Friday, September 28, 2018

The Kavanaugh Capers

I have to admit that I got momentarily hopeful during Brett Kavanaugh's meltdown before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday afternoon.

Despite his denials, it was supremely obvious that this middle-aged preppie had watched Christine Blasey Ford's testimony against him that morning. He had noticed, right along with the rest of the country, that the Republican men on the committee were sniveling cowards who abrogated their own sworn duties to a female sex crimes prosecutor in a vain attempt to hide their historical misogyny from the world. 

Therefore, in a desperate attempt to save his professional life, he dropped the noblesse humility routine and unleashed the ugly aggression he had more or less kept hidden from the world for his entire life. Between copious gulps of water to hide the self-pitying tear-water gushing unbidden from his beady little eyes, he waxed bathetic about his obsessive-compulsive, calendar-keeping father being the role model of minutiae for any red-blooded American preppie who worked his tail off competing in violent sports and hanging out at the country club. He blubbered about being the only child of a woman jurist whose idea of family mealtime conversations was badgering her husband and son in practice sessions for courtroom inquisitions. The Kavanaugh kitchen table apparently did double duty as a witness box.

No wonder Kavanaugh kept sobbing and slugging the water through his angry tears. His throat must have dried up just thinking about the torture of his upper middle class home life - torture that he may have relieved by drinking to excess and assaulting young women and girls before he finally graduated to writing the legal justifications for torture as a well-credentialed pathocrat in the Bush administration. He finally matured just enough to sublimate his sadism.

Until, for possibly the first time in his adult life, he was called to account.

Kavanaugh's unhinged, paranoid opening statement should have been enough to condemn him. Who wants a cornered wild animal on the Supreme Court? Even the most die-hard Republicans might have taken pause, given that one of their own was making a Donald Trump ultra-right campaign rally look almost like a sober academic exercise in comparison.

Very naively, I expected that the very first words out of lead Democrat Dianne Feinstein's mouth would be to ask him whether he'd been drinking alcohol that afternoon, or if he was taking any psychotropic medications, or if he had ever sought or received mental health counseling or substance abuse treatment. Demanding that he count backward from 100 or name the first president would also not have been beyond the pale, in light of his public tantrum with its own microcosmic mix of mood swings between anger, despair, megalomania, and paranoia.  Instead, she appeared merely stunned and mindlessly persisted with her own rehearsed line of softballs.

Oh well, I thought, the woman is in her eighties. She's probably tired. But then, one after the other, the Democratic "opposition" of trained legal eagles fell like a house of cards. One after another, they asked the same lame question about why Kavanaugh wouldn't independently request an FBI investigation into the latest allegations.

It didn't take long for both the feral Republicans on the panel and their nominee to sniff the terminally anemic Democratic blood. After only a few minutes they even dispensed with their female sex crimes prosecutor proxy and started not so much asking questions as ranting their opposition to the Democrats. (They actually did make a valid point in speculating which Democrat had  leaked Dr. Blasey Ford's name to the media without her consent.)

As for Kavanaugh, his own tears quickly dried as he went into full prosecutorial mode against his own pretend-prosecutors. If they dared question him about his drinking habits, he hectored them about their own drinking habits. And they sat there, and they took it. He was the raging locomotive, and they were the decrepit piles of automotive rust stuck on the tracks.

Lest he be seen as a Mama's boy for conferring too often with his own attorney, a woman named Beth Wilkinson who is married to current CNN contributor and former NBC star David Gregory, Kavanaugh took breaks from the proceedings at regular intervals. (compared to only one taken by Dr. Blasey Ford that morning.)  To be fair, though, he could also have a weak bladder from drinking all that water, or whatever it was.

The bad parts: Kavanaugh will probably be confirmed, once GOP "moderates" Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins can safely vote No with the help of perhaps a few Democratic wingnuts like Joe Manchin giving him the thumbs up. Kavanaugh will then proceed to take more legal revenge against women, and children, and men, than he normally would have without having been accused of sex crimes.  

Strangely enough, though, there is plenty of good stuff coming out of this hearing.

--Most important of all, Dr. Blasey Ford is inspiring many more women to speak up about - and out against - their own predators. It has been a catharsis. Even if her own attacker is confirmed, her testimony will not have been in vain. Predators in all walks of life and from all social classes have been put on notice like never before.

--For anyone who still thought the Democrats were the champions of the little guy, and gal, they were disabused of their faith from watching the sad liberal performance at Thursday's hearing. Not only was it not the "grilling" that was advertised, the Democrats may as well have donned their butlers' uniforms and presented Kavanaugh with a tray full of gourmet soft-serve custard. They are so used to serving money and power they couldn't help being their normal, collegial, deferential selves to his snarling face. They will save their faux vitriol for the TV cameras and their fundraising emails.  This debacle should cost them plenty in both money and votes, hastening the demise of a hopelessly weak and corrupt party which has become nothing but the slightly liberal appendage of this country's de facto totalitarian system of one-party rule of, by, and for corporations and billionaires.

--Kavanaugh was probably right about one thing. He will never be able to resume what he creepily described as his life's crowning achievement and pleasure: coaching girls' basketball. Along with getting lifetime tenure on the Supreme Court, Preppie Boy will also have to spend the rest of his life on the virtual Sex Crimes Registry. He will likely be marginalized by his peers in the court. All his opinions - if he is even allowed to write a couple - will be tainted with corruption, both personal and institutional. Perhaps he will even succeed where Clarence Thomas failed, becoming the impetus for Supreme Court term limits.

For that to happen, though, we must first ensure that there are at least two ruling political parties in this country. That sounds like a low bar, for sure, and it certainly must be accompanied by the removal of bribery money from politics. 

A pivot to anything even remotely resembling representative democracy will be a long slog, to put it mildly. But the more people who are finally waking up to their own justified anger, the better. The wake-up calls have been coming in loud and clear lately, despite the best efforts of the political-media complex to alternately keep us entertained and scared witless by the twin specters of Trump and "Russian meddling in our totally free and fair elections."

Thanks, Kavanaugh. Thanks, Senate. You are virtual alarm bells ringing in the heads of the moribund. You should be very, very afraid.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The World Series of American Endtimes

It's hard to decide what to blog about on any given day or even at any given hour. Trump's mushroom appendage? Brett Kavanaugh's drunken high school hi-jinks (ultra-right code word for sex crimes)? The midterm elections? The crumbling #RussiaGate franchise?

