Monday, June 15, 2015

Commentariat Central

Per your requests, here is one of my periodic New York Times comment dumps.  You, dear readers, are also invited to share your own comments, whether they be Times entries or not. (On-topic rule does not apply today.)

Peter Baker, The Trans-Pacific Partnership and a President's Legacy, 6/15 (new): 

 Except for a few token alternate viewpoints (Baker's dismissive "some on the left") to give it a fair and balanced patina, this "news analysis" reads like it came straight from the White House propaganda shop.

President Obama is portrayed as an embattled martyr who only wants to do good in the world as he walks his noble, lonely walk from the Oval to the Situation Room. He doesn't wage wars or launch drones or protect Wall Street so much as he is consumed by them as forces beyond his control. His opponents are spoiling his legacy, poor guy.

Actually, they're not so much against Obama as they are FOR their constituents. They're against an obscene power-grab by multinationals and billionaires. So thank God for Obama's opponents -- activists, labor unions and all manner of people who just want our democracy back.

We're against this deal because it's been negotiated in secret by the same plutocrats it's meant to benefit. Thanks to Wikileaks, we've learned that investor state dispute tribunals would supplant national judiciaries, wreaking potential havoc over such basic human rights as clean food and water, life-saving drugs, and what few financial regulations are still reining them all in. It's a corporate coup on steroids. Otherwise, Obama would share the details.

Meanwhile, Baker couldn't guilt-trip opponents of the TPP any harder if he tried. He might as well be Obama's personal publicist.

How about some real journalism in the public interest for a change? 


Charles Blow, Jeb Bush and Single Mothers, 6/15:

We have devolved from rule through a representative democracy to rule by the all-too-visible hand of the free market. Why else would politicians refer to children as "investments" expected to yield eventual low-wage dividends for the plutonomy instead of human beings? Children are not pork belly futures. They and their families are human beings deserving of safety and security in the here and now.
The womb fetish of the GOP is bad enough, but the Democrats bear their own share of the blame. It was during the neoliberal Clinton administration that we "ended welfare as we know it" and poor single mothers were forced to work at low-paying jobs, or face loss of cash assistance. Hillary bragged in her first memoir that she and Bill had reduced the welfare rolls by 60% by the time they left office.

Maybe she's evolved since then. But as it is, one in five American children officially lives below the poverty level and one in thirty is literally homeless. Universal preschool and free community college to prepare for a dystopian Uber economy are not going to cut it. Only a guaranteed national income, a government job for everybody who wants one and universal health care will bring this country up to par with the other, more humane Western civilizations. We can take the trillions we spend on endless war and spend it here. It can be done. All we need is a loud enough common voice demanding it.


Paul Krugman, Democrats Being Democrats, 6/15:

Campaign speeches and what actually happens after an election are two different animals. We thought we were pulling the lever for liberalism last time around, only to find that we'd elected a slick salesman for Citigroup and the military-surveillance complex. Never again.
To be fair to Hillary, there are more than 500 days till we pull the lever. I'll cut her some slack for now. But what we heard Saturday was pure focus group boilerplate warmed over with sweeping platitudes. The only thing missing was the apple pie.

FDR welcomed their (plutocrats') hatred, while Hillary wants an "economy that works for everybody." I kept waiting for "prosecute Wall Street criminals!," "no to the TPP!" and "let's stop the wars and invest billions or even trillions in government jobs!" but I strained my ears in vain.

But like I said, it's early days yet. Maybe she'll eventually catch up to Bernie Sanders (the real deal) and not only offer detailed policies, like expanding Social Security, but answer some tough questions from a press corps that currently seems more interested in access than affliction.

 Again, to be fair to Mrs. Clinton, she did finally answer questions on trade -- but only after pressure from Sanders and others. And her anodyne advice? Listen to Nancy Pelosi (who just needs a bigger fig leaf to get to Yes) and try to improve what is essentially a power grab by global billionaires. How can one improve what one isn't even allowed to see? Sounds mighty "undemocratic" to me.

(note to readers: I'd had every intention of ignoring Clinton's speech because speeches are meaningless and it was the weekend. For some excellent analyses, see Lambert Strether over at Naked Capitalism, plus the "meme" take-down at Vox, as well as the Island of Dr. Hillary scare-o-rama on Truthdig.


