to Syriza’s ascent, party officials say privately, is a calculated effort to moderate the radical leftist rhetoric that prompted Der Spiegel to name Tsipras among the most dangerous men in Europe in 2012.”
 Former Syriza leader Alekos Alavanos stressed that the party would pose no threat to the banks in an interview with the Financial Times of London two days ago. “Even Mr Tsipras’ predecessor as Syriza chief, Alekos Alavanos, questions whether the party’s rhetoric matches its intentions,” the FT concluded, citing Alavanos’s remark that Syriza “now is a moderate party.
”Economist Jean-Marc Daniel reassured France’s 20 Minutes that Syriza would do no long-term harm to the stock portfolios of the affluent and the super-rich. “The stock market does not usually like the beginning of ‘left’ governments, but it picks up gradually as they abandon their program. What is most striking about Alexis Tsipras, is that he is already diluting his program,” Daniel said.
If representatives of finance capital state so openly and with such confidence that Syriza is no threat to them, this is because Syriza has been thoroughly vetted by the banks and intelligence agencies. Since Syriza emerged as a major electoral force in Greece in 2012, Tsipras has met publicly with the Greek army and repeatedly traveled to the major capitals of the euro zone and to Washington—after declaring himself an admirer of President Barack Obama’s economic policies.
Remember how the Republicans got the suffering masses to boost the obscene wealth of the Kochs and the whole oligarchic cartel? They called Obama a Kenyan Socialist Marxist, even as Obama quietly and obligingly did the bidding of the oligarchic cartel.

The great part of the SYRIZA victory, of course, is that it's inspiring and energizing people all over the world at the same time it is exposing the wanton criminal behavior and gross incompetence of the global ruling class. A Greek political story has become an international event. Revolutionary change occurs in increments. The election of one politician is never an end in itself, just a possible means to an end.

As SYRIZA politicians were gaining power, so too were hoi polloi ("the people.") The Greeks were never as spellbound by Tsipras as so many of us were with Obama. They took to the streets the minute the Troika imposed austerity in 2008 and Greece's military police started shooting and arresting dissenters. National strikes were the order of the day. Eventually the activists stopped pleading with their elected officials and began an Occupy movement, camping out in front of Parliament and engaging in direct, bottom-up democracy. They literally turned their backs on the establishment.

Austerity is the absolute equivalent of sadism. The Troika is made up entirely of the severely mentally ill, in politics (Germany/Merkel), banking (IMF, Goldman Sachs) and transnational companies. When at least half the Greek population fell into poverty, the austerians reacted by imposing a literal death sentence upon them. Cuts to public health spending have climbed right along with the official death rate.

The first Memorandum in May 2010 (bailout deal) for a loan of 109 billion Euros cut health spending by 10 percent. The second Memorandum, for a loan of 172 billion Euros in March 2012, took another 1 billion Euros out of the health budget. And a package of cuts passed by the government in September 2012 reduced government spending by a further 11.9 billion Euros -- more than half of that in pensions and public health programs. Pharmaceutical behemoths simply refused to ship any more life-saving drugs to the cradle of democracy. The culling of the herd was deliberate and effective.

 Child labor has returned: it is estimated that 100,000 Greeks under the age of 16 are working for slave wages. Many more are begging in the streets.

And unbelievably (or rather all too believably) the Masters of the Universe are demanding still more pain and suffering. Economist and white collar crime expert Bill Black does a great job eviscerating the New York Times propaganda, which quotes the same elite austerian cartel (the Peterson Institute)  which funded and spearheaded Obama's own Catfood Commission now demanding more suffering for the Greeks.

If you hoi polloi want any relief, you first have to "play by the rules", just like Obama's favorite Bootstrap Family. And that involves going hungry, running up education debt, doing without medication, and settling for low-wage jobs while the elites laugh all the way to the too-big-to-fail bank, stomping on and squashing you as they go.

(* I didn't get to comment on Krugman, because his column still hadn't appeared by the time I went to bed close to midnight. The Times must have freaked out that their resident liberal columnist wrote that SYRIZA isn't nearly extreme enough.)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Progressive Plutocrats, Inc.

