Friday, July 29, 2016

Great Expectorations

Judging from all the electronically amplified throat-clearing that marred an otherwise boring acceptance speech, Hillary Clinton seemed to be choking on her own platitudes.

I couldn't help envisioning a scene from the great new Netflix series, Stranger Things, which I've been binge-watching all week as an antidote to the real horror of the Democratic National Convention. Right before tuning in to the robotic Chelsea introducing the robotic Hillary on Thursday night, I'd nearly gagged at the sight of a young boy coughing out a slimy eel-like creature into his bathroom sink. And so, at the sound of her first throat spasm, I braced myself in anticipation that Hillary, too, would be expectorating something even nastier than her hoarse-throated ode to great American exceptionalism.

 I almost felt sorry for her early on, when she as much as admitted that she'd been an abused child. Dorothy Rodham, her wonderful late saint of a mother, had once heartlessly kicked her out the door to confront a group of neighborhood bullies all by her little pre-school self. I wonder why Hillary didn't also mention the anecdote in Carl Bernstein's biography, which had her alcoholic father throwing the toothpaste out the window if somebody left the cap off, and then making the kids go out to hunt for it in the dark. Daddy went ballistic on the frequent occasions when his wife and kids failed to live up to his impossibly great expectations.

But as with everything else in the radical centrism of Clinton World, I suppose there has to be balance in the bathos. Hillary had nothing but glowing words for her dear old bootstrapping John Bircher of a dad on Thursday night.

And there has to be balance, as the late Christopher Hitchens wrote, in manipulating populism in the service of elitism. Thus did Hillary give a condescending verbal pat on the snow-white head of Bernie Sanders, looking  bored and grumpy in his seat as his wife Jane gave him frequent therapeutic pats on the back.

Clearing her throat ironically and ostentatiously, Hillary crooned out to her erstwhile nemesis:
Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion. That’s the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America.
Populism, meet the Neoliberal Project. Calling humanity-crushing corporate coups like the Trans-Pacific Partnership  (ostentatiously allowed to survive in the party platform) "progressive" is a feeble but common way to fool people into thinking that job offshoring and subsequent wage suppression throughout the world is actually good for them.

And then the gunk really flowed forth. It was a multi-colored, multi-textured oratorical mess that must have been festering all her political life:
We will work with all Americans and our allies to fight terrorism.
There’s a lot of work to do.
Too many people haven’t had a pay raise since the crash.
There’s too much inequality.
Too little social mobility.
Too much paralysis in Washington.
Too many threats at home and abroad.
But just look at the strengths we bring to meet these challenges.
This is highly unskilled obfuscation. Does Hillary's ghostwriter really think that by verbally juxtaposing domestic social problems with military might, people will then all join together in one big patriotic blob? Fight terrorism with hard work while acknowledging desperation and inequality and too many threats, be afraid, and then blame it all on the "paralysis in Washington" so beloved by the extreme centrists and the same multinational lobbyists who recycled a very small portion of their own corporate welfare to fund the spectacularly orchestrated Clinton Coronation.

It was no big surprise that after many of us gagged on Hillary's expectorations, she herself reportedly went on to party late into the night at a private shindig hosted by Lady Gaga, the rock star queen of the identity politics which barely holds the morally bankrupt Democratic Party together.

Before serenading Clinton, Gaga had given another exclusive concert in neighboring Camden, New Jersey, one of the poorest cities in America. It benefited not the poor, but one of Hillary's Superpacs.

But back to the speech. Hillary's noxious juxtaposing continues, as she counters Donald Trump with her own inclusive neoliberal army of caring professionals solidly aligned with both the victims and the perpetrators of state-sanctioned economic and physical violence:
Troops on the front lines.
Police officers and fire fighters who run toward danger.
Doctors and nurses who care for us.
Teachers who change lives.
Entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem.
Mothers who lost children to violence and are building a movement to keep other kids safe.
"Entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem" is neoliberal code for Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste. (See: New Orleans/charter school takeover, Haiti/post-earthquake wage suppression, and just about any place where mostly man-made disaster strikes.)

But wait. Her acceptance speech may have started out as a few dry throat clearings, but Hillary's hacking is getting juicier by the minute: 
Remember: Our Founders fought a revolution and wrote a Constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power.
Two hundred and forty years later, we still put our faith in each other.
Look at what happened in Dallas after the assassinations of five brave police officers.
Chief David Brown asked the community to support his force, maybe even join them.
And you know how the community responded?
Nearly 500 people applied in just 12 days.
Her speechwriter here skillfully combines democratic ideals with police state oppression. Of course no one person has all the power in America. It's a team effort of revolving door professionals from what's called the "establishment" or the "ruling class" or the "Washington Consensus" -- or what political theorist Perry Anderson calls the consilium of the Security Elite: 
"It extends across the bureaucracy and the academy to foundations, think tanks, and the media. In this milieu, with its emplacements in the Council on Foreign Relations, the Kennedy School of Harvard, the Woodrow Wilson Center at Princeton, the Nitze School at Johns Hopkins, the Naval War College, Georgetown, Brookings, the Carnegie Foundation, the Departments of State and Defense, the National Security Agency and the CIA, positions are interchangeable, individuals moving seamlessly back and forth between university chairs or think tanks and government offices, in general regardless of the party in control of the administration."
And the militarized police forces protect this elite team effort both at home and abroad. Only witness the snipers on the rooftops at Hillary's convention, protecting her and her whole consilium cohort against the proletarian rabble as the rich partied in and around the Wells Fargo arena this past week.

