Saturday, April 25, 2015

Commentariat Central

Consider this your weekend open thread to comment/kvetch about whatever, within reason or unreason as the case may be.

As promised, here's the dump  of my New York Times comments from the past week or so, (excluding the ones already embedded in blog-posts here) in no particular order. Links to the original op-eds and articles are provided for your contextual pleasure.

Clinton Rules (Paul Krugman) 9/24:

The real Clinton scandals have harmed millions of people. They are NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the end of direct cash aid to the poor. The Clintons have had some shady dealings post-presidency too. But we can't expect them to suddenly turn squeaky clean in their dotage, can we?

And the Bush dynasty's dirty laundry goes back whole generations. What I really looking forward to reading are those 28 redacted pages of the 9/11 Commission Report. They allegedly show some sleazy relationships among the attacks, the Saudi royals and the Bushes. For some reason, the current administration keeps protecting the previous Reign of Torture. Why? We're not allowed to find out, because it might damage "national" (read: plutocratic) security.

I think the Clintons should allow an outside auditor to go over all their books. And that auditor should not be Chelsea or anybody connected to Clinton World. I guess that leaves everybody out. But I hear Eric Holder just became available. Oops, I forgot.... Marc Rich.... Pardongate.

The only smear on Hillary that I can remember from 2007-08 (besides the diss over her meeting with Mellon-Scaife) was the "D-Punjab" memo anonymously sent to various media. It accused her of influence-peddling among Indian-Americans and collecting hefty speaking fees from Cisco, a company that outsourced workers to India. More here:


Regret Over a Drone's Deadly Damage (NY Times editorial), 9/25:

 The Senate last year quietly removed an amendment to an intelligence bill that would have required President Obama to release details -- names, ages, deaths, injuries -- of every one of his drone strike victims.

The president could have engaged in soul-searching and transparency a year ago. But like the inscrutable Bartleby the Scrivener, he preferred not to.

Since he's already broken his first pledge of openness on his drone assassination program, and since Congress displays zero interest in holding him (and future presidents) to account, take his latest pledge with a grain of salt.

Obama's terse apology might have seemed heartfelt, but he has always displayed a disturbing callousness when it comes to other casualties of what the CIA calls The Disposition Matrix. When a Pakistani father and his children traveled to Washington in 2013 to testify before Congress about a drone strike that had killed the family matriarch, few reps even bothered showing up. Records show that on the day of their testimony, Obama himself was meeting with the CEOs of drone manufacturers Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin.

Obama has just O.K.'d the sales of armed drones to foreign countries. What could possibly go wrong? Nobody could ever have predicted. Mistakes are made. Blowback.


Love and Merit (David Brooks), 4/24:

Oh, the agony of affluenza.

Because David Brooks isn't talking about the poor and working classes here. He's talking about the rich. In the bubble which he inhabits, the most pressing problem for families is not where the next meal or paycheck is coming from, but which Ivy will accept their child.

The rich and the politicians they own are fond of speaking of kids as commodities. They're investments, just like pork belly futures. The rich want a return on their investments, and kids are no exception. It's no surprise that the suicide rate among young people in Silicon Valley is on the upswing. They are abused by wealth.

So their parents need an intervention. Their excess income needs to be trimmed, and their kids need to be let out of their gated communities. The curriculum has to be modeled less on careerist success, and more on social and economic justice for all.

Extreme wealth inequality is bad for everybody, both rich and poor. Die from indigestion or die from starvation, both are painful. So why not level the playing field and let everybody live, David? The cruel social policies born of Reagan and his paramour Thatcher have metastasized to lethal proportions. We are the sickest, most indebted, most overworked, insecure people in the civilized world, and the most pessimistic about our children's futures.

Social Darwinism is coming back to haunt its right-wing perpetrators where they live and breed. So tax the rich. Their spawn will thank you.


Zombies of 2016 (Paul Krugman), 4/24:

 A fat zombie from Jersey lumbering and wheezing around the countryside eating up the poor, the sick and the struggling: what a perfect trailer for Ayn Rand's Apocalypse Now.