Whether you're a Godzillionaire or just a Godzillionaire's toady, whether you're spewing your monster fire at Davos and or whether you're enviously live-chatting the annual capitalist prom from afar, the talk of the global town these days is the corporate coup known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

And since it's been such a hard sell -- what with such awfulness as trying to establish corporate sovereignty over national governments and judiciaries, and keeping life-saving drugs out of the reach of the poorest countries on earth -- the neoliberal marketers of "free trade" are out in full force, with all the gaslighting techniques they can muster.

The message is that if you're against global fascism, then there is something mentally wrong with you. Or, as President Obama told it to the plutocrats-errant of the Business Roundtable recently, opponents of TPP are "barking up the wrong tree" and quixotically trying to fight the "last battle" (over NAFTA), which is silly, because globalization is already a fait accompli anyway.

So what better way to herd the recalcitrants into the veal pen than to propagandize the job-killing, environment-polluting TPP as a "progressive" initiative -- and then recruit man o' the people/ New York Times columnist Joe Nocera to peddle it as such to the liberal readership?

Nocera quotes a so-called expert from a "left-leaning" think tank called  Progressive Economy as saying that the American job losses of the late 20th century had nothing to do with the passage of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement). He wants us to believe that globalization is just a natural phenomenon, not the work of greedy men. The passage of NAFTA was all just a serendipitous coincidence, Nocera claims, as he snidely portrays  New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter as a "well-meaning" (subtext: aging and therefore somewhat ditzy) dame for opposing the TPP. He slyly gets her to admit that even though the Rochester Kodak factory closed and jobs went to Mexico, a new breed of entrepreneurs is now taking over those abandoned spaces as part of the New Normal Economy! And isn't that what globalization is all about?

To answer that Godzillion-dollar question, he shamelessly quotes experts without even bothering to inform his readers that they are lobbyists:
Edward Gresser, the executive director of Progressive Economy, a left-leaning think tank, noted that other factors were taking place at the same time as Nafta: the growth of container ships, the lowering cost of communications, the rise of global industries. With or without trade deals, globalization is an unstoppable force. What Nafta really is, Gresser told me, is a proxy for globalization.
That's just what Obama told his confab of plutocrats at the BRT. It's the talking point of the Democratic Leadership Council, the right-of-center think tank co-founded by none other than Mister Nafta himself, Bill Clinton. (It is now more popularly known as the New Democrat Coalition.) Edward Gresser comes to his current stint as "scholar in residence" (TPP marketer) direct from the DLC, as a matter of fact. Nocera doesn't share this detail, either because he doesn't know, he doesn't want to know, or he knows but doesn't care.

But wait. It gets even worse. The Progressive Economy front group, it turns out, is a wholly-owned lobbying subsidiary of yet another lobby shop called the GlobalWorks Foundation, itself the front group for the Fontheim International multinational lobbying enterprise. There is nothing even remotely left-leaning about this Big Fat GlobalWorks Foundation Daddy, given that its executive director is National Association of Manufacturers consultant Wayne Palmer. The NAM is notorious as one of the most powerful anti-regulatory lobbyists in Washington. And why not? It's heavily funded by the Koch Brothers, who'd love the TPP to pass so they can spread their pollution at no cost to themselves and for much obscene profit. Before that, Palmer lobbied for Astra Zeneca. Before that, he was chief of staff to former GOP Senator Rick Santorum, one of the more notorious right wing politicians of the American oligarchy.

Of course, you wouldn't know about Palmer's ulterior motives by casually glancing at his website, which vaguely gushes that:
 Our work supports the elimination of poverty through support for practical policies and innovative programs addressing conditions related to globalization. Since 2001, GlobalWorks has been bringing together leaders from nongovernmental organizations and educational institutions, governments, the business community, and grassroots organizations to identify and promote such policies and initiatives.
Note the carefully worded neoliberal dog whistle, replete with such standard buzzwords as "practical" and "innovative." Translation of this mission statement would go something like this: Our plunder supports the elimination of poverty by eliminating poor people from the equation. Since 9/11, we've used fear and terror to get rich beyond our wildest dreams. Government and corporations transformed the world into their own militarized public-private partnership with a vested interest in identifying everybody and every thing ripe for extraction, at their cost and for our profit.