But back to the regal phlegm. Hillary now pivots to the "personal" in order to re-introduce herself to a public which has gifted her a sad approval rating of barely 30 percent.
I’ve been your first lady. Served 8 years as a Senator from the great sate of New York.
I ran for President and lost.
Then I represented all of you as secretary of State.
But my job titles only tell you what I’ve done.
They don’t tell you why.
The truth is, through all these years of public service, the “service” part has always come easier to me than the “public” part.
I get it that some people just don’t know what to make of me.
As CounterPunch's Jeffrey St. Clair quips in his brutally hilarious series on the convention: "HRC says the 'service part' always came more naturally to her than the “public part”. Well, that explains the private email server…"

Hillary went on to reprise her promise to "be president for the struggling, the striving and the successful," which is code for caring just as much about billionaires as she does for meritocrats sweating their Ivy League applications and elbowing their fellows in the ribs for a chance at a promotion or a corner office. She barely paid lip service to the crushingly impoverished. The P word - poverty - did in fact make the final cut in Hillary's coronation speech, with just one little mention. Overdoing it might have harshed the mellow of the USA! USA! USA! fight song echoing from the nosebleed seats, might even have burst a couple of those oversized balloons that a doddering and slack-jawed Bill Clinton just couldn't get enough of tossing around.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The Hillarian hucksterism isn't quite done yet:
I believe America thrives when the middle class thrives.
I believe that our economy isn’t working the way it should because our democracy isn’t working the way it should.
That’s why we need to appoint Supreme Court justices who will get money out of politics and expand voting rights, not restrict them. And we’ll pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United!
That's why, as the New York Times reports, Clinton's wealthy donors were literally coming out of their well-appointed, room-sized closets this week, descending en masse upon Philly's tonier spots. Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was quoted as gushing at the Ritz-Carlton: "This is a good place to be — for a lot of reasons.We must have set up five fund-raisers today. This is the bank.”

Hillary was certainly right as she ironically a-hemmed that "our democracy isn't working the way it should."

But never mind all that. It's always sunny in Philadelphia as long as the proles have a hopeful sunny outlook:
I refuse to believe we can’t find common ground here.
We have to heal the divides in our country.
Not just on guns. But on race. Immigration. And more.
That starts with listening to each other. Hearing each other. Trying, as best we can, to walk in each other’s shoes.
So let’s put ourselves in the shoes of young black and Latino men and women who face the effects of systemic racism, and are made to feel like their lives are disposable.
There she goes, echoing President Obama's platitude that dark-skinned people "feel like" their lives are disposable - thus putting the onus on the victims of state-sanctioned racist violence themselves. Anything rather than utter the active words of reality: on average, US law enforcement personnel actually kill one person every 24 hours. That picked-on feeling? It's too often the pain of a last dying breath.

Now here comes that centrist, balanced approach again, putting even more of the onus on the working class and reducing lethal institutionalized social problems down to "rebuilding trust" between cops and communities. Meet the truncheons halfway - extend a helping head. Lift those hands a little higher behind your back to make it easier for them to cuff you:
Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of police officers, kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to do a dangerous and necessary job.
We will reform our criminal justice system from end-to-end, and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
We will defend all our rights — civil rights, human rights and voting rights … women’s rights and workers’ rights … LGBT rights and the rights of people with disabilities!
And we will stand up against mean and divisive rhetoric wherever it comes from.
Reduce social injustice to identity politics. And stand against the meanness and divisiveness of Donald Trump, every time you see him getting a billion dollars' worth of free campaign advertising from the same media conglomerate which has colluded in the coronation of Hillary herself.
 Thank you and may God bless the United States of America!
(Thank god, it finally ended.)




balloonMan          whistles

-- e.e. cummings 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Party Dies, But Democracy Lives On

By Natalie Higley

(reprinted with permission of the author)

Just in case you missed it, after Bernie stood for the Vermont delegation, suspended the rules and forced the entire convention to do a voice vote (which we have fought against DEEPLY for months now) almost the entire Bernie delegation stood up and left the convention, together we all marched down the halls, chanting "this is what democracy looks like", and out into the media tent where we sat in silent protest with tape over our mouths. Written on the tape was, "no voice", "dnc stole my voice", "silenced by the dnc" and so on. We sat in solidarity holding hands. The media was unable to ignore us and that is why the media tent was the chosen destination.

