Friday, January 18, 2019

Inspiration Blues

A commenter on this blog challenged me this morning to talk about something positive or learned for a change. 

I don't know about the "learned" part, but I think the New York Times comment I wrote last night on Paul Krugman's latest ode to the wonderful Democratic Party was pretty damned positive. 

Pushing his own glass half-full scenario in the midst of the government shutdown, he lavished great praise upon Gavin Newsom, the new and untested governor of California, and applauded all-blue New Jersey's strict enforcement of the Obamacare rule that everybody must buy private, for-profit health insurance, or face tax penalties. The result of this mass extortion is that the extortion is more broad-based, and premiums have come down.

 But even better, one of the bluest of all blue states (Washington) now has a public option supplement to the private insurance cartel, thus absolving the still-thriving cartel from using more of its record profits to treat the sickest of the sick, instead passing on such costs to the taxpaying public while cartel CEOs pocket the difference in stock buy-back schemes. 

And on the other liberal coast, New York City Mayor Bill di Blasio even wants to build more affordable housing in the Wealth Disparity Capital of the Universe and provide more access to medical care!

Therefore, there was no need for Krugman to even mention the Los Angeles teachers' strike, the housing crisis, and the continued and growing public demand for non-profit Medicare For All. Because Democrats sure know how to govern, unlike those nasty old Republicans.

My published response to Krugman's column: 
Why no shout-out to the striking L.A. teachers exerting such effective pressure on the new governor and other Democrats? Without the resurgent labor movement, it'd be business as usual, even in the bluest of blue locales. Forty children per classroom is a shame in such a rich state, home to many a Silicon Valley and Hollywood billionaire and mogul.
 Bill di Blasio isn't making new proposals for better health care and low-income housing just out of the goodness of his heart. It's taken citizens with the courage to confront him at his gym workouts, cell phone cameras at the ready, over the shameful conditions in the city's public housing projects as well as the homeless crisis. Although he's made strides in the construction of more "affordable" housing, NYC's homeless numbers are still at near-record highs.
The homeless also just happen to have their own Coalition.

 If Dems are moving left and finally beginning to abandon austerity, it's because the public is forcing them to.
Regarding health care: individual states implementing public options is no substitute for a federally administered single payer system. The House majority thus far is only paying lip service to Medicare For All, with the chairwoman of the relevant subcommittee, Anna Eshoo, just announcing that she might not have time to hold hearings after all. She represents Silicon Valley, home of many a tech billionaire.
 So a Women's March group plans to storm Congress on Friday to demand Single Payer.
We have miles to go before we sleep.
(I have a sneaking suspicion that the DNC has disassociated itself from the Women's March for more reasons than just the alleged anti-Semitism of one or two of its founders. Protesters are branching off from the original Democratic-centric/centrist intent of the enterprise, independently evolving far beyond simply "resisting" Trump and the Republicans. Good.)

"If True..."

*Updated below.

It's another bombshell to end all bombshells: two of those anonymous FBI sources told the sometimes-reliable BuzzFeed News that Donald Trump had personally instructed his convicted former fixer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about the failed bribery attempt to build another Trump Tower in Moscow. This is despite the fact the president has readily admitted this attempt happened while he was actively running for the presidency and well-positioned to win the nomination if not the actual election.

Like any savvy businessman, Trump had to keep all his options open. It's the all-American way.

The reason that this is such a bombshell, according to BuzzFeed, is that for the very first time, Trump didn't bother to use a variant of wink-and-nod Mafia code to protect himself, via the plausible deniability route, but specifically instructed his minion to lie, lie and lie again, both vocally and in writing.  
The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.
This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
But Cohen's testimony marks a significant new frontier: It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.
And here Trump was, openly colluding with the Pentagon just the other day on a new multi-billion dollar "Star Wars" initiative. Little did he know that BuzzFeed would try to ruin the latest diversionary tactic by cadging the marketing slogan of the cheaper Star Trek franchise. Forget about space being the final frontier. Cohen's utterly reliable testimony is now the official newest frontier of the bombshell to end all bombshells Russiagate franchise.

Just when you thought the crater couldn't get any deeper, it gets deeper. It's the crater that will change everything.  

Still, absent the concurrent leakage of any actual alleged "cache of documents," members of the seamlessly joined political-media complex are also keeping their own options open, salivating over and promoting the story while being very careful to preface their glee with the standard avalanche of "if this is true" caveats.

"If this is true," discreetly said former Attorney General Eric Holder, "then Congress must start impeachment proceedings." Because not only will Trump have obstructed justice, he will have suborned perjury. Cohen is expected to testify to Congress on Feb. 7th about what he claims he knew and when he claims he knew it. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, meanwhile, vows he will do everything possible to find out if the BuzzFeed story is true. Good luck suborning the First Amendment to demand from the reporters the identities of their two anonymous FBI agents.

As a sidelight, Trump's nominee for attorney general, William Barr, told congressional inquisitors this week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's own report on Russiagate may never even be made public. This suppression would presumably be done to protect other innocent guilty parties in Trumpworld and beyond.

It will also conveniently tie Congress's hands regarding an impeachment and trial. The "resistance fighters" of the opposition party have already stated that they are loath to do anything that might ham-handedly interfere with Mueller's ever-so-delicate and selective surgical probings into whether Trump's long history of sleaze actually translates into his being a treasonous witting or unwitting Putin puppet.

