Saturday, January 30, 2016

Chips, Dips, Chains And Whips

Take heart, all you 29 million uninsured Americans out there! Even though Hillary Clinton wants to condemn you to misery and a possible early death through her strident vow that Bernie Sanders's single payer health plan "will never, ever come to pass," Barack Obama wants you to know that he still has your back.  

Rather than Medicare for All, he's offering Computer Science for All, as a kind of booby prize. A chip in every classroom and in every body will not only help the lack of medicine go down. It'll make Silicon Valley as rich as Croesus and Predatory Insurance and Big Pharma all put together.

While Hillary was shamelessly dragging the mother of a brain cancer patient up onto her campaign stage as a prop to spread the lie that Bernie Sanders would rip out her daughter's chemo line on Day One of his presidency, Obama is using the waning days of his own presidency to try and convince us that all we need to survive (besides Obamacare, of course) are a few more skills to make our lives as servants in the oligarchy seem cool. 

If we have to live in a Dystopia where we periodically enter the health care lottery for a slim chance to win at actually living, Obama will at least try to make us feel better. Welcome to the Brave New World of Techno-optimism, folks!

From his weekly address to Da People:
 Hi everybody.  As I said in my State of the Union address, we live in a time of extraordinary change – change that’s affecting the way we live and the way we work. New technology replaces any job where work can be automated.  Workers need more skills to get ahead.  These changes aren’t new, and they’re only going to accelerate.  So the question we have to ask ourselves is, “How can we make sure everyone has a fair shot at success in this new economy"?

(Translation: These changes are  fueled by job-destroying, corporation-enriching, democracy-killing policies that I like to call free trade deals, You know, like NAFTA --  which my pal and designated successor Hillary Clinton championed back in the day. Oh, and the TTP which she only pretends to hate because she has to fool enough people to beat Bernie.The Neoliberal Project -- the free market supplanting representative government, and dictating social and economic policies --  is nothing new. It got its second wave in the 90s when the first Clinton Regime continued the Reagan Revolution. So, we of the power elite sit around and rhetorically ask ourselves how we can make sure that enough people will actually believe what we say. We are so disingenuous that we don't even care how the phrases "fair shot at success" and the "skills gap" are being greeted with howls of derision from millions of struggling people and Bernie-supporters out there.  We do have the barest glimmer of an idea that people are fully aware of how corrupt we elected officials truly are. We can't admit this, though, because if we did, plutocratic heads might explode.)

  So back to my propaganda script: 
The answer to that question starts with education. That’s why my Administration has encouraged states to raise standards.  We’ve cut the digital divide in our classrooms in half.  We’ve worked with Congress to pass a bipartisan bill to set the expectation that every student should graduate from high school ready for college and a good job.  And thanks to the hard work of students, teachers, and parents across the country, our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high. 
 Through our discredited Race to the Top program, we had the excuse to close hundreds of "poor-performing" schools. Rather than allocate funds to alleviate pupil hunger, parental unemployment and other social ills, we saved money by shutting schools down and transferring the kids to for-profit charters to help private equity vultures get even richer. Better to put some high-tech crap from the Gates Foundation in classrooms (big donor to Hillary's slush fund, by the way!) than keep those unionized teachers around. And the two tightly clenched cheeks of Bipartisan Consensus actually passed an ass-pirational bill telling those poor kids and parents that "we" expect a lot more hard work from them. 