Kathryn S. Wylde, Yes, Wall Street Needs Help, 6/15:

 Trickle-down economics was debunked a long time ago. And Wall Street threatening to leave town if they don't get their way is the oldest excuse in the book. People are fed up with these plutocratic temper tantrums. Maybe if the corrupt financial cartel did leave town, the astronomic housing prices they've spawned will start to come down and people will actually be able to live in New York again. Maybe it will lose its horrific status of Income Disparity Capital of the USA.
The author of this op-ed represents the big bank lobby and is part of the Committee to Save New York propaganda campaign from several years ago, which ran TV ad after TV ad honoring and thanking the corrupt Cuomo administration for its fealty to Wall Street. In 2011, while she served on the Board of the New York Fed, supposedly working in the public interest, she fought against AG Eric Schneiderman's efforts to get relief for the fraudclosure victims of Bank of America. (We all know how that ended. Schneiderman was appointed head of a DOJ financial crime task force, and they forgot to give him an office and a phone. BOA "settled" in one of those sweetheart deals and nobody went to jail except maybe a poor few victims of their liar loans)
Nice try, Ms. Wylde. But I'm not buying the fear you're selling. If you're so broken up over Wall Street's raw deal, maybe we should just follow Elizabeth Warren's advice and break up the banks. 

"I'm Just Wylde About Fat Cats, and They're Just Wild About Me"


Maureen Dowd, Obama's Flickering Greatness, 6/14:

One of the enduring Obama myths is that because he is the anti-schmoozer-in-chief, it automatically follows that he can't break through the "gridlock" (another myth) and get stuff done. This narrative has been spewed ad infinitum by a lazy press corps more invested in accessing the powerful than in afflicting them.
Obama is actually a highly skilled politician. He's been enormously successful in protecting the same corrupt financiers who wrecked our economy by filling his administration with them and theirs. He has enriched the military-surveillance complex beyond their wildest dreams by escalating the old wars and starting some new ones. The TPP he is striving so mightily to jam down our throats is, among other awfulness, an act of aggression against China. He's even sending weapons to Eastern Europe, bringing us dangerously close to war with a nuclear Russia. He's prosecuted more whistle-blowers than any other president. He has his own kill List of drone victims.

Cold antisocial types can absolutely get stuff done. And yet the press corps portrays him either as a loser or as a martyr-hero who just can't catch a break from either the GOP or those nasty backstabbing Dems who took away his TPP toy (probably only temporarily.)

Clintonland-on-Steroids now beckons Obama.

So may our long-lost democracy make a swift comeback. Anti-oligarch Bernie Sanders is looking more appealing by the day.


Paul Krugman, Decline and Fall of the Davos Democrats (blogpost), 6/13:

If the TPP is as wonderful as the White House claims, it should release all 800-odd pages of the draft to the public, right now. It's the undemocratic secrecy of the thing, the threat to prosecute Congress members who divulge details of a corporate coup on steroids that is so outrageous.
As Wikileaks reveals, the section about investor tribunals supplanting sovereign judiciaries is so odious that it has been ordered to remain classified for four years, post-ratification. Therefore, the administration's claim that all will be clear and bright once Congress approves fast track is just a bunch of hooey.

By the way, the narrative of "dysfunction" that PK rightly criticizes is blared prominently in today's front page article by Peter Baker and Jennifer Steinhauer. We learn nothing much about the actual TPP, but a lot whole about Obama getting stabbed in the back by dysfunctional Dems; the usual veiled criticism of a shrill Elizabeth Warren sucking up all the oxygen in the room while a calm Obama tries to seduce the fence-sitters; the Davos types belittling Friday's vote as "a nasty little issue," and anonymous White House sources characterizing Nancy Pelosi as borderline-senile. 

Journalism in the plutocratic interest trumping journalism in the public interest is on full display in today's paper, unfortunately.

I hope that as the TPP tango plays out, PK will evolve from his lukewarmth and get as hot under the collar about this corporate coup as the rest of us hippies. 

"I'm Just Lukewarm About Fat Cats...."


Paul Krugman, Seriously Bad Ideas, 6/12:

 Since their deregulatory policies helped cause the whole mess in the first place, the VSPs aren't about to admit that "mistakes were made." It might cause them to lose track of all that lethally concentrated wealth and power that they keep sucking and sucking from the body politic.
Blair, Osborne, Cameron, Bush, Greenspan, and yes, Obama and the GOP, are carrying on the seriously evil tradition of Reagan and Thatcher, putting the needs of capital above the needs of the citizens of their allegedly democratic governments. This capital is transnational, thus making it both easy and possible for Obama operative Jim Messina to travel across the pond to re-elect another austerian to power. As made painfully clear by the ongoing Congressional food fight over "trade," greed now trumps national sovereignty.

