Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Hillary Is the Least Most Admired Woman In the USA


Although Hillary Clinton has again won the over-hyped Gallup title as the "most admired woman" in the United States, her slim margin of victory over Michelle Obama essentially makes her the least popular winner in the entire history of this horribly annoying poll.

In another wipe-out,  Donald Trump narrowly lost to Barack Obama. If nothing else, this result is sure to engender a torrent of new "it was rigged!" tweets from the president, in what is traditionally a very slow news week. If it's any consolation, Obama still has a lot of catching up to do to beat Dwight Eisenhower's own record as most admired man in America ever in the history of Gallup polling.

If it is any further consolation to Trump, although "Crooked Hillary" has retained her popularity title for the 16th consecutive year out of 22 total lifetime wins, finding even a couple hundred people to vote for her out of the thousand-odd who were polled was a fraught enterprise. "She managed to win this year because she remains arguably more prominent than other contenders," Gallup contended. "However, retaining that stature may be more challenging in coming years with her political career likely over."

Ouch. Well, it could always have been worse. Gallup could have gone the Vanity Fair route and advised Hillary to take up a new hobby, such as knitting. Although the usual purveyors of manufactured liberal outrage are screaming "sexism" at this harmless snark, I think the people who should be really offended by this hysteria are the knitters of America. Admired males and females alike can be, and historically have been, accomplished knitters. As a crocheter myself, I was even a little jealous that Vanity Fair hadn't recommended my needlework skill-set to this minimally admired person.

If it's any further, further consolation to Trump, Gallup also predicts that as a sitting president, he's bound to beat Obama sooner or later - provided, of course, that he is still the most unpopular President this same time next year. The pollsters predict that Barry's star will soon fade as well, despite that over-hyped interview with Prince Harry Saxe-Coburg (whose great-uncle the Duke of Windsor, by the way, became an enthusiastic knitter after his abdication) was "breaking the Internet" this week. No matter, though. If Obama can brag that he, out of hundreds of millions of other Americans, felt delightfully "serene" as he listened to Trump's bizarre inauguration speech last January, he probably doesn't get too needled when it comes to people admiring him or not.

The other runners-up in this year's popularity contest were a mixed bag, ranging from Pope Francis to Mike Pence to Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren to Benjamin Netanyahoo to Beyonce.

For those of you who care enough to be actually knitting your brows over the poll results, please take heart. Because fully one-quarter of those contacted by Gallup could not name one single person whom they most admire. Another nine percent chose a friend or a family member over any of the usual Big Media Names. 

This exhibit of independent thinking from a tiny but "statistically significant" sample of the American populace is what actually gives me a smidgen of hope for the New Year.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Classy American Christmas

Yes, Virginia, there was not always a Santa Claus. In the early 19th century, Washington Irving, in the guise of a venerable colonialist of the ruling Knickerbocker dynasty, borrowed the old Dutch legend about Saint Nicholas and re-purposed it into the prototype of the American Santa Claus. A scant hundred years later, Coca-Cola re-purposed the re-purposing, and created the mass market image of Santa that we cherish to this very day - the morbidly obese dude with the snow-white beard and the red suit. 

Depression-Era Santa With His Handy Whip
 I guess Santa must have imbibed a whole lot of that original cocaine-laced high calorie sugary drink to gain all that weight and still be able to fly as high as a kite all night long. The subliminal message of Coca-Cola, even as it markets its brand to poor third world countries today, is that it's always better to be an unhealthy fat person than to look like the original St. Nick: decrepit, pale, and skeletal.

Although Charles Dickens is regularly credited as the "inventor of Christmas,"  the modern American version is very much the joint creation of the landed New York gentry, Wall Street and Madison Avenue. Our own post-Puritan, modern secular observances started as a public relations/propaganda campaign to get the rabble off the streets, and indoors, and therefore so out of sight and mind that the minority rich, safe within their own mansions, didn't have to give them another thought or another penny.

In the early days of the Republic, Christmas, when it was celebrated at all, was celebrated more like we observe Halloween today. The hoi polloi would roam the streets and bang on the doors of the high and mighty for handouts of food and money. Since the revelers were often drunk and rowdy, this had become a matter of grave concern to the moneyed classes. For one thing, Coca-Cola hadn't even been invented yet, and there was no electricity, let alone TV and Internet. The growing immigrant population couldn't even be trusted to go to the theatre to watch a Shakespeare play without it devolving into a fatal fracas.

The poor, especially the newly-arrived immigrants, had been rioting at Christmas-time practically since the founding of the Republic. Enter Washington Irving a/k/a Dietrich Knickerbocker. This writer, whose Legend of Sleepy Hollow has long been a staple of Halloween in America, actually helped to reverse our fall and winter holidays with his lesser-known Christmas stories. He had the leisure time to write his tales thanks largely to the generous support of his brother-in-law, a wealthy Wall Street financier.

Irving's yuletide yarns centered not around the harsh realities of New York's teeming slums, but around a benevolent, but entirely fictional, English squire who proactively welcomes the whole neighborhood into his Bracebridge Hall manor house before they get the crazy idea of annoyingly begging, not to mention breaking and entering. In the "those were the good old days" fashion so beloved of American myth-makers and modern demagogues, Irving tried to market Noblesse Oblige as a way of denying that hardships even existed in the tenements and sweatshops of New York City. In his own totally non-existent world of the recent European past, the rich and the poor had mingled as one great big happy family. Irving literally invented such legendary Christmas traditions as "The Crowning of the Lord of Misrule" as a more desirable way for exploited and restless working people to hope for the future, to believe in the beneficence of the plutocrats, and to celebrate the Winter Solstice as quietly and as peacefully as their betters. It was the 19th century version of Fake News.

Indeed, the Upper Crustopoly of yesteryear sounds remarkably similar to the 21st century Republican ideologues and liberal philanthrocapitalists and their insincere hectoring of the poor to get out their "culture of dependency" and embrace hard work and damp down their anger and resentment through the occasional entertainments provided to them by their necessarily stern masters.

Irving unctuously wrote,
There is something genuine and affectionate in the gaiety of the lower orders, when it is excited by the bounty and familiarity of those above them; the warm glow of gratitude enters into their mirth, and a kind word or a small pleasantry, frankly uttered by a patron, gladdens the heart of the dependent more than oil and wine.