The same Democrats who have been relentlessly promoting the Russiagate propaganda -  our democracy is under attack by the Kremlin! - for the past two years are now professing to be alarmed that Trump wants to start a new Cold War with the Kremlin via his space weapons missile "defense" gambit. It seems like only yesterday they were professing themselves alarmed that Trump was being too chummy with Putin. Actually, they are still professing themselves to be alarmed over two mutually contradictory things. Maybe nobody will even notice, especially the talking heads of the corporate cable TV propaganda mills.

Sure sounds like collusion to me. But it's probably neither completely witting nor completely unwitting. If true, it's more like half-witting.  

*Update, 1/19. If what Mueller's office says is true, then the BuzzFeed bombshell is a complete dud. This, according to the Russiagate franchise, is mighty confusing, because the special counsel spokesman didn't specify exactly what isn't true. Is it a lie that Trump ordered Cohen to lie, or did the secret FBI sources lie to BuzzFeed, and furthermore, Mueller should just go ahead and release the cache of documents BuzzFeed breathlessly reported on without seeing them or otherwise verifying their alleged existence.

As the HuffPo is reporting, this is all too confusing. It has morphed from the bombshell to end all bombshells into a frantic roller coaster ride with a three-way fight in mid-air among BuzzFeed, Trump and Mueller.

So far, as far as I know, nobody in the Russiagate franchise has yet accused Mueller of being a Putin puppet, a closet Trumpie, or an unwitting Russian stooge.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Tattered Ears On Pussy Hats

It's getting so internally divisive in the Big Tent that the Democratic National Committee has taken the draconian step of removing its official support for this weekend's Women's March.

The movement is so riven that in New York City, there will be two competing marches 50 blocks apart. One of these "grassroots" efforts, reports the New York Times, is being led by a former Goldman Sachs executive with no prior organizing experience and who is being accused by disability advocates of refusing to accommodate them. Therefore, disabled women will hold their own rally on Saturday.

According to the HuffPo, the DNC is no longer listed among the national movement's corporate sponsors, ostensibly because some of the march's organizers have refused to distance themselves from Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam founder who has long been accused of anti-Semitism. As a result, other corporate party-affiliated entities, such as EMILY's List, have also pulled their support.

But true to wishy-washy form,

A spokeswoman for the DNC declined to comment on the timing in a statement to The Daily Beast, but said women were at the "core of our Democratic Party."
"The DNC stands in solidarity with all those fighting for women's rights and holding the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers across the country accountable.... Women are on the front lines of fighting back against this administration." 
Until the Farrakhan controversy erupted, it had always been perfectly O.K. for the corporate Democrats to "fight back" against Trump-style xenophobia while keeping perfectly mum about their own. 

To wit: the original march organizers were horrified that the Watergate Hotel had allowed Russians to rent rooms there. The group's stated solidarity across gender, class,ethnic and racial lines always had its limits, even at the very beginning of #Resistance, Inc.

As Women's March leader Mariam Ehari wrote in Together We Rise, a 2017 memoir of the initial march, whose proceeds allegedly were donated to groups promoting human rights and global understanding:

I kept running into Trump supporters and many Russians in the hotel and thought, Is this real?
The Russians must have formed a caravan or something, sneaking across the border of the luxury hotel with their Cyrillic alphabets and their tupperware containers of Strogonoff. It must have been a real ethnic nightmare for the women's march leaders, who were nothing if not early pioneers of the #Russiagate propaganda franchise... in the Watergate, no less! Notice how Russians and Trump supporters magically become pretty much the same thing in that one little sentence?

As organizer Tamika Mallory - currently under fire for claiming that Jewish people bear "a collective special responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people" - lamented two years ago in Together We Rise, there was "so much hate coming at us from so many different directions. Being in the hotel with Trump supporters wasn't easy... It was almost like we were in a bubble."

Bingo. The vaunted solidarity and inclusiveness of this Democratic Party offshoot was always something of a fraud, right from the get-go. It was just another iteration of the "Us Vs Them" paranoia sold to the masses by the oligarchic ruling class in control of both establishment political parties. 

 But so long as the phobia was aimed at the right wrong people for the first couple of years of the Pussy Hat Resistance, nobody cared.

The only true solidarity among the organizers appears to be their mutual hatred of Donald Trump and sorrow over Hillary Clinton's defeat. It turns out that pure hatred and fear, absent any accompanying cohesive agenda for radical reform and social justice, is simply not sustainable.

Even after they'd hired more than 50 off-duty FBI agents to guard them against the the Deplorables and the Russkies, the original March organizers still didn't feel completely safe, according to the account in Together We Rise. If only they'd known that the FBI would soon be starting its own renegade national security investigation of Trump, they might have felt a whole lot better. 

And if you're wondering where Hillary Clinton stands amidst all this divisive angst, rest assured. She's offering you - and a friend - the very slim chance to spend some quality time with her. 

And you don't even have to march or otherwise exert yourself beyond giving her your credit card number! It sounds absolutely confabulous:

Pinch yourself, pack your favorite pantsuit and pick a friend, because you’re off to NYC to join Hillary Clinton for an evening you’ll never forget. Hillary’s inviting you to share in one of her favorite pastimes: seeing a Broadway show! And the fun won’t stop at curtain call. You’ll also join Hillary for a glass of chardonnay (or whatever you want!) for the chance to get to know her on a personal level. Maybe you’ll talk about the show, life, or your family. Maybe you’ll have a really nuanced conversation about economic policy. Maybe you’ll just use the opportunity to say, “thank you.” It’s up to you! But we hear Hillary’s an incredible listener. Flights and hotel included.

