Wednesday, February 26, 2020

$ound and Fury At the Democratic Debate

On the same day that the Centers for Disease Control warned that the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) will inevitably hit the US with an historic vengeance, both the inept CBS moderators and the "moderate" candidates on Tuesday night's stage nevertheless persisted in castigating Bernie Sanders's Medicare For All campaign platform.

Maybe once people start dying in the street by the thousands because they can't afford a doctor visit or a day off from work when symptoms hit or they've become exposed, maybe once our consolidated for-profit "health care systems" (hospitals) become unable to cope with a possible epidemic, maybe once children can no longer attend school, the neoliberal Ruling Class Racketeers will finally stop asking "But how you gonna pay for it!?!" 

Maybe once the lords and ladies of capitalism themselves become inconvenienced, they might belatedly realize that their selfishness comes with a high price. Guaranteed universal health care would not only help the sick, it would also trickle up to maintain the fortunes and health of the wealthy.

All the boutique hospitals and all the concierge healh care in the world will not shield the rich from being infected by the hoi polloi or even by the private medical personnel they pay so handsomely to attend exclusively to their needs and to their needs only.

Of course, I could be wrong. Lloyd Blankfein could go down gasping that he'll vote for Trump in the next life, and smarmy Pete Buttigieg will be doing his Obama impersonation and "turning the page" in that great McKinsey consulting corner office in the sky, and Chris Matthews' nightmares of Bernie Central Park executions will follow him right into the corporate media bardo green room.

But back to Tuesday night's South Carolina debate, of which I do have one nice thing to say. And that one nice thing is that CBS made it readily available for viewing on YouTube. Unlike in last week's NBC/Comcast spectacular, I didn't even have to download a special app so that they could send me ads to enhance my experience. I was able to cast the show right to my cable-free TV instead of peering at it on my cheap smartphone. The train-wreck became almost life-size. And sound-wise, it was even screechingly larger than life.

Michael Bloomberg, whose $60 billion fortune will immunize him from neither infectious disease nor from the epidemic viral video clips covering his entire predatory career, had the best revelatory line not only in the debate but possibly also in his whole predatory career. Scoffing at Joe Biden's boast that he'd helped turn the House of Representatives blue in 2018, Bloomberg drawled in that trademark nasal monotone of his:

"Let's go on the record, they talk about 40 Democrats - 21 of those were people that I spent $100 million to help elect. All of the Democrats that came in put Nancy Pelosi in charge and gave Congress the ability to control the president. I bough - I got them."

It might appear at first glance that Bloomberg spent his millions in bribes unwisely, given that not only have his handpicked political servants failed utterly to "control" Trump, they have given him most of what he wants, from his anti-immigrant militarized border, to his pro-corporate reworking of NAFTA, to his grotesque Space Force, and $700 billion for his expanded war machine, to even most of his right-wing judicial nominations. In other words, they gave Bloomberg everything he wanted.

If you think Bloomberg is in the race primarily to defeat Trump, think again. He's here to defeat Bernie the nominee. Failing that, he'll try to defeat Bernie the president.

In case you were confused when the audience erupted in cheers upon Bloomberg's Freudian slip acknowledging that he is one of the country's leading oligarchs in full control of the corrupt American duopoly,rest assured that the audience was largely comprised of his fellow oligarchs, as well as the various lackeys, consultants and others he had paid handsomely to be there for him. They, in turn, had paid the Democratic Party the hefty exclusive price of admission to the extravaganza. Tickets ranged from $1,750 to $3,200.

Since the manufactured outrage over Bernie's past praise of Cuba's literacy rate under Fidel Castro nearly caused the debate stage to spontaneously combust, there was sadly not enough time to discuss the climate catastrophe that is rapidly combusting the actual world. 

The inept CBS "journalists" who failed so miserably to moderate the immoderate flamed-out centrists sucking up all the oxygen on the stage also failed miserably to bring up the name of journalist Julian Assange, whose treatment as a joint US-UK political prisoner has more than a passing resemblance to the show trials common in 1930s Stalinist Russia. 

Only hours before the debate aired, news emerged that on the first day (Monday) of his extradition hearing at Woolwich Crown Court in London, the WikiLeaks founder had been handcuffed, stripped naked and had his case records confiscated in order to prevent him from appearing and taking part in his own trial.

Because Assange exposed US war crimes, and because the CIA had him under surveillance while he was living in exile at the Ecuador embassy, and because the CIA is also actively interfering in the current presidential election by linking both Trump and Sanders to "Russian interference," and because both the Democratic Party and the corporate media airing the debates have an intimate working relationship with this unaccountable fourth branch of government, it was probably deemed much safer to let the red-baiting of Bernie proceed as scheduled.

And since the"Intelligence Community" has, as Senate Minority Chuck Schumer acknowledged in an epic Freudian slip worthy of Bloomberg, "six ways from Sunday to get back at him (Trump)" if he doesn't kowtow to the CIA, Bernie himself is taking no unnecessary chances. He already has been "briefed." And he appears to have received the message loud and clear that he'd best go along to get along with the contrived and diversionary Russiagate Narrative by issuing the required obligatory denunciations of Vladimir Putin.

Bernie could well win the nomination and then beat Trump. But the Surveillance State, birthed some 70 years ago by the very plutocratic establishment  ("The Georgteown Set") whose ideological heirs he so vociferously campaigns against, will still be calling most of the shots.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Commentariat Central: Bernie Panic Edition

The plutes and the pundits were caught flat-footed Saturday when, despite their best propaganda efforts, Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses not only by double digits, but with a broad coalition of old, young, white, black and brown voters.

Realizing that Bernie was ahead, but not realizing yet by how much, the mainstream media had begun spreading the latest iteration of Russiagate in the days before the caucuses: to wit, Vladimir Putin wants Bernie to be nominated so that Donald Trump can win. That story fell to pieces when voters effectively ignored it in Nevada and are ignoring it in the rest of the country as well, judging from Bernie's increasing lead in the polls.