Irving's literary propaganda was slow to catch on with "the lower orders," however. Either his targeted audience didn't read, or they were too poor to buy his books, because in 1828 the ruling class of New York City was finally forced to officially create a metropolitan Police Department to protect their lives and their property from the mob. Poor people had gone way beyond merely hitting up the aristocrats for food and petty cash at Christmas-time. The were rioting, burning, and looting to protest against gross class inequities. Wars among immigrant factions erupted, including attacks on worshipers as they came out of church. The ruling class essentially reinvented Christmas out of stark nativistic fear of the growing political power of ethnic populations, particularly Irish Catholics.

Astor Place Riot of 1849

  Santa's co-optation as a jingoistic political prop also proceeded apace. During the Civil War, he was drafted for a psy-ops campaign against the Confederacy. President Lincoln commissioned famed cartoonist Thomas Nast to create a bellicose image of the Right Jolly Old Elf (already having been further modernized by Irving's plutocratic pal Clement Moore in The Night Before Christmas) regaling a group of Union soldiers, an image that was to be distributed en masse in the slave-holding states.

If you thought that Billy Bob Thornton's hilariously perverted portrayal of Bad Santa was extreme, just get a load of Nast's vision of a St. Nick who gives with one hand and kills with the other. As historian Matthew W. Lively describes it,
Nast drew a patriotic Santa dressed in striped pants and a coat covered with stars sitting on his sleigh beneath a waving American flag. Two drummer boys in the foreground of the sketch appear fascinated with a jack-in-the-box toy. One soldier is shown opening his box to find a stocking stuffed with presents, while another soldier holds up the pipe he received as a present. In the background, other soldiers play football, chase a greased boar, and cook Christmas dinner. 
More surprisingly, Santa is shown amusing the soldiers by hanging a wooden effigy of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. So no one is mistaken as to its meaning, a text accompanying the drawing notes: “Santa Claus is entertaining the soldiers by showing them Jeff Davis’s future. He is tying a cord pretty tightly round his neck, and Jeff Davis seems to be kicking very much at such a fate.”
This was a direct slap in the face to the South, where Alabama, in 1836, had become the very first state to declare Christmas a legal holiday. It did not become a formal national holiday until 1870. Could this North vs. South campaign be the real, albeit forgotten, source of Fox News's perennial War Against the War Against Christmas agit-prop campaign?

Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas in America if we didn't get an endless loop of Yuletide TV spots of greetings from the troops in our nearly 1,000 military bases throughout the world to help us appreciate that killing and war happen, even during the Season of Peace. As an added propaganda bonus, theocratic Vice President Mike Pence even put the Christ back in Christmas with his visit to, quite literally, a whole second generation of US soldiers in Afghanistan. They've been there for almost as long as Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle was in his 20-year coma.

Meanwhile, good luck to the 21st century gentry as far as getting poor people off the streets back home. Protests and riots might now be in a state of abeyance thanks to the relentless trickle-down, fear-mongering propaganda of the consolidated media-political complex and the country's addiction to electronic gadgets and drugs. But right along with the skyrocketing death rate from opioid abuse, homelessness once again is on the rise in the Homeland. People have taken to the streets not to protest, but because they have nowhere else to live.

More than half a million Americans will be spending Christmas outdoors or in a temporary shelter this year.

But, as Donald Trump's Housing and Urban Development Director Ben "Bootstraps" Carson puts it, "homelessness is not a government problem. It's everybody's problem" - meaning it's nobody's problem, especially not the problem of the pathocratic billionaires who've just received Congressional carte blanche to literally steal the last shriveled apple from the last little child's ragged Christmas stocking.

So despite the booming stock market and record economic "growth" and slightly lower poverty rates and slightly higher average wages, the rent is still too damned high for a lot of people. As reported by The Guardian, 
There was an increase [in homelessness] of 4.1% in New York. In the west, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Sacramento and Oakland all reported surges of varying sizes. Most of the increase across the country is driven by people living in doorways, tents and RVs as opposed to in shelters. People of color are dramatically overrepresented: African Americans make up over one-third of the number.
In one sense the prevalence of homelessness seems odd, because the national poverty rate has fallen to around the same level as before the recession. Yet homelessness is linked to economic growth. In some of the nation’s more desirable major cities, housing is rapidly appreciating to a point where it is out of reach for lower earners.
Median hourly wages in the US have barely budged for decades, from $16.74 in 1973 to $17.86 in 2016, in terms of 2016 dollars, according to the Economic Policy Institute. But in New York, for instance, the hourly wage required to comfortably rent a one-bedroom is $27.29. In Los Angeles, it is $22.98.
But to make Ben Carson, and actually all of us, feel somewhat guilty about our own less-bad lives, The Guardian is also running a companion piece about how individual homeless people are bravely (or maybe just cynically) counting their meager blessings this year.

Many are grateful just to have their own tents to live in. Others are going the nostalgic Charlie Brown Christmas route and decorating their pathetic shedding rejected trees with a few donated plastic ornaments. "My boyfriend wants to just put it in a milk crate with a paper bag, but I’m going to make a proper stand for it," one woman said. "I have some fake Christmas presents that I’ll put under it. And if I can somehow manage to make about $10, I can get four strings of battery-operated lights to put around it."


Paul Krugman, one of my favorite New York Times pundits, has, for at least the thousandth time, announced that only the Republican side of the Duopoly despises the working class.

Like Rip Van Winkle, he seems to have been asleep during the Age of Obama, in which under a Democratic majority, the top One Percent reaped fully 94% of all the household wealth lost during the 2008 financial collapse. But neoliberal propaganda needs must, so Krugman restricts his class war angst to the GOP's newly-enacted tax bill. He was apparently napping during Obama's own quiet parting gift to America in December 2016: a bailout of Wall Street foreclosure kings turned high-rent private equity landlords.

Krugman fumes:
How did they [the GOP] manage to produce this political lemon? Josh Barro argues that Republicans have forgotten how to talk about tax cuts. But I think it runs deeper: Republicans have developed a deep disdain for people who just work for a living, and this disdain shines through everything they do. This is true both on substance – the tax bill heavily favors owners over workers – and in the way they talk about it.
My published response:
 In a 2011 "Meet the Press," David Gregory gently and gingerly confronted Paul Ryan about his sick desire to cut Medicare, even though 80% of Americans don't want it touched. Then as now, Ryan scoffed in that slimy, earnest way of his.

"Leaders are expected to lead and are expected to change the polls, because that's what the country wants," he actually said.

"Country" and "America" are of course GOP-speak for the top 1%, a/k/a the Donor Class, a/k/a the Owner Class. And Trump goes them one better. "L'Amerique, C'est Moi!" is what he actually means when he says the tax bill is a giant Christmas present to America. That is, if he could speak French - or even English above a fourth grade level.