A look at the Board of Directors of GlobalWorks is interesting, to say the least. In charge of  public relations is its co-founder, corporate reputation-salvager Claude Fontheim, a former State Department trade negotiator and another DLC Clinton alum. Among the services provided to his oligarchic clients are a parade of Thought Leaders -- neoliberal-speak for tycoons posing as social service concern trolls at Clinton Global Initiative and Davos confabs, as well as columnists and other self-proclaimed experts willing to shill for trade deals. I imagine he's got Tom Friedman all lined up for another friendly New York Times column in the very near future.

Except for their Republican executive director, Wayne Palmer, the other board members are all Clintonistas -- and all are affiliated with Fontheim International. Ben Kobren, chief counsel at Fontheim, worked for Hillary Clinton both at State and as her press secretary in the Senate.

As Joe Nocera might say, what a coincidence. As Joe Nocera does say, since the TPP is bipartisan, then it's got to be good and naysayers like Bernie Sanders have to be marginalized. And we can't ever forget that this is good for Obama's legacy, and especially good for the legacies of his heirs and heiresses.

If you want to know the truth, Public Citizen is one of the best places to go for factual info on the TPP. It's the perfect antidote for capitalism on crack.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

It's a Small, Small World

Magical thinking has come back to bite the Magical Kingdom in the butt.

The measles outbreak that now threatens to close Disneyland, along with the side-effect of sickening its customers, is the direct result of the insane anti-vaccination craze sweeping the country. And that this anti-science cult has been so mightily enabled and broadcast by ABC-Disney itself is nothing short of Karma.

Until she was finally fired last spring, former Playboy centerfold Jenny McCarthy had enjoyed a year-long prominent national soapbox on the hit ABC-Disney daytime show, The View. Her starring role as token reactionary on this highly rated gabfest aimed at a mostly female audience engendered much controversy, given her long strident history of specious claims that childhood immunizations cause autism.

Princess Rubeola of Disneyland

Of course, I have no scientific proof that Jenny McCarthy herself is the direct noxious source of the Disney outbreak. But it's a safe bet that as resident Princess of the Cult of Ignorance, she is an aider and abettor par excellence. She is an ideological disease vector. From the New York Times:
A measles outbreak that began at Disneyland is spreading across California and beyond, prompting health officials to move aggressively to contain it — including by barring unvaccinated students from going to school in Orange County. The outbreak has increased concerns that a longstanding movement against childhood vaccinations has created a surge in a disease that was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000.
Health officials said 59 cases of measles had been diagnosed in California as of Wednesday, with an additional eight related cases spread through Utah, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Mexico. Among those infected are five workers at Disneyland, where the outbreak was spotted in mid-December; 42 of the 59 California cases have been linked to the Disneyland outbreak.
The cases were a continuation of what health officials said was a worrisome increase in measles in Orange County and other places where parents had resisted the urging of health professionals to inoculate their children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 644 cases of measles from 27 states last year, by far the largest number since 2000.
The cult of ignorance has become so powerful that parents in some states are allowed to opt their kids out of vaccinations based on a "personal belief" exemption. And then California officials, alarmed that the mass outbreak of magical thinking would engender a  mass outbreak of preventable disease, later tightened the personal belief rules. But Governor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown promptly granted the anti-vaxxers a reprieve by allowing a "religious exemption."  So if you think you can simply rely on your gut instead of on God, you'd better think again.  From now on, you will need a doctor's note before needlessly endangering your children.

Jenny McCarthy, meanwhile, has been in reputation-salvaging damage control mode for awhile now, claiming after her firing by ABC-Disney that she was never really anti-vaccine, because she hadn't directly ordered her legions of fans and admirers to skip the inoculations. Being disgustingly ignorant and spewing one's views to national TV audiences is not advocacy, she whined. Claiming that vaccines contain poisons is not the same thing as telling other moms to run for the hills, for guts' sake. And despite evidence to the contrary, she is still claiming that vaccines cause autism.

As far as I can tell, no major media outlets are yet linking the Disneyland measles outbreak to the ABC-Disney/Jenny McCarthy source. And that especially goes for Disney, which did so well last year that it gave CEO Robert Iger a 27% pay raise, with his total compensation now exceeding $34 million. Disney stock traded at all-time highs last year.