The on-air personalities of MSNBC reacted to Bernie's win in much the same way they reacted to Donald Trump's election in 2016: stunned disbelief that their fear-mongering narrative had been revealed as a complete and utter dud. Chris Matthews became so confused that he abandoned his previous nightmare of Communist executions in Central Park to comparing Sanders voters to Nazi troops invading France in World War Two. He was obviously plagiarizing his colleague Chuck Todd's previous casual on-air reporting - immediately prior to last week's debate - of a slur calling Sanders supporters "digital brownshirts" or Gestapo. This slur allegedly prompted Bernie himself to almost physically attack MSNBC brass last week. But even the leak in the right-wing New York Post tabloid, insinuating that Sanders flew out of control and terrified the brass over a minor little insult, backfired. We were obviously supposed to fret over Bernie's temper instead of cheering for it.

MSNBC, much like Joe McCarthy before it, has been disgraced.

For now, anyway. As of this writing, Chris Matthews and Chuck Todd still have their jobs.

I, for one, do not trust the reasonable liberals who only yesterday were bashing Sanders and his supporters, but who have done a near-complete 180 and who are now urging party unity as he supposedly is on an unstoppable glide path to the nomination. Michael Bloomberg, who so dominated the discourse last week, was hard to find in mainstream media discourse this morning.

But as they grudgingly accept Bernie as inevitable, it's not a good idea to relax. They no doubt have plenty more dirty tricks up their sleeves. The Russophobic propaganda isn't working, so stay on the alert for voting machine breakdowns, voter roll purges, all manner of made-up scandals. Since their credibility is now on the line, the tricks will proceed off the air and out of print.

Meanwhile, their current "we surrender" narrative of Bernie inevitability might lull voters into so much complacency that they will lose much of the urgency needed to knock on doors and even show up at the polls in the record numbers needed on Super Tuesday.


I wrote two New York Times comments on Saturday - right before the caucus results were in - and one on Sunday night, when liberal pundits began, in varying degrees of grudging-ness, to admit that Sanders is not only electable and a threat to Trump, but that his presidency would not be the end of the world after all.

Columnist Frank Bruni, pre-Nevada caucus blowout, was all worried about a brokered Democratic convention and how of all the candidates, Bernie Sanders was alone in not pledging to abide by superdelegates anointing a winner in the absence of a clear majority.

Bruni, good centrist voter-shaming gaslighter that he is, asked readers to contemplate an implausible scenario whereby a candidate with more 
delegates than Sanders would nonetheless lose the nomination to Sanders out of plutocratic fear of the mob. Wouldn't, for instance, Michael Bloomberg's well-heeled supporters then feel every bit as betrayed by the System as the regular folk?

If Sanders supporters stay home in November, they would therefore be acting just like Trump, who

 if defeated "will manufacture any and every argument to say that he was robbed. And in a country in which the messy guts of our institutions are increasingly conspicuous and the merchants of cynicism grow ever bolder, he'll find takers aplenty.
After all, getting worked up is so much less tedious than getting along.
My published response:
 It's all right out there in the open. According to Politico, Mike Bloomberg's operatives are already importuning the superdelegates for their votes on a second ballot.
 The Democratic candidates who raised their hands against actual voters determining the nominee simply signaled that when push comes to shove in divvying up their delegates, they can be bought off. Whether this in the form of Bloomberg cash for future campaigns, a Bloomberg cabinet appointment, a Bloomberg job for a family member, or simply a Bloomberg donation to their favorite charity is moot.
I have to say that Elizabeth Warren's raising her hand after so masterfully trouncing Bloomberg at the debate and after railing so passionately for so long against political corruption, was a profound disappointment. Remember, she too had not so long ago agreed that Bernie was cheated by the party apparatus in 2016. 
As far as Frank Bruni suggesting that we save our wrath for the "next time" - forget about it. Since the writing is on the wall and the Bloomberg checks are being written at the "heads they win, tails we lose" lightning speed of an automated Wall Street trade, now is the time to pressure our super-delegated elected reps to either follow the will of the electorate, or expect a primary funded by small-dollar donors doing an end-run around the Bloomberg-owned party apparatus.
  This is not being nasty. This is exercising our rights as citizens in what they still quaintly call a representative democracy.

Maureen Dowd devoted her own column space to opining that Trump is a parasite because he dissed the South Korea Oscar-winning movie "Parasite" and compared it unfavorably to that good old racist classic "Gone With the Wind."

This is more earth-shatteringly disgusting, apparently, than professional liberals ignoring Michael Bloomberg's racist Stop and Frisk crusade. Dowd doesn't even mention the red-baiting Bloomberg by name in her column but she does wholeheartedly endorse the unsubstantiated narrative that not only does Russia continue to interfere in "our elections," but that it is magically boosting Bernie Sanders.
As the Democrats sputter and spat and fight over federal giveaways and (Bloomberg's) N.D.A.s, the unfettered president is overturning the rule of law and stuffing the (unaccountable spy) agencies with toadies.
My published comment:

("Although if they win the Senate back, Democrats will probably end up impeaching him again and this time have plenty of witnesses.")
 Maureen (in a parenthetical, no less) seems to be forecasting that Trump will win a second term. And if Bloomberg does succeed in his quest to buy the nomination, she is most likely right on the money.
Bloomberg is Trump, but without Trump's gift for stand-up comedy. The Godzillionaire Mayor's bizarre performance as Mary Poppins, one of the many disturbing clips being unearthed these days. doesn't even have the saving grace of macabre humor. 
As far as tweeting goes, Bloomberg has "people" for that. A mere 70 his campaign's Twitter accounts being suspended due to fakery is a joke, given that his whole campaign is nothing but a head fake of epic proportions. And it's also an assault on democracy.
But the big news that's supposed to scare us into stupefied compliance is that Putin is magically elevating the campaigns of both Trump and Sanders. Once again, it's Russia and not good old American political corruption that's endangering our sacrosanct. pristine democracy. MSNBC's Chris Matthews is forecasting Communist executions in Central Park. And Lloyd Blankfein, the banker who helped crash the economy, is so scared of Bernie ruining "our" economy that he may be even forced to vote for Trump.
The elites who own the place are rapidly losing any minimal credibility that they still had left. Maybe they can develop a new app for that.

Charles Blow, while superficially casting his lot with Post-Caucus Bernie on the premise that hey, the guy is electable after all, is nonetheless worried about Sanders identifying as a democratic socialist. After asserting that "I don't believe that most people know what that means, but it is different and Trump will make it sound frightening, and many Americans are likely to be wary of it," Blow proceeds to consult experts who also can't explain it precisely.

