Monday, August 17, 2015

Commentariat Central

(*Updated below)

 Per reader request, here is one my semi-regular New York Times comment dumps. Please feel free to also post your own, Times or not, on any topic within or without reason.

Paul Krugman, Bungling Beijing's Stock Markets, Aug. 14:
China's leaders swing more toward Ayn Rand than Karl Marx, that's for sure.
Whether the state runs the "markets" or the markets run the state is moot. Losses are socialized, profits are privatized. Struggling people become the victims and scapegoats. Wealth disparity widens to epic proportions. The center cannot hold.
Surely it is no coincidence that the day after China began devaluing its currency, there was that horrific explosion in Tianjin. China is in political and social and ecological crisis as well as economic crisis. While a small cartel of billionaires bask in luxury, millions are suffering. The government is even banning press coverage of what looks to be a monumental health and environmental disaster.
 This is what we have to look forward to if the Randians of the GOP gain power and abolish the EPA, along with what few banking regulations we still have left and are still being feebly enforced. Just as the global financial collapse didn't teach them, China won't teach them. Capitalism run amok is a veritable cancer upon the body politic -- and the cancer always dies along with the host.
But as Murray Bookchin wrote, “For capitalism to desist from its mindless expansion would be for it to commit social.suicide."
China seems to prefer collapse. It's not alone: the global Market State is condemning us and the planet we live on to an early death. Unless and until we act, the smoldering ruin of Tianjin will be the future for all of us.

 Maureen Dowd, Introducing Donald Trump, Diplomat; Aug. 15:
 This piece might be called "My Dinner With Donald," because never for one minute are we allowed to forget that Maureen Dowd has cast herself in a starring role. On the surface it's an expos√© of plutocratic misogyny, but ultimately it's a screwball pas de deux between an ornery billionaire and a woman who not only has the guts to confront him, but ends up on his approval list anyway.
It's damage control, an endearing portrait of a gruff, flamboyant old honeybear of a man. It has the tone of a Tracy-Hepburn battle of the sexes. Maureen waves her scolding finger at Trump while snidely snickering over their banter. Like any romantic comedy, it ends very well for both of them.
 The audience -- both the selfie stick-waving gawkers at Trump's restaurant, and we, the hapless Times readers -- are cast as the pathetic outsiders in this dramedy. And that is as it should be, because those of us residing in the fringes of the real world are indeed superfluous to what passes for politics these days. The presidential contest is a marathon reality show for which we're forced to pay premium rates that we can ill-afford.
We gape as she teases Donald about his high chair, gasp as they schmooze over his Rosie O'Donnell slurs and Heidi Klum disses. She assures us he was never referring to Megyn Kelly's period.
 Dowd's political columns have the same superficial quality as Trump's infinity of mirrors.
Jump out of her shallow pool and get into the sunshine. Feel the Bern.

Charles Blow, Activists "Feel the Bern?", Aug. 17:
Maybe Black voters are not as familiar with Bernie because the mass media don't cover him as well and as outrageously as they cover Hillary and Donald and Jeb.
 Maybe BlackLivesMatter can't heckle Hillary like they heckled Bernie because she has Secret Service protection and a billion-dollar oligarchic war machine, and he doesn't.
 And anyway, what is so wrong with heckling? It's as old as democracy itself. Bernie handled himself very well at his campaign event. Certain white critics of the hecklers, not so much. Would they have preferred that he give the protesters the finger, as Nelson Rockefeller once did to his everlasting regret, or break out into a cold scowling paranoid sweat like Nixon, or pettily snipe that "this is my House and these are my drinks" as Obama did recently to an LGBT activist who heckled him over his border incarceration policies? The other LGBT activists in the audience did themselves, not the protester, a huge disservice by booing her.

