Sunday, April 12, 2015

Canned Pathology

*Updated below.

With a Congressional vote coming as early as this week to give President Obama fast track authority to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the racketeers of the ruling class are out in full force. They're trying to force a gigantic financial tapeworm down our collective gullet by hiding it in containers of frothy propaganda product.

The actual taste sensation of financial parasitism depends upon what part of The Castle's right wing kitchen its political chefs work within.

One popular bipartisan flavor resembles Neapolitan ice cream. But instead of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, they tempt us with competitiveness, fear, and patriotism. If we don't allow the good rent-seekers over here the chance to destroy democracy, then the bad rent-seekers over there (China, Russia) will beat them to the punch of punching regular people in the face. Wouldn't you rather the predator brand you know than the predator brand you don't know? The Kochs and the Waltons are so much more palatable than Deng Jiagui and Liu Chunhang.

 Allowing billionaires to have their way is the very epitome of National Security, proclaims Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. In one recent typical New York Times article soft-pedaling the TPP proposals, Carter's brand of verbal pathology spreads the creamy message that at the same time they keep you safe by keeping the unwashed migrant children and ISIS out, they must open up our precious borders so that megatons of untaxed capital and weapons and filthy oil may flow with abandon all over the planet.
If the United States does not go through with the pact, a 12-nation accord that administration officials view as a linchpin for the Obama administration’s strategic pivot to Asia, “we are going to take ourselves out of the game,” Mr. Carter said during a speech at the McCain Institute at Arizona State University.
“Time is running out,” he said of the accord, which is still under negotiation but nearing completion. “We already see countries in the region trying to carve up these markets.”
For the Defense Department, it was an odd foray into the world of trade politics, which involve shifting alliances of high tech industries and big businesses in California and the Northeast versus the more traditional skeptics of wide-ranging trade agreements, including some labor unions and manufacturing states. But Mr. Carter appeared to relish it, claiming that “passing TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier.”
As well it should be, given his sweet role in procuring billions of dollars' worth of lethal weaponry during his public service stint at the State Department, seamlessly meshed with his work in the Wall Street sector. According to Wikipedia,
In addition to his public service, Carter was a Senior Partner at Global Technology Partners, focused on advising investment firms in technology and defense. He has been a consultant to Goldman Sachs and Mitretek Systems on international affairs and technology matters, and speaks frequently to business and policy audiences.
He was also a member of the Boards of Directors of the MITRE Corporation and Mitretek Systems and the Advisory Boards of MIT Lincoln Laboratory and Draper Laboratory. Carter was also a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Physical Society, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Carter was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In other words, he is a member in good standing of Ruling Class Racketeers, Inc. The TPP is very important to him. It's personal. Yet the Times proclaims itself amaaaaaazed that the warmongering and financial industries are one and the same pathogenic behemoth, and that Ashton Carter can straddle it so amazingly. You might call him a Renaissance Man of the New Abnormal.

 The faux-liberal caucus of the Democratic Party, meanwhile, is slapping the safe plain vanilla label  "progressive" on a tub of arsenic. For the TPP is, for all intents and purposes, a corporate coup of epic, poisonous, regressive proportions.  Operatives from the White House and its campaign arm, Organizing for Action, are running astroturf propaganda campaigns to sway public opinion. If you love Obama, it just naturally follows that you'll love getting punched in the face by the TPP. Because Obama has the preternatural gift of making assault by a predator feel like a kiss from a suitor with an ice cream cone. Our president promises that the 30 cents-an-hour peasants in Vietnam will now enjoy the same wonderful worker protections as the underpaid no-benefit Uber drivers over here. (Pay no attention to CAFTA and Obama's feigned ignorance of Colombian trade unionists getting assassinated by drug cartels fronting for multinational corporations.)