 So I think that not only should the Centers for Disease Control get right on the case, but the National Institute of Mental Health should get on board too. Because not only do we have a science ignorance problem, we have a greed and wealth disparity problem. The hourly pay for Disney character performers at the theme parks averages a measly $10. And if they catch the measles, the medical coverage at the happiest place on earth has very high deductibles and co-pays. 

Even Mickey Mouse has to have some fur in the game, I guess.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Recycled Dairy Product

If President Obama's SOTU address sounded familiar, it's because it was familiar. His bombed speechwriter (see yesterday's post) was a day early on the White House's Big Block of Cheese marketing campaign. That's because he borrowed liberally from a weekly address prepared for the boss last summer during another dairy tour, that time featuring ice cream cones instead of moldy Cheddar. 

Obama dredged up and recycled a stereotypical all-American bootstrap family that any plutocrat could love, for a speech designed to make you feel that plutocracy-imposed hardship and austerity is just the ticket to bring you joy and rapture later. Much, much, much later.

Last night:
Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds.  (Laughter.)  She waited tables.  He worked construction.  Their first child, Jack, was on the way.  They were young and in love in America.  And it doesn’t get much better than that.  “If only we had known,” Rebekah wrote to me last spring, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.” 
As the crisis worsened, Ben’s business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time.  Rebekah took out student loans and enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career.  They sacrificed for each other.  And slowly, it paid off.  They bought their first home.  They had a second son, Henry.  Rebekah got a better job and then a raise.  Ben is back in construction -- and home for dinner every night.
“It is amazing,” Rebekah wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”  We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.
America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story.  They represent the millions who have worked hard and scrimped, and sacrificed and retooled.  You are the reason that I ran for this office.  You are the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation.*  And it has been your resilience, your effort that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.
June 28, 2014 ( weekly address to mark the Presidential Summer of Love & Recovery campaign):
I went because of a letter I received from a working mother named Rebekah, who shared with me the hardships her young family has faced since the financial crisis.  She and her husband Ben were just newlyweds expecting their first child, Jack, when the housing crash dried up his contracting business.  He took what jobs he could, and Rebekah took out student loans and retrained for a new career.  They sacrificed – for their kids, and for each other.  And five years later, they’ve paid off debt, bought their first home, and had their second son, Henry.

In her letter to me, she wrote, “We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”  And in many ways, that’s America’s story these past five years.  We are a strong, tight-knit family that’s made it through some very tough times. 

Today, over the past 51 months, our businesses have created 9.4 million new jobs.  By measure after measure, our economy is doing better than it was five years ago.

But as Rebekah also wrote in her letter, there are still too many middle-class families like hers who do everything right – who work hard and who sacrifice – but can’t seem to get ahead.  It feels like the odds are stacked against them.  And with just a small change in our priorities, we could fix that.
It was revealed by Reuters and other outlets last summer that Rebekah Bootstrap just happened to be a former operative for Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), which is perhaps why Obama noticed her random letter at the top of his pile, and why the entire Bootstrap family were Michelle Obama's honored recycled photo-opped guests at last night's political theater extravaganza.

And just so you know, the new improved progressive lefty Obama spouting the message of the "middle class economy" is really just a recycled version of the old neoliberal Obama. He still believes that austerity worked, and that pain was good for people. He still protects Wall Street by not only refusing to condemn or prosecute it, but by filling his administration with the same culprits who caused the whole mess in the first place. He still believes that the government is just like a family, and that belt-tightening was a very, very good to way to grow the economy. He has always made the "folks" bear the brunt of the sacrifice while forcing them to shoulder the blame for the most egregious financial fraud in American, or global, history.  From his first Inaugural Address, at the peak of the financial crisis:
*Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. 
Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.  (Applause.)
Last night:
My fellow Americans, we, too, are a strong, tight-knit family.  We, too, have made it through some hard times.  Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America.  We have laid a new foundation.  A brighter future is ours to write.  Let’s begin this new chapter together -- and let’s start the work right now.  (Applause.)
You may remember an old movie called Swing Time in which Fred Astaire also uses the ploy of pretending to have two left feet in order to pull one over on the object of his desire and to win her love through shameless subterfuge and doubletalk. Nothing's impossible, Obama found, for when his feet are on the ground and his chin is up in the air despite bad poll numbers and half of all American children living in poverty, he can put on quite the show. All you Bootstrappers need is confidence and the willing suspension of disbelief.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Propaganda Under the Influence

Usually when we talk about State of the Union drinking games, we bet on how many times President Obama will utter such words as middle class and grit and folks during his annual song of himself.

