Monday, March 27, 2017

Democratic Party's Golf Cart of Doom

If Hillary Clinton is still wondering why she lost, she should look no further than the Washington Post op-ed recently penned by former aide Jennifer Palmieri.  This sermon is what the establishment wing of the Democratic Party believes will help to inspire the millions of struggling Americans who desperately seek some relief in their short, brutish, and nasty lives:
 At the Democratic convention in Philadelphia last summer, Jake Sullivan and I took to our golf carts one afternoon to make the rounds of the television networks’ tents in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center. It is standard for presidential campaign staffers to brief networks on what to expect during that night’s session. But on this day, we were on a mission to get the press to focus on something even we found difficult to process: the prospect that Russia had not only hacked and stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, but that it had done so to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.
There are three things in this gripping lead paragraph guaranteed to make the reader stop and grip the nearest bottle of antacids:

1. Rather than trudge a few hundred yards around the parking lot like mere sweating mortals, Hillary's minions drove around in golf carts.

2. The reader is needlessly reminded that the Democrats held their closed convention in a venue owned and named for one of the most corrupt, bailed-out financial institutions ever created to be too big to fail and too big to jail. Why even bring up Wells Fargo, which has such a nasty history of ripping off the very same Americans whom the Democratic Party is ostensibly trying to woo back into the tent? (Hint: they love and need Wells Fargo more than they need average voters.)

3. Palmieri oafishly admits that she was trying to dictate the news and plant a story. She makes no attempt to hide the collusion which normally exists within the media-political complex. She complains that the rightly distrusted mainstream media fell down on its job to disseminate propaganda in the corporate Clintonoid interest.  It's all the media's fault that they didn't come through for Hillary back when it counted, despite lack of evidence of any actual Russian "hack."

Hillary Clinton's communications director didn't think it was in her job description to ride her golf cart around to the network booths in order to talk about such policy ideas as health care and free state college tuition. She was in such a bubble that she assumed that the anxious viewers at home would be more in tune with palace intrigue than with how her Anointed One planned to solve problems in their own everyday lives.

And thus does Jennifer Palmieri proceed to cast some of the blame for her party's loss on the millions of struggling people who were far too distracted by their own problems and not focused enough on Hillary's. Her op-ed blathers on:
 Voters didn’t seem worried. Earlier that week, our campaign manager, Robby Mook, was mocked for telling CNN that the leak of stolen emails before our convention was an indication that Russia was trying to help Trump. We did not know, as FBI Director James B. Comey told Congress this past week, that the bureau had already opened an investigation into Russian interference — and into possible links between Trump’s associates and the Russian government, including whether they worked together on his behalf.
Thanks a lot, Obama. Thanks a lot, Comey. Thanks a lot, Deplorables.

But it's never too late to start World War III with Russia, voters! As Palmieri admonished us earlier this year, we mustn't let the Resistance to Trump be sucked up by such mundane concerns as a living wage and universal health care. The resistance is all about defending ourselves against Russian invaders and vindicating Hillary Clinton, just lately re-emerged from her Brothers Grimm part of the forest.
Now that Trump is president, though, the stakes are higher, because the Russian plot succeeded. The lessons we campaign officials learned in trying to turn the Russia story against Trump can help other Democrats  (and all Americans) figure out how to treat this interference no longer as a matter of electoral politics but as the threat to the republic that it really is.
No, the normally reliable mainstream media tented up in the Wells Fargo parking lot didn't pay enough attention to Golf Cart Jen when they still could have saved the Republic. And now, as a direct result of that failure, Trump is president. But who's to say that other corporate Democrats can't cash in on the manufactured hysteria? Since identity politics and attacks against deplorable Trump voters didn't elevate Democratic fortunes, perhaps the relentless fomenting of fear and panic will do the trick.

As someone who worked in the pathologically secretive Obama administration, Palmieri purports to be pleasantly shocked at how swiftly some normally close-mouthed security state types have been willing to go public with the anti-Russia party narrative. Former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell, for instance, actually went on TV to sound the public alarm during the campaign. Palmieri fails to mention in her op-ed that Morell was also in line to become Clinton's CIA director, and openly advocated for all-out war in Syria.
I remember my jaw dropping as I sat in our Brooklyn campaign headquarters and read the op-ed Morell submitted to the New York Times in early August, in which he shared his view that Russia had probably undertaken an effort to “recruit” Trump and that the Republican nominee had become an “unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”
Whether her jaw dropped at the evidence-free charges, or whether it dropped because the CIA normally hides its political motivations as it orchestrates coups  and meddles in foreign elections, Jennifer Palmieri does not say. But it was so totally awesome that everybody else was as slack-jawed with wonder as she was.

Were it not for the spectacle of Hillary dredging up an old insult that Trump had aimed at a former Miss Universe, we the people would have paid more attention to RussiaGate. Besides, everybody thought Hillary would win.

So poor Jennifer Palmieri says she was stuck in a Catch-22 situation. How on earth to make the stupid voters take a paranoid and contrived narrative like RussiaGate as seriously as she did? Like Milo Minderbinder in the Joseph Heller novel, perhaps she "could see more things than most people, but could see none of them too distinctly."
We didn’t want her to talk too much about Russia because it wasn’t what voters were telling us they cared about — and, frankly, it sounded kind of wacky. At the same time, we understood the issue would never rise to the front of voters’ minds if we weren’t driving attention to it. It was already pretty clear they weren’t going to hear much about it in the press.
Thanks a lot, Comey. Thanks a lot, Obama. Thanks a lot, press. You left Hillary and Golf Cart Jen twisting slowly, slowly in the wind.