A servile mass media, owned by the same "folks" who own the politicians, makes the metastatic spread of bad ideas possible. (A case in point is Rupert Murdoch's global empire.) Instead of educating the citizens, they turn struggling people against one another. Divide and conquer works every time. Modern-day racism and xenophobia didn't just spring up on their own. They got help from Fox News.
Instead of getting out and talking to the people whose lives they've helped ruin, leaders function as a paranoid sales crew. The only things they have to offer us are fear and endless wars. They call it "progress."

It doesn't have to be this way. We either fight back, or we perish.


Anna North, Hire the Next First Lady (blogpost), 6/11:

 The continuing attention to the role of first lady is cringe-worthily reminiscent of monarchy worship. We, too, need our queens and princesses, as evidenced by our continuing fascination with royal weddings and royal pregnancies and royal babies and royal maternity/infant fashion.

Does anybody really believe that the presidential spouse functions as anything more than a retro P.R. royal to charm and appease the masses? Like any aristocrat/celebrity, she has a huge staff to perform such odious tasks as invitation-writing, flower-arranging and speech-writing.

And first ladies also act as diversions from unpopular, corrupt administrations. They engage in such heartwarming and attention-getting initiatives as reading, healthy foods and supporting the troops while their hubbies wage their misbegotten wars and shill for job-destroying trade deals. Laura Bush, for one, remained beloved throughout her White House tenure, despite her marriage to a guy whom many have judged to be the worst president ever (though now that he's been out of power awhile, his popularity is starting to strangely rise. So much for the memory skills of the American people.)

 The media doesn't help either, with its insipid portrayal of first ladies as mannequins. From Hillary's hairstyles to Michelle's bangs and blowouts, these women do not so much influence as they "stun" and "wow" in their designer clothes.
First ladies, wittingly or not, serve mainly to aid and abet an oligarchic power structure.


annenigma said...

Here's my comment to today's NYT article, 'The Trans-Pacific Partnership and a President’s Legacy':

Obama already has his legacy - most SECRETIVE President in history. This is a pattern going back to his dealing with Tony Rezko and also with sealing his college transcript. You might get do-overs in campaigns and college classes, but not in the Presidency.

President Obama didn't want us knowing what was in his secret TPP agreement, even tying the hands of Congress, gagging them, and threatening them with prosecution for discussing the content with the public or anyone else. It was only due to the courage of Julian Assange and Wikileaks that we knew the President was helping usurp the sovereignty of nations by conveying their power to corporations. Even the fact that there was a 5 year secrecy requirement built into the TPP was kept a secret until Wikileaks revealed it to us.

Let's not forget that President Obama did not want us to EVER know about his mass surveillance programs. He allowed Intelligence Director Clapper to keep serving after lying under oath to Congress so he could maintain the lie that mass surveillance of Americans wasn't taking place. It was only due to the courage of Edward Snowden that we know now what this President was doing.

Barack Obama would be exactly the type that secretive intelligence agencies try to recruit in college. Too bad he missed his calling. Or maybe he didn't.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Great stuff, Karen. Thanks for reprinting the week’s batch right here. These tight essays are a big help in shaping my own spiels with politically-unconscious friends and family who drop by for a beer or dinner––until my wife starts frowning at me real hard and interrupts with the latest dispatch from the grandchildren. Presently, because of its value as an opener (or a closer) in my upcoming table talk, I’m committing to memory that second paragraph of your reply to Ms Dowd. Pretty much sums up Obama's legacy.

Meredith NYC said...

Krugman cited Hillary in the column, now Jeb in the blog, as soon as they announce, to stay with the media trends. He seems to be swinging into campaign discussion mode, now comparing the Repubs in the blog.

If influential, eminent columnists were to mention just a few of Sanders actual ideas, these ideas might move more into the main stream. Then all candidates would have to reckon with them. Reporters might actually ask all candidates for reactions to them. Then we’d have a campaign worthy of a democracy.

But Sanders is sidelined as too liberal even for our liberal pundits, thus many of the voting public picks up on that. To keep ignoring Sanders is unconscionable for our liberal with conscience. It means Sanders has less influence on the Dem party, and we voters continue to get offered narrow choices for our national problems.