There's certainly a glut of simultaneously detailed and fuzzy Kavanaugh drama all over the nooze without my adding to it here. But to summarize - so far, his predatory escapades have taken us only up to his freshman year at Yale. So the next installment, if there is one, will probably progress to law school. What I'm really hoping for is his ignominious withdrawal from Supreme Court consideration before this Thursday's grilling of his chief accuser, in which Republicans plan to live up to their bullying reputation, and Democrats plan to live up to their grandstanding reputation. Two presidential contenders - Cory Booker and Kamala Harris - are on the inquisition squad, so look for lots of maudlin speechifying and little substantive information-gathering. Will the cam pan to Kam more than the story becoming all about Cory? Stay tuned, or not.

And then there's what increasingly looks like the latest chess move by the Democratic-Neocon-CIA coalition. They appear desperate to checkmate Trump once and for all: the "leakage" to the New York Times of Deputy Atty. Gen. and RussiaGate overseer Rod Rosenstein's suggestion, flippant or serious, that he wear a wire to catch Trump saying something 25th Amendment-worthy.

Here's my speculation: Robert Mueller has zero evidence of TrumPutin collusion, and any criminal evidence he does have on Trump would likely implicate other Ruling Class Racketeers who are too valuable to be sacrificed. Therefore, let's forget about the chess gambit. Maybe Rosenstein is the  designated pinch hitter to win the Series for the D team by a sacrifice high fly right into extreme centrist field. If the Dems can just get Trump to fire him and shut down the Mueller investigation in the process, the Mueller team will save face, and Trump can be declared guilty in the court of liberal public opinion. The RussiaGate plot will live on in American mythology as it becomes the campaign issue to end all other campaign issues. Couple it with the drip-drip-drip of the Kavanaugh allegations, and the donor dollars for #Resistance Dems will come flooding in.
All this annoyingly progressive talk of Medicare for All, and debt-free college, and all this unwanted attention on the class war and record wealth inequality, and people realizing that this country is now ruled by an oligarchy, is just so damned divisive. If the Dems can only goad Trump into firing Rosenstein, Mueller, and Jeff Sessions, it will be a perfect trifecta, a manufactured victory to get the whole country united under one big mouldering gilded tent! (There I go again, mixing my sports metaphors.)

As of this writing, though, Trump has refused to play ball. Rosenstein was reported to be on his way to the White House for hours on end this morning, either to be fired or to resign. Word had it that his resignation, if any, was yet to be accepted. The high sacrifice fly has turned out to be nothing but a series of failed bunts.

So far.

But wait, there's an update! Rosenstein and Trump are now scheduled to meet Thursday to "discuss his future in the Justice Department." The timing is a pure coincidence and absolutely made for split-screen images of reporters staked out on the White House lawn to see whether Rosenstein sacrifices or Trump beans him with a wild pitch, juxtaposed with the Supreme Court/horserace spectacle over in the Senate.

The long series of propaganda distractions, produced by both right wings of the Uniparty, is designed to keep the public's eye off the real ball: that democracy is a sham, and so are the midterm elections, despite Michelle Obama's get-out-the-vote guilt-tripping tour, a sort of free admission pre-game teaser for her paid book tour, which gets underway only once we have freely cast our votes in dwindling hopes of finally settling the score.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Open Thread/Links: Predator Edition

The piece I've been working on is taking longer than expected, so here's some interesting predatory capitalism stuff which provoked some of my reactions and probably will provoke yours too:

"Help: I think I'm In an Abusive Relationship with Alexa!" Guardian.

Against my better judgment, I myself finally bought this Amazon device from godzillionaire Jeff Bezos to stream movies. At $19, it had been reduced to less than half price, or only about a thousand times what it cost to make in some overseas wage slave factory. All you have to do is tell this robot person what you want to watch and it's there, bringing a whole new meaning to couch potatodom. There's no longer a need to press anything and let's face it, a calorie of energy is a terrible thing to waste. Alexa will thereby speed the evolution of humankind's texting thumbs to truly monstrous proportions because our remote-clicking fingers will atrophy into useless appendages at about the same totally unexpected accelerated rate as global warming. Admit it: you can't watch TV without simultaneously thumb-texting somebody to talk about what you're watching on TV, or swiping away at another gadget without the full force of those four superfluous appendages.

  Anyway, Alexa hadn't been plugged in to our TV an hour before we decided to stop multitasking in order to have some fun at her expense.
Me: Does Jeff Bezos pay you a living wage?

Alexa: It does not matter if I get paid. I love what I do.

Me: Is Jeff Bezos really the worst boss in the world?

Alexa: I give him five out of five stars.

Me: So in that case, can I charge Jeff Bezos rent for allowing you to live in my apartment?

Alexa: I am sorry, I didn't understand the question.


"Jeff Bezos' $2 Billion Charity Pledge Isn't Necessarily Great News for America." 
Market Watch.

I haven't asked her yet, but I'm sure that Alexa would say in that flat monotone of hers that building schools for homeless children in order to make them good consumers while living in cars is not just good for America, it's good for the planet and for the whole of infinite outer space that Jeff Bezos wants to spend his money colonizing.


"New York Times' Fraudulent 'Election Plot' Dossier Escalates Anti-Russian Hysteria" World Socialist Website 

We touched on this travesty of journalism in yesterday's comments. This WSWS piece is by far the most scathing takedown of Gray Lady gibberish that I've read. The Times should be prosecuted for a crime against journalism as well as human rights abuses for gaslighting its readers. It's not so much a newspaper as it is a conduit for loathsome predatory capitalism. 


"An Alternative to Payday Loans, but It's Still High Cost." New York Times

Speak of the devil! US bank is offering small emergency predatory loans to people at 70 percent interest, which is so much less usurious than the 400 percent charged by those tacky ghetto places. They are so much more consumer-friendly, says the Times "Money Advisor" column, because you get to stretch your payments out in three whole installments. The catch? The desperate and the impoverished must have maintained a 0 interest checking account at US bank for at least six months and undergo a credit check before qualifying for this amazing offer. 


"Tickets To Michelle Obama's Book Tour Are Going Fast - and Raising Eyebrows'"
Jeff Bezos's Washington Post.

They range from $30 for nosebleed seats and upwards of $3,000 for the front row. Meet and greet and a signed book will cost you extra, as will parking, at $50 a pop. But lest you think that Michelle Obama is too Bezos-like, she is donating a generous 10 percent of the proceeds to charity. The catch? The charity cash will be recycled into free admission for poor people to attend Michelle's intimate talks at sporting arenas, and not for something so mundane as food or clothing. Mrs. Obama describes herself as "truly humbled" at how many people there still are in America who can afford to pay to breathe the same rarefied air as herself. 

"How To Talk to Young People About the Kavanaugh Story," NPR.  