 Cops then lined the doors and locked us in. Snipers were visible on the roof tops "monitoring" the media tent and the protest, police poured in from every direction, far more than I could count. We were hearing that we would all be arrested and removed if we didn't leave and yet they did not allow us to leave. Many of us, myself included, were very scared. We stood at the large glass walls at the front of the media building. I was crying and deeply upset, hundreds of Bernie delegates were locked outside the media building and standing in solidarity with us. I didn't know what to do, my phone was dead, i knew that my friends and family had been watching our live stream and that when my battery died I'm sure that they were panicking.

 I knew that if I got arrested so many things in my life would fall apart, and I started bawling uncontrollably, we were at the human limit of stress and exhaustion and emotionally overwhelmed after the slew of hardships and up and downs of this week. Being so overwhelmed I put my hands flat on the glass walls and just stared out the window crying, not knowing what to do. Within seconds, I had dozens of Bernie delegates outside, rushing the window and placing their hands over mine. Mouthing to me that we would be ok, that it will never be over, that we will continue, that they loved me, that they saw me, that we were together, that they would help me, that there was no need to be afraid because they were fighting to get us out, and they stood with me for an hour while the protestors outside were negotiating with officers for our release.

 I don't know what they said and I don't know what they negotiated, but after an hour and a half (felt like an eternity but in protesting world that's very fast) the doors were allowed to open. No one left me, and everyone wanted the opportunity to come "talk" to me. They stood with me and refused to leave until we were released. Once they opened the doors we had a flood of people coming to hug us and tell us how much they loved us and how proud they were to stand with us. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life, and most likely nothing will ever top that.

 Afterwards, we spoke to a million and one press members. I interviewed with everyone from the young Turks to BBC. Then there was a march led by Nina Turner and the black lives matter movement, out of the convention center. If the dnc has not yet recognized how large the exodus from this party is becoming, they are even more self absorbed and tone deaf than I ever could have imagined.

 Yesterday began the death of the Democratic Party. They have brought this on themselves and deserve everything they get. Hillary loses to trump by double digits in the polls and the numbers are only getting worse. To ignore that is to ignore fact and truth, they are ushering in the age of trump with open arms and i won't take the blame come November. I've done everything possible to attempt to ensure a win for Bernie, the only candidate who consistently beats trump in the polls, and has for months. I can leave this Friday knowing that I've done my absolute best, along with the hundreds of delegates I've met this week. I am proud of every step we have taken here and of those to come in the next two days. I will never forget a single one of them, and I have never met a more amazing group of people.‪#‎TheRevolutionContinues‬ ‪#‎JillNotHill‬ ‪#‎DontBlameMeIVotedForBernie‬‪#‎DemExit‬ ‪#‎DncDeathBySuicide‬ ‪#‎DemConvention‬ ‪#‎NeverHillary‬‪#‎NeverTrump‬ ‪#‎ThisISWhatDemocracyLooksLike‬ ‪#‎TheDayThePartyDied‬‪#‎July26th‬
Natalie Higley, 23, is a Bernie Sanders delegate from Lakeport, California.  

Here she is, posing with Sanders at a campaign rally in Stockton held in May.

And here's full video of Tuesday's walkout, largely uncovered by the corporate media:

Dave Lindorff has more details and commentary here.

One More Miserable Night

There are already plenty of blow-by-blow accounts of the Democratic Convention, so I won't be adding to the shallow pollution in any substantial way. Life is too short, and besides, I find I can only take this mind-numbing spectacle in extremely small doses.  Even abandoning the hopped-up heads on MSDNC and CryptoNationalismNetwork for noncommercial C-Span didn't help. Because what is this convention anyway, but one long freaking commercial for the Neoliberal Project and Permawar?

It's as though the Home Shopping Network had a mind-meld with all the grotesque military recruiting videos ever made and then gave birth to an Academy Awards show that goes 72 hours over schedule. Every speech runs the pea-sized gamut from platitudinal to fear-mongering (fear Trump, not the weaponized capitalism that created him!). Every speaker focuses on identity and biography rather than on issues, every actor proclaims that America is the greatest country on earth.

 I keep waiting for the warning music from the orchestra to cut these people off.

I wait in vain. The music only enables them, as it attempts to create being from nothingness.

Take last night. A bunch of Broadway stars sang "What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love" which hideously segued into Master of War Leon Panetta bragging that Hillary will be able to bomb people to death more responsibly than traitorous Putin fanboy Donald Trump. The cognitive dissonance was relieved only by a group of brave Sanders delegates chanting "No more war, no more drones," while Clinton operatives scrambled to hand out fascistic "America Stronger" signs to the other delegates to drown out the unsanctioned love. (Since the DNC is still refusing to divulge the corporate sponsors of the glitzy convention, I can't wait to find out which defense contractor footed the bill for this particular bit of "muscular" propaganda. Maybe Trump can ask Putin to find out for us.)

I could have sworn I was still in Kleveland.... or Nuremberg.