His pathological greed has made him so ignorant that he probably thinks Noblesse Oblige is one of those foreign terrorist organizations gathering at our precious borders.

When Ryan says the reverse Robin Hood tax package will become more popular over time, what he's really saying is that the actual population will become so demoralized and so weak over time that they won't even have the energy to get mad, let alone respond to polls. Another metaphor for this phenomenon is the frogs slowly dying in a pot of simmering water - although the GOP's culinary method is to set the burner up to an immediate furious boil before they dump us all in for the quickest possible kill.

Joyeux Noel, everybody!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Bright Side of Despair

The Democrats have been so caught up in the witch-hunts of RussiaGate and selective #Me-Tooism that the blitzkrieg known as The Great Tax Heist of 2017 has them looking more like castrated deer in the headlights than usual. Far from erupting into a state of rebellion over the passage of the bill, they're cowering in a state of mass confusion when they aren't alternately complaining and seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

"Just you wait, you nasty Republicans, until 2018 or 2020, or the next century, when people will finally -finally! - wise up to your shenanigans!" is the common refrain echoing from the Democratic leadership and their all-too-complicit co-dependents in the mass media.

In a clueless nod to Stanley Kubrick's satiric masterpiece about bumbling Russophobes in high places, New York magazine chirpily offers "6 Reasons For Progressives To Stop Worrying and Love the GOP Tax Scam."

They are so very heartening that I'm sure you already know them all by heart. All together now:
1. It's so horrible, all that Dems need do is to sit back and relax and a restoration of "power" shall be theirs due to a mass outpouring of ruefully grateful voters. You can literally run as John Q. Generic, and you'll be a shoo-in.

2. When they do take back power, they will immediately expand the welfare state! ( just as Obama did back in 2009 when he had a Democratic super-majority in Congress and still rewarded Wall Street to the detriment of Main Street, and refused to use budget reconciliation as ruthlessly as the GOP has done this year.)

3. Trump raised taxes on everybody and therefore social democracy is inevitable! (um... large chunks of the middle class, unless they reside on the expensive coasts, will not realize they wuz robbed until about 2027, when their tax cuts are due to sunset even as the corporate rates remain permanent.)

 4. It should mollify Democrats' fear of deficits! (as we all know from our study of recent history, Obama's first reaction to the Bush administration's trillion dollars' worth of war debt and tax cuts for the rich was to delay sunsetting the Bush tax cuts for the rich as payment to his own donors, as he offered a tepid stimulus package hiding even more tax cuts and gifts to high finance. He refused to consider Medicare for All,  a guaranteed federal jobs program and living wage legislation, at the same time his Justice Department vigorously exonerated all the Wall Street malefactors. And then he used his supermajority to seat his infamous Deficit Reduction, or Cat Food, Commission.)

5. Blue states will be able to shield their own safety nets from GOP depredations! ( How? by raising state taxes, which have now been deemed non-deductible under Trump's federal codes? by taxing high-speed Wall Street trades, and Hollywood, and Silicon Valley to the hilt and thus do away with all the money that cash-needy Democratic candidates count on?)

6. Republicans probably won't have the votes for spending cuts! (But not to worry - there are always Democrats ready to play. If they were able to help put an end to long-term unemployment insurance benefits while they still had their majority during the Obama years, anything is possible.)
Now, if you still persist in seeing the light at the end of tunnel as the blinding glare of an oncoming locomotive ready to mow you down, rather than as a beacon of hope, then Frank Bruni of the New York Times has some strange love of his own to offer. Democrats should simply yank the Republicans' "values" talking points right out from under them, and make them their very own! (while still yammering away on Russia and partisan #MeTooism, of course, to show how original and bold they truly are.) They especially should not abandon the Clinton-Obama-Third Way lie that Deficits Matter and therefore give ammunition to the plutonomy's propaganda that social spending cuts which hurt regular people will have to - just have to! - offset the tax windfall for the obscenely rich.

Bruni gushes forth with a noxious blend of market-beholden neoliberalism and war-mongering neoconservatism:
Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility because they don’t pretend that they can afford grand government commitments — whether distant wars or domestic programs — without collecting the revenue for them.
Democrats are the party of patriotism, because they’re doing something infinitely more urgent and substantive than berating football players who kneel during the national anthem. They’re recognizing that a hostile foreign power tried to change the course of an American presidential election. They’re pressing for a full accounting of that. They’re looking for fixes, so that we can know with confidence that we control our own destiny going forward. The president, meanwhile, plays down the threat, and Republicans prop him up.

Democrats are the party of national security. They don’t taunt and get into Twitter wars with the rulers of countries that just might send nuclear warheads our way. They don’t alienate longtime allies by flashing contradictory signals about their commitment to NATO. The leader of the Republican Party does all of that and more, denying the G.O.P. any pretense to stewardship of a stable world order.
Democrats are the law-and-order party. While many Republicans and their media mouthpiece, Fox News, labor to delegitimize the F.B.I. and thus inoculate Trump, Democrats put faith in prosecutors, agents and the system.
Where do I sign up for my admission ticket to the Big Tent? Do I interpret the light at the end of the tunnel hopefully, pragmatically or despairingly?

My (Times censor-proof) published response to Bruni: 
Moving the Democratic Party further right and claiming the moral high ground won't win elections. The dubious virtue of austerity for Main Street helped lose them a thousand seats in the past decade - a decade that saw the largest transfer of household wealth to the top 1% in our country's history.

Sure, blame gerrymandering. But Trump and the GOP will never be defeated if all that Dems can offer is "Incrementalism We Can Believe In." Trillion-dollar wars and world supremacy don't make up for the lack of universal health care and stagnating wages at home.

Even before Trump came along with his reckless tweets, America's "standing" was on the wane. Corporation-friendly trade deals and the global economic crisis caused by finance capital gone wild have destroyed millions of lives and livelihoods besides ours.

A new report co-authored by Thomas Piketty shows that the US is now the most unequal of all Western nations. This deliberately manufactured wealth gap will only intensify, as social and natural and political catastrophes become the new normal.

Our incarceration nation now imprisons one-third of all black men at some point in their lives, and on average, three US citizens are killed by law enforcement every 24 hours. Do you really think glorifying the FBI and the CIA, and scarifying about Russia, will fire up millions of oppressed people to come out and vote Democrat?

