Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kinder, Gentler Points of Blight

David Brooks got the 3 a.m. phone call from the Board of Overlords:

Culture wars and right-wing wedge issues are Out. Diversity and loving-kindness are In. Otherwise, Ted Cruz might win the nomination and lose to Hillary Clinton. So enough already with the bigotry and the religious paranoia. Up with Obama-style centrism (social liberalism balanced with economic conservatism.)

Taking a page from the postmodern GOP playbook (see my previous post) Brooks told the reactionary Christian Coalition wing of the party to stuff it for awhile, and play the part of Obama-style community organizers. It worked once for a Democratic corporatist, so why shouldn't it work for a Republican corporatist too?

Of course, this synopsis is only the crass political subtext of today's New York Times column from the Pundit to the Plutes. Telling moralizers like his colleague Ross Douthat to stop moralizing over the scourge of birth control and gay marriage, Brooks moralized:
These conservatives are enmeshed in a decades-long culture war that has been fought over issues arising from the sexual revolution. Most of the conservative commentators I’ve read over the past few days are resolved to keep fighting that war.
I am to the left of the people I have been describing on almost all of these social issues. But I hope they regard me as a friend and admirer. And from that vantage point, I would just ask them to consider a change in course.
Otherwise, rich Republican politicians might lose a few, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio might plummet from 350:1 to 348:1 under a Clinton restoration, and there might not be any more Scalia clones to amuse us to death once the original disappears into a puddle of bile. So think before you hate, haters!  Here's the Brooksian formula as dictated by the Wall Street wing of the party:
Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely.
The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.
Notice how Brooks strains to emulate Obama's "We Shall Overcome" eulogy. He even dips into Biblical anaphora -- the rhetorical device often used by the president (and preachers) which repeats the first part of sentences over and over again  -- "those are the people" -- for maximum emotional, moralizing, co-opting impact.

Here is my published Times response to Rev. Mr. Brooks:
 They thought their southern strategy to suck up the votes of poor white people was safe for all eternity, until a mass shooting in a Black church made everybody notice what a hateful symbol the Confederate flag truly is.

Their sustained ACA-repealing dog-whistle, sending the message that Poors and Blacks don't deserve to live, just got a big wad of gum stuck in it, courtesy of the Court.

And marriage equality becoming the law of the land in all 50 states? It's been a perfect trifecta of loss for the GOP.

So what to do, now that the rebel yell is losing its oomph? The GOP changes course overnight, resurrecting the stale Poppy Bush-era propaganda of "compassionate conservatism" This column is a very cute way of both endorsing Jeb! and repudiating such losers as Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee. There's an election to be won, bloodthirsty Neocons waiting to claw their way back into power, fear to be struck into the hearts of America in the name of "national security."

While reciting his Christian litany, Brooks is very careful to emphasize that love for the poor will be purely voluntary. The hyper-rich will not be taxed as they "tithe and nurture" on their own private terms. Opportunity will still abound for pathologizing poor people as conservatives dellcately venture into "underprivileged areas" for daytime photo-ops, and then slash the social safety net to ribbons under cover of darkness.

Brooks's litany of hypocrisy is the smell of GOP desperation in the morning.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Propaganda On Steroids

Silly, sleepy me.

Until I read all about it in today's New York Times, I'd been totally, unforgivably oblivious to having just lived through a monumental event called "The Liberal Spring."

In the space of just one week, a tsunami from "the left" has apparently changed the entire ideological landscape of America!

Jonathan Martin explains it all to ignoramuses like me:
A cascade of events suggests that 2015 could be remembered as a Liberal Spring: the moment when deeply divisive and consuming questions of race, sexuality and broadened access to health care were settled in quick succession, and social tolerance was cemented as a cornerstone of American public life.
Happy days are here again! The skies above are clear again! We can sing a song of cheer again! We all have guaranteed health care for life,  gender and sexual equality is here to stay, and institutional racism has disappeared as quick as you can tear down a Confederate flag.

And lest we be deemed ungrateful, we must give all the credit for our unexpected salvation to Obama Triumphans.  He is being widely portrayed in the corporate media as a latter-day Joshua. The president miraculously escaped from the Egypt of Lameduckville to finish leading the refugees of America into the neoliberal promised land of brand-name milk and honey. All it took was one off-key but sonorous rendition of We Shall Overcome to further cement mass delusion as a cornerstone of public life.