I finally had to shut off the TV when the Gold Star mother was introducing Obama. The message was that as long as she can get a triple hug from The One, losing a son in a war for oil and treasure is almost bearable. Life gets better. Especially since it was Obama who inspired her to overcome her grief by getting into local politics, just by virtue of his magical hug.

So I am sorry to say that I unpatriotically skipped the president's ode to Hillary and to his own legacy. Maybe I'll parse it at a later date. But probably not. Like I said, life is short, the sun is shining and the birds are tweeting louder than the Tweets canonizing his speech as the greatest speech ever by the Greatest President in the history of time, space and propaganda.

If it's a more scathingly detailed synopsis you crave, then Jeffrey St. Clair over at CounterPunch is your guy. His daily blow-by-blow blow-ups of the botulistic canned festivities are actually very funny reads. And that is quite an amazing accomplishment, given the ingrained torture of the entire grotesque spectacle.

Party on.


The open, unmoderated comments section of this blog has been provided as a service to readers.

While I slept, it devolved into a series of ad hominems and tit-for-tats among some contributors.  There were warning signs of an escalation yesterday, but I hoped that things would settle down. They did not.

I have neither the time, nor the energy nor the inclination to be a comment cop. I'd rather be working on posts than monitoring comments, and researching the  provenance of links, and answering private emails complaining about who said what to whom and to please ban this, that, or the other contributor.

Regular readers know I am fairly lenient about comments veering off topic after a post has been up for awhile. Although, as you know, one of my biggest pet peeves is working for hours on a piece only to have the first comment turn out to be completely irrelevant or an advertisement for another site. This hasn't been too much of a problem lately after I bitched about it a couple of times. And as I said, I'm not hawkish at all about staying strictly "on-topic," mostly because I rarely stay on topic in my own posts!

But I draw the line at personal attacks and flame-throwing.

 Compared to the hundreds and thousands (when one of my pieces is linked from or cross-posted to a larger site) of daily visitors to this blog, the commenting community has remained quite small. And that's fine: the quality of the writing has been excellent. And while the tone is often feisty and biting and sarcastic (in keeping with the title of this blog), personal attacks have been practically nil - until yesterday and overnight.

Since nastiness in the comments takes away from the quality and may even drive readers away, I have decided to impose a cooling-off period, and will disable the commenting function for at least the next few days.

I apologize to the majority of commenters, who are respectful.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Just a Spoonful of Bernie Helps the Hill Pill Go Down


The rage was everywhere you looked on both the Philly convention floor and out on the steaming streets on Monday. And justifiably so.

Therefore, may quisling Bernie Sanders's pathetic plea for his delegates and fans to behave and not make a mockery of him, personally, fall upon millions of deaf ears. If it's got to be a Bernieless burn, then so be it. A real revolution doesn't begin by falling down insensate and pledging to elect a deeply corrupt politician to (if she is truly as blessed as she constantly says she is) a White House reign that is not cut as short as those of her fellow lying war-mongers, Nixon and Johnson. 

"This is a real world we live in," an abject Sanders told a crowd of booing supporters as he urged mindless public fealty to the Clintonian version of trickle-down capitalism.  This re-endorsement was despite Wikileaks' release of the trove of emails proving that the Democratic Party is a corrupt institution, with  access to money and power for its own ends its only goals. This was despite evidence that party flacks had conspired against Bernie Sanders, personally.

As the saying goes, shit always flows downhill. Bernie took his own generous personal portion and let it flow right down to his millions of fans.

His big speech on Monday night, effusively praising Clinton, left me wondering why he'd wasted all his personal energy in the first place, why he hadn't been loudly and vocally supporting Hillary Clinton all along. His original campaign rhetoric is now lost somewhere in the ozone

 Of course, nobody should have been surprised. Least of all me, who warned from the outset not to put all our eggs into one Bernie Basket, lest the "sheepdogging" role ascribed to him by Black Agenda Report turned out to be all too true. I'd stopped feeling the Bern altogether during one of this spring's interminable town halls, when he blandly supported President Obama's drone assassination program and promised that it would continue under a Sanders presidency.

After that, god forgive me, the sound of his voice sounded like fingers across a blackboard. But yes, I still would have held my nose and voted for him.

 From the start of his campaign, of course, the writing was right there on the blackboard. He'd vowed from the outset to endorse Clinton when and if she seized the nomination. I think what happened then is that the throngs of adoring fans and their millions of small donations went to his head. His true, initial purpose of herding more cattle into the party corral was temporarily lost in a cash deluge of historic proportions and the seductive glare of the stage lights. He played the part of lonely outlaw for so long that even he started believing in his fictional character, especially once he won New Hampshire by double digits.

Meanwhile, there are about a hundred more days to go to Election Day. The manipulators of public consent would like nothing better than for us to put our struggling lives on hold for the duration, to root for a greater or lesser evil.  And then the whole thing will get started again on Inauguration Day 2017, if not before.

