Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Commentariat Central

The poobahs of the New York Times opinion section were up to their usual reality-altering tricks this past weekend.

First, there was Maureen Dowd's pre-mortem elegy to George H.W."Poppy" Bush, which had the desired effect of plugging the new hagiography by Jon Meacham. The book has gleaned headlines because Poppy finally chastized W over Iraq at the same time he called Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld a couple of "iron asses."  Dowd painted a picture of a principled elder statesman tortured in his dotage by the legacy of his idiot son. Riffing on Dylan Thomas, she mawkishly urged Poppy to "not to go gentle, man, into that good night."

Meanwhile, pouncing on a recent study on mortality rates, good Christian bitch Ross Douthat raged, raged against "The  Dying of the Whites" and blamed the usual cultural breakdown and lack of religious faith for the epidemic of suicides and drug abuse among poorer white people. If only whites could learn to be as accepting of their reduced circumstances as blacks and Latinos are to their chronic marginalization, he said, maybe then they'd give life a chance.

And not to be outdone, Paul Krugman yawned, yawned against the dying of the whites as he boringly blamed, blamed the Republicans rather than globalization and political corruption and the oligarchy for the epidemic of suicides among struggling middle-aged white people. He said there might be something to Douthat's cultural breakdown theory after all, while proclaiming that the jury is still out as to whether income inequality and the greed of the plutocracy has anything to do with poor people dropping like flies for no strikingly apparent reason that he can fathom. So it must be the fault of those nasty replicons. And Krugman, acknowledging that Obamacare and a slight raise in the minimum wage might "not be enough to cure existential despair," does not offer any solutions of his own, or God forbid, give a shout-out to Bernie Sanders' social welfare agenda.

I responded to each of these lovely people. First, to Dowd:

I think I'll give Meacham's bio a pass. That the publisher's blurb brags that he was granted unique access to all Poppy's and Bar's diaries as well as to their august doddering selves should be your first clue to run for the hills. Your second clue is that Poppy is openly shilling for what smells like a shameless hagiography*.

The fact is that a corrupt scion like W can only grow out of a corrupt family tree. An oil-rich Skull and Bones river oozes right through the thought-free realm that shelters this whole misbegotten dynasty.

Unmentioned in the cheap Freudian analyses about obscenely rich fathers and sons is the fact that Poppy himself never could have clawed his way to the top without the help of the Ford administration's Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. Although Poppy followed the grand Bush family tradition of being woefully underqualified, they orchestrated his appointment to head the CIA as a cynical means of pushing back against the Church Committee. Once there, Poppy accomplished such feats as destroying all the records of the CIA's hideous mind control experiments. He helped the Neocon cabal give birth to their whole criminal enterprise 40 years ago. They enriched the military-industrial complex by falsely hyping Soviet threats, just as they would later falsely hype the Iraq threat.

They always were asses, iron or otherwise.

Intelligence failure is built right into the Bush DNA.

They deserve neither biographies nor therapy. They deserve indictments.


Now, my retort to Ross Douthat: 

It's the class war, stupid.

Ross blithely supposes that since black death rates haven't been increasing as sharply as those for poor whites, the suicide epidemic must be a cultural, religious thing as well as an economic thing. The fact is that black mortality still surpasses white mortality. It's just that in this age of record wealth inequality, whites are finally gaining parity in the race to the misery mountaintop. Or, to be more accurate, the plummet to the depths of a hell created just for us by a de facto pathocracy.

Douthat's suggestion that blacks and Latinos have developed some sort of "resiliency" to oppression that should be emulated by whites smacks of both classism and racism. In other words, his prescription is to just get used to the new feudal order, and pray a lot. Indulge in the opiate of the masses instead of Oxycontin, and all will be well in your pathetic little worlds.

Here's my prescription: instead of voting against their own economic interests and keeping the Republican Simon Legrees in power, desperate white people should join in solidarity with their brown and black brothers and sisters and fight back against the oppression and inequality.

Thanks to the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders. the idea of democratic socialism is starting to sound mighty appealing to the dispossessed of all races, colors and creeds.

