Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Griftopolis, Part Two

Like two luxury ships of state, the Clintons and the Obamas will pass in the night. Or more accurately, they plan to spin past each other at the speed of blight through that proverbial revolving door between public-private and private-public life.

As told to one of his favorite stenographers, Peter Baker of the New York Times, Barack Obama has now found such a strong voice on race that he will parlay its dulcet tones straight into a post-presidential "initiative" (neoliberal code for any scam pretending to help the hammock-trapped poor) which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Clintons' own slush fund charity, itself unsurprisingly dubbed the Clinton Global Initiative.

Obama and Baker Share Tender Moment at WH Correspondents' Dinner

Baker displays an uncanny knack of his own for maudlin presidential mind-reading:
As he reflected on the festering wounds deepened by race and grievance that have been on painful display in America’s cities lately, President Obama on Monday found himself thinking about a young man he had just met named Malachi.
A few minutes before, in a closed-door round-table discussion at Lehman College in the Bronx, Mr. Obama had asked a group of black and Hispanic students from disadvantaged backgrounds what could be done to help them reach their goals. Several talked about counseling and guidance programs.
“Malachi, he just talked about — we should talk about love,” Mr. Obama told a crowd afterward, drifting away from his prepared remarks. “Because Malachi and I shared the fact that our dad wasn’t around and that sometimes we wondered why he wasn’t around and what had happened. But really, that’s what this comes down to is: Do we love these kids?”
All you need is love. Love is all you need.

But wait. It gets worse:
Many presidents have governed during times of racial tension, but Mr. Obama is the first to see in the mirror a face that looks like those on the other side of history’s ledger. While his first term was consumed with the economy, war and health care, his second keeps coming back to the societal divide that was not bridged by his election. A president who eschewed focusing on race now seems to have found his voice again as he thinks about how to use his remaining time in office and beyond.
Notice the passive voice. Obama didn't bail out the Wall Street banksters and throw underwater mortgagors under the bus. He was consumed by the economy. He didn't escalate the war in Afghanistan, bomb Libya into terminal instability, or assassinate thousands of people with drones. He was eaten alive by the war monster. He didn't reject universal single payer medical coverage, selling out the American people behind closed doors to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. He was gobbled up by health care. It was all beyond his control. Now he is ready to cross, if not race, across the Race Bridge. And it's not the Selma Bridge he crossed earlier this spring for a photo-op. It's the bridge from Wall Street-on-the-Potomac to Wall Street itself.
In the aftermath of racially charged unrest in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., and New York, Mr. Obama came to the Bronx on Monday for the announcement of a new nonprofit organization that is being spun off from his White House initiative called My Brother’s Keeper. Staked by more than $80 million in commitments from corporations and other donors, the new group, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, will in effect provide the nucleus for Mr. Obama’s post-presidency, which will begin in January 2017.
"Unrest" is the popular neoliberal buzzword for the citizen revolt against both racism and the oppressive economic policies that fuel it. Obama's post-presidency is staked by $80 million that can only metastasize to Clintonoid proportions.

I've criticized My Brother's Keeper before. Since its propaganda stems from Obama's own autobiography as a fatherless son, it specifically leaves out women and girls, and positively drips with noblesse oblige and the gospel of Bootstrapism.
Organizers said the new alliance already had financial pledges from companies like American Express, Deloitte, Discovery Communications and News Corporation. The money will be used to help companies (my bold) address obstacles facing young black and Hispanic men, provide grants to programs for disadvantaged youths, and help communities aid their populations.
 Joe Echevarria, a former chief executive of Deloitte, the accounting and consulting firm, will lead the alliance, and among those on its leadership team or advisory group are executives at PepsiCo, News Corporation, Sprint, BET and Prudential Group Insurance; former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell; Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey; former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.; the music star John Legend; the retired athletes Alonzo Mourning, Jerome Bettis and Shaquille O’Neal; and the mayors of Indianapolis, Sacramento and Philadelphia.
There apparently will be no direct cash aid to the Bro's. It needs must recycle through corporations and politicians before (maybe) finally trickling down. See my published Times comment at the end of this post. But first, some hilarity (Hillarity):
The alliance, while nominally independent of the White House, may face some of the same questions confronting former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she begins another presidential campaign. Some of those donating to the alliance may have interests in government action, and skeptics may wonder whether they are trying to curry favor with the president by contributing.
“The Obama administration will have no role in deciding how donations are screened and what criteria they’ll set at the alliance for donor policies, because it’s an entirely separate entity,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One en route to New York. (Peter Baker makes sure to brag that as an insider with unique access to power, he got a cushy ride on AF One) But he added, “I’m confident that the members of the board are well aware of the president’s commitment to transparency.”
They are very well aware of Obama's commitment to transparency. His administration has been widely and rightly called the most secretive in recent memory. Josh, earnestly and with tongue planted firmly in cheek, confirmed that the plutocratic grifter class has nothing to fear from Big Guy. He is utterly committed to them and their interests. That is why, in the same breath that Obama denied a direct role in the donations, he will be spiritually present when the money changes hands.