This year we come to find out that not only has the Temp Emp not even written the speech himself, the designated populist theme is so phony that the designated hack had to go on an all-night drinking binge before he could pull it off. The speechwriter actually admits to one snort of pricey single malt Scotch over the course of his nocturnal writing marathon. That story is as old as the one about the drunk driver pleading that he only had one beer before careening the wrong way down the interstate at 100 mph.

The New York Times story about the speech story is as grotesquely phony as the actual speech itself promises to be:
One night last week Cody Keenan, the chief White House speechwriter President Obama has christened “Hemingway,” knew he needed help.
Mr. Keenan had spent 15 days holed up in a hotel room in Honolulu as the president vacationed nearby, and seven more in a windowless office in the basement of the West Wing trying to turn a blank computer screen into a 6,000-word State of the Union first draft. The lonesome process had finally gotten to him.
So the burly 34-year-old former high school quarterback left his White House office and trudged in the freezing rain to the nearby apartment of one of his closest friends in the administration, Benjamin J. Rhodes.
It was after midnight, but Mr. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser and the writer of many of the president’s foreign policy speeches, was up reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” to his 4-week-old daughter. The two men poured two single-malt Scotch whiskies and, with the baby resting quietly, began triage on Mr. Keenan’s prose. By 5 a.m., a more succinct draft was on its way to the president.
What's more bizarre? Ostentatiously reading Harper Lee to an infant, drunk-writing a speech, or claiming that writing propaganda under the influence is a sure-fire way to make the American public feel as fuzzy as you do?
In all the policy pronouncements about tax increases on the rich and tax cuts for the middle class, Mr. Obama’s remarks are certain to address the struggles of ordinary Americans in some of the gritty, Everyman prose that has become Mr. Keenan’s trademark.
(Okay, it's already time for the first drink and it's not even lunchtime yet.)
“He reminds me of some of the folks I grew up with in the old days in Chicago journalism — those hard-bitten, big-hearted, passionate writers who brought the stories of people to life,” said David Axelrod, a longtime adviser to Mr. Obama and a former newspaper reporter.
Mr. Keenan, who is not shy but did not want to talk about himself on a day when attention is on the president, declined to be interviewed for this article.
("Nobo-o-ody knowsh, How Shy I Am,"  the hard-bitten Everyman Mike Royko wannabe folksily explained.)

Meanwhile, now that we know all about the provenance of Obama's speech,  the Times' resident Obama publicist treats us to the usual pre-propaganda propaganda. Peter Baker, apparently sober as befits his job title, nevertheless writes that Barack is "ready to move past hardship."
With the American job market surging to life, President Obama plans to use his State of the Union address on Tuesday night to effectively declare victory over the economic hard times that dominated his first six years in office and advocate using the nation’s healthier finances to tackle long-deferred issues like education and income inequality.
All right, I take the "sober" part back. Baker has to be on something in order to gratuitously accept that the nation's finances are "healthy." I think what he meant to write is that the nation's billionaires' finances are twice as healthy. The 80 richest people, nearly half of whom are Americans, now own as much wealth as half the planet. Also, in using the passive "hard times that dominated his first six years of office," Baker implies that Obama himself was not the dominant force in ramming austerity and deficit reduction down our throats. Baker echoes the canard beloved of the ruling class: that the economic meltdown was a natural disaster, not a plutocrat-made one. 
In presenting a series of initiatives aimed at the middle class, Mr. Obama hopes to pivot finally from the politics of adversity and austerity that have frustrated him for much of his tenure. But coming off a midterm election defeat that handed full control of Congress to Republicans, the president faces long odds in actually enacting his agenda and in essence is trying to frame the debate for his remaining time in power and for the emerging 2016 contest to succeed him.
Again with the Frankenstein austerity monster, for which Baker glibly grants Obama absolution for creating. The horrific monster of wealth inequality, which has grown ever larger during Obama's complicit tenure, apparently is "frustrating" the president at this late date. The country doesn't approve. So Obama is cast as a wounded warrior by the Times, rather than ordinary people being cast as the victims of his policies.
“Over the last six years, we have been weighed down by the legacy of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,” Mr. Obama said in a video posted on the White House website, previewing his State of the Union address. “And because of the incredible grit and resilience of the American people, America is now in a position to really turn the page.”
While you're taking your second, third or fourth drink of the day, ponder those semantics. What Obama essentially says here is that austerity worked. And since "we" have now suffered enough, in his estimation, he will now throw you a few populist crumbs. He's ready to turn the page, knowing full well that the mean old Republican librarian will stomp down on his hand before he can even take his book of forbidden magic down from the shelf. The cynicism is breathtaking, and utterly predictable.

