Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What Hillary Deserves

As a long-term leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee and one of the staunchest defenders of the often-rogue CIA, Dianne Feinstein of California certainly knows the value of elite secrecy.

And she thinks that her sister in extreme wealth, extreme power politics and extreme secrecy is getting a bum rap over that withering State Department Inspector General's report, which exposed Hillary Clinton's pathological need for secrecy and corresponding pathological need to lie. According to Feinstein, Hillary has already admitted that mistakes were made, and so it's time to move beyond her character traits (Incisive and Determined! Compassionate! Plus, Qualified!) and concentrate on the real campaign "issues" -- first and foremost of which are, from her point of view, Donald Trump's negative character traits.

Feinstein's Shield of Hillary Character Traits

  When ABC's Jonathan Karl suggested on the TV program "This Week" that Clinton had possibly broken the law by not only installing a private email server in her basement, but subsequently stonewalling the investigation (half of her emails were erased and her staff was ordered to keep quiet about it) -- Feinstein blew up.

 "Whoa, wait a second," she protested. "I don't believe she was trying to hide anything. I've known Hillary for a quarter of a century. Let me tell you what I do think, I think this is a woman who wants a little bit of a private life. She wants to be able to communicate with husband, with daughter, with friends, and not have somebody looking over her shoulder into her emails."

Public life is such a bitch. Clinton apparently was forced against her will into her cushy Secretary of State job by a conniving President Obama, who knows how to keep his friends close and his friends like Hillary even closer. He knew, or he should have known, that Hillary was breaking the law by using a private server. He knew or he should have known that her family foundation was profiting big-time through her stint at State. He knew or he should have known, to name just one influence-peddling example, about the big Saudi donation to her private organization in the immediate wake of his administration's multibillion-dollar arms sale to the Saudis. He could have easily staged an early intervention in the privacy of the Oval Office.

But for whatever reason, he preferred not to.

Much has been written about Obama's preference for "the long game." And revenge is always a dish best served cold.

Perhaps he sees himself as operating above the fray by allowing his one-time opponent to clinch the nomination as his successor and then simply sitting back to watch her hang herself by the rope of her own personality traits. Perhaps I'm totally mistaken. Psychoanalysis is always best left to the experts, after all.

But it's a fact that Obama has been carefully obtuse in his "defense" of his former nemesis.

“I’ve got to be careful because, as you know, there have been investigations, there are hearings,” he told a TV interviewer last month before the IG report's release. “Congress is looking at this, and I haven’t been sorting through each and every aspect of this. Here’s what I know: Hillary Clinton was an outstanding secretary of state. She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy.” 

That's pretty damning with faint praise.The subtext is that as idiotic as Hillary's actions might seem, her heart is in the right place. Obama doesn't really think she's a criminal. She's more like that hapless Cincinnati mother who unintentionally let her mischievous little boy slip through a zoo enclosure this past weekend. It was Mom's intention to give her kid a fun day at the park and look what happened. But since the only harm came to a gorilla, and the child himself was not critically injured, it doesn't rise to a felonious level. If the parents are held legally accountable, it will be due to a Twittered outpouring of public demand as well as their social status. Only the little people are regularly held liable for carelessness, bad judgment and ineptitude. It's the American way. So far anyway, Hillary appears unlikely to be held liable for her own breach of duty.

Maybe Obama and Clinton's defenders and apologists would be singing a different tune if her email setup had resulted in the demise of a beloved animal. Americans love to be outraged by the deaths of caged or tame wildlife like Harambe the Gorilla and Cecil the Lion and Marius the Giraffe.

 It is so much harder to wrap our heads around atrocities like 700 refugees -- including many young children -- drowning in the Mediterranean during the same weekend as the gorilla dying at the zoo. This collateral human damage of war and violence was instigated by, among other pathocrats, none other than Hillary Clinton herself. No public outrage = no public accountability. There is definitely no petition with half a million American signatures on it, demanding justice and sanctuary for those fleeing Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

But back to Hillary and the email stonewalling saga. It is a fact that she has always clung to an almost paranoid secrecy about even the most mundane aspects of her life, such as White House travel personnel records and land deals gone bad, which in the end signified absolutely nothing much. Her need for secrecy is her Achilles heel. And Obama can certainly relate, presiding as he has over the most secretive administration in history and instigating his own Orwellian directive for government employees to spy on one another's lunchtime reading materials and marital issues.

We must not fault Hillary Clinton for wanting a private life. Does she even, deep down inside, really want the presidency?

Her pal Dianne Feinstein speaks truth to power. Since Hillary Clinton is indeed "a woman who wants a little bit of a private life" without the press and the public constantly looking over her shoulder, we should give her an out. We should allow her to gracefully suspend her presidential campaign while there's still time. 

Let's give Hillary exactly what she, and we, deserve. And to be really incisive and compassionate, let's hold a retirement party for Dianne while we're at it. Both of them seem in dire need of a break.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Saint Barack of Hiroshima

Not only is Barack Obama one of the most ironic Nobel Peace laureates in history, he also takes the prize for being the most cynically arrogant. Nobody with even a fraction of his obvious intelligence, nobody with even the mere rotting vestige of a moral compass, would have dared to set foot in Hiroshima otherwise.