There's more to Baker's article, including the obligatory juxtaposition of Ted Cruz (R-Paranoia) which is designed to deflect possible criticism of Obama's motivations right into a stampede of tribal support from "the base." The only criticism permitted an airing (besides the smarmy, dainty tiptoeing into the Clintonoid sleaze arena)  is the crazy criticism from the Right, the better to transform Obama into a victim-hero for the ages.

Here is my published comment on Baker's piece:
Venture philanthropists have been out in full force ever since the 2008 meltdown, drumming up self-serving publicity as they pretend to alleviate the very economic misery they helped to create in the first place. Do-gooderism by corporations and billionaires is designed to deflect our attention from the fact that they have demanded -- and gotten -- the cruel austerian policies that cut food stamps, closed schools, ended long-term unemployment benefits and depressed wages.

So now it's time for some reputation-salvaging, as what Peter Buffett has called the Charitable-Industrial Complex deigns to bestow a few pennies from their corporate welfare slush funds upon the victims of 30 years of Reaganomics.

It is no coincidence that some of the same businesses donating money to My Brother's Keeper are also pushing hard (either directly or through their lobbyists) for passage of the job-destroying, poverty-creating Trans-Pacific Partnership.

And what a travesty that News Corp, which has made demonization of the poor and demonization of the first black president its raison d'etre, is now welcomed into the philanthro-capitalist fold with open arms. How nice that they're using the spoils of racism to now pretend to fight racism.
Charity is fine, but it's no substitute for good public policy. We need a wealth tax and a stronger safety net, not "promise zones" and the occasional handout from a tycoon in a board room.

We used to have a democracy. Now we have Downton Abbey.
One final thought. Since Bill Clinton was dubbed the first black president, is it PC to call Obama the first black Clinton?


Will said...

"How nice that they're using the spoils of racism to now pretend to fight racism."

This line is my favorite thing today. Thanks, Karen!

P.S. Bubba wasn't ever black no matter how many times people said it. And we all know Barry's certainly not. Oh and just for the record, Ben Carson ain't black either, but he makes for a great sleep-aid!

Pearl said...

Terribly wonderful column, Karen, plus the public comment to Baker. Now the Obamas can look forward to joining the Clintons in becoming unseemly wealthy and keeping in the respectable public eye while accepting huge fees etc. for another slush fund. All these goings on are not only for personal gain but is the way to silence the real people who might want to organize their black masses and include other future trouble makers.
My Brother's Keeper and other similar groups will also pretend to have meaningful messages and responsibilities toward the 99% and will put Obama in the real position of consorting with the so-called Republican enemy who may well be in charge and together they will be able to confuse the language of change.

It is only the committed radicals on the left who will try to speak truth to power and be silenced. And so has it ever been in the nation's history since great depression days. Perhaps another one may force change in the near future but more serious global and planet issues are waiting in the wings. I only hope that my depressing vision is not accurate for the sake of our progeny.
But we can at least feel that we have and are trying to educate others while we still have some semblance of free speech in place. Even the left wing radicals in Israel are able to publish their articles so far.

annenigma said...

I have a concern about all the government (taxpayer) money, going to these Initiatives and Foundations. I saw a reference recently to the CDC giving millions to Clinton's foundation for AIDS work or some such thing, but how it that work performed? Through some favorite donor's corporation? How much is going from government to private foundations to do what used to be government work?

It would be one thing if corporations were giving to these quasi-government Foundations, but when the process is actually the reverse, that really concerns me. It's just more corporate welfare routed through a shell company called a Foundation. I'm sure there's a name for it. Protection racket? No, something else.