Who Needs Pink Pussy Hats or Even Pink Elephants? I Got Me a Blue Man!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Trump Ruins Xenophobia For Everybody

That's the gist of a New York Times "news analysis" published on Saturday.

In the good old Bipartisan Days, reporter Michael Shear laments, Both Sides had no trouble agreeing that migrants and refugees entering the US had to be dealt with, and dealt with sternly. But now Donald Trump's Wall is diverting the desired official discourse away from all those other harsh methods of keeping people out and disposing of them.

Back in the good old polite days, officials knew how to keep their racism and xenophobia carefully hidden from public view as they crafted their racist, xenophobic policies.
By conjuring images of a towering stone edifice around a medieval fortress — and branding those on the outside as invaders threatening to bring crime, drugs and disease to the United States — Mr. Trump has transformed what used to be a complicated, nuanced negotiation into a take-it-or-leave-it demand, laced with xenophobia, that has shuttered nearly a quarter of the government for weeks.
Only "laced with" xenophobia? Shear must be so used to reporting the legendary nuanced collegiality among the politicians of the Uniparty that he can only complain that Trump's demands and rhetoric are a tad on the bigoted side. He dare not state the obvious: that this president is a human-shaped brick of pure cocaine, or maybe it's a boulder-sized rock of crystal meth with a chaser of heroin. Those drugs that Trump claims are "flooding" over the border are unfairly competing with him. And he won't rest until he poisons a lot more people than the current third of the population that is currently hooked on him.

But back to the good old sober days. The Uniparty racketeers would often collegially stuff their faces with pizza as they politely debated how many tens of thousands of extra border security agents should be hired to confiscate the clandestine jugs of water left by sympathetic citizens for the migrants making the deadly trek through some of the most brutal climate conditions on the planet.

It was so reasonable back then that Democrats even agreed to double the border security patrols, a good faith gesture of overkill designed to placate the more openly racist Republicans.

They were such ardent sticklers for xenophobic decency, in fact, that
Senators from both parties also agreed on money for technological improvements along the border. The bill allocated $3.2 billion for drones, infrared ground sensors and long-range thermal imaging cameras to give Border Patrol agents advance notice when migrants cross illegally, especially at night. It also included money for an electronic employment verification system for all employers and upgrades at airports to catch immigrants who overstay their visas.
And the consensus included some physical barriers — what Mr. Trump might call walls and others would call fencing. Years earlier, the Secure Fence Act of 2006 allocated money to build about 650 miles of barriers along the border. The 2013 bill, had it been signed into law, would have increased that total to almost 700 miles, mostly along the eastern half of the border with Mexico.
The polite xenophobes at least had the good taste to call their barriers "fencing" while pretending that Reaper drones are totally benign. In the good old pre-Trumpian days, the profiteers of the military-industrial complex could mask their greed and inhumanity behind all that overpriced surveillance and weaponry. And now Trump has to ruin the whole enterprise with his unrefined, retrograde, low-tech gibberish. He has brought such uncomfortable and unwanted attention to the heretofore ignored border. It used to be that Homeland Security cops firing tear gas across the border into another sovereign nation (Mexico), and the imprisonment of mothers and children in "family detention" prisons were perfectly acceptable to most American liberals. The previous Democratic administration practiced their inhumanity so discreetly, you see.

No more. Thanks a lot, Trump, for ripping the mask off the all-American cruelty.

Oh, and the word salad that keeps spinning out of that pursed little mouth! Michael Shear quotes The Donald:
In remarks to reporters after a meeting with Democrats at the White House earlier this month, Mr. Trump insisted that the only way to prevent immigrants from crossing between the 25 official ports of entry is to erect fences everywhere else.
“We can’t let gaps. Because if you have gaps, those people are going to turn their vehicles, or the gangs — they’re going to coming in through those gaps,” the president said. “And we cannot let that happen.”
Still, faithful establishment scribe that he is, Shear soon reverts back to Both Siderism, decrying the dreaded Tone that all too often gets in way of proper racketeering discourse:  
In recent days, the rhetoric between the two sides has become more strident than ever. Mr. Trump and his Republican allies have pointed out that Democrats supported fencing in the past, though they purposefully ignore the context of those votes and the difference between the fencing that Democrats supported and the all-or-nothing wall that the president has demanded.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has called the wall “immoral,” cementing her position against it.
And she was no doubt also very steely while she was at it.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The False Choice Between Gender Justice and Economic Justice

It's indicative of how rattled the ruling class must be feeling that they're revving up their anti-Bernie Sanders slime machine before he's even announced that he's running for president.

Suddenly outraged that female staffers often get hit on and harassed during political campaigns (of all the quiet, sober, and virtuous venues!) the forces of neoliberal corporatism are conveniently co-opting the #MeToo movement to serve their own greedy ends. 

It was only two years ago that Hillary Clinton surrogate and feminist Gloria Steinem sniffed that female Bernie supporters just wanted "to go where the boys are." It was an unsubtle way of saying they were sluts on the prowl for hookups. Their desire for social and economic justice was just a cover for their horniness. Steinem soon apologized, but the anti-progressive smear stuck, right along with the "Bernie Bro" meme.

But how the tide has turned since 2016! These very same boy-chasers have suddenly been recast in the media as virtuous maidens whose naive and misguided desire for social and economic justice came back to bite them, if not saddled them with lifelong cases of PTSD.