And even now, millions and millions of dumb Americans are not paying sufficient attention to the Russian takeover of their government. Trump's mundane outrages -- like the attempted destruction of the Environmental Protection Agency and the stuffing of the White House with some of the same financial institutions as Clinton and Obama -- are taking valuable attention away from what really matters: starting a war with Russia. Therefore, Jennifer Palmieri is going to work her heart out to convince dumb Americans to develop the acceptable and preferred kind of fear and dread that not only has always made our nation exceptional, but also has the potential to sweep more Democrats in to office in the midterms and beyond.
In another era, Americans would have been able to count on both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to stand up to this kind of threat. A lot of Democrats like to play the “If we were Republicans” game. I usually hate it; I don’t want to behave like the Republicans do. But it’s useful here. If Clinton had won with the help of the Russians, the Republicans would have impeachment proceedings underway for treason. No doubt. Instead, dealing with Russia falls nearly solely on Democrats’ shoulders.
It is very painful to be a liberal who has to come clean on one's own greed and bloodthirstiness and brutality. But that is what sometimes has to happen in the topsy-turvy world of the Duopoly. Even communications experts like Jennifer Palmieri occasionally have to communicate the distasteful truth that her prime allegiance is to the oligarchic war machine. Donald Trump simply cannot be allowed to grab more than his fair share of the booty.

What more can a liberal communications guru do but morph into Joseph Goebbels and tell a major major major lie often enough so that eventually, every last one of those dumb Americans will come to believe it?
But Democrats can break out of the Catch-22 of the campaign: If we make plain that what Russia has done is nothing less than an attack on our republic, the public will be with us. And the more we talk about it, the more they’ll be with us.
That was actually a pretty stupid thing for such a savvy PR flack to admit. This op-ed could be a case study in how not to subtly manufacture public consent. She very publicly discloses the neoliberal strategy designed to literally hound us into a state of abject submission. She very liberally promises that Democratic Party functionaries will talk about nothing but Russia in every one of their TV appearances. Russia is more important than a living wage, Medicare for All, restoration of Glass-Steagall and a tax on high speed trades, stopping the obscene control wielded by a few billionaires over both major political parties, and most of all, the amelioration of man-made pollution and climate change.

The detritus of a dwindling middle class, extreme wealth inequality, outsourced jobs, plummeting wages, rising homelessness and the worst drug catastrophe in American history is not the fault of the bipartisan, privatization-happy Neoliberal Thought Collective. Golf Cart Jen would lose her ride if she ever admitted such a thing. 

Her manufactured message is this: If you think that your life sucks and you feel too helpless and apathetic and unpatriotic to vote for the self-dealing corporate Democrats, then it is obviously all Russia's fault. Must.Resist.Putin.
The worst part about our lackluster collective response to Russia’s interference is that it represents exactly what the Russians were hoping to produce: apathy. Their goal, in addition to installing a president sympathetic to their views, was to undermine Americans’ belief in our democracy. For Americans to think that none of this really matters, that it’s all a game. That’s how they truly erode U.S. moral authority and strength over the long term. It’s what they have sought to do to European adversaries for many years, and now they have brought this seed of destruction here.
And thus does Golf Cart Jen end her screed, with all the inspirational garbage at her disposal.

 "The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn’t earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major’s father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa.” -- Joseph Heller, Catch-22.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Silver Lining of the Silver Streak Trainwreck

With nearly a trillion dollars worth of succulent tax cuts dangling just out of reach of ravening plutocratic jaws, is it really a coincidence that Republicans pulled their wealth care package just as the stock market was closing for the weekend?

I suspect the main reason that GOP leaders prolonged their charade for one more theatrical day was not to glean more votes, but to buy time to plot their next billionaire-saving move. Anything to avoid the public spectacle of a market dive, anything keep investors and health insurance predators from thrashing around in a greedy panic before the platoons of political lifeguards went on TV to reinflate the swim bladders of freedom.

Paul Ryan, who in a sane and just world would have resigned both his seat and his speakership by now, instead used his big moment of defeat to dog-whine to his overlords. Despite their failure to repeal Obamacare and rip millions of people away from life-saving Medicaid benefits, they have concocted plenty of toxic back-up snacks, designed to cull the population in a more stealthy and piecemeal fashion. If anybody can make the vulnerable population sink like lead, these miscreants can. They just got a bit ahead of their sadistic selves, is all.

Barry Grey of World Socialist Website has them absolutely pegged:
 Both Ryan and Trump hinted that the administration would use its executive powers to slash away at Obamacare restraints on the health care industry and restrict eligibility and benefits for recipients, particularly those who depend on Medicaid.
Ryan said ominously, “There are things the secretary of health and human services can do.” He was referring to Tom Price, a rabid opponent of both Medicaid and Medicare, the government health program for the elderly.
Trump repeatedly predicted with relish that Obamacare would implode. “It will have a very bad year,” he said, suggesting that he and Price would do their best to undermine the program.
So notwithstanding the victory dance creakily performed on Friday by senescent Democratic Party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, this is no time for hoi polloi rejoicing. The GOP legislation failed, and yet at least 20 million Americans remain as uninsured as ever, with tens of millions more finding their premiums, co-pays and deductibles to be increasingly onerous. It's actual people continuing to drown. Not that the tide of the global plutonomy ever raised any rickety lifeboats, of course, It just that, lately, it's loading them down with enough ballast to sink them as quickly as possible.