Then there are the hardcore Neocons who don't even bother pretending to care about you. They lie with abandon, and then get their lies published in the New York Times in order to fairly balance truth with the obligatory mendacity, and to counter Democratic masochism with Republican sadism. Still, Roger C. Altman, investment banker, and Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, did bury some unintentional truth deep within their Big Lie of an op-ed last week: (parentheses are mine)
Free trade leads to greater overall prosperity. (for the top .01%) The gains from free trade need to be widely shared (among the 80 billionaires owning half the world's wealth), but defeating the TPP would not solve America’s problems with inequality. (because there are so many other many ways of forcing our plutocratic tapeworm down your throats) Instead, it would further rattle our allies. (because we're snakes)  “Further” is the key word here, as there already are rising doubts about American reliability — the result of the debt-ceiling crises, government shutdowns, the failure to follow through on threats in Syria and, most recently, the letter addressed to Iran from 47 senators. If the TPP fails, countries that, rightly or wrongly, see Washington as ineffective will pay America less heed.
Translation: if the obscenely rich ruling class doesn't get its way on the TPP, then the facade of American exceptionalism will crumble and the coddled rich assholes will be seen as wimps by the rest of the global oligarchic clique. 

The Status Quo losing status? Bring it on.

If today's latest #WealthyLivesMatter manifesto in the New York Times is any indication,  the malefactors of great wealth are getting a little desperate, if not delusional. Conservative pundit Arthur C. Brooks informs us that pop culture icon Andy Warhol would have absolutely looooooooved the TPP. Sounding more like an off-key crooner of the old I'd Like to Give the World a Coke (Koch) commercial than an editorialist, Brooks strove to make the impending corporate coup sound like an artsy-fartsy religious experience.  Only instead of Coke cans, Brooks conjured up those iconic Campbells Soup cans.

The TPP might seem arcane and boring to the untutored masses, but it is truly a work of art, just like Warhol's cans. If only we stupid people could see the same Buddha-like beauty in global trade that Brooks and his smart friends do. If it weren't for free trade, after all, Chinese peasants couldn't have been lifted from rural starvation on failing farms up into their new lives at polluted big-city FoxConn electronics suicide factories. Less-bad poverty is better than abject poverty, dontcha know. Especially when American plutocrats consumers can benefit. Writes Brooks,
 Interestingly, Warhol himself once remarked on the democratizing effect of global commerce with his characteristic ironic edge. “The President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too,” Warhol said. Fortunately, President Obama appreciates the benefits of trade and is currently fighting for the latest international trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.). It would knock down barriers between North American, South American and East Asian nations, benefiting rich and poor people and countries alike. Admirably, the president is standing up to critics in his own party (as well as some in the opposition) who oppose the deal. With luck, T.P.P. will make its way through the House and Senate this spring or summer, and receive the president’s signature.
My published response:
 Why are the TPP's contents being kept secret from the public? Why can't members of Congress take notes, or bring their staffs along during their rare piecemeal glimpses of it under the watchful eye of the security state?

Why does the newly-leaked clause calling for the replacement of sovereign courts with investor state tribunals come with the caveat that this de facto overthrow of democracy may not be revealed to the public for at least four years after the treaty is ratified?

Because if the public knew about it, the president would never be granted fast track authority to seal a deal which, for all intents and purposes, is the death knell of what little still remains of both the American and global working and middle classes. The vote that would give him this right is coming this week.
Contrary to what Arthur Brooks claims, "trade" deals have increased inequality, destroyed jobs, communities and ecosystems, depressed wages, and have actually worsened the US trade deficit. Public Citizen has more of the grisly details. They will hopefully inspire you to urge your congress critter to Just Say No to fast track authority for the president.
The only people appreciating the "beauty" of the TPP are the very billionaires who stand to benefit from it most egregiously.

What Brooks is selling as a plutocratic moment of Zen is as dented in its logic as a botulism-infested can of Coup Soup.
Besides calling your congressional reps, you also might want to consider joining a conference call on anti-TPP strategy this Wednesday evening with Senator Bernie Sanders. Details are here. As Bernie wrote in his email, the mainstream media has done an absolutely crappy, abysmal job of bringing this story to public attention. Just witness the trio of propaganda pieces linked above in the Paper of Record. Just witness the way the editors quickly buried even these stories when readers had the audacity to express their shock and dismay at the onslaught of mendacity.