The Times piece continues,
Yet what appears, in headlines and celebrations across the country, to represent an unalloyed victory for Democrats, in which lawmakers and judges alike seemed to give in to the leftward shift of public opinion, may contain an opening for the Republican Party to move beyond losing battles and seemingly lost causes.
OK, now that we got spring out of the way, we can get into the nitty-gritty of what the permanent ruling class really wants. And that is the GOP repudiating the Tea Party in order to get back to its big business roots. As fast as pro-market forces once tore down the Berlin Wall, as fast as Obama tore down the walls of racism, John Boehner is purging Congressional committees of those anti-trade, anti-government, anti-corporate welfare ideologues. Newly empowered by their partnership with Obama's Wall Street Democrats, the Wall Street Republicans aim to make the world safe for plutocracy.
But even as conservatives appear under siege, some Republicans predict that this moment will be remembered as an effective wiping of the slate before the nation begins focusing in earnest on the presidential race.
 As important as some of these issues may be to the most conservative elements of the party’s base and in the primaries ahead, few Republican leaders want to contest the 2016 elections on social or cultural grounds, where polls suggest that they are sharply out of step with the American public.
Polls, shmolls. More than measuring public opinion, polls actually serve to influence it. Witness the recent Pew Poll purporting to show widespread domestic and international support for the anti-democracy job-destroying Trans-Pacific Partnership. What reasonable person doesn't support free trade? Never mind that the respondents were not allowed to actually see what is in the classified TPP  Nor did the pollsters bother to inform the people whom they called about the various leaked portions of the agreements.
As G. William Domhoff further elucidates 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.
Obama the Joshua-Josher and his plutopals know full well that ordinary people would never support the replacement of  local and national justice courts with fascist Investor State Dispute Tribunals. They know that people would never agree to become personally financially liable for the "lost" corporate profits of Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Tobacco. Therefore they keep the whole deal secret while at the same time cynically ordering rigged polls which falsely show public support for programs that are precisely antithetical to the public interest.

The Pew polls are funded by the Pew Charitable Trust,  a think tank originally funded and still largely controlled by the conservative heirs of the Sun Oil Company. They're also in the astroturf business, hiring advocates to appear on TV and before congressional committees, poll results clutched tightly in their hands as evidence of public support for filthy rich interests.

Now, back to the latest Times propaganda effort in the service of the plutocracy:
“Every once in a while, we bring down the curtain on the politics of a prior era,” said David Frum, the conservative writer. “The stage is now cleared for the next generation of issues. And Republicans can say, ‘Whether you’re gay, black or a recent migrant to our country, we are going to welcome you as a fully cherished member of our coalition.’ ”
The critical question is whether the Republican Party will embrace such a message in order to seize what many party officials see as an opening to turn the election toward economic and national security issues.
It's almost enough to make you root for the Tea Party. What the Establishment really fears is the extra-partisan, left-right coalition against the TPP and other corporate coups, along with widespread transpartisan, populist disgust with mass surveillance, the bloated Pentagon and Wall Street crime. What the Establishment really loves is Obama-style bipartisanship in the service of those who run the place and who matter only to themselves. Remember that it was the Tea Party "crazies" who put the kibosh on the Boehner-Obama Grand Bargain of Social Security and Medicare cuts.

The reason that marriage equality has sailed through in record time has just as much to do with gay rights being a non-issue for the hyper-rich as it does with popular demand. Either marriage equality doesn't affect the interests of the Power Elite, or it has affected them personally enough to make them devote their money and their influence to getting it done. If millionaires and billionaires aren't gay themselves, they statistically have a family member, friend or business associate who belongs to the LGBT community. Granting marriage equality in all 50 states, regardless of class, has the double advantage of being no skin off their uplifted noses and a deflective public relations ploy. The granting and mass celebration of "diversity" by the Imperium gives the Imperium a false patina of morality as a cosmetic healing of class divides is broadcast by media conglomerates. Rich gays and poor gays join together to march in parades. Even lowly cannon fodder has been granted marriage equality. (although sex crimes in the military have now reached epidemic proportions, due in part to Obama's strange refusal to take prosecution of them out of the corrupt chain of command. But, hooray anyway.)

So on with Extreme Centrism, as told by the New York Times for the benefit of #WealthyLivesMatter:
While acknowledging that the country has become more tolerant and, in some ways, culturally liberal, many Republicans contend that America is still receptive to a more conservative approach on economics and national security. After all, the same week that highlighted the ascent of cultural liberalism also illustrated the limitations of economic populism, as organized labor was unable to block a measure giving President Obama expansive trade authority.
"America," aka the rich, is more open to a "conservative approach", aka austerity for the masses. It is in the interest of both wings of the Big Business Party to marginalize organized labor, which, despite the fact that it's been marginalized for nearly half a century, still occasionally manages to be a pesky thorn in the side of the GOP-New Democrat partnership. Therefore, if the presidential debates can be restricted to scaring the voters to death over phony foreign terror threats while deflecting our attention from the real economic and social threat of a global oligarchy gone wild, it won't much matter to the ruling class whether Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush gets "elected". The oligarchy will not only have won, it will be able to claim with a straight, stuffed face that it was a legitimate populist victory.

(Needless to say, despite his growing popularity with the actual populace, Bernie Sanders' name did not appear one single time in today's Power Elite-dictated, fair & balanced front page Times "news analysis.")

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Links/Open Thread

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare subsidies for all 50 states.... because love for the predatory insurance cartel trumps hatred for regular people.


Charles Blow: removal of the Confederate flag is only about a tenth of the battle against institutional racism. My comment:
Forget the Confederate flag: institutional racism is as all-American as the Stars & Stripes. It's as hushed up as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Whose jobs do you suppose will be the first to disappear when this right-wing corporate power-grab gets ratified? Black and brown people were disproportionately affected by the unemployment and wage suppression wrought by NAFTA -- and the TPP has been described as NAFTA on steroids. Since it will inordinately reward the largely white plutocracy. and inordinately punish already impoverished people both here and abroad, the TPP is the very epitome of institutionalized racism.

Those Confederate flags that Walmart stocked were probably sewn by Asian slave labor. Racism knows no boundaries, nor does the capitalistic greed that perpetuates it.