Of course, the temporary uptick in poll numbers for the Temp Emp after his speech will make it easier for him to sell his real agenda to the newly propagandized. Instead of lobbying Congress to pass tax reform and other sweeteners to placate the base, Obama will immediately start whipping for the corporate coups known as "trade" deals. With Democratic brains softened by visions of free community college tuition and make-believe taxes on the ultra-rich (who, tellingly, are not at all howling with rage over this presidential rhetoric), the White House will go on full plutocratic attack. From The Hill:
President Obama is tasking every member of his Cabinet to round up votes from Democrats for fast-track negotiating power, which would give Obama leverage to complete trade negotiations by preventing Congress from amending his agreements.
About 80 House Democrats have been targeted in the effort, and Cabinet members are divvying up those names based on their personal relationships with the members.
The rest of the House Democratic Caucus, which consists of about 100 members, are seen as likely “no” votes.
The White House is making the push in part because of pressure from congressional Republicans.
Obama hilariously will try to claim that the Trans Pacific Partnership and its evil twin, TAFTA  (Europe) would protect American workers and the environment. Mere mortals, though, are not being allowed to see the actual details, which are being negotiated behind closed doors by the corporations benefiting from them.

His actual policy goal is in direct contradiction to his rhetorical strategy. A new report from Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch reveals that trade deals have increased wealth disparity, aggravated global poverty, driven down wages and destroyed American jobs. Obama wants fast track authority to literally undermine his own vaunted accomplishments of medical coverage for a few and minor regulations on financial predators.

Just in case your friendly congress critter is falling under the undue influence of Obama's sugar high of a speech and looming charm offensive, here's information on how to contact your reps. Tell them to Just Say No to granting him fast track authority, Just Say No to driving one more lethal stake into the heart of democracy. That heart is barely beating as it is.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Effective Rage of Nonviolent Protest

Now that a new generation of civil rights activists is making its collective voice heard, the same very important persons who lately scoffed at Occupy and declared it dead are scoffing once again.

 The demonstrators staging the nationwide die-ins and strikes and generally disrupting life for the self-satisfied Establishment are rankling them for all the usual reasons.

They don't have a single charismatic leader for possible co-optation by the Duopoly. They aren't going through official channels by groveling before politicians, or running for office themselves. They aren't getting out the vote. Their tactics are annoying and loud. And worst of all, they don't have that magical "list of demands" on hand to proffer to the proper authorities at the proper time. (Actually, they do.)

Oprah is pissed because they're not asking her advice, or maybe they should be paying to see the Hollywood version of her MLK biopic production. Al Sharpton is pissed because the young protesters are on to his serial fakery, and he can't co-opt them. And the New York Times is concern-trolling What New Breed of Activists Is This?  Do the kiddies even have the necessary stamina to prevail? The Gray Lady helpfully dredged up a prize-winning MLK biographer to make her dull point:
David J. Garrow, a historian and the author of “Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” said the impromptu protests that had erupted in recent months were not comparable to the strategies used by civil rights groups of the 1960s, which had clear goals such as winning the right to vote or the right to eat at a segregated lunch counter.
“You could call it rebellious, or you could call it irrational,” Mr. Garrow said of the new waves of protests. “There has not been a rational analysis in how does A and B advance your policy change X and Y?”
Mr. Garrow compared the protesters to those of Occupy Wall Street. “Occupy had a staying power of, what, six months?” Mr. Garrow said. “Three years later, is there any remaining footprint from Occupy? Not that I’m aware of.”
Garrow sounds like a real fuddy-duddy, doesn't he?  I can just imagine him in his velvet smoking jacket, sniffing his snuff and stroking his chin.