It's not only the greedy politicians and the complicit media who've been consumed by extremist right-wing ideas: it's our whole system of "justice." Too big to fail banks get a free pass to launder money for vicious drug cartels and hide the untaxed wealth of plutocrats, while the poor get jailed for the crime of being poor. Debtors' prisons are back, to contain the humanity that fat zombies chew up before spitting out in disgust.

There's a reason we have the highest incarceration rate in the world: convicts are disenfranchised, and Chris Christie & Co would just as soon "those people" not even vote.

But the press courtiers chuckle and write up his Soprano jokes, not daring to admit that it's all a scam run by a legitimated mafia, a permanent cabal of ruling class racketeers. No surprise they want to raise the Medicare age and repeal the ACA: an estimated 17,000 people a year are dying already in states where the GOP has refused to expand Medicaid. Their mouths are watering.

The mega-rich sucked up more than 90% of the gains since the '08 meltdown, and CEOs now make 350X the pay of the average worker. But they're never replete.

The GOP zombie hordes peddle hyper-greed, hyper-nationalism, hyper-fear, hyper-ignorance -- and they peddle it all in the name of God.

They need an exorcism.


An Exclusive Arrangement on a Clinton Book, and Many Questions (Margaret Sullivan), 4/23:

t's unfortunate that Peter Schweizer has damaged his credibility by associating himself with right-wing think tanks and doing partisan hack work alongside some pretty solid investigative reporting. Like most journalists, he is probably hard up for cash.

His book "Throw Them All Out," about insider trading by congress members, led to the bipartisan legislation known as the STOCK Act. Of course, the crooked politicians swiftly got around their self-reform fig leaf of a law by simply using family members' names for future insider trading.

Schweizer took particular aim at Spencer Bachus, ranking GOP member of the House financial services committee, who profited big-time off the Wall Street meltdown based on info he'd gleaned from Fed chairman Ben Bernanke. Schweizer's investigative reporting was widely featured and lauded by the "liberal" mainstream media (60 Minutes, MSNBC) at the time.

He says he is hated by both big money parties. Sounds like the classic definition of an old-school "afflict the comfortable" journalist to me. So it's all the more baffling that he'd also indulge in shlock oppo research and demagogy for Breitbart and others.

There is a lot of "shoot the messenger" going on here, not helped by either the timing of the Clinton book or the Times' rather sloppily worded explanation of its collaboration with Schweizer. Like the Clintons' newly-exposed uranium wheeling and dealing, even the mere appearance of impropriety is cause for concern.


Hollywood Trumps Harvard (Frank Bruni), 4/22:

Wikileaks has exposed the tangled web of sticky threads interconnecting Hollywood, the White House, the Pentagon, corporations, think tanks and academia.

Gates wrote that Affleck's censorship attempt was strangely misplaced, given that his slave-owning ancestor "wasn't even a bad guy. We don't demonize him at all."

Wow. That a respected scholar would whitewash history by showing the professed owner of human beings in a positive light is indeed akin to TV hucksterism in the Land of Oz. As was Gates's angst that his civil rights history "brand" might be damaged.

In another leaked email, Lynton refuses Gates's request to travel East to personally bestow the W.E.B. Du Bois award on Democratic mega-donor/mega-producer Harvey Weinstein, who'd apparently been a controversial choice in the first place, due to his "personality." (but not his bucks or his connections, obviously)

The whole pay-to-play culture is exposed for all to see. Money and propaganda and favors and pettiness flow like champagne.

We learn that Hollywood hates the Fair Use law. Not only are the big studios lobbying heavily for passage of the top-secret corporate giveaway known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they are also among its main architects, personally dictating its draconian intellectual property law clause. We learn that Hollywood freaked out when Wikileaks spilled the TPP beans.

So thank you, Wikileaks.


Lessons from #RaceTogether (Joe Nocera), 4/21:

Starbucks is among the more than 600 multinational corporations lobbying heavily for passage of the job-destroying Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is a member in good standing of the Grocery Manufacturing Association, which is behind the TPP clause allowing for for looser regulations in food labeling, specifically the labeling of GMO food.