Grotesquely parading down a hideously symbolic red carpet, Obama proceeded to plant himself comfortably behind yet another global bully pulpit, announcing once again, in case we forgot, that the United States will continue to reign as the concern-trolling bully and moral arbiter of the planet.
How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause.  Every great religion promises a pathway to love and peace and righteousness, and yet no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill.  Nations arise, telling a story that binds people together in sacrifice and cooperation, allowing for remarkable feats, but those same stories have so often been used to oppress and dehumanize those who are different.
Obama himself has conveniently used religion as his own license to kill. Four years ago, concerned about his own reelection prospects and deeming himself in dire need of some bellicose propaganda to counter the GOP's silly accusations of deficient virility, he planted a story in the New York Times about his Terror Tuesday Kill List.  The tortured narrative of the article sought to portray him as a thoughtful Archangel of Death, a Saint Michael in heaven with a halo, as opposed to stupid Lucifer with a Bushy face burning in the hellish flames of merely mortal ignorance.

Not being a particularly religious man himself, Obama relied on the Roman Catholic faith of his national security mentor and future CIA director to justify his assassination program, which to date has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people.
Beside the president at every step is his counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, who is variously compared by colleagues to a dogged police detective, tracking terrorists from his cavelike office in the White House basement, or a priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama, echoing the president’s attempt to apply the “just war” theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict.
The nominations go to the White House, where by his own insistence and guided by Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama must approve any name. He signs off on every strike in Yemen and Somalia and also on the more complex and risky strikes in Pakistan — about a third of the total.
Aides say Mr. Obama has several reasons for becoming so immersed in lethal counterterrorism operations. A student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, he believes that he should take moral responsibility for such actions. And he knows that bad strikes can tarnish America’s image and derail diplomacy.
 How easily Saint Barack learned to justify his violence to the name of some higher cause. Transcending the mindless fundamentalism of the bloodthirsty despots of wars past, our intellectual president uses the New York Times as his own enhanced propaganda Bible, even getting the scribes to elevate his chamber of death to a Platonic man cave of advanced ideas.  After all, were it not for the pragmatic Greek philosophers, there never would have been any Christian intellectuals to justify the whole gamut of depravity, from misogyny, to imperialism and plunder, to inquisitorial torture and death, to pedophilia.

Since many of the thousands of Obama's drone victims have been residents of "tribal" areas, how much easier for him to justify their deaths. They are stateless people, belonging to no nation. Since they have no protection from any formal government, they are thus dehumanized, rendered into nameless "bug-splat" by American Predator and Reaper drones. 

But Obama apparently succeeded PR-wise in Hiroshima, adding his own glib chapter to what he only pretends to decry: "Nations arise, telling a story that binds people together in sacrifice and cooperation, allowing for remarkable feats, but those same stories have so often been used to oppress and dehumanize those who are different."

While he has been rightly castigated by scientists and independent critics for presuming to lecture the world on nuclear weapons after appropriating an obscene trillion dollars to upgrade America's own arsenal, his speech itself got relatively glowing reviews from the liberal press, anxious to defend him against silly GOP accusations that he went to Hiroshima to apologize for America's dropping the atomic bombs. That is so patently unfair.  Obama not only didn't apologize, he deliberately thumbed his nose at Nagasaki, an even more depraved war crime given that the war was over by the time Truman committed his two-fer.

Obama even bent over backward to avoid directly mentioning that the United States actually dropped the bombs. His opening salvo in the alleged U.S. rapprochement with Japanese survivors was, in fact, stunningly maudlin and insulting to the victims:
Seventy-one years ago, on a bright, cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed.  A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.  
Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima?  We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not so distant past.  We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 in Japanese men, women and children; thousands of Koreans; a dozen Americans held prisoner.  Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.
To hear Obama tell it, death just sort of fell down from the sky like an act of an Old Testament God, in burning little radioactive isotopes instead of raindrops. No input needed from Harry Truman or even from the unrepentant pilot of the Enola Gay, who named his bomb "Little Boy." See, Obama just could not bring himself to admit that the United States destroyed Hiroshima. Rather, a Biblical wall of fire and a flash of light did the trick, in order to demonstrate that "mankind" still possesses the means to go all retro Adam and Eve, and destroy itself.

 The victims of the war crimes should ask for nothing more than for Saint Barack to examine the consciences of both the warmongers and the innocent bystanders. Then he will order up some absolution and even co-opt Bernie Sanders in calling for a "moral" (not an anti-capitalist) revolution. Why else is his name Barack, which literally means Blessed?  All of us must have some skin in this depraved game, utter our acts of contrition even as the Church of Capitalism itself is exempt. He wants the world congregation to believe that all wars are started by popular referendum rather than by plutocratic priests lounging in a corner sacristy, guarded by men with guns and shielded by their billions of dollars in excess, tax-free profits.

And lest we forget, Obama's Hiroshima bucket list of a visit was a mere sidelight to the real purpose of his Asia trip: a sales junket to cement support for the corporate coup known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It's been called NAFTA on steroids. Maybe we should also call it the A-Bomb of all treaties, given that it blows up democracy in favor of a global oligarchy. 

But the New York Times cloyingly and dutifully described the prime photo-op ("Hiroshima Survivor Cries, and Obama Gives Him a Hug") And then it was on to the stoic panoramic spectacle of the official kiss and makeup session between just two elite guys:
 Mr. Obama’s visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park had all the pomp, ceremony and planned choreography of a state visit or a leader’s funeral. With thousands in attendance and much of Japan watching on TV, Mr. Obama walked forward alone at the park and laid a wreath on a white pyramid. He paused before the memorial’s cenotaph, his head bowed.
 A moment later, Mr. Abe approached with his own wreath, which he laid beside Mr. Obama’s on another pyramid. After a moment’s reflection, the two leaders shook hands — a clear signal of the extraordinary alliance their two nations had forged out of the ashes of war.
It's a pyramid scheme, all right. Substitute "wealth" for "wreath" for what goes on the tippy-top, and you can almost envision a veritable TPP Ballet, maybe staged as a hawkish update of the Firebird. Out of the smoldering ashes of war comes the renewed conflagration of capitalism on crack.  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Blackmail 2016

 (*Updated below)

The Democratic Party is sounding a lot like the House Un-American Activities Committee these days.