This is how women have been typecast throughout history: they're either viragos or virgins, man-eating predators or victims of men - and never the twain shall meet.

The subliminal message contained in the recent news exposés revealing bad behavior by some male Sanders staffers toward female staffers and volunteers is this: Be very careful what you wish for, girls! If you persist in supporting Bernie's "radical" agenda of universal health care, debt-free college and other nice things, then you will at least be an enabler of misogyny, if not its direct victim. If you are a woman who persists in demanding high taxes on the obscenely rich, you are a traitor to your own gender. And if you recklessly volunteer for Bernie Sanders during his second go-round, you're really asking for it and you will probably deserve whatever you get.

You have been warned. 

In other words, the #MeToo concern-trolling campaign against Bernie Sanders is paradoxically as right-wing, as reactionary, and as sexist as they come.

It's better and safer, the subliminal messages in the Politico and New York Times articles are, to vote for a centrist politician with good hair and no Brooklyn accent - say, hunky telegenic Beto O'Rourke -  who voices unctuous respect and concern for women while at the same time denying them single payer health insurance, a living wage, free education, subsidized maternity leave and day care, and affordable housing.

In case you still don't get it, take a gander at the photo the New York Times selected for its own concern-trolling hit piece. Bernie, his wispy white hair literally standing on end, appears to recoil in disgust from a female hand extending her emasculating microphone in his general direction.

So, ladies, the next time you feel sick and get a hankering for Medicare For All, just think of a Bernie Bro groping a woman in a bar and you'll start feeling better for standing up for gender equality - even if it's for the ultimate benefit of the oligarchy and not you, personally. Simply raise your face to the sky and imagine the golden drops of beneficence sprinkling down upon you.

The anti-Bernie concern trolls will repeat this message loudly and often. You can't - you just can't - be both a supporter of Bernie Sanders and his agenda and also be a supporter of gender rights. In supporting him and his platform, you are giving aid and comfort to rapists and gropers and maybe even asking to be directly attacked by a Bernie Bro.

Of course, this argument is complete nonsense. It's the latest variation on a tired old theme. The most glaring parallel example is centrists who regularly accuse critics of Hillary Clinton and the CIA of being Donald Trump fans and Russians - rather than waste their time and risk losing an argument by engaging critics in actual debates and discussions on  policy issues and philosophy. Even legitimate, fact-based criticism of the corporation-captured Democratic Party, they say, is a vote for the Republicans. Bury your heads in the sand before it's too late!

As Susan Sontag noted in her introduction to Victor Serge's The Case of Comrade Tulayev, leftist critics of Stalin's totalitarian regime were accused for decades by Communist Party members of being closet fascists. She wrote:
In the early twenty-first century, we have moved on to other illusions - other lies that intelligent people with good intentions and humane politics tell themselves and their supporters in order not to give aid and comfort to their enemies.
There have always been people to argue that the truth is sometimes inexpedient, counterproductive - a luxury. (This is known as thinking practically, or politically.) And, on the other side, the well-intentioned are understandably reluctant to jettison commitments, views and institutions in which much idealism has been invested.
Situations do arise in which truth and justice may seem incompatible. And there may be even more resistance to perceiving the truth than there is to acknowledging the claims of justice. It seems all too easy for people not to recognize the truth, especially when it may mean having to break with, or be rejected by, a community that supplies a valued part of their identity.
Like all propaganda, the Bernie Sanders "scandal" and ensuing manufactured outrage are couched in terms of tribalism and binary discourse largely devoid of nuance and introspection. Two camps have instantly formed: those who think that Bernie Sanders is an insensitive sexist pig by association, if not by actual deed, and those who think that he is getting unfairly smeared by the press and a few disgruntled women looking for their fifteen minutes of fame.

Why not take a more nuanced approach? I think it is possible to simultaneously be a feminist and call out the corporate media for co-opting the #MeToo movement and using it a cudgel against Sanders and the implementation of a new New Deal. I don't think, as Susan Sontag posited, that the corporate media are particularly humane or well-intentioned in their coverage of the experiences of some of Bernie's female staffers and volunteers.

At the same time, while we should be aware of the propaganda and resist being indoctrinated by the oligarchic agenda - which is the destruction of Sanders and more importantly, the destruction of his platform - we should not discount the harassment that women experienced and still do experience in the male-dominated political world. 

The Sanders campaign's women staffers now telling their stories to the over-eager media were ignored at the time. But are they being heeded now for the right reasons or for the wrong reasons? Are they being victimized all over again, only to be discarded by the ruling class propagandists once their stories no longer serve a "higher" purpose?

It's possible and desirable to simultaneously applaud Bernie's ideas and accomplishments, such as his shaming of Jeff Bezos into increasing hourly wages for his Amazon workers, and to also criticize his tepid cringe-worthy response on CNN to the sexual harassment allegations:
“I am not going to sit here and tell you that we did everything right, in terms of human resources, in terms of addressing the needs that I’m hearing from now, that women felt disrespected, that there was sexual harassment, that was not dealt with as effectively as possible” 
I hate it when powerful people subtly denigrate complainants for "feeling" that they are being disrespected or victimized, as though their problem is essentially an emotional one of their own making. This remark had echoes of neoliberal Democrats like Barack Obama, who often schmooze about the millions of jobless and evicted people who "feel like" they've been left behind or cheated. Bernie is always so upfront and righteously outraged about who the financial culprits are, so why not be just as upfront and outraged about the sexist pigs and even predators in his outfit? No organization, not even his, is immune from human pigs. Why not display that trademark Bernie anger and acknowledge that many women, even in his organization, were and still are being disrespected or victimized?

There are all kinds of social and economic and gender and racial injustice in this world. It's not one or the other that should take precedence. It's all of the above. 

Above all, it's a class war, the assault of hypercapitalism on regular people.

While a new New Deal, and a 70, 80 or 90 percent marginal tax rate on obscene wealth would do a lot toward rectifying record extreme inequality and all kinds of injustice, we should also acknowledge that this class war has had an outsize detrimental effect on women, children, the old, and black and brown people. 

Bernie Sanders believes, rightly, that democratic socialist, or social democratic economic policies will benefit all members of society. But just because the neoliberal establishment has made identity politics its be-all and end-all as a means of, and justification for, keeping everything for itself doesn't mean that one's identity and unique individual problems should be completely ignored by critics of the neoliberal agenda.

That's Bernie's Achilles heel, and the consolidated corrupt co-opting media are nipping at it and ripping at it with all the instinctive glee of a pack of inbred rat terriers.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Commentariat Central: Premature Horse Race Edition

A couple of essays I've been working on are taking longer than expected, so in the meantime I'll repost a few of my recent New York Times comments on All Presidential Horse Race, All the Time. (And tonight's xenophobic "Nuremberg in the Oval" primetime special is Donald Trump's own opening gambit in Campaign 2020 in case you had any doubts. If you watch, try to imagine the allegedly fired Steve Bannon hissing through Trump's earpiece.) 

First, there's David Leonhardt's decibel-rise of a weekend column about the clear and present Trumpian danger, which makes it very clear that the love-hate relationship is here to stay until the experts decide it's safe and economically feasible for the oligarchy to kick him out:

 Achieving this outcome won’t be easy. It will require honorable people who have served in the Trump administration to share, publicly, what they have seen and what they believe. (At this point, anonymous leaks are not sufficient.) It will require congressional Republicans to acknowledge that they let a con man take over their party and then defended that con man. It will require Democrats and progressive activists to understand that a rushed impeachment may actually help Trump remain in office.
My response:
Via the government shutdown, Trump has effectively ordered the destruction of our democratic institutions. This is the definition of a fascist leader.
True, Trump commands the loyalty of only a third of the country. But the longer that Congress doesn't act on its "checks and balances" mandate, the more powerful he will become.
The new House majority will haul in various sycophants for a scolding as they wait for Robert Mueller to wrap things up. Meanwhile, the wannabe dictator is entrenched in the White House.
 It's a further sign of democratic collapse that even liberal pundits are dismayed that the military overseers of his regime are biting the dust. When a guy named "Mad Dog" Mattis, who before being relieved of command by Obama for his hawkishness and who once opined that "sometimes, killing people is fun", is now being mourned and celebrated as one of the last Adults in the Room, I think we have a lot more to worry about than just Trump.
So the onus is on Mueller, another unelected overseer of our putative democracy. My hope is that he will soon indict the Trump offspring and order their arrests complete with a handcuffed perp walk. That should rattle Trump enough to either quit or do something so reckless that even his GOP enablers can't ignore it. I look forward to the day when Mitch McConnell leads a contingent to the White House and makes him an offer even he can't refuse - like his own subsidized cable TV network.
Oh, wait. He already owns the lot of them.
(And  wouldn't you just know it, after much fake hand-wringing all the anti-Trump networks have "reluctantly" acceded to his demand for prime air time tonight, and will carry the "Nuremberg in the Oval" special in all its spittle-inflected insanity. The TV honchos were still mulling whether to give Nancy Pelosi or another designated performer have given equal time to the sensational ballroom duo fondly known as "Chuck and Nancy," who will perform a concern-trolling sedate box step in a non-twerking rebuttal to Trump. Sorry, Rashida Tlaib fans. She has been deemed not quite ready for prime time by the party elders.


Meanwhile, while the pundits and media moguls are debating whether to dump Trump or to keep him around for the fantastic ratings, the Times's gender editor Susan Chira and her colleague Lisa Lerer took the time to wonder whether A Woman would be able to beat him amidst all this alleged emotional upheaval.

“There’s a real tension,” said Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress and a former policy adviser to Mrs. Clinton. “On one hand, women are leading the resistance and deserve representation. But on the other side, there’s a fear that if misogyny beat Clinton, it can beat other women.”
....“It is very hard, when you only have that one woman who’s tread that ground,” said Ilyse Hogue, the president of the abortion-rights organization Naral. “Everything about that individual becomes conflated with being a woman.”
The rawness of the topic was evident in the furor that broke out this week over Ms. Warren’s relatively low likability ratings. Research has found that it is much harder for female candidates to be rated as “likable” than men — and that they are disproportionately punished for traits voters accept in male politicians, including ambition and aggression. “Likability is totally framed by gender,” said Celinda Lake, a longtime Democratic pollster and expert on women’s votes.
The subtext of this concern-trolling article is that centrist neoliberal Democrats do not want Warren to win the nomination, because too many deplorable people are sexist and therefore the corporate Dems will keep repeating the deplorable sexist tropes about her - purely out of altruistic concern for party interests, of course. Hillary lost only because she is a woman and not because she was one of the most unpopular candidates, based upon her policies and platform, in recent history. In other words, they want hunky Beto O'Rourke, who votes with Republicans a large percentage of the time.