So let the revolution continue in the Bernie-Free Zone. At this point, he is only an impediment.

Let's give Jill Stein a look. A protest vote today can always lead to a meaningful vote in the future.

And next time an annoying Hill Pill tells you to grow up or shut up for wanting Medicare for All and a living wage law, congratulate them on their affordable pragmatism and then hit them up for a donation to a medical charity, a food bank, or StrikeDebt.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Little Mary Sunshine vs. Donnie Darko

The poor corporate Democrats are not only stuck between a rock and a hard place, they're mired in the swamp, they're swirling in the maelstrom, they're choking on their own happy-talk effluvia.

They proclaim themselves utterly dismayed by the dark, dismal, depressing acceptance speech of Donald Trump the other night. Sunshine Superman he definitely is not. And that he didn't make God a centerpiece of his diatribe is only more proof of how un-American he truly is. Failure of a politician to constantly mention a supernatural character is a direct slap in the face to our official national motto: In God We Trust.

Trump only mentioned God once in his speech, and that was in the final sentence. Even then, he committed the ultimate faux pas, uttering "God bless you" rather than "God bless America." Kate Smith must be rolling in her grave.

Superstition has been the glue holding the bipartisan military-industrial complex together since the dawn of the Empire, and Trump threatens to turn that neocon propaganda of exceptionalism right on its overstuffed puritanical head. He wears his xenophobia on his sleeve, willfully ignoring the code of etiquette which holds that politicians' foul cores must always be masked by pretty, soothing, humanitarian words.  

  In the annals of presidential politics, the Trump horror show is making Dick Cheney look about as anodyne as folksy misanthrope Mike Pence.

Rather than agree with Trump that most people are more down and out than ever, the Democratic Party is choosing instead to shoot the messenger. They're blasting away at Donnie, that nasty brutish short-fingered authoritarian messenger of gloom and doom. Because to acknowledge the terrible reality of Dystopian America would be to unconscionably betray the last seven and half years of the Obama presidency itself.

The premature and perpetual burnishing of Obama's legacy - and the party's retention of political power - seem more important to Democratic elders than addressing such inconvenient social ills as poverty and homelessness and drug addiction and suicide and premature death rates, and past, present and future corporate malfeasance and war crimes.

 In the view of elite eyes peering out from behind their rose-colored glasses, killing the messenger certainly trumps (sorry!) killing the legacy of Barack Obama in particular, and the Neoliberal Project in general. The Democratic Party cannot possibly admit that the wealth gap has increased under Obama, that the poverty rate has increased under Obama, that the jobs created under Obama have mostly been of the low wage, service sector, temporary and precarious variety.

So instead of espousing a new New Deal and a government-sponsored jobs program for every citizen wanting employment, they're holding their ears and insisting that the kids are all right - even in lead-poisoned Flint, Michigan. They gave out free plastic filters to everybody, didn't they? So they won't even bother to sing The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow at their convention this week. As far as they're concerned, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and for that matter, in every other corner of its inclusive, diverse Big Tent of the Free. 

Sure, they grudgingly allow,"there's still work to be done." Hillary Clinton has vowed to fight (against her own neoliberal policies?) from Day One, ensuring that every last shlub will get the chance to live up to his or her "God-given potential."

Just like Little Mary Sunshine, the Clinton party is a subversive parody of the Pollyanna genre, though unfortunately not in a feel-good, funny way.

You're Either With Her, Or You're Secretly With Donnie

You gotta believe... in incrementalism. Hope is so yesterday, and so Berniebro-ish. (just look at the DNC's leaked Sanders-trashing emails in case you still had any doubts. These flacks sound just as depraved as the "Sunny in Philly" cast. Is it too late for Bernie to still take the fight all the way to the convention?)

Donald Trump might be a fascistic strongman and a false idol, but the Sunshine Love Party of Hillary isn't exactly winning friends either, what with trying to convince us that everything is hunky-dory, and that the hunky-doryness will continue into the foreseeable future. The only influencers they seek to impress are their donors and the comfortable believers of the professional class. And that includes Republicans who are just as horrified at Trump's dark material as the establishment Dems.

 The Clintonites aren't interested in wooing hippies and lefties and poor people, and they never have been. Why else select Wall Street and TPP-friendly Tim Kaine as Clinton's running mate, and then add insult to injury by colluding with the New York Times to cynically cast him as a "progressive?"

(Now, to  be perfectly catty about the whole thing, I think that one reason she picked him is because he makes her look ten years younger.) 

 Slim,Trim,Grim, and Brim-full of Vim With Tim

New York Times columnist and Democratic factotum Paul Krugman, long a Panglossian defender of the neoliberal Obama regime, wrote a hilarious blog-post the other day, assuring his readers that because New York City's tony Upper West Side (where he owns a fortified $1.7 million co-op) is safe and secure, fear-mongering Donnie Darko has no idea what he's talking about, claiming that America is not strong or great.

If you listen to Trump, shames Krugman, it probably means that you're paranoid and delusional and perhaps even just as racist and misogynistic as he is.

Krugman writes,
If you want to feel good about the state of America, you could do a lot worse than what I did this morning: take a run in Riverside Park. There are people of all ages, and, yes, all races exercising, strolling hand in hand, playing with their dogs, kicking soccer balls and throwing Frisbees. There are a few homeless people, but the overall atmosphere is friendly – New Yorkers tend to be rushed, but they’re not nasty – and, well, nice.

Yes, the Upper West Side is affluent. But still, I’ve seen New York over the decades, and it has never been as pleasant, as safe in feel, as it is now. And this is the big bad city!

The point is that lived experience confirms what the statistics say: crime hasn’t been lower, society hasn’t been safer, in generations. Which, of course, leads us to the Trump gambit from last night. Can he raise 1968-type fears in a country that looks, feels, and is nothing like it was back then?
Krugman is an intelligent guy, so it's painfully, transparently obvious that his piece is simply a desperate liberal counter-gambit as well as an ode to the wellness regimes of the wealthy.

My published response:
Well, if all is right in Krugman's privileged world, then it naturally follows that all should revel in his self-satisfaction.

This post creepily (and hilariously) reminded me of a Patricia ("Strangers on a Train") Highsmith novel called "A Dog's Ransom." An upper middle class guy goes for an innocent stroll in Riverside Park - and everything is, well, nice. It's so perfect, in fact, that there isn't one homeless person around to blot the landscape. There are even some frisbee-throwing black and brown people on hand to lull the open-minded passer-by into thinking that bad things can never happen to good and well-off people.

But Highsmith being her usual misanthropic self, we soon learn there's a dark side to that walk in the park. She's about to do a real satiric number on affluence, the class war, and consumerism.

Little does her open-minded professional dude know that there's an urban (white) psychopath lurking nearby, and that his whole privileged world is about to crumble.. In the process, he discovers there's a world beyond the Upper West Side.

It's dawned on me that Krugman is addressing the top 10 percent of the readership as well as his own professional cohort. Little does he seem to realize, or care, that the more he contributes to the class-blind liberal classism genre, the more that right-wing populists will gleefully and correctly pounce on the elitism of the media in general and the Clinton Dems in particular.

Brace yourselves for the Talented Mr. Trump.
I didn't have room to add the text of a letter from the disaffected guy in the Highsmith novel to his particular Upper West Side target. But since it's apropos of Krugman's own clueless mind-set juxtaposed with seething working class resentments, I'll include it here, minus the annoying ALL CAPS beloved by the various and sundry angry people you meet on Yahoo comment boards, at Trump rallies, in Highsmith books, and in your own neighborhood: 
Dear Sir or "Gentleman"

I suppose you are pretty pleased with yourself? People like you disgust me and not only me but a hell of a lot of other people in this world. You are smug, you are self-suficiant (sic) you think superior to everyone else. You think. A fancy apartment and a snob dog. You are a disgusting little machine, nothing else. Your days are numbered. What right have you got to be 'superior'?
Anon (as in see you anon - HA!)                                                                           
I don't want to be a spoiler, but I do want to reassure readers that the rich assholes in the novel do survive, despite being ripped a new one or two. Evil usually triumphs in the realistic dark world of Patricia Highsmith. But it never triumphs unscathed.

This novel and others in the Highsmith oeuvre were long out of print, but are again popular thanks in large part to the film adaptation (Carol) of her early novel, "The Price of Salt."

One of them, a collection of short stories called "Little Tales of Misogyny" is especially apt in this Age of Trump. I recommend all her books, especially "The Talented Mr. Ripley," which was also made into a well-received film.

Tom Ripley was actually a more perfect psychopath than Donald Trump, who is also a clinical narcissist with a monstrous id competing with an equally monstrous ego. He is neither charming, nor literate, nor polite, nor classy.

To be a true member of the tribe of refined psychopathy, one must be the opposite of Trump, capable of oozing empathy in public and acting callously in private.

And that brings me back to (at least) one of the other major characters in this blog-post, who's managed to fool enough of the people enough of the time to earn public approval ratings above 50 percent.

But sometimes even the best of them slip up, including the law enforcement officials in the audience who laugh along appreciatively and ghoulishly:

If you prefer more unabashed ghoulishness:

As far as garden variety mendacity goes, Hillary still needs a lot - a whole, whole, whole lot - more practice in fooling at least some of the people some of the time:

But look over there! It's Trump, baring his bottom teeth.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Kindergarten Fascists of the GOP

The mob of regressives is taking its schoolyard bullying routine to a whole new scary level.

Not for nothing has the newest chanted refrain at the Republican Party convention in Cleveland become "Lock her up! Lock her up!"

They're obviously thinking back fondly to the only school setting in which many of them excelled: Recess.