Let's follow his advice and automatically register all people to vote on their 18th birthdays. Let the revolution begin.


Finally, my comment on Krugman's "Despair, American Style":

Capitalism on crack, deregulation, globalization, the corruption of the money-hungry political class: These are the poisons causing our existential despair. Call it post-modern eugenics.

Corporate coups like NAFTA, and the looming TPP and TTIP, shutter the factories that traditionally employ lower-educated white people, driving their jobs offshore and depressing their wages. People who are "shockingly" killing and over-medicating themselves know that they will never get another job. "This ('free trade') is not a bloodless process," then-Sen. Barack Obama correctly told a group of financiers at the Hamilton Project back in 2006.**

Meanwhile, we're informed that if we haven't succeeded, we haven't tried. We have a "skills gap." Fascist right-wingers urge us to hate thy neighbor as thyself, while centrists tell us to look at the wonderful new job stats as we sign up for predatory health insurance and they "fight" for a slight increase in the minimum wage by, say, 2020 or thereabouts. Leftist pols who want to expand -- not just "protect" -- Social Security get little to no coverage in the complicit, corporate press.

It was only recently that the government began cracking down on the notorious "pill mills" of Florida, and restricting the manufacture of limitless numbers of opiates. (Read "American Pain" by investigative journalist John Temple, and the Case-Deaton report won't seem shocking at all.)

Chronic despair should be declared a public health emergency.


The New York Times pundits should take heart, though. As the dynastic George W. Bush himself once admitted, "I don't understand how poor people think." 

* Investigative journalist Russ Baker, author of "Family of Secrets," posits that the new bio is a huge cover-up. That most people will neither buy it nor read it matters not. The reviews are in, and they're glowing. Baker offers exhaustive evidence in his own book that, far from being the mild-mannered virtuous statesman of legend, Bush the Elder has been up to his eyeballs in intrigue and corruption and dirty political tricks his entire life. It was Poppy, for example, who gave Karl Rove his first big break. Baker even suggests a Bush-as-CIA spook connection, through various degrees of separation, with the Kennedy assassination. Yikes. Needless to say, his book was almost universally trashed by the establishment media when it was published, via that tried and true technique called "gaslighting the author." (See: Seymour Hersh.)

** Note Obama's opening remarks in the video above, as he smarmily congratulates Robert Rubin ("Bob") and the other architects of the soon-to-be worst financial meltdown in history for leading the country on "the path to prosperity." Note how he refers to the victims of globalization as "losers."

Obama readily acknowledges to the plutocrats vetting him that "trade" deals like the TPP are harmful to regular people. He admits that the "work being done here" has horrific consequences, and says nothing to discourage it. This performance was effectively his audition to head the Democratic ticket. He obviously passed with flying colors.

COGs (Continuity of Government) in the Machine


Brand on the Rocks said...

Dylan Thomas

Karen Garcia said...

Brand: Thanks for the catch. "The Road Not Taken" comes to mind whenever I think of Bush's Reign of Error. I've since added a link to the Thomas poem.

Pearl said...

This got in too late for many comments. I wish he would post it earlier the night before.

pvolkov Burlington, Ontario 1 day ago

Professor Krugman, I am glad to see you genuinely concerned about the despair evident in the nation. However, you offer no real insight involving the reasons which are apparent to so many citizens and commenters to your article.
This is the reason that people are drawn to Bernie Sanders and regardless of differences, they all acknowledge he speaks the truth and that vital changes in the form of a political revolution are necessary in order to move the nation in another direction in order to survive.
Fear creates despair and it is not only worry about earning a living, it is the violence all around us that allows no safety in going through one's daily life.
The refusal of those who represent us in Congress to see or hear the realities create a hopelessness in citizens that leads to despair, rage, and violence, especially among black and other neglected minorities.
Regardless of your continuing support of a flawed Obamacare health care system, too many people cannot afford to take care of their health, or protect their children's future.
Your comments indicating a lack of understanding regarding the immensity of this crisis reveals a great deal of ignorance about the causes.
You have shown your concern Prof. Krugman, now have the courage to look deeper into the real reasons for the accelerating despair, and speak out.