The Democrats don't need to be more like Republicans. They need to be more like New Deal Democrats.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Seven Dirty Words of American End-Times

George Carlin's estate really ought to think about suing the Trump administration. That's because the reality TV president's ironically-named Health and Human Services subsidiary has outright plagiarized the routine that made the late comic so famous.

Carlin riffed on the Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television; Trump's goon squad has made a list of the Seven Words you can never say if you work at the CDC.

Through endless repetition on bestselling records and sold-out stage shows, Carlin managed to take the shock value right out of the forbidden vocabulary at the same time that he satirized the squeamish censorship policies of the Federal Communications Commission and broadcast networks themselves.

Donald Trump, who in his own deranged way has satirized every single norm of how a US president should speak, nevertheless seems to have his own squeamish censorship needs. Since he relies on the GOP's evangelical wing to shore up the interests of the rapacious oligarchy of which he is an integral part, his wordsmiths have settled upon the Seven Dirty Words which traditionally have made Prosperity Gospel moguls spew green vomit and scream for an immediate mass exorcism. Not of themselves, mind you, but of an entire nation of godless Takers and Cadillac Welfare Queens.

The words that officials of the Centers for Disease Control are now only being "advised" to erase from all future communications are: Transgender, Entitlements, Vulnerable, Fetus, Diversity, Evidence-Based and Science-Based.

As the Washington Post reports, Trump officials have insisted that the words are being banned for purely budgetary reasons.  Anything that offends the great god Mammon apparently is their version of a very deadly sin. They're not going so far as to ban the original Seven Deadly Sins, which include greed, gluttony, hubris and lechery. Because this is not about their pathocratic personalities. This is about gagging and robbing the public, and then calling it a holiday gift to America.

Republican lawmakers can barely function, what with their group nightmare of vulnerable transgendered fetuses stretching out their little hands for government entitlements the minute they mature enough to burst out of the womb and breathe on their own thanks to the science-based fact of advanced lung development. The only diversity the misanthropic congress-critters care about is how best, and how tax-free, their sugar daddy donors can diversify their investments for the most immediate windfall profits possible. Too many vulnerable diverse people listening to all that trickle-down propaganda on TV might actually expect more than their fair share of a scant drop of water - especially if words like "entitlements" give them the crazy idea of someday collecting on the social insurance policies they've paid into all their working lives.

With the abolitions of "science-based" and "evidence-based," the Seven Banned Words take on an even deeper symbolic meaning, because as we all should know, God literally created the universe in Seven Days. Number Seven is an especially lucky number for the top One Percent, during this year of the Great Congressional Theft of the Public Purse.

From the Post:
(One)  longtime CDC analyst, whose job includes writing descriptions of the CDC’s work for the administration’s annual spending blueprint, could not recall a previous time when words were banned from budget documents because they were considered controversial.
The reaction of people in the meeting was “incredulous,” the analyst said. “It was very much, ‘Are you serious? Are you kidding?’ ”
“In my experience, we’ve never had any pushback from an ideological standpoint,” the analyst said.
It's getting so bad that before you know it, Trump might even issue a directive requiring CDC employees to rat each other out if they're caught writing the Seven Banned Words or even muttering them under their breath. Failure to spy on and report subversive bureaucratic activity in the workplace would be grounds for immediate disciplinary action, including demotion and dismissal and possibly even criminal prosecution.

Oh, wait. Out of the thousands of Obama-era regulations that Trump is gleefully axing, the Insider Threat Program is still thought to be every bit as safe as a billionaire's tax break. Federal government workers already are required to spy on each other at work, lest such activities as visits to independent news sites during their lunch breaks threaten national security.

Trump's attacks on the mainstream media are far from the first direct assaults on freedom of the press by a modern president. Barack Obama had already quietly decreed the leaking of information by government workers to reporters to be an act of espionage. McClatchy Newspapers reported in 2013:
The program could make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations of loyal Americans, according to these current and former officials and experts. Some non-intelligence agencies already are urging employees to watch their co-workers for “indicators” that include stress, divorce and financial problems.
“It was just a matter of time before the Department of Agriculture or the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) started implementing, ‘Hey, let’s get people to snitch on their friends.’ The only thing they haven’t done here is reward it,” said Kel McClanahan, a Washington lawyer who specializes in national security law. “I’m waiting for the time when you turn in a friend and you get a $50 reward.”
 Trump always prides himself on going the secretive and circumspect Obama one better, so perhaps he can hold a contest at the CDC. Since he's already donated his latest paycheck to HHS for the express purpose of "raising awareness" of the opioid epidemic rather than doing anything about it, I don't think we can expect him to part with any more of his untaxed cash, though.

So for the employee who can black out the most forbidden words in a budget document during any one eight-hour shift, the prize might be a year's supply of old freezer-burned Trump steaks. Runners-up will get their choice of vintage plastic Trump Christmas tree ornament or a Bible, a/k/a Art of the Deal, signed by the genuine auto-pen of the Big Man himself.

George Carlin explains further:

Friday, December 15, 2017

Democrophobia Strikes Deep

One of the more common explanations offered by the pundit class for the elevation of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land is that there is an excess of "democracy" in this country. Even though the majority of Americans are stupid, the Narrative goes, they were tragically still functional enough to tear themselves away from Fox News to shamble forth, like the extras in Night of the Living Dead, to commit mass suffrage.

Fear and loathing of the mob is even extending to the storied Big Tent of the Democratic Party. Having lost about a thousand state and national seats in the last decade, the party remains riven by its own factions of populism and elitism. Its much-touted Unity Tour proved to be a big flop, possibly because DNC Chairman Tom Perez's idea of unity was to purge the leadership of the populist Bernie Sanders supporters.

Since that purging did not automatically convince the populist faction to fall on their knees and beg for mercy, the next step is to publicly shame them for merely existing. "Is the Democratic Party Becoming Too Democratic?" archly asked the New York Times this week in an editorial written by two credentialed academics:
Part of the problem for parties is our insistence that they be run democratically. That turns out not to be a very realistic concept. Yes, we can hold elections within parties, but party leaders will always have vastly more information about candidates — their strengths and flaws, their ability to govern and work with Congress, their backing among various interest groups and coalitions — than voters and caucusgoers do. That information is useful, even vital, to the task of picking a good nominee. As the political scientist E. E. Schattschneider once said, democracy is to be found between the parties, not within them.
Casting doubts about a party’s legitimacy — in particular picking a presidential nominee — can have real electoral consequences. In 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders highlighted Hillary Clinton’s contributions from well-heeled donors, and particularly her strong support among the party’s superdelegates, as signals that the nomination contest had been fixed for her and that the only way for the Democratic Party to be a truly democratic party would be to nominate Mr. Sanders.
(Come on, proles! You knew just from reading the title of this piece that it would be the latest in the Times' timeless series, "A Thousand and One Ways to Blame Bernie, Bash Trump, and Beatify Hillary.")

