Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Advice to Needy Neoliberals

The kludge known as Obamacare is trying desperately to slide down the tubes, but it's too dense with defenders to simply go gently and smoothly into that good night. It's moldering in a limbo between the toilet and the sewer, while its subscribers and rejects are trapped in either purgatory or hell, depending upon the health of their bodies, their faith in politicians, and the size of their dwindling bank accounts.

It seems that the predatory insurance companies, which literally wrote the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, just aren't getting enough bang for our bucks, even though executives and Wall Street investors are still getting fantastically rich off the pain and toil of others. Aetna might have just pulled out from 11 states over an alleged lack of a pool of healthy but broke customers to suck dry, but that didn't stop its CEO from entering the Rapture and pocketing $27.9 million in compensation last year. A guy's got to eat, especially a guy with such a ravenous appetite.

Obamacare's defenders, getting worried that their product is increasingly seen as a scam of historic proportions (in an election year, no less) are thus in high concern-trolling gear. They're even daring to utter the previously forbidden "public option" phrase to placate the masses and fool them into thinking that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats can be counted on to help save Obamacare from itself, if not counted on to save any actual lives and livelihoods. (save those of millionaires and billionaires.)

And since the Neoliberal Thought Collective running the public-private partnership known as Government persists in treating medical care as a corporate endeavor rather than as a natural human right, the New York Times published its own advice column of possible fixes in the Business Section rather than the health or science sections.

The headline itself wastes no time in framing the crisis of American health care as strictly a business problem: Obamacare Marketplaces in Trouble: What Can Be Done? 

It's been a hard couple of decades, even generations, for the tens of millions of unemployed or underemployed people lacking basic medical care. But you wouldn't know it from reading the Times lede (the standard Neoliberal buzzwords are in my bold)
It has been a hard couple of weeks for Obamacare. The law’s online marketplaces — where people were supposed to be able to easily shop for health insurance — have been suffering from high-profile defections and double-digit premium increases.
Critics of Obamacare have pointed to the recent problems as proof the market is not working, while even the law’s staunchest defenders are arguing that the marketplaces need some fixes.
In other words, the vaunted free market needs a lot more public assistance and corporate welfare in order to ensure that profits over people may continue to grow. And those damned shoppers searching for health insurance product won't be satisfied until they can be offered the illusion of choice, which fools them into thinking they actually have a say in their fates, as they struggle through the kludge.

Since the illusion of choice is disappearing from the flawed equation, the Times wants to know: What can be done to help the marketplace?
If the market looks as if it’s growing and stable, some insurers might come back. Both President Obama and Hillary Clinton have also revived the idea of the so-called public option, which would be a government-run plan that would either compete with or be a substitute for a plan offered by a private insurer. It’s politically controversial and hard to make work in practice.
The Times tells us that although Barack and Hillary really, really want to help, those nasty Republicans will do their useful idiotic best to thwart all good Democratic intentions. But keep your hopes alive anyway, the subliminal message goes, and vote for the Clinton Restoration. Never mind that the "public option" is in itself a useful idiot, since it displaces true single payer, or Medicare for All. But if the Times calls even a scammy proposal "controversial and hard to enact," then we might as well not even talk about genuine universal coverage. Because it's impossible. Because they say so. And Hillary is a progressive who likes to get things done. Because she says so.

Meanwhile,"we" have to get those outrageous health care and drug costs down - not by implementing cost-effective single payer, of course, but by making it even harder for us to access actual medical care with our pricey Obamacare plans:
 Bring down costs instead of raising prices. More and more insurers are choosing to limit the number of doctors and hospitals they will cover in their plans. A lot of the reason that health insurance is so expensive in the United States is that doctors and hospitals charge more here than their counterparts in other countries. So the narrow network strategy may be a smart way to start getting different groups to negotiate down on their prices.
One of the biggest impediments to capitalist predators profiting from people is that healthy - but increasingly debt-crushed and precariously employed - young Americans are averse to shelling out their meager food and rent money for a Bronze plan. So the answer is not free health care or student loan forgiveness - it's smarter, more effective punishments for irresponsible consumers:
 Change the incentives, so more people who are currently uninsured buy health insurance. Hillary Clinton has talked about giving out more generous subsidies, so insurance costs less and more people can afford to buy it. Many Republican politicians suggest another way to lower prices: eliminating current requirements that insurance cover a wide array of services. Some policy experts, including Uwe Reinhardt, a Princeton health economist, in a recent Vox.com interview, have suggested tightening up the penalties for remaining uninsured, so people can’t wait and buy insurance only after they get sick.
So maybe if the Neoliberal Thought Collective can make Obamacare even crappier than it already is and cover only a few arcane diseases, then the Kludge can still be saved. And if that doesn't work, perhaps Obamacare refusenicks can be tried as political dissidents and sentenced to a long term at a for-profit private prison until they scream: "I love Big Insurance! Where do I sign up?"