Donald Trump certainly had a point when he cynically observed on Friday that Obamacare is not sustainable. He acted almost relieved in the aftermath of the AHCA debacle.

So what better time for Bernie Sanders, whose political capital and national popularity have only soared with every passing day of the chaotic Trump administration, to formally introduce another Senate version of Medicare for All?

If Donald Trump had any political smarts, he would rush to triangulate with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party against both the corporate Ryan and the fanatical Freedom Caucus wings of the GOP, and espouse true single payer health care. He'd help punch some big old holes in each bloated swim-bladder. And who knows - there may even be a handful of "moderate" Republicans willing to join the cause in the interest of saving their own political lives.

As Brent Budowsky writes in The Hill,
The consistently high ratings for Sanders, and the consistently low ratings for Trump, show that the real majority in America is the genuinely progressive and genuinely populist view of Sanders, not the phony populism or warped conservatism represented by Trump.
Based on the historical pattern of midterm election voting, if the midterm election were held today with the president's unpopularity so high, the result would be a landslide victory for Democrats.

Let Hillary Clinton, who recently announced that she's "ready to come out the woods" just try to denounce cost-effective and humane and egalitarian health care coverage, and pissily admonish single payer advocates to "get real" as she echoes her campaign's specious talking points against universal guaranteed care. She'll deservedly sound every inch the demented Grimm Brothers character who lost her way and stumbled out of the woods into the sunlight by pure, moral compass-free, mistake

Since there is no longer even the fuzziest of lines between entertainment and politics, why not treat America to a madcap buddy film instead of the current box office dud called RussiaGate?

There will never be enough lifeboats on the Titanic to allow disasters to end well, so let's forget for a moment all those depressing drowning metaphors - and hop on board the Medicare For All Express!

In an imaginary remake of Silver Streak, for example, a couple of erstwhile antagonists named Donald and Bernie would lead an improbable team of health care reformers who join forces to throw a band of neoliberals off the runaway capitalistic train. They'd manage to decouple the locomotive from the cars right in the nick of time, saving the day for their fellow passengers seated left, right and center. It's a relatively easy script to imitate, given that two of the characters in the original movie were also named Hilly and Whiney.

The suspense will be in guessing who are the villains and who are the heroes. Who finally sees the light, and who still adamantly refuses to seek treatment for chronic tunnel vision and willful myopia?

Therefore, the audience is definitely urged to participate. Keep calling your congress critters. Keep inundating the White House with synopses of Single Payer health care proposals. Don't get derailed by the emerging schlock horror genre called Them Bad Russians.

Poet Allen Ginsberg poignantly sounded the alarm half a century ago. "America: This is serious."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Fear Itself

"It's not the big things that are important to me, but the everyday life of tyranny, which gets forgotten. A thousand mosquito bites are worse than a blow to the head. I observe, note down the mosquito bites." -- Victor Klemperer, I Will Bear Witness.

It's not so much that Donald Trump's Budget Manifesto of Hate is such a great big blow to our heads. For now, anyway, it's only a campaign speech dressed up in sadistic language and some alleged math.

 It's the ceaseless drone of the swarms of mosquitoes that's doing us in. By merely voicing their desire to punish our most vulnerable friends and family members, Trump and his Congressional cohort are accomplishing their core goal, which is inspiring fear. That we might not, after all, lose the daily bodily and social sustenance of Meals on Wheels; that we might not, after all, lose all our Medicaid and Medicare health coverage; that we might not, after all, get deported, beaten up or killed on the basis of our race, religion or ethnicity is of secondary importance to the main agenda of the oligarchs now directly running the government. The agenda is intimidation.

We're still only in Phase One of the Trump regime. And it behooves both sides of the duopoly to prolong his reign in the interest of maximum psychological control of the population. It's the anticipation of pain that does us harm before even one dollar of our Social Security is cut, before even one trip to our doctor's office is cancelled, before even one unionized nurse or public school teacher loses her job to the complete privatization of what is still left of the commons.

 We are being terrorized today, right this minute, by the mere threat of being punished tomorrow.

And once the Democrats make one of their feeble eleventh-hour deals with Republicans -- to perhaps rip more than the average number of holes in the social safety as opposed to tearing it to shreds in one fell swoop -- won't we psychologically tortured people feel ever so grateful to our leaders? We never let the perfect be the enemy of the good, do we? Our grit and determination and resilience and resistance will get us through, every single time. Rah, D-Team!

 Klemperer wrote in his diary: "How I dreaded the house search. And when the Gestapo came, I was quite cold and defiant. And how good our food tasted afterward! All the good things, which we had hidden and they had not found."

A neoliberal gaslighting campaign is also on full bipartisan display in Congress. Democrats almost daily declare themselves absolutely helpless in the face of Trumpian tyranny, even as they make vague promises to save us if only we elect more candidates from within their own corrupt corporate apparatus. But for now, they say, we'll just have to wait Donald Trump out as they foment some more Russophobia to tide us over.

Dianne Feinstein, one of the highest ranking Democrats in the Senate, soothed that it's only a matter of time before we get some relief. There is no need right now for her and her liberal colleagues to personally confront Trump on his various conflicts of interest and his blatant breaches of the Constitution. As reported by Politico:
 How are we going to get him out?" the questioner asked.
"I think he's gonna get himself out," the California Democrat and member of the Senate intelligence committee replied.
Her comment was captured on video by LA Times reporter Javier Panzar, who posted the exchanges on Twitter. A Feinstein spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.
So far, impeachment is off the table, just as it was once off the table for George W. Bush and his coterie of unindicted and still-thriving war criminals. Despite the mountains of evidence against Trump being unearthed almost daily, Feinstein claimed not to know whether he has committed any impeachable offenses. She did allow, however, that "questions are being raised" by such things as the Trump sons' international deal-making on behalf of the family. Trips for personal gain are being conducted on the taxpayer dime, and that doesn't look so good on the surface.

If Dianne Feinstein, with her estimated net worth of $42 million, can afford to bide her time, then so too must the frightened pensioner worried that her Meals on Wheels and her government heating assistance will get cut off. And once her food intake and her heat are mercifully reduced by a mere third, she'll rejoice just to be barely subsisting.

Meanwhile, we're told by liberal economist Robert Reich, "Washington is more divided, angry, bewildered and fearful - than I've ever seen it."

Oh, the poor things. It must be the upending of The Norms. The Republicans think Trump is nuts, and will pull the Party right down with him. Furthermore, Reich informs us, the White House itself is "a cesspool of intrigue and fear. Apparently everyone working there hates and distrusts everybody else."

While Washington insiders are quivering and bickering, the CIA now enjoys carte blanche to assassinate at will with Predator and Reaper drones, the Pentagon has sent ground troops into Syria with no input or discussion by Congress, and a ravenous cabal of oligarchs makes the Robber Barons of the first Gilded Age look like angels by comparison. At least back then they built company towns and company stores to keep people indebted. If you're poor and indebted nowadays, they've been building privatized prisons to fulfill all your housing needs.

So while the political ruling class prepares for even more war by drumming up our fear of the Russians, the Social Contract is being ripped to pieces right under our noses.

There's been a lot of ink spilled recently about how comparing of Donald Trump's America to Adolf Hitler's Germany is wildly overblown. For one thing, Trump doesn't have thousands of Brownshirts running around the country beating hundreds of people up, every single day. In the United States, "only" about one person is killed by a law enforcement officer in any given 24-hour period. Such fascistic practices as New York City's "stop and frisk" police abuse of black and Latino men have eventually been ordered stopped by a functioning court system. And so far, every single one of Trump's anti-Muslim bans have been overturned by the judicial system.

We are still allowed to choose from among a field of candidates approved by a handful of billionaires. We still have a free press, despite the corporate consolidation of the media into six main conglomerates and the demise of independent and local newspapers. Trump can call it "fake news" all he wants, but he doesn't have the power to send in federal troops to shut down the New York Times and CNN. For one thing, his approval rating is only the 30-something percent range. Hitler demanded, and got, national loyalty based upon his decades of hard work building up his very own hate-based political party. 

Trump is more of an afterthought, a side-effect, an excrescence of decades of neoliberalism's hard work of feeding itself into a bloated and corrupt system of unaccountable capitalism

That "it" hasn't quite happened here yet doesn't mean it won't, or isn't happening already, like Klemperer's thousand little mosquito bites. The attacks on American social programs have been ongoing for decades, reaching their zenith with the Reagan Revolution, and continuing apace since then.

While we're being distracted by those damned Russians, Paul Ryan and his pals are tearing up the Social Contract in full public view but to little public fanfare. The first House vote to destroy Medicaid as we have known it since LBJ's 1960s Great Society anti-poverty legislation is scheduled for this Thursday. Since punishing more people has now been made slightly more cruel in order to attract more GOP hardliners, its chance of passage is considered to be slightly better than it was last week.

But you wouldn't know it from reading the front pages or turning on the TV news.

From the top of today's New York Times homepage:
Comey's Haunting News on Trump and Russia.
 Fresh Worries on Russia from Trump's Weary Defenders.
FBI Confirms Inquiry on Trump Team's Russia Ties.
Stone, a Trump Ally and Dirty Trickster, Under Investigation For Russia Connections.
Below what used to be called the "fold," we finally come to a piece about the planned destruction of Medicaid. In bloodless anodyne terms, the piece lists such additions to the GOP bill as allowing upstate (read: white) New York counties to reduce their Medicaid contributions to Albany (read: punishing "those people" in New York City.)

And in its opinion section, the Times today published an op-ed suggesting that Democrats and Republicans can heal their differences by allowing private insurance predators to market "universal catastrophic coverage" policies across state lines.

 "It would be a step consistent with President Trump’s bold message and it could resolve the current debate on Capitol Hill, now headed in a direction unlikely to satisfy anyone. President Trump has never shied away from thinking big, and now he has the potential to turn the politics of health care upside down with a populist solution that might go a long way toward solving one of the nation’s biggest problems," enthuses Benjamin Domenech, publisher of the right-wing Federalist.

Got that, proles? Read mainstream media, and develop a constant unhealthy fear of Russia. Continue to also relentlessly fear and loathe Trump, the whole Trump, and nothing but the Trump. Cheer from your nosebleed seats as Democrats and pundits gleefully call out his constant lies, grandstand on his unproven Russian connections, ignore his proven decades-long track record of graft and corruption right here in the USA, and do nothing to remove him from office. After all, he brings lots of clicks, and cable and newspaper subscriptions, and ad revenue, and political donations from the sleepless and rattled population.

Quite deliberately, they never discuss Medicare for All as the only sane, humane and cost-effective counterweight to GOP nihilism. 

Instead, we are told to dream the impossible dream of someday being able to purchase true, universal and unaffordable catastrophic coverage. We'll need it, because heretofore treatable, but soon-to-be neglected and uncovered, illnesses will needlessly lead to more humanitarian catastrophes.

Just take one item from the "budget," and the planned annihilation of the most vulnerable among us becomes all too obvious. Trump's proposed draconian cuts to the US Department of Agriculture alone are bound to cause a huge spike in the rate of food-borne illness, which in turn could lead to many catastrophic cases of sepsis in such vulnerable people as infants and the elderly and the immuno-suppressed.

And speaking of death by a thousand mosquitoes, Trump is even attaching a greedy profit motive to the fight against the Zika virus. As Bernie Sanders, Medicare for All proponent and the most popular politician in America, wrote recently:
Now his administration, through the Army, is on the brink of making a bad deal, giving a French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi, the exclusive license to patents and thus a monopoly to sell a vaccine against the Zika virus. If Mr. Trump allows this deal, Sanofi will be able to charge whatever astronomical price it wants for its vaccine. Millions of people in the United States and around the world will not be able to afford it even though American taxpayers have already spent more than $1 billion on Zika research and prevention efforts, including millions to develop this vaccine.
The Department of Health and Human Services gave Sanofi $43 million to develop the Zika vaccine with the United States Army. And the company is expected to receive at least $130 million more in federal funding.
But look over there, it's Russia infiltrating our democracy! Our leaders will never be able to prove it, but they'll gladly keep up the act as long as the right people continue to get rich. 

Regardless of party affiliation, plutocrats will tolerate Trump because he deflects attention from the system which they created and of which they are such an integral, self-dealing part. Their resistance movement should not be our resistance movement. Don't buy into their buzz.

Don't be afraid of Russia. Be afraid instead of Paul Ryan's rushin' fingers, ripping the Social Contract into a thousand tiny shreds in the grim hope that we won't notice the real catastrophe until it's way too late. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Weekend Open Thread

This incident, which just about sums up how many people are feeling this week, occurred not too far away from where I live. So on the off-chance you missed this viral vid (more than a million views and counting) here it is again.

The first part of the clip is the Republican plan for our mass extinction. The second, in slo-mo, is the Democratic version of the same process.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hellbent Persistence: The Chelsea Clinton Story

Second in annoyance only to Donald Trump's Tweets are the persistent stories about how Chelsea Clinton is being "groomed" for public office. Every time I read one of these ubiquitous pieces, I can't help but wonder: who, exactly, is doing all this mysterious grooming?

Mom? Dad? The DNC? MSNBC? The Hamilton Project? The Center for American Progress? The articles never say, exactly. So I have no choice but to let my imagination run wild.

What immediately comes to mind, totally unbidden of course, are the libertines of De Sade's 120 Days of Sodom. These depraved characters have the persistent habit of assaulting, in a variety of ways, the young people whom they've kidnapped and imprisoned in a remote luxury resort castle. The violations commence only after a very rigorous grooming regimen in which the victims are transformed into compliant and trusting objects who never exhibit even a whimper of protest, let alone display any emotions or original thoughts. The grooming has a profound deadening effect upon them.

That De Sade's predators hailed from the highest echelons of the church, the nobility, and academia would prove all too realistically prescient. But that's a blog post for another day.  

So anyway, once I manage to get those horrid sadistic images out of my head, the next thing that occurs to me is what an insult it is to use the word "grooming" about an already hyper-educated and impeccably put together woman like Chelsea Clinton. How much more grooming can one living picture of perfection even stand?

The publicists planting all these stories about her solo debut on the public stage are, I assume, getting paid top dollar by Clinton World. So isn't it a bit degrading to keep using this "being groomed" trope about Chelsea, as though she were a dog or a horse? Not only is the phrase demeaning, it robs her of her own agency. It implies that she needs lots and lots of expert help to maintain her position in life. And we all know that Chelsea only got where she is today by virtue of her own grit, talent and persistence.

She's even written a new book about these unique qualities, directly plagiarizing channeling Elizabeth Warren's recent tirade against racist Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions before his confirmation. After obeying Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's order to stop persisting and shut up, Warren had bravely continued her speech outside the Senate Chamber, via Facebook. She persisted in reciting a letter written by Coretta Scott King and as a result, her feminist brand skyrocketed to new levels, most notably within the elite Pussy Hat Brigade. Chelsea has recently become a branded soldier of The Movement herself. This is evidenced by her recent spate of #ResistanceInc tweets directed at Donald Trump and her publicizing of her toddler daughter's debutante stint:

 Notice that Chelsea didn't quite get to the level of "no drones, no bombs, no wars."

Chelsea's mom even got into the act, tweeting about Warren, the woman she'd only recently spurned as a running mate: "She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted. So must we all."

And thus was a whole Persisterhood industry spawned. What - you thought this was democratic socialism? There are She Persisted energy bars, and She Persisted fashions, and even a She Persisted online store with products designed for the "woman warriors in your life." If you are a persistentrepreneur looking for product placement, there are experts to help you market your stuff. They will even send you a monthly inspirational story to help you get marching all the way to the bank.

A Movement Can't Go Ka-Ching If It Ain't Got No Bling

So what better time for Chelsea Clinton to rush out another book, and call it (surprise) She Persisted?

Given that she's probably only had a few weeks to cobble this tome together, with little to no time for original academic research or multiple revisions or relentless editing, Chelsea's publishers are marketing it direct-to-children - or what she adorably calls "tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world."

Expose the nursery school set to neoliberal Clintonism while they're still too young to resist. Groom them early, groom them often. 

According to the helpful plug planted in the New York Times:
The book will share the stories of 13 historical women who relentlessly pursued their goals in the face of opposition, including Harriet Tubman, Nellie Bly, Maria Tallchief and Oprah Winfrey.
Now hold it right there, and I'm not talking about the gratuitous addition of billionaire Oprah Winfrey. I'm talking about the need of Chelsea's publicist for a copy editor of her own. These women are historic, not historical. The word historical applies to all women and to all the humans and events of the past. They existed, therefore they were. Historic, on the other hand, correctly connotes that these people were unique or highly influential in their fields. Plus, since Oprah is not even dead yet, it is highly insulting to call her historical.

  So somebody needs a little grammar-grooming here, no? And puh-leeze -- shouldn't these lucky 13 ladies be termed Herstoric? If it can't be politically correct, then what hysterical good is it?

If you think this is too cute by half already, wait a minute, because we're not done yet. According to the Times puff piece, you'll have to hold your breath until She Persisted reaches bookstores on May 30 for "a cameo that is yet to be announced." 

I'm not exactly sure, but I think that what Chelsea teasingly means is a bonus chapter featuring one of the most relentlessly persistent people around. You'll have to buy the ticket before the big reveal, though; did you really think she'd be giving this book away? Hah! It'll set you back $17.99 for all 32 pages of it.

Anybody want to take a wild, wild guess as to the identity of Secret Cameo? Hint: her own last book was titled Stronger Together. Published in September last year, its first week sales were so awful, it should have set off an immediate persistent cacophony of alarm bells.

In a truly democratic country, the political life of this Mystery Cameo person  would be considered historical - as in The Blessed Past. But now that she is reportedly being groomed to become the next mayor of the Income Inequality Capital of the World, I think we can safely say that it when it comes to this family, the chutzpah alone is of truly historic and earth-shattering proportions. It's been consequential, to say the least.

It's Surreal: The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Moral Bankrupts of the Duopoly

Are you among the millions of Americans sweating the possibility that you'll lose your health care if Republican "reform" gets passed?

Well, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wants to make you feel better. In the event that you do have to endure more pain, suffering, depression and premature death because of GOP sadism, at least you'll have helped make the Democrats look good in the process.

This is exactly how Krugman grotesquely closes his piece on the "Trumpcare apocalypse."

Even though the legislation kicking tens of millions of people off Medicaid and increasing the premiums for Obamacare coverage to even more unaffordable proportions now looks to be D.O.A., Krugman doesn't put its passage outside  the realm of possibility. Some right-wing legislators are so depraved and so fanatical that giving a giant middle finger to the fact-based analysts of the Congressional Budget Office might be an opportunity too good for them to pass up:
Something like this C.B.O. score was a foregone conclusion; would it really have mattered much if it were 15 million losing insurance, not 24 million? How was this supposed to work out politically?
Again, I wouldn’t count out the possibility that this law will be rammed through regardless, with budget analyses relegated to the category of fake news. Democrats might even want to hope that this happens, so that there is no question about who to blame if insurance collapses. But the lemming-like way Republicans rushed into this disaster is still amazing.
The cancer patient on Medicaid whose chemo gets cut off when those proposed lifetime benefit caps go into effect will feel so vindicated. It will be so worth it to say "I told you so" on your deathbed, just to get the satisfaction of watching  multimillionaire Nancy "Embrace the Suck" Pelosi go into nonstop virtue-signalling and fundraising mode, as the United States morbidity and mortality rates skyrocket to even more epic proportions. And if more deplorable Trump voters suffer than righteous Democratic voters, so much the better. It's a prospect to absolutely die for, if you're like Krugman and have "the conscience of a liberal" as well as guaranteed insurance coverage of your own.

The Democrats are as morally bankrupt, in their own smarmy way, as the Republicans. Their tepid health care "fight" is not so much about protecting the tens of millions of people from Social Darwinist ideology as it is about winning back power on the theory that "they suck less." And they conveniently forget that what they are fighting so hard to protect is a Republican plan in the first place. No wonder the Republicans are so tied up in knots over its "repeal." It's hard to call something socialistic and then not admit that the main socialistic component of Obamacare is that it is welfare for the insurance cartel.

Assuming that liberals do manage to prevail in the 2018 mid-terms, they still have no intention of rallying around HR 676 and similar single payer health insurance proposals castigated by Krugman and his ilk during the Democratic primaries and still ignored by them as a sure-fire to win over working class voters.  They will instead be celebrating the fact that they managed to "save" the for-profit predatory health insurance system. Or as Krugman so cynically hopes, they will be gloating all the way to the bank.

Let's get real.
Human lives and bodies are way too profitable to just let Obamacare as we know it go the way of the rotary phone. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton put it recently, the pharmaceutical industry is not about to give up its cannibalism when there's so much money to be made by both treating and causing disease in people. Obamacare and its kludge of insurance predators and outsourced Medicaid plans are in the same predatory rent-seeking category as payday loans and rent-to-buy housing scams and charter schools.
Another prime example of rent-seeking is that the Medicaid is funding opioid prescriptions for low-income workers, Deaton said. The results are workers who are becoming addicted and overdosing while profits are going to the Sackler family which owns Purdue Pharma that makes OxyContin.
Deaton said he favors a single-payer health system only because our current part-private and part-public system is exquisitely designed to give opportunities for rent-seeking.
“So I, who do not believe in socialized health-care, would advocate a single-payment system...because it will get this monster that we’ve created out of the economy and allow the rest of capitalism to flourish without the awful things that healthcare is doing to us,” he said.
Democrats have cleverly taken to calling the GOP health bill "Making America Sick Again." Actually, "Making America Sicker by Forcing Poor People to Buy their Own OxyContin" would be more on point. But that would be both too much of a mouthful, and a tacit admission that Democrats like things just the way they are.

 It also helps that the Sackler family of billionaires has generously donated to both sides of the morally bankrupt Duopoly while literally getting away with mass murder.

As a 2016 investigation by the Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity shows, drug companies have spent more than $880 million on lobbying and political contributions since 2000. Compare this to only $4 million spent on similar influencing efforts by organizations which exist to combat opioid addiction and the proliferation of pill mills, and you begin to understand why there is so much turmoil in bipartisan circles over Obamacare repeal and Medicaid destruction.

Somebody should alert that hyper-capitalist Donald Trump about the imminent danger to the oligarchic bottom line which GOP "reform" represents, especially since he himself has advocated for a single payer health care system on more than one occasion. 

If we can't appeal to his psychopathic selfishness, perhaps we can appeal to his psychopathic greed.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party should probably just hurry up and get on with its own collapse so that a new progressive party can arise from the ashes.  

As for HR 676,  re-introduced by John Conyers in January, it has now been referred to the House Committee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs, where it is bound to get maximum attention from the truth-telling mainstream media. Maybe they'll get around to discussing it as soon as they come down off their own latest high: blissing out over two whole pages of an old Donald Trump tax return.

So when you get the email from the White House asking you to share your own Obamacare horror story, you might consider just sending the president a copy of HR 676, that fantastic and fair single payer bill. It would save both him and you, like, an unbelievable amount of money. Best of all, taxpayers wouldn't be on the hook for expensive elective cosmetic procedures for rent-seeking plutocrats. The ultra-rich need to have some skin in the game just like everybody else. HR 676 would force them to pay for their facelifts and tummy tucks out of their own deep pockets. Sad.
This bill establishes the Medicare for All Program to provide all individuals residing in the United States and U.S. territories with free health care that includes all medically necessary care, such as primary care and prevention, dietary and nutritional therapies, prescription drugs, emergency care, long-term care, mental health services, dental services, and vision care.
Only public or nonprofit institutions may participate. Nonprofit health maintenance organizations (HMOs) that deliver care in their own facilities may participate.
Patients may choose from participating physicians and institutions.
Health insurers may not sell health insurance that duplicates the benefits provided under this bill. Insurers may sell benefits that are not medically necessary, such as cosmetic surgery benefits.
The bill sets forth methods to pay institutional providers and health professionals for services. Financial incentives between HMOs and physicians based on utilization are prohibited.
The program is funded: (1) from existing sources of government revenues for health care, (2) by increasing personal income taxes on the top 5% of income earners, (3) by instituting a progressive excise tax on payroll and self-employment income, (4) by instituting a tax on unearned income, and (5) by instituting a tax on stock and bond transactions. Amounts that would have been appropriated for federal public health care programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), are transferred and appropriated to carry out this bill.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Pity the Poor Deep State

If Donald Trump hates Big Brother, and reasonable people hate Donald Trump, then it naturally follows that reasonable people should love Big Brother:
 Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, wrote on Twitter: “We are whistle-blowers, press, judges, legislators, cooks, teachers. We are #DeepState. We are the American people.”
That tongue-in-cheek message is the centerpiece of a New York Times "interpreter" article which solemnly tells us that although there is no such thing as the Deep State, it is getting a bad rap. The horrible stuff you're hearing about spies hacking into your iPhones and TVs is naught but a paranoid delusion of conspiracy buffs. So our convoluted duties as loyal citizen-consumers are, first, to deny that the deep state exists, and second, to co-opt its meaning. We must bowdlerize it and render it harmless and huggable.

Democratic Party Bumper Sticker

 The Times piece, written by Max Fisher, employs the usual experts to create a field of straw men and sophistry. The talking points:

--America is not Egypt or Pakistan. We are a democracy, and the good folks at the CIA, the FBI and the NSA are getting a totally bad rap from the new nutty president and his alt-right minions. The dedicated bureaucrats who listen in to the world's conversations and collect all your emails are people, just like you. If it weren't for Donald Trump crazily tweeting that he's been wiretapped, the spy agencies could continue doing their unaccountable thing in the dark. Because this is a democracy.

--American spies and the secret police are like climate scientists. They are united in professional victimhood. Just as the right-wingers have politicized researchers by forcing them out of their laboratories to defend the science, so too are the spooks being forced into the glare of sunlight. And it's all because of Trump's crazy allegations. We can thus deduce from the article that climate change research is very similar to spying on people and fomenting coups in foreign countries. CIA agents who torture Muslims in black site prisons and FBI agents working undercover to undermine protest movements deserve the same level of privacy as climate investigators who study receding polar ice caps and rising methane levels in the atmosphere.

--Look what's happened in Turkey. Its authoritarian president also used the Deep State paranoia method to destroy democratic institutions and kill a whole bunch of innocent people. You don't want that to happen here too, do you? You want to live, don't you?  So please, people, let the Intelligence Community carry on with its secret work in order to save democracy from people. Trade your privacy for an illusion of security.

Max Fisher is an alumnus of the corporate-funded "explainer" website known as Vox (the populi part has been left off for very good reason, since the writing is mostly done by self-described wonks tasked with pushing the neoliberal Clinton/Obama narrative to the ignorant populace.)  You might remember Max Fisher from a previous Times "interpreter" piece in which he explained why we should all hate and fear Russia, and love the secretive R.A.N.D. Corporation.

Thus does Fisher continue his strange love for our unaccountable and money-bloated "intelligence community":
Mr. Trump has put institutions under enormous stress. He has attacked them publicly, implied he would reject intelligence findings that cast his election in a poor light, hobbled agencies by failing to fill critical positions and cut off bodies like the National Security Council from shaping policy.
That has forced civil servants into an impossible dilemma: acquiesce, allowing their institution to be sidelined, or mount a defense, for example through leaks that counter Mr. Trump’s accusations or pressure him into restoring normal policy-maker practices.
There's nothing worse than forcing Top Secret America to endure the agony of the leak. After all, the Obama administration has just got done prosecuting more government whistleblowers than in all previous administrations combined. It even instituted a program called Insider Threat, which mandated that even non-IC government bureaucrats must report one another's reading material and marital infidelities on pain of getting fired for failure to snoop on the job. But that was all being done in-house. And now Trump, taunting bully that he is, is forcing them to take the fight to the public playground. 

Max Fisher writes:
When, for example, Mr. Trump accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his phones, he forced the F.B.I. into an unappealing choice: Let the accusation slide, though it implies the bureau broke the law, or rebuke the president and risk the appearance of playing politics.
Either way, the bureau loses some of its internal influence, public stature or, quite possibly, both. Losing stature can be especially dangerous, as the bureau needs public trust to effectively operate.
A reputation is a terrible thing to lose, especially since Americans have so long admired the FBI for wiretapping and smearing Martin Luther King Jr and writing him a vicious anonymous letter which urged him to commit suicide. 

When the Church Commission concluded in the 1970s that the FBI was a perfectly willing partner in all manner of political slime and democratic abuses, the police state might have gotten knocked down, but it quickly got up again.  Because as we all know, 9/11 Changed Everything.

We now have the Patriot Act, which has raised the stature of the FBI to such pristine heights that it can now secretly demand your personal information on the slightest whim or pretext. Congress has granted the agency the most unchecked authority it's enjoyed since Theodore Roosevelt secretly formed it more than a century ago as his own private spy detail, with neither the input nor the authorization of Congress.

As reported by Kevin Gosztola, since 2010 the bullied FBI has gotten virtually all its secret FISA Court bugging requests granted. It's enhanced its stellar public reputation by obtaining "national security letters" which have allowed it to nobly force companies to relinquish the credit card bills, phone records, and Internet search histories of more than 14,000 of their "terroristic" customers.

 For the most part, Barack Obama was able to effectively tamp down liberal resistance to the totally nonexistent Deep State through the magic of his charm offensive, even to the point of placating German Chancellor Angela Merkel when word leaked out that the American surveillance state had eavesdropped on her cell phone calls.

Now, Donald Trump is stirring up the whole can of worms. He is picking on poor lovable Big Brother, all for his own paranoid and selfish reasons. Trump must be stopped. 

It's getting so bad that IC flacks are being forced, all over again, to Tweet or go on the Sunday shows to flail against the cold hard truth that the NSA does, in fact, spy on Americans without a warrant by way of a loophole in the law allowing it to freely listen in to foreign phone calls with an American at one end. Or, if that won't work, the US can always farm out its domestic spying to other friendly countries, like Great Britain and Israel, in its surveillance-sharing network.

Of course, this need not worry you, especially when you have an establishment organ like the New York Times to obfuscate and interpret and explain it so that may recover from any lingering ignorance and be #StrongerDeepStateTogether.

We are all Winston Smith now. So take a tip from his creator, the late great George Orwell, and come in from out of the cold:
 O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

Deep State R Us: Love it, or leave it. Or talk back to your TV if you have nowhere else to go. You won't even need your tinfoil hat to know that it's listening. Your concerns and your complete satisfaction are very important to it.