Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Tax-Deductible Resistance Movement

If you act right now and heed the call of any number of liberal veal pens vying with post-Christmas merchants for your ever-dwindling dollars, you will automatically become part of the elite Donald Trump resistance movement.

 But time is running out!  If you don't fork over your cash by midnight on December 31st, you will lose the golden opportunity to deduct your gift from your state and federal income taxes. Your failure to contribute to the Doomsday fund drive by the deadline might even make you an enabler of the Apocalypse.

Resistance is futile to the Democratic Party's insane mantra that money in the hands of discredited experts is the true meaning of social justice. And well it should be, given that party operatives and pundits are still resisting looking in their own mirrors and seeing themselves instead of the visages of Putin and Comey and Old Whitey Trash. They're still doubling down on the message that since they allegedly suck less than Republicans, they can be our only saviors.

Ask not what the Democratic Party and its various propaganda offshoots can actually do to change your lives for the better -- by, say, advocating for Medicare for All, or supporting strong public labor unions. Ask instead how you can help enrich the same careerists who just shoved a failed presidential candidate down our throats like she was Good N Plenty candy. And it turned out that she was actually Ipecac, the very emetic that vomited up Donald Trump and the most extreme right-wing administration in United States history.

Neera Tanden, the Clinton operative who runs the Democratic Party-affiliated Center for American Progress, has been emailing me every day this week. Despite generous funding from Wall Street and multinational corporations, you'd think that her think tank was tanking from lack of cash. 

Here's her latest apocalyptic appeal, sandwiched appropriately between the ubiquitous come-ons from Kohl's and Harry & David:
Dear Karen:

This December, I’m reaching out to CAP supporters like you to highlight the threat our planet faces from Donald Trump’s policies. We owe it to future generations to stand up against the climate change deniers who are filling Trump’s future cabinet. If you share our belief that climate change is a real and imminent threat, please make a tax-deductible donation to CAP today.

We cannot stand by as Trump puts the profits of fossil fuel executives above the health and safety of our communities. Please donate today to help us push back against Trump’s policies and protect our planet from peril.

Thank you,

Neera Tanden
If you are a rational person who can show solidarity with a corporate political party by daring to believe in climate change, then show it with your wallet. Help pay the salaries and protect the jobs of the elites so that they can continue their important work of sending out a steady stream of fund-raising emails to the people they still persist in believing actually still believe their spiels.

Above all, pay no attention to the  global polluters and greedy plutocrats who help Neera and her staff maintain the high-rent lifestyles to which they have become accustomed: Walmart, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, G.E., Pearson, Citigroup, AT & T, and Blackstone, to name just a few. Pay no attention to the inconvenient truth that many of these same anti-social corporations are either directly working with Donald Trump, or already profiting mightily from his trickle-down largesse. 

I also got an email from Robert Reich today. The former Clinton labor secretary seemed to be under the impression that I am a member of the wealthy donor class. It's very depressing, being told that inclusion in the Donald Trump Resistance Movement hinges upon your ability to send money. It hinges upon the elitist supposition that your most immediate worry is not where your next meal is coming from, but how much you can get away with writing off on your tax return in 2017.

But the most depressing aspect of Reich's appeal was the optimistic theory that donating money to Common Cause will miraculously help make Donald Trump honest and "accountable."
Americans deserve a president who is accountable only to us -- not to their own financial interests. But if Donald Trump and his family don’t entirely divest from his businesses and set up a blind trust, his administration will be compromised from Day 1.
Pressuring Donald Trump to not be a greedy crooked bastard is a little like closing the barn door after a dozen rabid stallions have not only escaped, but have run roughshod over the entire countryside for decades.  As Trump might say, that is just sad. Common Cause should maybe think about renaming itself Elite Cause.

And then there's the standard and artificially narrow identity politics aspect to the professional Trump Resistance Movement.  Feminism in our neoliberal age is largely restricted to "abortion rights" and the outrageous social injustice of successful women not making as much money as their peers. We're supposed to feel indignation that a Hollywood actress is only getting $50 million a picture as opposed to a guy's $100 million. We're not supposed to think about the Walmart cashier  forced to apply for food stamps and Medicaid because one malevolent family owning as much wealth as the bottom 40 percent of the US population is too cheap and depraved to pay a living wage to their employees.