Obviously ignoring him since he hasn’t a chance just guarantees his ideas haven’t a chance.

Meredith NYC said...

As you say, “campaign speeches and what actually happens after an election are two different animals. We thought we were pulling the lever for liberalism last time around...” But Republican –lite became the Democratic norm instead. Thus Obama fights harder for TPP than for anything else.

I had to laugh. Remember Krugman’s Derp column? And follow up derp blog in case we didn’t understand?
Rima Rigas today quotes k’s statement---
"... she’ll govern very differently from the way her husband did in the 1990s."
And then replies.....“This is where I have to strongly disagree with Professor Krugman and trot out the sub-headline from his Derp op-ed a week ago: "Beware of those telling you want to hear."

I replied..... Precisely, Rima. Krugman warned us in his June 8 blog -- “liberals need to be careful not to let wishful thinking drive their conclusions.” Now he’s exaggerating any tiny positive hint from a campaign speech into something bigger. And he still ignores the huge influence of big money on candidates and parties.

Hillary has to sell to the public. What is Hillary going to say standing by FDR’s statue----that she favors continued power of too big to fail banks, and that she hopes to send more jobs to Asia?

Valerie said...

Thank you, Karen. I LOVE the comments you submit to the Times. They are always brilliant and I maintain, far better than the columnists to whom you are responding. If the Times was any good, they would hiring you to be one of their columnists. THEN I WOULD subscribe.

valerie said...

Just in case anyone has missed it, Bill Black, over at New Economic Perspectives, has a great article on the TPP not being dead by any means.

Karen - or anyone - I have been assuming the TPA (Trade Promotion Authority) IS Fast Track. But an article I read over at Popular Resistance suggests they are different animals. Can someone clarify this for me? Thanks

Pearl said...

Jay: That was a clear picture of how difficult it is to deal with politically unconscious friends and family which is probably going on in many households. But, you mention dispatches from the grandchildren. How have you been able to influence your children and possibly your grandchildren depending on how old they are?

My grandchildren who are in their 20's are now aware of problems that will be affecting their futures and although I refrained from talking about politics, religion etc.when they were growing up, their experiences at college have opened their minds. That is where we can affect family members. Keep spouting your beliefs in the hopes something will stick. Even in Canada certain realities for young people are becoming more and more evident.
I have a brother and sister in law who always defended Israel but since the horrifying events in Gaza last summer they have avoided any conversation on that topic. My silence now speaks volumes but I still hope they will avoid voting for Hillary as the lesser of two evils. My brother is in dire conflict but can't admit it and I am glad that in political discussions I never backed off. Sometimes we are more effective that we can imagine. You can tell your unadmirers that you are speaking out because you are worried about your children's and grandchildrens' futures. Good luck.

Pearl said...

P.S. By the time there may be a global holocaust in the future, we will not be around to say "I Told You So!" So say it now loud and clear and they may remember when we are gone and possibly have done something about it hopefully.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Well, Pearl, I see you know as well as I how uphill the work of the political missionary, especially to one’s own family. Justice has always been a tough sell.

This morning I came across an interesting tie-in between the news and family connections. The following was a comment following Glenn Greenwald’s ridicule of the Sunday Times (Murdock, UK) for its front page story about Snowden having “blood on his hands.”

Doug Lytton
14 Jun 2015 at 6:21 pm
ABC News executive producer Ian Cameron is married to Susan Rice, National Security Adviser.
CBS President David Rhodes is the brother of Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications.
ABC News correspondent Claire Shipman is married to former Whitehouse Press Secretary Jay Carney
ABC News and Univision reporter Matthew Jaffe is married to Katie Hogan, Obama’s Deputy Press Secretary
ABC President Ben Sherwood is the brother of Obama’s Special Adviser Elizabeth Sherwood
CNN President Virginia Moseley is married to former Hillary Clinton’s Deputy Secretary Tom Nides.
And now you know why it is no surprise the media usually goes very easy on Obama’s many errors.
Ya think there might be a little bias in the news?
Ya Think?

Gossip Pearl said...

Doug Lytton: And these are only the legally known connections between business and government via marriage. It would be interesting to have a list of relationships behind the curtain that affect power decisions and not just marriage, but business/financial liasons as well - may be an even longer list. Wonder what propelled some of these marriages you listed and what their previous histories reveal.

Reminds one of how stars were born in Hollywood via the casting couch.