 Uwe Reinhardt, who is not to be confused with Carmen Reinhart, the economist  so soundly discredited several years ago for falsely claiming that austerity spurs economic growth, is an opponent of single payer insurance because, he claims, the government is too corrupt. Congress might end up appointing a payment board with prices dictated by the same private insurance vultures now crying poverty, he said. There's always an expert to stop a program for the greater good right in its tracks. Always.

And speaking of austerity, neoliberals don't actually use that word any more, especially during an election year. They must reckon that "tightening up the penalties"  gives a more humanistic ring to Social Darwinism. Plus, if there is anything that neoliberalism prides itself on, it's the ability to grow and change its Orwellian language to keep fooling ("empowering") some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time.
The Obama administration has already made a few changes, including making it a little harder for people to sign up for insurance in the middle of the year. It has also signaled to Congress and state legislatures that a “reinsurance” program, which would pay insurers back for the sickest of their patients, would be a good idea.
There is little consensus among experts and advocates about what fixes would have the biggest impact when it comes to stabilizing the markets. The divides are not just partisan, but reflect persistent uncertainty about the most important things going wrong, and the most effective solutions to fix them.
Obama is already responsibly and expertly punishing people for trying to game the predatory insurance market. They have the unmitigated gall to seek medical care only when they get hurt or sick. The exasperated big insurance predators are simply running out of options for punishing these miscreants. Therefore, Americans might be forced to bail out the private insurance and drug cartels the same way they bailed out the Wall Street banksters and General Motors.

Here's my published response to the Times advice column to the vampires who are so worried about their dwindling blood supply:
The problem with the health insurance market is that it is even a market in the first place.

Forget the public option.That's a cop-out. We need true single-payer health care, a/k/a Medicare for All. Financed through a progressive tax, no co-pays or deductibles, universal coverage from cradle to grave, none of those opt-outs allowed in Red States where hatred of the poor is both a managerial strategy and a cultish dogma.

Obamacare is all about protecting big business and fostering competition for profit and making a handful of insurance and pharmaceutical moguls even more obscenely rich. Some 30 million people are still uninsured, while millions more are under-insured. Even those lucky enough to have insurance constantly have to shop around, prove their incomes, their addresses, their existence - and who still can't afford to visit a doctor or hospital when they get sick.

The idea is you shouldn't and/or mustn't use your plan, and that way the neoliberal bean counters can brag about medical costs going down. It's "best practices" and efficiency and the bottom line over the actual health and the actual care of people.

 It's a big, fat scam and a monumental rip-off.

So enough of making our human rights and our well-being subservient to endless economic growth. It's time to join the rest of the civilized world.

If we can afford trillion-dollar wars and negative effective tax rates for predatory oligarchs like Donald Trump, we can certainly afford universal health care.
Physicians for a National Health Plan, the group which was barred from the original Obamacare negotiations and even threatened with arrest, has the lowdown on why the "public option" isn't at all the progressive rescue it's cracked up to be. It would be an effective bailout of the insurance cartel because it would allow the predators to cherry-pick their subscribers and foist them off on the government, should they actually become sick and need care. It would allow investors to grow richer, because there would be fewer payouts required by the private insurers.

Additionally, a public option plan would not reduce costs, as would a genuine single payer scheme. It would keep intact private, investor-owned hospitals and clinics and end up delivering deficient care to the poor. It would be ripe for constant de-funding, especially if its control is exported to individual states.

Speaking of states, staunchly habitual Obamacare defender Paul Krugman chose to devote his own latest Times column to the evils of Texas - specifically, linking the doubling of that state's maternal death rate to the closing of its Planned Parenthood clinics. Although he feebly admits that correlation doesn't translate to actual causation, that remains his premise. As always, Krugman's approach to our great humanitarian crises is to blame them solely on those nasty old Republicans in Congress and Red States. Plus, it's all totally based on Trump-style racism. And Texas is just like misogynistic Russia, which is supposedly backing Trump and fooling with our free and fair elections.

And echoing his newspaper's neoliberal advice column, Parochial Paul concurrently toasts the "cost-effectiveness" of the Obamacare Market in California.

 Because if there's one thing that neoliberalism is extremely good at, it's creating competition where it shouldn't even exist: 
 California — where Democrats are firmly in control, thanks to the GOP’s alienation of minority voters — shows how it’s supposed to work: The state established its own health exchange, carefully promoting and regulating competition, and engaged in outreach to inform the public and encourage enrollment. The result has been dramatic success in holding down costs and reducing the number of uninsured.
Why are states like Texas so cruel, wonders Krugman, after he blames the cruelty solely upon racism and ignores the actual class war (which, by the way, disproportionately punishes women and minorities.)

My published response, along much the same lines as my previous Times comment:
 The solution is simple: centralize the medical care payment and delivery system. removing the profit motive from health insurance completely. Join the rest of the civilized world. No deductibles, no co-pays. Everybody gets covered, cradle to grave, no matter where you live. Take the power away from all these sadistic state governments and implement Medicare for All.

