Saturday, September 19, 2015

Life In The O-Zone

Regular readers know that I always refer to President Obama's weekly addresses as his "dog whistles to Wall Street." Never has his purpose been made more abundantly clear than in today's edition. The theme and tone of his spiel to the ostensible public were eerily similar to his congratulatory pep talk to the oligarchs of the Business Roundtable (BRT) earlier in the week.

Let's compare and contrast the two speeches.

 First, there's the sickly-sweet opening salvo of today's address to Regular Joe and Jane, struggling (if they are really lucky) to get by on stagnating wages and precarious employment, as the top .01 percent have sucked up more than 90% of the wealth regained in the seven years since the financial collapse. Obama praises the plebs for having the good grace to be crushed by capitalism and then urges them to pretend that they are co-owners of its cancerous progress:

Hi, everybody.  It’s hard to believe, but it was seven years ago this week that one of Wall Street’s biggest investment banks went bankrupt, triggering a meltdown on Wall Street and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  And in the months that followed, millions of Americans lost their jobs, their homes, and the savings they’d worked so hard to build.
Today’s a different story.  Over the past five and a half years, our businesses have created more than 13 million new jobs.  The unemployment rate is lower than it’s been in over seven years.  Manufacturing is growing.  Housing is bouncing back.  We’ve reduced our deficits by two-thirds.  And 16 million more Americans now know the security of health insurance. 
This is your progress.  It’s because of your hard work and sacrifice that America has come back from crisis faster than almost every other advanced nation on Earth.  We remain the safest, strongest bet in the world.
 Of course, you might not know all that if you only listened to the bluster of political season, when it’s in the interest of some politicians to paint America as dark and depressing as possible.  But I don’t see it that way.  I’ve met too many Americans who prove, day in and day out, that this is a place where anything is possible.  Yes, we have a lot of work to do to rebuild a middle class that’s had the odds stacked against it now for decades.  That’s the thing about America – our work is never finished.  We always strive to be better – to perfect ourselves.
Now, here's how he truckled to the top .01 percent: the billionaires and CEOs of the most powerful multinational lobby in the world (i.e., the Permanent Ruling Class) on Wednesday: 

 Seven years ago today was one of the worst days in the history of our economy.  If you picked up the Wall Street Journal that morning, you read that the shocks from AIG and Lehman were spreading worldwide.  The day before, stocks had suffered their worst loss since 9/11.  In the months after, businesses would go bankrupt, millions of Americans would lose their jobs and their homes, and our economy would reach the brink of collapse.  
That’s where we were when I became chief executive.  Here’s where we are today:  Businesses like yours have created more than 13 million new jobs over the past 66 months -– the longest streak of job growth on record.  The unemployment rate is lower than it’s been in over seven years.  There are more job openings right now than at any time in our history.  Housing has bounced back.  Household wealth is higher than it was before the recession.  We have made enormous strides in both traditional energy sources and clean energy sources while reducing our carbon emissions.  And our education system is actually making significant progress with significant gains in reducing the dropout rate, reading scores increasing, math scores increasing.  And, by the way, more than 16 million people have health insurance that didn’t have it before.
So this progress is a testament to American business and innovation.  It’s a testament to the workers that you employ.  But I’m going to take a little credit, too.  It’s a testament to some good policy decisions.  Soon after we took office, we passed the Recovery Act, rescued our auto industry, worked to rebuild our economy.....(yada yada yada: read the whole mutual masturbatory thing if you haven't eaten recently.)
Very similar words in the two speeches, and yet how very differently nuanced. To regular people, Obama is their president, and "progress" belongs to them. To CEOs, he is their Chief Executive, or if you want to be truthful, their Chief Operating Officer. Progress belongs to them. Both the sacrificial lambs and the high priests of finance are part of the same American family living in the O-Zone. In Obama's centrist world, everybody deserves the credit and nobody bears any blame. Especially Obama, who tellingly refers to himself as the royal "we" in his cozy confab with the Masters of the Universe. As he boasted to the bankers back in 2009, he has been the only thing standing between them and the pitchfork-wielding rabble.

 As far as regular unwitting Joe and Jane should be concerned, once upon a time a bank suddenly went kaput for no apparent reason and without any deliberate criminal malfeasance by anyone. And then the poor shlubs, the collateral damage, lost everything. Just as miraculously, everything is now A-OK in the O-Zone. Everybody bounced back. Obama unbelievably credits the plutocrats for the pretend rescue of Regular Joe and Jane! He doesn't mention that 33 million people still lack basic health insurance, that the poverty rate is getting worse, and that the recovered jobs are not identical in either salary or security to the ones that were lost, never to return.

The subtext of today's lecture to Regular Joe and Jane is this: if you haven't bounced right back with the help of wealthy people and corporations, then you obviously didn't work hard enough and sacrifice enough. The "folks" that Obama claims to meet on his frenetic, polluting, carbon-spewing, criss-crossing, double-crossing political junkets in Air Force One are all successful entrepreneurs who lifted themselves up by their own bootstraps. Therefore, if you're still stuck on the couch, feeling depressed and poor, your mood is the result not of reality, but of Republicans spreading doom and gloom throughout this great wonderful land of ours. So chin up, Amurkey!