Pearl said...

I have another beef - about our first lady, Michelle. I don`t recall ever seeing her visiting a low cost housing or troubled ghetto area for blacks but mainly photo ops of her trips abroad, vacations, clothes, etc. Perhaps it would be too politically incorrect to be seen, as Eleanor Roosevelt did, visiting people living in poverty and asking meaningful questions about their lives. This was brought to mind when Karen included access to an excellent article about the lack of inclusion of women in my Brother`s Keepers plans. Surely, Michelle is not an example of enabling black women living marginal lives to be included in her agenda as First Lady. The Obamas social and political connections reveal their true characters.

Kat said...

Tribute to a dad, From Barry:
The president on the White House's Facebook page drafted touching memories of the late SurveyMonkey CEO and husband of Facebook (FB, Tech30) executive Sheryl Sandberg.

"David Goldberg embodied the definition of a real leader - someone who was always looking for ways to empower others," Obama wrote. "He was generous and kind with everybody, and cared less about the limelight than making sure that the people he worked with and loved succeeded in whatever they did.

"His skills as an entrepreneur created opportunity for many; his love for his family was a joy to behold, and his example as a husband and father was something we could all learn from. We're heartbroken by him leaving us far too soon - but we celebrate a remarkable legacy."

The message was signed "-bo" - the president's initials.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg replied, "Thank you for this beautiful tribute."

Karen Garcia said...


It was Toni Morrison who dubbed Bubba the first black president. She was writing to defend him during the impeachment scandal, noting that like so many poor black guys, he too came from a broken home and had an alcoholic mom. Pretty mind-boggling crap, when you think of it.


I have had to bite my tongue and wrap my typing fingers in duct tape to keep from speaking/writing ill of the rich dead. You would not believe the tasteless jokes running through my head as I've read the tasteless, fawning puff pieces by the courtier press.

Ruth Rendell, one of my favorite writers of all time, died the same day as Mr. Sheryl. I think the Times gave her a paragraph in the obit section, if even that.

Karen Garcia said...


Compared to Hillary, Michelle has been a fairly innocuous first lady.I see a TV hostess spot in her future. Plus the multimillion-dollar book deal and the motivational speakers' circuit. Maybe even an occasional Habitat or KaBoom! photo-op to give the good life that famous Obama balanced approach.

Hillary Clinton, for her part, has co-opted Eleanor Roosevelt only to the extent that she's said she can relate vis a vis the presidential marital infidelity. Eleanor pushed FDR to implement liberal policies throughout his terms. All Hillary ever did was urge her hubby to kick women off the welfare rolls. Oh, and get him to pardon those Puerto Rican bombers so that she could sew up the Latino vote for her essentially uncontested New York senate run, I mean coronation.

Meredith NYC said...

Great post Karen, I'll look at Baker's piece and the comments. I didn't watch Obama, it was rather a turn off, but I'll read transcript.

I had commented to Nick Kristof related column:

Some billionaires like Nick Hanauer, interviewed on NPR, actually push for economic equality. There’s also Millionaires for Higher Taxes. There's even Physicians For Single Payer. These drops in the bucket are never publicized on our media.

We praise charity, but charity is big in gilded age, unequal societies, with scarce resources for the majority. A 21st C democracy shouldn’t rely on beneficent personal attitudes of the rich to decide which cause they will pour their millions into, in the spotlight of publicity and praise, or which hardship they prefer to alleviate, or what disease cure they will fund.

In societies with full voting and education and political representation, the public can translate their needs into lawmaking. That isn’t happening in the US. The popular will doesn’t end up in laws---see Gilens/ Page study.

Mr. Kristof, you travel the world. Any data to compare the contributions of super rich private charity vs govt support with public funds in many countries with higher equality--Scandinavia, Germany, Australia, Canada? etc? How conspicuous are their super rich?

Kat said...

Well, they certainly are respecting the privacy of Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg. There has not been one whiff of "this story is strange".
Sandberg's utmost respect for our privacy is being returned in kind.

annenigma said...

The story of Goldberg's death was strange and keeps getting stranger. He died of a head injury but they didn't put him on life support for months if not years? That's not how they usually treat a rich person. If he had a single brain wave, it wouldn't matter what his heart or lungs were doing on their own. They reportedly found him alive but he had bled out so much he couldn't be saved. No one missed him for hours? He didn't tell anyone he was going to the exercise room? No one else entered the room in those hours?