Texas is the extreme case, but the maternal death in the US overall is up by 27% - at the same time it has fallen sharply in other countries. It's not only that women in some states don't have access to prenatal care or Planned Parenthood. It's that they have little to no access to any kind of medical care at all, all across this country. According to the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the major cause of the maternal death rate increase is the rise in such preventable chronic diseases as diabetes and obesity.

Black women are two to three times as likely to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth as white women. According to a 2014 U.N. study, the maternal mortality rate in one Mississippi county surpassed that of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It's a racist war and a class war of the richest elites in the richest country on the planet against the rest of us. Lowered life expectancy is just one glaring symptom of a sick society that puts profits for the few above the well-being of the many.

If we can afford trillion-dollar wars and Wall Street bailouts, we can afford universal health care.

Monday, August 29, 2016


Only a couple more months to go before America Votes. 

So my question is this: will it be safe to come out of the free-thinking closet to criticize Hillary Clinton once she's elected, or will calling her out as a corrupt dual tool/member of the plutocracy continue to get you labeled a pathological hater and a racist misogynist and a stealth Trump supporter for the entire duration of her reign?

Pundits are calling this election a major realignment of the two establishment political parties. If we still enjoyed a modicum of democracy and the wishes of the majority really counted, this would mean that the Democrats are getting more progressive, and that the Republicans are getting more dead.

Unfortunately, what's really happening is that the corporate Democrats are sympathizing, if not directly joining forces with, the "good" Republicans. Their new mutual enemy is something called the Alt-Right, whose fringe-dwelling denizens are supporting the candidacy of Donald Trump. As a result, some so-called liberals are actually championing Hillary Clinton's rescue of such mainstream misanthropes as House Speaker Paul Ryan (Ayn R) as well as almost the entire war crime cabal of George W. Bush. These pathocrats sure beat powerful and dangerous paranoid conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as well as whatever is still left of the KKK.

Don't they?

Following the Clinton script, liberal pundits are likewise becoming damned tolerant and inclusive enough that they're also willing to extend the welcome mat to the same sadists and warmongers they used to pretend to despise. Isn't it just terrible that a new radical fringe is taking over a whole radical fringe party?

Donald Trump is saying right out loud what slimeballs like Paul Ryan have been dog-whistling. Ryan concern-trolls the poor as he cuts funding to Planned Parenthood and food stamps, while Donald Trump blasts the phony concern-trollers at the same time that he denigrates women and immigrants.

Hillary Clinton, former Goldwater Girl who is proud of her own conservative roots, thinks it's travesty. She said so last week in Reno:
This is not conservatism as we have known it. This is not Republicanism as we have know it. These are race-baiting ideas, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas, anti-woman –– all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’
Now Alt-Right is short for “Alternative Right.”
The Wall Street Journal describes it as a loose but organized movement, mostly online, that “rejects mainstream conservatism, promotes nationalism and views immigration and multiculturalism as threats to white identity.”
(Hillary explained her own driftable conservatism as she knows it two decades ago):

The political theater is being exposed as political theater. The political process is being exposed as benefiting only the wealthy and the well-connected. The enemies we were urged to despise yesterday are supposed to be our new BFFs today. Fear is the glue binding all of us together.

E.J. Dionne even goes so far as to cast "the Republican Party as we know it" as a special interest group in need our protection. Much like Black Lives Matter, the headline to his latest column perversely goes, "Hillary Clinton's Republicans Matter."

Saving Privatizing Ryan: Why's Everybody Altways Pickin On Me?

Dionne repeats the centrist Clintonian dogma that there really is such a thing as a mainstream,reasonable Good Old Party. Compared to Donald Trump, who wouldn't sound good? Except that Dionne fails to notice, or pretends to ignore, the fact that Republicans have been acting out their own Trumpian fantasies for at least the last century. There was that one brief shining moment when progressive Republicans like John Lindsay and Nelson Rockefeller were indeed the foils of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Therefore, it has to naturally follow that neocons like Paul Wolfowitz and Robert Kagan are the natural foils of Donald Trump. And as such, we should all be on the same side.

And that is so cool, because such an alliance would put the kibosh on any annoying, lingering, gridlocky anti-war sentiment and pesky foreign policy differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. There would no longer be much of a need for the few diehard pacifists still left in Congress to make a stink about presidential war powers and the need to legislatively rubber-stamp every last invasion and bombing spree.

We can all be patriotically united in our hatred of Trump, who is, after all, nothing but a tool of Vladimir Putin, that bipartisan scapegoat we can all be taught to hate while Exceptional America bombs and invades at will. We can all overcome our dreaded "sickly inhibitions" against Permawar. We can all stop worrying and come together as one great big snuggley war party.