But enough of the cold-hearted truth. Propaganda's my name, propaganda's my game. My baritone spiels are nothing if not "euphoric, narcotic, pleasantly hallucinant."  (h/t Aldous Huxley.)
 Now, we have to make sure all our kids are equipped for the jobs of the future – which means not just being able to work with computers, but developing the analytical and coding skills to power our innovation economy.  Today’s auto mechanics aren’t just sliding under cars to change the oil; they’re working on machines that run on as many as 100 million lines of code.  That’s 100 times more than the Space Shuttle.  Nurses are analyzing data and managing electronic health records.  Machinists are writing computer programs.  And workers of all kinds need to be able to figure out how to break a big problem into smaller pieces and identify the right steps to solve it.
OK, now we're getting into some super-cool, fun Huxley territory. Humans won't really become redundant: they will simply become the migrant labor at the robot farms. High school grads will become minimum-wage rocket scientists! Forget nurses spending tender loving direct care time with sick people. They'll be too busy uploading data so that Predatory Insurance can bill them quicker and get paid faster. They'll be too wrapped up in writing code to call any emergency Codes. Every minute of every working day will be a zero-sum slog. Your entire life will be shattered into many little puzzle pieces that you will then be expected to put back together again. And if you can't take the pressure, there's plenty more where you came from.  So stay in school, and make Bill Gates richer while I drone on:
In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill – it’s a basic skill, right along with the three “Rs.”  Nine out of ten parents want it taught at their children’s schools.  Yet right now, only about a quarter of our K through 12 schools offer computer science.  Twenty-two states don’t even allow it to count toward a diploma.
In Brave New World, there will be no time for literature, creative writing, history, ethics and probably Recess. Every diploma will have a Computer Chip embedded in it to follow you for the rest of your life. As Aldous Huxley wrote, "Most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution." So let's prove Bernie wrong with my magical computer chips, my little chipmunks!
 So I’ve got a plan to help make sure all our kids get an opportunity to learn computer science, especially girls and minorities.  It’s called Computer Science For All.  And it means just what it says – giving every student in America an early start at learning the skills they’ll need to get ahead in the new economy.
Your kids are our kids, but my kids are my kids. Computer rights are human rights, and human rights are computer rights. This is the part where I endorse Hillary, and mention girls and minorities, because polls show she's starting to lose women and blacks. As long as some crappy neoliberal initiative has the words "for all" in it, you can forget that Medicare for All is never, ever, never in a zillion years ever gonna happen. Not ever! Thirty million uninsured people are just collateral damage. But maybe they can think they're getting ahead in the New Economy with a few technical skills and Bill Gates software. To quote Aldous again, "A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”  
First, I’m asking Congress to provide funding over the next three years so that our elementary, middle, and high schools can provide opportunities to learn computer science for all students.
(I hope -- LOL -- that this will be just the fig leaf I need to cram through the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership. Democrats can ease their consciences if we tepidly promise to offer a few computer classes to folks whose livelihoods we aim to destroy by this corporate coup.) 
 Second, starting this year, we’re leveraging existing resources at the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service to train more great teachers for these courses.
(This is a weasel-worded way to say I will "appropriate" funding from other social programs to train low-paid, non-unionized teachers to both market and use Bill Gates's products more efficiently.)
 And third, I’ll be pulling together governors, mayors, business leaders, and tech entrepreneurs to join the growing bipartisan movement around this cause.  Americans of all kinds – from the Spanish teacher in Queens who added programming to her classes to the young woman in New Orleans who worked with her Police Chief to learn code and share more data with the community – are getting involved to help young people learn these skills.  And just today, states like Delaware and Hawaii, companies like Google and SalesForce, and organizations like have made commitments to help more of our kids learn these skills.
(One Privatization Utopia in just one little paragraph, with just the right smidgen of Police State surveillance thrown in for good measure. This is not a project, people: it's a Movement! It's a Tempest! Oh Brave New World, that has such people in't!
 That’s what this is all about – each of us doing our part to make sure all our young people can compete in a high-tech, global economy.  They’re the ones who will make sure America keeps growing, keeps innovating, and keeps leading the world in the years ahead.  And they’re the reason I’ve never been more confident about our future.
 Keeping the cancer of global capitalism growing, one little malignant cell at a time. Endless growth at any cost, no matter the ultimate death of the planet from an overload of innovative pollution.


Despite his protestations that he is not endorsing Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, Obama's  weekly radio address actually does amount to a campaign speech for her.  As Chris Lehmann writes, Clinton is relying heavily on this same kind of "techno-optimism" to convince people to vote for her over Bernie Sanders. Thus the wording "Computer Science for All", instead of Computers for Kids or something similar. They really seem to think that as long as their rhetoric sounds inclusive, they can fool at least some of the people some of the time.

Lehmann notes that Alec Ross, Obama's tech adviser during his victorious race against Hillary in 2008,  immediately went to work for her in the State Department:
 Everywhere Ross looks across the radically transformed world of digital commerce, the benign logic of market triumphalism wins the day. When Terry Gou—the Taiwanese CEO of Foxconn, the vast Chinese electronics sweatshop that doubles as an incubator for worker suicides—plans to eliminate the headache of supervising an unstable human workforce by replacing it with “the first fully automated plant” in manufacturing history, why, he’s simply “responding to pure market forces”: i.e., an increase in Chinese wages that cuts into Foxconn’s ridiculously broad profit margins. And you and I might see the so-called sharing economy as a means to casualize service workers into nonunion, benefit-free gigs that transfer economic value on a massive scale to a rentier class of Silicon Valley app marketers. But bouncy New Economy cheerleaders like Ross see “a way of making a market out of anything, and a microentrepreneur out of anyone.
 When confronted with the spiraling of income inequality in the digital age, Ross, like countless other prophets of better living through software, sagely counsels that “rapid progress often comes with greater instability.” Sure, the “wealthy generally benefit over the short term,” but remember, kids: “Innovations have the potential to become cheaper over time and spread throughout the greater population.”
Yeah, kids.... as fraught as your lives have become with an Obamacare Bronze Plan or No Plan, and no hope, never, ever, never of Medicare for All.