I wonder if he committed suicide and they don't want the kids to ever know. Falling off/jumping from a tall building would result in an untreatable, irrecoverable head injury and blood loss, but a treadmill?

It's simply unbelievable that no expensive, extraordinary, heroic efforts were made to keep this guy's body going.

Denis Neville said...

There are many posts around the internet verging on the ridiculous regarding David Goldberg’s death from a head injury due to a treadmill fall.

There is no deep, dark, conspiracy. If one falls, whether from a bicycle or a treadmill or skis, and hits his head just right, the result can be a fatal head injury.

It's very easy, for instance to lose your balance, to fall off a treadmill. I've done it.

Mr. Goldberg was found lying in a pool of blood. He may have been there for several hours before he was found.

The initial few seconds, minutes, and hours after a brain injury has occurred are the most critical. Chance of survival often depends upon access to brain injury treatment, and the more advanced the treatment center and their level of preparedness when treating a TBI, the greater one’s chances of survival become.

Traumatic brain injury is a catastrophic condition. Open head TBIs are frightening. One of the most common causes of open brain injury is skull fracture, in which pieces of bone from the skull penetrate the brain. When the skull is cracked and penetrated, pieces of it get lodged in the brain. Such injuries crush, rip and shear delicate brain tissue. This is the most life threatening and the most intractable type of brain injury.

The brain is a complicated tangle of tissue.

Recall the head injury that killed Liam Neeson's wife, Natasha Richardson, a couple of years ago. Swelling and massive bleeding in the brain probably pushed her brain downward in the skull, ultimately causing it to crush her brainstem. Brainstem damage is always a huge concern where there's swelling or bleeding in the brain, because the brain has nowhere to expand but down into where the brainstem is.

Brain stem death is where a person no longer has any activity in their brain stem, and has permanently lost the potential for consciousness and the capacity to breathe. Once the brain stem has permanently stopped functioning, there's no way of reversing it. A person is confirmed as being dead when their brain stem function is permanently lost.

Perhaps Mr. Goldberg had a living will and an advance directive that described his preferences for end-of-life care; that spoke for him when he wasn’t able to speak for himself after his tragic accident. And by doing so, he saved his family from unnecessary suffering, once there was clear evidence that brain death had occurred.

Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age, so it's important for everyone to prepare these documents.

Karen Garcia said...

The initial secrecy and mystery surrounding Dave Goldberg's death were the fuel for the Internet conspiracy theories. Major publications like the Times and the WSJ ran prominent laudatory stories which not only provided no details, but admitted that they were honoring the wishes of a wealthy family for privacy.

This is pretty ironic. given that the widow is the COO of Facebook, one of the worst enemies of privacy in the modern world.

A lot of people were also aggravated that the spin of the initial obits was how this guy assisted his wife. spent two whole hours a day with the kids, and was a real down to earth feminist above and beyond all his other accomplishments. It was very classist, in my opinion.

When the story first broke I thought it had all the makings for one of those old Colombo episodes, or an Agatha Christie Poirot story about death in the snobbish upper classes.

If only the original news stories had just stated that Dave Goldberg died in a treadmill accident, there probably wouldn't have been as much speculation amongst the hoi polloi.

Even so, I agree with Anne that it is weird that this guy could have lain on the floor for hours, unnoticed. Don't these exclusive resorts have CCTV or human attendants to assist the clientele?

Kat said...

I don't think we were pointing to any conspiracy, but as Ann pointed out (and I thought too) it seemed strange that he was on the floor unnoticed for so long in The Four Seasons and I don't know, but the press seems pretty cowed by Facebook. I'm not saying we "have aright to know", but I am saying that the press seems to be acting differently with this death and strange circumstances (plus the denial by the Four Seasons that he was ever on their property). It is Facebook. They are in the surveillance business.

Cirze said...

K and Pearl,

Good ones!

I'm foreseeing a post at Goldman Sachs for the much well-endowed ex-First Lady. After all, someone should get some payback, right?

Okay, maybe second in command to Jamie at Morgan Chase.