Dionne writes:
Others (the Never Trump Republicans) are a part of an unusual alliance between hawkish neoconservatives and Republican foreign policy realists who often disagree with each other but are joined in the view that Trump’s foreign policy, such as it is, is entirely outside the internationalist traditions their party has broadly upheld since World War II. Both ends of this anti-Trump alliance are especially suspicious of his friendly views of Vladimir Putin and his support of policies (on NATO and the European Union) that would advance Russia’s interests.
On foreign policy, there is some coming together between Clinton and her Republican allies. Dovish liberals worry about this aspect of the anti-Trump right. They suspect — partly on the basis of her history — that Clinton’s instincts are more hawkish than President Obama’s.
Her allies on international issues cast the issue somewhat differently — and more positively: that Clinton’s election could restore something close to an older consensus on foreign policy that was blown apart by the Iraq War. They argue that she occupies a middle ground between Obama and his hawkish critics. She is less interventionist than the neoconservatives but would, on some issues, be tougher in her approach to diplomacy than Obama has been.
Obama, of course, is now diplomatically bombing seven different countries. But the legend continues that he is some kind of weak pacifist. The pretense that Republicans and Democrats haven't always joined together and cooperated in appropriating unlimited and unaccountable funds for wars, surveillance and other Deep State activities continues.

The centrist discourse about Hillary Republicans is all about selling forever wars to the war-weary American people. And it might be working.

The propaganda being spooned out by the corporate media calls for a new Neoconservative/Neoliberal Coalition in the service of limitless American hegemony. People will have to get killed, of course, and that might make many of us feel a bit queasy, but it sure beats death by Donald Trump. Alt-right? All right?

In Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky tells how liberal pundit Walter Lippman wrote the original, finger-lickin' good recipe for his heirs in the Media-Political Complex:
He argued that what he called a "revolution in the art of democracy," could be used to "manufacture consent, " that is, to bring about agreement on the part of the public for things that they didn’t want by the new techniques of propaganda. He also thought that this was a good idea, in fact, necessary. It was necessary because, as he put it, "the common interests elude public opinion entirely" and can only be understood and managed by a "specialized class "of "responsible men" who are smart enough to figure things out. This theory asserts that only a small elite, the intellectual community that the Deweyites were talking about, can understand the common interests, what all of us care about, and that these things "elude the general public." This is a view that goes back hundreds of years. It’s also a typical Leninist view. In fact, it has very close resemblance to the Leninist conception that a vanguard of revolutionary intellectuals take state power, using popular revolutions as the force that brings them to state power, and then drive the stupid masses toward a future that they’re too dumb and incompetent to envision for themselves. The liberal democratic theory and Marxism-Leninism are very close in their common ideological assumptions. I think that’s one reason why people have found it so easy over the years to drift from one position to another without any particular sense of change. It’s just a matter of assessing where power is. Maybe there will be a popular revolution, and that will put us into state power; or maybe there won’t be, in which case we’ll just work for the people with real power: the business community. But we’ll do the same thing. We’ll drive the stupid masses toward a world that they’re too dumb to understand for themselves.


Maureen Dowd, in her latest stinging column, writes that even though The Alt-Right Is All Wrong, Hillary Clinton has nonetheless provided it with some legitimacy by simply talking about it and deflecting attention away from her own corruption. (She even helped hand out chocolate truffles to the masses in Reno, in true, Marie Antoinette fashion!)
If Hillary had a normal opponent, her vulnerabilities would be more glaring. She would have spent the last week getting peppered with questions about how the F.B.I. discovered 14,900 more emails from her private server, which are going to drip out through the fall.
But Hillary does not have a normal opponent. She has one who manages to self-destruct in every news cycle. So instead she was soaring above her own paranoia and mocking Trump’s paranoia, soaring above her egregious messes and gamboling through Trump’s egregious messes....

.... Many people believe that Trump is so demented and dangerous that any criticism of Hillary should be tabled or suppressed, that her malfeasance is so small compared to his that it is not worth mentioning. But that’s not good for her or us to leave so many things hanging out there, without her ever having to explain herself.
Letting her rise above everything for the good of the country is not good for the country.
As per usual in the post-Bernie era, the most highly-rated reader comments were those that supported Clinton and berated Dowd. The consent has been skillfully manufactured and Chomsky has been proven all too right. Reality truly is in the eye of the propagandized beholder.

My relatively unpopular and even much-despised ("a bitter, hate-filled screed," according to one Hillarian) published comment:
It's so true that Bill and Hillary have always paradoxically benefited from the "vast right wing conspiracy." The more outlandish the attacks against them, the more we circle the Clinton wagons. Does anybody still remember that the progressive MoveOn was initially formed to defend Bill after the Lewinsky scandal? Even Gloria Steinem rushed to his defense back then, as the Clinton administration imposed sanctions on Iraq, and half a million children died as a result. Madeline Albright, who later said that there's a special place in hell for women who don't support Hillary, allowed that this was a hard choice, but ultimately worth it.

 Thus did last week's 20th anniversary of the Clintons' odiously named Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act pass practically unnoticed amidst the latest outbreak of manufactured outrage.The extreme poverty rate has doubled as a result of cutting off cash aid to mainly black single moms and forcing them to take low-wage jobs minus the promised child care and training. It was a breathtakingly callous betrayal of the poor.