The oligarchs of the O-Zone are never inconvenienced, never shamed, never blamed. The seven-year statute of limitations on their high crimes and misdemeanors has run out. And even when it hasn't, as in the case of the General Motors ignition switch deaths, those responsible are not being held responsible. They're getting kissed with the usual paltry fine (refundable via those tax breaks, forced union concessions and pension-gutting) and an admonishment to behave nicely in the future. If Regular Joe or Jane is dead or maimed because of their shoddy workmanship and an ensuing criminal cover-up, then that is too bad. Because as Vice President Joe Biden constantly brays,"Osama is dead, and General Motors is alive!"

 Obama does not once mention the term "wealth inequality" in either of his speeches. As a matter of fact, that term was permanently banned from his lexicon after a brief tryout last year.  He is not about to bite the plutocratic hand that has, does, and will continue to feed him handsomely.

The president still commiserates over the pain that temporarily winced the super-rich when the Market crashed seven years ago this month. Unlike clueless Regular Joe and Jane, the rich were forced to read all about the crash they caused in the Wall Street Journal. Obama proclaims it as one of the worst days in the history of "our" economy. But, now that they have fully recovered, they can pat themselves on the back as they kick everybody else in the backside.

"Household wealth," Obama braggingly gushed to the BRT fat cats this week, "is higher than it was before the recession."

Of course it is... for the households of the BRT and the Forbes 400 billionaires. As a matter of fact, America's richest families have sucked up virtually all the wealth regained in "their" recovery, profiting obscenely in the Obama years at the expense of Joe and Jane:

The top 10 percent now hold more than 84 percent of the nation's household wealth, with the Joes and Janes in the bottom half trying to make do with a shockingly meager 0.8 percent of the share:

The racial wealth gap is at its widest since Reagan-era 1989, then got artificially depressed during the Clinton-Bush era subprime mortgage/deregulation bubble, then started increasing again after the stimulus ran out and bipartisan austerity was enacted with Obama's full urging and cooperation in the wake of the 2010 House GOP rout. Now, white families own on average 13 times as much wealth as black families:

 I don't know what world Obama is living in, but it certainly isn't ours. The manufacture of an alternate reality is not a Republican thing or a Democratic thing. It's a parallel universe inhabited by the rich and the powerful who own the politicians of both establishment parties.

Facts are stubborn things, as are the liars who deny reality. The O-Zone inhabited by the current White House occupant is the immoral equivalent of the Stand Your Ground law, itself the creation of the same multinationals and oligarchs that the neoliberal Obama so cloyingly serves.

Social psychologist Leon Festinger, the father of Cognitive Dissonance Theory, puts it best:
"Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart. Suppose he is then presented with unequivocal and undeniable evidence that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before. Indeed, he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting people."
Obama is such a true believer in the Market as the cure for what ails us, rather than the disease that threatens to kill us, that he rashly told the plutocrats at the BRT that he will complete the corporate coup known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership by the end of the year. His vow of fealty to the plundering multinationals:
There are going to be unprecedented protections for labor standards and environmental standards, but also for IP protection, also for making sure that when any company here makes an investment, that they’re not being disadvantaged but are instead being treated like domestic companies for commercial purposes.

And so the notion here is, is that we’ve got 11 nations who represent the fastest-growing, most populous part of the world buying into a high-standards trade deal that allows us and your companies on a consistent basis to compete.
This was a not-so-veiled reference to Investor State Dispute Tribunals, in which a corporation replaces a sovereign judicial system to rule, mainly in secret, for the rights of corporations over the rights of citizens. Big Tobacco, for example, would have the right to run roughshod over laws which prevent sales of cigarettes to children in countries like Malaysia. The poor would have to fork over any alleged profit losses to the billionaires being thwarted in their desire to kill poor children with their poisons.

The word "investment" as used by Obama and the rest of the elite political class is simply a euphemism for wealth extraction and plunder. Investment is a means  for the rich to get richer off the labor and assets of the poor and working classes. It is not only criminal. It is a form of insanity.

And as all too scarily evidenced by the other night's marathon performance by the GOP candidates vying to replace Obama in the White House, psychopathy has not only gone mainstream, it is viewed as a necessary tool for the survival of the richest and all those who serve them.


Meredith NYC said...

Karen.....Did you see the Times editorial ‘how segregation destroys black wealth’ sept 16, with comments?

At today’s Dem convention in N. Hampshire, I must say, Clinton gave a great speech. Her writers put together great points, with variety and punch. And she delivers them superbly.
Sanders gave a good speech, but it was his unvaried, constant same points---great as they are, he uses the same phrases in every speech. This is not good.

I haven’t read your whole Obama post yet, but I wanted to post this re Sanders coverage last night, after my computer was on the fritz.