HUAC was the star chamber convened in the late 1930s for the ostensible purpose of rooting out Communists and other subversives in government, the media, and the entertainment industry. It was finally disbanded in 1975 in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

HUAC's main underlying agenda, however, was the dismantling of the New Deal. If proponents got smeared along the way, too bad. They were the collateral damage of the right wing counterrevolution.The public was supposed to be scared witless into taking money away from social programs and plunking billions, and later trillions, into Superpower's global agenda of regime change and corporate hegemony. The Red Menace was the manufactured terrorism of the day, and the effectiveness of its propaganda lasted until the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Fast forward to 2016. The New Deal is still barely hanging on, with FDR's social programs either long gone, whittled down, or under constant threat of dismemberment.  And then along comes Bernie Sanders, exposing the bipartisan right wing for what it truly is: The Island of Doctor Moreau. The Republicans are the main torturers and sadists. The Democrats are the grisly lab assistants who will occasionally sneak up to the cages to give the victims an anesthetizing choice morsel or two to make their trip to the vivisection table more befuddled.

The audience was never supposed to know about the subplot. After all, they are merely the audience and not the actors. And if millions of people did have an inkling, they had nobody to represent their interests and nobody to amplify their voices. Until Bernie came along, giving Hillary Clinton a run for her corporate, anti-New Deal money.

Clinton, who merely vows to "protect" Medicare and Social Security from GOP depredation, has a long sordid history when it comes to the New Deal. Specifically, she was the impetus behind the 1996 destruction of FDR's Aid to Families With Dependent Children and transforming it to the cruel Temporary Aid to Needy Families. The result has been the doubling of extreme poverty after the Clinton deregulation bubble finally burst from the excesses of its own greed.

Sanders, meanwhile, wants to actually expand Social Security as well as increase Medicare benefits to all citizens, regardless of age, health and financial status. He wants to lessen the power of behemoth financial institutions by reinstating the Clinton-demolished Glass-Steagall Act.  His proposals, taken as a whole, would actually go beyond the New Deal reforms.
 Thus the Democratic bosses of Psy-Ops "There is No Alternative" Theater are all in a tizzy, because the denouement of the movie -- the vindication and the  coronation of their neoliberal heroine -- is coming up in only two months. The star is in danger of being upstaged at her own premiere. Instead of throngs of cheering, adoring fans lining the red (ooh, scary!) carpet, she might be faced with throngs of protesters.

So the Party and its mouthpieces are going all HUAC on Bernie and the Sandernistas. It's a coordinated media campaign which sounds, ironically enough, as if it comes straight out of Pravda. Either Bernie and his supporters take the loyalty oath to the Empress-in-Waiting right now, or the election of Donald Trump and the rise of a fascist state will be totally on them. The inherent corruption and weakness of Hillary herself will have nothing at all to do with it. When Clinton backers accuse Sanders of not being a "real Democrat," the dog-whistling subtext is that he is not a real American. It's just a more subtle variation on the anti-Obama "birther" theme rhapsodized to perfection by Donald Trump himself.

  "Party unity" is suddenly trumping (sorry!) the interests and rights of the body politic. Protest at your own peril, people! And anyhow, resistance is futile.

(graphic by Kat Garcia)

To his credit, Sanders is not caving to the Party psy-ops offensive, which has included a nonstop barrage of ad hominem attacks by such Democratic luminaries as Paul Krugman and Barney Frank. He's apparently morphed from progressive saint to violence-enabling demagogue overnight, breaching some invisible red line into traitorous anti-American territory. "Even progressives are criticizing him now after he's shown a harder edge!" shrills Politico. Flying chairs and flying broomsticks abound in Liberal Land.

But without even one speck of flying spittle in evidence on the Sunday talk show circuit, Bernie calmly noted that if Hillary Clinton hopes to ever rise above her "lesser evil" status, then it is actually on her - not us - to change her tune.
“I have every confidence that if Hillary Clinton is prepared to stand up to the greed of corporate America and Wall Street; is prepared to be really strong on the issue of climate change; support, as I do, a tax on carbon; is prepared to say that the United States of America should join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all people, paid family and medical leave; is prepared to say that the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality today in America, where almost all new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. If she is strong on those issues, yeah, I think she will win and win by a large vote,” Sanders said.“But if she is not, she's going to have her problems.”
Corey Robin (author of the book The Reactionary Mind) has written a short but brilliant critique of the ongoing inverted totalitarianism posing as a free and democratic electoral process. Admonitions to liberals and leftists to cease and desist from all legitimate criticism of Hillary lest it empower Trump are actually steeped in the Leninist dogma. To wit, "The principle of democratic centralism and autonomy for local Party organisations implies universal and full freedom to criticise, so long as this does not disturb the unity of a definite action; it rules out all criticism which disrupts or makes difficult the unity of an action decided on by the Party."

Wow. Robin then points to the recent smear headline in the New York Times as a prime example of the authoritarianism attempting to choke out civic dissent:

“Bernie Sanders, Eyeing Convention, Willing to Harm Hillary Clinton in the Homestretch."

Haul him before the ghost chamber of HUAC - pronto! 

Robin also likens the Democratic establishment's attempt to suppress dissent against Hillary Clinton to the late unlamented Antonin Scalia's justification for handing that other rigged presidential election to George W. Bush. "The counting of votes that are of questionable legality does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner [Bush]," he wrote in that infamous decision.