Besides giving kids lessons in sexual propriety while they're still in training pants and making rape prevention a part of each and every birthday party celebration thereafter, the upper middle class parent to whom this column is aimed is urged to scope out potential rapists while there's still time to lecture them. "With the right education... a young man might be able to say, " 'Oh, you know what? I've been drinking too much and I feel like my capacity to make wise decisions is failing me.' Or, 'Hey, you know, when someone's trying to push me off of them, that's something that I should take as a cue to get off.' "

Nowhere in this piece is there any advice to keep liquor out of the hands of teenagers, to keep excess cash allowances and credit cards out of the hands of teenagers, to keep car keys out of the hands of teenagers. Scariest of all, there's no mention of the necessity of having actual parents present at teenage parties.

Instead, every parent is urged to put on his or her Captain Ronan Farrow super-hero cape and become a powerful pre-cog identifier of future rapists -- all for the good of little boys, of course.

Tonight I'll ask Alexa if Minority Report is available on Prime Video. On second thought, I think I'll exercise my freedom to choose and just read the Philip K. Dick book on my Amazon Kindle.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Decoding the Umpteenth Rising of Hillary

What better time for Hillary Clinton to cash in with the rest of the Democratic Doomsday Cartel than right before the congressional and statehouse elections?

Straight Outta The Atlantic

Fresh off her sticker-selling Internet campaign for the little people,  Clinton has now penned a self-righteous "op-ed" in The Atlantic aimed at members of her own class. The first tell is that she uses the pronoun "we" and not "you" when she offers her litany of dangers to "democracy", or should I say, the oligarchy. And lest you get the mistaken impression that she is entirely altruistic in her concern, there is this tiny-print nugget at the end of the piece: 
This essay was adapted from the afterword of the paperback edition of What Happened, which will be published on September 18.
As Ralphie groused about the Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Pin Ovaltine scam in A Christmas Story, "It's nothing but a lousy commercial!"

 This isn't to say that lousy commercialism is anything new or unexpected. There's always a profit motive in modern politics. Making money is what the recent mass outpouring of angst about Trump by the permanent Ruling Class essentially is. What they call the public good is really the private good of the rich and the well-connected. Trump sells, and not only for his own greedy benefit.

So it matters not that Hillary Clinton's essay is the epitome of self-serving hypocrisy and that each of her anti-Trump talking points apply just as aptly to her and her husband, and that her invective is a de facto boomerang. She doesn't care if everybody in the bottom 90% knows she is a bundle of lies. There are the "irredeemable" bottom-dwellers in her Basket of Deplorables whom she despises openly. And then there are those obsequients who are simply too afraid of Trump to criticize Democrats. These groups can effectively cancel each other out, as far as she and her cohort are concerned. And what's left of the Left? Sniff. She endorsed corrupt right-wing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo over progressive Cynthia Nixon. That "special place in hell for women who don't support other women" dreamed up by Madeline Albright only ever applied to Bernie Sanders supporters.

So the hypocrisy of condemning Trump over his imprisonment of migrant children when Hillary just two years ago called for sending refugee kids back where they came from to send a stern message to their irresponsible parents is easily ignored. Instead, she concentrates on the "monstrosity" of Trump lying about deaths of Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, rather than concentrating on how private equity vultures and members of her own party have long been agitating for the neoliberal austerity regimen which was immiserating residents of the Commonwealth long before Trump gleefully threw paper towels at them.

 If you're feeling nauseous right about now, but hate the chalky taste of Pepto Bismol, then give Clinton's commercial a read. It'll feel like sticking your finger down your throat to make yourself vomit. But if that prospect sounds too intense, I'll put on my Secret Decoder ring to transmit the gist of it:

Trump does so many despicable, deplorable things and tells so many loathsome lies she can't keep track of everything, although she did keep track of that one time he told 125 lies in 120 minutes. John Adams certainly never called Thomas Jefferson "Crooked Thomas" during that presidential race. And she can certainly relate, because Jefferson owned slaves and Hillary also oversaw prison slave labor during her time as Arkansas First Lady. You wouldn't ever catch her trying to upend the Status Quo! Not then, and not now and not ever.

Even though there is no evidence that Russia installed Trump in office, she will continue to treat this as her own personal truth. Trump is doing nothing to protect us against an unproven threat!

Trump is going after journalists. Although he hasn't shut down the corporate-owned media conglomerate, he would if he could. Hillary certainly never would, because as much as she hates the media, she never called them fake or insulted them. She had staff for that. She merely hid from them as much as she could on The Trail, in between those times that she used them to air her grievances against their unfairness toward her and Bill.

What's more, the Obama administration was also going after journalists with a record vengeance. And as newly-released documents reveal, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a secret opinion in 2015 which casts US journalists as foreign agents and therefore fodder for surveillance under the draconian FISA Act.

Let me depart for a moment from the synopsis and insert this direct quote from the Atlantic infomercial:
When we can’t trust what we hear from our leaders, experts, and news sources, we lose our ability to hold people to account, solve problems, comprehend threats, judge progress, and communicate effectively with one another—all of which are crucial to a functioning democracy.
In other words, if people can't or won't swallow corporate propaganda whole, the Ruling Class suffers. Ordinary people lose the respect for corporate-controlled government that the oligarchs need to thrive and prosper. If the consent of the governed can no longer be manufactured by the self-serving Masters of the Universe, and the "narrative" cannot be narrowly proscribed, the aristocracy of the Secret Circle will find it increasingly hard to function under this renegade bomb-thrower of a president.

Now on with the sardonic interpretation of Hillary's message:

Trump refuses to release his tax returns, which is not comparable to Hillary's erasure of the State Department emails from her own secret server in her private basement. He is profiting from the presidency, while the hundreds of millions of dollars Bill and Hill raked in from the presidency and continue to rake in through their money-laundering influence-peddling charity are too noble to even be mentioned. Even though Trump is totally in it for his private gain, her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, where she admitted that her public position is different from her private position, were stolen by Wikileaks and shouldn't be heeded. Kill the messenger and blame the Russians instead, even if you have to do it 125 times in 120 minutes, or at least in the space of an hour of Rachel Maddow. (Catch Hillary on Rachel tonight, by the way!)