So, thanks to Trump, we're all invited to Hillary's great big happy "Better Together" family of billionaires and neocons, the latest of whom is war criminal Paul Wolfowitz.

Trump is only one psychopath among very, very many.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Normalizing Corruption

If there is one consolation to be had from the looming election of Hillary Clinton, it's that she'll not so much strut into the White House as she will drag herself across the White House lawn as a mortally wounded animal.

 The constant drip-drip-drip of slimy revelations in the waning weeks of Neoliberal Death Match 2016 will ensure that many, if not most, of her neoliberal and neoconservative objectives will be stymied by one Congressional star chamber after the other -- from the day she takes the oath of office.

So weakened is she as a candidate and as a leader, that her much-vaunted bipartisan cooperative skills and wonkishness will go by the wayside. Impeachment is probably a foregone conclusion. Her electoral chances are still better than they deserve to be, thanks first to the anti-Bernie Sanders machinations of the Democratic Party and now to the imploding Donald Trump. Her chances of outlasting one term? Not so much. This is regardless of whether or not she is ever formally impeached. She will be more punching bag than president. Palace intrigues both large and small will rule the news cycles.

Just as Bill Clinton's mission to privatize Social Security was thwarted by the Monica Lewinsky affair (thanks, Monica!) so too will the financial skullduggery of the Clintons' family foundation prove to be the undoing of their political dynasty. Luckily for us, Hillary Clinton simply does not possess the preternatural ability of Barack Obama to put the screws to the public as he still fools at least half the people into believing he has their best interests at heart.

This would all be so depressing were it not for the entertainment value of watching the liberal media twist themselves into pretzels trying to defend the indefensible. They are as much as admitting that since political corruption is the new normal and Washington could not exist but for its incestuous muck, it is patently unfair to single out the Clintons for their own serial chicanery.

Shooting the messenger is their defensive weapon of choice. Rather than pay attention to the content of the leaked emails showing there is virtually no line between the State Department and the Clintons' money-laundering "global initiative," her defenders are attacking the Associated Press, Julian Assange, the conservative legal eagles of Judicial Watch, Clinton donor Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin. 

Ruth Marcus, centrist columnist of the Washington Post, takes great umbrage at reports that Hillary's many meetings with many donors to her private charity during her stint as Secretary of State constitute the appearance of criminal influence-peddling. "Obliging a donor is not necessarily criminal," the headline sniffs.

In the first paragraph, Marcus falsely implies that were it not for Donald Trump taking great umbrage at Clintonian wheeling and dealing, nobody else would actually be giving a crap about Hillary's normal, healthy activities:
Doug Band, the Bill Clinton aide and then-foundation official, asked Hillary Clinton’s State Department aides for occasional help on behalf of folks who had written checks to the foundation or associated entities: a meeting with a crown prince here (“good friend of ours,” Band noted), a favor for a Lebanese Nigerian businessman there (“key guy . . . to us,” Band observed).
But for the most part, the Band missives produced . . . nothing. The crown prince of Bahrain got his meeting, but there’s every reason to think that would have happened anyway.
A couple of billionaires are reduced to "just plain folks" whose friendship with the Clintons has absolutely nothing to do with their bank accounts. The crown prince of Bahrain would have gotten a weapons deal from Hillary whether he bribed her or not, whether he tear-gasses his own citizens or he doesn't.

 Marcus pretends to assume that for corruption to actually occur, a bag full of money must change hands, an actual favor must be proven to occur immediately following a meeting. The way corruption really works is that donors buy access to the official, who over time gives out the favors in such a piecemeal or delayed fashion that nobody is ever the wiser. Especially "journalists" like Ruth Marcus, who also seem to care more about gaining access to the powerful than they do in holding them to account.

If only Hillary were a smarter politician, moans Marcus, then she would have known enough not to meet with her donors at the State Department. It's not the corruption that matters, because everyone is corrupt. It's the stupid lack of care in hiding the corruption from WikiLeaks and the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, over at the Clinton-centric Huffington Post, they're slugging the A.P. story on the meetings as a "witch-hunt" against Hillary - even though the HuffPo article, written by Michael Calderone, does not actually use such McCarthyite language. He merely notes that the A.P. sent out a "misleading Tweet" which made it appear that nearly half of all Clinton's State Department meetings were with her private donors - when, in fact, only half the private citizens with whom she met were also her private donors.

So, it's all good. Especially since the private donors were pushing nothing but noble causes.

The Clinton camp is also complaining that the A.P. didn't mention that among the private donors with whom she met were the noble Hollywood star, Ben Affleck, and the late Elie Wiesel. "Scandal!" sarcastically Tweeted communications flack Brian Fallon, who went on to misleadingly assert that Donald Trump is a Russian plant.

The Clinton camp seems to have forgotten that it was the A.P. which prematurely announced her nomination on the eve of the California state primary in June, effectively discouraging Bernie Sanders supporters from going to the polls and artificially increasing her victory margin to the double digits. 