Thanks but no thanks to both their warmed-over, tainted down-home soup and their parasite-laced frozen fake dairy product. 

*Update 4/14. To its credit, the Times today published a guest op-ed by Margot Kaminski of Yale Law School's Information Society Project, decrying the  secrecy of the TPP negotiations. We'll see how long they let her piece reside on the prominent top right corner of the homepage.

It seems that of all the partner countries negotiating the TPP and its European counterpart, the TTIP, only the United States is insisting on secrecy of paranoid proportions. And the Obama administration describes itself as the Most Transparent Administration Evah? As Kaminski writes:
 Secrecy also delegitimizes trade agreements: The process has been internationally criticized as undemocratic. The European Parliament, for example, rejected the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in large part over legitimacy concerns. In some of our trading partner countries, citizens have objected to trade agreements by calling them undemocratic. And they rightly fear that the American commitment to these agreements is weak because the United States public might rebel once the texts are released.

Congress is soon likely to consider whether to authorize an up-or-down vote on a trade deal, with what’s known as “fast track” legislation. Free trade now involves dozens of areas with complex subject matter, and the agency responsible for negotiating it often fails to tap key expertise. The discussion over the trade negotiating authority is not a question of which is better: the executive branch or the legislative branch. It’s a question of whose input we’re getting on decisions that reach far beyond trade — into questions on the price of generic drugs or whether websites will have to monitor users online.
As it considers fast track here, Congress must address the secrecy, and the views of the privileged advisers, that shaped the agreement. Otherwise, “fast” will be little more than a euphemism for “avoid the public, and benefit the fortunate few.”
To give you a clue about how successfully the government has been keeping the TPP contents a big fat secret from the public, there were only 14 reader comments on Kaminski's piece published as of 9 a.m. today. (Maybe there are hundreds more awaiting moderation. Let's hope.) Here is mine, to which I appended a link to my recent post about the White House propaganda campaign:
The only aspect of the TPP more disgusting than its secrecy and the democracy-destroying contents is the propaganda campaign to sell it to the public. The White House strategy is to put the magical "progressive" label on it. It has even set up an astroturf group called "270 Solutions" to spread the message that supporting this corporate coup of a deal would be a way for Obama's fans to show their loyalty and appreciation.

The shameless usage of the cult of personality is another clue that we no longer live in a functioning democracy.

In a conference call a couple of weeks ago with members of the Obama campaign arm, Organizing for Action, White House communications staffer David Simas had the gall to tell the president's supporters that the TPP is really nothing but a renegotiation of NAFTA. He instructed the troops to go out there and spread the message that if you were against that job-destroying travesty, then you're going to absolutely love the TPP! Also, he advised, spread the fear and the patriotism. Our plutocrats are more palatable than Chinese plutocrats. If not "us", then who? The propaganda is all about Obama's "legacy" and America's superior standing in the world. It actually borders on the xenophobic.

 This mental manipulation and the ginning up of xenophobia by the ruling class at the expense of the working class is also a hallmark of a society degrading into fascism and feudalism.


Meredith NYC said...

Karen......99 percent of the comments were negative to that Haas pro TPP op ed, and most were factual and convincing to read. They left Haas and his investment banker co author not very persuasive in trying to overturn anti TPP ‘myths’. thank god for comments.

Why don’t we compare our past generations when tariffs were much higher, as were corporate/wealth taxes, and yet majority wages and living standards increased? There was a time, you could say, when corporate power was still under ‘civilian’ or elected govt control. Now opposite.

Re jobs of the future, Krugman’s 11april blog---‘ Matter Over Mind’—(so clever) --boldly contrasts himself with the rabble of other writers writing on the Jobs of the Future topic.

Krugman says: “Sadly, most of the writers were too uptight and dignified to comply; they wrote blah-blah-the-decades-to-come stuff. But I threw myself in with a little piece titled White Collars Turn Blue. As the title suggested, one theme ....was a pushback against the notion that advancing technology would mean ever-growing demand for highly educated workers; I argued that computers would take over many of the cognitive tasks we find difficult, but that human beings would continue to be wanted for jobs that require common sense, including many forms of manual labor.”