On that note is the appeal from that perkily arrived in my inbox today. In an attachment, I was told that as a bearer of the XX chromosome, I should become an Activista who must "act up" against Trump. Especially for us gals who came of age in the good ole protesting 60s, it's finally time to get back out there and smash stuff donate to worthy organizations like Neera's:
 This past presidential election has a silver lining: It’s turning progressives into hellbent supporters of human rights, voting rights, climate rights, refugee rights, minorities’ rights, women’s rights, and senior rights. Here’s how readers of can participate—and win 2016 tax deductions if you hurry.
It would help immensely if the writer of the article could get the name of the actual publication straight. It's NYC wo-man, not wo-men. One man, one womb.  But anyhow, some of the ways that "progressive" womb-en can help are to sedately march (the day after the Inauguration), support NATO with all your heart, and "fight back" against "fake news" by subscribing to "legacy publications" like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Instead of offering to actually share your physical home with a female refugee, why not cut a check to the Red Cross? Cut other checks to Neera Tanden's Center for American Progress and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee while you're at it. (Now, to be fair, NYCitywomen also suggests optional giving to Doctors Without Borders and the ACLU. And if you can summon up the additional energy to click on to a petition at CREDO, then so much the better)

At least we should be grateful that NYCwoman isn't following the unabashedly crass route of the Facebook group calling itself "Pantsuit Nation." Its founder is being rightly blasted for trying to profit personally from the individual trials and tribulations of women who supported Hillary Clinton. As former Pantsuit member Karin Klein writes in a scathing Los Angeles Times op-ed, she thought she was signing up for a real protest and resistance movement, made up of millions of women of all races, classes and educational backgrounds:
But the movement never happened.
Instead, there were stories. At first, eye-opening, gut-wrenching tales of the abuse and discrimination that people had suffered for being dark-skinned or female — most of the members are women — or “different” in some way. Then the wind shifted direction, and the group was flooded with heroic tales in which Pantsuit members, generally white, encountered someone involved in an outrageous act of hatred, usually against a person of color, and were the only ones in the store, the park, the workplace, wherever, to do anything about it.
The activism amounted to such meager efforts as appeals for donations of used clothing so that homeless women could apply for jobs. And then, after Hillary's defeat, came the coup de grace: the group's founder is asking that homeless and jobless women give her permission to republish their personal posts in a book she's writing. It turns out it's not protest, it's a PAC. Naturally, there's been no suggestion of any reimbursement to contributors, not even the offer of a shopping spree at the Salvation Army. Therefore, I suspect that Arianna Huffington may well have been the business model for Pantsuit Nation. Arianna, after all, got notoriously wealthy off the unpaid labor of bloggers before she quit managing her website in order to make more money instructing paid elite professionals how to balance sleeping well with careerism. Co-opting the success of Bernie Sanders's "Our Revolution," she annoyingly calls her own project "the Sleep Revolution."

Not surprisingly. her vapid endeavor has received glowing reviews from her own elite cohort:  from the blog of Neera Tanden's think tank, from Democratic mega-donor Anna Wintour's Vogue, and from the queen of individual responsibility herself, Oprah Winfrey.

After all, if you expect to summon up enough energy to Resist Donald Trump, you need your beauty sleep more than you need a good-paying job, medical insurance, and a roof over your head.

And should you become weary of working for free or almost for free, you can always climb the rickety neoliberal ladder of opportunity by getting yourself crowd-funded -- just like the experts do. It's how the Huffington Post pays many of its own reporters these days.

The professional resistance movement against Donald Trump is only the latest manifestation of what the late social critic Christopher Lasch called "The Revolt of the Elites." Phenomenally rich and privileged intellectuals, media personalities and celebrities are again co-opting protest and turning it to their own ends. It's this very merging of entertainment and politics that created Trump (and Reagan before him) in the first place.

Lasch presciently described what the corporate media are only now purporting to discover - an alternate reality, a/k/a "Post-Truth":
Washington becomes a parody of Tinseltown; executives take to the airwaves, creating overnight the semblance of political movements; movie stars become political pundits, even presidents; reality and the simulation of reality become more and more difficult to distinguish....
The "community" of the best and brightest is a community of contemporaries, in the double sense that its members think of themselves as agelessly youthful and that the mark of this youthfulness is precisely their ability to stay on top of the latest trends.
 So here's a thought. Let's start a resistance movement against the professional resisters.

Tell them all to go fund themselves.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Bloody Holidays From the Obamas

For all eight years of the Obama administration, the (hard power) president and his (soft power) consort have delivered Christmas propaganda talks to the American people. The central theme of each and every one of them is the normalization of permanent war and the fetishization of armed military personnel as sacred objects.

An analysis of the Obamas' Christmas speeches reveals that the same four-part jingoistic formula operates in all eight versions. The two spouses take turns praising God, praising the troops and inflicting guilt. And pretty soon we get the idea that both God and War, saints and soldiers, require the same kind of homage and sacrifice from the laity, a/k/a the civilian population.