Heads she wins, tails the voters lose.

Although widely criticized by the media for her refusal to hold formal press conferences, Hillary is nevertheless given a platform by the media whenever she snaps her fingers. She called in to CNN's Anderson Cooper Wednesday night to pull a Donald Trump, and complain about the media. Hiding behind the protection of her phone, where nobody could see her face or examine her body language, she insisted that the A.P. story was "a lot of smoke and no fire."

More likely she'd been smoking her own skunk and didn't want the viewers to see the bloodshot eyes competing with the bloodstained hands. 

It wasn't fair, Hill whined to Andy, to exclude the thousands of meetings with very serious important people that she herself chose to exclude from public view before WikiLeaks took it upon itself to share them with the public. They could at least have been more fair about holding her publicly accountable, she paradoxically groused from behind the safe screen of her phone. 

When Cooper complained about her chronic press unavailability, she snapped, "Well, Anderson, I'm talking to you right now!"

And then she went on to bitterly complain about Donald Trump's own overly-constant press availability.

Meanwhile, Julian Assange is promising to release more documents potentially embarrassing or damaging to Hillary Clinton. 

Drip, defend, complain, deflect, repeat. Take frequent selfies with the nobles of the Donor Class. Share widely on social media, and call it Democracy.

Everybody Must Get Stoned

 All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out -- I.F. Stone

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Smells Like Neoliberal Teen Spirit

 Hillary Clinton is so out of touch, she thinks that she can woo a lost generation of debt-crushed Bernie Sanders supporters through the glossy perfumed pages of Teen Vogue (part of the high-fashion publishing empire of her friend, Anna Wintour.)

Either she's really that clueless, or she's cynical enough to gleefully rub their noses in her elitism. She probably neither wants nor needs the Bernie vote, as evidenced by her recent marathon of buck-raking from Wall Street to Hollywood to Silicon Valley and on to the Republicans and Neocons and war profiteers of the military-industrial complex.

Joseph Stiglitz might have recently announced that global Clinton-style neoliberalism is dead in the water, but just try telling that to Hillary Clinton. Her Teen Vogue pep talk to America's youth is literally bursting at the seams with the language of neoliberalism. Everything in your life must be viewed through the lens of the Market:

"I consume and I compete, therefore I am."

Of course, you're also required to vote every four years in order to give your galloping consumption that false glow of democratic good health. Solidarity with your fellow citizens has nothing much to do with it. At the very most, you can digitally fist-bump each other on Facebook and Twitter.

Speaking of false glows, take a look at Teen Vogue's misty watercolor rendering of Hillary. She appears to be totally blissing out on one of those Bernie Sanders hallucinogens (Medicare for All, maybe?) that she used to rail against so stridently as pure uncut pie-in-the-sky.

What are those things cascading out of her head? Rainbow and unicorn-flavored happy pills from Bernie's basement? Whatever they are, they're certainly a patriotic red, white and blue. So my best guess is they're supposed to be tiny deflated balloons, the better to symbolize your lowered expectations.

Lowering your expectations and consoling yourself that you have enough "grit" and "resilience" to cancel out your misery is, after all, one of the prime selling points of Neoliberalism.

Before we're allowed to begin perusing Hillary's essay, we're warned informed in advance by Teen Vogue editors that it will be "seriously inspiring." Did you really think this was going to be a fun read, something you can swipe across your iPad screen in a digitized minute? I mean, seriously. Get real, Gal Pals!

The intro continues (neoliberal buzzwords are my bold, here and throughout):
 For September, our theme was #ForGirlsByGirls, which focused on female creatives and empowerment. For the first time in our brand's 13-year history, our magazine was photographed exclusively by women. To check out our September issue cover story, starring Tavi Gevinson and written and styled by Grace Coddington, go here. And as always, don't forget to pick up your own copy of the magazine, on newsstands August 16th. (But PS — you can subscribe here!)

I already learned something so very cool and totally Neo."Creative" has become an actual noun! I also didn't realize that you cannot be the mere subject of a Teen Vogue magazine cover piece. You are the star of one. Thankfully, though, I am not so retro that I didn't know that when you put a phrase after a hashtag, there is no need to use your space-bar. That isn't an efficient way of marketing your individual brand.

So as not to keep you panting in suspense any longer, you'll be seriously inspired to learn that Hillary begins her advice column by dishing about two empowered and inspiring young people she met recently on the campaign trail. 

The first is a girl named Britain (not to be confused with America or Estonia) who combated online bullying by simply talking to her parents, ignoring her tormentors, and then marketing her techniques to other bullying victims. "If I can conquer it, anyone can," Hillary quotes her as boasting in true entrepreneurial teen spirit.