Double wow.

The Clintonites are smack dab in the extreme center. Their anointed candidate might be a skunk adorning a solid yellow line, but Her Supreme Zombie-ness must and will lurch all the way to the finish line. 

Meanwhile, the hordes of trolls are all tangled up in the Internets. There are Trump supporters playing sexist Sanders supporters, Clinton supporters playing "recovering" ex-Sanders supporters. and bona fide Clinton supporters just into shaming and blaming desperate people into abject submission to their fate. A red-baiting troll responded to my own latest Times comment by saying that my "credentials" are not in order, and must be examined. The anonymous poster didn't say who exactly should investigate my bona fides, keeping me in much suspense. (Mind you, the Times comment threads are supposedly strictly moderated, so the censors are obviously okay with scaremongering McCarthyesque rhetoric.)

Of course, the Clintonoids disavow their own part in the rampant trollery, despite a PAC called "Correct the Record" which supposedly pays trolls to attack her critics online. 

Now comes Raw Story's "exposé" of a nefarious Trump plot to "divide the Democratic party" via a nasty online comment offensive. Perhaps, however, we should question whether the Trump trolls playing Democratic trolls aren't really Clinton trolls in the first place. After all, one of the silliest  talking-point accusations of the Clinton trolls is that Bernie supporters are really Republicans in disguise. "Have you now, or have you ever been, a member of any party that does not unquestioningly support Commandant Hillary?"


Maureen Dowd took a break from her "Tete-a-Tetes With Trump" series to castigate Hillary Clinton for her delay in defeating Bernie Sanders. Not that Dowd had anything nice to say about Sanders, of course. In true arch "Style Section" fashion, she wrote:
Everyone just laughed when Sanders, a cranky loner from Vermont with a nondescript Senate record, decided to challenge Queen Hillary. Clinton and her aides intoned — wink, wink — that it would be healthy to have a primary fight with Sanders and Martin O’Malley.
But Bernie became the surprise belle of his side’s revolutionary ball. And now he has gotten a taste of it and he likes it and he won’t let it go. He’s bedeviling the daylight out of Hillary.
 The Bernie bro violence — chair throwing, sexist name-calling and feral threats — at the Nevada state party convention last weekend was denounced as “a scary situation” by his Senate colleague Barbara Boxer.Sanders condemned the violence while stoking the outrage, urging the Democratic Party to “open the doors, let the people in.” He flashed a bit of Trump, so sure in his belief that the system is rigged that he fed off the nasty energy.
My published comment:
Rather than examine the legitimate reasons why Hillary can't vanquish Bernie Sanders, Dowd finds it easier to reduce him to a grouchy cartoon character in order to make her point that Clinton is one of the most ineffectual presidential candidates in history.
Rather than examine why the "Berniebros" raised such a ruckus at the Nevada convention, it's easier to go with the MSM flow and airily dismiss them as a bunch of rude dudes. In keeping with the prescribed narrative, it must be all about the hurt feelings of multimillionaire Barbara Boxer and the angst of White House insiders too cowardly to be named.
No mention that the youth unemployment rate in Nevada reached Great Depression levels in the years after the crash, and that the state has had one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation.
 People are irate because the jobs haven't come back and the wages are stagnant. Most Americans report not having an extra $1,000 saved up for a household emergency.
Women aren't "swooning" over Bernie. We don't vote with our XX chromosomes based upon the charisma of the candidate. Many of us like Sanders because of his proposals: universal health care, debt-free college, and getting the corrupt oligarchic money out of our politics once and for all.
All the voters need to be heard, regardless of his slim-to-none chance for the nomination. Contrary to the propaganda, he is not in it for himself. He never has been.
Trump v. Clinton is not an election. It's emotional blackmail.

Update, 5/24

Well, well, well. The embattled Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic politburo blinked first. Was it the specter of her primary challenger, Tim Canova, raising some seriously big bucks and publicity off the Sanders surge that convinced them to give him an "unprecedented" one-third of the party's platform committee delegates? Partially. But I think it's really Hillary's tanking poll numbers that propelled such a magnanimous (and desperate) gesture on their part. Clinton will have to continue to pretend to pivot leftward for awhile longer, at least until after the convention, to broadcast the illusion of "party unity."
And by the way, the inclusion of such party "outsiders" as leftist firebrand Cornel West and Palestinian rights activist James Zogby at this corporate-sponsored convention is great news, despite the fact that party platforms usually turn out to be nothing but public relations window dressing.

The much-maligned "rudeness" of the Sandernistas is already reaping some rewards and concessions. The next step is how, where, and when the surge of progressivism will continue, outside and past the presidential nomination and election processes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Asses Clutching Pearls

The Democratic Party bigwigs won't be satisfied until Bernie Sanders packs up his whips and heads straight out to Vegas to give a personal spanking to all his rude supporters. Although only one upended chair (as far we can tell from watching the video*)  landed on absolutely nobody, harming absolutely nobody, the whole class must be punished. A sternly worded message must be sent in order to bewilder the herd.

 Bernie is also supposed to don his Sherlock Holmes deerstalker and put a trace on a bunch of threatening phone calls and emails to the state's party chairwoman. Apparently, the Vegas police are too busy pulling over drunk gamblers to bother with run-of-the-mill harassment cases. Funny that party leaders haven't demanded any such investigation by law enforcement.