Meredith NYC said...

That’s right Karen---Krugman doesn’t bother with solutions, because he’s gotten away with columns that finally show him as a phony and a hypocrite. Imagine our Nobel star economist, labeling himself the ‘conscience of a liberal’, with his reputation for concern about inequality saying “--
“you probably expect me to offer a solution. But while universal health care, higher minimum wages, aid to education, and so on would do a lot to help Americans in trouble, I’m not sure whether they’re enough to cure existential despair.”

What next, a quote from Sartre? It’s the ‘human condition’? Only in America. Readers see he’s sidestepping what we CAN control, so he can stay quite mainstream. Existential despair is so convenient. Sort of like original sin in the Catholic church.
So just stay to the Left of Douthat and pretend to be a progressive. .

No one on the op ed page of our most prestigious paper is writing about Nafta, TPP, Citizens United, govt regulation of big banks, taxes on high incomes, actual labor issues, or reaching 20th C parity with other nations on health care.

See the comments to Krugman’s blog the other day, Cheese Eating French, many testifying to the superiority of other countries’ social systems, and govts showing responsibility. We only get that from comments.

Krugman constantly vilifies EU countries as a group, but wrote that blog post with 1 sentence positive about France, just to counter Jeb’s jibe about the French workweek. But no more, lest it looks too liberal, and puts him at odds with the establishment.

The Times keeps rw nuts like Douthat to show they’re not a ‘liberal paper’ I guess. But then they feature Krugman with his compulsive daily blogging, to give the so called progressive view, that isn’t but distorts our politics. The country kept veering rightward due to these types of phony liberals trying to stay mainstream and influential. Just vilify the extremist radical Gop constantly to stay on the safe side.

Where were all the op ed columnists on what started the downward spiral ---shipping jobs to Asia, and letting h/c costs soar? Thus kicking people when they’re down, unleashing a cascade of destructiveness. Reminds us of Russian citizens' alcoholism and suicide increasing after the Fall of Soviet Union and privatization by the oligarchs.

Where are the columns on how the loot from sending jobs to Asia was bountifully and legally shared with our lawmakers in campaign donations, so congress is enriching itself at our expense? Then we stand in line to elect them. And never a mention of Citizens United by Krugman, or any columnist.

Meredith NYC said...

What a coincidence. A. Chalabi dies and the Bush book comes out. Chalabi was the Iraqi con artist who used and was used by Bush/ Cheney and the NYT to promote the Iraq war. Chalabi got to sit next to Laura Bush at an event, and no one knew how he managed it. They asked, how did he get in here?

There’s a new film---“We Are Many”.’ Directed by Amir Amiranim, British director. See Democracy Now show the other day, plus The Guardian---‘Stars invoke the spirit of 2003 Iraq war demonstration in new film.” The largest world demonstration in history, took place in 2003 in cities around the globe.

If Dowd loves family dynasty dynamics let her write about Fred Koch and his sons the Koch brothers. Engineer father started the family fortune helping Stalin’s regime set up modern oil refineries in the Soviet Union—see Wiki. Then became a John Bircher pushing rw poison in America.

And the Bush grandfather’s fortune has been linked to Nazi Germany business. Not that he was unique.

How ironic, these fortunes have grown to into American political dynasties and power makers in the land of the free. They now sponsor our elections and state lawmaking with the Koch’s ALEC organization, and their money dictates to the US congress and judiciary. Will someone please write a column on that, or better, a Ken Burns documentary for PBS?

These are the family financial dynamics we need exposed, not as Karen mentioned, the cheap Freudian analysis. We won’t get it from Dowd, but somebody at the Times might tackle it, don’t know who. The big money power of the Trumps, Bushes and Kochs have been dominating US politics and media today.

Valerie said...

Your comment in response to Kruggie was great. The one thing about Kruggie is people read him and then the comments. Keep writing, Karen. I remember the point when I started skimming Kruggie but reading the reader choice comments. They were so much more enlightened and grounded in reality. Kruggie, sadly, is just another Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof - tools for the oligarchy.

ggouveia said...

I just wanted to thank you, Karen. You help to keep us angry AND sane.