I’m glad our Krugman threw himself in and is not too uptight and dignified. We’ll always have manual labor jobs, some requiring common sense? That's a relief. Krugman is so blunt and daring! But not daring enough to come out strongly against TPP. He is weakly ‘Anti’ TPP, saying he’s basically a free trader. That could be called an ‘uptight and dignified’ position, staying aligned with the powers that be. Thank you Mr. Liberal.

So let’s discuss what professional jobs can be off shored to Asia. India has many educated English speakers. So the next stage will be to offshore jobs done by radiologists, accountants, lawyers and---- even op ed columnists! Let’s start with Brooks---off shore his job! The media is dog eat dog with the internet.

Hundreds of employees have taken NY Times buyouts. So columnists from Princeton to New Delhi could write their columns on computer, after doing web research from anywhere on the planet. Spell Ck, Press Send. You’re done. Paycheck deposited in electronic bank account. Corporate employee expenses reduced.

The only problem is those world time zones, right Karen?

Cirze said...

A perfect characterization of our surreal times, Karen.


We must all raise our voices against this road to perdition, which we will be looking forward to after the effects of these global plans become our reality.

And after no good jobs or opportunities to better our "capitalistic" lot . . . and we thought it couldn't get any worse.

Yet the Times proclaims itself amaaaaaazed that the warmongering and financial industries are one and the same pathogenic behemoth, and that Ashton Carter can straddle it so amazingly. You might call him a Renaissance Man of the New Abnormal.

Valerie said...

I just saw an Australian 60 Minutes episode last night. Australian farmers have taken out loans with one bank which sold their loans to the ANZ, a very powerful Australian bank. As soon as ANZ got the loans THEY CHANGED THE TERMS - which under Australian law they are apparently allowed to do. In one case, the loan was for 3.3 million and within a month demanded the farmer pay back a million. On several loans, the farmers refused to sign the new loans, which were far more expensive that the original loans, and the bank REPOSSESSED their farms! The local yokel police forces are backing up the banks and throwing people off of farms that have been in their families for generations.

THIS is the future we can look forward to if banks and multi-national corporations are allowed to do whatever they want. The TPP is a corporate coup and we can expect to be tossed about by the waves of the whims of corporatism if this thing passes.

Fast track? I can't believe this is even under discussion. Surely our politicians know enough about the treaty to know what the down-sides are. How has fast-track gotten any traction at all?

Interesting isn't it? Obama caved to the health insurance industry and wouldn't even try for a public option because he couldn't get any takers. Yet when there isn't the political will for the TPP he seems to have the "courage" to try to ram it down our throats.

Denis Neville said...

Our uber feudal landlords are engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy. They are offering their superior moral justification for their selfishness.

They piss down our backs and tell us it’s raining.

“What's good for Milo Enterprises is good for everyone." - Milo Minderbinder, Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Income inequality benefits everybody!

They ignore the fact that the middle class has been under siege and is in decline. They are not burdened with empathy for their victims and even delight in their misfortune.

Can the already crumbling middle class survive the sausage machines of TPP? It seems unlikely the middle class will be able to stop much less withstand the results of this trend.

Rome looted and destroyed its middle class through the concentration of capital in the form of slaves and consequently failed.

“Are we like late Rome, infatuated with past glories, ruled by a complacent, greedy elite, and hopelessly powerless to respond to changing conditions?” - Camille Paglia

"There is something innately regal about Chelsea—a kind of grace that doesn't seem practiced, or trotted out just for public consumption. She's a person of substance for sure, a young woman who, while measured in her manner, has a fierceness of conviction, and a calling to make the world a better place." - Robbie Myers, ELLE Editor-in-Chief

“...a quiet room with cockroaches peeping out like prunes from every corner...” - Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls

Pearl said...