 Yo, Garrow. What about income inequality and "the 99%" becoming part of the national political lexicon because of those algebra-challenged protesters? What about the Occupy Sandy disaster relief drive spawning its own national mutual aid movement, what about Occupy Our Homes and StrikeDebt offshoots saving homeowners and tenants from foreclosure and eviction? What about the reason for the Wall Street Democrats' delayed (and probably short-lived) epiphany that even spending a billion bucks won't win you an election when socially aware and pissed-off voters refuse to show up?

It's odd that Garrow, purporting to be a historian and therefore familiar with the government's persecution of King, neglects to mention the role that the FBI and the Homeland Security fusion centers had in monitoring and disrupting Occupy, and the coordinated role the militarized police had in finally obliterating the actual physical camps in what used to be public spaces.

But I digress. Back when King marched and spoke and wrote, he too was marginalized, he too was derided as an extremist by the Powers That Be. Before his death, he scored very low on those vaunted (and rigged) public opinion polls. The vast majority of white Americans thought highly unfavorably of King and his movement. He was actually proud of being called a radical, though, because Jesus and Gandhi had been considered radicals in their times, too.

When they call fighting for justice "radical," you know you've touched a nerve.

King himself, while fighting against segregation and for voting rights, always stressed the importance of the actual bodies of the protesting people themselves, the force and influence that the actual movement of the people exerted in affectuating change at the top. The lists of demands were just part of the strategy.

His last occupation, the one that he didn't live to see, was the Poor People's March on Washington. Its agenda included what King called "non-violent action skills," actions which would never be tolerated today in the heavily weaponized and guarded and cowering and corrupt Capitol. Then, as now, peaceful protest was called "terrorism" by paranoid politicians in service to the rich and powerful and the military industrial complex. Then, as now, the media concentrated on sporadic outbreaks of violence and later larger riots instead of the economic and social issues involved. Then, as now, there was a right-wing backlash. Then, as now, the government responded to activists' demands by calling for a Day of Prayer (shades of MLK Day itself being downgraded to a Day of Service) and appointing task forces and study groups made up of the rich and powerful. Dr. King said,*
"When a government commands more wealth and power than has ever been known in the history of the world, and offers no more than this, it is worse than blind, it is provocative. It is paradoxical but fair to say that Negro terrorism is incited less on ghetto street corners than in the halls of Congress.
I intended to show that nonviolence will be effective, but not until it has achieved massive dimensions, the disciplined planning, and the intense commitment of a sustained, direct-action movement of civil disobedience on the national scale.
The dispossessed of this nation -- the poor, both white and Negro -- live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to life the load of poverty."
King planned the virtual occupation of the Capitol, with protesters physically camping out in Congressional offices and other government facilities, and refusing to leave until politicians voted in a living wage law and a jobs bill.
"If you're poor, or if you're unemployed anyway, you can choose to stay in Washington as long as the struggle needs you. And if that official says, 'But Congress would have to approve this,' or 'But the President would have to be consulted on that,' you can say, 'All right, we'll wait.' And you can settle down in his office as long a stay as necessary."
Such a mass action today would result in mass arrests, mass rousting, or worse, by the domestic military forces protecting the Homeland Security State. So nowadays, activists are engaging in strikes and boycotts and disruptions in shopping malls, they're shutting down the flow of commerce on interstates, they're even converging in upscale restaurants frequented by the wealthy to stage "Black Brunches."

At last, this year's Martin Luther King holiday is finally about what Martin Luther King actually stood for. I think he would be very happy about that.

I think he would also be very bemused that the digital archive of his writings was made possible today through the self-serving financial generosity of TBTF JP Morgan Chase, responsible for so much of the global misery, poverty and wealth disparity that Dr. King so decried.

(*Above excerpts are from The Trumpet of Conscience, published in 1968 as a compilation of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Massey Lecture Series, originally aired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and not in the public domain. Yet another irony in the legacy of a man whose championship of the public was his life's mission.)