Sunday, March 1, 2015

It Blows

(source: Project Gutenberg)

I'm talking about the windy month of March, coming in like a bitch today. But to be perfectly accurate, in my little corner of the Homeland anyway, it'll be snowing instead of blowing. As I write this, it is a calm, tropical 8 Degrees F outside, with an advisory out for up to six inches of flakes by tomorrow morning. As a matter of fact, snow is forecast for all 50 states this week if you believe The Daily Mail. And if you believe the New York Times, the waves are freezing on Nantucket.

But back to February.  I have a bone to pick with T.S. Eliot, because February is, hands down, the new abnormal cruellest month, notwithstanding the inclusion of Valentines Day, which in itself is the cruellest day of the entire year for many people. It was supposedly the coldest February on record. It was a 28-day "brown fog of a winter dawn." So good riddance to February, which was at least polite enough to keep its visit short.

I don't have a specific topic for today, so I'll just let my mind wander in the wasteland, if you don't mind. 

So, did you hear that Pope Francis essentially just delivered a major speech against the Trans-Pacific Partnership? (well, he actually railed against global predatory capitalism, but that is exactly what the TPP is.)

If only he were coming to speak this week, instead of next fall, before a joint session of Congress, which is set to vote on granting President Obama fast track authority to hand over what's left of sovereign democracy to a cabal of global corporate parasites. From Reuters, the Pope speaks:
Pope Francis launched a fresh attack on economic injustice on Saturday, condemning the "throwaway culture" of globalization and calling for new ways of thinking about poverty, welfare, employment and society.
In a speech to the association of Italian cooperative movements, he pointed to the "dizzying rise in unemployment" and the problems that existing welfare systems had in meeting healthcare needs.
For those living "at the existential margins" the current social and political system "seems fatally destined to suffocate hope and increase risks and threats," he said.
The Argentinian-born pope, who has often criticized orthodox market economics for fostering unfairness and inequality, said people were forced to work long hours, sometimes in the black economy, for a few hundred euros a month because they were seen as easily replaceable.
"'You don't like it? Go home then'. What can you do in a world that works like this? Because there's a queue of people looking for work. If you don't like it, someone else will," he said in an unscripted change from the text of his speech.
"It's hunger, hunger that makes us accept what they give us," he said.
It blows, for sure. The closest thing we have to Francis here in the Homeland is Elizabeth Warren. She explains the essential corruption that is the TPP better than anybody I've yet read -- specifically the part euphemized as "Investor State Dispute Settlement." The predators must have their prey in one form if not another. Warren explains it colorfully in a Washington Post op-ed:
ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.
 If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?
Read the whole thing. It's even getting the White House's attention, unlike most opposition to the TPP thus far. It looks like Obama might be starting to lose his propaganda war for the corporate coup. As well he should, given that he is refusing to divulge the gruesome details. If a congress critter wants to look at it, he or she is not allowed to bring staff or take notes because of "national security" concerns. So at long last we have incontrovertible proof  that national security and corporate protection are the exact same animal.

The corruption is so widespread that we need constant blasts of fresh air and some extra strong sunlight to make even a dent in the wall of stench.