Even worse, both Trump and the Russians want him to be the nominee! And he seems to be running not with the Democratic establishment, but against it!

So, Blow says, Bernie "has a lot of work to do." (And in keeping with his front-runner status, Sanders is indeed tamping down some of that "revolutionary" rhetoric in his increasingly high profile prime time interviews, most recently on 60 Minutes.)

My published Times comment:
Concerns about the democratic socialist label are misplaced, given that Trump regularly smears even Nancy Pelosi and other centrist Democrats as "the radical socialist left."
The Tea Party, the precursor to Trumpism, was fond of labeling Barack Obama a "Marxist Leninist" when in fact his politics were closer to Reagan's. In professing his own allegiance to free market capitalism, Obama only half jokingly once remarked that Nixon had been more liberal than he.
 So I say let the Dems embrace rather than run away from the "S" word. They might point out to their detractors that Trump himself is the beneficiary of a lifetime of socialism for the rich, via tax loopholes and basically free land for "development" purposes.
Public education is a socialist enterprise. So are community fire departments. So are public works projects, which used to be known as "sewer socialism."
 Poll after poll reveals that the younger the voters, the more apt they are to be amenable to socialism as the alternative to the neoliberal capitalism that has indebted them and destroyed their dreams.
There is nothing "radical" about what Bernie is espousing. The debt jubilee, or debt forgiveness in hard times, is a philosophy and a humane practice going all the way back to Old Testament times.
 The more that "liberal" elite pundits and billionaires wring their hands over the prospect of better lives for ordinary people, the more they signal they wouldn't mind if Trump is elected to a second term.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Laughs and Loathing In Las Vegas

Given that a New York jury is currently deliberating the fate of Harvey Weinstein, Mike Bloomberg certainly picked a bad night to utter the words "women" and "consensual" in the same nasal breath.

 Weinstein's defense against rape charges is that it was consensual sex. Bloomberg's defense of the nondisclosure agreements related to his serial workplace misogyny ("Jokes I told") is that the gagging of women was also consensual. These gals, Bloomberg insinuated, loved every minute of his smothering legalities. So no, he will never release them from their lingering pleasurable bondage.

It remains to be seen whether the thousands of ads playing every single minute all around Bloombergville USA will offset his dismal debate performance. He seemed hell-bent not so much on winning the nomination and the presidency, but on winning the Oscar for his wizened, whining live-action portrayal of Mr. Burns. 

"Portrayal" is kind of a stretch, because the godzillionaire former mayor became stone cold dead on his feet once Elizabeth Warren got through with him.

Just the clip of him rolling his eyes in bored disdain as she destroyed him should be enough to ruin his candidacy. Then again, there are those nonstop ubiquitous ads costing him an estimated $3000 a minute just in local TV markets alone, the hundreds of millions of dollars of his personal fortune being spent on bribing politicians and super-delegates and cable TV executives and journalists and paying off the country's entire stable of consultants, pollsters, PR flacks and caterers. At the rate that his vast fortune is consuming all the "talent," the least he can do is endow a graduate program in Electoral Chicanery at Harvard to keep churning out the elite entrepreneurs of the future.

Elizabeth Warren did Bernie Sanders a huge favor by going after Bloomberg, while only making soft murmuring complaints when the NBC moderators baited her with the Bernie Bro trope. As for Bernie himself, red-baited from both the right and the center, his theory that a couple of his online supporters might even be linked to "Russian interference" made me roll my own eyes in dismay. But I suppose we should be grateful that at long last, Sanders did not once preface an answer with "So-and-so is a good friend of mine."

Since his good friend Joe Biden is already a political corpse, nobody even bothered to call out his breathtaking hypocrisy when he scolded Bloomberg over his racist Stop and Frisk crusade. Biden's authorship of the racist Crime Bill set the stage long ago for Bloomberg's own ethnic cleansing ("gentrification") campaign. As recently as Obama's second term, the former vice president was leading the charge for more cops on the street and more high tech military hardware of the type used against the citizens of Ferguson, MO when they became upset over the police killing of Michael Brown. The fact that immigration activists loudly disrupted his closing argument was barely even mentioned in mainstream media debate narratives this morning.

Given that billionaire Tom Steyer was missing from the stage, centrists Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar got more generous time to snipe at one another while urging everybody else to stop fighting so as to beat Donald Trump and magically "bring the country together."  What do you call it when two annoying, cloying centrists cancel each other out - besides its being a very refreshing sight to behold?

I've gone from dismay to delight that Bloomberg successfully bribed his way on to the debate stage. People finally got a look at him without the protective gauze of his glitzy TV commercials. They're also getting a much-needed true picture of the hordes of liberal politicians who have fallen all over themselves to endorse him in exchange for his "philanthropy." He has shown once and for all that not only can he not beat Trump, he is simply a more urbane, nasal,annoying - and dangerous - version of Trump. He is Trump without the stand-up comedy talent.

If Bloomberg is anointed the nominee in the second ballot of a contested convention - or worse, if he is simply the stalking horse for a third Hillary Clinton run -  it will spell the final and long-overdue demise of the Democratic Party and perhaps even usher in the long-overdue street actions and revolts and strikes that this country so sorely needs. It would likely be the smallest turnout in modern electoral history.

Even if Bernie Sanders does win the presidency, moreover, the corporate Democrats will have no other choice but to show whose side they are really on as they thwart his every reasonable executive action.

Thanks to Michael Bloomberg, reality in all its ugliness is finally getting a fair shake and a fair hearing. The rotten center cannot hold.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Democrats Boldly Pivot To Secret Wall Street Power Point Presentation

Maybe it's just a coincidence. But only hours after The Intercept published an interview with Ralph Nader, revealing that he'd personally telephoned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to urge her to concentrate on "kitchen table issues," the New York Times up and announces that she will indeed be doing a complete 180 from her impeachment catastrophe to concentrate on kitchen table issues.

Without crediting Nader or mentioning his name, the Times puff piece attempts to rehabilitate Pelosi's tattered reputation and to convince its readers that her new Kitchen Table Initiative is both original and sincere.