And after Sanders is done whipping the whippersnappers and tracking down the trolls and stalkers (who might even be paid Trump or Clinton black ops provocateurs for all we know) he is then supposed to give A Major Speech to condemn himself and his campaign. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was shocked and appalled when Sanders suggested that it was his supporters who are the victims of a rigged system, that it is the Democratic bigwigs themselves who were the provocateurs when they refused to give his delegates a seat and a voice. Reid expects Sanders to disown all who dared loudly complain about the dirty tricks at the weekend party convention.

Obviously taken aback by what he perceived to be non-collegiality on the part of Sanders, Reid sputtered on the teevee with all the incoherence he could muster: "Bernie should say something and not have some silly statement. Bernie is better than that. He should say something about this and not have some statement someone else prepared for him. Bernie needs to say something and not what he said, but something he would say. I expected words to come out of his mouth as if they were his. Um, not read them and uh, prepared. Prepared by someone else. Bernie really should have said something."

(Bernie apparently is not up to par on that whole Homeland Security directive to rat out your fellow citizens whenever you see them driving wearing a hijab or typing on an iPad with a long dark beard in an airport. If he saw film of chair-throwing by those always-suspicious working class white dudes, he should likewise say something.)

To be fair to Reid, though, the intra-party cluelessness on display is actually deeply ingrained and endemic. Maryland Democratic Chairman Bruce Poole, for example, groused: "I think Bernie has got to watch it, because at some point he's got to be accountable and if he allows this to go from debate and democracy to mayhem, there will be backlash."

Poole seems to think that Bernie set the debate schedule, and that democracy is something more than a public relations concept. He forecasts "backlash," but doesn't specify its source. If he were honest, he would admit that any mayhem that broke out in Nevada was instigated by the party machinery itself. The backlash is already here, Bruce.

DNC chair and Clinton supporter Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not accepting Bernie Sanders's statement calling for nonviolence, because he had the unmitigated gall to also address the psychic violence of the party machinery itself. “With all due respect, when there is a ‘but’ in between condemnation of violence generally, and after the word ‘but’ you go on to seemingly justify the reason that the violence and intimidation has occurred, then that falls short of making sure that going forward this kind of conduct doesn’t occur in the future,” she said.

But-Haters of the World, Unite!

I haven't heard one politician, other than Sanders, point to the root causes of the popular outrage that has fueled both his campaign and that of Donald Trump. Nevada was hit especially hard by the housing crash, with foreclosure and eviction rates among the highest in the nation. Even though the unemployment rate has decreased in the state over the past few years, wages are still low and jobs are still precarious.  The psychological effects of man-made recession can last a lifetime. And at one point, the unemployment rate among Nevada youth shot up to above 20 percent, very similar to the statistics of the Great Depression. And both parties have reacted by imposing austerity and by cutting New Deal and Great Society social programs such as Job Corps and food stamps and direct cash aid to the poor and unemployed.

The Nevada Democratic leadership should count itself blessed that Saturday's meeting was actually as restrained as it was. They act as if it was an armed attack, with guns a-blazing. A couple of shoved chairs and an outbreak of yelling and screaming at officials is nothing compared to the corporacracy-sanctioned harshness that some of the youthful participants in the political process have endured in their own lives.

Bernie Sanders is perfectly right and just in putting their interests above those of the tone-deaf, self-interested Democratic machine. If his original function was to be a sheepdog, he seems to have abandoned it and instead donned his pit bull duds. Spiked collar and no muzzle. I hope it lasts!


Paul Krugman of the New York Times was even more inchoate than Harry Reid when he began one of his shocked, shocked I tell you blog-posts yesterday with: "Ugh. More primaries today. Do they matter?" (Does this guy write just like Thurston Howell III talks, or what? I keep picturing the monocle fogging over with disgust before it slides completely off so as to save him from reading any more of his imaginary Berniebro Tweets.)

Krugman seems to think that the main problem of millions of suffering people is not social and economic injustice, but rather a math disability coupled with a failure to perceive reality. And with a few carefully chosen words, he actually proceeds to dehumanize them.  "If news reports say that he 'won'  tonight, they’ll persist in their illusions — and the narrative that Clinton is somehow stealing the nomination will continue to fester." (Like suppurating sores, Lovey. Ugh!)

I admit that I took the toxic click-bait, and bit down hard:
Icky poo, for sure. Democracy keeps rearing its ugly head, persists in delaying the inevitable coronation. The great unwashed masses are just too stupid to gobble up the yummy reality that the elite consensus-builders keep patiently serving up. What is wrong with these Sanders supporters anyway?
I assume that at least some of them are hoping for an indictment or a scandal based on some actual reality and evidence, as opposed to the vast right-wing conspiracy. But I think what a lot of them have trouble wrapping their heads around is the reality that political parties are not inherently democratic. They are actually closed, private corporations with rules that ensure their own survival and nothing else. They exist for the sole purpose of perpetuating themselves, raising money from wealthy investors, and maintaining their power. They'll invite you in on occasion for public relations purposes, but if you don't behave yourselves, they'll either disinvite you or kick you out. And Paul Krugman will even add his own very special "Ugh" to give the slobovians an extra inkling of just what the establishment expects of them.
 Sanders told his supporters last week that he should not be considered any kind of hero. He will endorse Hillary Clinton after all the voters have had a democratic chance to cast their votes. My hope is that this endorsement will be as tepid as decently possible and that he will then go on to inspire, perhaps even lead, an extra-party movement from the ground up.
The elites are afraid, because their main electoral platform of NotTrump, presented by one of the weakest and most loathed candidates in modern history may, in fact, end up with the election of Donald Trump. I'm even beginning to suspect  that these miscreants would rather have a President Trump than a President Sanders, despite all their hectoring that Bernie supporters are the depraved anarchists in the mix.