The militaristic religious propaganda of Mr. and Mrs. Obama is not unique or original by any means. Its time-tested authoritarian formula aims to scare people into accepting the state-sanctioned violence which has been the m.o. of armchair warriors since time immemorial. If you claim to have God on your side, bloodshed and immiseration of The Other on a global scale become not only acceptable, but virtues to be actively sought after.

The Obamas' annual Christmas spiels can thus be summarized as follows:

1. The set-up: We Obamas have scads of fun, and decorations, and music, and parties, and food, and adorable kids, and cute pets at the White House -- just like your families enjoy in your idealized safe warm homes all over America! (Or, if you happen to be broke and depressed, just imagine that we are at least offering you an invisible neoliberal ladder of opportunity to achieve all your holiday dreams someday.)

2. Jesus, Jesus, and Jesus. Jesus was born. Jesus had a family. Jesus was the savior of the world. Jesus suffered and died for our sins. We honor his sacrifice to avoid feeling guilty as we eat, drink and open presents on his birthday.

3. The armed fighting forces of America also have families. They also are our saviors. They also sacrifice and suffer and die for us.  You must also sacrifice as you honor and support the troops and their lethal guns and bombs and planes and tanks. You should help their long-suffering hardworking families, and dwell upon their hardships so as to avoid complaining about your own. If only everyone could be as noble and selfless and Christ-like as they are.

4. Therefore, since the troops are saints, then it naturally follows that Jesus is A-OK with state-sanctioned violence. Onward, Christian secular soldiers. And God Bless Us, Every American One.

Of course, depending upon whatever malignantly plotted or natural disaster befalls us in any given year, there are always minor tweaks to the Obamas' monotonous joy-spreading and war-mongering. For several years the president boasted that the troops would be coming home from Afghanistan. But beginning in 2015, the same year that he announced that troops would remain there for at least another 20 years, he gave up all Yuletide pretense that there will be peace in our time. Even Obama has his standards, apparently.

So just for the hellish fun of it, let's take a compare-and-contrast stroll down Jingoism Bells Lane to Obama Christmases past.

2009. The Victorious Year of Hope and Recovery on Wall Street, and Eviction and Depression on Main Street.
Barack: But even in these tough times, there’s still so much to celebrate this Christmas.  A message of peace and brotherhood that continues to inspire more than 2,000 years after Jesus’ birth.  The love of family and friends.  The bonds of community and country.  And the character and courage of our men and women in uniform who are far from home for the holidays, away from their families, risking their lives to protect ours.

Michelle:  I’ve met kids who wonder when mom or dad is coming home; grandparents and relatives who step in to care for our wounded warriors; and folks trying to carry on after losing the person they loved most in the world. 
And through it all, these families somehow still find the time and energy to serve their communities as well—coaching Little League, running the PTA, raising money to help those less fortunate than they are, and more.
2010. The Year of the Republican shellacking, and the abrupt end of Obama's super-majority in Congress. Obama had willfully set the reactionary stage for his party's defeat. He was, in fact, head cheerleader for austerity. With little to no pressure from the minority Republicans, he'd screwed the working class, rewarded the banks, and appointed ruling class members of the safety net-slashing bipartisan Bowles-Simpson "Catfood" Commission, whose agenda was directly funded by Wall Street billionaire Peter Peterson.
Barack:  Because this is the season when we celebrate the simplest yet most profound gift of all: the birth of a child who devoted his life to a message of peace, love, and redemption.  A message that says no matter who we are, we are called to love one another – we are our brother’s keeper, we are our sister’s keeper, our separate stories in this big and busy world are really one. 
Today, we’re also thinking of those who can’t be home for the holidays – especially all our courageous countrymen serving overseas.
That’s the message I delivered when I visited our troops in Afghanistan a few weeks ago – that while you may be serving far from home, every American supports you and your families.  We’re with you.  And I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander in Chief....  (They are) a force of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. 

Michelle: When our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve, too.  And they’re proud and glad to do it.  But as long as that service keeps the rest of us safe, their sacrifice should also be our own.  Even heroes can use a hand, especially during the holidays.
(For more information on the "Joining Forces" public relations war initiative which Michelle Obama touts during the final seven Christmas talks, please see the post I wrote in 2011 about the national security think tank, Center for a New American Security, and the Wall Street/weapons manufacturing money which funds it. Michelle Obama is the perfect warm, caring actor projecting the soft power essential to getting citizens to accept the gory US imperialism being conducted in all our names.)