Sean Wilentz just wrote an op ed “Constitutionally, Slavery Is No National Institution”, and uses as his jumping off point-- guess who---Bernie Sanders! Sanders phrases motivate a whole American history revision in some people. (Don’t let this guy get too far with voters.)

Wilentz feels compelled to contradict Sanders who said the country was founded on racism. Wilentz starts off: “And now the myth threatens to poison the current presidential campaign. The United States, Bernie Sanders has charged, “in many ways was created, and I’m sorry to have to say this, from way back, on racist principles, that’s a fact.”

Thank you NYT for getting a well known constitutional lawyer to clear up the myth of our Constitution and slavery, and correct any erroneous ideas uttered by that notorious radical leftist, Sanders. Much obliged for adding to our Campaign Craziness!

The informed comments to this op ed are worth reading... many seem to be up on their history, and their common sense. They are arguing about whether the 3/5 clause strengthened or weakened the South’s power, with Wilentz.

Then, I had to email N. Confessore, NYT re his Bernie piece:
“Bernie Sanders Bashes Billionaires at a Manhattan Fundraiser” Sept 18.
He says it was a ‘sweaty’ gathering, so seems that Sanders is a sweaty basher of billionaires?
I said him:

Even after all the criticism to the public editor, and her replies about poor coverage of Bernie Sanders, I still see automatic negative phrases in your article. Is it habitual?

The phrase ‘bashing billionaires’ is a negative that doesn’t quite tell the story. Sanders is trying to free up our electoral process from political dominance by the wealthiest, unique among world democracies who mostly use public funding. It’s the US public that’s been getting bashed.

A ‘sweaty’ gathering---yuck! How unpleasant! But why bother mention it? Was it so hot? Do fundraisers for HC or the GOP have better airconditioning? Or are less packed? Surely not. Trump’s crowds don’t sweat? Populists sweat?

Could you use all your expertise with election financing to do some comparisons to other countries’ election funding, with their short campaigns, free media time, and finite public funds budgeted for elections? Instead of the world’s most expensive and longest campaigns, with funding infinitely reaching into billions. EU, Canada, Japan, Australia---I think they all have more public funding than we do. These exotic, foreign election customs shouldn’t be kept dark to Americans any longer.

I’m curious, if a Times writer doesn’t include some kind of put down in a Sanders piece, do they get razzed by their colleagues or editors? What else could account for the uniform negative tone? Did you see any of the hundreds of comments to the public editor?

Meredith NYC said...

Correction....Wilentz isn't a constitutional lawyer, he's a Princeton history professor. And is described as a long term family friend of Bill/Hillary Clinton, and a big supporter of Bill during the Gop attacks on him.

Pearl said...

"At today’s Dem convention in N. Hampshire, I must say, Clinton gave a great speech. Her writers put together great points, with variety and punch. And she delivers them superbly.
Sanders gave a good speech, but it was his unvaried, constant same points---great as they are, he uses the same phrases in every speech. This is not good."

Meredith: When I saw this statement in the comments column I realized I had completely forgotten about any speeches in New Hampshire - blame it on seeing nothing in the news reports except what Donald was up to with the Republican circus. I found your comment strange, seemingly being a bit critical about Bernie repeating himself and Hillary (?) giving a great speech. I found a full video of Bernie's speech first, and then not until I put 'transcript of Hillary's speech' on search could I get an equal full video of hers.

First of all, what troubled me was not Bernie's speech but the comparatively small audience cheering him on which lacked the excitement of the larger crowds listening to him. How come? Yes, he covered the waterfront again but what is wrong repeating honestly what the problems are since many seeing or watching his speech on TV or a video on computer, might be hearing it all for the first time and others, needed to be reminded of the vast agenda he had planned and why.

Then you mentioned a great speech for Hillary who had a full audience similar to Bernie's usual crowds and she became Bernie in drag repeating all his reasons for running but without the purposes necessary (a political revolution etc.). There were almost tears for all the suffering people whom the Republicans created and SHE was going to turn the nation into a new direction (?????) with all your help, of course, dear people.

Karen's column today about Obama's hypocrisy could inspire another one about Hillary's grand slam speech with two versions. I think she must have stolen Obama's speech writer. And that great woman in charge personna was an acting job that should win a Hollywood award. Unfortunately many are buying it.

So although I do not agree with your interpretation of what you saw, Meredith, I am grateful for your getting me to look up the speeches which I might have forgotten about.
She also almost imitated word for word how important Bernie had stated the need for people to organize and support him (and now her) in order to get into office.

At least they had a video of Bernie equal to the shorter one for Hillary.
Our work is cut out for us. I think Bill has been busy giving acting and smoothly lying charm lessons to Hillary which he is a master at. I had been wondering where he has been.

Meredith NYC said...