But the attempt fails miserably. Maybe it's the subhead acknowledging that the Pelosi pivot is nothing but a gimmick to lure disaffected voters into the rapidly disintegrating centrist Democratic orbit. It's all talk and all strategy and no action whatsoever to make people's lives better.

As if to emphasize this cynical point, Pelosi brought in Wall Street mogul Steve Rattner to give a Power Point presentation to House members on how best to placate their constituents about an economy that serves Wall Street and punishes Main Street. This is according to "a person" who attended the secret session and shared the secret strategy with the Times. Since Rattner is also a regular columnist for the Times, let the guessing games begin.

 I'd call him a "disgraced Wall Street mogul" were it not for the fact that not only was he technically exonerated in 2010 for his financial malfeasance in a pay-to-play kickback scheme that stole from New York public employees -  he was handsomely rewarded for it. His Obama administration-assigned task of rescuing General Motors was accomplished by eviscerating its labor union and implementing a lower wage package for newer, non-unionized workers. And he got a lucrative book deal and the Times gave him his own column, which frequently harps upon the deficit and the need to cut social programs benefiting regular people while not taxing the uber-wealthy out of a couple of bucks.

His settlement with the government included a small fine and only a two-year ban from securities trading. It wasn't a slap on the wrist, it was a kiss on the hand.

Despite the top-secrecy of both Rattner's and Pelosi's private pep talks on strategy with congressional Dems, reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg magically manages to quote Madam Speaker directly:

Health care, health care, health care,” the speaker said, describing the party’s message during a recent closed-door meeting, according to a person in the room who insisted on anonymity to reveal private conversations. She said they had to be laser-focused on getting re-elected: “When you make a decision to win, then you have to make every decision in favor of winning.”
If I were Pelosi, I think I'd insist on anonymity too. Those inanely quotable quotes make even Platitude Pete Buttigieg sound like Cicero by comparison. . She might have opted for "winners never quit and quitters never win, but that neoliberal aphorism would have failed to capture her far more sinister intent. That intent is to cruelly pretend to care about the voters for the duration of the campaign season, for the sole purpose of winning power and holding on to power. I'm not the one saying that. Pelosi is saying that through the ruling establishment organ known as the Paper of Record. It's as though she doesn't realize that ordinary people who read are thus also rendered cognizant of her machinations.

Pelosi has belatedly come to the realization that since her failed impeachment spectacle has only served to strengthen Donald Trump and to increase his popularity, it's time to change strategy and go through the neglected motions of serving constituents. There will be no further feeble or grandstanding efforts, other than from within individual committees, to rein Trump in.

But rather than, say, bowing to overwhelming popular demand and allowing Medicare For All legislation to advance from the limbo of its various subcommittees to a full floor debate,Pelosi distributed a "For the People recess packet" to her members,instructing them to visit food pantries, after-school programs and senior centers to prove to the voters that they really, really care.  These photo-ops would serve to "highlight" Trump's planned cuts to social welfare programs rather than to introduce concrete legislative plans to strengthen them as the final year of his first term plays out.

It's like the corporate "raising awareness" celebrity campaigns to combat various diseases like cancer while simultaneously fighting tooth and nail against taxing the rich to help pay for the universal guaranteed care of sick people

It's only toward the end of Stolberg's article that the real impetus for Pelosi's Racket Packet is revealed: the palpable plutocratic paranoia over Bernie Sanders. His rise in the polls, implies the Times, is every bit as bad as Trump's acquittal and the Iowa caucus debacle:
The move to put impeachment in the rearview mirror comes after a dismal two weeks for Democrats. First, the Iowa caucuses turned into an electoral debacle, with no clear winner. Then a triumphant Mr. Trump arrived at the Capitol on the eve of his acquittal to deliver his State of the Union address, which ended with a seething Ms. Pelosi ripping up the speech for all to see.The Senate acquitted Mr. Trump the next day. Then Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, won the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire, jangling the nerves of moderate lawmakers who fear that having a self-described democratic socialist at the top of their party’s ticket will cost them their seats.
 Pelosi consigliere and fourth ranking House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries of New York is quoted as saying that since impeachment over one bribery scheme involving the withholding of high-tech missiles to Ukraine and possible subsequent financial harm to the weapons industry failed, we should just let Trump be Trump for the duration.

"His erratic, corrupt, unconstitutional behavior speaks for itself," shrugged Jeffries.

Although he has not yet joined with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus in formally endorsing that other oligarch, Michael Bloomberg, Jeffries is decidedly softening his once-strident criticism of the Stop and Frisk mayor. In a separate interview last week with GQ, Jeffries said he believes that Bloomberg's belated pandering apology for racial profiling was "heartfelt" because as a data geek, the former mayor finally looked at all the long-available data revealing that crime continued to go down after the courts finally put the kibosh on Bloomberg.

And just a few months ago, Jeffries very publicly welcomed Bloomberg to his "more the merrier" Democratic Party as a potential "change candidate" who can "get things done."

Letting Trump convict himself in the court of public opinion even as he ravages the public with renewed intensity with every passing day, and substituting pandering talk for even mild progressive action, is the exact opposite of Ralph Nader's prescription for Nancy Pelosi and her party.

He didn't suggest that her members simply drop by community centers and food banks to meaninglessly commiserate with people.He called on Pelosi to convene public hearings to which these ordinary people would be invited to testify and tell their own stories of life under Trump.

Such testimony, Nader said, would have far greater impact than the stories of a handful of State Department bureaucrats abused by Trump in the Ukrainegate scandal. But since such testimony would also implicate the Democratic side of the corporate duopoly, it's not going to happen.

"And what's really important here," Nader told The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill,  "is that she (Pelosi) wanted to tie up the Republicans in knots in the Senate and she only used one knot. She used one finger out of ten that could have been curled into a tough fist with very perceived abuses of the Constitution, of protective statutes, of income preservation and of turning over by Trump, turning over the U.S. government to Wall Street."

Of course, government by Wall Street was not only a done deal by the time Trump was elected, it was one of the main reasons why Trump was elected in the first place, chosen by millions of disgruntled victims of Wall Street over the corrupt tool of Wall Street known as Hillary Clinton.