Sanders, meanwhile, essentially tied Clinton in Kentucky and beat her handily in Oregon.

 Here's his entire statement on the Nevada controversy:

“It is imperative that the Democratic leadership, both nationally and in the states, understand that the political world is changing and that millions of Americans are outraged at establishment politics and establishment economics. The people of this country want a government which represents all of us, not just the 1 percent, super PACs and wealthy campaign contributors.

“The Democratic Party has a choice. It can open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change – people who are willing to take on Wall Street, corporate greed and a fossil fuel industry which is destroying this planet. Or the party can choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy.

“Within the last few days there have been a number of criticisms made against my campaign organization. Party leaders in Nevada, for example, claim that the Sanders campaign has a ‘penchant for violence.’ That is nonsense. Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high-crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence. Our campaign of course believes in non-violent change and it goes without saying that I condemn any and all forms of violence, including the personal harassment of individuals. But, when we speak of violence, I should add here that months ago, during the Nevada campaign, shots were fired into my campaign office in Nevada and apartment housing complex my campaign staff lived in was broken into and ransacked.
“If the Democratic Party is to be successful in November, it is imperative that all state parties treat our campaign supporters with fairness and the respect that they have earned. I am happy to say that has been the case at state conventions in Maine, Alaska, Colorado and Hawaii where good discussions were held and democratic decisions were reached. Unfortunately, that was not the case at the Nevada convention. At that convention the Democratic leadership used its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place. Among other things:

    • The chair of the convention announced that the convention rules passed on voice vote, when the vote was a clear no-vote. At the very least, the Chair should have allowed for a headcount.
    • The chair allowed its Credentials Committee to en mass rule that 64 delegates were ineligible without offering an opportunity for 58 of them to be heard. That decision enabled the Clinton campaign to end up with a 30-vote majority.
    • The chair refused to acknowledge any motions made from the floor or allow votes on them.
      The chair refused to accept any petitions for amendments to the rules that were properly submitted.
“These are on top of failures at the precinct and county conventions including trying to depose and then threaten with arrest the Clark County convention credentials chair because she was operating too fairly.”

*Update: Please see comments for more links to film of the Nevada "chaos." It seems that the footage I embedded in Monday's post was from only one strategic angle, making it appear as though somebody had deliberately tossed a chair. Other angles tell a whole different story.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Monday Maunderings

You might be wondering why I stopped reposting my New York Times comments to this blog, as per reader requests.

Quick answer: I don't comment nearly as much as I used to. For one thing, responding to the constant barrage of stories about Donald Trump's latest belch,  Queen Hillary's daily crumbelievable a la carte wonk offering, or Barack Obama's self-referential legacy tour of glory was getting too depressing. And also too scary, given the downward spiral in the general quality of the allegedly moderated comments. Comment threads are getting nasty in this atavistic election season, in which every vote surely counts equally! When anonymous posters hurl vitriol at you from behind the cowardly safety of their home computer screens, it stings. It really does. I admit it, I am averse to conflict when I don't even get to know who I am conflicted with.

At a time when politicians are so loathed, and the paranoid overlords of the ruling class are doing everything in their power to tamp down the populist impulse, the pulsating comment threads kind of remind me of the swarm of bees that nearly took over my town last week. 

Some genius, or practical joker, left several crate-loads of bees on the side of the road. Lacking a hive and desperately needing to protect their Queen, they became became very confused and irate. They attacked every breathing thing, out of pure tribal instinct. My daughter Kat was walking near our apartment complex when she became a subject of their wrath. They aimed right for her head. As she screamed for help when they literally got stuck in her hair, the cars just whizzed merrily by until finally a Good Samaritan stopped to assist her. She was fine, but another victim was rushed to hospital after suffering an allergic reaction to the stings.  Flashing lights were eventually posted and a cop stationed by the side of the road to monitor the situation, which lasted the better part of a day. One plucky college student had the wherewithal to make a video, which the local newspaper published. The film immediately goes into slo-mo as soon as the driver spots the cop on the side of the road. Ever seen a stoned bee? Well, now you have!


A much, much scarier situation occurred over the weekend in Nevada, where the Democratic Party showed its true undemocratic colors for the whole world to see. If these authoritarian bigwigs can freak out over a couple of extra moot Bernie Sanders delegates crashing their elite party, I can only imagine what the national Philadelphia confab will look like. Sanders might not have a chance to win the nomination, but the police state antics displayed over the weekend are making me cheer on the Bernie Or Bust movement. I hope that its spirit and its activism survives long, long after Hillary or Donald takes the oath of abusing their office.  I also hope that no innocent people get hurt. But with enough people already getting hurt by this country's crushing, inhumane neoliberal policies, that is a risk that the desperate ones are willing and able to take. 


Now, back to the Times. I did actually break down and write three comments within the past week, but only because silence in the face of such cloying mendacity and superficiality was just not an option for me. I broke down. I took the loathsome bait.

First to annoy me was Frank Bruni, who emitted a sickeningly sweet and colorblind racist ode to Barack Obama, which he called "Obama's Gorgeous Goodbye." Bruni was especially tickled that Obama again scolded the Black Lives Matter activists during his Howard University commencement speech. Young black people who have failed to mind their manners when dealing with candidates who talk down to them is apparently one of Bruni's, and Obama's, biggest pet peeves.