2011.  The year of Occupy Wall Street and its brutal dismantling by the Police State. The year of Deficit Mania, and the Grand Bargain of more severity and austerity for the struggling masses. The year that Obama grotesquely compared the government budget to the family budget and urged the poor to "share the sacrifice." And it's the year that Obama began his $1 billion faux-populist re-election campaign. For the first time, the Obamas in their Christmas cheer also suggested private charity to non-military families suffering under the plethora of sadistic, reactionary bipartisan budget cuts. At no time did they ever suggest government intervention to help the hungry and the homeless and jobless.
Michelle: This is such a wonderful time of year.

It’s a time to honor the story of love and redemption that began 2,000 years ago … a time to see the world through a child’s eyes and rediscover the magic all around us … and a time to give thanks for the gifts that bless us every single day.
This holiday season at the White House, we wanted to show our thanks with a special holiday tribute to some of the strongest, bravest, and most resilient members of our American family – the men and women who wear our country’s uniform and the families who support them.... Our veterans, troops and their families sacrifice so much for us.
Barack: Giving of ourselves; service to others – that’s what this season is all about. For my family and millions of Americans, that’s what Christmas is all about. It reminds us that part of what it means to love God is to love one another, to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper. But that belief is not just at the center of our Christian faith, it’s shared by Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. It’s why so many of us, every year, volunteer our time to help those most in need; especially our hungry and our homeless.
2012. The Year of the Osama bin Laden execution, the revelation of Obama's personal White House Kill List, Hurricane Sandy, the Newtown Massacre, and the president's re-election. Since all was well in the Obamas' world, they assumed that all was well all over the country. Everybody's picking up their kid from college, and everybody has a house and a car and visiting grandparents and a washing machine. Even if the children of out-of-work coal miners aren't even getting a lump of coal in their stockings this year, the Obamas won another term. They're so absolutely basking in the glow of their own political success that they simply cannot suppress the maudlin, psychotic hypocrisy in their fourth yuletide sermon to America:
Michelle: We both love this time of year. And there’s nothing quite like celebrating the holidays at the White House.  It’s an incredible experience and one that we try to share with as many folks as possible. 

Barack: This weekend, parents are picking up their kids from college – and making room for all that laundry they bring with them.  Children are counting down the hours until the grandparents arrive.  And uncles, aunts and cousins are all making their way to join the family and share in the holiday spirit....
  And this year, that’s especially true for some of our military families.  You see, the war in Iraq is over.  The transition in Afghanistan is underway.  After a decade of war, our heroes are coming home.  And all across America, military families are reuniting.   
So this week let’s give thanks for our veterans and their families.  And let’s say a prayer for all our troops – especially those in Afghanistan – who are spending this holiday overseas, risking their lives to defend the freedoms we hold dear. 
Michelle: Our military families sacrifice so much on our behalf, and Barack and I believe that we should serve them as well as they serve this country.

Barack: For my family and millions of Americans, it’s a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. To reflect on His life and learn from His example.  Every year, we commit to love one another.
2013.The year Obama started campaigning in earnest for the secretive corporate coup known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the year that progressives started campaigning in earnest against it. The year of more bipartisan slashes to the social safety net, as the House Minority Leader urged Democrats to "embrace the suck" and to go along with cuts to food stamp funding and ending long-term unemployment benefits, while vastly enriching the war and surveillance state. And last but not least, it was the year that Edward Snowden spilled the beans on the National Security Agency and the massive government surveillance of every man, woman and child. Even so, the Obamas cluelessly bragged about volunteering in a soup kitchen for a few hours:
Barack: Our extraordinary men and women in uniform are serving so that the rest of us can enjoy the blessings we cherish during the holidays.  But that means many of our troops are far from home and far from family.  They’re spending some extra time on the phone with their loved ones back home. Or they’re setting up video chats so they can watch as the presents are opened.  So today, we want all of our troops to know that you’re in our thoughts and prayers this holiday season.
And here’s the good news: For many of our troops and newest veterans, this might be the first time in years that they’ve been with their families on Christmas.  In fact, with the Iraq war over and the transition in Afghanistan, fewer of our men and women in uniform are deployed in harm’s way than at any time in the last decade.

Michelle: And with more and more of our troops back here at home, now it’s our turn to serve – it’s our turn to step up and show our gratitude for the military families who have given us so much. 

 Barack: For families like ours, that service is a chance to celebrate the birth of Christ and live out what He taught us – to love our neighbors as we would ourselves; to feed the hungry and look after the sick; to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.
2014. The year of the lowest mid-term election voter turnout in 70 years, and the ensuing loss of a record number of Democratic congressional seats. The year that Obama announced, falsely, that the war in Afghanistan was over. The year that Obama continued the evisceration of civil rights and signed into law the renewal of the Patriot Act, and codified indefinite detention and unlimited surveillance on citizens via the National Defense Authorization Act. The year that Obama signed into law the plutocrat-enriching "Cromnibus Bill" which, among other holiday treats, privatized public housing stock, cut funding to agencies tasked with regulating big banks, cut funding for Pell Grants, cut funding to pension plans,  and did away with requiring that truck drivers get enough sleep before hitting the Interstates. It was the year that Obama casually mentioned at a press conference that "we tortured some folks" during the Bush era. It was the year that he characterized sadists as "patriots." Perpetrators were not only never prosecuted, they still work at the CIA and their neocon bosses have gone on to much professional and financial success.
Barack: And today, our family will join millions across the country in celebrating the birth of Jesus – the birth not just of a baby in a manger, but of a message that has changed the world: to reach out to the sick; the hungry; the troubled; and above all else, to love one another as we would be loved ourselves.... In just a few days, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over.  Our longest war will come to a responsible end.  And that gives us an opportunity to step back and reflect upon all that these families have given us.  We’re able to gather with family and friends because our troops are willing to hug theirs goodbye and step forward to serve.  After a long day, we can come home because they’re willing to leave their families and deploy.  We can celebrate the holidays because they’re willing to miss their own.

Michelle:And so, as our troops continue to transition back home—back to our businesses, our schools, our congregations, and our communities—it’s up to all of us to serve them as well as they have served us.  
2015. The Year that America conducted a deadly bombing attack on an Afghanistan hospital, killing more than 50 doctors, nurses and patients. Perpetrators were never criminally charged; they were simply denied future promotions. It was the year when the Obama administration brokered another billion-dollar weapons deal with the Saudis for purposes of slaughtering Yemeni civilians. It was the year that Obama announced a trillion-dollar upgrade to American's nuclear weapons program, and the US beat the record for arms sales; it sold $40 billion worth in just one year.  And it was the year that the legacy-burnishing phase of Obama's presidency began in earnest while Hillary Clinton geared up for her own ill-starred campaign for the presidential succession.

And it was the first year that Obama didn't lie in his Christmas speech about the troops coming home. Even so, Michelle half-admits that the Obama years have been one hell of a snow-job on the American public:
 Barack: Today, like millions of Americans and Christians around the world, our family celebrates the birth of Jesus and the values He lived in his own life. Treating one another with love and compassion. Caring for those on society’s margins: the sick and the hungry, the poor and the persecuted, the stranger in need of shelter – or simply an act of kindness....
 During this season, we also honor all who defend those values in our country’s uniform. Every day, the brave men and women of our military serve to keep us safe – and so do their families.

Michelle: So as we sing carols and open presents, as we win snowball fights... Let’s also take time to pay tribute to those who have given our country so much. Go to to see how you can serve the troops, veterans, and military families in your community.
And together, we can show them just how grateful we are for their sacrifice. That’s a tradition we all can embrace – today and every day.
(The bellicose dream will never die. War is forever. Get used to it. Give war a great big Michelle-ish hug, and overcome any sickly inhibitions that afflict you during this joyous season.)

2016. The year that, shockingly, Barack Obama's Democratic Party utterly collapsed. In the eight years of Obama, the party has lost over 1,000 Congressional, governors' and state legislative seats, leaving it with a bench as thin as Oliver Twist's gruel. So this Christmas, Barack and Michelle are going very heavy on the light and airy sweetness in their valedictory holiday speech. In a variation on the holiday theme, they are uttering the word "Muslim" for the very first time in their yuletide lecture series. This verbal cultural inclusiveness is designed to make us forget all about Obama's own anti-Muslim wars and drone strikes in order that we may correctly direct our wrath at Donald Trump's asinine grinchiness and nuke-threatening tweets. And would it really be Christmas if Barry didn't keep insisting how great America already is, and what a truly Wonderful Life it is for all of us, despite the worklessness, the dwindling paychecks, the evictions and the unaffordable health care? So forget about Trump. If the Obamas are satisfied and hopeful, then we should be satisfied and hopeful too.
Barack:  Together, we fought our way back from the worst recession in 80 years, and got unemployment to a nine-year low.  We secured health insurance for another twenty million Americans, and new protections for folks who already had insurance.  We made America more respected around the world, took on the mantle of leadership in the fight to protect this planet for our kids, and much, much more.
By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we first got here.  And I’m hopeful we’ll build on the progress we’ve made in the years to come. 