In this age of money-driven politics, heckling is bottom- up democracy in its rawest form. Without the heckling of politicians by women advocates in the 19th century, we never would have gotten female suffrage. Because of 20th century hecklers, the Vietnam War ended more quickly.
I hope to see a lot more heckling this campaign season. It'll keep the office-seekers off their robotic scripts and on their toes. It might even remind them who they're supposed to be working for.
 Paul Krugman, Republicans Against Retirement, Aug. 17:
 The trashing of Social Security has long been a pet project of the American oligarchy. GOP pols are just more vocal about it, because "hate thy neighbor" is a huge vote-getter. Or, at least it used to be. People are becoming aware of how rigged the system is against them.
Every day I see another scare headline about how Social Security is going broke, or how disabled workers are committing massive fraud to collect a few paltry dollars on the taxpayer dime. Big media, totally captured by the 01%, and are only too happy to spread the Big Lie on behalf of their owners.
The most egregious recent example comes from journalist Katie Couric of Yahoo, whose CEO is a big donor to Democrats. She tells the whopper that the government hoards your personal, deducted FICA taxes until it starts paying them back out to you when you retire. The truth, of course, is that the trust fund and contributions from current workers go to pay the benefits of current retirees. It has worked this way for 80 years.
Never once does she mention that any shortfalls in the trust fund can be easily fixed by a raising or scrapping of the FICA tax cap. Instead, she repeats the Big Lie that the old are robbing the young.
Until a year ago, the Clinton Global Initiative was partnering with Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to spread this same sick message on college campuses.
We should be expanding Social Security. Scrap the cap, lower the retirement age, and raise the benefits.

*Ana Marie Cox, Bernie Sanders Has Heard About That Hashtag, Aug. 17:
The Gallup pollsters didn't bother informing respondents of the difference between "socialism" (Marx, Lenin) and "democratic socialism" (Sanders, Scandinavian countries with a strong social safety net, most aspects of FDR's New Deal.)

Thus is the poll skewed on its face. And Ms. Cox, to her discredit, seemingly didn't bother to do her research on the differences between the two socialisms either. She seemed more interested in the differences in candidates' hairstyles.

But, to her credit, at least she is not quite as dismissive of Bernie as Nate Cohn and his obsession with polls. As G. William Dornhoff writes in "Who Rules America?"--

"Polls also can be used to suggest that a public opinion exists on issues for which there is none. This does not mean people do not have general opinions, but that they often make it up as they go along when responding to specific questions about policy preferences. If questions about affirmative action or oil drilling are framed in one way, they yield one answer, but framed in another way, they yield a different answer, especially for those without knowledge or firm opinions."

 So I wonder if the Gallup respondents, in the Age of NSA, were afraid to answer the socialism question, lest they be deemed unpatriotic. Maybe they figured it would be safer to Just Say No to the stranger on the phone.

But I bet if they were asked if they'd vote for FDR again, the "yeses" would have been in the 90%-plus range. Sanders is the FDR of the 21st century.


Pearl said...

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
-- George Orwell

Meredith NYC said...

Mr. Liberal, Krugman bravely defends SS from radical Repub attacks! What an easy column for a Nobel winning economist, who never mentions raising the absurdly low SS tax cap. Strange he avoids this. Typical---razz the repubs, but never offer positive proposals.

Krugman might explain Karen’s crucial point---“the difference between "socialism" (Marx, Lenin) and "democratic socialism" (Sanders, Scandinavian countries with a strong social safety net, most aspects of FDR's New Deal.)” Karen, please use this in a comment. Sanders should explain this in every speech of the campaign.

But, shocker---Krugman finally mentions that Big Money plays a role! Has he noticed that our candidates practically apply for the position of Presidential nominee by offering themselves for vetting by the big donors?
That most of the rw parties abroad don’t attack their nation’s basic safety nets goes unmentioned here.

Seems today’s seniors may be the last generation to have guaranteed pensions with their SS.

Krugman might also mention the US marriage of big money, and religion—unique among democracies. This contradicts separation of religion and govt. But so what? God makes them trash SS.

Item: the Gop debate ended with Fox host Kelly asking if any of the candidates had “received a word from God...on what they should do and take care of first.”