Have you checked out the Starbucks menu lately? The restaurant chain, which prides itself on its liberalism, does not disclose the chemicals and additives in either its food treats or its coffee confections (heavy on proplyene glycol, high fructose corn syrup and artificial food colorings). So theoretically, if one of the countries signing the TPP decides to ban a chemical contained in a Starbucks snack or beverage, Starbucks could sue for lost profits in a secretive investor state tribunal court. It could even help appoint the lawyers posing as judges deciding such cases.

#RaceTogether to Stop the TPP.


Greece On the Brink (Paul Krugman). 4/20:
The ruling class racketeers might not want Greece to fail, but nor do they want people to prosper, when bleeding them dry is so much addictive fun. The sight of Syriza prevailing might give the rest of us too many ideas of our own.

It would signal that things don't have to be this way. It would prove that extreme wealth inequality and social ills are not "natural phenomena." Debt can indeed be cancelled, and the Richie Riches of the world can indeed take their haircuts without so much as a blip on the radar. The elites' moral outrage, their demands that the poor suffer and pay for the misdeeds of their selfish leaders through a massive bloodletting that never ends, would be exposed as one big plutocratic temper tantrum, signifying nothing.

The triumph of what Hillary Clinton calls "everyday people" is unthinkable in this Age of Neoliberalism. And that's why we should all be rooting for Greece. It's where democracy was born, after all.

And Paul Krugman deserves praise for venturing out and visiting people
where they are suffering -- besides giving his professional advice to Syriza leaders. Because not only does the Troika seem bent on forcing "failure" on the Greeks, their cruelty is literally shortening their lives.

As the late Eduardo Galeano observed, predatory capital views a small nation like Greece as "no more than a hurdle to leap -- for sovereignty can be inconvenient -- or a succulent fruit to devour."

What if we all stood together and refused to be eaten?


Granny Get Your Gun (Maureen Dowd), 4/18:

The only thing possibly worse than the GOP misogynists attacking Hillary is Hillary's supporters accusing progressives of being anti-feminist if we choose not to support her based purely upon her XX bona fides. Willingly impaling myself on falling glass ceiling shards and then washing myself pink with trickle-down corporate feminism is not my idea of democracy.

Then there's the dire warning that unless we vote the We Suck Less party, progressives will be totally to blame for the collapse of civilization. Not to mention the transformation of the Supreme Court into a Black Mass cult of neoliberal theocratists. We certainly don't want to risk another Harriet Miers.

We're already being pre-Naderized, and the "free" election is a year and a half away.
Elizabeth Warren, though not a candidate, is nonetheless waging a highly effective issues campaign against Hillary. She's come out strongly against the TPP, and this week again called for the breaking up of the Too Big to Fail criminal banking cartel. Yes, Hillary has chided Wall Street, but they all know it's part of the game. They know she doesn't really mean it.

Meanwhile, fast food workers are striking and black lives are mattering and wages are starting to rise. Not because of Hillary or any other politician, but because of ourselves.

I plan on concentrating on my state and local elections where I might still make a difference. The national contest is already is a predetermined sham.


Checking Charlie Hebdo's Privilege (Ross Douthat), 4/18:

The abortion rate is at its lowest level since Roe v Wade was enacted. The child poverty rate, on the other hand, is at its highest level in 50 years. Is it a coincidence that the states with the most penury are in Deep South GOP territory?

This is closely followed by the misery in the Midwest rust belt, where NAFTA and globalization have closed the factories and depressed the wages. In Detroit, the water has been turned off in homes with children whose working parents don't earn enough to pay the bills. The Michigan poverty rate is actually worse than it was in 1960. And thanks to GOP intransigence on immigration reform, the child poverty rate in California is at a record 27%. Immigrant families are denied even the most basic help if they are undocumented.

According to the Catholic charity Bread of the World, race is even more of a factor than geography. In corny Iowa, for example, the poverty rate for black children is higher than that of Mississippi. It's Eugenics 101 by any other name, and it's the deliberate product of the primitive right wing brain.

Meanwhile, Ross chides progressives for political incorrectness, for not linking Je Suis Charlie with Je Suis Fetus. Je suis fed up with his serial shallow sermonizing to straw men. His red pill is a poison pill.