Karen: Re: Krugman's 'It takes a Party' I'm glad you got some sleep last night and most of the responders including the regulars defined the amazing differences that exist between the Republicans and Democrats some even stating the democratic party would NEVER do the following - - - - - - - etc. which ignored what it has indeed accomplished.
A few brilliant comments stood out but it is obvious that even readers one expected to be truthful were groggy from all the garbage about the Clinton era from the past. Yes, Gore Vidal was right; the United States of Amnesia is what the nation has become. Could it be that all the chemicals in our food (by right wing food factories)could have rattled peoples' brains? Living in Canada I worry if it is contagious.

Karen Garcia said...


In perusing the recent NYT reader commentary, I notice that many of those who only a week or two ago were scathing in their negative opinions on a Hillary Clinton candidacy have now performed a sudden about-face and are parroting the usual lesser-evil and Supreme Court rationales for supporting her. It seems that all she had to do was borrow a little of the Warren rhetoric to placate what I had assumed were an intelligent bunch of people. They (meaning the top 20% of earners comprising much of the NYT's liberal readership) are going to hold their noses and vote for HRC. This, despite the ever-increasing evidence of criminal corruption on her and her family's part. The quid pro quo involving Giusta and CAFTA and foreign donations to her foundation should be more than enough to disqualify her... but then I remember that these are abnormal times.

I will say this. There is more than enough Hillarity to add some laughs to the sobs, not least of which is her hospital sign logo with the red arrow pointing due right. She is already a parody of herself.

I hope everyone will forgive me for not joining the rest of the blogosphere today in the All Hillary All the Time frenzy. I did my bit a couple of days ago. I value my mental health.

PS -- I just got my first email from Hillary asking me for $$$$!!!! That didn't take long.

Zee said...


Forgive my ignorance, but who or what is "Giusta?"

annenigma said...

If you don't yet believe that our country has been bought, check out this article from The Intercept. It's about the United Arab Emirates donating $1 million to the NYPD. Worse still, they discover some big corporate donors, with JP Morgan Chase donating $7.3 million. No wonder NYPD did such a stellar job cracking down on Occupy Wall Street.

We are so fucked. The TPP would just be the nail in the coffin.

Meredith NYC said...

A Times article Feb 6 says some in congress on left and right are aligned to fight TPP. The Gop hates any executive actions by Obama, as power ursurper. So the article focuses on Gop/Dem ironic agreement, sort of, and their power movements, and avoids the poisonous ingredients of TPP.

At least the comments give some reporting. One says “wikileaks has been leaking drafts of the negotiated texts. The NYT should be taking these apart and reporting on the implications. The EU Parliament was so concerned about the investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms proposed, that it has just taken it off the table.
There are no labor, environmental or consumer representatives on any of the TPP's 16 industrial advisory committees. “
A simple thing for the media to report.

Karen, you called Krugman panglossian once. Today is was Dr. Pangloss of the Dems, with his press release column for the party, jumping off of HC’s first campaign commercial, er, announcement, which was a manipulative, calculating, theatrical production. At least for me, a total turn off, so I turned it off.

PK claims the 2 parties differ greatly, but he avoids what they really share---dependence on big money to run and policies aligned with the 1 pct, only a matter of degree. With liberal friends like these.....

He explains that ‘it takes a party’, not personalities. The Dems will let SS/Medicare exist, not destroy it.

But it takes more than a party. It takes a whole political culture. We can’t pull for a 'common good.' The very phrase sounds too socialistic here.

Funny that the S. Court called the sale of our lawmaking “ Citizens United”. It’s the opposite, a great disuniter, widening gaps between the super rich vs the majority and influence on lawmakers.

Dems will talk middle class all they want. They can’t go too far from big money limits on policy.
Krugman also says that anyway Wall St has deserted the Dems en mass. Deserted? Strange statement. How in the world did Hillary raise 12 million--and it's only April 2015?

Pearl said...

FOCUS | President Hillary Clinton's Middle East Policy: Interventions, Wars, More of Same


Meredith NYC said...

Off topic....I must cite today's David Brooks column worrying about cameras on police. Too late to get this comment in.

Video will coarsen the culture? Ruin dignity? Yes it might, esp if the news media play these videos excessively all day, 'to expose wrongdoing'. But David worries about coarseness, and not cruelty and injustice. Just another of his topsy turvey world view. But what coarsens our culture more than police videos is the cheapening of human life we see reported repeatedly.