“Cruz said he hears from God daily via the Bible. Kasich said he believes in miracles, and God wants America to be strong. Rubio said God blesses the US, and the Republican party. Scott Walker said “it’s only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I’ve been redeemed from my sins.”

But aren’t these candidates sinning----asking for the votes of millions, but planning to cut funds for their basic needs? What would you know who say?

Only in the US would a major party ask for votes by pushing cuts to the main source of support for millions. God is texting them the message to do it?
Gop trash politics-- crazier even than Trump Trash. In fact a NYT op ed, by Peter Wehner, July 8, said Trump criticized Repubs for attacking SS, Medicare, Medicaid. And he likes Single Payer h/c!

Meredith NYC said...

Karen, nice sarcasm to Dowd. She can’t resist DT Celebrity...she and Bruni both made sure we know they dined with Donald. Wonder what the menu was. It’s status...pundits and candidates are mutually dependent.
I’m rather vague on the identity of the other celebs cited by Dowd. It’s wasted on me.

I’m sorry Charles Blow can’t find the occasion to write a supportive Sanders column. Maybe someday.

Re the BLM main interrupter---I read she’s a Sarah Palin fan and a religious extremist. How many of the Gop line up has she aimed her ammunition at? She’s not representative of BLM is my impression.

Re China/Krugman..... excellent line, Karen---“ Whether the state runs the "markets" or the markets run the state is moot. Losses are socialized, profits are privatized.” Are US politicians now only fronts for big business? Rather a source of confusion for the US masses, that Krugman does nothing to clear up. He stays far away from it, so he looks good.

Valerie said...

I look forward to these threads. I miss so many of your comments because I can't be bothered with the NY Times very much any more. It is also good to see what others are writing.

I think you are doing a good job synthesising what is really going on around the Bernie Sanders popularity - which seems to baffle all the pundits and the DNC.

I suspect they threw Bernie Sanders out there to draw in the "extreme" wing of the Democratic Party only to discover that there are a lot more of us than they expected. I must admit, hope springs eternal. Even after the traitorous Obama turned on the constituency that elected him, true Liberals want a leader they can trust and support. You are right, Karen, we long for an FDR. I don't know if Bernie Sanders is it, but he has a good voting record and he is established enough to not be wowed by the promises of wealth and being part of the "cool crowd" as both Clinton and Obama have been. I didn't originally give Bernie a lot of hope, but as his popularity increases, I am getting more hopeful.

In case people don't know, Jimmy Carter - my favourite president - has been diagnosed with cancer. He is 91, so it is probably not promising that he will beat it. It is with great sadness that I read the news. He has been courageous in speaking truth to power and epitomised the conduct of a Nobel Prize winner.

Karen Garcia said...

Re the "religious nut" who hijacked Bernie's Social Security speech.

I had been paying little to no attention to what I consider to be a side issue and distraction, another method of "divide and conquer." It is all of a piece with the swiftboating of both Bernie and the BLM movement. It's in the same vein as the hysteria on the alleged black ops infiltration of the Occupy movement as a technique to weaken it.

Who cares if a disturbed person has latched on to BLM? There are disturbed people,and people with less than pristine motives and bona fides in every social justice movement. I think it's awful that so-called liberals are castigating this obviously troubled woman. I cringed when one of the more "liberal" Times commenters referred to her as a "thug." I mean, ouch.

Let's face it, there is plenty of racism and xenophobia amongst so-called progressives. I can't count how many times I've been castigated for writing sympathetic commentary on the plight of migrants and refugees. "I'm as liberal as all get-out, but these people should just go back where they come from," is the gist of their reactions.

This is one reason Donald Trump is so popular among even some Democrats of my acquaintance. He makes it safe to be a xenophobe. It also explains Obama's continuing popularity: he enables liberals to feel like they're not white supremacists as long as they support the First Black President and defend him against the right wing attack machine. They could not care less that he drones people to death and imprisons Latino women and children in border gulags.