 Speaking of dents, Frank Bruni of the New York Times wrote another good column today, on the failure of the mass media to do their jobs:
Oh, how we’re hated. And as another presidential race takes shape, that hatred gathers force. Hillary Clinton’s protectors cast us as bloodthirsty raptors intent on finding flaw where none exists. Chris Christie was asked what he’d given up for Lent and said that it would have been The New York Times, but then his priest told him he had to forswear something he’d truly miss.
Scott Walker thinks we’re laying an elaborate trap for him, and after The Washington Post inquired if he regarded President Obama as Christian, he not only punted but also bellowed about “gotcha” questions, griping: “This is a classic example of why people hate Washington and, increasingly, they dislike the press.”
Dislike? Increasingly? Either he was being charitable or he hasn’t read the polling. The public’s esteem for us has been abysmal for a good long while.
And if we’re honest, we’ve brought much of it on ourselves. We play petty games and barrel down pointless roads.
And boy, can they ever blow wind. Bruni suggests that as Lenten penance, the press stop covering Iowa and New Hampshire, candidates' spouses, circus acts starring Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, that they get some help for their addiction to horse races, resist covering political polls as though they were  national emergencies, and stop pontificating on the "national mood." (Only the good Pope Francis is allowed to pontificate on the bad moods of people, largely brought on by capitalist predation.)  My published response:
Laudable prescriptions, Mr. Bruni.
The thing is, there's too much money to be made in "covering" horse race/personality politics.The perennial antics of the GOP Clown Car are too tempting for the corporate media to pass up. Reporters don't so much "cover" these actors as give them cover, even as they ridicule them. The right-wingers thrive on negative attention, because it proves to them and to the disgruntled people composing their base that "See? the elites really are out to get you!"
The issues that people care about -- Social Security, jobs and the unemployment crisis, universal health care -- don't get discussed much because they don't mesh with the interests of the ultra-wealthy donor class owning our politics. That's why, when we aren't hearing about Scott Walker's gaffes or Rudy Giuliani's buffoonery, we get fed tired meaningless bromides like "ladders of opportunity" and "level playing fields". The way the Beltway crowd talks, you'd think that all an underpaid part-timer in the Uber economy cares about is gridlock and bipartisanship.
 The presidential campaign (which began before Obama even started his second term) is forecast to give the TV networks record ad revenue, while the hacks and the PACs and the SuperPacs and the strategists and the fixers and the fundraisers are all skimming their greedy shares off the top in a frenetic race to grind what's left of our democracy into the ground.
So yes, hold their feet to the fire. And stop feeding the trolls!
Over on the other side of Grey Lady Op-Ed Wasteland, Maureen Dowd regales us with a laundry list of nouveau-raunch outtakes by a group of cool, liberated Hollywood starlets. It is pretty graphic stuff by normally prudish Times standards; comedy has declined to an Ayn Rand cult of selfie absurdism in this age of human disposability. Horny young moms find sexual satisfaction with their toddlers' teddy bears, and bored matrons get turned on by the Jodie Foster rape scene in The Accused.
She ("comedienne" Whitney Cummings) said, “When a guy writes a scene where a woman does a deviant sex act on camera, it’s objectifying. But when a woman writes it, it’s feminism. When girls write it for themselves, it’s extra taboo because it’s like, ‘Women have all these ideas, too! We thought men were making them do all this dirty stuff!’ It becomes raunchy all of a sudden when women like it. It’s in the zeitgeist because there’s a bunch of female writers and creators now, and, by a bunch, I mean, like, four.
Where does one even begin? My published response:
 Yeah! More power to the women who feel empowered by acting as gross as the guys, even if they must work for a studio or TV network owned by the predatory, male-dominated Wall Street and corporate plutocracy.
If they ever stop to think that there are millions of boys and men out there getting off watching them get off, they obviously don't give a bleep. Why should they? They live in gated communities with private security guards.
But here's what I want to know: does a woman actress who makes it with a stuffed animal get paid the same amount of money as a man who makes it with a stuffed animal?
I can see the landmark Supreme Court case now. Old Clarence will gift us with one of his rare verbal ejaculations, Scalia will go limp with shock, Sammy will withdraw from the case entirely, John Roberts will prematurely recuse himself and Kennedy will just waggle back and forth, keeping us all in hot unbearable suspense.
And then Notorious RBG will whip them all into shape with her usual scathing review. Bring it on.
Or as Tough Shit Eliot more elegantly put it,

“What is that noise?”
                      The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
                      Nothing again nothing. 120
You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember


Meredith NYC said...

Karen, I liked your comment ... “Reporters don't so much "cover" these actors as give them cover, even as they ridicule them.” Maybe more detail on this in the future?
And thanks for Warren link.

But I think Bruni is often a big scold in most of his columns no matter what the topic—from gym trainers to family to politics. But with few positive suggestions.

He often covers the horse race and personalities too, then scolds the others for doing it. He doesn’t tackle issues and their effects pro/con on the majority.

God forbid he should tackle campaign finance and compare us to how they pay for elections abroad. But that may be too exotic, or taboo.

We need to follow not only the candidates’ money, but the media money. Then question the whole premise of the money arms race, and contrast that with countries unencumbered by this legalized corruption---they have only the illegal kind.

Would the media ever discuss this? What would happen to our media profits if we copied the systems of other countries’ tax paid campaigns and strict limits on private donations?

So my question: In the other democracies with free media time for all candidates before elections, (and short campaigns), HOW do their media companies make profits ---at least compared to US megamedia? Or are they just content with less---decent but not excessive---like their doctors who don’t expect to get rich.

Don’t their media complain? Don’t they have lobbyists and parties pushing to change to a big money American system of soaring fees for continual blizzards of campaign ads, for years, with local and natl TV stations raking in big bucks? How can their media survive without symbiotic relationships with the billionaire donors writing checks for ad fees? No lawyers to pitch such things as interfering in, what? --private enterprise and the free press?
Can anyone clear up this mystery for me?

I think the Times op ed page columnists pull their punches and steer clear of the ultimate issue ---campaign finance—underlying all the other issues they lament daily. Krugman never touches it. Editorials do sometimes, tho.

I read that we outspend Germany 32 to 1 on campaigns—1 example.

Princeton's Gilens/Page study and Larry Bartels gathered decades of records showing that most of our laws are passed per wishes of 1 percent, ignoring the wishes of the majority. Don’t know the percentage in countries with publicly financed elections.

We’re so used to this now as a norm, we forget it wasn’t always so extreme. The non rich once had a chance to influence congress.
The current generation only knows now. We need columns outlining the difference.

Anonymous said...

BIT?CH I hope you die of BREAST cancer you filthy mexican moron, they need to deport you or put you in jail you filrthyt nigger fucker.

Valerie said...

Great commentary on the TPP, Karen. Thanks for the link to Elizabeth Warren's comments and for keeping the story alive.

I live in a town where the biggest employer is a smelter. The citizens of this town have no idea what is in store for them. Right now they enjoy good wages and good benefits. Wait until the multinational Swiss company sues the South Australian government for enforcing liveable wage and pollution standards.

What good is public education if we can't teach our students how to think and protest when their governments are running afoul?

I mean look at your second commenter? Clearly, someone without the skills to read, write and think. Yet in his ignorance he will gladly welcome in the TPP as Free Trade foolishly believing Free Trade is a great creator of jobs. Poor, pathetic fellow.

Valerie said...

Looks like you deleted the second comment, so my subtle humour is lost! Oh, well!

Bill Sprague said...

Maureen Dowd? Stopped reading her years ago.

Karen Garcia said...


In case he reads the comments, I felt I had to compliment Bruni on at least somewhat acknowledging media failures, because his honest columns are so few and far between. I always take him to task when he shills for charter schools and unquestioningly parrots Third Way talking points on "entitlements."

Re campaign ad revenue for Big Media: last I heard, they were balking at demands to disclose how much $$$ they raked in during the last presidential election. Also I am guessing that the reason Europeans publicly finance their elections is because the wealth disparity is not as extreme there, nor is the CEO: worker salary ratio. Network CEOs here "earn" hundreds of millions, plus deferred interest and dividends, and investors take their share. Greed, I suspect, is not quite so inbred in the national psyches of countries with universal health care and free post secondary education. Plus, they have multiple parties, not just two big $$$ ones. They might even practice journalism in the public interest and discuss issues as well as personalities. We'll have to give it more study.

Valerie, I checked my email when I got up to go to the bathroom at 3:30 a.m. and write a Krugman comment so was able to immediately ax the drunk-comment to which you were referring. Ironically the same people who hate Obama because of his skin color absolutely love his immigrant prisons at the Texas border. The poor thing was extremely confused and didn't know whom to hate more, me or Obama.

Bill Neil said...

Thanks Karen, some great links as well to the Pope's and Warren's work.

Jay–Ottawa said...

If you lose your job (or pension), if you get thrown out of your apartment, if you lose your friends because you’re kinda off upstairs, whatever you do, don’t sleep on the street in LA. I know you’re tired, but if you do sleep on the street, you just might get clubbed, tased, and then shot on the sidewalk, like good brother nobody in this video. Have a nice day. The rest of you, back away and shut up.

voice-in-wilderness said...

I watch actual and projected population growth more closely than most people (e.g., I know the US population has increased 2.3X in my lifetime!) and at least 20 years ago I realized we have far more people than we will ever have meaningful work for them.

Predatory capitalism makes the situation much worse, but the lack of work is inherent with such massive population growth and accelerating automation. About 66% of the world's population is 15-64, or some 4.75 billion. I would guess there is no real work for at least 1 billion of those people. And the number is going to grow in total and as a percentage.

To humanely address that would require redistribution of wealth and resources on a scale unprecedented even within major countries, and not even thought of on an international scale. Much more likely that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come riding in. Hopefully when I'm gone!

annenigma said...

FYI, you can watch 'Citizenfour', the Academy Award winning documentary by Laura Poitras about Edward Snowden, for free at

I'm watching it right now.

annenigma said...