You want coarse culture? How about excusing cops killing our citizens, and then being automatically defended by public, politicians and police unions? How about juries refusing to indict white cops for killing blacks? Or whites also? And Eric Garner's jury living in their illusory bubble, despite the horrific video of 6 cops ignoring Garner's plea to breathe as he was dying. Is that coarse enough for you? And then the Staten Island prosecutor ran for office. All this did not worry, offend or outrage David, upholder of morality and dignity.
What about the dignity of the Constitution?

I'd call these pro cop, anti victim attitudes more than undignified. They're callous, even sociopathic. Impossible? These juries are good, law abiding citizens--who believe in the B. of Rights. Or have we been creating a public of American sociopaths, giving the police the scope to act out with impunity?

We have to explain this--how good people can turn callous thinking they're upholding law and order. Zimmerman, Treyvon's killer roams free. Wide spread refusal to indict officers is itself causing more violence, along with guns for all. See many comments to NYT. That's a topic for a column or 3. but who will write it?

Thanks, Meredith Balk, NYC

Meredith NYC said...

Karen....Thanks for update on the realistic TPP op ed, which I didn’t notice...should be at top of page, with it’s own big op ed illustration. The op ed page crowds out column headlines by using a huge daily drawing, usually ugly to gain attention, covering the top of the screen. Columns are shoved to the side or below.

Comments were closed after only 125, too laid out the issues well.
Your comment says, “The shameless usage of the cult of personality is another clue that we no longer live in a functioning democracy.”

The cult of personality feeds the 24/7 news shows cheaper and easier than issue reporting pro/con. Krugman was right, the campaign is more than personality, but it’s also more than the party, which can be a cult.

Was Nafta’s effects on US workers properly discussed back when, and even now? No. Ross Perot, warned re Nafta I was just reminded. Bill Clinton went along with Gop wishes not only with Nafta, but repeal of bank regulation, and ending welfare as we knew it, as they say.

Much of the public defended Bill from the fanatic Gop personal attacks, thus he wasn’t judged realistically. Some comments now are nostalgic for Bill, inflating the good he did.. Hillary may benefit from this. Same with Obama....his very vilification by Gop fanatics prevents Dem voters judging his actions properly. Defend at all costs-- will this extend to TPP?

Pearl said...

An Effective Prescription for Our Failing Health-Care System via @sharethis

This problem is never off topic.
Do you think I should try sending this to Krugman or is it a waste of time?

Meredith NYC said...

Pearl, definitely send it, and let’s see if it gets in. Might be consructive?

I sent a comment yesterday to Krugman’s blog called –I Am Not a Generic Economist. Still not published yet. Krugman’s ego is showing again. Says an article criticizing economists generally used his picture, which he links to...but it didn’t discuss him.

I said.....Congratz to Mr. krugman for being America’s celebrity economist.
The article pictured Krugman to grab attention---what other economist, a Nobel winner yet, has a regular NYT column and blogs daily for readers, taking strong stands pro Dem, anti Gop? That’s the price of fame. What other economist is well known at all by the public?

And to the question, are economists interdisciplinary? Yes, b/c their theories usually go with their political attitudes. They stress or play down per their views re socio economic classes and the role of govt in protecting the masses from corporate predators.

LIke who are the Takers vs the Makers, the deserving vs the not.

Adam Smith—interdisciplinary? A sociologist and philosopher. He explained to the world how to run a capitalist society, but still was opposed to monopolies and to exploitation of the poor. The rw Gop pick only his pro capitalism writings and ignore the other. The Dems might learn from him too.

annenigma said...

Totally unrelated, but FYI - the Marines are training in our cities and towns now. Get ready, folks!

'Marines Train in Prescott, PV'

'The event is called a "certification exercise or "CERTEX" and will give Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit a chance to "conduct a series of challenging and realistic training events to test their abilities to conduct conventional and specialized missions," the notice said. It "will serve a vital role in preparing the United States Marines for service during the current war on terrorism."'