The second youth, named Duncan, caught Hillary's attention via his convocation speech at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. Our future Madame President writes,
In a spoken-word poem, he shared his struggles in life and urged his fellow graduates to fight inequality and inspire students. “I teach in hopes of turning content into rocket ships, tribulations into telescopes,” he said. “So a child can see their potential from right where they stand.” Donovan’s message hit home, and by the end of the next day almost 3 million people had watched his speech on Facebook.
This is Neoliberalism 101. You vaguely share experiences fighting against nothing or nobody in particular, and then you fill the brains of your fellow consumers and combatants with happy deflated thought-balloons. All you need are visions of potential, and before you know it, a rocket ship will zoom you and your student debt right out into space. And then three million content-consumers will friend you on Facebook as your every click is tracked for the benefit of corporations trying to sell you crap that you can't afford and didn't even know you desperately wanted until they told you.

Hillary continues her sermonette:
 Britain and Donovan aren’t outliers. They’re part of a rising generation that’s more diverse, open, and connected than ever. If you’re reading this, it’s a safe bet that you’re part of that as well.Everywhere I go, smart, driven young people are creating new ways to communicate, starting companies that innovate, and pursuing jobs that have an impact on people’s lives. They’re standing up to some of the biggest challenges in the world today, from income inequality to gun violence to climate change.
Oh, where to even begin in this hodgepodge of neoliberal buzzwords signifying absolutely nothing. First, let's get the identitarian Democratic politics out of the way. As long as a few designated minority kids can get a leg up, then it's all liberally good for everybody in Clintonworld. And as for the privileged meritocratic few, they'll have all the time and money and family support and loan forgiveness they need to become their own tech brands. It's all right there on Hillary's website! And if they're not starting their own companies, they're certainly not sitting on their Berniebro butts waiting for a handout or government job or debt relief. They're out there competing against one another for jobs. With impact, whatever the hell that even means. It certainly sounds brutal, but Hillary doesn't offer any details.

 Rather than urge youth to expose political corruption, and take to the streets in protest, and stage sit-ins and boycotts, she vaguely urges Vogue Teens to "stand up" to the same  euphemized "challenges" that are the spawn of the neoliberal project itself.

Just as these politicians start and fight wars and terror by starting new wars and fighting new terror, so too do they fight the ravages of their own neoliberalism by simply mutating their cult of socially responsible greed into newer, ever more malignant forms.
A smart former U.S. president—who happens to be my husband—once said there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. I couldn’t agree more. And your generation embodies everything that is most right with America. By harnessing your energy and ideas, we can solve many of the problems we face. So whether you’re already working hard to change the world or just starting out, here are three things you can do right now to make your voice heard.
Oh goody. No trendy article can ever be complete without a listicle embedded right within it. 

And it's so good to know that Hubby Bill, architect of neoliberalism that he was, admits that third term Clinton policy will entail curing the ravages of neoliberalism (NAFTA, end of cash welfare to the poor, repeal of Glass Steagall, enabling corrupt telecoms) with even more of the same. (stay tuned for TPP and a plethora of privatization schemes and even more surveillance and aggression.) 
First: Find something you care about, and fight for it. For me, that issue has always been helping kids and families. But from civil rights to gender equality to Internet freedom, young people have spurred major change when they get involved and take the lead. I can’t think of a single issue facing our country or our world that wouldn’t be better off with more of you bright and committed women and men speaking out and taking action.
For example, too many of you are starting your lives struggling right off the bat, trying to pay for college or graduating saddled with debt. It would be all too easy for politicians to turn a blind eye to this problem. But instead you’re coming forward to share your experiences and calling on elected officials to take on the skyrocketing cost of college and do something about increasingly high loan rates. You’re taking bold steps to make higher education more affordable—but there’s a lot more work to do, and we need your help.
Another prime tenet of neoliberalism is to insist that the lesser people all have "skin in the game." Just don't expect Hillary, all-powerful leader of the free world, to take the lead. You have to make/help her do it. Meanwhile, though, please do share your experiences. Vent all you want. Be aware that she herself makes no promises for immediate relief. This stuff takes years.... generations.... centuries. There's always more work to do. The work is both the means and the end. Bootstraps!
Second: Learn from those who disagree with you. I grew up in a house with lots of opinions. My father was a Republican and my mother was basically a Democrat, although she didn’t talk much about politics. Being surrounded by diverse ideas shaped my view of the world. It might not seem like it sometimes, but we can disagree without being disagreeable. In fact, we need to have difficult conversations—that’s how progress is made. So seek out others who see issues differently from you. Challenge yourself to understand their perspectives, and encourage them to understand yours. I promise you’ll learn something new from conversations like these. I do all the time.
Why are Simon and Garfunkel crooning in my head right about now? Oh, right, it's that other tenet of neoliberalism: distract the proles with some touchy-feely stuff. You'll get student debt relief by simply talking it through, like intensive therapy - assuming that your high deductible Bronze Obamacare Plan actually pays for even a minute of it. Yes we speak of things that matter, with words that must be said. Can analysis be worthwhile? Is the theater really dead?

Why do politicians always insist that legislation for the public good is impossible without dinner table discussions among people who have absolutely no power?

Clintonoid neoliberalism foists most of the responsibility on individuals by forcing "empowering" them to make choices within a narrow market framework, and achieve limited results while the government stands benignly by as a "partner," rather than as a direct agent of social change and improvement. It stresses resilience and adaptation to the forces of globalization and the ensuing job losses and wage suppression and labor union destruction that it helped to create. To speak out against this is to be like Donald Trump: a protectionist and anti-modernist, if not downright anti-American.

Neoliberals always deny that they are ideologues. Rather, they argue for "what works" and "best practices." So, please get with the program of your government leaders acting more like office managers whose prime concerns are the bottom line, the shareholders, and the customers.

Hillary boasts that she grew up in a household full of diverse opinions, even though only her reactionary bully of a father was ever allowed to talk. I wish she'd be honest and admit that her mother and all the kids were the victims of domestic emotional, if not physical, abuse. I think she is still challenging herself to come to terms with that perspective.I think that might be why she feels so compelled to reach out to neocon war criminals the way she does. They're bullies.
Third: Vote, and inspire others to vote too. Maybe you’ve heard that one before. That’s because our democracy works best when everyone has a voice. Even if you can’t yet cast a ballot, talk with your friends, family, and neighbors. Make sure they are registered by your state’s deadline and turn out to the polls when Election Day comes. It’s easy to get discouraged by the influence of special interests in our political system, but remember: Everyone gets one vote on Election Day. If you’re frustrated with the state of politics—and plenty of people are—think about what we could accomplish if everyone who was eligible to vote actually did.
If Hillary were honest, she would admit that voting every two or four years does little to nothing to ease frustration, despair, and want. If she were honest, she'd urge her youthful readers to pick up a copy of Affluence and Influence by Martin Gilens, who proved that it's usually only the wealthy political donor class that gets what it wants.  If she were honest, she'd stop accepting donations from lobbyists and billionaires in order to eventually do what they want.

Think about how much you could accomplish if you weren't simply viewed, or were taught to view yourself, as nothing but an adaptable unit of value.

Hillary doesn't actually need or want the votes of young people. But every little bit helps. She'll win, regardless, but she wants to win by a more sizeable mandate than the one she's likely to get, what with her abysmally low approval rating.
I know many of you didn’t vote for me in the primaries. But no matter who you supported—whether it was me, Senator Bernie Sanders, or another candidate—I’m going to keep working hard to earn your trust. I’m not taking anything for granted. The stakes in this election are higher than ever. We have to come together to build an America that reflects the values your generation embodies—diversity, openness, innovation—and stop those who want to take us in a very different direction. Your age group is the largest American generation living today. That gives you a lot of power and even more responsibility. I know you’re up to it. People like Britain and Donovan are proving that every day.
If Hillary really means what she says about openness and innovation, and earning trust, then she'll insist that the Green Party (Jill Stein) and Libertarian Party (Gary Johnson) candidates be included in all the presidential debates, regardless of their standing in the polls.

She's right. The stakes in this election are higher than ever. We must ensure that Joseph Stiglitz's proclamation that neoliberalism is dead comes to actual fruition.

Hillary should be able to gracefully retire in order to spend more time with her money. Chelsea and Ivanka should be able to end their fake family feud and once again pose together in the pages of Vogue and Glamour.

The Creatives: If Our Brands Can Do It, Your Brands Can Do It!

Maureen Dowd wrote another fun Trump column in the New York Times, this one about Ivanka's Dad's recent non-apology tour, listing all his minima culpas in more or less chronological order in the form of an "open letter" to voters. I'm sorry about this, that and the other, yada yada yada. Not. LOL.

How much more of this can we take? Speaking only for myself, not very much. Here's my published response: 
 An Open Letter to America from the Media-Political Complex:

- We're sorry that we keep giving the Trump monster that we ourselves created more than a billion dollars' worth of free advertising time.

- We're sorry that since the USA is now an oligarchy, and six media conglomerates own 90% of everything that you see and read, broadcasting in the public interest is as dead as a door-nail.

- We're sorry that Trump's real estate empire has now been permanently extended, rent-free, to the upper left-hand corner of the Times homepage.

- We're sorry the US government is under the control of the unfettered and unregulated capitalist predators who make the laws to ensure that tax-evading Trump and his billionaire cohort not only have a negative effective tax rate, they also get generous refunds from Uncle Sam. They're too big to fail, too important to jail.

- We're sorry that our endless coverage of Neoliberal Death Match 2016 has either upstaged or entirely pre-empted news of record floods, record heat, record fires, the Zika epidemic, record maternal death rates, record inequality and all other topics affecting regular people in their everyday lives.

- We're sorry that we keep feeding you shallow celebrity click-bait, and fake-outraged Trump columns, and war-as-entertainment, and scandals, keeping you alternately sedated, confused, mad, and terrorized.

- We're sorry excuses for journalists and pundits and broadcasters.

- And we will never change.