Never mind. I got 3/4 of the way through watching Citizenfour before it was shut down on both Thought Maybe and Huffington Post websites. Something about 'content'. I'm told it's on HBO though.

Peark said...

Karen: Congratulations on your amazingly high recommendations in your comment to Krugman's report about WalMart.
Wonderful comment as usual. With thanks. Please put it on our website.

Pearl said...

The above is from clod Pearl. I always miss the L when proving I am not a robot.

Meredith NYC said...

Yeah, maybe it’s good to give positives to Bruni and others when it’s due---we have to train them! They must peek at some of the comments, now and then. I always wonder if krugman reads any blog comments, b/c he writes several posts every single day---where does he get the time or motivation? Seems his comment link is suddenly back, after it was gone for a while.

Re elections....I’d read Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America, by John Nichols, of the Nation Mag. Good to dip into.
He stated we outspend Germany by 32 to 1 on elections. A friend of mine who lived there said voters don’t even pay much attention to the campaigns until just a few weeks before the election.

Nichols told how for our local and natl TV broadcasters, the political ads in our long campaigns are their Xmas season for profits. So maybe that’s why our media and pundits never explain how the other half of the world finances elections--even as they lament our $$ system. If you find anything on this, you might put a clip in your blog. We are cut off by 2 big oceans in the internet age.

Abroad is seems that public funding and multi parties are part of the cause and result of their better equality. Also their public TV/radio is much better funded. Here, ours is driven into the arms of corporate donors, AND we have to suffer their fund drives for our dollars. Didn’t the Kochs get a program removed from PBS or something?

Zee said...

@Meredith NYC--

This may be what you were referring to at the end of your most recent remark:

It appears that David Koch suppressed the showing on PBS of an independent film—variously titled “Citizen Koch” and “Citizen Corp”—that was critical of the influence of money on American politics in the wake of Citizens United.

Earlier, he also caused PBS some grief over the showing of another independent film entitled “Park Avenue” that is “a pointed exploration of the growing economic inequality in America and a meditation on the often self-justifying mind-set of 'the one percent,'” to quote the article from The New Yorker.

The full title of the article is “A Word from Our Sponsor: Public television's attempts to placate David Koch.” There's also a fair amount of “inside story” regarding the management of PBS's station WNET to accommodate Koch over his anger over the two films.

It's an interesting and revealing read regarding both David Koch (and other über rich people) and the "institutionalization" of PBS.

Karen Garcia said...

Here's my comment on Paul Krugman's column on Walmart giving some of its workers a meager raise:

Businesses don't raise wages because they suddenly realize it's the right thing to do, or even because it makes sense for their own bottom line and for the economy as a whole. They raise wages out of fear.

Walmart knew it was losing the battle when states starting passing minimum wage propositions in droves, and workers began interfering with sales through strikes and other protest actions. The Walton Family, owning more wealth than 40% of American families combined, was getting relentlessly bad press coverage from every quarter, reaching a peak with their annual Thanksgiving food drive for their low-paid workers, and culminating in viralized photos of a protest food donation basket placed outside billionaire Alice Walton's Park Avenue building.

It was the labor movement that got us the eight hour day in the late 19th century, it was the labor movement that got us the New Deal, and it's a resurgent labor movement that got Walmart to grudgingly fork over a few extra bucks to its workers this year. But $9 is still not a living wage. The fight for $15 (and more) will continue. Workers are still being abused via precarious shift changes and and dearth of steady benefits. Everybody wanting a full time job should have one.

Scott Walker made a Freudian slip when he compared labor activists with terrorists. He and his GOP cronies would get over their needless fear so much more quickly if they'd only welcome unions with open arms.

Zee said...


On the topic of "the living wage," which we have discussed before in this forum, I don't know how I missed this "Living Wage Calculator" from MIT,which is actually several years old.

It's quite revealing as to the difference between various proposed "minimum wages" and an actual "living wage," the latter of which still doesn't raise an individual or family out of poverty:

The calculator works by state, city and region. Here's the calculation for Bronx County, New York:

A minimum wage of $15/hr would constitute a living wage for a single adult, but would not come close to cutting it for two adults ($17.75/hr) or an adult and a child ($24.69/hr).

Somehow, I just don't see Republicans "loving" unions anytime soon, especially public employee unions.

Meredith NYC said...

@Zee....thank you for link to New Yorker article....that's what I'd been thinking I'll save it.