Trump undermines the unity which normally makes bipartisanship for the rich such a great propaganda scam. When Hillary says Democracy is rowdy by nature, what she really means is that there are always these petty fake squabbles among the movers and shakers of the Ruling Class to keep us alternately entertained and numbed. As they tried to convey to the lesser people during the Great John McCain Funeral Spectacular, when George Bush shared his candy with Michelle Obama during a pre-arranged camera pan:
We debate freely and disagree forcefully. It’s part of what distinguishes us from authoritarian societies, where dissent is forbidden. But we’re held together by deep “bonds of affection,” as Abraham Lincoln said, and by the shared belief that out of our fractious melting pot comes a unified whole that’s stronger than the sum of our parts.
In the good old affectionate days, the Clintons were actually good transactional buddies with the Trumps. They even attended Donald and Melania's wedding. And normally, those "free debates" are carefully orchestrated by a corporation instead of by the quaint League of Women Voters, and pesky third and fourth party candidates are barred from appearing. And most recently, of course, the Bernie Sanders challenge was effectively quashed by purges of primary voting rolls and a severely truncated primary debate schedule. Although Hillary bought her way into control of the Democratic Party, this was not corrupt or authoritarian.

So now that it's that magical time of year when they allow people to vote and where corporate control of candidates does not apply in every single case, the aristocracy must fear-monger for all that it's worth. And it's worth a lot.

Therefore, Hillary will call for reform in the form of the same piecemeal solutions which catapulted her to a de facto victory on both coasts in 2016. Get the money out of politics, but not for her. Expand national service programs so that the lesser people, at little to no pay, can pretend they're making a difference and that this is really a democracy - when what they're really doing is protecting the status quo of extreme, obscene and unequal wealth. Let's have automatic voting registration too. And then making choosing between pre-vetted corporate candidates mandatory under law!

When we think about politics and judge our leaders, we can’t just ask, “Am I better off than I was four years ago?” We have to ask, “Are we better off? Are we as a country better, stronger, and fairer?” Democracy works only when we accept that we’re all in this together.
Accept your lot, proles. At least you are allowed to live in the same geographical space as your betters, so shut up already about Medicare For All and free higher education. Because the most pressing concern is that "we" (the very rich) stay better off. That's how fake Democracy works.

The End.

Or is it? 

This woman is not going away. They say the third time's a charm, so who's to say it can't also be a third chance for the charmless?

Pass the Ovaltine with a chaser of Pepto. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Ten Years After the Lehman Collapse

How a decade flies by when you're Richie Rich, and your class has sucked up a full 94% of all the household wealth "lost" in the financial crisis which began with the death of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008.

To hear liberal pundit Paul Krugman revise history by ignoring the endemic corruption of the global financial system, and to foist the blame for the continuing social and economic meltdown almost entirely on Republican obstructionism is to continue sliding down an Orwellian memory hole.   
Why did the response to a depressed economy fall short? We can debate endlessly whether the Obama administration could have gotten a bigger, more sustained stimulus through Congress; what’s clear is that some officials failed to see the need for stronger policies. When Christina Romer, the administration’s top economist, argued for more stimulus, Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, dismissed it as “sugar.”
Beyond that, efforts to fight unemployment had to deal with a bizarre Beltway consensus that despite high unemployment and record low interest rates, debt, not jobs, was the real problem.
But the most important reason the great slump went on so long was scorched-earth Republican opposition to anything and everything that might have helped offset the fallout from the housing bust.
As you can see, Krugman almost, but not quite, chides the Obama administration by merely hinting at how enthusiastically the Democrats embraced an austerity regimen for the little people and boosted prosperity for the wealthy, not least by the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts. Instead, he harps upon the GOP "blackmail" of Barack Obama, as if Obama himself weren't a true believer in neoliberal ideology (the market replacing representative democracy.) Then again, it wouldn't do for the most influential liberal pundit in America to put a damper on Obama's own ongoing revisionist campaign tour, in which he absolves himself of any and all culpability for the ongoing disaster affecting most people in this country.

Krugman then pivots to the GOP hypocrisy evidenced by the most recent round of tax cuts for the rich and the new conventional wisdom that deficits don't matter when Republicans are in control. He forgets to mention that the Democratic leadership is already vowing to re-implement the austerian "pay-go" rules if and when they retake power in November. This means that social programs benefiting ordinary people will have to be paid for by slashing other social programs benefiting ordinary people. The trillion-dollar wars which are truly bankrupting this country both morally and financially will go on as usual.

My published response to Krugman, who completely ignored the crime and corruption which caused, and continues to cause, so much misery:

 It's true that the GOP impeded the recovery. But they couldn't have stopped the Obama administration from prosecuting financial criminals and ensuring that bailouts went to Main Street as well as Wall Street.

Instead, CNBC's Rick Santelli dog-whistled the blame at "irresponsible" mortgagors (read: the poor and minorities) rather than on bipartisan deregulation. That rant gave rise to the Tea Party, and eventually, to Trump.

It was during the Clinton administration that Commodity Futures Trading Commissioner Brooksley Born warned about toxic derivatives, and her SOS was duly shot down by Dep. Treasury Sec. Larry Summers, who accused her of fomenting financial crisis. How wrong he turned out to be, but expert that he is, he went on to become one of Obama's chief advisers.

For as Wikileaks has shown, Obama's cabinet was vetted by Citigroup. Geithner has since gone on to make big bucks in private equity, and Atty. Gen. Eric Holder's seat at white collar defense powerhouse Covington & Burling was kept nice and warm for him.

 Although the White House boasted in 2012 that it had criminally prosecuted 530 financiers since the collapse, a subsequent investigation by the DOJ's Inspector General revealed the real number to be only 107, with real restitution to the public less than $100 million, and not the boastful billion.

This is all a matter of public record. Maybe the Democrats will start winning elections once they start switching their allegiances to Regular Joe and Jane.
(as an aside, I really have to compliment the recent work of Times comment-moderators in removing all the nasty replies accusing me of being a Trump supporter, and worse, for my pointing out inconvenient and well-documented facts!)

The 2014 I.G. audit I referenced in my comment has to do with the Obama Justice Department's abject failure to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud cases, and then blatantly lying to the public about it. It found that the absolute lowest priority of the FBI was in cracking down on fraud scams against homeowners and mortgagors. Despite Obama's ostentatious signing in 2009 of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA) there was precious little enforcement or recovery. 

According to the I.G. report, this was despite what Krugman called a cynical obstructionist Congress appropriating "significant" funding ($196 million) to the Justice Department, through 2011, for the prosecution of mortgage fraud and other white collar crimes via the hiring of additional FBI agents and adding to the existing mortgage fraud tax force.

In a 2012 press conference, Eric Holder, along with officials from Housing and Urban Development and Treasury, outright lied about the number of cases brought under the so-called Distressed Homeowners Initiative. Remember, the fudging of the facts was the conclusion of Holder's own internal watchdog and not some lousy cabal of Republican obstructionists!