It's of a piece with Gwyneth Paltrow's celebrity food stamp challenge. It takes the basic ingredients of a selfish rich person's high colonic and calls it nourishing empathy for the downtrodden.


Obama and the Republicans Agree on the Trans-Pacific Partnership... Unfortunately (Mark Bittman).4/22:

Thank you for calling out the TPP in all its corrupt ignominy because, as Senator Bernie Sanders noted, the rest of the corporate media have been criminally negligent in not bringing this assault on democracy to the public's attention.

Nobody should be surprised that Barack Obama is pushing the TPP with all his might, telling us it's such a great deal for "folks" that its contents have to kept from our eyes for the usual reason: our "national security."

In 2006, then-Senator Obama appeared before the Wall Street-funded Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institute to assure what essentially was a presidential candidate vetting committee that he was a hardcore free-trader, acknowledged that NAFTA hurt working people, and that the future destruction of American lives and livelihoods as a result of globalization would not be a "bloodless process." Chillingly, he didn't utter one single word against this "process.":

It's worth remembering that besides the Opium Wars mentioned by Mr. Bittman, "free trade" was also the euphemism used by European and American capitalists for hundreds of years as they kidnapped human beings to sell on the open market. Slavery dies hard, whatever form it might take.

The TPP is a war of economic aggression against humanity.

"These historical antecedents teach us that free trade and other such monetary freedoms are to free peoples what Jack the Ripper was to St. Francis of Assisi." -- Eduardo Galeano


Jay–Ottawa said...

h/t Pearl––for getting Karen to open her treasure chest of recent posts from the NYT. Never would have seen them otherwise.

Kat said...

Not related Karen, but did you happen to catch this news related to your governor. Perhaps living in NY, you did not catch the ads for this cant miss initiative.

Will said...

I second that emotion, Jay. Thanks, Pearl!

So, I have a couple videos for y'all today, and no, it's not the usual comedy crap I love so much. We're talking heady stuff like mass extinctions & why we've never encountered other forms of "intelligent" life out there in our big bad universe. Enjoy!

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Kat. I knew this program was b.s. but the extent of the failure surprised even me.

New York State Govt is so corrupt it's impossible to keep up with it all.

I wrote about StartUp NY last year as part of a piece about failed Dem congressional candidate Sean Eldridge.

He invested in a 3-D printing company called Makerbot, taking advantage of the tax-free deal,and to show how invested he was in Hudson Valley folks he didn't know. Also to create fodder for his glitzy campaign commercials. So the lucky students of SUNY New Paltz can learn the technology of the future for all those great-paying jobs of the future. Long story short, the company just laid off 20% of its workforce. I guess 3-D printing is not the wave of the future, when the workers of present can't even afford the rent or groceries.

Meredith NYC said...

Before I read your comments that I missed, here's some food for thought.

1st, Wish we had a good columnist like Tim Egan 2X/week. See ‘The Plutocrat Primary’ re the Kochs. This column went up at some odd time, so I almost missed it---thank you op ed page, for your consideration of readers.

I posted.....Ironic---the Koch fortune stems from the father’s engineering services to the biggest, baddest govt of the time—Stalin’s tyranny. Koch sons are now using that money to make our govt small and weak, to undermine US democracy.

2nd, I got interesting replies on other countries’ elections to my Krugman comment---our overly long campaigns with huge expense of TV ads, since he cited Koch/Adelson.

The Brits started their campaign in March and will vote in May—of this year, not 2016. The French have mandated free media time for all candidates---and don’t even allow privately paid campaign ads on their media.

See NYT.....As Candidates Speak in France Meter Is Running--- March 7, 2012.

From article: They regulate media time so that “in France “all candidates, mainstream or marginal, receive their fair share of exposure.”
“Rules protect the candidates’ constitutional right to “equitable participation” in politics. .... broadcasters must accord each contender precisely equal speaking time and coverage in the final weeks of the campaign.

Under French law, political advertisements are banned from television and the radio. (!)

The US allows “campaigns amplified by “super PACs” to flood the airwaves ...What limits there once were, the Fairness Doctrine, were dropped in 1987.”

Here are interesting replies re abroad. This deserves in depth NYT articles or columns.

"EBroadwell Oberlin, OH 16 hours ago
Other countries have time limits on campaigns, and larger turnouts, too. What do two years of campaigning and massive fundraising get us? 34% turnout at the pols.

Scottilla Brooklyn 15 hours ago
Unlike the parliamentary systems of many other countries, we have a fixed election cycle. There is no such thing as a no confidence vote, and we can predict with certainty when the next election will be.

We know the next presidential election will be on November 8, 2016, and the following one is on November 3, 2020. There is nothing to stop someone from starting their 2024 campaign right now, knowing that with certainty there will be an election then.

In Europe, the election date isn't set until an election is called, which can be at any time, so it doesn't make sense to campaign willy nilly. Our systems are different, so you can't compare the length of the campaigns like that.

(I never thought of that aspect, but see below)

Jersey Boy Winnipeg 13 hours ago
Not entirely true. Britain and Canada (federal government and several provinces) have fixed election laws. Several Australian states plus Germany and Norway have generally predictable election dates. All have some kind of non-confidence measures and/or other "out" that can advance the date but none appear to have non-stop election campaigning. I think you can draw some comparisons with the US system, but it would likely be not terribly flattering to the US."

So, any comments?

A CNN article said that like us, the UK doesn’t limit private donation amounts, which is said to lessen public confidence in their politics. Someone from UK once told me they have publicly financed elections with strict limits on donations. Guess not.

Meredith NYC said...

Here's a finely wrought gem from Borowitz re the Kochs.

Kochs Defend Purchase of Scott Walker
By Andy Borowitz

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—Koch Industries is defending its acquisition of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker against charges that it overpaid for the Midwestern politician.

After co-owner David Koch revealed that Walker had become a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, he set off a firestorm of criticism that the company had spent too much for a worthless asset.

“There was absolutely no bidding war for Walker,” an industry analyst familiar with the market value of politicians said. “Even Sheldon Adelson had no interest in acquiring him.”

While Koch Industries did not disclose the purchase price of the Walker subsidiary, it said that Koch Industries would spend nine hundred million dollars between now and November, 2016, for a variety of upgrades to the Wisconsin governor.

In a terse statement, Koch Industries argued, “Scott Walker is a perfect fit with our diversified portfolio of elected officials,” but indicated that, if Walker underperforms, the company would be open to selling him at a later date.

annenigma said...

What is wrong with Obama? He recently claimed that Democratic Congressional opponents of TPP such as Senator Elizabeth Warren "didn't know what they were talking about".

'Obama To Democratic Trade Critics: 'I Take That Personally'

Now he's escalating that war of words by claiming that Warren and Sherrod Brown, et al, are 'dishonest' and spreading 'misinformation', actively working to deceive the public. He also claims the secret TPP isn't secret and ignores the fact that he has made it illegal for Congress or anyone from discussing any details of the trade deal publicly.

Someone should do a brain scan on him, or a conscience scan if there was such a thing. Is this some kind of political game he's playing? Is someone blackmailing him? Why is he sounding so desperate that he attacks his own party members with such wild accusations?

'Elizabeth Warren Tells Obama To Put Up or Shut Up On Trade'

As usual with Obama, he accuses others of what he himself is guilty of. It's become his modus operandi. As Valerie has pointed out in the past, why didn't he fight this hard for the public option? He hasn't fought this hard against Republicans over ANY issue.

If he takes something PERSONALLY, watch out. He seems to have a lot at stake with the TPP, as if he can't disappoint someone who's extremely important. Himself? A big donor to his future Presidential Library?

Pearl said...

Clinton Foundation got millions tied to uranium: report

This may be starting to make bumps in Hillary's plans.

Kat said...

Oh yes, Karen. I remember that post now. I reread it-- what a hilarious claim that Eldridge understands the needs of those struggling because both of his parents were doctors (in Ohio)! Does this passage not distill (almost)everything that is wrong with the NYT?
When I saw those ads for Start Up NY and all the treats offered to businesses all I could think was "just degrees of difference" between someone like Cuomo and Gov. Brownback.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Will, that first link was a nifty explanation of the Sixth Extinction in a few minutes of nicely laid out speed cartoons—handy for people who don’t have time for trivia like global warming. I intend to send it around.

The second link, also about extinction, starts off as a primer on Uranium. It soon had me recalling the old (1960s) charge that even Mickey Mouse was deeply political. There’s a whole lot of politics being put over in that fast-talking nerd's asides.

Which galactic societies really are better on the scale provided: the ones with mounting positive numbers or the unmentioned one (0)? Do we really favor the global concentration of power the speaker describes as progress? At around 4:20 onward, do his remarks follow the lead of Benjamin Netanyahu and friends about Iran? Not one worried word about other powers with a tight grip on U-235?

I'll trade the Uranium video for this one, something utterly neutral (I think) and so upbeat. 1.6 million views and counting.

Will said...

Wonderful tune on a Sunday afternoon, Jay! Never heard of Pink Martini before. Now after a quick google search I'm officially in love with lead singer China Forbes and her gorgeous voice. Thanks!

Oh, and about this Nerdwriter fellow. I'm painfully aware of his misguided, cringe-inducing, non-Sardonickian political views. It probably wouldn't shock you that the poor kid's a full-fledged Obamabot who used to work for MSNBC. Yet there's something about that big brain of his that gives me the audacity to hope he'll see the light one day and put his fierce intellect to better use. Pretty sure he's gotta get the hell out of his 20s first, though. :)

Will said...

Wonderful tune on a Sunday afternoon, Jay! Never heard of Pink Martini before. Now after a quick google search I'm officially in love with lead singer China Forbes and her gorgeous voice. Thanks!

Oh, and about this Nerdwriter fellow. I'm painfully aware of his misguided, cringe-inducing, non-Sardonickian political views. It probably wouldn't shock you that the poor kid's a full-fledged Obamabot who used to work for MSNBC. Yet there's something about that big brain of his that gives me the audacity to hope he'll see the light one day and put his fierce intellect to better use. Pretty sure he's gotta get the hell out of his 20s first, though. :)

Pearl said...

Clinton's Weak Campaign Finance "Pillar" via @sharethis

This is from Truthout and beyond my abilities to digest, but any legal mind would understand what is truly involved and explains her use of language to circumvent what people think she should do.
I hope other great minds will use this information to expose her plans. Another Obama as I have said but with more backup and money and smarts to support her.
This is a good article for people like you Karen to use as reference when she opens her mouth. I have chills about the future.

annenigma said...

Isn't this typical Obama?

"President Obama tightened rules for the U.S. drone program in 2013, but secretly approved a waiver giving the CIA more flexibility in Pakistan to strike suspected militants."

That makes him personally responsible for the deaths of those two hostages. If he's trying to qualify for entry into Hell, he's succeeded.

Jay–Ottawa said...

In dutifully reading Hedges this Monday morning, I tripped over the unfamiliar (to me) name of Michael Eric Dyson. Researching him inevitably led me to the dust up between him and Cornell West. Along the way I found this recent quote by West, who clearly is not for more of the status quo with which Dyson is more at ease. The passage may resonate with Karen's essays and the Sardonicky Commentariat.

“[O]ur Ferguson moment should compel us to focus on what really matters: The life and death issues of police murders, poverty, mass incarceration, drones, TPP (unjust trade policies), vast surveillance, decrepit schools, unemployment, Wall Street power, Israeli occupation of Palestinians, Dalit resistance in India, and ecological catastrophe.

Character assassination is the refuge of those who hide and conceal these issues in order to rationalize their own allegiance to the status quo. I am neither a saint nor prophet, but I am a Jesus-loving free Black man in a Great Tradition who intends to be faithful unto death in telling the truth and bearing witness to justice. I am not beholden to any administration, political party, TV channel or financial sponsor because loving suffering and struggling peoples is my point of reference. Deep integrity must trump cheap popularity. Nothing will stop or distract my work and witness, even as I learn from others and try not to hurt others.

But to pursue truth and justice is to live dangerously. In the spirit of John Coltrane’s LOVE SUPREME, let us focus on what really matters: the issues, policies, and realities that affect precious everyday people catching hell and how we can resist the lies and crimes of the status quo!”