Pearl....yes I agree she is a great actress. I previously felt she came across as calculating and manipulative. Then, recall, her campaign put out that she now was going to show more warmth and humor. I said, that itself sounds so manipulative, and was turned off.
Naturally I wanted to see Bernie tonight, not her. But, catching some of her speech, I was surprised, and watched the whole thing on the repeat on cspan, and must admit it came across as one of the best speeches i've ever heard by a politician. Have to admit it. I think she'll likely be president, and we can only hope she will follow through for us.

Bernie's ideas are the ones I fully support. But now I'm starting to see the viewpoint of those who don't appreciate his ideas---they think he's constantly gruff, stern and unappealing. There's never any variation in demeanor or phrases. That's ok, I'd still rather have him as pres than Clinton. But, whoever her speech writer is, she delivered the lines out of the ballpark. At least that was my surprised, subjective reaction. We don't know what she will actually do, whereas with Bernie we do know.

She told how her grandfather was a factory worker, and her mother a rejected 14 year old working as a domestic. I suppose this is true, never heard it before. So she had a middle class life with her parents, showing progress through generations. She worked for a social service organization after law school. Of course she ended up on the board of Walmart. How ironic. What does she say about that now? Don't know.

Pearl said...

Meredith: You are a test guinea pig for the masses and from a NYC woman yet. There is one description of Bernie I will not accept: unappealing, and as a NY girl born and bred in the Bronx, I am usually suspicious of NY men and their promises, but not Bernie.

But I will say this and have before: If Hillary becomes president instead of Bernie. you can kiss this planet and its inhabitants goodbye sooner than expected. I wonder of Joe will still run after this speech of Hillary's. If she's smart, in order to keep him away from running for office, she will promise him the vice presidency for his support.

Now I am fastening my seat belt.

By the way, I was glad to see the reaction to Debby (what's her name) refusal to add more debates despite many protests.

Pearl said...

'Bernie's ideas are the ones I fully support. But now I'm starting to see the viewpoint of those who don't appreciate his ideas---they think he's constantly gruff, stern and unappealing. There's never any variation in demeanor or phrases. That's ok, I'd still rather have him as pres than Clinton.'

Meredith: If you want Bernie to become president rather than Hillary or anyone else then stop mentioning that you are starting to see the viewpoint of others who see him as gruff, stern and unappealing which has nothing to do with what comes from his brain and heart and that others may becoming bored by how he delivers his message. It is a sabotaging reaction that can well harm his future.

Stefan Z said...

Hillary was remarkably different in New Hampshire. I was astonished at how well-written her speech was, and how well she delivered it.

I have to take issue with the idea that supporters of Bernie Sanders should never observe or mention flaws in his presentation.

In fact, it is crucial to see Sanders as others may perceive him. It did feel as if Hillary were speaking to the audience, and Bernie was giving his usual speech. Are we supposed to stifle our thoughts and observations here?

It is not as if we are in a meeting of volunteers where it is important to keep the enthusiasm up.

We owe it to each other (and to ourselves!) to express our views openly and freely. Without self-censorship.

The last thing we should be doing is scolding or remonstrating contributors for expressing their observations.

annenigma said...

@Stefan Z

I couldn't agree more. Well said.

Thanks for your input.

Pearl said...

I hope that we can all express our concerns to each other without being criticized, especially when there is so much at stake. Even if we disagree and some comments are reactions to comments that are hurtful to someone we support for the presidency. I too want to be honest about my feelings and from others as well and do want to know how we differ and why.
I hope others will criticize me and vice versa. This is not an attack on the other commenter, but an open and honest discussion on a vital issue where our observations differ. It is called communication which should be encouraged and not stifled.
As an example, there have been varying reactions to Hillary's changing persona which we have to try and understand the reasons for in order to know how to explain it to ourselves and others. Also to recognize that Bernie may not be as perfect as we would like but has given his all in a highly stressful and exhausting mission which is in its early stages with possibilities for change. It is going to be a stressful year which requires careful observation and may end disastrously. Let us learn from each other how to assess the facts which will keep us on even keel without ill will. I trust Karen to guide us about where the truth lies as well as possible and that may involve painful thinking about the realities.
The right wing opposition would like nothing better than to divide and conquer all of us who question their motives and weaken our purposes in this important election.

None of us should be made to feel guilty about what we feel in our gut.

Carol S. said...

Karen, thank you for another post that I always look forward to reading. These comments clearly show the need for many, real presidential debates that will reach all of the public. I've never seen Bernie Sanders fail to put people and their wrong ideas in their places. He's quick on his feet and I'm convinced he will do just that during those forums in which Hillary will have no chance to rely on speech writers. He will show Hillary is even more willing to exploit innocent people and the environment over TPP policies, is much more a warmonger than Obama and more eager to support Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex. Reasonable people will see all of this, even if there are not enough of them to elect him President.

Karen Garcia said...

I am with Stefan, above. Thank you Stefan! There is a term being bandied about for Bernie supporters who will brook not even the slightest constructive criticism of him: "Sandernistas". They are related to the Obamabots of yore: you know, the people who would accuse you of being a Republican or a racist if you were not 100% satisfied with Saint Barack.