My published response:

This presidential horse race speculation presupposes that Trump will even still be president a year from now. The prospect of any of the Democratic women mentioned facing Mike Pence in a nationally televised debate - or, even more effectively, in a marathon Twitter back and forth - is probably a major factor in the current GOP leadership's continuing to stand by Trump, regardless of the awful things he does, regardless of the damage he does to their own party and their own individual reputations and prospects. They're in it for the power and the bucks, period. And everybody knows it.
 Then there's the corporate media standing in the way of justice and democracy for all. A Warren vs. Pence race would not bring in the clicks and ad revenue for the corporate sponsors that Trump continues to engender. All the more reason for him to hang on by his fingernails through another election cycle, and all the more reason for the oligarchs to let him. He is a showman, and America does love its spectacular show. And the greedy ruling class racketeers love their money.
The other slim possibility is that both Trump and Pence will be impeached/indicted and convicted, and Nancy Pelosi will become our first woman president, temporary though her reign will be.
In effect, Trump himself will have inadvertently smashed open the proverbial glass ceiling. Talk about karma!
(I'll say it again. Heads they win, tails we lose.)


Last but least, Paul Krugman, fresh from his weekend pat on the head of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for proposing a 70% tax on the uber-wealthy, now pivots to patting Elizabeth Warren on the head. Not because he necessarily wants her to be president, mind you, but to distance himself from his fellow liberal pundits who keep harping on her looks, age, personality and genetics-testing gaffe. The main thing is that she is a serious policy wonk with impeccable academic cred. Unlike, he implies, the non-Ivy Leagued and therefore insufficiently serious or intellectual Bernie Sanders. This column appears to be Krugman's subtle concern-trolling way of diminishing Warren in the minds of much-stereotyped anti-elitist, anti-intellectual Heartlanders and Rust-Belters. He stresses her intellectual heft over her populist cred. It's like the kiss of death in distressed cities and towns which lost their jobs and livelihoods to "free trade" deals and those totally unplanned and uncontrollable pesky global headwinds and surging tides of change. 

At the same time, he makes the specious case that since Warren is a Democrat, it naturally follows that the party itself is suddenly progressive and full of wonderful, populist ideas. They'll bathe themselves with Warren bubbles while the water's warm.

Meanwhile, Democrats have experienced an intellectual renaissance. They have emerged from their 1990s cringe; they’re no longer afraid to challenge conservative pieties; and there’s a lot of serious, well-informed intraparty debate about issues from health care to climate change.
You don’t have to agree with any of the various Medicare for All plans, or proposals for a Green New Deal, to recognize that these are important ideas receiving serious discussion.
(All talk and no action - Generic Corporate Democrats in the service of the oligarchy will posture as Elizabeth Warren clones, even as they inwardly cringe at her anti-Wall Street rhetoric. They'll ride her populist coattails and share the hefty funds she raises all the way to the convention, where (after a second superdelegate-hefty ballot) they'll thank her, and probably Bernie too, for the loyal service and loyal support for Beto, Uncle Joe, Cory or Kamala.  Or so I cynically suspect and honestly fear.)

My published comment:

Elizabeth Warren has withstood marathon gaslighting attacks from both sides of the Uniparty ever since her entry into both public policy and politics.
It was Barack Obama, in one of a whole series of misguided austerian efforts to placate the Gruesome Old Patriarchy, who bypassed Warren to lead the very consumer agency she had birthed.
Later, as the corporate Dems colluded with the GOP to pass the secretive and anti-democratic Trans-Pacific Partnership, Warren was one of the few senators calling Obama out on it. She brought some much-needed public attention to the "investor state dispute tribunals" in the pact. These tribunals, in which multinational corporations act as judge, jury and executioner, have the effect of overriding sovereign laws if they dig into the profits of said corporations.
Obama, in turn, accused Warren of spreading "misinformation" to rile up the progressive base, as well as falsely denying the TPP was even a secret. To which Warren challenged him to make the whole thing public. Upon which he got very, very quiet. With the upshot being that the TPP didn't pass before he left office.
With Warren and AOC in the vanguard, radical neoliberal centrism might finally be on the way out. Of course, pundits also predicted its demise after the financial crash in 2008. Oligarchs do not give up, even with proof that hyper-capitalism is both causing and worsening our climate catastrophe.
Re Warren, no need to chant "I'm With Her."
Because "She's With Us."
And a follow-up comment to responding readers who were royally miffed about my nameless sexist Bernie-Bro-ish diss of Hillary and their false insistence that Obama's TPP was fully transparent:

Draft copies of the TPP first came to the public via Wikileaks, whose founder Julian Assange is currently under US indictment and whose plight is being all but ignored by the corporate media, the so-called champions of the First Amendment.
The TPP goes far beyond even the odious corporate tribunals superseding the laws of sovereign governments. It would force signatories to extend copyright to life plus 70 years and impose draconian penalties for what is now known as protected "Fair use" of such copyrighted materials. It also imposes top-down control of the Internet and limits the rights of individuals to shield their personal information from bad actors. (Read: Facebook.) Hollywood and Silicon Valley, big donors to the DNC, had a lot of input in the crafting of the TPP, whose full text was not even to be made public until five years after ratification. Before she was allegedly against it, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton described the TPP as "the gold standard of trade agreements." Ka-ching.


P.S. If you can't or won't watch the Nuremberg in the Oval special tonight, Boing-Boing has thoughtfully provided us with a combination preview-synopsis, at 50 percent speed so that we can't or won't miss even one precious single spittle-inflected word of it. (Sound editing credit, Rob Beschizza).