They envision over-achieving Hillary Clinton on the playground in her crisply ironed gingham pantsuit. Somebody (Newt? Toad? Donald?) suggests that she join in their game of London Bridge Is Falling Down. Wanting desperately to be tested, vetted and accepted on their skewed-right playing field, the Goldwater Girl in liberal clothing accepts the challenge.

  Their human arch comes swinging down and traps her. Take the keys and lock her up, lock her up....but then the tune abruptly stops. The play-school reactionaries leave out the "My Fair Lady" ending because it reminds them too much of a Broadway musical, and they're a bunch of homophobes.

So to augment the cries of lock her up, lock her up, one particularly dim Trump toady named Al Baldasaro suggested ending the song by convicting Hillary of treason and executing her by firing squad. The Secret Service hall monitors were duly notified and are said to be investigating the subtle little threat.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi helped keep the primordial "Lock Her Up" chant going strong last night at the extended thought-free recess known as the Republican National Convention. You might remember Pam as the hall of justice monitor who promised not to squeal on thieving Donald Trump in exchange for some of his lunch money. And since she, too, studiously avoided the My Fair Lady ending, you also might remember the "sick irony" of her sympathizing with the LGBT victims of the Orlando massacre after fighting against gay rights for the past dozen years.

School misery was on full display in a few other of its endlessly creative forms on Wednesday.

Ivanka Trump was apparently so traumatized by her own school experience that she spent recess time huddled in a janitor's closet, making daily phone calls to Daddy. Thank goodness the bullying that he himself had perfected in military school didn't apply to his own daughter, because he always deigned to accept her calls. His kindness apparently did not extend to calling the school to demand why his kid was locking herself in a closet during recess in the first place.. or asking why the custodial closet was even equipped with a phone. It's very odd - Donald certainly wasn't forking over $35,000+ in private school tuition for his child to attend Dotheboys Hall.

 Or was he?

And then there was the rare playground spectacle of Bully vs. Bully.

Ted Cruz got on the see-saw with Donald Trump. As soon as Donnie was high in the air, crowing in all his narcissistic glory, Ted jumped off his end and let Trump crash right to the ground. All Donnie could do was shake his fist helplessly as the still-traumatized Ivanka sent eye-daggers in Ted's general direction. The hall monitors hastily escorted Heidi Cruz from the playground for her own safety, as various toadies taunted "Goldman Sachs!" in her wake.

Later, a partially recovered Trump clumsily air-kissed his new toady (Mike Pence) right in the middle of his forehead. He perhaps hallucinated a little girl with a little curl lurking there and acting horrid, and then his misogyny got the better of him.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is effectively turning all the bullying to her own advantage. Since people are picking on her at the rate of about once every nanosecond, and since she and her team send out a GoFundMe email blast for every last insult, she is raking in the victimhood bucks at a truly astounding rate.

I got an email from Chelsea Clinton just this morning, going her former BFF Ivanka one better when it comes to parents and schools. Donald only talked to his daughter by phone in a janitor's closet, while Hillary was both a workaholic  and a helicopter parent for the ages. Far from being a GOP caricature, Chelsea wrote,
 My mom is compassionate, kind, and hardworking -- when I was growing up, it seemed like she could do anything. She’d spend all day in court litigating on behalf of children and families, then come home and ask me over dinner what I learned in school, what my favorite part of my day was, and what I hoped would happen tomorrow. And then she would sit with me while I did my homework or practiced the piano or worked on my science project.
Chelsea seemingly was never allowed to goof off, misbehave, play, or even be alone in her room to just think, either then or now. Thus did this very very good 36-year-old woman dutifully beg me to send a buck to her ever-present Mom as a sign of my gratitude.

And then there was the email a few hours later from Clinton's Deputy Communications Director, Christina Reynolds. It was temptingly slugged "Lucifer."

It seems that crackpot theocrat Ben Carson has accused Hillary of being the devil incarnate. To prove that I am exercised enough to disown exorcism as well as to renounce The Donald and all his works, I was asked to send a buck to Hillary. In return, I will receive a "free" sticker. 

Because as Christina so aptly observed: "This is not a normal contest, and no one is playing by normal rules."

 Back When BFFs Still Played by Normal Ruling Class Rules (Kiss, Kiss)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Kleveland Klux Konvention

Even before the official festivities got underway, Iowa Congressman Steve ("Mexican drug dealers with calves the size of cantaloupes are coming over the border to kill us and rape us!") King set the white supremacist tone of the four-day-long Hate-a-Thon.

Whenever corporate media pundits need a reliable racist to balance out a panel of smarmy identitarian liberals, they invite somebody like Steve King. (Rudy Giuliani is another ole reliable, but he was busy both on the stage and sitting next to Bob Dole last night.) 

King was asked to guest-star on Chris Hayes's "All In" Konvention show with the almost iron-klad guarantee that he would pleasurably outrage the viewing audience and Quicken their pulses as a warm-up act to Duck Dynasty. Ratings duly skyrocketed as the clip of King spewing white supremacy has gone viral, stunning even fellow guest Charles Pierce, a normally voluble wag, into "jaw-dropping" silence.

So, not wanting to deprive the ratings-needy Chris Hayes of even one more click, I'll post the exchange, too.

Please note that after a faux-shocked Hayes wittily retorts that Hitler and Stalin were white guys too, he then effusively invites this mentally unstable pathocrat back on his show "any time". Anything to make center-right neoliberals seem reasonable and humane.

 But just for now, Hayes has to cut the racism short, because "it's cable." Heh, heh, heh. And now a word from our sponsors (Big Oil, Big Pharma, the "defense" industry, and my own personal favorite, the ad showing a well-to-do retired couple and their leashed pet pig strolling along the seaside to a wealth management appointment at too big to fail JP Morgan Chase.)

Maybe, by the end of the day, the white supremacist dude will even overtake PlagiarGate in total views. But I doubt it. Because the awesome spectacle of Melania Trump copying Michelle Obama's own insipid and probably ghostwritten 2008 convention speech has captured the attention of Kardashian Nation.

My take: The speeches of political wives, unfortunately, are by their very nature interchangeable. These women all come from the same 'umble beginnings, they all worked hard and played by the same hardscrabble rules, they all had strict parents who instilled puritanical values in their children, they all think their hubbies are living saints who care about millions of people they don't know and don't want to know just as much as they care about their own flesh and blood.

The media eats it up. And, of course, the wives' fashion labels are always given at least equal time with their anodyne words. No matter which side of the Money Party they're on, when it comes to media coverage, "who" they are wearing is nearly as important as their teleprompted platitudes.

Before an unemployed blogger/Obama fan caught the plagiarism, Rachel Maddow and her compatriots were full of effusive praise for the adorable Mrs. Trump. Because it is imperative that the corporate media raking in the bucks from this 21st century Nuremberg rally treat it as a genuinely democratic, as well as sane, enterprise. This is despite their frequent wide angle camera shots of the white sea of delegates decked out in their patriotic fright costumes and "Bikers for Trump" regalia.

Luckily for Hillary Clinton, who sent out fund-raising email blasts at the rate of about one per hour during prime time, there is no 1992 Democratic Party convention speech from which to compare notes and play Gotcha. She was deemed too controversial and risky at the time, what with her nationally televised dissing of Tammy Wynette and her aversion to baking cookies.

When 1996 came around, however, Hillary was finally allowed a convention speaking slot. For one thing, she needed to promote her first ghost-written memoir, It Takes a Village. And at the convention, she duly proved that she can be every bit as hackneyed as Melania and Michelle when it comes to folksily pumping up one's spouse:
I wish we could be sitting around a kitchen table, just us, talking about our hopes and fears about our children’s futures. For Bill and me, family has been the center of our lives. But we also know that our family like your family is part of a larger community that can help or hurt our best efforts to raise our child....
  It takes a president who believes not only in the potential of his own child, but of all children, who believes not only in the strength of his own family, but of the American family who believes not only in the promise of each of us as individuals, but in our promise together as a nation.
It takes a president who not only holds these beliefs, but acts on them. It takes Bill Clinton.
Sometimes late at night, when I see Chelsea doing her homework or watching TV or talking to a friend on the phone, I think to myself her life and the lives of millions of boys and girls will be better because of what all of us are doing together.
 But I don't want to take any more time away from the Republicans. So about last night:

The award for best comedy performance by a politician in a fascist setting has been unanimously awarded to Mayor Nine Eleven himself, Rudy Giuliani. ("RooDEE, RooDEE, RooDEE"). Obviously vying with Jersey Boy Chris Christie for the top spot in a Trump Department of Justice, Giuliani promised that Trump would do for America what he did for New York City. Among Rudy's accomplishments were purging 640,000 people from the welfare rolls, instituting racist "broken windows" policing practices, throwing annoying SqueeGee guys off the city streets, and dumping his stunned second wife by way of a televised press conference.

Rudy also claimed that Trump has been a Secret Santa for decades, but that he was hereby breaking his own pledge of silence to Donald about the long unbroken spree of anonymous beneficence. Whereupon Rudy proceeded to immediately break his own promise by maintaining the radio silence after all. Not one folksy anecdote about even one Trumpian good deed was forthcoming.  

But never mind all that. It's Republican awards week, after all.

The  Kanye West award for best oratorium interruptus goes to Donald Trump, for interrupting a couple of konvention speeches from military heroes praising him in order to call in to Fox News to praise himself. He's so vain, he probably thought the show was about him. Oh, wait...

Best special effects: Donald appearing on the stage in blue-misted silhouette. It's a reminder that the opening scene of The Apprentice is probably what we can expect from a Trump presidency: a noxious haze of fear and theatrics.

For double the fun, though, the best improvisational dialogue award has to go to a frothing Rudy playing Adenoid Hynkel. Which means that Donald probably won't pick him to be attorney general after all. Donald hates being upstaged.

Giulani: Are we crazy?

Audience: Yeah!