The very fact that Pelosi actually took a phone call from Ralph Nader, whose stream of advisory letters to Obama and Bush in the past decade all went unanswered, is testament to her own mounting desperation. Nader readily admits that she simply wanted to pick his brain a little before she dispensed with his advice to hold public hearings.

She simply stole his idea for a Kitchen Table Initiative and turned it into a cynical propaganda campaign. And then she secretly called in Wall Street, in the person of of Steve Rattner, to give the Democratic majority their marching orders in a Power Point presentation.

Besides his regular gigs at the Times and on MSNBC's Morning Joe show,  Steve Rattner now primarily works for Michael Bloomberg, managing both his personal and philanthropic fortunes.

Way to pivot, Nancy! You're spinning your way right into a deep dark hole of your own corrupt making.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Lloyd Blankfein Stumps For Bernie Sanders

In a canny burst of reverse psychology, the Wall Street banking mogul who helped crash the entire global financial system in 2008 today refreshingly declared that a President Bernie Sanders "would ruin our economy."

Since 94% of all the American household wealth "lost" in the crash is now in the hands of the oligarchy, it is safe to assume that what former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein really fears is that a Sanders presidency would put a damper on his winner-take-all economy - or what Citigroup had secretly dubbed the "plutonomy."

Blankfein tweeted;
If Dems go on to nominate Sanders, the Russians will have to reconsider who to work for to best screw up the US. Sanders is just as polarizing as Trump AND he’ll ruin our economy and doesn’t care about our military. If I’m Russian, I go with Sanders this time around.
Whether he knows it or not, Blankfein just bleated out a campaign commercial for Bernie. He implicitly signaled his fealty to Donald Trump, who also regularly and falsely claims that the phony opposition party doesn't care about "our military," But Blankfein is obviously referring to Bernie's own refusal to vote for the latest obscene $750 billion Pentagon budget, the successful bipartisan passage of which is bloating Goldman Sachs's own war-connected profits to the monstrous proportions to which it has become accustomed.

Blankfein's peevish McCarthyite tweet actually seems tailor-made to spur even more record, small-dollar donations to Bernie, who won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday despite the best efforts of the corporate media to fool the country into thinking that second runner-up Amy Klobuchar was the break-out heroine of the night. The core media narrative is that since Bernie did not win by the same astronomically huge 40-point margin by which he trounced Hillary Clinton in 2016, it not only doesn't count, it is testament to the "chaos and divisiveness"  that Sanders brings to the Democratic Party establishment. As if that were a bad thing!

As far as the reviled "razor-thin" margin by which Sanders beat Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire  is concerned, we should be honest and admit that Bernie is indeed having a tough time luring in old white conservative people too set in their ways and too attached to Medicare For Only Themselves to abandon the rejuvenating young fogey soul-brother they've found in Mayor Pete.

None of the coverage denigrating Bernie's victory that I watched last night mentioned tthat more young people voted for him than voted than for all the other primary candidates combined. He got more than half the entire youth vote of 18 to 29 year olds, while the 38-year-old Buttigieg received only 22 percent of this demographic.

Bernie's slim margin of victory is based simply upon the much higher number of older voters turning out on primary day. As Vox reports,
One caveat: Older people are simply a bigger part of the electorate. In New Hampshire’s Democratic primary, people 45 and older made up 63 percent of voters, according to the exit polls. People aged 18 to 29 made up just 14 percent.
Historically, this has also been true nationally:Young voters are less likely to turn out. In 2016, less than half of voters aged 18 to 29 went to the polls, while a majority in all other age groups voted, according to the US Census Bureau.
And since older people are more apt than younger people to read the New York Times, and the Washington Post and stay riveted to CNN and MSNBC  they thus might be more prone to internalize the mainstream "narrative," and make the manufactured - and rankly xenophobic -  paranoia of Blankfein and others their very own.

Maybe Prince Harry, who reportedly is making a "billion dollar handshake" with Goldman Sachs, can help. He and wife Meghan already appeared at the JP Morgan Chase Investment Summit in Miami over the weekend to share their mental health expertise with some of the same billionaires and pathocrats who plundered the economy in 2008 and who are now so very, very nervous that their turbo-charged free rides and their mammoth runaway government welfare benefits and their padded portfolios might be in store for the Bernie Brake Pad Special. They're certainly in dire need of a muffler job. And the way their entitled complaining keeps backfiring on them, they might even be headed for the junkyard reserved for totaled luxury limos.

Blankfein and his fellow paranoid plutes should just relax and stay hunkered down in their eight car garages and stop with the class war antics and refrain from raising Bernie's profile so much with their negative attention. Because Sanders is not threatening a communist revolution or an overthrow of capitalism, or a 90 percent wealth tax, or total world peace, or anything remotely close. He is no more radical than FDR, whose ultimate aim was to save predatory capitalism from itself.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

First As Tragedy, Then As Chris Matthews

The paranoia of the plutocrats is morphing from farce to insanity at the speed of the Coronavirus. Loath to share their wealth with the rest of us, they are nevertheless magnanimous enough to share with the rest of us their abject terror of the unthinkable prospect of ordinary people having better lives under a Bernie Sanders administration.

"Fear the Bern" is their imaginative theme.

We're supposed to magically forget, of course, that "ordinary people" and "the rest of us" are the exact same entity. The spidery elites are thus cordially inviting us, the Lower Slobbovians of the Bottom 90 Percent, in to their luxury parlors, just long enough to become the victims of a new strain of Stockholm Syndrome. We are asked to transfer their abject fear of the mass of people into an abject fear of our own selves. They euphemize this disease of victims identifying with their oppressors as "party unity."

It's gone beyond the more or less subtle "manufacturing of consent" as explained by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky. This is the forcing of their raw pathological sewage into the mass communication feeding tube attached to too many of our brains.  After all, since they've already primed us to become true-believing anti-Trump resistance fighters in the service of the FBI, the CIA, Wall Street, Hollywood and the trillion-dollar military monster, they might as well also prime us to ditch the creeping menace of Bernie's FDR-style liberalism and the dangerous hope of better lives for ourselves.

Leading the surge in the media's unabashed psychological warfare campaign against the American voter, MSNBC personality Chris Matthews insinuated that a Bernie Sanders presidency would even usher in mass public executions. Here's his reverse Joe McCarthy somersault with one and a half spittle-inflected twists:

Chris Matthews is, of course, doing nothing less than embracing his own inner Trump, engaging in the fascistic tactic of psychological projection. The socialists were the targets of the HUAC and McCarthyite 50s Cold War domestic purges and persecutions - not its executioners. Former, current and suspected lefties were the victims of a coordinated right-wing bipartisan campaign to destroy labor unions and the social welfare programs of FDR's New Deal. With this diminished Left now threatening to come back to life, Cold War McCarthyism also is coming back to life bigger and better than ever. 

The big tell in Matthews' diatribe is that these supposed socialist executions -  cheered, if not directly ordered, by a President Bernie Robespierre Sanders - would take place in Central Park, the gentrified back-yard of many a luxury penthouse and corporate boardroom. What Chris Matthews and his cohort are really afraid of is not getting literally shot, but of being parted with the tiniest smidgen of their obscene wealth. "Castro and the Reds" is code for the bottom 90 Percent of Lower Slobbovia having the unmitigated gall to demand universal health care, guaranteed affordable housing and a debt-free education.

Ordinary people wanting better lives for themselves and their families, friends, neighbors and co-workers are even described as a "cult" by Matthews' MSNBC colleague,Democratic consultant and Clinton campaign operative James Carville. He raved last week that he is "scared to death" that a Sanders victory would transform the party into a "cult that alienates large swaths of America."

Since teachers top the professions which donate to the Sanders campaign, Carville's description of Bernie supporters as a "cult" is an oblique smear of teachers themselves. It used to be that it was only the Republicans who so vociferously attacked public education.

These liberal paranoid plutocrats can do psychological projection every bit as ruthlessly as the reactionary president whom they only pretend to despise. The truth is that it's the oligarch-owned Democratic Party - not the Sanders campaign - which has worked so hard and so adeptly to alienate such huge swaths of the American electorate that millions of these swaths stayed home rather than submit any longer to the Neoliberal Gospel Cult  - led by the decidedly uncharismatic Hillary Clinton. It was the party leadership under Barack Obama that lost nearly a thousand seats in ten years.

The class war against the bottom 90 percent is being fought by two competing oligarchic political factions: the Republicans (de facto Trumpians) and the Democrats (soon to be renamed the Bloombergians). These factions are utterly united in their desire to defeat Bernie Sanders and to smother the lives and hopes and dreams of the electorate.

Lacking any human decency or morality or any intellectual heft to speak of, the elites' desperate bipartisan tactic is the manufacture of consent via the manufacture of fear. It's the creation and enhancement of hatred between and among the increasingly desperate factions of the working class and the outright down-and-outs. 

Fear and hate are the traditional weapons that elites have always used to keep the "swaths" of humanity under control. You really have to hand it to Donald Trump, though. He has successfully lowered the bar on how these twin assault weapons are utilized to Limbo stick proportions. The weaponized propaganda no longer needs to be well-polished. They simply fire wildly in all directions in hopes that at least some of their dummy bullets maintain enough smart black-ops magic to keep us under their spell.

Since that seems to be happening with less and less frequency, the special media psy-ops teams are going totally bonkers. They're flailing with their fists and their inchoate verbal spittle is reducing their manufactured narrative into one great big sodden mess.

The only thing we have to fear is the prospect of even a few of our fellow citizens taking these farcical experts even remotely seriously.

James Carville: Beatings Will Continue, So Join Us!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Only The Shadow Knows

And he ain't saying, because his Iowa app for the reporting of caucus results mysteriously collapsed on Monday night.

"Shadow" is the name of the app designed by a couple of former Hillary Clinton campaign tech operatives to allegedly "streamline" precinct reporting of the Monday night vote tallies. The only problem is, it failed miserably. Whether it failed by ineptitude or by design doesn't really matter.

 The lack of results, the final announcement of which could be deliberately withheld not by hours but by whole weeks, serves the ultimate purpose of the oligarch-led Democratic Party: It has denied Bernie Sanders his victory speech and it has tried to water down his momentum.

We might have seen this coming after the Des Moines Register abruptly cancelled the release of its pre-caucus polling over the weekend, because one lone pollster allegedly forgot to mention Pete Buttigieg's name to some of the people she called.

The lame excuse offered by the Democratic machine, of "inconsistencies" in the reporting process, is obviously code for "the results showing Bernie to be the blowout winner are inconsistent with the values and desires of the plutocrats who own the place." 

The excuse seems to be backfiring spectacularly, especially as it comes right on the heels of the Democrats' deliberately inept and watered-down impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. It brings back unpleasant memories of the "hanging chad" debacle that allowed the Supreme Court to undemocratically appoint George W. Bush president in 2000. It is also reminiscent of the Obamacare enrollment catastrophe, remnants of which persist to this very day.

I had predicted last week that a computer hack or meltdown preventing voting and/or ballot counting at the national nominating convention might be one party excuse for denying Sanders the nomination. In the interests of "national security" and the defeat of the TrumPutin menace, a hasty superdelegate ballot could then be conducted against a background of manufactured panic to anoint a nominee. Party unity would then become the new definition of patriotism. 

Little did we know that the Democratic machine would get started with their subterfuge so early.

More troubling news is that the Shadow app was launched by ACRONYM, a party-affiliated tech firm which also works for Pete Buttigieg's campaign and which now conveniently disavows any connection with Shadow. Maybe there's an enterprising Wendy out there who can sew it back onto Peter Pan.

 This connection is rendered all the more troubling by Buttigieg's hasty declaration of outright victory on Monday night. Does Buttigieg know what The Shadow knows?

 His connection to the Clinton/Obama-controlled machine is further cemented by his connection to the  Alliance For Democracy, a shadowy consortium of party leaders and wealthy donors.

Many of the Alliance For Democracy's liberal plutocratic members were recently named to  leadership positions in the Democratic National Committee, ostensibly to help effect a brokered nominating convention in Milwaukee this summer.