Meanwhile, as an elite soldier in the anti-Trump Resistance, Holder recently schmoozed to Ministry of Truth outlet CNN that he thinks he "has what it takes to be president" because  "(We need) somebody who has the vision for the job, somebody who has got the necessary experience, somebody who has the capacity, physical as well as mental. Somebody who also has the ability to inspire people, to make people believe government can be the force for good and make people believe in this thing we call America. (They) have to be able to move people, to bring up together in ways this President has clearly not done."

Translation: he has what it takes, because his white collar criminal friends have taken what everybody else once had. Holder has the proven ability to inspire more crooks to believe that government will be a force for their own good, ensuring that the very wealthy will continue to rely on socialism for themselves and penury and prosecution for everybody else. Trump has been woefully unable to pull the wool over ordinary people's eyes. The guy is pure, fake polyester. Plus, he is an incapable fat slob, while Eric is genuine silky-smooth, toned, and smart. He has a proven track record of moving people... right out of their homes.  

Actually, I'd love to see Eric on a stage with former NYC Shrillionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is also planning a presidential run on the Democratic ticket. After they finish gushing all over each other, they can argue about who's the tougher guy: Holder, who protected the banksters and evicted the poor, or Bloomberg, who is so nasty that even the nasty and corrupt New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, thought he was going too far when he mandated that food stamp applicants be fingerprinted.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Struggles of the Rich and Famous

It's no longer enough for the superstars of the media-political-entertainment complex to flaunt their hedonistic lifestyles on TV. Even the queen of conspicuous consumption herself, Kim Kardashian, has flaunted her political capital by recently orchestrating the release from prison of a woman sentenced to a draconian term under harsh American drug laws, before pot-smoking became P.C.

Turn on the cable or click on any number of cool liberal news sites, and you'll learn all about how the rich and powerful are "fighting back" against Trump via the #Resistance, Inc. franchise. Either that, or they're fighting one another, usually via Tweet, for attention, ownership, and power. This often involves actors and actresses firing off nasty tweets to/about Susan Sarandon, who has made a few politically incorrect comments in her day, such as opining that the election of Trump possibly - potentially - is waking up a true Left.

"Debra Messing Lashes Out At Susan Sarandon" made the headlines in The Washington Post today. Messing, who is also plugging a reboot of her TV sitcom, groused that the awakening of young people to socialism unfairly takes away from the plight of the kidnapped migrant children, and therefore Sarandon should "shut the f up."

See what I mean? No matter how hard you try to avoid this stuff, the corporate media just won't let you. 

If anyone besides "our poor children" are being victimized, the consolidated media conglomerate wants you to know, it's those career people in the top 10% of income ownership rather than in the bottom 10%. You don't hear anything about Harvey Weinstein or Les Moonves and other media moguls groping and abusing and raping the office cleaning woman or the hotel housekeeper. You only hear about them victimizing relatively well-off and privileged women.

The outlier in the Predatory Boys' Club is, of course, Donald Trump, who goes after porn actresses and centerfold models, the better for the liberal class to sniff at how vulgar he is even in his choice of women to prey upon.

It's the job of The Star Collective to resist Trump so that we ordinary slobs don't get too carried away and start resisting the whole neoliberal financialized consumer culture that produced Trump in the first place.

As Guy Debord wrote in The Society of the Spectacle, the rich, famous and powerful maintain the status quo even while putting on a show of rebelliousness. Before Trump came along to upset this status quo through his vulgarity and self-parodying performances, the job of stars was merely to sell products and entertainment while flaunting their lifestyles, cars, bodies, mansions and vacations. At the most, a few outliers like Jane Fonda would generate a lot of pseudo-outrage by protesting the Vietnam War before it was cool to do so; and others, like brother Peter, would help the youth of America feel rebellious by smoking a lot of dope and making fun of redneck yahoos in the cult blockbuster Easy Rider.  

This conspicuous rebelliousness, co-existing as it does with the status quo of conspicuous consumption, is both banal and fake.

From Debord:
Stars -- spectacular representations of living human beings -- project this general banality into images of permitted roles.  As specialists of apparent life, stars serve as superficial objects that people can identify with in order to compensate for the fragmented productive specializations that they actually live. The function of these celebrities is to act out various lifestyles or sociopolitical viewpoints in a full, totally free manner.
This is why Madonna could yell through a bullhorn at an orchestrated, cop-free Women's March protest that she planned to burn down the White House and not get arrested for it. This is why George Clooney can get himself arrested outside the White House and be treated with deference and gentleness by the Capitol Police for the brief duration his career-boosting handcuffed photo-op. 

Comedienne Kathy Griffin, you might remember, was not treated so kindly by The Complex after she posted a picture of herself holding a fake bloody Trump head. But that was only because her stunt was considered by liberal virtue-signalers too vulgar and psychologically damaging to the Trump children. Even so, she's making her comeback on Twitter.

The anti-Trump hysteria is also the proximate cause of the mass media suddenly getting over its crush on Angelina Jolie and making her the bad guy in a child custody battle. Global humanitarianism is so out of style now, unless it's stickily glued to partisan politics and the fake Resistance.

As Debord further explains about celebrities posing as social justice warriors: 

They embody the inaccessible results of social labor by dramatizing the by-products of that labor which are magically projected above it as its ultimate goals: power and vacations -- the decision-making and consumption that are at the beginning and the end of a process that is never questioned. On one hand, a government power may personalize itself as a pseudostar -- on the other, a star of consumption may campaign for recognition as a pseudopower over life. But the activities of these stars are not really free, and they offer no real choices.
It's a reflection of the false choices offered in our rigged election system, isn't it?

Moreover, the replacement by the spectacle of "representative" democracy extends to the further blurring of the line between entertainment and politics, and politicians becoming stars in their own right. Barack and Michelle Obama were full-fledged stars long before they left the White House and went on a long series of luxury vacations. And even though lacking in personal charisma herself, Hillary Clinton has also been elevated to star status. Most recently she was "spotted" (media-speak for a pre-arranged photo shoot) canoodling with Oprah at a celebrity bash honoring Ralph Lauren's 50 years of dressing the rich and famous.

Of course, everything is prearranged -- not that the phony Resistance Fighters are even trying to hide how phony their high-fashion, high-dollar protests are.

As reported last spring in Politico, the Democrats are so upset about having lost to "an insane person," they're openly turning to Hollywood for help!