Friday, January 4, 2019

Pelosi: Leggo My PayGo!

As expected, Nancy Pelosi won the House Speakership this week and has thereby solidified her position as chief Democratic Party austerian in service to the rich.

Widely praised as a genius at extracting campaign cash from wealthy oligarchs for her members and for deftly co-opting their loyalty in the process, one of her first orders of business was reinstating the so-called PAYGO rule, which requires that all new spending be offset either by new taxes or by cutting funds from other programs. Critics say the move - which passed on Thursday with only three Democrats dissenting - is a deliberate attempt to prevent such progressive policies as Medicare For All from ever reaching the floor for debate, let alone a vote for actual implementation.

It's also an ideological return to the Obama era austerity politics that immiserated millions of people and paved the way for the Donald Trump victory.

Defenders of the rule point out that it is actually only a toothless little offshoot of the real PayGo law, and that this law, enacted in 2010, can be waived at any time and indeed, has been waived in the past. Of course, the most recent waiver benefited only the richest of the rich, via Trump's deficit-ballooning tax package.

And that leads skeptics to ask why Pelosi would insist on such a redundant rule in the first place. 

Even Paul Krugman of the New York Times, while gushing that Pelosi is "the best House speaker of modern times," observes:
In fact, even the deficit scolds who played such a big role in Beltway discourse during the Obama years seem oddly selective in their concerns about red ink. After all those proclamations that fiscal doom was coming any day now unless we cut spending on Social Security and Medicare, it’s remarkable how muted their response has been to a huge, budget-busting tax cut. It’s almost as if their real goal was shrinking social programs, not limiting national debt.
'Tis a puzzlement. But Krugman just can't bring himself to accuse the neoliberal governing cabal, of which the Democrats are in integral moving part, of subterfuge and actual corruption.

So I did, in my published comment:
As Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page established in their studies of affluence and influence, wealthy donors get what they want from their politicians: a big return on their investment.
And what they don't want is Medicare For All, free public college, expanded Social Security, living wage legislation, a Green New Deal, or just about anything that improves the lives of ordinary people.
The Democratic leadership can't come right out and admit this, so they set up their convoluted PayGo gimmick while glibly assuring their members and constituents that they can waive their silly old rule any time they feel like it.
 Maybe they'll feel like it in another several decades, by which time tens of thousands of the uninsured and underinsured will be conveniently dead, or the ignored climate catastrophe does us in whether we have platinum plans or not.
Right now, they just don't have time to feel like it. If returning and new members accepted money from the DCCC, they'll be forced to spend half of each working day raising more money for the party coffers. (Since the DCCC never funded Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's run for office, she has the rare luxury of serving her constituents rather than the party.)
When the Democrats took back the House in November, most people assumed Nancy Pelosi misspoke when she crowed "Let's hear it more for pre-existing conditions!"
 Not likely. She will indeed go down in history as one of the most effective Speakers our Banana Republic has ever had.
Of course, it's way too early to predict whether "AOC" and her progressive cohort of newbies will develop any real clout within the hallowed halls of Congress. As Bill Scher writes in Politico, she is so far zero for two in her nascent battle against Pelosi, losing in her demand for a climate committee with real teeth and subpoena power, and only enlisting two other Democratic members in the "just say no to PayGo" rebellion.
Pelosi has not exactly hidden her disdain for those on the activist left who push proposals she considers foolish. In a New York Times interview conducted before the midterm elections but published shortly afterward, she sarcastically said, "I have those who want to be for impeachment and for abolishing ICE... two really winning issues for us, right? In the districts we have to win? I don't even think they're the right thing to do."
That's what distinguishes Pelosi from Republican speakers. She does not hesitate to keep her party's idealogues in check.
So the Times, whose hagiographic treatment of Pelosi rivals that of their fawning coverage of the Michelle Obama and Ruth Bader Ginsberg personality cults, voluntarily refrained from publishing Pelosi's disdain for ordinary people until her party and herself were safely back in semi-power. Since her Speakership victory, she has had nothing to say about American border patrols firing tear gas across the border at Central American refugees. But she has been inordinately hasty to say that impeaching Trump is as much as off the table, as is the Democratic House's issuance of a subpoena for his tax returns.

To be fair to Pelosi and as evidence of her true devotion to even-handed bipartisanship, she similarly had nothing to say when Obama's border patrol agents also regularly deployed tear gas against immigrants and refugees. Nor, when the Democrats took back the House in 2006, did she move to bring articles of impeachment against George W. Bush for his illegal invasion of Iraq and for his illegal torture program. In fact, she has joined the rest of the Democratic Party in rehabilitating Bush's bumbling war criminal image by proclaiming a wistful nostalgia for him.

The Nancy and Donald Show is being hyped by the media as a Dancing With the Stars battle of the sexes tango between two aging factions of the Ruling Class Racket. It promises to get huge ratings and lots of clicks as it engenders globs and globs of manufactured outrage and cheers from the populace, who have been carefully taught to define themselves mainly by their party allegiances.

Don't forget to root for your favorite, and be sure to call in or text your uncounted votes before the end of the latest episode.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

A More Diverse Oligarchy

The corporations that effectively own the place don't need to be taxed or prosecuted in order to alleviate wealth inequality and stop corruption. 