But the authors do have a point. As the late political philosopher Simone Weil observed, a political party exists in the interests of itself rather than in the interests of its members. And since the main goals are "to generate collective passions," to attract money and members, and to win and maintain power, it is always necessary to lie by employing the egalitarian language of democracy. Therefore, the very name "Democratic Party" is a lie unto itself.

  Weil wrote that political parties by their nature are misanthropic:

 "Political parties are organizations that are publicly and officially designed for the purpose of killing in all souls the sense of truth and of justice. Collective pressure is exerted upon a wide public by the means of propaganda. The avowed purpose of propaganda is not to impart light, but to persuade. Hitler saw very clearly that the aim of propaganda must always be to enslave minds. All political parties make propaganda. A party that would not do so would disappear, since all its competitors practice it... Political parties do profess, it is true, to educate those who come to them: supporters, young people, new members. But this is a lie: it is not an education, it is a conditioning, a preparation for the far more rigorous ideological control imposed by the party upon its members."
Another French philosopher, Jacques Rancière, writes that the Hatred of Democracy now being openly displayed by the political "centrists" of the Democratic Party is as old as the de facto oligarchies which have controlled civilizations throughout history:
Double discourse on democracy is nothing new... we're used to hearing that democracy is the worst of government with the exception of all the others"... (but) the new antidemocratic sentiment gives the general formula a more troubling expression. Democratic government, it says, is bad when it is allowed to be corrupted by democratic society, which wants for everyone to be equal and for all differences to be respected.... The thesis of this new hatred of democracy can be succinctly put: there is only one good democracy, the one that represses the catastrophe of democratic civilization."
The current crisis in American democratic propaganda has its roots in the most severe wealth inequality in modern times.

In good times, leaders can more or less successfully urge people to consume - both material goods and entertainment - as a substitute for direct civil engagement. But with the hollowing out of the middle class comes the inevitable backlash. The financialized economy, or rule by the bankers, is virtually destroying the ability of most people to consume. Resulting dissent and unrest are threatening the confidence of the same elites who allowed deregulated capitalism to destroy the very consumerism which has nurtured it so well. Thus the haste with which they are now ramming through the repeal of Net Neutrality, the highway robbery known as Tax Reform, the ultra-consolidation of the already-consolidated mass media, revving up the war machine to epic suicidal as well as homicidal proportions, and making their emergency plans to privatize Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. They don't want too many healthy people getting in their way.

In a brand new report, Thomas Piketty and 100 other researchers have concluded that with extreme wealth inequality only growing worse with every passing year, all over the world, a whole panoply of social, economic and political catastrophes are inevitable. Worldwide, the top one percent of income "earners" have captured twice as much of the capital growth as the bottom half of the global population. Since 1980, with the rise of finance-controlled neoliberal forms of government, the massive transfer of public to private wealth has occurred in nearly all countries - so much so that public wealth is zero or in negative territory. While actual countries, like the US, have become richer, their governments have become poorer - by design. It gives them a perfect excuse to punish the poor in the name of "fiscal responsibility."

The Republicans, of course, have long stopped pretending to be on the "side" of the people who elect them in safe, gerrymandered districts. And increasingly, so have the establishment Democrats, with their own refusal to even acknowledge the wishes of the "Demos" for such nice but "impossible" things as universal health care, debt-free public education, a living wage and guaranteed incomes for those who cannot work or cannot find work. All they offer to the base is fear of Russia, with a concurrent redirection of populist anger at sexual harassment in Hollywood, corporate broadcast and print news, and to a much lesser extent, the Beltway and Silicon Valley. The financiers of Wall Street have so far been curiously exempt from the scandals, despite their many other serial predations and crimes against the body politic.

We do not even enjoy "representative democracy" in this country. Rather, as Jacques Rancière observes, we live under a system of Representative Oligarchy, "a representation of minorities who are entitled to take charge of public affairs either directly or though consultation."

 Everything is presented in terms of the economy and the Market, with the only "reality" offered to us, and to which we should aspire, being the unlimited power and glory of wealth. This is why centrist Democrats like Barack Obama constantly talked up a "balanced approach" to allow the co-existence of unlimited oligarchic greed with society's Left Behinds. The "losers" are urged to hone their skills, work hard, compete against your fellows, share the sacrifice, aspire to riches, and instead of complaining, get out there and vote!

Meanwhile, the rulers euphemize the slashing of the safety net with such weasel words as "modernization" in order to help the masses adapt to their ever more harsh realities. It's propaganda designed to give our oligarchy a renewed legitimacy. It follows, therefore, that the main reason that the wealthy liberal class hates Trump so much is because he foments the "divisiveness" making it so hard to keep the population sedated and under oligarchic control. 

The true definition of democracy is the struggles of ordinary people, both individuals and groups, for social and economic justice. These include struggles against the electoral system and the parties themselves.

Democracy has nothing to do with money-driven political parties and their agendas. It has everything to do with Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on a bus.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Count Your Damned Blessings

It's a testament to how low we've sunk as a country that the defeat in Alabama Tuesday of a homophobic xenophobic white supremacist fundamentalist fanatic pedophile came as such a huge shock to most pundits and prognosticators.

Much to our wondering eye does appear the reality that yes, Virginia, there is a limit to the awfulness that voters will accept in the politicians they choose to faithfully serve the oligarchs under the pretense of representative democracy.

The Democratic victor, Doug Jones, is still too much of an ideological "blank slate" for us to predict whether he'll try anything radical to improve the lives of the poor and Black Alabama voters who turned out in record numbers in an off-year special election to push him over the finish line. He'll actually get one more year (until 2021!) than a mere House representative would get to master juggling his good legislative stuff with the need to work the phones for campaign donations. So I'll give him the benefit of my many doubts in the hope that he proves my ingrained cynicism to be totally misplaced.

Meanwhile, the Republicans in Congress are taking no chances in getting their massive gift to the rich passed just in time for Christmas, before Doug Jones is sworn in to potentially jam even the tiniest wad of gum in their nasty works.  It bodes ill for them that despite his blank slate politics, Jones is very popular among black voters, not least because he successfully prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan terrorists who bombed a Baptist church in 1963 and killed four little girls.