Even if Bernie did read blog comments here, I highly doubt that his feelings or his chances would be hurt if somebody points out a negative. To essentially suggest that another commenter "stifle it" lest it give ammo to "the haters" shows an authoritarian mindset as well as being very hurtful. Take it from someone who gets it all the time on the NY Times reader comment boards. It stings. I notice that I am already being chided if I fail to mention Bernie in one of my left-leaning comments. And yes, even tho I sometimes add that I, too, "feel the Bern"

There is a huge, huge difference between criticizing powerful politicians, and scolding or belittling your peers. I will not tolerate it. And yes, personally calling somebody "a test guinea pig" is an ad hominem attack.

I don't mind if people occasionally, and I do mean occasionally, root for a candidate in the comments, if it is related to the topic I have written about. But anybody who expects slavish devotion on this blog to one particular candidate should probably just leave and go volunteer for his or her campaign.

Karen Garcia said...


Yes, I read the piece in the times about black wealth. Redlining effects all classes, even the "Black Bourgeoisie." Missed the Wilentz piece, also missed the New Hampshire Democratic cattle call. I have been MIA from the Newz for about the past 30 hours or so.

One funny thing, though. Yesterday afternoon I was doing crafts while half-watching an MSNBC marathon about serial killers. The network broke into the tail end of a two-hour special about the "BTK killer", a sociopathic narcissist if there ever was one, to air another racist speech by that other sociopathic narcissist, Donald Trump. I kept imagining Dennis Rader, who is said to thrive on any and all negative attention to himself, watching the biopic in his prison cell and collapsing with rage when Trump trumped him.

Carol S.,

I am glad you liked my piece. The TPP has taken a back seat lately thanks to Horserace. Re the debates, I think that the DNC is deferring to both Hillary and Joe Biden, who has not yet formally announced but is still effectively campaigning. He is really gung-ho on this horrific deal.

Meredith NYC said...

Re my 1st post above: Has anyone read the op ed by Sean Wilentz “Constitutionally, Slavery Is No National Institution”? (the Times gave him op ed space to contradict Sanders' point re our history).

And, looking up Wilentz, wiki says he's a long time family friend of both Clintons and was a big defender of Bill during the Gop attacks on him. I expect some interesting letters to the editor on this op ed, and the comments are quite educational.

Meredith NYC said...

Stefan Z.... eloquent post that sums it up.

Karen...good for you taking a 30 hour vacation from the newz-- we all need it-- now you're refreshed, with sharpened wits and the tolerance for more of the stuff the media throws at us. This is good mental health therapy.

I never watch Meet the Press, but was curious re the segment on Hillary and the Dem party convention. They mentioned the crowd chanting at Debbie WS for 'more debates', cutting off her speech. Chuck Todd really IS idiotic. David Marannis, author of I forget what book about either Clintons or Obama, simply said Hillary is a phony, that's it.
Then Maria Shriver defended her, saying the woman's vote will determine the election. So 2 extremes for contrast, but no explanations of positions on issues and what they mean. What a bore.

Karen Garcia said...


I just went and read Wilentz's piece. I don't happen to agree with him, but more to your point, he used his supposed expertise as an historian to score an arcane point against Bernie Sanders. To what purpose? Then aha, it turns out that Ye Olde History Lesson is politically motivated!

Typical Clinton subterfuge. For a really scathing history of Bill and Hill, do read "Nobody Left to Lie To" by a former lefty, the late Christopher Hitchens. He explains their triangulation techniques better than anybody I have yet read. The Clintons invite attacks on their ethics from across the political spectrum, and then they turn around and complain about the vast right wing conspiracy. It effectively mutes all legitimate criticism of them from the left and the reality-based community in general. Obama himself has learned this lesson very well from the Clintons.

In his intro to the book, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley writes that Hitchens takes down the Clintons not with the usual partisanship, but with "a wheelbarrow full of indisputable facts."

"What goaded him (Hitchens) the most was that Clinton, the so-called New Democrat, with the help of his Machiavellian-Svengali consultant Dick Morris, decided the way to hold political power was by making promises to the Left while delivering to the Right."

"He refused to be a Beltway liberal muted by the 'moral and political blackmail' of Bill and Hillary Clinton's 'eight years of reptilian rule'".

The last chapter is devoted to Hillary's Senate campaign. Hitchens writes, "Mrs.Clinton has the most unappetizing combination of qualities to be met in many days' march: she is a tyrant and a bully when she can dare to be, and an ingratiating populist when that will serve. She will sometimes appear in the guise of a 'strong woman' and sometimes in the softer garb of a winsome and vulnerable female."

Fast forward to now. No human being suddenly changes their inner core and their values in their late 60s. Not even Hillary.

Stefan Z said...

Thanks Karen and annenigma,

It's funny there is such a deep tradition of vitriol in left wing politics....hard not to fall into it.

So much outrage and injustice in the world, it is hard not to turn it on one another...!

Don't worry about Sean, he is an apologist through and through.

Someone who is really interesting is Gerald Horne.
Professor of History at U. of Houston.

His book, "The Counter revolution of 1776" is an eye-opener.

His central thesis—the entire founding of the US was based on preserving slavery, largely brought on by the Somerset case. A landmark case (1772) where an American slave who was accompanying his criminal "owner" sued for his freedom in English court. Since slavery was outlawed in England. He won....and the planter class in North America was overwhelmed with panic. They had to separate from England, as quickly as possible

Horne is super leftist... very productive....a good guy!

This site is a treasure!!! thanks Karen for your brilliant writing and your energy!!

Pearl said...

'But anybody who expects slavish devotion on this blog to one particular candidate should probably just leave and go volunteer for his or her campaign.'

Karen, the problem with this statement is; What is defined as slavish devotion when merely stating that a criticism of that particular candidate is not accurate with facts and is difficult to define. We all get aggravated by sneaky information about a candidate by the news reporters, which is mainly subjective and yet we react strongly. How is this different from a similar comment made by one of us which information seems to be off the mark or vastly different from another's reaction?
It is very hard to follow rules when the topics we are covering are so convoluted and the political language used can be interpreted in different ways.
We should not be overly sensitive (all of us) when we are criticized by something we have said which has hit someone the wrong way. We feel free to make fun of our opposition representatives, so we should have equal leeway in saying things pro and con about those closer to our agenda with discussion following if appropriate. Yes, what is appropriate?

Karen Garcia said...


Not to belabor the point, but to paraphrase Molly Ivins, satire is punching up, not punching down. In other words, we should absolutely feel free to make fun of the rich and powerful. We should absolutely feel free to call out the corporate media on their lies and propaganda. That is the whole purpose of this blog.

I don't think that this translates into being entitled to make fun of one another and level personal attacks in a comments section, which is a public digital space. Instead of telling somebody that they should be quiet, or calling them names, just explain why you disagree with them and back yourself up with all the facts at your disposal. It's as simple as that. It has nothing to do with over-sensitivity. It's just basic common courtesy.

Metro Journalist said...

Karen, Thank you for remembering the late and truly great Molly Ivins. Also, a belated congratulations for being featured in The New York Times in an article about people who comment on their columnists's pages. Now, what can we do to get the Times to fire David Brooks?

Pearl said...

Karen: thank you for your thoughtful response. Unfortunately, during times of real crisis, basic common courtesy has to take a back seat to a political revolution which requires some aggressiveness to succeed when all else has failed.
But that also is not so simple.

Pearl said...

May I politely ask how to find the article in the nyTIMES featuring Karen as a commenter in the paper or can you list it on our site Karen?

Meredith NYC said...

Metro Journalist....
where's the article on commenters? thanks.

Thanks for the Gerald Horne story—he sounds familiar, was he on cspan American history TV recently? Imagine that all those generations before the similar suit by Dred Scott in 1850s, where the S. Court said that 'Negroes were inferior non citizens with no rights whites need recognize', a US slave won his complete freedom in England.
I wonder did the Scott decision affect free blacks who lived in the North?

Arcane point is right, by Wilentz....a waste of op ed real estate. I complained to Rosenthal. Sean accused Bernie of ‘poisoning the current presidential campaign.’ But it‘s Sean who is poisoning it, and the Times gave him the space. Sophistry was one label used by some commenters. I hope his friend Hillary appreciates him looking ridiculous for her benefit.

I didn’t know Hitchens wrote that book...will look at it.

True, the Clintons have behaved so as to invite all the attacks they complain of. Then their defenders get fiercely loyal. But it’s also true that there really IS vast right wing conspiracy. Both are true. Just as Obama gets away with things, because the Gop relentlessly stonewall and attack him. ‘Promise the left, deliver to the right.’

Of course, Hitches writes vividly...H/C as tyrant and bully is over the top. With a woman candidate one can always talk about the polarized traits---soft vs tough. In fact the 1st woman US president will likely try to prove how tough she is, to forestall the usual put downs. Hitchens was great, but, I’d always check anything he says. He was pro Bush’s Iraq invasion, if I recall.

Karen Garcia said...

I think Metro Journalist might be referring to this article, fondly known as "The Thundering Herd," by the former public editor. It was published five years ago:

Those were the olden days when you had to comment really fast on a Times op-ed in order to beat the moderating rush. They would only take the first dozen or so, then delay publishing later comments by as much as 8-12 hours. The character limit was more than three times what it is now, and many of the popular "regulars" like Marie Burns and Phil from Japan wrote nearly full-length columns of their own, usually far surpassing the quality of the paid writers.

Now, of course, the Times has "modernized" and truncated its format in order to get more clicks and advertising bucks from the unpaid labor of the commentariat. They knew a good thing when they saw it. The quality of the postmodern comments is often poor, it's getting increasingly nasty and brutish, and comments are forced to be much, much shorter and "efficient." Just like the Neo-Hobbesian Economy.