They simply need to install a few more women and black and brown people at the top, and all will be status quo glorious for the oligarchy and continuously bad for the majority of people. Look at how well (until Russophobia, Inc. anyway) that's worked out for Facebook and its chief operating officer, billionaire Sheryl "Lean In" Sandberg. Having a woman in charge of the massive theft of personal data from users while she sells corporate feminism to minimum wage workers is just what the ruling class needs to pretend that we still have a democracy.

With that bullshit in mind, Maxine Waters, the incoming Democratic chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, vows to hold corporations' feet to the fire and force them to disclose how many women and black and brown people they have placed in their top executive positions. This will absolve the Democrats of not doing anything so drastic as investigating corporate malfeasance and rectifying our worsening wealth inequality. It will make the public forget that they have no intention of reversing Trump's massive tax give-away to the rich.

The viewing public, they figure, will be further placated when said corporations play their own parts of pretending to be seriously rattled by this bold new plan. According to Politico,
Some firms are panicking at the prospect of new public scrutiny, according to lobbyists, who say that while companies won’t openly fight Democrats' moves to promote diversity, many are uneasy about the prospect of government getting directly involved in their hiring decisions.
The Democrats' pretense of meddling in private corporate affairs for the greater public good will then have the contrived salutory effect of Republicans accusing them of overreach and socialism. Regular people will take sides over which oligarchic cartel they'll be rooting for. Conservatives will accuse snowflake liberals of wanting too many safe spaces, and liberals will accuse conservatives of racism and misogyny. And it is so unfair, because all that the Democrats want is to make CEOs making about 300 times the salary of their average workers feel just a little bit "uncomfortable" before they lap up all that good press about their brave noble decisions to do the right diversionary diverse thing.

 The only real winners will be the neoliberal corporatists, both within and without Congress. They'll be able to continue lecturing poor and dark-hued people that all they need to succeed, like their latest brown female corporate vice president, is to transform themselves into bootstrapping entrepreneurial strivers. Of course, the cynical narrative of trickle-down racial and gender equality is nothing but a big P.R. campaign. It's similar to the manufactured brouhaha over the "Oscars So White" scandal that hit Hollywood before the Harvey Weinstein scandal upstaged it. More black and brown Academy Award winners do not protect impoverished people in Ferguson, Missouri and Flint, Michigan from police brutality and poisoned water. A Latina esconced in the Wells Fargo boardroom does not erase private equity vultures like Blackstone  buying up thousands of foreclosed homes and then renting them back out to the same people who already were evicted from them once for failure to keep up with their predatory subprime loan payments.  

The have-nots and oppressed will just have to remain hopeful and grateful that at least their "stories" are being told on corporate media, and on Netflix and Amazon. They will be recognized, if not directly helped. 

So, as Donald Trump just tweeted out regarding the government shutdown, everybody just lighten up already. The human poop piling up in our national parks because of overflowing toilets is nothing compared to the avalanche of oligarchic crap threatening to bury us alive in this shiny new year.

They don't even try to hide the sleazy collusion from the viewing public any more.
Corporations and industry groups have already sought to make inroads with lawmakers who will highlight the issue on Capitol Hill, according to lawmakers and lobbyists. Some, including Amazon and the Bank Policy Institute, have even recently hired staff from the Congressional Black Caucus to build relationships as Democrats take over.
Um... isn't it illegal, or at least an amoral conflict of interest, for Congressional staffers who are paid by the public to simultaneously work for Amazon and Wall Street? 

I'll give Trump this: he has made it safe for the Duopoly to be openly corrupt. People are so jaded by him that they aren't even bothered by his slightly more refined imitators. No wonder he is so upset, holed up in the White House and demanding billions of dollars for his precious wall. He isn't getting the credit for normalizing political crime that he so richly deserves.

Just look at the Democratic congress critters angling for leadership on the various proposed subcommittees designed to afflict Wall Street and Silicon Valley.

Carolyn Maloney of New York says she wants to clamp down on markets and demand answers  from the Securities & Exchange Commission, notwithstanding her receipt of more than a quarter-million bucks in campaign cash in 2017 from some of the same industries and banks she proposes to politely needle, if not actually regulate. Her latest listed top contributors are mega-landlord Blackrock and Goldman Sachs.

Gregory Meeks, also of New York, also wants to chair a subcommittee designed to demand gender and racial diversity within the ranks of the malefactors of great wealth. That way, he can continue collecting the big bucks from Goldman Sachs and other major players from the FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) sector of the ruling class so as to avoid confronting them over the rent scams and mortgage and foreclosure frauds aimed largely at women and minorities.
Meeks said he has started talking to companies, and financial trade associations have begun reaching out to him.
With their checkbooks, I would hope.
"Some companies acknowledge that it's good for business," Meeks said. "I'm not asking them to do anything that's bad for business. This will help them attract more folks to their institutions."
I assume that this includes Meeks's staff and last but least, Meeks himself. They are just plain folks, after all, whose bottom line must hold at all costs to everyone but themselves. Never forget Noam Chomsky's advice that, whenever you hear a politician utter the word "folks," you should run for your life. Meeks sounds almost as grotesque with that quote as the corporate Democrats' new darling, George W. Bush, who once talked about the "terrorist folks" to whom he both sold weapons and killed back when liberals pretended to despise him so much.

What, after all, are the too big to fail/jail banks but financial terrorist folks?

So here's to a happy 2019 to everybody except the corporate Democrats and the insane Republicans who must pretend to loathe them. Heads they win, tails we all lose.

Unless, of course, America foregoes the gruesome, ad-glutted crystal ball drop in Times Square and starts celebrating our winter holidays the healthy French way: