Friday, December 16, 2016

Hillary Clinton: L'État, C'est Moi

Hillary Clinton is not accepting her defeat at the hammy hands of former friend and kleptocrat Donald Trump graciously.

The Empress-in-Exile is placing all the blame for her loss on the FBI and on Russia and on the media. Speaking on Thursday night to the same wealthy donors who'd brayed their appreciation of her dissing the working class as a "basket of deplorables" a few months ago, she brazenly announced that she, Hillary Clinton, is the United States personified.

 As reported by Amy Chozick of the New York Times: 
“Putin publicly blamed me for the outpouring of outrage by his own people, and that is the direct line between what he said back then and what he did in this election,” Mrs. Clinton said.
They were her first public remarks since widespread reports that the Russian government was behind the cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and Mr. Podesta, with the goal of influencing the election.
“Make no mistake, as the press is finally catching up to the facts, which we desperately tried to present to them during the last months of the campaign,” Mrs. Clinton told the group, which collectively poured roughly $1 billion into her effort. “This is not just an attack on me and my campaign, although that may have added fuel to it. This is an attack against our country. We are well beyond normal political concerns here. This is about the integrity of our democracy and the security of our nation."
She said Russia's alleged theft and delivery of the emails to Wikileaks was a direct result of Russian President Vladimir Putin's "personal beef" with her over her criticism of his own rigging of parliamentary elections in 2011. She conveniently forgot to mention the meddling of her own State Department in Ukraine's "color revolution" along with her threat to impose a no-fly zone in Syria -- which is the same thing as declaring direct war on Russia.

Now that the Washington Post and the New York Times and the six media conglomerates which control 90% of all the information broadcast to the public have engaged on a concerted campaign to blame Russia for Donald Trump's victory, and the public seems to buying into Red Scare Redux, Hillary Clinton obviously now feels free to come out of the closet herself, joining the blame game personally and directly.

An attack on Hillary is an attack on the United States. Therefore, the implicit message is that in order to save the honor of the Empress-in-Exile, we must declare war on Russia.

 And they say Donald Trump is a narcissist?

Entitlement dies so hard. Plutocratic donors need to be soothed into thinking that their class war and the worst wealth inequality in modern history had nothing to do with Hillary's failure to win the hearts, minds and votes of deplorables of all ages, skin colors, ethnicities and genders. Meanwhile, some of her donors are themselves fair-weather friends, having gone to pre-parties at Trump Tower before attending Hillary's holiday gala in the Plaza Hotel, smack dab in the middle of the income disparity capital of the universe.

President Obama, after failing himself to sound the false alarm when he still had the chance, pre-election, is also coming around to embracing the Russophobic propaganda. He wants a full report from all 17 clans of the "intelligence community" on his desk by the time he leaves office for the safety of the golf course, the speaking circuit, the memoirs, and the raising of a billion dollars for his shrine to himself.

But even before receiving that alleged report, he is vowing retaliation in order to save the honor of the country, a/k/a Hillary and the Dismal Democrats. As reported by the Times White House mouthpiece about Obama's interview with the NPR White House mouthpiece:
The president discussed the potential for American retaliation with Steve Inskeep of NPR for an interview to air on Friday morning. “I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our election,” Mr. Obama said, “we need to take action. And we will — at the time and place of our choosing.”
Could Obama be any more mealy-mouthed? You may or you may not learn of this counter-attack. And you probably won't, given that Obama doesn't want to open up the can of worms about Hillary America's meddling in Ukraine, and the proxy war against Putin in Syria. He certainly doesn't want to be called out as a hypocrite for his own recent brazen meddling in U.K. politics, when he warned Brits right before the Brexit vote that their failure to stay in the Eurozone would result in his shoving them to the back of the queue on trade with America.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Russophobia Made Simple

Uniting a torn electorate of American citizen-consumers against a common enemy, and diverting our attention away from the class war, and disguising the true predatory purpose of the American Deep State: that's hard even in the best of times. And these, the end-times of late capitalism, are some of the hardest and worst of the worst of times.

It's especially hard when the Deep State -- or what is grotesquely called the "intelligence community" -- seems to be cracking up itself. The Clinton/Obama/CIA faction wants the enemy to be Russia, and the Trump/crony capitalist/anti-CIA faction is aiming its own beady sights on China. 

Thanks to the proto-fascist nature of American democracy itself, no candidate with a peace platform has ever been allowed anywhere near the exclusive electoral process. Jill Stein of the pacifist Green Party got some belated corporate press only because of her failed ballot recount campaign in aid of Hillary Clinton.

Just when we thought that the Neoliberal Death Match -- or what is grotesquely called a democratic presidential campaign -- was finally over, the curtain is now rising with a vengeance on Act Two of the Battle of the Oligarchs.

Pouncing on the undeniable fact that Hillary Clinton received 2.7 million more votes than Donald Trump, this whole democracy experiment is being relitigated in the court of public opinion. The arcane Electoral College has become such a "thing" that the Democrats and some GOP'ers are pressuring its members to disregard the votes of the Rust Belt states that barely nudged Trump over the finish line. The electors' mission, if they choose to accept it, is to become conscientious objectors to Trump's war on neoliberal decency.

The implicit message is that Donald Trump is a traitor. And if the electors do their sworn Constitutional duty and vote a traitor into office, then his Putinesque blood will be on their hands. It's the same gaslighting technique that was used on ordinary voters throughout the interminable campaign season. A vote for Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or None of the Above was an act of rank treason and a sure sign that you were a tool of Vladimir Putin.

The fact that the orchestrated campaign to subject the electors to top-secret intelligence briefings in an effort to guilt them into changing their votes is "bipartisan" should be the first clue that denying the presidency to Trump is not so much a matter of the public interest as it is of the corporate private interest. A cabal of Deep State centrist Democrats and Republican Neocons are joining forces in an attempt to, at the very least, wound Trump before his inauguration. They are seething that Hillary Clinton's imposition of a no-fly zone in Syria as an escalation in the war on Putin was thwarted by the very Pied Piper candidate they propped up as an easy target for the hawks.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Wall Street) and  multimillionaire House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are finding common cause with Republican war hawks John McCain and Lindsay Graham in drumming up a new surge of Russophobia. It helps that Nancy's daughter Christine is herself an appointed elector.

To help sway public opinion toward overturning the vote, the elitist obsession with Russia as the enemy to end all enemies is everywhere you look.

If you're a reasonably sane person, you're probably scared to death that Trump's nomination of the Exxon-Mobil CEO to head the State Department will rev up the already turbo-charged destruction of the planet by fossil fuels. But the Anthropocene epoch and mass extinctions aren't what the New York Times wants you to be afraid of. The Times wants you to be afraid of those damned Russians.
President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday officially selected Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, to be his secretary of state. In saying he will nominate Mr. Tillerson, the president-elect is dismissing bipartisan concerns that the globe-trotting leader of an energy giant has a too-cozy relationship with Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia.
In the past several days, Republican and Democratic lawmakers had warned that Mr. Tillerson would face intense scrutiny over his two-decade relationship with Russia, which awarded him its Order of Friendship in 2013, and with Mr. Putin.
The hearings will also put a focus on Exxon Mobil’s business dealings with Moscow. The company has billions of dollars in oil contracts that can go forward only if the United States lifts sanctions against Russia, and Mr. Tillerson’s stake in Russia’s energy industry could create a very blurry line between his interests as an oilman and his role as America’s leading diplomat.
So it's not that you and I and our children and our grandchildren and all the animals and plants will be dying more quickly if an oil magnate is granted even more power to physically damage us. It's that one faction of obscenely wealthy people doesn't want another faction of obscenely wealthy people to beat them in the greed sweepstakes.

And never mind that the main purpose of the State Department is to grease the skids for and ensure the safety of multinational corporations and the banking mafia wanting to do business abroad. The Times doesn't mention that the State Department acts as the broker for the annual sales of billions of dollars' worth of arms and war materials to such autocratic regimes as Saudi Arabia. State is the international counterpart of the Health and Human Services Administration. It does corporate welfare on a grand, global scale. It makes plunder easier for the plunderers.

The world is already ruled by 62 billionaires who own as much wealth as the entire bottom half of the population. So to tamp down the resulting domestic unrest, our rulers and their propagandists are singling out just one faraway oligarch in hopes of limiting the populist wrath here at home.

Donald Trump, for his part, is bringing the whole sordid pathocratic process out into the open. He is not showing due deference to the Intelligence Community family and to establishment media. And that is making the ruling class very, very nervous. Former acting CIA Director Mike Morell is even hysterically calling the alleged meddling of Russians "the political equivalent of 9/11." (Never mind the CIA's own seven decades of international political meddling and orchestrated coups.)

This bluster and disrespect from an autocratic president-elect makes it so much harder for the ruling class to manufacture public consent. No wonder that they are also freaking out about what we call independent investigatory journalism, and they call "fake news." Their control of "the narrative" is slipping, so they're reduced to conflating scurrilous internet rumor-mill sites with legitimate fact-based and free-thinking journalistic outlets with the chutzpah to be critical of the wrong things.

The New York Times is not, of course, the only site for all the corporate Russophobia that's fit to print. 

Here's a sampling of today's curiously similar headlines, which fear-monger not over climate change and pollution, but over the specter of TrumPutin:

"Moscow's Mule"; "Kremlin Rejoices"; "Bipartisan Alarm Over Ties to Moscow" -- Huffington Post.

"Rex Tillerson: An Appointment that Confirms Putin's Election Win" -- The Guardian

"Donald Trump's pick for secretary of state is a Putin-friendly Exxon CEO" -- Vox

"Graham Wants Tillerson's Russia Ties Front and Center" -- Politico.

"McCain Voices Concerns About Tillerson's Ties to Putin" -- The Hill


It's only when its status as the world's sole Superpower is even mildly threatened that the United States Uniparty takes a stand against a multinational corporation like Exxon.

when the oil behemoth wants to plunder and bribe in other autocracies, or wherever China has aimed its capitalistic sights, the smoky skies are the limit. The American ruling class usually has no problem with Tillerson and his ilk at all. Take the whole continent of Africa, for instance.

The Obamas and the Bushes met up in Tanzania in 2013 to help spread the oily Exxon goodness around. The wives of the presidents enthusiastically gave identity-politics cover to the extraction of that continent's rich natural reserves by the greedy oil conglomerate. They cast the plunder as the perfect trickle-down "women's opportunity" as they commiserated like desperate housewives over their First Lady status and their silly old hubbies.

The confab of wives was such a resounding P.R. success for the giant polluter that Michelle Obama and George and Laura Bush reunited in Washington the following year for a "Spousal Summit" orchestrated and funded, in large part, by Exxon-Mobil. They wanted to let us know that all the African first ladies were also totally on board with the plunder of their continent. It's all about the freedom of oligarchs to extract and exploit while donating a little medication and genetically modified seed and allowing entrepreneurial womenfolk the chance to learn and to read.... as they gasp for air and struggle to find a source of unpolluted drinking water for themselves and their families.

Under Obama, the American militarization of the continent known as Africom continues apace. How else to protect multinationals like Exxon-Mobil from "militants?" The conglomerate just recently "discovered" another billion barrels of oil off the Nigerian coast. Somebody (the US State Dept, the CIA and the Pentagon) has to protect their tender hides and grasping tentacles. Somebody has to hold them harmless for their serial destruction of soil, water and forests.

President Obama also never had a problem with Exxon-Mobil when it's wanted to destroy the environment in our own backyard, either. Just a few years after the worst oil explosion disaster in history continues to inflict ongoing damage in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama granted Putin-loving Tillerson's company new drilling leases in the Gulf for the proposed extraction of 172 million barrels of oil. 

The Democrats' and some Republicans' opposition to Tillerson as Secretary of State has nothing to do with concern for the environment and the obscene corporate welfare for polluters who dictate government policy. After all, Obama's own energy secretary, Sally Jewell, came through the revolving door from Exxon Mobil when it was still known as Mobil.

This is all about a tiny group of plutocrats grasping and grabbing for their share of the global pie. These bullies don't like to share, even with each other. And forget about the other 99.9% of the population. The rest of us are lucky get a few crumbs of oily political P.R. along with the foul water and the dirty air and the damaged lungs.

But never forget: the only thing we have to fear is Putin himself.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Note On Comments

Due to an onslaught of spam, I've had to revert back to comment moderation mode.

So if your offering doesn't appear as immediately as it used to, please don't despair or get mad. I'll be around to approve it in as timely a manner as possible during daylight hours. But for those of you who post in the middle of the night, you might have to wait until morning for your comment to see the light of day. 

Sorry for any inconvenience. Hopefully, we can get back to unmoderated comments sooner rather than later.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The New Red Scare: Fake News

Fresh off her failure to fool enough of the people some of the time, Hillary Clinton has pivoted to trying to convince the people whom she failed to fool that they are a bunch of fools.

The Empress-in-Waiting might have had one dream destroyed, but that isn't stopping her from posing as the Empress-in-Exile.

 If you thought that Hillary was going to go quietly into that good night of one of her fortified palaces, you foolishly thought wrong. 

If you also thought that, like most other people, she is scared witless about Donald Trump's formation of a military junta assisted by a claque of kleptocrats depraved enough to make even Caligula blush, you thought wrong again.

Hillary's comeback consists of pretending that the scurrilous rumor mill - something which has probably been an integral part of human civilization ever since the first hominid landed on her feet after being pushed out of a tree by a bully - is suddenly the Threat To End All Threats.

 There's supposedly an epidemic of Fake News devouring the brains of our nation, but Hillary Clinton is here to immunize you through the magic bullet of censorship. 

While everybody else either is hysterical or depressed about the lethal, real-world consequences of the Trump presidency, Hillary is more worried about the Clinton World consequences of #PizzaGate. That's the hashtag  given to a weekend incident in which a paranoid guy fired shots into the floor of a Washington D.C. eatery after arriving there to check out for himself a deranged online rumor about a Hillary-run pedophile ring.

So, before arriving on Capitol Hill to say goodbye to outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday, Hillary arrived at the pizza joint to check out for herself the true news reports about the fake news reports.

But rather than use her TV time to urge citizens to use their own common sense before brandishing their unregulated weapons, and rather than urge immediate emergency funding for the teaching of critical thinking skills in public schools, Hillary is calling instead for massive government censorship. Leaders in both the public and private sectors should act immediately to "snuff out" stories which they deem to be bogus:
 "The epidemic of fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the last year ― it’s now clear that so-called fake news can have real-world consequences,” Clinton said.
“This isn’t about politics or partisanship,” she continued. “Lives are at risk, lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days to do their jobs, contribute to their communities. It’s a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly.”
Clinton implies that there is such a thing as good, government-sanctioned propaganda. An example of good propaganda might be the selling of the Iraq War by the establishment media based upon bogus claims of weapons of mass destruction. This propaganda resulted in the deaths and displacements of millions of innocent people.

Good propaganda might be her own selling of the deadly bombing of Libya based upon false claims that Muammar al-Qaddafi was on the verge of exterminating his own people.

 It might be the running deficit-hawk narrative that "Social Security and Medicare are going broke" used by politicians and the mainstream media to sell the neoliberal program of pain and austerity for the many, and prosperity for the plutocrats - some of whom comprise Donald Trump's cabinet.

Ordinary citizens' lives are indeed at risk as they go about their precarious business working at their precarious jobs. Neoliberalism as preached by Clinton and both sides of the Uniparty has served to increase the national mortality rate to its highest level in two decades. Good propaganda outlets like the New York Times report that all the experts are ever so surprised that so many victims of the neoliberal class war are suicidally depressed, or addicted to drugs, or eating cheap unhealthy food, or not using their high deductible health plans, and then dying so tragically young.

When Hillary was running for president, it was the epidemic of opioid addiction that she said was the most pressing social issue of our time. Now that she's not running, it's those vile yet silly rumors about her on the Internet.(Which is odd, because nowhere on her campaign website is there one single mention of the fake news epidemic destroying all our lives.)

Meanwhile, that bogus Washington Post story boosting a slimy blacklisting Internet site called PropOrNot turns out to have Clinton machine and State Department and CIA fingerprints smeared all over it. Investigative journalist Mark Ames looks into the sourcing:
The only specific clues given were an admission that at least one of its members with access to its Twitter handle is “Ukrainian-American”. They had given this away in a handful of early Ukrainian-language tweets, parroting Ukrainian ultranationalist slogans, before the group was known.
One PropOrNot tweet, dated November 17, invokes a 1940s Ukrainian fascist salute “Heroiam Slava!!” to cheer a news item on Ukrainian hackers fighting Russians. The phrase means “Glory to the heroes” and it was formally introduced by the fascist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) at their March-April 1941 congress in Nazi occupied Cracow, as they prepared to serve as Nazi auxiliaries in Operation Barbarossa.
Ames notes that the language of the PropOrNot site and that of Ukraine-based blacklisting and censorship efforts are remarkably similar. And he notes a direct link between a Ukrainian lobbyist and the Democratic National Committee:
  One of the key media sources who blamed the DNC hacks on Russia, ramping up fears of crypto-Putinist infiltration, is a Ukrainian-American lobbyist working for the DNC. She is Alexandra Chalupa—described as the head of the Democratic National Committee’s opposition research on Russia and on Trump, and founder and president of the Ukrainian lobby group “US United With Ukraine Coalition”, which lobbied hard to pass a 2014 bill increasing loans and military aid to Ukraine, imposing sanctions on Russians, and tightly aligning US and Ukraine geostrategic interests.
Ames further notes that Yahoo News named Chalupa one of the 16 key influencers of the Democratic campaign and the main impetus behind reports that Russia interfered with the election and boosted the chances of Donald Trump.

As I read Ames's piece, I could have sworn I was in the throes of a John Le Carre novel.

Glenn Greenwald writes that MSDNC and other mainstream outlets were also complicit in the "good," Clinton-approved propaganda. They all helped spread the bogus claims that the damaging emails released by Wikileaks were all fakes. To bolster that claim, one "Trump operative"  who named himself Omnivore posted a fake speech by Hillary to Goldman Sachs to trick her opponents into citing him. It was just such a tactic that got Dan Rather fired after citing a planted forged document to bolster the otherwise legitimate claim that George W. Bush skipped out on his Air National Guard training.

Even after Omnivore was exposed as a Clinton plant, the fake news that all the Wikileaks documents were faked continues to be spread by corporate "real news" sites.

As I reported during the waning days of the campaign, one of my own articles, cross-posted on Truthout (one of PropOrNot's blacklisted sites) was caught up in the cache of the Democratic National Committee emails provided by Wikileaks. I can personally attest that it was not a fake. I wrote every word of it. It's in the cache because Campaign Director John Podesta apparently subscribes to Truthout. So Hillary should probably warn him about this clear and present danger to his brain.

It just goes to show you that American fascism, like American propaganda, is not an epidemic suddenly unleashed upon us in the Age of Trump. It's been around for a very long time. And it has usually been well-hidden by the gloss of democracy and liberalism.

 Not any more. The veneer is not only showing cracks, it is coming apart at the seams.

Update: Under political pressure,President Obama has now ordered a full investigation of the alleged Russian infiltration of American democracy and the electoral process. The New York Times reports, however, that the actual results of this alleged investigation may never be released to the public. Otherwise Russia might steal our investigation techniques! 

In other words, what we don't know can't possibly eat our brains. 

So carry on. Buy the latest gadgets, consume approved propaganda content, and go about your precarious business as you struggle to be a finalist in the mortality sweepstakes.

Update 2: Within hours of Obama announcing the investigation, the Washington Post quoted secret anonymous sources as reporting that the CIA has already secretly decided - with the usual "high level of confidence" - that Russian operatives did indeed hack into the DNC and John Podesta's emails and furnished the caches to Wikileaks as a direct ploy to help elect Donald Trump. The New York Times adds that a similar Russian hack of the Republican National Committee did not result in any fair and balanced leakage. Oh what a sticky, tangled web.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Price Is Ryan

There's been a lot of scary buzz lately about Washington's newest Gruesome Twosome (House Speaker Paul Ryan and HHS Secretary-Designate Tom Price) publicly drooling over taking the buzz-saw to Medicare.

No matter that even VP-elect Mike Pence vowed as late as this past Sunday that the Trump administration would protect Medicare. No matter that even Ayn Rand fanboy Ryan admitted on 60 Minutes that the privatization of Medicare might have to wait until such time that Republicans - who'd truly love to slash it to bits, yesterday - won't be quite as vulnerable to the wrath of the old people in their respective districts. If Ryan has inside dope that vulnerable voting seniors are dying off more quickly than dopey pols, he didn't say.

Vulnerable Democrats and their veal pen offshoots, meanwhile, are in a frenzy of fund-raising and flailing around the meme that Medicare As We Know It Is Doomed the minute Donald Trump takes the oath of office. As usual, they are placing themselves in a purely defensive crouch. Rather than boldly re-introducing HR 676 or a similar Medicare for All single payer health care bill, they vow to simply fight back and protect what little we already have. It's so much more virtue-signalling fun to shoot diseased fish in a barrel than it is to be therapeutically proactive and progressive.

Medicare actually would have been more vulnerable to attack under a Clinton administration. Hillary ran her winning campaign on, among other things, praising the austerity plan of the Bowles-Simpson Cat Food Commission. Bill Clinton, who would have been "in charge of the economy," had hoped to play Good Cop to Paul Ryan's Bad Cop in the triangulation game. They might even be called the original Gruesome Twosome, as evidenced by an open mic catching them openly plotting Grandma's fate a couple of years ago.

For, as evidenced by the Clintonoid welfare "reform" package of the 90s, it is only through the collusion of both sides of the Right Wing Party that people can be punished. If the Democrats and Republicans can cancel each other out in the Sadism Sweepstakes, voters will never know what really hit them. They won't know who to blame for the sudden loss in their basic standards of living. They will again be forced to hold their noses and vote for the lesser evil. (Democrats really, really tried. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Don't be a purist.)

As far as Donald Trump is concerned, his selection of Tom Price for Health and Human Services Secretary would seem to be in direct conflict with his vow to protect Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. A bone-cutter by trade, Dr. Price not only wants to cut social programs to the bone, he wants to perform a radical amputation. So, can the two Republican sadists (Price and Ryan) from the Island of Dr. Moreau succeed in triangulating as ably with Trump as they could have with Clinton? We will have to wait and see. As with everything else in the Trump administration, it's still a mystery.

The New York Times explains that Price's main allegiance is to the greedy and powerful members of the American Medical Association, who have historically made it their business to prevent universal health care coverage for everybody.
Throughout his career, Mr. Price — who has been picked by President-elect Donald J. Trump to be secretary of health and human services — has argued that the government should get out of the way of doctors and give patients more control over their health care.
This position is rooted in Mr. Price’s experience as an orthopedic surgeon for more than 20 years. “As a physician,” he said in the House in 2007, “I know oh so well how the intervention of the state and federal government into the practice of medicine destroys the ability to take care of people. It makes it so you can’t provide quality health care for children and moms and dads.”
What the Times doesn't tell you: orthopedic surgeons have been legally thwarted from the practice of price-gouging, receiving kickbacks or bribes and profiting personally from the sale of orthopedic and other medical devices. Price's specialty is also subject to some of the highest medical malpractice insurance rates in the country. Even with their off-shored accounts and LLCs, they're in the highest income tax bracket. If they can't keep everything they earn and if they can't charge egregious above-Medicare rates, then they might as well destroy Medicare. If it weren't for Medicare, the orthopods could make enough money to pay for a third vacation home and a fifth luxury sports-car. But instead of admitting this, they scapegoat old people.  According to Price and his ilk, Granny is literally shoving little kids with easy and profitable greenstick fractures out of her way in her own selfish quest for a price-controlled hip replacement. The price just isn't right enough to suit Price.

 Price even likes to describe the slave-owning Founders as champions of wealthy orthopedic surgeons. The Times article continues: 
And in 2010, when Congress approved the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Price called it “a dark day for America,” saying that “our founders are weeping” over a bill that was “an affront to federalism, an affront to individual liberty.”
Senate Democrats are sure to challenge many of his positions at his confirmation hearings. Just as they distrust him on health care, he distrusts them.
“The true desire of those on the left,” Mr. Price said on the House floor in 2007, “is to gradually and enticingly move all Americans to Washington-controlled bureaucratic health care.” The bureaucracy, he said, is “not nimble like the private sector.”
The scariest aspect of Price's tenure at HHS is that he is apt to behave as much as a fascistic strongman as his boss. Directors of the agency have always enjoyed the power to act unilaterally, to tweak rules and regulations at their whim. So Price might not even need Ryan as much as Ryan needs him. It's hard out there for a flim-flam man acting out his sadistic fantasies all by his lonesome.

Come on Down! (graphic by Kat Garcia)

For his part, Ryan hopes to effectuate the increased suffering and swifter deaths of seniors via a cheap voucher or coupon system, which he euphemizes as "premium supports." It would change Medicare from the single payer government system it is today into a program more in tune with the Affordable Care Act. Older people, including Alzheimers patients and those suffering from chronic diseases affecting mentation and physical stamina would be forced to spend days or weeks navigating the "marketplace" of private insurance plans in order to get the least horrible coverage for their meager government buck.

Ryan's colleagues once thought he was crazy for wanting to kill Medicare, but he brought many of the squeamish along to his Ayn Randian way of thinking by also advocating for cuts in education, housing, food assistance to poor families, and veterans' programs. The theory is that if you spread the pain around equally, it is more palatable both to yourself and to your victims. 

And forget about polls showing that 80 percent of Americans -- and that includes Trump voters -- don't want their Medicare touched. Paul Ryan doesn't care about polls. "Leaders are elected to lead and are supposed to change the polls because that's what the country wants," he told David Gregory of NBC back in the austerian good times of 2011.

When Ryan was trying to sell his voucher program a couple of years ago, he hysterically complained that it wasn't fair to call it a voucher system. People might actually suspect that he was trying to kill them. 

So to help poor Paulie and his Price-pal in the newly-named Hell and Inhumane Services Lab, here are a few alternative names for them to chew on while they await their main course:

MediPRIC (Paul Ryan's Insurance Cabal).

MediPOP (Profits Over People).

MediCRAP (Conservative Republicans Against Patients).

MediKIL (Kleptocratic Insurance Limited).

MediSCAM (Social Conservatives Against Mankind).
MediCHEAT (Conservatives Hiding Eugenics Agenda Totally).

And, when the Democrats inevitably cave and compromise so as not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, they might offer the following "improvements" to Medicare As We Know It:

MediBUT (Bipartisanship Under Table).

MediPUNT (Pragmatism Until New Term).

MediSTRIP (Surrender to Republicans in Peace).

Monday, December 5, 2016

Water Protectors Get Reprieve

Maybe it was the incipient televised public relations disaster of militarized police doing battle with military veterans acting as human shields for the protesters that finally forced the Obama administration's hand.

But whatever the motivation - fear of democracy, pragmatism or a genuine concern for the environment - the basic human right of clean water has at least temporarily prevailed over Big Oil.

It's a testament to the power and value of human solidarity that for once in a very great while, people have actually won over profits. It helped enormously that celebrities and popular politicians like Tulsi Gabbard and the military son of Democratic bigwig Wesley Clark directly joined the cause and physically showed up at the protest site in frigid, snow-covered North Dakota.

In the face of continuing horrible publicity, the Army Corps of Engineers did an abrupt about-face and announced on Sunday that it would not, after all,  grant the permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline to drill under the Missouri River.

Mind you, this is only the latest reprieve for the Standing Rock Sioux. As stressed in the letter announcing the decision, the government will now "explore alternative routes." The addition of the buzz-phrase "there's more work to be done" in the written decision is neoliberal code for kicking the can down the road until Barack Obama can hand over responsibility for any potential bloodbath or environmental disaster to Donald Trump. If Obama has demonstrated anything during his eight years in office, it's his loathing of direct confrontation.

He'd already waited as patiently as he could throughout months of brutal corporate funded police assaults against the protesters before ordering his first timid temporary halt to further construction this past September. His decision came in the wake of the Army Corps of Engineers overriding the Environmental Protection Agency and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation by giving the green light to pipeline construction beneath the Missouri River, prime source of drinking water for the local population.

Obama, if he wanted to, could Trump-proof the pipeline construction permanently by declaring the region a national monument. But he has preferred not to. He prefers to ride out his term and call himself the good guy in the process. He is being praised far and wide for his statesmanship. In the age of Trump, statesmanship has been reduced to delaying the inevitable.

Trump, who is personally invested in the pipeline, has already trumpeted his intention to resume construction of the $3.8 billion project once he takes office. For one thing, native Americans and Hollywood stars and environmental activists are not part of his voting base. For another thing, he is not about to evoke the wrath of other global finance industry investors which make up "Energy Transfer Partners."  (not to be confused with the diverse cast of characters paid to act in those oily "I'm An Energy Voter" commercials which in turn allowed CNN and others to give Trump his $5 billion worth of free advertising time -- which propelled him to victory.)

The oil profiteers, Energy Transfer Partners, and Republicans in Congress might be pretending to kvetch about the Corps of Engineers' delaying tactics now, but just wait a few weeks. This is only a petty skirmish to these pathocrats. The brutal class warriors do not give up. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Ruling Class Worrywarts

When Larry Summers says he's worried about Donald Trump, you can bet the banks he helped deregulate back in the 90s that his concern has nothing to do with how regular people will fare under the plutocrat-heavy Trump administration.

On the contrary. Larry Summers is scared that Trump will destroy capitalism itself. That much-ballyhooed Carrier deal brokered by the president-elect, which will save about 700 Indiana factory jobs from being outsourced to Mexico, is a slap in the face to the economy as rich people have known it, loved it, and profited by it.

Without a hint of irony, Summers writes in a Washington Post op-ed:
I have always thought of American capitalism as dominantly rule and law based. Courts enforce contracts and property rights in ways that are largely independent of just who it is who is before them. Taxes are calculable on the basis of an arithmetic algorithm. Companies and governments buy from the cheapest bidder. Regulation follows previously promulgated rules. In the economic arena, the state’s monopoly on the use of force is used to enforce contract and property rights and to enforce previously promulgated laws.
Never mind that the laws of capitalism were written for the sole benefit of corporations and CEOs and trust fund kids. Never mind that no-bid contracts have been an operating principle of unaccountable government spending for decades, if not centuries. Never mind that the repeal of the Depression-era  Glass-Steagall Act, which Summers helped orchestrate during the Clinton administration, was in essence itself a repudiation of the controlled capitalism which Summers now purports to adore. Summers also worked with Citigroup's Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Fed chair Alan Greenspan to deregulate the derivatives market. Later, he successfully thwarted an adequate stimulus package during his stint in the Obama administration.

Summers has never in his life fought for American workers or against the offshoring of jobs by multinational corporations searching for ever cheaper and exploitable human labor. It's no surprise, therefore, that the Carrier deal would give him agita. It would give him agita even if it were not steeped in crony capitalist motivations.

Summers' beef is that Trump aims to turn the "lawful" plunder and privatization model right on its ear and make us into a full-fledged Banana Republic, just like in (gasp!) Putin's Russia.

And since the Democrats are still blaming everyone but Hillary Clinton for Donald Trump's victory, Summers also takes the obligatory dig at Bernie Sanders, whom Summers claims "misses the point" by complaining that not all the Carrier jobs were saved from Mexico outsourcing.

And now comes the coup de grâce. Summers blames Democracy itself:
 Some of the worst abuses of power are not those that leaders inflict on their people. They are the acts that the people demand from their leaders. I fear in a way that is more fundamental than a bad tax policy or tariff we have started down the road of changing the operating assumptions of our capitalism. I hope I am wrong, but I expect that as a consequence we are going to be not only poorer but less free.
Translation: with Trump around, the rich may end up being unable to loot from the poor as legally and responsibly as they always have in the past. And it's all the fault of those poor people, who turn out to be not only stupid, but abusive and power-mad. Didn't they ever learn that consumerism is their only responsibility? Didn't they ever learn that "democracy" and voting rights are only the bait and switch tactics designed to disguise the awful truth that Capitalism rules?

The New York Times' Paul Krugman, who has been on his own interminable roll of blaming everything from white racists and the FBI and Wikileaks to Putin and "fake news" sites for Hillary's defeat, thinks his colleague Larry is really on to something. Krugman is so upset about the positive media coverage of the Carrier deal that he even seems to have forgotten that Barack Obama is not only still the president, but that Obama has assured the nation that if Trump succeeds, America succeeds. 

Krugman writes:
It says that large parts of the news media, whose credulous Trump coverage and sniping at HRC helped bring us to where we are, will be even worse, even more poodle-like, now that this guy is in office.
Meanwhile, as Larry Summers says, the precedent — although tiny — is not good: it’s not just crony capitalism, it’s government as protection racket, where companies shape their strategies to appease politicians who will reward or punish based on how it affects their PR efforts and/or personal fortunes. That is, we’re looking at what may well be the beginning of a descent into banana republic governance.
This is, as Larry says, bad both for the economic (sic) and for freedom.
The most pressing concern he has is for the freedoms of the law-abiding robber barons. It seems as though the petty sniping by Wall Street Democrats at the HRC sniper-haters will go on for the foreseeable future. Party elites and pundits are throwing the same kind of temper tantrum that they accuse Trump of indulging in.

My published response to Krugman: 
So, Larry Summers is more worried about Trump ruining capitalism than he is about unfettered capitalism destroying the lives and livelihoods of working people.

Trump is performing the con abnormally. Therefore, grouses Summers (one of the three guys who "saved the world" by destroying it through deregulation), we have a fatal inversion. Instead of politicians passing laws to appease the corporations, we now have corporations appeasing a grossly incompetent anti-politician interested only in his own fortunes.
The Precursors and Enablers of Donald J. Trump

Trump is only a symptom - really, the excrescence - of the neoliberalism and resulting record wealth inequality which has been spawning right-wing populism all over the world.

Summers is worried that Trumpian crony capitalism is bad for the economy. But whose economy? It seems to me that he is really talking about the plutonomy: ownership of a financialized system which mainly benefits the 62 billionaires owning as much wealth as the bottom half of the global population. Trump wants to be a member of that Club.

The working class - white, brown and black - doesn't factor in to the equation, other than elite worry-warts blaming them for not voting for the right candidate.

The bright spot is that even before he's sworn in (assuming he doesn't forget to show up to deliver a bizarre stream-of-consciousness inaugural riff) Trump voters are already expressing buyers' remorse. Apparently, some thought that their giant middle finger to the establishment was only symbolic.
Speaking of buyers' remorse, there's a neologism that should join "post-truth" in that annual list of verbal novelties put out by Lake Superior University. And that is "Trumpgrets."

Raw Story has the scoop on the whole gamut of raw emotions emanating from desperate people who couldn't care less if the plutocrats robbing them blind do it based on an Ivy League education and corner office, or if they do it out of unabashed ignorance and greed while wearing a red baseball cap.

But be warned: you have to be willing to laugh at and feel superior to all the remorseful Trump voters out there. In other words, you have to be a clueless liberal for whom the word "solidarity" is still missing from your intolerant vocabulary.