Red-lining exists in all 50 states, despite the laws on the books. As an article in today's Times reveals, middle class Black families are still being steered into poor neighborhoods. Minorities pay more for groceries in "food deserts," and courts rubber-stamp gerrymandering. If that brand of disenfranchisement doesn't work, record incarceration does. There are more Blacks in prison today than were enslaved in the decade preceding the Civil War. The War on Drugs is racist; affluent white kids rarely go to jail when they get caught with dope.

The first step toward getting rid of racism is getting rid of wealth inequality. We need a government jobs program, and we need to tax the rich.

(P.S. -- Now that anti-racism is being concern-trolled across the political spectrum, I think it's important to keep hammering away at how terribly racist and classist these so-called "trade" deals truly are. What politician wants to be called a racist, after all? Maybe we can convince them to do the right thing in their own political self-interest if not in the public interest.)


On a related note, would CIA whistle-blower Jeffrey Sterling be in prison if he were white?


Speaking of the CIA and racism, tomorrow is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. To mark the occasion, one hundred civil rights organizations are demanding that the UN call out the US for its abject failure to give justice to both the perpetrators of torture and the "folks" (Obama's word for the victims)  who have been tortured. From the ACLU website:
Shockingly, the Justice Department declared to a U.S. court that it has never opened the full report it received from the Senate, let alone reviewed it for evidence of human rights violations and criminal wrongdoing. And yet yesterday, in response to a new letter from the ACLU, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch — supported by more than 110,000 signatures calling for comprehensive criminal investigation — DOJ spokesman Marc Raimondi told The Miami Herald:
In 2009, the Attorney General directed a preliminary review of the treatment of certain individuals alleged to have been mistreated while in U.S. Government custody subsequent to the 9/11 attacks. That review generated two criminal investigations, but the Department of Justice ultimately declined those cases for prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain convictions beyond a reasonable doubt. Those investigators have also reviewed the Senate Committee’s full report and did not find any new information that they had not previously considered in reaching their determination. This inquiry was extraordinarily thorough and we stand by our previously announced decision not to initiate criminal charges.
The Justice Department’s reluctance to order a new independent criminal investigation defies any common sense and fundamental principles of the rule of law. It also flies in the face of U.S. and international law obligations and sends a dangerous message to U.S. and foreign leaders that torture has no legal consequences.
Can we finally just be honest and admit that the Justice Department is nothing but a corrupt public relations agency when it isn't hounding and harassing journalists who are trying to do their jobs?


Hillary Clinton tells a Black audience that Her Life Matters. Backlash ensues. For all her millions, she keeps forgetting to replace that gosh-darn battery in her Miracle Ear for chronic tone-deafness.

"Shut Up," He Explained

"No. No. No. No. No. No. Nono, nuh-no,non, n...n...nonono. NONONONO. NO! NO -NO-NO!"

  Temp Emp (emperor pro tem) Obama is usually sanguine about hecklers, but only when he's parachuted down into Flyover Country and mixing with the lumpen-proletariat where they live. He is not OK with interrupters when he invites them to his house (formerly known as The People's House) to eat his snacks and drink his booze in their capacity as human props for a White House propaganda event.

Obama's pride was hurt at a reception for Gay Pride activists in which an activist got verbally active, demanding that he stop imprisoning and deporting  transgender political refugees back to Central American countries where there's a brutal history of  not taking kindly to such folks. (Democracy Now! has more on the activist, Jennicet Gutierrez.)

"O-bam-A, O-bam-A," bleated the LGBT crowd, who booed Gutierrez as Joe Biden tenderly rubbed Barry's back in manly solidarity. The poor president was reduced to having to ask Security to escort the woman out. Usually, the Secret Service completes such human refuse removal tasks without being told, allowing Obama to appear above the fray. During carefully orchestrated closed receptions, the security detail is probably not as highly alert as they would be in a public space. After all, visitors to Obama's castle have already gone through metal detectors and gotten pat-downs at various checkpoints before finally being allowed in his august presence. The Palace Guard was asleep at the switch during Wednesday's event. Maybe it was all that free booze the Temp Emp was bragging about. Truth be told, with all his stammering No-nos and playground bully language (This is MY house, nonny nonny boo boo) the Temp Emp seemed half in the bag himself.

"Shame on you," scolded Obama. prissily wagging his finger (index, not middle for a change)  half-seriously, half-mockingly. Was he addressing the protester, or his bouncers?

"This is really what the White House is all about. It’s the People's House," Michelle Obama once burbled.

Yeah. As long as The Peeps don't make a peep once they're inside.
"Sweetie, aren't you getting a little ahead of your skis?"

(optional soundtrack here)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fast Track Zero Hour

(*updated below.)

Never having met an idea or a lower House vote for the public good that it couldn't crush through sheer inertia, corruption, stealth, or just a flick of its contemptuous middle finger at the body politic, the United States Senate will once again try to give President Obama authority to fast-track democracy into permanent oblivion.

Zero Hour begins on Tuesday, June 23, at approximately 11 a.m. President Obama probably won't need to make a personal desperate appearance this time.  Neither will the mass media. The pundits are too busy analyzing and marveling at how casually and boldly he was able to say "nigger" while they make their squeamish PC excuses about why they can't allow us to actually hear him say "nigger" on TV. "Nigger" might be a trigger.... it might remind viewers that the secretive TPP is actually a deal for a resurgence of the slave trade -- among its many other abominations.

A typical deflection/distraction, broadcast by The Terror Channel, (aka CNN)  whose programming is sponsored by the same voracious multinationals dictating the secret terms of the corporate coup trade packages:

 While it's grand that they're talking about finally retiring the Confederate flag in Dixie, the rest of the globe's population will watch in horror and disbelief as the plutocrats turn the planet into one great big toxic plantation.... if Obama and his plutopals get their way. For some reason, the president thinks "Obamatrade" is a legacy to be proud of. The realization that he is a right-wing free market ideologue, and always has been, is slowly beginning to dawn even on some of his biggest fans.

So he chose last week to schmooze with a comedian about race. It's the politics of mass distraction. The post-racial president comes out of his closet and boldly suggests that racism is still in our DNA -- a statement which, by the way, sickeningly dog-whistles the racist right wing ideology (biology is destiny) of Charles Murray, whether Obama meant it that way or not.

But the centrist punditocracy celebrates his refreshing honesty and bravery even as he displays the most egregious dishonesty and subterfuge about the TPP. His administration has even threatened to prosecute any member of Congress who divulges its details to the public.

  Sorry, but you don't get to call yourself anti-racist or liberal, and then not speak out against the TPP.  It's just as white-supremacist as the hate group that inspired the Charleston massacre. It supports the Malaysian human trafficking cartel and perpetuates labor abuses against Asian people making 40 cents an hour in sweatshops, and family farmers eking out a bare bones existence both here and abroad. The TPP will off-shore more American jobs and further depress American wages and have an adverse economic affect on already oppressed Black and Latino Americans. It's a de facto acceleration of global slavery -- which has its roots not in bigotry, but in greed and unfettered capitalism.

  So as reader Valerie urges, call your Dinosaurs one more time and tell them so. Remind them that as the populist climate heats up, those electoral extinctions sure have a strange way of occurring without warning. A list of their phone numbers is here.

Video accompaniment is here.

*Update, 6/23: The Senate advanced Trade Promotion Authority (fast-track), 60-37. The same Democratic quislings who'd voted for it previously -- Michael Bennet (D-Colo), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) -- were not swayed by the wishes and demands of their putative constituents, aka The Little People, to change their minds. With any luck, they will go down in electoral history as The Unlucky Thirteen.

"It's a great day for the big money interests, not a great day for working families."  -- Bernie Sanders, democratic socialist of Vermont.

"Occasionally, even President Obama gets things right." -- John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.

Now the Democrats, Obama included, can pretend to fight for the regular folk by throwing  a few extra crumbs to a couple displaced workers. (Trade Adjustment Assistance) The Republicans will pretend to balk, but in the end each side will embrace slavery and plutocracy. 

The silver lining is that once Obama completes his deal, we will have an actual opportunity to see it. Hell will hopefully break loose. So we should keep up the pressure. Another silver lining is that 11 other countries also have to approve this travesty. A lot of their citizens (notably in Australia, Canada and Japan) are less than enchanted with it, too. The battle against neoliberalism is global, because neoliberalism itself is global. Individual nation-states are rapidly becoming superfluous to the interests of capital.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Flags of Our Fascist Fathers

 (*Updated below.)

If only Dylann Storm Roof had stayed in school and had less of an ego chronically stoked on pills and Internet hate sites, he might have scored a gun and a badge and a uniform in order to perpetrate his race war. With just a little more training and a little more discipline, he could have learned to be a slightly more circumspect executioner of dark-hued people.

 He could have blended into the official American system of allowable oppression of minorities. He might have developed the patience to wait for socially acceptable, state-sanctioned opportunities to take aim and fire. From his professional peers, he would have learned the fine art of stalking Black fathers with broken taillights. He would have developed the sense to keep his racism professional and nonverbal as he snapped the spine of a Black youth who had the nerve to make eye contact with him on a Baltimore city street. He could have joined a posse of uniforms to shoot bullet after bullet after bullet into the bodies of an unarmed Cleveland couple trapped in their car. And then he would have gotten off, because forensics couldn't discern which cops had actually fired the fatal shots.

Roof didn't blend in. He was a lone wolf. He took his inspiration from George Zimmerman instead of from Darren Wilson, the Ferguson cop who shot Michael Brown in "self defense." He's certainly making life awkward for dog-whistling politicians, gun culture apologists and the Confederate flag-waving crowd this week. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was so confused that he called the mass slaughter in Mother Emanuel Church "an accident." (Maybe he's still trying to kick his own alleged pill habit.)

It is perfectly fitting that Roof and Michael Slager, the cop who gunned down Walter Scott, are sharing the same cell block as they await their trials for murder. I wonder if they've bonded yet. They are two sides of the same coin. The cop had all the circumspect qualities down pat; he just hadn't banked on a passerby with a cellphone to memorialize his one-man extermination squad.

 Roof is a fringe-dwelling end-product of the same cop/gun culture, violent entertainment industry and Southern racist politics that are alive and well and flying as high and demented as the confederate flag and the militarized police state and the privatized gulag of systemic Black incarceration. Like many an adolescent in the Age of Facebook his privacy is not that important to him.  Besides prescription drugs, he also has an apparent addiction to white supremacist Internet sites, inspiring him to create his own virtual domain. But unlike most other cyber-racists, he didn't hide behind the safety of anonymity. Eventually, virtual reality just wasn't real enough for him, and he acted upon his impulses. Also unlike other lone wolf terrorists, he didn't feel the need to kill himself in a blaze of glory after his mass slaughter of nine innocent people. Maybe it's the power of the Nazi-ish middle name his parents chose for him**: Storm. Maybe nomenclature is destiny.

In a must-read piece in Counterpunch, Henry Giroux quotes a study (titled, appropriately enough, Operation Ghetto Storm) showing that one Black person is extra-judicially executed by a state security officer or a vigilante every single day. More Black people are incarcerated in the US than were enslaved ten years before the Civil War. Yet it's the non-state sanctioned violence of a Dylann Storm Roof or an Adam Lanza that gets most of the attention. And forget about the state-sanctioned violence of American forever-wars. Foreign drone victims are neither named nor cared about -- and that is by official decree as well as through media complicity and public apathy. As Henry Giroux writes, 1984 and Brave New World perfectly complement one another:
In Orwell’s world, individual freedom and privacy were under attack from outside forces. For Huxley, in contrast, freedom and privacy were willingly given up as part of the seductions of a soft authoritarianism, with its vast machinery of manufactured needs, desires, and identities. This new mode of persuasion seduced people into chasing commodities, and infantilized them through the mass production of easily digestible entertainment, disposable goods, and new scientific advances in which any viable sense of agency was undermined. The conditions for critical thought dissolved into the limited pleasures instant gratification wrought through the use of technologies and consuming practices that dampened, if not obliterated, the very possibility of thinking itself. Orwell’s dark image is the stuff of government oppression whereas Huxley’s is the stuff of distractions, diversions, and the transformation of privacy into a cheap and sensational performance for public display.
So, will FBI Director James Comey continue to claim that Roof's crime is neither political nor terroristic? With his web-page now on full public display, with his manifesto claiming inspiration from a group whose membership has included elected officials, it's going to be mighty hard to blame the latest massacre solely on lax gun laws and mental illness. He's a product of the instant gratification culture of violence -- topped with a huge dollop of pervasive cyber-racism -- that Giroux describes. Roof apparently spent hours holed up in his lonely room when he wasn't taking grotesque gun-pointing selfies along with his burning of the flag near Civil War memorials.

Where was Homeland Security? Where was the NSA? We know where the FBI has been: tracking Muslim youths on the Internet as they "aspire" to join ISIS.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which does track various right-wing extremist hate groups, has some interesting information on the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), the group which Roof says inspired him. Anti-immigrant and anti-gay as well as anti-Black, it can trace its lineage back to the Brown vs Board of Education Supreme Court decision. It uses a warped interpretation of the Bible and Christianity to opine that "God" is not pleased with the mixing of the races. So the fact that Roof chose to gun down his victims in a Black Christian church probably made perfect sense to him.

Unlike the overt and anonymous racism of KKK members, the CCC has been historically comprised of "respectable" businessmen, journalists, judges, bankers... and politicians. (Senator Trent Lott had a close association with the group.) But since the advent of the Internet, the CCC's rhetoric has grown increasingly blatant and crude, according to the SPLC.  Even so, elected officials (mostly state and local) continue to claim membership, while others give speeches at its various gatherings.

Dylann Storm Roof had the implicit permission of the de facto racist establishment to do what he did. No wonder the judge at his bail hearing urged people to have sympathy for his family.

Sinclair Lewis or Huey Long or somebody warned that when fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross. Whether it's the Stars and Stripes or whether it's the Confederate version makes not a lick of difference. Fascism is here, and it has been here for a very long time.

(New York Times, Sept. 12, 1938)

*Update, 6/22. According to various published reports, Roof tried to shoot himself in the church but had run out of ammo.

In case you thought that my post, linking civilian white racist terrorists with certain white racist terrorist cops, was hyperbolic and/or unfair, check out this website/chat room for the NYPD. You might think you'd clicked on Stormfront or the CCC by mistake. Same subject matter, same level of hate. (And no, I am not providing links to those other two.)

The New York Times has more on the global white supremacist movement here, as well as a piece by Eric Lichtblau tying presidential candidates to the CCC, or at least to the CCC's money. These politicians always follow the same script: when they're caught being associated with terrorist hate groups, they plead ignorance and promptly return the money. If anything good is going to come out of this latest episode of all-American violence, it's that the dog-whistling racist pols are being outed in all their moral ugliness.

Here are a couple of my own Times comments in today's paper. First, in response to Charles Blow's op-ed calling for official acknowledgment that there is such a thing as race terrorism:
Either the FBI calls Roof a terrorist, or it doesn't get to call anybody a terrorist. It's about time that the so-called Justice Dept. takes a break from arresting Muslim youths who merely "aspire" to join ISIS on the Internet, and start investigating some very real homegrown terrorists here. The horrific church massacre has also got to result in something more meaningful and lasting than just tearing down the Confederate flag (although that would be a nice symbolic start.)

As a disaffected late-adolescent in a time of record wealth inequality and record youth joblessless, Roof was a bomb ready to go off, living as he did on pills, hormones gone wild, and hate. He got his inspiration from white supremacist websites, in particular one run by a well-known group called the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). While its cosmetically "respectable" members (bankers, editors, executives, and yes, politicians and elected officials) broadcast their racism the usual coded dog-whistle way, the Southern Poverty Law Center notes that its Internet arm has become downright blatant in its call for a war on Blacks, gays and Latino immigrants. A whole new generation of cyber racists is being bred, both on the white supremacist sites and in "mainstream" comment sections. Australia has already made online racist hate speech illegal.

Cyber racists thrive on cowardice and anonymity -- until, like Roof, they don't. Racism is like a drug. Some addicts always need a bigger fix.
Next, my response to Paul Krugman's rather Panglossian ( racism exists, but is waning, it could always be worse, and things are bound to get better... eventually!) Slavery's Long Shadow:
We may have more anti-racist laws on the books, and surveys might show that white attitudes have changed, but Jim Crow is alive and well in the land of the free (defined in GOP-speak as freedom to slash the social safety net to shreds and along with it, millions of "disposable people.")

Black people have taken the brunt of the economic pain since the great 2008 meltdown. They are at least three times as likely to be poor, they earn at least 40% less than whites and their average net worth is about an eighth that of whites. This is true in all the states. In Blue New York, for example, Blacks are twice as likely to be unemployed as whites, and Black infant mortality rates are more than double those of whites.

There are currently more Blacks imprisoned in America than there were enslaved in the decade before the civil war. A study by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement reveals that one Black person is killed by a security officer or a vigilante every single day in this country. A less racist nation?

If anything, "we" are a more racist nation. I hope that the "tear down this Confederate flag" community spirit catches fire. I hope that revelations that the same white supremacist hate group which inspired Dylann Roof also funds certain GOP candidates result in more than the usual "national conversation."

Lectures by well-meaning experts to be patient, that things will improve "over time" are wearing pretty thin. The time for change is now. It's getting desperate out there.
** When Roof was arrested, police records indicated a middle name of "Storm." However, as a reader points out, there seems to be no proof on a birth certificate or other document that the moniker is official.  It seems likely that the neo-Nazi sounding appellation was self-bestowed. Therefore, I crossed out that part of my post about the parents giving him that name. There's still so much that we don't know about his upbringing, etc.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Narcissus Made Him Do It

You might be familiar with Dexter, the fictional sociopathic killer with the heart of gold whose life is a constant struggle with his so-called "dark passenger."

Dexter keeps his inner nasty twin (sort of a Super-Id, actually) in check by getting a job as a blood-spatter pattern analyst with the Miami Police Department, thus getting all kinds of insider info on some truly evil guys and gals even nastier than himself. Sometimes he slips up and gets caught torturing and killing his fellow psychos. But, like any sociopath worth his salt, he can fast-talk his way out of pickles that would have a normal person fired or imprisoned or even dead.

So here's a pop quiz: In what episode did Dexter tell his bosses that all his mistakes and transgressions were contained in a mysterious black box in an unknown location, thinking that this excuse might actually fly? And lo and behold, it flew? The brass actually believed his bullshit, because that is just how convincingly good this guy is?

The correct answer is N/A. Because the black box story actually comes from the fervid mind of disgraced fictional broadcaster Brian Williams. And his bosses apparently believed it, because he just got another job at the network after the whole world assumed he was toast.

Brian Williams is the corporate media version of Dexter. He got caught slaying the truth, he got sent to the naughty chair for his serial prevarication and extreme narcissism, and now he's back doing some pretend-penance at the MSNBC halfway house for disgraced news-readers. It's as if Dexter got demoted to sharing lab space with some underlings after deliberately tampering with evidence in a whole slew of major felony cases while accidentally disappearing a few perps while he was at it. The Establishment -- the media state, the police state, the congressional state -- is always in need of useful corrupt idiots offering their services for a very steep price.

Like any Superego veering toward the wrong side of the psychopath scale, Williams has a preternatural gift for separating himself from his own Dark Passenger. In an NBC inquisition conducted by his good friend Matt Lauer, he actually blamed his (alter) ego rather than himself for his mendacity. The guy who tortured the facts for years grotesquely proclaimed himself a victim of torture as he was banished from public view into solitary luxury confinement for four whole oppressive months.

He was even able to summon up a sincere-looking stream of nervous perspiration, which barely made a rivulet down his perfectly pancaked face as he clasped his hands in silent prayer -- in solidarity, I suppose, with all the other elite political hypocrites now holding their own prayerful vigils for victims of our latest mass slaughter... at the same time that they champion everyone's right to open-carry.

 He pleaded that he'd always told his stories correctly before his Dark Passenger told them incorrectly. He summoned up enough ham acting skills to not let his natural glibness get too much in the way of behaving like a chastened human being during the friendly interview. Despite some telltale efforts of his Dark Ego to burst back on the surface, he played the part of "Brian Williams Raw" just capably enough to let New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley urge viewers to please give the guy a break already and let's all move on. The multimillionaire entertainer/torture victim/truth torturer has already suffered enough! The fact that he couldn't even make eye contact with his interviewer doesn't mean he won't be able to look a studio camera right in the eye to read headlines. So it's all good. Maybe he can slow-jam the news again, as ably as he apparently fast-talked his network bosses into letting him back in the fold.

Was there ever really an alternate ending to this horror show?

At least they finally kicked Dexter off the air for good.

Holy Hypocrisy!

The politically correct concern trolls are all upset because Bernie Sanders rallied for pension rights on Thursday instead of sanctimoniously bowing his head and quoting the Bible in the wake of our most recent mass shooting. He stood up for workers and unions right next to one of those "solemn vigils" held by the same politicians who suck at the teat of the military-industrial complex and wouldn't know how to give peace a chance if their lives depended on it.

"On a day when the national conversation is focused on the attack and victims and not presidential politics -- not to mention a day when Jeb Bush and Donald Trump said they would cancel campaign events in the key early primary state -- canceling your own campaign rally isn't a bad idea," sniffed Hunter Schwarz of the war-mongering Washington Post.

Oh my invisible guy in the sky: (OMIGITS!) Psychopaths like Jeb and the Donald are more politically correct than Bernie Sanders? The sky is falling, the sky is falling! If two loudmouth liars know enough to shut up for crass political purposes, why can't a loudmouth socialist? Um.... maybe because he's not wrapping himself in fake religion like the plutocratic mafiosi currently taking selfies of their own crocodile tears? Maybe because it's more Jesus-like to loudly rail against the money-changers in our Great National Tragedy Temple than it is to simper and sob by candlelight as they quietly take NRA and defense industry bribes under cover of darkness?

Get ready for about another week of phony grief from the usual suspects. Then we can get back to the New Abnormal of pay-to-play politics, high rolling fund-raisers, trade deal sausage-making, backstabbing and speechifying. And of course, there is no end in sight for Congressional approval or lack thereof for endless wars and billions of dollars in global arms sales to such wonderful folks as the Saudis -- who are now openly advertising for more professional executioners to keep up with a record domestic beheading spree.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Links/Open Thread

Nine killed in massacre in historic South Carolina black church. Lawmakers renew call for national gun control measures. Not. As the white gunman is sought captured, lawmakers renew calls to divert the FBI from creating arresting ISIS aspirants into investigating right wing extremism. Not. As a nation mourns, lawmakers stand united in diverting billions from PermaWar into a free national mental health program for all citizens. Not. The FCC calls for a renewal of the Fairness Doctrine and vows to pull the licenses of Fox, Rush Limbaugh and all the rest of the media/hate complex for their failure to broadcast in the public interest. LOL.

Pope Francis issues his long-awaited climate change encyclical. He blames man-made pollution. Denialists promptly see the light, praise the Lord and vow to curb emissions, demanding national energy savings legislation. Obama cancels drilling in the Arctic. I can dream, can't I?

Hillary is a closeted TPP booster. What a shock.

Despite Paul Krugman's best propagandistic efforts to tell us otherwise, Obamacare is actually helping to destroy what's left of the middle class.  A paradox, a paradox, a most ingenious paradox. The technocratic neoliberati are singing with all the grim joy that their piratical Citigroup egos can muster.

Presidential politics are getting really, really, really  peculiar. No kidding.

Four sleazy ways that the mainstream press is trying to marginalize the Bernie Sanders campaign. Only four?

(Please feel free to comment on whatever, within or without reason. It's one of those days.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wanker, Not Anchor

I just got the breaking-news email from the New York Times: Lyin' Brian Williams is being kicked downstairs to MSNBC from his coveted anchor spot at the network. He will reportedly only be allowed to read breaking-news items at relatively rare intervals on the supposition that it would be exceedingly hard to insert a lie or a joke into only one or two telepromptered paragraphs. But never say never.

No word whether he will endure a salary cut from his reported $10 million-a-year contract. No word either on how many low-level reporters and crew will have be fired to make room for the Great One's return. But leave it to the Times to commiserate with a plutocratic wanker:
The new role is a humbling comedown for Mr. Williams, who before the controversy was one of the country’s most prominent and respected broadcast journalists.
They got that one-fourth right. Williams is a broadcaster, but whether he is also respected or a journalist or humble is very much a matter of opinion. Then again, he and the Times honchos are all members of an elite club where nobody fails even when mistakes are made. Like the mistake of blaming a group of Irish students for falling to their own deaths because of their failure to notice the shoddy construction they were standing on.

The Sham Within the Fraud

In a sane and equitable democratic system, Rachel Dolezal probably never would have made the cut in the Great Frauds in the History of Snake Oil. But since this is an insane hyper-capitalistic country running on the fumes of consumerism and identity politics, Rachel is the hot trending topic this week. The spectacle of a white woman passing as black is not unique in our history, but you wouldn't know it from all the mass media hysteria surrounding this story. 

Whether she is psychologically troubled or cynically opportunistic or altruistically sincere, Rachel Dolezal has done anybody who ever sucked at the teat of Hollywood and Madison Avenue and the media-political complex an enormous favor. She has, wittingly or not, exposed the fraud that is the essence of what one writer calls "neoliberal antiracism."

As Jodi Melamed of Marquette University explains in Represent and Destroy, it is precisely the official civil rights statutes on the American books as well as the mass media's shallow embrace of "diversity" and multiculturalism -- along with corporate-funded academia's complicit production of an elite black managerial-political class -- that paradoxically gives cover to the global racist predations of the American Imperium. The American political system was able to "capture" the energy of 60s and 70s social movements and then cynically put it to work for capitalism and international conquest.

The "outing" of Rachel Dolezal is only the latest consequence of the sham that is American racial equality. Insofar that it minimally exists, the plutocratic embrace of diversity is exposed more and more as a public relations gimmick: a means, writes Melamed, "to secure US interests, not an end in itself."

This profit motive of neoliberal inclusiveness was perfectly satirized in the Mad Men finale, in which the predatory psychopath Don Draper suddenly gets religion and teaches the whole world to sing in perfect multicultural harmony... while slurping bottles of Coke. Because it's the "real thing," and even black and brown people (or more precisely, their money) are entitled to "snow-white turtle doves."

The Rachel controversy is weirdly reminiscent of the marketing campaign of Coke. Pundits are now arguing about whether trans-racialism is as real a thing as trans-genderism. Which brand is more genuine: Coke or Pepsi? Caitlyn Jenner's photo-shopped Vanity Fair cover, or Rachel's enhanced pigmentation?

Of course, this identity politics controversy conveniently distracts us from paying any more attention to the ugly racist reality of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its embrace of the Malaysian slave trade, or noticing that ugly trans-fat will soon be banned by the most Transparent Administration Ever (TM). So I cynically wonder: are the big factory food conglomerates therefore already salivating to sue us in a secret investor state dispute tribunal somewhere in order to claw back millions in alleged lost profits for being denied the right to poison us with their fatty glop? 

I mention that Coca-Cola (along with the Grocery Manufacturers lobby) is one of the 600 or so multinationals secretly dictating the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Did I even have to?

Since the oligarchs have "officially" stopped racism over here by allowing a rainbow coalition to buy their various products and propaganda, they pretend that they have the moral authority to impose their will, their bubbly drinks, their corporate tribunals, their power and their poisons to marginalized people all over the borderless One World. When liberals raised on Coke commercials and To Kill a Mockingbird elected our first black president, what more perfect opportunity for the ruling class racketeers to really, totally let loose with the hegemony and the wars and Wall Street-friendly policies that liberals would normally oppose? Barack Obama has been their perfect fig leaf salesman and enabler. As Melamed eloquently writes,
It should not be possible to be antiracist without being against oppression. Yet race-liberal hegemony has been so effective that today in the United States everyone is antiracist, and yet oppression is banal and ubiquitous. We live with it, accepting the idea of racializing no-go zones and new vulnerabilities to premature death for disposable classes; we eat it, consuming bananas harvested by dispossessed Indians in Honduras who work under the threat of gunfire and grapes picked by migrant laborers who are hunted by the same people who enjoy the literal fruits of their labor; we pay for it, supporting militias in Iraq that stake their territorial claims on women's bodies; we study it, publishing research showing that human trafficking (slavery) is more pervasive than ever and that under the current system, blacks will never gain wealth equality with whites -- findings that receive scant hearing and generate less uproar.
And just as Rachel Dolezal has blown the shallow cosmetic cover off self-righteous white American liberalism, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has blown the cover right off American "post-racialism." While our ruling class trumpets its domestic inclusiveness and diversity even as it wages wars against the world's dispossessed, the de facto domestic oppression made manifest by mass black incarceration and police brutality in Baltimore, Ferguson, Cleveland and Staten Island is being laid bare for all the world to see. The moral legitimacy of American militarism and economic global leadership is displaying some unmistakable and long-hidden lethal cracks. The extreme center cannot hold. The insipid "We Are the World" neoliberal theme song is sounding more dissonant with each new war, each new corporate power grab, each new police shooting.

No wonder that Barack Obama viciously called black dissenters in Baltimore a bunch of "thugs" even as he wails about the temporary thwarting of his imperialistic pivot to Asia as encompassed in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The spiritual power gained by the ruling class from his election is beginning to wane as he reaches the end of his tenure and an upstart social democrat named Bernie Sanders is exposing the dynastic Bush-Clinton Neoliberal Death Match in uncomfortably high relief.

Rachel Dolezal, meanwhile, has helped to further expose the cosmetic fraud of racial identity politics as sold to and by the liberal class. (Or more accurately, the corporate media are exposing it through their over-the-top coverage of Rachel Dolezal) The only thing that possibly made self-proclaimed liberals in the Age of Obama more uncomfortable was when socially acceptable and safe black TV dad Bill Cosby was exposed as a serial rapist. Because anti-racists have largely relied on media portrayals of successful African-Americans to give them aid and comfort, even as the lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of black and brown people have grown more precarious. It is the very elevation of a very tiny handful of successful blacks that allows us to stigmatize and pathologize huge swathes of what reactionaries are so fond of calling "black culture."

Rachel Dolezal was the perfect stereotype of what the white supremacist system calls an African-American success story: smart, educated, hard-working, safely bound up in corporate academia and party politics, exquisitely coiffed and dressed, and articulate. She was the very model of an acceptable assimilated black feminist. Until she wasn't.  

In the space of a nanosecond she went from Clair Huxtable to Lindsay Lohan. She was not the "real thing." And the neoliberal class is not amused as the whole world watches the precarious edifice crumble.

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.