As the New York Times reported last April:
The matter of What To Do About Bernie and the larger imperative of party unity has, for example, hovered over a series of previously undisclosed Democratic dinners in New York and Washington organized by the longtime party financier Bernard Schwartz. The gatherings have included scores from the moderate or center-left wing of the party, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California; Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader; former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., himself a presidential candidate; and the president of the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden.
You might remember Schwartz as the oligarch who was embroiled in a bit of a scandal for selling missile technology to China at the same time he was bankrolling the Clintons, who then occupied the White House. He was later exonerated of any wrongdoing by Clinton's attorney general, Janet Reno. He is currently a major funder of the centrist, pro-austerity Democratic think tank, Third Way, and also chairs the Rothkopf Group. Its founder, David Rothkopf, is a lobbyist representing the despotic United Arab Emirates and who frequently appears on MSNBC and CNN to tout US-Saudi relations without disclosing his own shadowy affiliations.

It's a tangled web. Follow the money if you can, since it's mostly dark money. Stay on the lookout for the same familiar faces sitting on the same corporate boards and think tanks and corporate cable panels who spout the identical bellicose talking points with the same blatant hypocrisy. They are all too easy to spot.

Meanwhile, internal polling by the Sanders campaign shows him, as expected, to be the de facto blowout winner of the Iowa caucuses. The New York Times and other corporate media outlets have since obligingly removed all traces of his voting lead from their home-pages and relevant apps. 

That's the thing about neoliberal technocrats. They always try to fix what isn't broken. And when they succeed in ruining people's lives and trampling all over their basic human rights - including the right to vote - they never blame themselves. They always blame the latest inexplicable technology glitch or foreign interference. Passive-aggressive is too kind a word for these sociopaths.

This is especially true when they pose as anti-Trump #Resistance, Inc. crime fighters, when all this is really about is an internecine oligarchic mob war, with democracy as the collateral damage.

Ask not what evil lurks in the hearts of men (and women). Simply marvel at the fact that it doesn't much bother lurking any more. It's proudly right out there in the open. It's right in your face.

Nobody could ever have predicted..... don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good... mistakes were made... go screw yourselves.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Springtime For Donald and USA

(Optional soundtrack here)

Trump is getting sprung from impeachment charges, and the shadow-seeing groundhog is predicting an early spring. The only question is whether the second death of the Russiagate Narrative will be permanent. Or whether, like the Bill Murray "Groundhog Day" movie, it will keep repeating itself like a zombie with bad acid reflux disease.

What definitely does keep finding new life is the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Right before the eleventh anniversary of the Staten Island groundhog's brave attack on Mayor Mike Bloomberg's wagging index finger, the oligarch-heavy Democratic National Committee has graciously allowed him to buy his way into a spot on this month's debate stage. The DNC ditched its previous requirement of a minimum number of independent contributions from individual donors in deference to Bloomberg, who is spending hundreds of millions of his own money to not only buy the presidency but apparently to buy the entire Democratic party. Not to mention the world.

Now, this might quaintly be considered a scandal were it not for Trump already having set all sorts of consequence-free precedents for future presidents. But since Trump Impeachment Failure Grief rules the day for the Democrats, and Trump Impeachment Vindication Glory rules the day for the Republicans, the Bloomberg news is largely staying underground.

 And groundhogs keep getting tortured.

Unless you're completely off the grid, no amount of burrowing can protect you from seeing Mike Bloomberg, day in and day out, on your various screens. He's even starring in Super Bowl ads, vying with the beer and the chips and the luxury cars.

Not having cable, the only view I've had of Bloomberg this past week was a weird clip of him shaking a dog's nose (instead of, say, his paw) at a New Hampshire campaign stop. To put it mildly, this man does not play well with animals. As Jimmy Dore observes, he also unconscionably wears expensive cuff links while snout-grabbing.

The problem is that Bloomberg simply has no patience with lesser creatures of any species, including his own.

As the New York Times reported on his infamous 2011 run-in with "Staten Island Chuck,"

One can argue that Mr. Bloomburg sort of asked for it. As cameras rolled and the crowed took in an event, a local imitation of the Punxsutwawney Phil traition, Chuck at first refused to come out. Children chanted his name to no avail. Mr. Bloomberg seemed to realize that the reclusive rodent was spoiling the show.
He tried to lure Chuck out of his cottage with an ear of corn, but Chuck shrewdly grabbed the corn and dragged it inside to enjoy. The mayor tried again, twice, but then, seemingly out of patience, he grabbed Chuck by the belly with both hands before he could hide again and held him in the air for everyone to see.
Although the actual revenge of Chuckie was not caught on film,  Mayor Mike was later spotted sporting a bandage on his habitual scolding finger. To prevent future injuries to his august person, he had a cruel plunger installed in Chuck's cage to forcibly eject the critter on subsequent Groundhog Days.

Nevertheless Bloomberg was still bearing a Hillary Clinton-style grudge on Groundhog Day two whole years later: "I love the plunger. That was so much better than having to reach in and let the little sonofabitch bite you," Bloomberg remarked.

We have to fight our enemies over there so they don't bite us over here. The way Bloomberg ran the city like his private fiefdom and ordered that, statistically, every single brown and black man be stopped and frisked by police is a preview of what a totalitarian Bloomberg World Empire might look like if he adds the presidency to his list of accomplishments.

Compared to Trump, Bloomberg would be welcomed with open arms by both the establishment and "moderate" voters who watch a lot of TV. After all, Bloomberg had merely ordered food stamp applicants to be fingerprinted. Trump is actually kicking at least a million people off their food stamps.

The debate between our two major political parties is not whether to abolish cruelty. It's how much cruelty they're willing to impose.


Here are a few of my recent New York Times comments.

The first one is in response to Maureen Dowd's column on the shock and grief of Democrats after the totally expected outcome of the Senate impeachment trial.

Dowd writes:
Democrats are warning Republicans that they will be judged harshly by history. But in the meantime, the triumphant Republicans get to make history. And a lot of the history that Republicans have made is frightening: the endless, futile wars, the obliviousness to climate change, the stamp on the judiciary.
The thing I found shocking about the sham impeachment, besides limiting the charge to Trump's sleazy bribery attempt related to the proxy war in Ukraine, is that witnesses were barred from testifying. It was like watching a whole series of bloviating district attorneys and Perry Masons deliver their opening statements only to have the jury abruptly retire to deliberate in its burrow and issue its verdict based upon zero physical evidence and human witnesses. I'd always thought we had a two-tiered justice system: one for the poor who go to jail because they can't afford a lawyer, and one for the rich with whole teams of lawyers defending them at trial and whole slews of celebrity character witnesses.