Karen Garcia said...


Hitchens wrote his screed on the Clintons before he became a neocon. I think 9/11 pushed him over the edge, unfortunately.

You have to read his whole book to appreciate it. I don't think Hitchens is sexist as regards Hillary at all. He was most empathetic in his book with the victims of Bill's criminal sexual predation, for example. Bill's crimes against women are fact, not a right wing conspiracy. It is unfortunate that so-called feminists like Gloria Steinem rushed to his defense when he was exposed.

That is why I am very leery of partisan-centered reporting and writing. We should look to a variety of sources for information before making a judgment based solely on whether the writer is a liberal or conservative.

Meredith NYC said...'re right, I didn't mean Hitchens is himself sexist. With woman candidates it's easy for all of us to start using gender polarizing terms. What is a norm for a man might appear 'tough' or harsh for a woman. We have no experience with women presidents--unlike many other countries.

Fiorina is tough and harsh, tho. A female Mitt Romney who destroys jobs and livelihoods with firings and offshoring, then walks away with millions, then insults the country by asking us to voter her in as leader.

And of course Bill's predation is real. He was arrogant enough to do it in the White House. A lot of people defended him who should have known better, but were confused.

re Charles Blow's column on Fiorina today, I found a media matters piece re a Times headline I had found perplexing.

I commented----Here’s a headline from Media Matters regarding a Times article it says is misleading: “NY Times Ignores Carly Fiorina's Anti-Woman Positions To Claim She Could End The GOP's "War On Women" Problem”. August 13.

“The Times claimed that Carly Fiorina has emerged as the Republican Party's "weapon against [the] 'War on Women' charge," ignoring how her policy positions are actually harmful to women.

Fiorina opposes a paid family leave mandate.
Would shut down the government to defund planned parenthood.
Opposed policies to address gender pay gap.
Opposed the affordable care act, which "greatly improves women's access" to health care.

Seems that a Gop woman can be a general leading the war on women, instead of ending it. Carly just gained a bit of sympathy from some, only b/c Trump personally insulted her. A nice little distraction that the media pounced on in this absurd Gop campaign.

annenigma said...

I think what makes Donald Trump so popular is that due to his vast wealth he can be boldly politically incorrect. He ends up expressing thoughts that others wouldn't dare say out loud and that's very refreshing sometimes.

Trump was just being brutally honest when he was quoted as asking how anyone could vote for that (Fiorina's) face. Who could watch that debate and not agree? Actually, it's not her face itself but how she uses it - her pinched, severe, nasty, and wicked facial expressions. They could sell masks of her at Halloween and make a killing!

I got my biggest politically incorrect laugh of the debate when Trump tried to smooth it out by telling her she had a beautiful face and is a beautiful person. I'm still laughing! (shame on me)

Pearl said...

I was wondering about making a distinction between the politicians, columnists and members representing a right wing ideology whom we can criticize, make fun of, satirize on a public forum, but not to do so with our colleagues and use respect, facts and common courtesy regarding each other's pronouncements of differences or agreement.

Yes I can accept that. However, I find that although there is plenty of exposure of the shortcomings of our Republican contenders and supporters for example, the amount of coverage is a great deal greater than for our left of center constituents. It is like ignoring a Bernie Sanders in comparison, as is happening in the prime news reports and not informing us in detail about what is going on and where to find useful information.

This concern precedes our current controversy by the way. I am afraid to send in any reports of interest pro or con as to Bernie's or other left winged activities lest I be labelled being slavishly devoted to Bernie and the unrepentant left. I sent Karen an e-mail I sent to Bernie's website, praising his outstanding plans for the future, but also clearly outlining areas of concern to many of us which he might want to know about.

I would like to see more serious reporting on where our progressive citizens are and what they are doing and believing about the people who are running for office besides the mainstream icons, and what might be on the horizon in the bigger picture.

So if we are to delineate to whom and how we communicate our beliefs as well as whom to make fun of or not, and tell or not about the personal and professional failures of, let us at least give even time to both sides which is not only common courtesy but being of equal importance and which can be passed on. It is harder to find information about the details of many left of center representatives who are challenging the system but it exists. It just takes more time and effort to find.

Meredith NYC said...

Worth watching Bernie Sanders excellent speech tonight in New Hampshire on cspan. The usual points, but in such direct, clear language, that they hit home and his honesty comes through. His voice and delivery was more varied maybe , yet with great conviction.
He was very good in the Q&A with the audience, spontaneously dealing with their questions. To see such a reality oriented politician is almost a shock at this point.

Also it was an inspiration to see a big crowd of average Americans so different from the crowds at the gop candidate speeches. Some decent people still exist.


You said it re Fiorina's 'pinched, severe, nasty, and wicked facial expressions. They could sell masks of her at Halloween and make a killing!' And her policies match her face. But how about Trump's face as a companion mask to Fiorina? The Donald/Carly Halloween duo!

Meredith NYC said...

Karen...thanks for sum up of oligarchs of the O-Zone. Should be on Times op ed page. Investment as extraction--as our billionaires 'invest' in our elections. Psychopathy is normalized---the crazies don't know they're crazy--and that's why we witness this bizarre string of Gop debates.

Andy Borowitz says that the Kochs now want Walker to pay back their $900 million investment in him, now that he's out. Poor business judgment?
Borowitz writes: "....the Kochs reportedly demanded that Walker return their money “no later than midnight Friday.”

“B-but where am I going to come up with that kind of dough?” Walker asked.
“We don’t care how you get it, Scott,” the Kochs reportedly said. “Just get it.”

Borowitz on Ben Carson:
“Brain surgeons, long burdened with the onerous reputation of being among the smartest people in the world, are relieved that Dr. Ben Carson is shattering that stereotype once and for all.

In interviews doctors revealed the enormous pressure they felt to live up to their profession’s inflated renown for intelligence before Carson entered the race.

When Carson said Muslims should not be President---a surgeon said “Now you can cross politics off the list of things that people will expect me to be knowledgeable about,” he said. “I think I speak for a lot of brain surgeons when I say, ‘Thank you, Ben Carson.’ ”

Kat said...

Really VW? You might want to consider closing this account down

Kat said...

I suggested this instead

Jay–Ottawa said...

Karen, I was away for days and have only now read your post. I join others in congratulating you for punching through the clouds of Obamaspin with another great post to remind us what has really taken place over the past seven years.

Karen Garcia said...


Love Fraudvergnugen!




The only points that I have been trying to make:

1. Politicians and the famous ("once in the public eye, always in the public eye") are fair game for whatever you want to thrown at them, either pro or con. I am perfectly O.K. with commenting about Carly Fiorina's face, for example, or Marco Rubio's Hitlerish demeanor. Political correctness is not only not my thing, I think it is dangerous to the public discourse.

2. BUT....Not-famous people (e.g., the commenters on this blog) are not fair game for whatever we might like to throw at them. We can disagree with their viewpoints, but we should not presume to guess their motivations, or to read the inner workings of their minds, or to make remarks about their geographical location and its supposed implications, etc., etc. I think that this blog has been pretty good about keeping it civil. I have only had to ask a couple of people to leave in the past several years on grounds of unmitigated flame-throwing, personal insults, etc. And that has been after ignoring several private warnings from me about their online behavior.

Giving equal time to "both" or all sides is not the purpose of this blog. Go to the Times or other corporate outlets for that. But always feel free to submit links, etc. here if they roughly relate to the topic at hand, which is usually broad enough to offer plenty of leeway for a variety of comments.

For example, if you wanted to write a comment comparing the Pope to Bernie Sanders in response to my latest post, that would be fine with me. So would comparing Carly Fiorina's face to a Volkswagen. She is a public figure, and fair game. That is basic Journalism 101.

Pearl said...

It is very hard to circumnavigate on the contentious issues. For example, is Pope Francis fair game for criticism (O.K.) but for ridicule or slander (?) if so interpreted by a Catholic member of Sardonicky? I remember we got into a bit of a confrontation some time back about our interpretations and descriptions of atheism, religions, etc. which touched on people's sensibilities in our group and where our differences could have been seen as personal attacks.

Although I do not particularly admire the Pope I would not make fun of him since he is a sincere caring man but if he was a buffoon would we be allowed to say it since others would be up in arms as a result?

I worry that the truth is not used against people in high office or important positions lest we lose a job about it or have the community shun us. But it is not always so easy to spell out our positions on Sardonicky by trying to avoid saying things that someone might take as a personal insult, especially if humor is intended.

I was happy to read Meredith's comment about a wonderful speech Bernie gave in New Hampshire the other day and which I cannot locate anywhere.

Karen Garcia said...

"But it is not always so easy to spell out our positions on Sardonicky by trying to avoid saying things that someone might take as a personal insult, especially if humor is intended."

Sorry that you suddenly finding commenting here so hard, Pearl. But sweeping generalizations and "humor," especially about religious affiliations or ethnicities or personal belief systems are a recipe for somebody out there taking offense, whether justifiably so or not.

I am not suggesting that anybody self-censor, only that you think before you press Submit. If I deem a comment to be a personal attack, inflammatory, an Alex Jones-type conspiracy theory with no basis in fact, way off-topic, racist or otherwise grossly inappropriate, my policy has always been to simply remove it without responding and without any further ado. This has mostly gotten rid of the flamethrowers and trolls who plagued this site in its infancy. I do the same thing when commenters occasionally "get into it" in a circular fashion... much as we are doing right now.

While many blogs have cut off comments altogether, things have worked so well here that I was able to stop pre-screening the comments entirely a couple of years ago.

Incidentally, Paul Krugman for once in his neoliberal economics-centric career has a good blog-post up about religion being pretty much whatever you want to make of it. To each his own, etc.