On January 24, 2014 it was announced that Dimon would receive $20 million for his work in 2013, despite what was reported as the bank’s worst year under Dimon’s reign. The award was a 74% raise, which included over $18 million in restricted stock.
. . . As head of JPMorgan Chase, Dimon oversaw the transfer of $25 billion in funds from the U.S. Treasury Department to the bank on October 28, 2008, under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).[30] This was the fifth largest amount transferred under Section A of TARP[31] to help troubled assets related to residential mortgages. It has been widely reported[32] that JPMorgan Chase was in much better financial shape than other banks and did not need TARP funds but accepted the funds because the government did not want to single out only the banks with capital issues.

JPMorgan Chase advertised in February 2009 that it would be using its capital-base monetary strength to acquire new businesses.[33]

By February 2009, the U.S. government had not moved forward in enforcing TARP's intent of funding JPMorgan Chase with $25 billion.[30] In the face of the government's lack of action, Dimon was quoted during the week of February 1, 2009, as saying,

JPMorgan would be fine if we stopped talking about the damn nationalization of banks. We've got plenty of capital. To policymakers, I say where were they? ... They approved all these banks. Now they're beating up on everyone, saying look at all these mistakes, and we're going to come and fix it.
. . . Following the acquisition of Washington Mutual by JPMorgan Chase, Obama commented on Dimon's handling of the real-estate crash, credit crisis, and the banking collapse affecting corporations nationwide, including major financial institutions like Bank of America, Citibank, and Wachovia (now Wells Fargo).

You know, keep in mind, though there are a lot of banks that are actually pretty well managed, JPMorgan being a good example, Jamie Dimon, the CEO there, I don't think should be punished for doing a pretty good job managing an enormous portfolio.[39]

Dimon has had close ties to some people in the Obama White House, including former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.[40] Dimon was one of three CEOs—along with Lloyd Blankfein and Vikram Pandit—said by the Associated Press to have had liberal access to former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner."

Pearl said...


Here is a recent report from Greg Palast which is not off topic because the results of criminal behavior of those in charge of our country past and present continues unabated. Frightening. Never read about this before.

annenigma said...

'Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders: Sheepdogging for Hillary and the Democrats in 2016'


Pearl said...

annenigma: Your article about Sanders being a sheep dog is very convincing as well as the comments following. That is why I was asking whether I should send money to Bernie Sanders. I would rather he had planned to run for a third party and now see his decision to remain and support the Democratic party a serious mistake. Karen, are you going to support him as you do in your comments to the NYTimes? I also feel that I will vote for the Green Party and Jill Stein. I think I wrote to him once asking him to run and doing it as an independent. However, he can be cut down if necessary no matter how he runs but wish he had disengaged himself from the democratic party. Perhaps he hopes to affect support for Hillary. Also people wondering about his socialist tendencies may be afraid to support him. It is not a hopeful picture.
Anyhow your printing that article was very important and has affected my choices now. But coming from Black Agenda means that black voters will not have choices and may avoid the voting booths as a result as I don't see them supporting Hillary.

Karen Garcia said...


I am verbally "supporting" Bernie, because I agree with his ideas. However, his promise that he would endorse Hillary in the end is disheartening, to say the least. I stand by my comment the other day that his challenge within the safe confines of the Democratic Party is probably at least passive-aggressively designed to herd the undecideds and the malcontents into the veal pen. I already got a fund-raising appeal for him from Act Blue, that super-annoying outfit responsible for all those scare-tactic emails from the midterms. Any money donated to them in his name can be legally used for other candidates... so beware.

I will never give money to another political candidate. Any spare change I can scrounge up goes to my food bank and Doctors Without Borders.

Pearl said...

Karen: Thanks for your reply about supporting (financially and politically) Bernie Sanders and with warnings. It is not just my decision that counts but decisions by many progressives as well who may also be puzzled about which direction to go and who trust your judgment. I will save my money and patiently wait until some real action somewhere is forthcoming. But as long as we are burdened with this Congress and those with power and money run the country nothing will change. As many of us have said, real changes have to happen which may be forced on the leadership such as another l929 crash among other things. It is hard to look ahead into the future at this point in time.
It is most helpful to have all the information and opinions in Sardonicky to figure out how to best be useful and influence others in their decisions which I am most grateful for. I also have the ammunition to influence my granddaughters when they ask me questions about their futures and how to deal with challenges they see coming along. Thank you Karen for taking the time to address the issues many of us bring up.