New York Times pundit Paul Krugman drearily ponders the tasteless haste with which the robber barons are cramming coal into the stockings of 330 million Americans, or at least the bottom 90-99% of Americans. We still don't know exactly how severely the lesser millionaires and multimillionaires may be punished, especially those residing on the Blue State coasts. For example, although the mortgage deduction has been raised from $100.000 to $750,000, the tax bill will not allow a similar deduction for state and local taxes if the merely well-to-do choose the former option. This, from first appearances anyway, is a big slap to people who own luxury homes in New York's Hamptons enclaves.

  It might all seem moot to ordinary people when Congress reconvenes in January to begin its attack on the great social insurance programs of the New Deal and the Great Society. That's when real democracy should rear its righteous head and show that representative democracy is nothing but an oxymoron. It's nothing but a feel-good story that media and political propagandists have been telling us for more than two centuries now. So with any luck and lots of organization, the watershed #MeToo movement will quickly evolve from outraged protests against sexual assault and harassment to outraged protests against the social and economic assaults committed against us every single day by a tiny cabal of oligarchic predators.

These predatory rulers do, despite all their greed and venality, still require "the consent of the governed" in order to operate. It's why the oligarchs didn't fight back too hard against FDR's agenda during the First Great Depression. The continued existence of capitalism depended on him saving them from themselves, as well as from the sit-down strikes and rent riots.

So to Krugman's smug conclusion that the tax bill is just so horrible that it will send a delicious thrill right up the osteoporotic spine of the Democratic Party, I responded: 
  Those Democratic strategists might be gleefully thinking "Make My Day", but I suspect that those of us not making six figures a year as consultants are thinking more in terms of "Our Days Are Numbered."
Sorry, but the realization that the GOP mobsters are shooting themselves, and that the Dems look good in comparison doesn't put food on our tables, pay the rent, make doctor visits feasible even with "affordable" coverage, or ease whole lifetimes' worth of crushing student debt.

With the election of a monumentally incompetent criminal to the White House, the Republicans are newly emboldened to act out the darkest fantasies of the malignant Donor Class, a/k/a the Owner Class. The defeat of good ole boy pedophile Roy Moore does indeed spell the eventual doom of Trumpism and possibly the GOP majority. So they'll grab while the grabbing's good.
Plus, all the really nasty bad stuff is traditionally rushed through during the joyful winter holiday season. They count on most of us being either too busy consuming, or too depressed about our already-strapped existences, to make much of a stink. Furthermore, since we don't know exactly what is in this piece of malignant legislation, and the entire media-political complex will have made their quick holiday getaways, by the time we find out it'll be a done deal.

Then we'll be told to "adapt" and to practice "resilience" as we wait to vote the good guys back in to, at best. only partially undo what the Sadism Party has wrought.

Representative Democracy: The Fluff That Hides the Bad Stuff

Saturday, December 9, 2017

My Al Franken Mind-Split

I am uncomfortably on the fence regarding the Al Franken resignation.

The feminist part of me applauds his forcing-out at the hands of female senators. Maybe he posed for that dumb picture with a fellow entertainer for what he sincerely thought were harmless entertainment reasons. Nonetheless, the image did send a harmful message to immature males everywhere. That message is that women are objects of harmless fun, particularly women who are unconscious and helpless. So perhaps Franken's forced ouster will send its own message to immature men of all ages: Better think twice before playfully thrusting your tongue into an unwilling mouth, or affectionately pinching a bottom during a routine photo op.

The traditional (small d) democrat in me abhors his forced resignation by a handful of female senators. The voters of Minnesota put Al Franken into office, and they should be the ones to take him out, by recall, if they wanted to. Franken was railroaded out of The Swamp even before the ethically challenged Senate ethics committee got the chance to drag out another investigation. Franken absolutely does have a right to feel very bitter about the whole thing. The last thing a powerful man expects is to made an example of by a bunch of women. He must have felt like the hog-tied boss in Nine to Five as he delivered his bitter farewell speech.

Our Cathartic Moment of Zen

Meanwhile, the traditional democrat part of me also finds it very hard to be sympathetic to Al Franken, given my previous longstanding disenchantment with him. Despite the fact that his Minnesota constituents overwhelmingly chose Bernie Sanders in last year's Democratic Party caucuses, Franken, as a committed Hillary Clinton super-delegate, refused to change his own support. He explained that, since those same caucus voters had also elected him to the Senate, they "trusted" him to be the ultimate decider.

As a sort of precursor to his not remembering his well-meaning attacks on women the same way the women remembered them, Franken stressed that he didn't actually mean to imply that he thinks he is smarter than his constituents. He simply ignored them for their own good.

Meanwhile, both the democratic and feminist sides of me absolutely believe that my senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, railroaded Al Franken out of office for her own self-serving political purposes. Still something of a starlet among the overcrowded roster of rising Democratic stars, she knew a wedge issue opportunity when she saw it. Since the party slogan, "A Better Deal" was going nowhere fast, ambitious Democrats are hastily co-opting the #MeToo movement to differentiate themselves from the slimy Republicans, particularly alleged pedophile Roy Moore of Alabama and the admitted serial abuser in the White House. If the Democrats can't and won't run a campaign of economic justice for all, they'll grasp at any convenient straw they can. It'll be a war against the men who wage war against women.

Although the socialist part of me thinks that selective Me-Tooism is deeply reactionary as well as threatening to devolve into another McCarthyite cult, there's that other part of me who, still feeling the sting of my own prior victimization, is absolutely thrilled by the Fall of the Great Hogs as well as some of the lesser oinkers. 

True, Gillibrand was a conservative upstate New York Blue Dog long before she became an overnight opportunistic New York City-style progressive. But she has been known to buck bellicose male tradition from time to time. She dared to criticize Barack Obama for refusing to take sex assaults outside the chain of military command. And although she eventually tried to walk back her heretical disownment of the Clintons after suggesting that Bill should have resigned the presidency for his own sexual sleaze, she was the first member of her party in the Age of Hillary to do so. Regardless of ulterior motives, you have to admit that took some chutzpah.

So I'm ambivalent about Gillibrand too. Would it be better for her and other female lawmakers to just shut up about congressional predators? Of course not. But then I get hung up on due process, and I also can't help thinking about The Scarlet Letter with Kirsten Gillibrand starring as Roger Chillingworth. And then I think about how stone-cold silent she and her fellow legislators have been about the still-pending corruption charges against Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey. His first trial ended in a hung jury last month, but he's calling it an acquittal, and he's still sitting pretty in his own legislative seat.

Of course, the other problem with the #MeToo movement is that, thus far anyway, the media coverage has been largely confined to men in high places abusing women (and men) in somewhat less-high places, or at least those who ambitiously aspire to high places. For the most part, the Narrative is about  elites vs. elite wannabes. We haven't heard too many stories of working class women and men getting abused and/or fired, without the cushion of lucrative "settlement" deals to soften the blow of their low-wage job losses. There is no  corporate or taxpayer-funded hush money slush fund set aside for waitresses and office temps and Uber drivers.

And with so many liberals now turning on Gillibrand for ruining Al Franken's life for the good of a weak and corrupt Democratic Party, the dreaded backlash has already begun. The #MeToo movement, which so quickly advanced to a cult-like status thanks to the crusading journalism of the New York Times, threatens to go the way of the pink pussy-hat: into the discontinued yarn bin of history.

The irony is that the movement started out as a proxy fight against Donald Trump. The destruction of Harvey Weinstein, a vile proxy for the ages, got the whole bandwagon morphing into a runaway freight train. There are new accusations against new men every day, and the media prints them as hastily as their routine vetting procedures permit. Actual time, though, is not of the essence; some of the stories, such as those involving famed conductor James Levine, go back half a century.

And Donald Trump is not only still sitting pretty, he even champions his fellow predators with absolute impunity. In endorsing Alabama's Ray Moore, he's outed himself as a pedophile-phile, and proud of it. So, apparently, are a slim polled majority of Alabama's voters.

Also ironic is the possibility that, had Al Franken not gone against the wishes of voters and clung to the flawed and fatal campaign of Hillary Clinton, he might still be sitting pretty in his own Senate seat. It is now a truth universally acknowledged (at least by Donna Brazile and the leaked Podesta and DNC emails) that the primary process was rigged against Bernie Sanders. If he had secured the nomination, many believe that his left-wing populism could easily have trounced Trump's right-wing populism.

But don't tell that to the Democratic Party's elite faction. Pundit Paul Krugman, among others, is still artificially and uselessly confining his angst to the far-right wing of the reactionary Uniparty. His latest op-ed oh so originally points out that "Facts Have a Well-Known Liberal Bias." In other words, if the GOP says the moon is made of green cheese, and the Democrats say it is made of moon rocks, it therefore follows that the Democrats own the moral high ground, even as they gleefully appropriate three quarters of a trillion dollars to the war machine of their predatory faux-nemesis, Donald Trump. Krugman righteously writes in the New York Times:
Surveys done by the University of Minnesota and George Mason University have shown that the supposedly impartial “fact checking” news organization rates Republican claims as false three times as often as Democratic claims and twice as much, respectively.
Notice the implicit assumption here – namely, that impartial fact-checking would find an equal number of false claims from each party. But what if – bear with me a minute – Republicans actually make more false claims than Democrats?....
....Whatever the deep explanation, however, the parties are not the same. And trying to pretend that they are the same isn’t just foolish, it’s deeply destructive. Indeed, it’s one important reason Donald Trump sits in the White House.
My published response: 
The relentlessness of the GOP's lies has a "gaslighting" effect, serving to block normal minds from perceiving the actual truth. Since it's human nature to search for the "middle ground" between the truth and its opposite, too many of us end up settling for a counterfeit compromise. And this is precisely the intent of the liars and their media enablers.
They serve up their "news" not to keep us informed, but to ensure that we remain comfortable consumers in a very pathological situation.
It's like trying to find a magical healthy spot between stage 4 cancer and a benign tumor. Rather than calling the terminal disease a terminal disease, and rather than admit that a cancer-free body is the ideal, they settle for the stage 2 disease and pronounce it as healthy as can be expected.
Of course the Republicans and the Democrats aren't the same. But the Dems have to do more than indignantly moralize against the GOP pathocrats. They have to do more than point to "Russia" as the root of our divisiveness. They have to do more than brag about getting rid of their own in-house predators while pointing their virtue-signaling fingers at Trump and Roy Moore.
 They have to prescribe an actual cure to what ails this sick society. They have to champion Medicare for All, college debt relief, strong public education and housing policies, and living wage legislation. Maybe then they can start winning back some of the thousand seats they've lost to the GOP liars over the past decade.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Bill Clinton's Ruling Class Lament

As part of the great national wokeness serving to expose and shame the predators in the highest echelons of media and political power, the New York Times has graciously allowed former President Bill Clinton to perform his own reckoning, in his own words.

Clinton reckons that the biggest problem America faces is not that the powerful and the rich and the criminal are exploiting and assaulting the poor and the defenseless. It's that defenseless Americans like you and me just can't seem to get along with one another. Forget about coming clean about his own sordid past as an accused rapist. This man won't even come clean about how his administration's neoliberal, wealth-serving policies have directly created some of the worst human misery in the history of our young republic.

Regular readers of this blog might remember that one of my regular features was the deconstruction of Barack Obama's weekly addresses to the nation. Unlike Donald Trump's self-centered bombast, Obama's messages sounded,  on the surface, very reasonable and eloquent  and even empathetic - until you carefully read between the lines, and realized that they were largely dog-whistles of support to Wall Street and jingoistic drumbeats for the perpetual war machine.

So, when I read Clinton's op-ed in the New York Times, it was like deja vu all over again. Let the deconstruction begin!

Americans Must Decide Who We Really Are, by Bill Clinton.
America has a lot going for it.
We are in the second year of rising incomes across all income groups. Our work force is relatively young, hardworking and productive. America’s universities and other research institutions are strong in areas like materials science, software development, nanotechnology, biotechnology, genomics and many other fields that are important to our future economic growth and employment. We continue to move toward more energy independence and cleaner energy, with advances in battery storage for solar and wind power and a vast untapped capacity to generate electricity from both.
This sounds like a subtle dig at Obama, who oversaw the greatest transfer of wealth from the working classes to the rich in all of American history, as well as a subtle compliment to Trump's second year in office coinciding with the second year of allegedly rising incomes. If any low-income workers have gotten slight raises in the past few years, it's been largely the result of their own Fight for 15 movement and not the result of any beneficence of employers like the Walton family. This retail dynasty now owns as much wealth as the entire bottom half of the population combined, but their workers rely on government-funded programs like Medicaid and SNAP to barely survive. Of course, it helps that the Walton clan have been big funders of the Clinton clan over the past several decades.

Bill Clinton fails to mention that the technological research being conducted in public universities is for the ultimate benefit of private corporations, which, thanks to patent laws written by their lobbyists, will continue to milk the public for generations to come. Meanwhile, the skilled but onerously indebted graduates of such institutions will work until they drop.

And that's the good news. Clinton now proceeds to give lip service to his neoliberal version of the dark side:
 We also face serious economic challenges: severe inequalities in income and wealth; low work force participation by adults without college degrees, especially white men; dramatic differences in growth between prosperous urban and suburban regions and counties full of small towns and rural areas; gaping shortfalls in our national infrastructure, from inadequate roads and bridges, to rusty, dangerous water pipes, to an electrical grid incapable of moving the cleanest, cheapest energy from where it can be produced most efficiently to where it is most needed, to the absence of affordable, rapid broadband internet in areas that desperately need to be included in the national economy.
Whenever neoliberals want to avoid a true reckoning, they employ the weasel word "challenges." This allows them to avoid the reality that it has been their own policies (deregulation of the financial sector; privatization of public spaces, and housing stock, and public schools; the deliberate creation of a carceral state in which one out of every three black men now spends part of his life locked up in prison; the bipartisan whittling away of social insurance benefits) which have created the "challenge" of so many millions of people now needlessly suffering. These "challenges" have come about precisely because of leaders like him. Rather than admit this, Clinton blames the victims by pointing to the convenient "skills gap" canard.  This malarkey suggests that only a costly college education can ever bring neoliberalism's victims out of their own doldrums. Oh, and maybe a little broadband rural Internet. That should keep the "folks" hoping against all hope and against all reason. Maybe they'll vote Democrat next time, instead of for Republican demagogues like Donald Trump. Right?
There are human resource challenges, too. Our K-12 education system includes some of the world’s best schools, but that excellence has been hard to replicate across districts and states with widely varying conditions.
Bill Clinton would not be the loyal neoliberal ideologue he is if he didn't define human beings in purely market-based terms. We are not people - we are "human resources"  who must be ready, willing and able to be mined to our very depths. Never mind that these "challenges" will get even worse with the new tax legislation. Among its other atrocities, the GOP plan is expressly designed to destroy public education as we know it, by limiting the local and state property tax deduction to a measly $10,000, and thereby depriving neighborhood schools of most of their revenue for infrastructure and teacher salaries.

Clinton goes on to complain that although the Affordable Care Act has brought a modicum of medical coverage to a select and lucky portion of the population,  
... we have wasted too much time fighting over efforts to repeal that progress when we should be fixing the problems that remain and preparing for the aging of our population. 
 He studiously avoids any mention of Medicare for All, the true government-sponsored single payer health care being touted by progressives like Bernie Sanders, and which is widely supported by the public. On the contrary: what Clinton vaguely calls preparing for those old folks sounds ominously like a willingness to wheel and deal with the GOP on just how much funding it might be feasible to cut from Medicare for the Few.
 The future of undocumented immigrants — including the “Dreamers” and millions of people who are working hard and paying taxes — is uncertain at a time when our work force cannot grow without them; the birthrate among native-born Americans is barely at replacement levels.
Again, Clinton simply cannot resist couching social policies and problems in strictly economic terms. Only those immigrants who "work hard and pay taxes" are deserving immigrants. He does not mention the global refugee humanitarian crisis at all, probably because by doing so he would have to admit that American wars, both direct and proxy, are responsible for it.  He complains about the declining American birthrate without mentioning that people who do not make a living wage at a steady job simply cannot afford to have children  - especially when they are burdened by lifelong college debt. He also doesn't mention that the highly skilled foreign workers he wants to enter the country usually earn much lower salaries than native-born workers.
From Charleston to Charlottesville, we are reminded that the racial divide remains a curse that can be revived with devastating consequences. And the opioid crisis and its progeny, heroin and fentanyl, are killing and disabling Americans at a staggering rate. For several years we’ve known it’s a huge public health challenge, yet almost nowhere do we have the resources and organization necessary to turn the tide.
That was a very Obamesque alliteration - Charleston to Charlottesille. Its glibness masks the reality that our "racial divide" was actually just the ticket for Clinton's victory in 1992. He ran on a racist platform of "ending welfare as we know it," and he also championed the Crime Bill, which has sent record numbers of black men to prison on minor drug charges. Hillary Clinton's own "super predator" rhetoric did its own racist, ultra-right, placatory part.

As economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case have established, the opioid epidemic and worsening death rate are largely the result of working class despair - a despair partly engendered by the offshoring of jobs and the closing of factories brought about by Clinton's North American Free Trade Agreement. (NAFTA) But to Clinton, it's just one more "challenge." And as a sop to the centrist deficit hawk crowd, "almost nowhere do we have the resources to turn the tide."  If he were honest, he would acknowledge that the "resources" are there, but they've been earmarked for providing billionaires and corporations with more tax reductions, more art collections, more luxury homes, more private jets, and more super-yachts.
Finally, we have a serious set of security challenges, from nuclear proliferation, to terrorism, to climate change, to cybersecurity, the last of which may prove the most daunting because it puts all the systems we need to deal with the other problems, and our very democracy, at risk.
This, unbelievably, is how Bill Clinton ends his op-ed. It's as if by glossing over nukes and terrorism and climate change, he is deliberately avoiding the fact that the US itself has committed a trillion dollars' worth of our allegedly dwindling "resources" into modernizing our nukes. It's as if he can't bear to admit that the US has deliberately exempted itself not only from accountability before international war crimes tribunals, but exempted the military from environmental standards meant to reduce America's giant carbon footprint all over the world. The Pentagon is a major contributor to man-made climate change.

Clinton hilariously complains that breaches in our cybersecurity system put our  "democracy" at risk. If he were truly honest, he'd just complain that an upstart billionaire named Donald Trump has put Clinton's faction of the oligarchy at risk. If he were being extra, extra honest, he'd just cut to the chase and say that he's still mad as hell that Hillary lost, and that there has been no Clinton Restoration.

This is the same guy Donna Brazile thinks can help save the Democratic Party by going around the country and campaigning for all the challengers to Republican seats.

Maybe if the Democrats could refrain for a minute from calling people and all kinds of deliberately manufactured human misery mere "challenges," then they might actually start to claw back a few of those thousand seats they've lost in the past decade. Otherwise, they'll end up not with a bang, but with the same kind of whimper with which Bill Clinton concluded his insipidly awful Times op-ed.

Reading it to completion was like a depressing slog through mental quicksand. It was a real challenge.

Party On