Michelle: As always, many of our troops are far from home this time of year, and their families are serving and sacrificing right along with them.  Their courage and dedication allow the rest of us to enjoy this season. 
George Orwell must be caroling in his grave, now that Michelle has essentially plagiarized 1984 just in time for Christmas. War Is Peace (there could be no enjoyable Christmas without endless war) is the perfect segue into Donald Trump's own cadging of another essential part of Big Brother's motto: Ignorance Is Strength.

To counter the Obamas' propaganda, I offer the following antidote:

And once the holiday weekend is over, here's my suggestion for a new national anthem in this Age of Trump, to replace the blood-soaked Star Spangled Banner.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Gray Lady Clutches Neoliberal Pearls

Falsely equating right-wing populism with left-wing populism, The New York Times editorial board just delivered another in a long series of clumsy backhanded swipes at the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. 

It's happening to Barack Obama's America. It's happening to Lech Walesa's Poland. It's happening all over the democratic free world. The disdainful rabble are simply not properly groveling at the feet of constitutions and kowtowing to the naturally unequal miserable order of things. Therefore, we should be just as afraid of Bernie Sanders as we are of Donald Trump.

Of course the Times doesn't put its red-baiting in such gauche terms as that. They are daintily circumspect in their neoliberal propaganda: 
Populist leaders, whether of the far right or the far left, have made major advances across Europe and in the United States, drawing on a widespread sense of alienation, discontent with ruling elites and anti-globalization and anti-immigration views.
In nearly every case, whatever their specific agendas, populist leaders claim to represent the will of “the people,” and therefore believe they are empowered to ride roughshod over any person, institution or law that gets in their way. That kind of thinking led to the terrible dictatorships of the 20th century, a fact that becomes more relevant by the day.
Never mind that there is nothing even remotely "far-left" about populist Democratic leaders like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They are merely pro-capitalist liberal politicians with the effrontery to defend the programs of the New Deal and the Great Society and occasionally make greedy plutocrats feel uncomfortable. But to hear the Gray Lady whine it, Sanders and Warren are absolutely drunk on power, riding roughshod over anybody allegedly getting in their way.

The Times editorialists were probably overreacting to recent remarks by Bernie Sanders in which he's criticized the party's clinging to identity politics at the expense of the working class, which apparently is expected to stay trapped in its deplorable basket.

“I think it’s a step forward in America if you have an African-American CEO of some major corporation. But you know what, if that guy is going to be shipping jobs out of this country, and exploiting his workers, it doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot whether he’s black or white or Latino," Bernie had the audacity to say.

The Times doesn't name the alleged victims of this alleged lefty American populism, because they know that casting billionaires as oppressed victims would sound downright silly. So they merely mention, in casual passing, the dangerous socialism that they consider just as much a threat to their cosseted world as Donald Trump's own gleeful exposure of class divisions, malign wealth and crony capitalism.

This red-baiting is all about the discredited Clintonoid wing of the party wishing to remain powerful and relevant against all odds and against all sanity. Since the working class didn't come out for Hillary Clinton on November 8th, she and her media propagandists are coming out with a vengeance against the working class. The Democratic Party will be reformed over their dead bodies.

Now that the so-called Faithless Hamilton Electors have failed to subvert the Electoral College system and now that Vladimir Putin's alleged hacking of the Democratic Party is old news, centrists are scrambling to attack new scapegoats from the right. So why not stay closer to home this time?

It helps immensely that James Bennet, the recently hired chief of the Times editorial board, himself has roots that burrow deep into Clinton soil. As reported by the World Socialist Web Site, he is the brother of neoliberal "New Democrat" senator Michael Bennet of Colorado and the son of Douglas Bennet, a long-time political operative who served in several Democratic administrations, including that of Bill Clinton.

According to Politico, the Times began courting Bennet last spring, just as Bernie Mania was reaching a fever pitch and posing a threat to Hillary Clinton. Bennet reportedly took the offer on a promise that he will eventually succeed Dean Baquet as executive editor.

I'm personally agnostic about the current battle over the chairmanship of the decidedly un-democratic party.  Keith Ellison is the choice of the Bernie Sanders progressives, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez is the choice of the Obama/Clinton Wall Street faction. Since only about 400 party officials are allowed to vote for the leader, the rabble are reduced to signing petitions through various veal pen offshoots like MoveOn. For a party so suddenly averse to the Electoral College, the Democrats certainly have no intention of opening up their own corporate ballot process to the disrespectful proles skulking outside the Big Gilded Tent.

And they certainly have no qualms about smearing Keith Ellison in the most blatant racial and Islamophobic terms. He once said something nice about Louis Farrakhan in his youth. He endorsed Bernie Sanders. The horror.

Barack Obama, for his part, damned Ellison with faint praise at his press conference last week, merely calling him a "friend," while waxing rhapsodic over the "wicked smart" Perez. It's no coincidence that of all the Democratic labor secretaries in recent memory, Perez has become famous for reaching out to the business community. No way has he restricted his wicked smartness to the working folks who didn't vote for Hillary Clinton.

The Times ran a glowing article about this rising star last spring, praising Perez's ideological toothlessness right in the headline. Finally, we have a labor watchdog who is "not all bite!" The occasion of the puff piece was a visit by Perez to an overpriced New York City restaurant, where tipping had just been outlawed in favor of a slight (taxable) wage hike and (taxable) benefits for employees. The patrons forking out an average of $100 for a modest luncheon were pleasantly surprised at the very slight price hikes in the menu, which thanks to the newly-banned 20 percent gratuity, actually makes eating out cheaper for them.

Perez was only too happy to praise the restaurant for its "social responsibility" in raising its pathetic wages and sparing its workers the onerous responsibility of sharing and declaring their tips.
He is talking about “conscious capitalism” and “inclusive capitalism.” He is singling out “high road” employers. He is promoting B Corps, companies that adhere to lofty social and environmental standards. In doing so, he hopes he can persuade less enlightened corporations to change.
“The employers who do best are employers who reject these false choices,” Mr. Perez said. “It’s not a zero-sum world where you either take care of your workers or you take care of your shareholders. You can do good and do well, too.”
Truer, more wicked neoliberal words were probably never spoken. No wonder the rich Democratic donors are clamoring for him as party leader. They clothe him in the usual identity politics and bathetic back-story, supplying just the right liberal reason to elevate him. Since he is the son of Dominican immigrants and worked his way through Harvard by collecting trash, the working class rabble should have no logical reason to complain. Plus, as the Times helpfully explains, the working class can no longer speak for itself anyway. (The Paper of Record carefully doesn't mention that it was anti-union neoliberal policies that helped destroy the labor movement in the first place.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What the Dickens?

When even diehard American fans of the literary inventor of Christmas can't get along, can we really expect the rest of the country to declare a political truce in honor of the season?

A feud between two New York factions of the international Charles Dickens Fellowship has been simmering for so long (two decades) that members can't even remember the initial cause. It might have had something to do with who broke a rented VHS tape of an old Oliver Twist movie. Or it might have had something to do with the leader of one faction having a dual career as a Franciscan friar and a parole officer. Even though the clubs meet in the same branch of the public library every month, they just can't get up the nerve to attempt a reunification. Not even during Christmas.

I'd be tempted to call them the literary version of the Democratic Party, except that regardless of whether they're Dickens Friends or whether they're Dickens Fellows, they are truly egalitarian. The Democrats claim to have a big tent, but it's more like a luxury high-rise with a paltry few tax deductible "affordable" units and a special door reserved for poor, rural working class tenants. Only party elites are allowed to vote for the party chairman.

But when it comes to their mutual love for David Copperfield and Pip and Oliver, wonky elites with Ph.Ds don't lord it over Dickens readers who are truck drivers, or even high school dropouts. Anybody can join either club, or both clubs, and everybody has a vote over which book to read and discuss next.

The New York Times recently published a droll spread on the Friends' and Fellows' respective big holiday spreads, held on the same exact day. Given that very few people read any more, and that bibliophiles are apt to start dying off sooner rather than later, the two sides of the Dickens Fellowship will likely join forces eventually if the Fellowfriendship has any hope of survival.

Readers of Dickens and readers of all good books will have to unite if for no other reason than to do battle against the Non-Reader-in-Chief, Donald J. Trump. Ignorance, contrary to what Big Brother decreed, is not Strength.

Meanwhile, as the New York Sun reported back in 2004, feuds among bibliophiles aren't all that rare. Even Shakespeare has his rival fan clubs:
At least two groups regularly host Shakespeare-related events in the city.
"Shakespeare is so popular and so broadly appreciated that it serves the purpose of appreciation to have as much as we can," said Adriana Mnuchin, co-founder of the Shakespeare Society, many of whose events regularly take place at the Kaye Playhouse.
And what do you know: Adriana just happens to be married to former Goldman Sachs financier and Hollywood mogul Steve Mnuchin, who is bibliophobe Donald Trump's pick for treasury secretary. Appropriately enough, she once staged a Broadway production of Macbeth with Patrick Stewart, who has also famously played Ebenezer Scrooge.

It's a small plutocratic world after all.

Next up: a reality show White House staging of King Lear, starring Donald as the demented monarch and First Ladymotherdaughter Ivanka as Cordelia. 

The plot thickens, however. The New York Observer, which is owned by Ivanka's husband Jared, published a snarky article about the Mnuchins' luxury New York digs just last year. It seems that Daddy-in-Law's Treasury Secretary had bought the spread for $14.5 million under cover of a tax-avoiding LLC called "Nukes" and he then tried to make a killing by immediately relisting it at $17 million. The poor billionaire ended up getting the short end of his own stick:
Though it has finally gone into contract, it’s only managed that feat after some large cuts—it was last listed for just $13.9 million. The owners must be quite desperate to get rid of it, considering that they will actually be losing money from what they (over?) paid in 2011.
It doesn’t sound so bad. It has two fireplaces, oak herringbone floors throughout, French doors opening up to a terrace, and a 36-foot entrance gallery. There’s also a master suite with 18 feet of custom closets, as well as a bathroom with radiant heated floors and a Jacuzzi soaking tub.

 It even has what the listing, held by Douglas Elliman’s Joan Swift, Vanessa Kitchen and Barton Brooks, declares to be the “ultimate” luxury: heated sidewalks on the front steps, sidewalk and backyard, so that the owner won’t ever have to deal with the indignity of shoveling snow.
Now that Mnuchin looks to become Treasury Secretary, perhaps he can unload future properties on some needy Russian oligarchs seeking access or deals, maybe even the one named Vladimir. He will never have to worry about looking at melted snow again.

As far as Trumpian entertainment goes, therefore, we might have to settle for alt-right advisor and Goldman Sachs alum Steve Bannon's hideous outer space version of the bloodiest Shakespeare play of them all: Titus Andronicus. Trump would probably make it required, taxpayer-funded viewing on PBS, with lots of commercial interruptions and kickbacks from the good folks at Exxon-Mobil, which helped underwrite Trump's whole $5 billion advertising campaign on CNN, Fox and MSNBC.

Well... this particular blog-post certainly has ended up seriously digressing from Charles Dickens to the Two Steves of Goldman Sachs, hasn't it?  So I think I'd better quit right now, before I veer off into analyzing Frosty the Snowman.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

And So It Begins

That he righteously shot Donald Trump to death in a Walmart parking lot is the novel defense of an upstate New York man actually arrested and charged with the murder of a UPS delivery driver.

Justin Barkley of Ithaca told a judge on Monday that not only did he kill Donald Trump on December 8th, he's eager to plead guilty to the charge on grounds that he had performed a great public service.

As reported by The Ithaca Voice, Barkley said: "I shot and killed Donald Trump purposely, intentionally and very proudly."

Claiming (either mistakenly or falsely) that he knew that Trump would be holding a rally in front of Walmart, Barkley added for extra emphasis, "I went there to purposely shoot and kill him and put him down."
 He told the court that he understood the difference between mistaking a person for being Trump and asserting that he actually killed Trump. When asked if any evidence could be presented to him to suggest he killed a different person, he said, "I would hope not."
The lawyers are understandably flummoxed. How best to try this case? A defense of not guilty by reason of insanity, or not guilty by reason of misplaced patriotism, or not guilty by reason of insanity caused by the forced mass media infliction of Trump's sneering face and braying voice on every TV screen? Those are just three of the possible choices.

Barkley, who is also charged with menacing a police officer, adamantly refused to plead Not Guilty to killing UPS driver William Schumacher by reason of mental defect. He wants to plead guilty to killing Donald Trump by reason of mental acuity.

When the judge asked him if it would be possible to plead guilty and confess to killing Schumacher because he mistook him for Trump, Barkley demurred, saying that he had never met William Schumacher and didn't know William Schumacher. He therefore had no reason to shoot Schumacher.

The case will resume on January 2, after Barkley is examined by psychiatrists.


In other upstate New York news, video has now emerged of the notorious bus driver who decreed that the children who'd opted for Hillary Clinton in her mock election the previous day would be forced to remain on the bus until all the loyal Trump fans had exited. The pupils, in grades K through 5, were ordered to raise their hands, if not their outstretched arms, to remind their driver for whom they had "voted"" on Nov. 8th. When some of the children indignantly responded that they were too young to vote, the driver scoffed that pro-Trump opinions carried just as much weight as an actual vote. The driver, who is seen wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with a Trump Tower logo, seemed a little shocked that the students had not been properly indoctrinated in their classrooms about the election.

Officials of the Canandaigua City School District, while promising to investigate the incident, also took great pains to heap praise upon the unnamed driver for her spotless safety record and for her many years of loyal service. Mistakes can be made, even by nice hardworking people with a hankering to resurrect the Hitler Youth movement right here in the United States of the Homeland.

Changing the Magic To The Tragic