My not very popular sarcastic response: 

This was a gorgeous addition to the ongoing Obama legacy tour. It truly captured the president's mythos and the spirit of compromise for which he does deserve much credit.
My quibble is this: why lecture the Black Lives Matter movement in such a scolding way? When black people are getting killed by a law enforcement at the rate of about one per day, they rightly protest, march, interrupt fundraisers of a politician who once called young blacks "super-predators who must be brought to heel," and make all the noise they can to try and stun our elected officials into paying attention to them. This is an existential crisis, not a tea dance or Aspen Ideas forum.
 Obama has been criticized in the past, notably by Ta-Nehisi Coates, for using graduation speeches to very successful young black people as a way to "dog-whistle" a reassuring message to white people. There is none of Martin Luther King's "fierce urgency of now" rhetoric coming from his lips. Then again, he's often said he is president of all the people, even the angry white dudes who can't find work because of off-shoring trade deals that have profits over people as their implicit mantra and their only objective.
We need to examine and acknowledge the root causes of their despair before lecturing people about their excessive "purity." There's nothing wrong with young people afflicting the comfortable when they refuse to budge from their comfort zones. When your very life is on the line, politeness seems almost suicidal.
One commenter actually gushed, "If only all black people could be like the Obamas!"


And then there was Maureen Dowd, with yet another breathless insidery account of one of her regular exclusive tete-a-tetes with The Donald. Some might call her series of pieces, showcasing the Raw Trump at his rawest, an example of the arch, deadpan satiric style with which she is capably comfortable. But her latest offering just struck me as lazy and dead. I responded thusly:
I really feel for Maureen Dowd. A whole week has gone by since her Trump satire, and the prospect of actual journalism has proven to be way too daunting. But kudos anyhow for the volcano metaphor and the heads-up that this op-ed would be a banal convergence of farce and tragedy.
Here's an energy-saving suggestion for the next installment in the Dowd-Trump saga. Rather than feed us an allegedly verbatim account of yet another vacuous, one-sided conversation with The Donald, how about a podcast to save both yourself or your assistant(s) the trouble of typing out 800 whole words of exhausting stenography? I mean, although the titters and the air kisses were way too implicit in this piece, I am dying to hear them actually vocalized. I also want the sound effects of the call actually going through on speed dial. As a paying subscriber I deserve it.
And just think how many remunerative clicks that such an "I Hear It Now" Murrow-esque piece would get you.
I won't even bother asking whether you have any shame.


Last and definitely least is the latest from Paul Krugman, a/k/a "Clinton Operative K." (h/t Naked Capitalism.) Riffing on Hillary's ghost-written 90s ode ("It Takes a Village") to herself, Krugman first gloats over Republican pedophilia in high places before pivoting to Clinton's own incremental great love for children, equaled only by Krugman's own sudden and great piecemeal love for children.

My comment:
Krugman is only concerned about details when it comes to, say, single payer health care. Hillary's plan is also big on aspirations and short on specifics, but it's given a miraculous pass.
Of course, her ideas are good ones, especially better pay for workers and subsidized day care. But they still have neoliberalism (market-based solutions to social problems) written all over them.
The first clue is that Krugman and Clinton talk about kids as investments, from which the plutonomy expects to derive big dividends as tomorrow's worker bees and payers of regressive taxes.
Well, guess what? Children aren't cattle futures.
They need enough to eat, today. Growing bodies can't thrive on "increments." But year after year, food stamp stipends get cut. Republicans demand starvation ("he who eats must work") and then Democrats agree to give the nippers a wee nip and tuck here and there.
 Parents need jobs and living wages, today. Hillary should demand reversal of the repeal of FDR's Aid to Families With Dependent Children. Bernie Sanders's shocking claim that Clintonoid welfare "reform" has doubled extreme poverty in the US in the past two decades was deemed accurate by fact-checking organizations.
Kids require shelter, today. The rents are too damned high. Every year, 2 million kids face homelessness. Evictions are the new normal. We need a federal guaranteed housing policy.
Human rights can't be doled out in increments for the sole purpose of placating the Market God.
(Don't even ask me to re-post all the readers' responses to my offering. Let's put it this way: some of them make the Angry Bees of New Paltz seem like butterfly kisses with gossamer wings.)

Go to Hillary's Website for the Only Truth There Is, You Lefty Child Hater!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Charity Begins in the Castle

Charity Of, By and For the Rich: the Berggruen Philosophy Study Center

Just because they're the feral rich doesn't mean they lack ethics. Far from it. When they call themselves philanthrocapitalists, they are not kidding. They quite literally love their own capitalistic humanoid gene pools above all else.

Their philosophical conceit - that one simply cannot help the teeming masses without first giving precedence to oneself and to one's own class - is all too evident in Town and Country's latest annual list of the Top 50 Philanthropists.

Each plutocrat (or more likely, the designated PR flack) was asked to give a brief synopsis (their "Grand Plan") of his or her goals for humanity. Following is a sampling of the winning entries - with the usual gratuitous supplemental explanations in parentheses provided by your helpful Sardonickist:

Whitney Williams's Grand Plan - "To help the high-profile - Ben Affleck, Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton, etc. - put their money and influence to seriously good use." (The serious good use is centered in extremely poor parts of Africa, which are in dire need of some good old fashioned high-profile corporate plunder investment. And this philanthrocapitalist should know: Whitney got her start as trip advisor to First Lady Hillary Clinton and later worked as finance chair for Clinton's first presidential campaign. )

Emily Tisch Sussman's Grand Plan - "Reduce gun violence, among other things, as campaign director at DC-based think tank Center for American Progress."  (Among the other things, presumably, is the election of the seriously high-profile Hillary Clinton, whose lobbyist-campaign adviser just happens to be the founder of the corporate-funded Center for American Progress. Emily's parents, donors to the Clintons, are part owners of the New York Giants football team.  Daddy founded the Loews Corporation, and Hubby is a private consultant to the Pentagon... among other things.)

John Steinbaugh's Grand Plan - "Stop deaths from hemorrhage among soldiers on battlefields through RevMedx's invention of the life-saving syringe." (Why have a grand plan to actually stop war when your company-slash-charity can also be the lucky winner of many a Pentagon contract for many an endless war? You can't get blood from a stone, after all. You still need human bodies.)

Jessica Seinfeld's Grand Plan - "Break the cycle of family poverty through the cookbook author's nonprofit Good+ Foundation." (No government-funded food stamp increases or jobs programs or wage increases for hungry poor families are needed as long as you have a wealthy comedian's wife to share her tips and tricks.  And just so you know, that cookbook she's selling to help poor moms feed their kids might be unoriginal, but it was not plagiarized. So shut up, all you haters and class enviers!)

Justin Rockefeller's Grand Plan - "Convince the wealthy not only to invest their money in a socially responsible manner, but to do it more effectively through the ImPact." (You can make a ton of money by slushing giving just a little of it away. Poor people are opportunities. Incidentally, Justin apparently is a real Rockefeller, unlike that con-man murderer Clark Rockefeller, who also convinced the wealthy to give him their money by way of class affinity fraud. Justin is redundantly described as both a venture capitalist and a Democratic activist. His daddy is former Senator Jay Rockefeller)

Bill Pulte's Grand Plan - "Rid Detroit of blight by tearing down houses and making room for safe communities." (Translation: buy up properties for pennies, evict tenants, tear down, gentrify, get rid of "black crime", re-sell to white people or rent back to evictees at a markup, ka-ching. Pulte is a private equity mogul, a/k/a Master of Creative Destruction. And wouldn't you know it, the brother of Mitt Romney  (the founder of vulture fund Bain Capital) just happens to serve on this "charity's" board. Double ka-ching!)

Deval Patrick's Grand Plan - "Prove that you can make money and do good at the same time by starting a new division of Bain Capital that focuses on investment opportunities that benefit society by still turning a profit." (It's a small world, after all. Patrick, like Romney, is a former governor of Massachusetts; they must have met on one of their revolving door trips.  Patrick also served on the board of subprime lender Ameriquest, which turned a profit by foreclosing on thousands of poor people's homes in Detroit and elsewhere.) 

Kim Fortunato's Grand Plan - "Reduce childhood obesity and hunger through Campbell Soup's  signature philanthropic program, Campbell's Healthy Communities." (One small serving of Campbell's Healthy Request soup contains more than half the daily recommended allowance of sodium. The company actually increased the salt in its products after an initial ballyhooed reduction depressed sales. Since the mega-charity, the American Heart Association. also added its healthy logo to the cans of salinated soup, both it and Campbell's were the subjects of a class action lawsuit, charging fraud.)

The Cucinelli Family's Grand Plan -"Prove that capitalism and humanism can co-exist through business and the Brunello and Federica Cucinelli Foundation..." (Never mind that capitalism is to humanism what cancer is to a body. In his native Umbria, Cucinelli, known as the King of Cashmere, reigns as a literal feudal overlord. In a real castle, no less, with real-live peasants toiling in the surrounding countryside to provide some co-existing ambience.)

Anida Kamadioli Costa's Grand Plan - "Ensure that an iconic brand puts its money where its mouth is on such issues as conservation through the Tiffany & Co. Foundation." (The issues apparently don't extend to Tiffany divesting from the part of its gem supply chain allegedly responsible for Middle Eastern massacres.)

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg's Grand Plan - "To give away 99% of their Facebook stock, currently worth $45 billion,  through numerous nonprofits like the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative." (As has been widely reported, this charitable endeavor is not only a tax dodge, it aims to supplant democratic programs, such as public education. The bulk of the excessive Facebook cash is parked in a Delaware LLC.)

Nicolas Berggruen's Grand Plan - "Create a space to shelter the world's elite thinkers in a peaceful yet intellectually fervid sanctuary for reflection and dialogue through the Berggruen Philosophy and Culture Center." (Even rich thought leaders need charity and safe spaces. Berggruen was once known as the "homeless  billionaire" because he was reduced to living in his private jet after losing a third of his fortune in the Wall Street crash. But now he's opened his new lush California Zen paradise to such wealthy war-mongering luminaries as Tony Blair and Condi Rice, who can fervidly shelter in place for "Thing Long" bull sessions with their class peers.

It's one more example of charity literally beginning right in the home. Or, if not in an actual castle, at least in the second, fourth or eighth vacation home.

Now, this isn't to say that all 50 of the winning philanthropists showcased in Town & Country are as crass as the individuals and corporate persons I highlighted above. There still exist the usual rich people giving and raising money to study diseases which have personally afflicted them or their family members. There are the usual celebrities and their sincere pet causes. For example, Matt Damon modestly aims to provide clean water for the whole wide world, while Stephen Colbert is merely trying to humor regular people into donating supplies to public, not private, schools. There's no money or investment opportunity in it for them, other than the positive publicity and maybe a clever tax write-off of some sort.

So read more about the leisure class at your own leisure. You are guaranteed to be amazed and perhaps even inspired to add an updated chapter or two to Thorstein Veblen's landmark sociological study on the rich. Stung by accusations that they're a bunch of wealth-hoarding greedsters, the plutocrats have joined forces to create their own "Idle No More" movement. They're very busy conspicuously helping one another to aspire to help others to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. It's a hard knock life for sure... for the rich.

Pop quiz questions: What, if any, difference is there between conspicuous consumption and conspicuous giving? 

Is it uncharitable to ask whether we can actually afford rich people?