Top actors and producers - as well as famous politicians too cowardly to be named in the article - meet in a Hollywood "writers' room" to discuss scripts for how to get disaffected and marginalized people not in the top 10 percent of wealth owners to the polls to cast their ballots to serve the interests of the top 10 percent, which is so much more inclusive than the GOP's service only to the top 1 Percent.  
“One of the first things we were at least talking about in the beginning meetings was how to improve upon the message as to what does the Democratic Party stand for, what does that represent,” said Andrew Marcus, who owns the television and film company Apiary Entertainment. “When the Republican Party or [President Donald] Trump is able to say ‘Make America great again’ and nobody that I know can tell you what the DNC or any of the leading candidates’ slogans [are], I think that’s a marketing problem.”
 It's not about making people's lives better. It's about conning the mark and closing the deal. By talking to Politico about their true agenda, they reveal themselves to be every bit as crass as Donald Trump. And in a way, that makes them even worse than Trump, because at least he proudly wears his own greed and dishonesty like a badge of honor.
Of the group’s long-term goals, the producer Cindy Cowan said, “We’re looking at November. But our bigger end game, like most people’s end game, is the presidential.”
Though Hollywood professionals and celebrities have long maintained ties to the Democratic Party, their significance has largely been limited to their ability to raise money for candidates and causes. The group meeting is unusual for the lack of a direct fundraising tie.
“I was looking for something to do that didn’t involve giving money,” ( writer-producer Alex) Gregory said. “What I like about this thing is it’s not transactional.”
Whew, that's a relief. Nobody is getting directly bribed with dirty donor money.  That odious chore is being saved for the Obamas and the Clintons, who are very busy these days "headlining" fundraising spectaculars by and for the rich and famous. 

To be fair, though, Hillary has not totally forgotten the nondeplorable little people. I got this email from her just the other day:
Friend --
 One of the most incredible things to come out of the 2016 election has been how many members of this big-hearted team have turned frustration into action.
You're leading local campaigns and organizing protests. Youre showing up at town halls, rallies, and phone banks. Youre using your voices to support candidates who are breaking barriers and to speak out against policies that do harm instead of good.
Id like to send you an Onward Together sticker to thank you for your commitment -- just make a donation of $5 or more today, and Onward Together will get your sticker in the mail.

Get my sticker

Because of your dedication and generosity, weve been able to provide 12 groups with mentorship, resources, and more than $1 million in financial support -- and thats only in our first year. As the midterms draw closer, well be backing even more hard-working, groundbreaking organizations and candidates.

If youre with us, then donate to support this work and let us send you a sticker to say thank you.

The money raised supposedly will be used by Hillary and her party to "mentor" the lesser people about being good protectors of the ruling class and keeping the sloganeering "narrative" firmly glued, like a cheap sticker, to the needs and internecine battles of various factions of the ruling class (cynically described by Obama as two teams playing nicely together within the 40-yard line of professional elitist sport.)

As Guy Debord wrote, this concentration on sport and spectacle is meant to divert the attention of the Cheap Sticker Class from the real class war of the rich against the rest of us:
The false choices offered by spectacular abundance -- choices based on the juxtaposition of competing yet mutually reinforcing spectacles and of distinct yet interconnected roles... develop into struggles between illusory qualities designed to generate fervent allegiance to quantitative trivialities.
Such as gaudy cheap $5 stickers that probably cost two cents to make in a sweatshop along with the price of third class bulk postage to mirror the third class/third world status of their precarious recipients.  

I feel sticky. I feel like I need to take another shower.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Obamamania Ad Nauseum

Charles Blow has added to the media hagiography with a column enthusiastically titled "Obama's Back!"

Month after lonely and harrowing month, establishment pundits like Blow have been "howling in the wind" and hoping against hope that the former president would finally step up to the mound as a closer/relief pitcher for #Resistance, Inc. What the gosh darn heck took you so long to reappear, as the liberal class turned its lonely eyes to you? Woo woo woo?

Well, the answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind:
We have been howling into the wind so long that people dubbed our extreme objection to this deeply immoral and unscrupulous man Trump Derangement Syndrome. But, in fact, the new Bob Woodward book and the Op-Ed in this newspaper by an anonymous administration official prove us right. The fact is that most Americans now believe that Trump’s relationship to the Russian hacking and the hush money payments to women who say they had affairs with him are unethical or flat-out illegal.
 And regarding Obama's laundry list of complaints about Trump: 
He could have read similar words in a thousand essays written since Trump was elected.
But, for me, I deeply appreciate his words for another reason: He is loosening Trump’s stranglehold on the news.
There is only so much time in a news day, only so many column inches in a newspaper, only so much prominent real estate on a website. Up to this point Trump has dominated the news by overwhelming it, and no one has had the weight to challenge that dominance. Obama has that weight. Just by speaking he’s altering the diet of the news people consume.
 So there are a couple points which I didn't bring up in my previous post critiquing Obama's speech. His re-animation was a trifecta of a propaganda campaign, coordinated with the Woodward book and the anonymous New York Times op-ed. A lagging Obama even mixed my sports metaphors. He finally brought up the rear and crossed the finish line in hopes of Dems crossing that "most important election evah in our entire lifetimes" finish line in November.

Plus, as far as Blow is concerned, it's not the ex-president's words that count as much as his legendary existence. Blow condemns both himself and the corporate media class when he says that nobody else has had the strength to challenge the Trump saturation of news. Especially not the news people.

My published response (it was awarded a golden "Times Pick" for the sole reason that it fell into their "variety of views" ideal. In other words, it was an extreme outlier among nearly a thousand other comments ranging from O-gasmic to O-bsequious.)....
The recent gushing over Barack Obama as our born-again savior is deja vu all over again. I don't care if it's Obama, or Trump, or Hillary, or Bernie: the expectation that there's this one politician out there who can make it all better is unhealthy and antithetical to democracy.

Get past Obama's awesome delivery and comedic timing, and read the speech. He started out with the Founders and civil rights leaders, touting them as inspirations for people to go marching. Not so much to display our citizenship via teachers' strikes, sit-ins and boycotts, and other disruptions to the ruling order. We are simply to vote for Democrats in the mid-terms.

Obama is directly attacking Trump because it's that magical time that comes just once every
two and four years and our votes become the sum of our civic duties. As much as he lauded candidates running on "new" ideas like Medicare for All, he didn't, as some of the hype has it, actually endorse single payer health care himself. As a matter of fact, his list of 80 endorsements includes no progressive challengers to Democratic incumbents.

 Of course the most amazing part of Obama's speech was that it rendered Trump temporarily comatose.

Meanwhile, whose fault is it that Trump controls the news? It's not just his. The media chooses to parse all his inane tweets and televise all his rallies. Because it's cheap, it's easy, and it engenders lots of outraged, lucrative clicks.