  Now there is a third, for presidents, where the verdict is preordained and the proceedings are  pre-coordinated by the defense with the presiding judge.

 In the case of Trump's impeachment, I think that both the corrupt defense and the hapless prosecution got exactly what they wanted.

My published Times comment:

It was an inverted Stalin show trial, the ultimate purge being of the rule of law rather than of the lawbreaker-in-chief. Trump's own purge of everything decent will continue unabated.
What damage will he do in the last year of his first term? He won't just stop at cutting food stamps and health care and polluting the air and water at home and dropping his bombs abroad. When hundreds of American troops in Iraq suffer "collateral damage," this malignant narcissist downplays their traumatic brain injuries as "headaches,"
Just as the show trial was getting underway, the Davos plutocrats rolled out the red carpet, basking in all the benefits accruing from his tax cuts and gutting of protective regulations in service to unfettered capitalism. As long as their own heads don't ache and as long as their own kids don't have to die for a dying empire, why would they care about the fate of the earth?
As far as "history" not treating the GOP kindly is concerned - what history? At the rate that the assault on public health and education is going and the climate is heating up, the population will be too dumbed down, desperate, sick, strung out or dead to care that once upon a time, the Republicans showed their true garish colors.
To add insult to injury, the Don has been cordially invited by Nancy Pelosi to deliver the State of the Union to pompously preach "unity" to people suffering from their own various stages of chronic traumatic Trump injury.
Fingers crossed for a November purge at the ballot box.
(Make that a Bernie purge of the whole duopoly.)


Of course, the Establishment fears this potential bottom-up purge of everything they hold so dear. Therefore, they're collecting their plungers and doing the opposite of the Staten Island Chuck ejection technique. They're trying their very hardest to force the Bernie surge back into the depths where they don't have to look at it any more.

Timothy Egan joins this cadre of Never-Bernie plumbers with a column wittily entitled Bernie Sanders Can't Win.

He casts Sanders supporters not as people wanting a better life for themselves and their fellow citizens but as an angry mob out to spill plutocratic blood. And anyway, America has never been a socialist country!

That’s the thing about class loathing: It feels good, a moral high with its own endorphins, but is ultimately self-defeating. A Bernie Sanders rally is a hit from the same pipe: Screw those greedy billionaire bastards!
 The next month presents the last chance for serious scrutiny of Sanders, who is leading in both Iowa and New Hampshire. After that, Republicans will rip the bark off him. When they’re done, you will not recognize the aging, mouth-frothing, business-destroying commie from Ben and Jerry’s dystopian dairy. Demagogy is what Republicans do best. And Sanders is ripe for caricature.
Egan then lists all these potential GOP smears, beginning with Bernie's long-ago trip to Russia and his wife Jane's failed Vermont college venture - not to smear Bernie himself, of course, but to smarmily warn you that a vote for Bernie is a vote for Trump.

My published response:

True, this has never been a socialist country, but it was the strong socialist movement that pushed the FDR administration to enact the New Deal. Remember, for example, the Wobblies?
No politician ever enacts programs for the public good out of the goodness of his or her heart. It takes pressure from below, which is why Bernie's campaign motto is "Not Me. Us." He has no illusions that he'll be able to snap his fingers and hypnotize Congress into passing Medicare For All. It will take relentless pressure from voters. It will take scaring some of the old Senate dinosaurs out of their complacency, and mounting primary challenge after primary challenge to them if they persist in working for the corporate lobbyists instead of the people who cast the votes.
 Bernie - and by extension, his supporters - are being attacked by both Republicans and centrist Democrats with varying degrees of venom, malice, innuendo and concern-trolling. Egan provides a litany of such past Bernie "scandals" as his Moscow honeymoon - before sanctimoniously scoffing at them. This is a typical centrist ploy: attack the candidate obliquely by repeating right-wing talking points. Then condescendingly pat us on the head and acknowledge that at least Bernie is changing the "conversation." Personally, I find cant like this more offensive than Trump foaming at the mouth against the socialist menace at his Nuremberg-style rallies.
  Neoliberalism is dead, and it's the centrists who can't win.
As to Egan's accusation that we're out for plutocratic blood, I will cop to immensely enjoying the story of the lowly groundhog drawing Bloombergian blood and the too-fleeting blow it struck to Bloomberg's monumental ego.


Last but least, Paul Krugman has at least temporarily abandoned his own vicious anti-Bernie attacks to passive-aggressively claim that nothing will change even if Bernie does win the presidency. In fact, he says, since Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are well-nigh interchangeable, everybody should just relax and embrace "party unity" - because you're never going to get everything you want anyway. Despite presenting zero evidence to back up his claim, Krugman insists that Biden has actually moved left in the past few months.

Here's Krugman talking his propaganda strategy to MSNBC's Joy Reid:

 It seems to me that Krugman is attempting to effectuate a little voter suppression here. If all Democrats will govern alike, maybe some potential Iowa caucus-goers will just stay home after listening to that reassuring Krugmanesque smarminess.

My response to his column:

It sounds as though Mr. Krugman has resigned himself to Sanders being the nominee. Or perhaps it's the realization that every time a prominent pundit or PAC attacks Bernie and gaslights progressives, another torrent of small donor dollars floods his already ample campaign coffers.
  To say that Biden and Sanders would accomplish the same things is a stretch. For starters, Biden has never been just "swept along" by the last 40 years of neoliberal austerity. He was one of the architects of the Democratic Leadership Council, now known as the New Democrats, and also one of its original presidential recruits.
He might currently be playing a liberal on TV, but his shtick still is trying to find common ground between what's left of the New Deal and reactionary Republicanism. His first assigned task as VP was to "eliminate waste, fraud and abuse" in government programs. Right in the middle of the financial meltdown! 
From the DLC Manifesto: "We will seek out and eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse. We will provide the resources to prosecute those taking advantage of government benefits to which they are not entitled, whether wealthy tax evaders, illegal monopolies or participants in welfare fraud." 
The centrist trope broadcast by Biden is that the poor are just as culpable as the rich. But ask yourself how many wealthy criminals have gone to jail while the US prison population has exploded under Biden's championship of the Crime Bill.
The Democratic choice matters. Big time.