If this post has scared the living daylights out of you, as well as making you mad as hell, there is a very simple solution.  

Simply Feel the Bern, and help fan the flames of the revolution against the neoliberal scourge.  Capitalism is way overdue for some deep-tissue cauterization.

There is better living through Medicare for All. Because our lives are not cheap. Our lives are not theirs to program and atomize.

(credit: Taylor Jones, Cagle Cartoons)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bernie-Bashing Backfires Badly

As quickly as the pundit posse of the neoliberal establishment took up their leaky pens, as furiously as they began typing en masse with their limp little fingers, they have just as suddenly decided to hold their fire. (Oops. I think I was indulging in a little wishful thinking there. Because all those wascally wacky "no, we can't" wonks are back in full force after giving their exhausted little typing fingers a much needed respite as they coordinated their anti-Bernie Sanders talking points.)

Their audiences have not been buying what they're selling. Economics pundit Paul Krugman of the New York Times is even is reduced to whining that he's being called "evil" for denigrating Bernie Sanders supporters as "happy dreamers." (He provided no proof of the actual existence of any evil-accusers, however.) 

Meanwhile, the anti-universal health care diatribes of Democratic Wonker Ezra Klein of Vox have been compared to those 90s right-wing Thelma and Louise ads from the Clinton era. Matt Yglesias has been castigated as a hypocrite for defending single payer health care during the first Obama campaign, but now belittling it during the first Sanders campaign. Etc, etc, etc. By far the worst of the worst of the Bernie- Bashers is centrist pundit Jonathan Chait. Gawker calls his "case against Sanders" not only dishonest, but dumb. Chait's latest gambit is to claim Sanders has no political experience, despite his long record of service in municipal, state, and national government.

  That is only the backlash against the pundits, who operate with relative freedom. Surrogates for Hillary Clinton have definitely been put in their places. Chelsea Clinton has already gotten the Barbara Bush muzzle treatment, banished to private fundraisers among friendly members of her own social class. Attack dog-in-chief David Brock of Media Matters was chained and choke-collared  by the campaign when he demanded Bernie's health records and accused him of not caring about black people.

Hillary Clinton herself has suddenly let up on her own direct attacks. This isn't because of any sense of human decency, but because focus groups were not reacting kindly to either her unfair Bernie-bashing, or her running on the fumes of the Obama administration as a way to pander to black voters.

The most powerful Bernie-Basher still left standing is President Obama, who really only succeeded in denigrating the progressive base, rather than the candidate himself, when he called Sanders a "bright, shiny object" -- as though voters are a bunch of shallow rubes instead of thoughtful citizens hungry for some basic human dignity in their lives. His smarmy paternalism and adherence to the status quo of unfettered capitalism could not have been made starker.

 I suspect that Obama was just as ticked off about Bernie's Senate hold on the White House nomination of a Big Pharma shill to head the Food and Drug Administration as he was about Hillary's slide in the polls.

Obama might also have been reacting to last week's withering speech by his other nemesis in the Senate: Elizabeth Warren.

Warren as much as endorsed Bernie, and blasted both Clinton and Obama: (h/t Gaius Publius.) 

Hillary Clinton has thus been duly forced ("shamed" would imply an actual moral compass) into postponing a couple of Wall Street money-grubbing events scheduled for today. Her tryst with the billionaires will just have to wait.  So in that respect, the Sanders-Warren wing has already won. It is beginning to nudge the big money out of the political process. It's already making the pursuit of greed uncomfortable for both corrupt politicians and the wealthy donor class. 

And as for Bernie's scheduled Oval Office meeting with Big Guy himself today, what is Obama going to do? Threaten to cut off Bernie's DNC funding? Threaten to not join him on the stump if he doesn't cede the nomination to Clinton, or tone down the populist rhetoric?

If Bernie Sanders has proven anything, he's proven that he can't be bought.

And really: can you picture Barack and Michelle joining Bernie and Jane Sanders on the campaign trail? I kind of doubt that the Obamas are going to be calling for a political revolution, and the break-up of the banks, and universal health care any time soon. They've got their own future careers and "initiatives" to worry about.

But back to that outbreak of Bernie-Bashing by media insiders last week, as well as its apparent hasty and probably only temporary retreat. How did Krugman, Chait, Klein and the rest belch out nearly identical anti-Sanders polemics all at the same time? Political philosopher Philip Mirowski has a great explanation about how this process of agnotology works in his book "Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste":
"It ventures far beyond the discrediting of this or that individual; it seeks to destabilize the things we were predisposed to take for granted, and insinuate a sharply targeted narrative explanation as one of those default presumptions, 
"This does not appear to the public as overt strident propaganda; rather it presents itself as liberating, expanding the cloistered space of sanctioned explanation in an era of wrangling and indecision. There are two steps to this procedure: one is the effort to pump excess noise into the public discussion of appropriate frames within which to approach the controversy; the second is to provide the echoic preferred target narrative as coming from many different sanctioned sources at once; ubiquity helps pave the way for inevitability. To make this work, one must do both: amplify the impression of indecision and doubt on the part of the elect, while sharpening the preferred narrative as making a demand upon our attention. Doubt is their product, but eventual manufactured consensus is their profit."
What Chait, Krugman, Yglesias, Klein and the affinity fraudsters of the Neoliberal Thought Collective have just attempted to accomplish for the Democratic Party is to destabilize and shoot down the growing public consensus that health care is a human right, and that the free market is harmful to our collective well-being. That they acted in unison, writing essentially the same words to denigrate both Sanders and his supporters, is proof of the inherent motivation of the establishment: to lower the expectations of progressives and supporters of Bernie Sanders. The neoliberal pundits' "excess noise" and fear-mongering about high taxes being worse than high payments to insurance companies came out all at once, in one very highly orchestrated, cacophonous neoliberal bellow.

The only trouble is, they have failed miserably to convince. They didn't get their reward of "manufactured consent." They have failed to gaslight us, just as Charles Boyer ultimately failed to convince Ingrid Bergman that she was the crazy one.

Single Payer is Way Too Expensive, My Darling

Their expected profits have turned into a monumental loss of their credibility and damage to their reputations. 

They counted on the stupidity and party tribalism of the masses, and all they got was ridicule. They were sorely disappointed.


On that theme, here are a couple of my recent New York Times comments.

The first was on the blog-post by Krugman (linked above) in which he hilariously used Obama's endorsement of Clinton and insult to Bernie supporters to bolster the agnotological point of his thought collective buddies. He pretended to be absolutely stunned -- even paranoid -- at the criticism he's been getting, going so far as to churlishly accuse his critics of calling him "evil." (Actually, he is merely banal. And not as cute as Charles Boyer.)

My response:
Krugman again attacks the straw man who insists that anybody not in the bag for Bernie is a monster and pure evil. I think that the pejorative term being bandied about is "Bernie Bro."* Although rumored to be roaming the landscrape, the existence of this Chimera has yet to be proven. No photographs are known to exist.

The Bernie Bro of Plutocratic Nightmares
 Also, the term Pragmatic Progressive, or "pragprog," is an oxymoron. (this is a reference to the meme of Clinton as a "progressive who gets things done".) The word is commonly used to describe an extreme centrist (socially  liberal, economically free-market conservative, usually wealthy). It first became fashionable to be a PragProg back in the day when Obama was playing his mythical game of 11-dimensional chess with his Grandiose Bargaining pawns of austerity and safety net cuts.
Anybody wanting universal health care is an airhead these days, according to the PragProgs. People wanting to survive and get paid $15 an hour are considered radical.
Frankly, I am getting sick of hearing about all the battles that Hillary has fought, how battle-scarred Hillary is, etc. I keep getting this picture of Saint Sebastian in drag. Oh, those arrows of outrageous multi-millionaire fortune.

Saint Hillary of the Scared, Scarred and Sacred Heart
 This is not about the hurt feelings of pundits and wonks -- much to their chagrin, apparently.
How about showing some concern about the 99%, who are not only scarred, but still bleeding copiously from their many wounds? (wage stagnation, underemployment, poverty.)
That is what should be making you furious. That is the true evil. 


In his "Hillary Clinton Stumbles" column published on Monday, Charles Blow implicitly chides his media colleagues, and directly blasts the candidate herself, for the recent mindless frenzy of Sandernista sucker-punching. Although he, too, casts doubt upon the Sanders agenda, he at least stays comparatively civil in his criticism of it. He doesn't lie like other liberal pundits and accuse Bernie of wanting to rip away health care from millions of people.

My comment:
 When Hillary was asked on camera if she'd release the transcripts of speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs, she just laughed sarcastically. The millions of dollars she's taken from banks, insurance companies and the private prison industry simply expose her new=found populism as a cynical campaign tactic in the mildewed playbook of triangulation and corruption.
People aren't stupid. People are mad as hell, and justifiably so. People are attracted to Bernie Sanders not because they believe he'll bring change overnight, but because they know he's the real deal. Simply being honest and sincere is enough of a winning ticket in this crazy election year.
Bernie Sanders now deservedly owns the national bully pulpit, and we aim to keep him and people like him there, regardless of how this election turns out. He's a master of the Art of the Possible. He brings into high relief the ongoing failure of the political imagination. Don't count out a landslide victory - with more progressives riding into Congress on his coattails -- just yet.
Charles Blow, by the way, is to be applauded for not joining his media colleagues in the ongoing vicious attacks on both Sanders and his "pie-in-the sky" supporters. Mr. Blow's observation that Hillary Clinton is now hypocritically wrapping herself in the mantle of Obama (her erstwhile nemesis) is right on target.
Who cares if Hillary thinks she's battle-tested? We're sick of war, and that includes the class war.
*Update: I spoke too soon about the neolibs temporarily holding their fire. Because Krugman is back on the attack, this time attacking.... Bernie Bros! (I guess he didn't read my comment to him last time, about how Bernie Bros are figments of the Clinton camp's imagination.) In any event, Krugman again wails about the punditocracy being unfairly attacked by rabid proponents of health care for all, rather than railing about the desperate 30 million people not getting any health care at all. He really is starting to sound unhinged. Here's my latest riposte to him, to which I added the link to Warren's speech at the end. (I really don't know how much longer I can keep this up):
I made fun of the term "Bernie Bro" over the weekend in a comment on this blog. It's a stupid pejorative being used by lazy thinkers to describe people who support the policies of Sanders. "Bernie Bros," as the name implies, are a group of oafish sexist pigs out to defeat Hillary for the sole reason that she is a woman.
Bernie Bros do not exist. If there are any soundbites or film of these boors heckling Hillary at her campaign events, I haven't heard or seen them.
Therefore, it is very sad to see Krugman joining in this infantile smear campaign. Since I support Bernie myself, does that make me a Bernie Ho? Do tell.
Painting us all with the same broad brush is a sign of desperation.
Contrary to Establishment belief, we don't want single payer health care now, now, NOW!!!!! If you actually listened to Sanders, you would have heard him say that the best way to accomplish our goals is to elect him, elect more progressives, give him the bully pulpit for two presidential years, and then hopefully vote in a Democratic majority in the 2018 midterms to start transitioning to single payer. Sure, this might not work. But just giving up and not even trying would be plain suicidal for the vast majority of us. Of course, to hear the neoliberal thought collective tell it, our demand for not only a decent life, but for bare-bones survival, is a radical pipe-dream.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Straining Credulity

Save the nation. Join the movement:

(graphic by Kat Garcia)
Rattled by the spectre of the oligarchy getting taken over by the democratic rabble, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is seriously considering putting his billions into an independent run for the presidency. 

He planted his lead balloon into Saturday's obliging New York Times, followed immediately by a hysterical blog-post by pundit Paul Krugman, who warns us that if we persist in nominating Bernie Sanders like a bunch of airheads, this will usher in Bloomberg, which will then get us President Donald Trump. So forget all about democracy, proles! At least, that's what I interpreted Krugman's inchoate fear-mongering to mean.   

You'll be happy to learn that "Bloomberg Nation" already has an inspiring  campaign slogan designed to fire up the masses before they're transformed into ashes: "The Harder You Work, The Luckier You Get."  

"It's time for ACTION," cleverly blurts out the website blurb. "Bloomberg Nation is a grassroots movement dedicated to making our nation bloom."

Something like this, maybe:

It attractively continues, "We need your help. Volunteer your time and services. Help us get 10MM people to endorse Bloomberg for president and create viral media."

Bloomberg, the world's 10th richest godzillionaire, apparently cannot or will not actually pay people to knock on doors for him. He wants, and expects, the freedom to which he is entitled. He is just, as the Times puts it, "galled" about Trump's mumbles and Hillary's stumbles. "His aides have sketched out a version of a campaign plan that would have the former mayor, a low-key and cerebral personality, give a series of detailed policy speeches backed by an intense television advertising campaign. The ads would introduce him to voters around the country as a technocratic problem-solver and self-made businessman who understands the economy and who built a bipartisan administration in New York."

Alternate slogan, riffing off Jeb Bush: "Right for Bile to Rise."

It'll be interesting to see whether the corporate-sponsored presidential debate committee will bend its rules and allow the unpopular Bloomberg to buy his way into the general election debates, regardless of how low his poll numbers are. If that is the case, then they should also open up the forum to the Green Party's Jill Stein, who you might remember was summarily arrested and handcuffed when she had the gall to try to join Mitt Romney and Barack Obama for their infamous Binders Full of Women debate in 2012.

It'll also be interesting to see how the Black Lives Matter movement responds to Mayor Stop & Frisk, who infamously said: "We disproportionately stop whites too much, and minorities too little."  

At least the Shrillionaire Mayor isn't yet boasting, like Donald Trump, that "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hillary Clinton's House Slaves

You might not know this, but the woman who aims to re-occupy the House built by slaves once had slaves herself. To be fair, she didn't actually "own" them. She merely borrowed them for a time. It was one of the perks of her position as Arkansas First Lady. Who was she to object to free live-in help, shipped in from state prisons?

In one chapter of her 1996 (ghost-written) neoliberal polemic, "It Takes a Village," Hillary Clinton fondly reminisces about the cozy times she had with the black help during her halcyon days in Little Rock.  Far from being shocked and appalled that prison inmates were actually being used as slave labor at the governor's mansion, Hillary decided to make the best of a bad plantation situation. Rather than protest 20th century slavery, she pragmatically decided to try it out to see whether it fit her family's lifestyle. It did, it did!

It was only long after the fact, multimillion-dollar book contract in hand, that she conducted an informal study of the various alleged pathologies she believes caused their imprisonment in the first place.

Her words speak for themselves:
"One unusual aspect of living in the Arkansas governor's mansion was getting to know the prison inmates who were assigned to work in the house and the yard. When we moved in, I was told that using prison labor at the governor's mansion was a longstanding tradition, which kept down costs, and I was assured that the inmates were carefully screened. I was also told that onetime murderers were by far the preferred security risks. The crimes of the convicted murderers who worked at the governor's mansion usually involved a disagreement with someone they knew, often another young man in their neighborhood, or they had been with companions who had killed someone in the course of committing another crime."
Her first reaction was to fear for her own safety. Then she learned (or was told by the plantation overseer) that the house slaves were only into black-on-black crime. And since entire gangs weren't being "assigned" (rather than forced against their will) to the plantation kitchen detail, she was assured she had no reason to be afraid of the men. It was tradition, tradition... kind of like Fiddler on the Roof. And longstanding, to further ease her white Northern guilt. Her own white body would remain pristine! But the sight of those big black dudes scared her, nonetheless. There were no prison bars separating them from Hillary Clinton:
"I had defended several clients in criminal cases, but visiting them in jail or sitting next to them in court was not the same as encountering a convicted murderer in the kitchen every morning. I was apprehensive, but I agreed to abide by tradition until I had a chance to see for myself how the inmates behaved around me and my family."
If Hillary Clinton had been elected the first woman president during the Civil War, we would probably still have slavery. She would have "abided by tradition," and never written The Emancipation Proclamation. And if those house slaves of hers had so much as looked at her white family funny, she would have sent them to jail, pronto. Oh, wait.... she did send some of them back to jail when they got too uppity:
"I saw and learned a lot as I got to know them better. We enforced rules strictly and sent back to prison any inmate who broke a rule. I discovered, as I had been told I would, that we had far fewer disciplinary problems with inmates who were in for murder than with those who had committed property crimes. In fact, over the years we lived there, we became very friendly with a few of them, African-American men in their thirties who had already served twelve to eighteen years of their sentences."
 Hillary fancied herself more a liberal Scarlett O'Hara than she ever aspired to walk in the abolitionist shoes of the Grimke sisters. I wonder if the kitchen slaves also helped her lace up her corset after she gorged on their corn pones and hominy grits?  She never does specify exactly what the Clinton Family Rules for Modern Slaves were. I imagine "No Time Theft" had to have been among them, since it is one of the cardinal rules of Walmart, on whose Arkansas board First Lady Hillary then sat.

Hillary's Disciplined Southern Strategy: Enforcing Rules Strictly

  "I found myself wondering what kind of experiences and character traits had led them to participate in the violent and self-destructive acts that landed them in prison. The longer and better I came to know them, the more convinced I became that their crimes were not the result of inferior IQs or an inability to apply moral reasoning. Although they had not finished high school, they seemed to have active and inquisitive minds. Some had whimsy as well as street smarts. They showed sound judgment in solving problems in their work, and they plainly knew the difference between right and wrong."
Hillary, although in her mid-thirties by this time, was only then discovering that not all black convicts are stupid. Why, the few of them who passed muster as her personal slaves were actually smart, even though they were not as educated as herself. The savvy slaves must have figured out how not to just lazily spread the dirt around the floor as they mopped. That is possibly because Hillary forced them to get down on their hands and knees to scrub away Little Chelsea's spilled baby food by hand. Hillary Clinton certainly got what she didn't have to pay for.
"What, I wondered, had caused them to commit a crime that resulted in the loss of another's life? Now that I have read Daniel Coleman's Emotional Intelligence I am better able to understand what back then I could only wonder about."
Miz Hillary has just implicitly admitted that she never directly asked her slaves about their biographies. She just sat silently, vapidly wondering about them as she monitored their job performances from afar, across a mansion room.  

She then goes on to blather about how the convict-slaves got to where they were because they'd failed to harness their emotions, not because of any Jim Crow policies. Her prisoners were totally to blame for their own "impulsive overreactions". They'd apparently responded to perceived threats where none were intended. Without providing even a smidgen of evidence, she calls them "emotional illiterates." To back up her armchair diagnoses, based solely on reading a book or two, she calls upon the pathological wisdom of Attorney General Janet Reno. Those black prisoners simply let their primitive amygdalas get in the way of their cerebral cortices, Clinton smugly surmises from her rarefied perch as First Lady of the Land.

She then goes on to mull over what roles the digestive, cardiovascular and muscular systems of her former slaves had played into their "choices."

If I were recommending books to Hillary Clinton, on the top of my list would be Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner. You might remember what happened to the concern-trolling, clueless white plantation mistress in that classic.

Like any colorblind limousine liberal worth her salt, Hillary settles for both Nature and Nurture to whitewash her conscience as well as systemic American racism. If only her house slaves had had supportive adults to cuddle them in infancy, they never would have landed in prison! Or her mansion kitchen, for that matter!  Clinton fails to mention the draconian "three strikes, you're out" sentencing laws instigated by her husband, and the Clintons' later role in creating the most extreme incarceration rates in the modern world, with more black prisoners locked up than there were slaves during the Civil War. (more free labor for plutocrats!) She fails to mention her role in ending FDR's Aid to Families With Dependent Children and direct cash aid to the poor. She fails to mention that forcing poor black mothers from welfare into low-wage work without subsidized child care tended to severely cut into nurturing cuddle-time for millions of African-American families.

Her solution is not to restore AFDC, but to insert "empathy curricula" into crumbling schools in poor black neighborhoods, to make up for that lost direct maternal care. It hasn't seemed to dawn on Hillary Clinton that conniving with Republicans in the late 90s to "end welfare as we know it" has only ended up severely damaging motherhood as once we knew it.

Nothing has changed, despite her best efforts to pay lip service to the Black Lives Matter movement.  Hillary Clinton is now in full pandering mode to African-Americans, casting herself as the Second Coming of Obama (who himself is the second Third Way coming of Bill Clinton.) Her characterization of the South Carolina Democratic base as little more than a convenient "black firewall" against Bernie Sanders is beginning to show some well-deserved cracks in its neoliberal plantation edifice, however.

I say we preemptively fire Hillary before we even consider giving her the job of her perverse dreams.

Once a Goldwater Girl, always a Goldwater Girl. 

Abide With Me. No Comment Even Necessary

Friday, January 22, 2016

Genocide, Fast and Slow

The mass poisoning of the residents of Flint, Michigan is a lot more than a public health emergency. It's even a lot more than depraved-heart murder and assault by deadly bureaucrat.

 Using the guidelines established by the United Nations, it's likely that the deliberate and continuous piping of lead-contaminated water to unsuspecting people qualifies as both a crime against humanity and actual genocide.

Heads should indeed roll... all the way to The Hague. The only trouble with that suggestion, of course, is that the United States has conveniently absolved itself from accountability before the International Criminal Court. America is an exceptional Third World nation.

At the very least, a special U.N. rapporteur should be appointed to go to Flint to collect the evidence, before it's destroyed or mysteriously misplaced.

Characterizing the poisonings as genocide is not at all hyperbolic, by the way.  According to Article II (c) of the Genocide Convention, it is not necessary to prove actual intent to exterminate. It is only necessary to prove "constructive intent." In other words, since state and federal authorities knew or should have known that they were causing harm to Flint residents, their "mistakes were made" defenses won't wash. Ignorance is no excuse.

Put another way, the piping-in of water from the Flint River to save a few bucks  was (and still is) a policy having a destructive, de facto exterminating effect. It doesn't matter whether the poisoning was inadvertent or unintentional, or whether it was incidental to another motive. (cost-cutting in the name of austerity)

That the poisonings in Flint also have a distinctly racist stench should give further impetus to the genocide charge. Unlike other means of culling the herd, this particular crime has a relatively short, very straight chain of evidence from perpetrators to victims. It also doesn't matter whether the victims die quickly, die slowly, or endure a lifetime of disability and pain before dying of old age. (not very likely, given all the kidney and neurological damage.)

Genocide is actually pretty broadly defined, albeit hard to prosecute. As Adam Jones wrote in Crimes Against Humanity:
"More recently the drafters of the (ICC) Rome Statute's 'Elements of Crimes' have declared their understanding that extermination can include 'deprivation of access to food and medicine,' resulting in death through protracted debility.... Other examples appearing in case law of the Tribunals include imprisoning a large number of people and withholding from them the necessities of life, resulting in mass death, and introducing a deadly virus into a population and preventing medical care, which results in mass death."
The crimes against humanity in Flint look so outrageous because they and their victims are so visible to us. These crimes should not be hard to prosecute.

Run-of-the mill, garden variety lead poisoning cases, on the other hand, are rarely, if ever, prosecuted. They've been a silent, hidden epidemic for generations. Rarely do we see such acute, severe cases as in Flint, in so many people all at the same time. The lead in drinking water is usually invisible and tasteless. Symptoms develop insidiously, and they vary from victim to victim. The toxic metal accumulates in bone and body tissues over years, and can be passed down through generations, from grandmother to mother to child, ad infinitum.

 No amount of lead is safe.

In poor black communities, lead poisoning is a common congenital birth defect. It is transmitted to fetuses long after the mother's exposure. Lead is an extremely stable element and degrades little over time. Ninety percent of lead dust in surface soil will still be present 70 years after contamination, according to the Illinois Dept. of Public Health.

Yes, it is racial, inordinately affecting black populations. And yes, it is ignored.

I used to write regular newspaper articles based on piles of health department inspection reports of slum housing containing lead-based paint in the poor Orange County, New York cities of Newburgh and Middletown. Children would regularly get poisoned by ingesting paint chips as well as from drinking water from lead pipes. Slumlords would get warned, again and again, referred for criminal prosecution rarely, and perhaps eventually get fined for failure to follow through on abatement orders. It's the cost of doing blacksploitation business.  Moreover, ownership of substandard housing is often sliced and diced into lawsuit-proof LLCs. Immunity is built right in, as permanent as multiple coats of toxic old paint.
Newburgh, New York

After decades of public health reports and complaints, there is still lead paint in the same substandard Newburgh housing, at some of the same addresses on the same blighted streets. Law firms that specialize in lead poisoning cases are as common as flaking paint chips. Depending on your address, prenatal blood screenings for lead are not only recommended, they are required.  It's estimated that least a third of all learning-disabled children in New York state are in special education classes because of chronic lead poisoning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 38 American children has lead poisoning. That's half a million kids. Violent crime and drug abuse are among the results of the socially painful, permanent brain damage caused by lead poisoning. How much easier that makes it for white bigots to blame black people for their own plights, for their own behavior. Lead within black bodies is conveniently so invisible that it can be ignored.

Meanwhile, federal funding for testing and treatment was slashed four years ago -- as usual, all in the name of bipartisan fiscal responsibility and austerity. Funding was finally, partially restored this year, despite the best sadistic efforts of House Republicans to cut it yet again, by a full third.

Newburgh happens. Detroit happens. Chicago happens. And then Flint happens. But just for once, what happens in Flint is not staying in Flint.

Whether it's fast or whether it's slow, genocide is genocide. Even in America. Are we waking up yet?

We need a super Super Fund for all the people that this country has hurt. We must put an end, once and for all, to austerity for poor people. We've had enough of the greed of the oligarchs. They're weighing us down like a ton of lead.