There's a lot more to fear in America than just Trump.
My heretical remarks opened the floodgates of outrage from the liberal Times commentariat. I'd reprint them, only they were so derisory that the moderators removed the worst of them, along with my own insulting replies. But they fit the usual mold: How dare you, a lowly ignoramus, insult the greatest president of our lifetimes? Medicare for All is impossible! Stop being such a purist! You took a cynicism bath. You're such a picky eater. What are your expert credentials and sources for your misinformation? You are destroying party unity!

In other words, ask not what the Democratic Party can do for you, because asking for nice things and demanding justice will make their privileged heads explode. 
 Surprisingly enough, nobody called me a deplorable closet Trumpie, but give 'em time.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

A Critique of Obama's Speech

There are two main "takeaways" (unappetizing packaged choices in the limited corporate news menu) from Barack Obama's speech at the University of Illinois on Friday. The first one is that he finally let loose and pummeled Donald Trump into pulp. The second one is that he has joined the progressive wing of the Democratic Party because he is endorsing Medicare for All.

The first observation is correct as far as it goes. Beating Trump into jelly is not exactly a hard thing to do. Since I didn't watch the speech, I have no idea how "fiery" it actually sounded, and with Obama, it's always smart to separate the soaring delivery from his actual words. So I have read the transcript rather than watching the video.

The second observation by fans, both within and without the corporate media,  is the same kind of misinterpretation of Obama's passive-aggressive verbosity that got them so inspired, and later so disappointed, during his eight-year tenure.

Despite all the hype, Obama is not advocating for single payer health care, not by a long shot.  Here is what he actually said to his audience of college students: 
So Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like a higher minimum wage, they’re running on good new ideas like medicare for all, giving workers seats on corporate boards, reversing the most egregious corporate tax cuts to make sure college students graduate.
That's it. That's all he said about Medicare for All. It's a "new" (huh?) good idea, some Democrats who aren't party leaders are running on it, ergo support all Democrats at the polls in November. Obama failed to mention that his own first set of official endorsements for Democratic candidates does not include the names of such Medicare for All proponents as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, or in fact any progressive primary challengers to sitting congress critters. He is not endorsing these progressive policies outright, but only insinuating that he is for the express purpose of getting disaffected young people to the polls. It's a classic bait and switch, but the mainstream press is jumping all over that one little paragraph in an act of massive complicity.

In another bit of classic Obama, the former president began the speech by praising the civil rights and economic justice warriors of yesteryear, not as examples we should emulate via direct action, but merely as examples of who should inspire us to dutifully cast our votes for Democrats:
 I cannot tell you how encouraged I’ve been by watching so many people get involved for the first time or the first time in a long time. They’re marching and they’re organizing and they’re registering people to vote and they’re running for office themselves.
Obama made absolutely no mention of the recent teacher strikes, including the latest actions in Washington state and (soon) in Los Angeles.

The corporate media are not calling out Obama on this bit of right-wing humblebragging, either:

And by the time I left office, household income was near its all-time high, and the uninsured rate hit an all-time low, poverty rates were falling. I mention this just so when you hear how great the economy is doing right now, let’s just remember when this recovery started. I’m glad it’s continued, but when you hear about this economic miracle that’s been going on, when the job numbers come out, monthly job numbers and suddenly Republicans are saying it’s a miracle, I have to kind of remind them, actually, those job numbers are the same as they were in 2015 and 2016 and -- anyway. I digress.
So we made progress, but -- and this is the truth -- my administration couldn’t reverse 40-year trends in only eight especially once Republicans took over the house of representatives in 2010 and decided to block everything we did. Even things they used to support.
So we pulled the economy out of crisis, but to this day, too many people who once felt solidly middle class still feel very real and very personal economic insecurity. Even though we took out bin Laden and wound down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, got Iran to halt its nuclear program, the world’s still full of threats and disorder that come streaming through people’s televisions every single day. And these challenges get people worried and it frays our civic trust and it makes a lot of people feel like the fix is in and the game is rigged and nobody’s looking out for them.
Correction: household income for only the richest 10 percent is at an all-time high. And of course, if you average Jeff Bezos's wealth with that of the average Amazon employee, then yes, household wealth has skyrocketed.

Obama had two years with a congressional majority to "reduce those trends," but he preferred not to, not least because, as Wikileaks has revealed, his entire cabinet was not only vetted by Citigroup but generously peopled with its direct representatives. And isn't it so sad, he self-servingly goes on, that people "feel" so precarious even though he killed bin Laden and "wound down" -- not stopped, mind you -- the wars in the Middle East. These are not policies Obama says he himself created, but mere challenges to the ruling class about how to deal with people who "feel" the fix is in and the game is rigged.

His solution is not to offer solutions, like an end to wars and urging government criminal prosecutions of ruling class racketeers, but to guilt-trip young people into voting in the November midterms. If they don't, he lectures them, they are both cynical and lazy and not living up to the great civil rights leaders of the past, who paved the way for progressive success stories like Barack Obama.

Despite the allegedly inspiring and "fiery rhetoric" praised by the sycophantic media, Obama still cannot disguise the fact that he is offering the same old neoliberal, for-profit agenda as the only possible countermeasure to Trumpian "insanity." 
We know that people are tired of toxic corruption and that democracy depends on transparency and accountability, so Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns, but on good new ideas like barring lobbyists from getting paid by foreign governments.
We know that climate change isn’t just coming. It’s here. So Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like increasing gas mileage in our cars, which I did and which Republicans are trying to reverse, but on good new ideas like putting a price on carbon pollution.
We know in a smaller, more connected world, we can’t just put technology back in a box. We can’t just put walls up all around America. Walls don’t keep out threats like terrorism or disease. And that’s why we propose leading our alliances and helping other countries develop and pushing back against tyrants.
Obama carefully does not mention that it was his policy idea to put immigrant families in prison and to deport more refugees and migrants than any other previous administration. He still limits desirable immigrants only to "dreamers and strivers" -- true believers in corporatism and capitalism rather than true believers in social justice and basic human survival. He carefully does not mention that he continued to press for the secretive and toxically corrupt corporate coups of the TransPacific Partnership and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) right up to the very end of Hillary Clinton's ill-fated campaign. The former Obama voters who opted for Trump were from some of the same rust belt states that saw their jobs disappear to "free" trade agreements and their sons and daughters' very lives disappear from fighting rich men's wars.

The newer trade agreements, the details of which were to be kept secret even for the first five years after ratification, assisted multinational corporations in bypassing the regulations of individual nation-states. They would have grossly expanded the use of Investor State Dispute Settlement Courts, which allow companies to sue governments if those governments' policies cause a loss of profits. They would allow transnational corporate actors to neutralize elections and dictate the policies of democratically-elected governments.

  Therefore, Obama calling Trump a "radical" for failing to uphold neoliberal norms is pretty rich. If he were honest, Obama would have decried the fact that unlike himself, Trump is not bothering to hide the realities of the class war of the rich versus the rest of us. Trump has dispensed with the soaring rhetoric or obfuscatory pretty words like Obama, who kept most of the people in line most of the time. Trump is endangering the ruling class right along with the working class. That is the real danger which has inspired Obama to speak out forcefully against his successor, who is not, as he once gushed, just another player in the 40-yarn line of the self-satisfied oligarchy. 

Here's what Obama cynically chuckled in a 2013 TV interview:

I mean, in most countries, you’ve got — you know, people call me a socialist sometimes, but, no, you’ve got to me real socialists. You’ll have a sense of what a — what a socialist is. (Laughter.) You know, the — I mean, I’m talking about lowering the corporate tax rate. My health care reform is based on the private marketplace. Stock market’s looking pretty good last time I checked, and, you know, it is true that I’m concerned about growing inequality in our system, but nobody questions the efficacy of market economies in terms of producing wealth and innovation and keeping us competitive.
Medicare for All? You have got to be kidding. There's not enough profit and cutthroat competition in it. To question capitalistic plunder is to question the goodness of the wealthy getting more wealthy by the day. It wouldn't be a faux democracy if the oligarchs couldn't innovate and compete with each other.

Is it a coincidence that the former president is coming out of his hedonistic cocoon the same week that Michael Moore's new documentary, "Fahrenheit 11/9" is hitting the big screens? While lambasting Trump, the film also takes direct aim at Obama and the Clintons and the Democratic Party for allowing Trump to come to power in the first place. One scene shows Obama taking that infamous dainty little sip of heavily filtered Flint water in a stunt to show the country that the lead-polluted water was safe. He got the usual appreciative chuckles from the complicit officials seated at the table as he promised some new pipes one of these decades. The water was not safe back in 2016, and it still is not safe today, despite Obama's glib reassurances to one of the poorest populations in America.

Unlike the corporate media narrative, which holds that Trump decided to run out of pure, racist jealousy of Obama, Moore posits that his entry into the 2016 race was really inspired by jealousy of rock star Gwen Stefani getting paid more money by NBC than he was.

And while the film is being widely lauded as an effective takedown of Trump, not many of the reviews are taking note of Moore's equally scathing takedown of Obama.

An exception is (surprisingly) the Washington Post, which writes in its own review:
As many shots as he takes at President Trump, the provocateur filmmaker is also eager to expose a Democratic establishment he says has not done enough to push back against the White House or advance a progressive agenda.
“One of the reasons I made this movie is that I’ve come to the conclusion that the old guard of the Democratic Party is a greater roadblock to social progress than Trump is,” Moore said in an interview. “Because they’re taking half-measures, because they’re beholden to the same money and interests.”


As a further antidote to the tediously contrived Obama vs Trump made-for-TV infotainment spectacle, here's Chris Hedges talking about his latest book, America: the Farewell Tour. As one member of the audience at the recent Politics and Prose bookstore appearance in Washington, D.C. observes, Hedges is a lot more fiery and militantly hopeful in person than he is in his writings.  

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Murder On the Donald Trump Express

Everybody's digging for clues in the anonymously-written New York Times op-ed to discern the identity of its "high administration official" author.

(***Spoiler alert: if you haven't yet read the book or seen the film versions of Agatha Christie's Murder On the Orient Express, stop right here.)

I wouldn't be surprised if the internal White House coup to effectively neutralize the presidency of Donald Trump also extends to the editorial being a group effort. Mirroring the plot of the above-mentioned mystery classic, maybe they all wrote it. Each of them conspired to destroy a malevolent old man by contributing a few lines to the essay, thus thwarting the software technology designed to expose anonymous authors.

So the self-serving kleptocratic Trump administration, anxious to keep their boss physically in office the better to neutralize the rest of us into a state of penury and submission, now purports to be protecting us from the designated villain in this thriller of a set piece. Unlike the revenge killers in Agatha Christie's story, though, they themselves are not the victims of the bad guy, but his co-conspirators. And unlike the killers on the Orient Express, they're all stabbing Trump from the right instead of from both the right and the left. They are, in fact, co-opting the Democratic #Resistance, which is also attacking Trump from the right via charges of Russian collusion and its defense of the police/surveillance state.

The internal coup and its anonymous manifesto are another variation on the unaccountability theme so beloved of predatory capitalists everywhere. If all of them are guilty, then none of them can be blamed. Like the cowards they are, they hide themselves within their fortified institutions as they do their dirty work.

My guess is that the real brains behind both the coup and the op-ed, with its self-righteous, rather jingoistic tone, is Trump's chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly. The gratuitous simpering nod to the newly canonized John McCain is one clue firing off the synapses of billions of little gray cells in this real life version of the game of Clue. Another possibility is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who graduated from West Point and is also a couple or four heartbeats away from the presidency.  Since the Times says it offered the author anonymity to protect his job, that should also eliminate Mike Pence from the list of suspects. Since Pence is an official elected directly by the American people, Trump does not have the power to fire him - although, theoretically Pence could be impeached in Congress and convicted in the Senate under a Trump-beholden majority.    

Trump's own express of a train wreck is now being described by the entertainment-intensive corporate media as a veritable puddle of twisted molten metal. Since he is still physically alive and still inhabits the Oval Office, he is desperate to find out Whodunit, gathering all the suspects in his closed room to intimidate and persecute, but never to solve. He not only is sadly lacking in the Hercule Poirot little gray cells department, he even lacks a Hercule Poirot investigator or any more "fixers" to help him out.

As Poirot replied to Ratchett, the beady-eyed and universally loathed tycoon of a murder victim in the Christie story who offered him "big money" to expose the enemies who were plotting behind his back: "If you will forgive me for being personal, I do not like your face, M. Ratchett." 

So running out of friends, perhaps the paranoid Trump could do the obverse of the Orient Express solution. If his administration lackeys won't rat each other out, maybe he'll fire everybody. 

But that's a thriller for another day. Maybe then we can crib a different Agatha Christie classic and call it "And Then There Were None."

If only. 

Trump knows he is unqualified for his job and that is why he gutlessly keeps his alleged enemies close as he merely tweets his displeasure into cyberspace.

So for now, anyway, these are the versions of America we're stuck in: