Sunday, March 1, 2015

It Blows



(source: Project Gutenberg)


I'm talking about the windy month of March, coming in like a bitch today. But to be perfectly accurate, in my little corner of the Homeland anyway, it'll be snowing instead of blowing. As I write this, it is a calm, tropical 8 Degrees F outside, with an advisory out for up to six inches of flakes by tomorrow morning. As a matter of fact, snow is forecast for all 50 states this week if you believe The Daily Mail. And if you believe the New York Times, the waves are freezing on Nantucket.

But back to February.  I have a bone to pick with T.S. Eliot, because February is, hands down, the new abnormal cruellest month, notwithstanding the inclusion of Valentines Day, which in itself is the cruellest day of the entire year for many people. It was supposedly the coldest February on record. It was a 28-day "brown fog of a winter dawn." So good riddance to February, which was at least polite enough to keep its visit short.

I don't have a specific topic for today, so I'll just let my mind wander in the wasteland, if you don't mind. 

So, did you hear that Pope Francis essentially just delivered a major speech against the Trans-Pacific Partnership? (well, he actually railed against global predatory capitalism, but that is exactly what the TPP is.)

If only he were coming to speak this week, instead of next fall, before a joint session of Congress, which is set to vote on granting President Obama fast track authority to hand over what's left of sovereign democracy to a cabal of global corporate parasites. From Reuters, the Pope speaks:
Pope Francis launched a fresh attack on economic injustice on Saturday, condemning the "throwaway culture" of globalization and calling for new ways of thinking about poverty, welfare, employment and society.
In a speech to the association of Italian cooperative movements, he pointed to the "dizzying rise in unemployment" and the problems that existing welfare systems had in meeting healthcare needs.
For those living "at the existential margins" the current social and political system "seems fatally destined to suffocate hope and increase risks and threats," he said.
The Argentinian-born pope, who has often criticized orthodox market economics for fostering unfairness and inequality, said people were forced to work long hours, sometimes in the black economy, for a few hundred euros a month because they were seen as easily replaceable.
"'You don't like it? Go home then'. What can you do in a world that works like this? Because there's a queue of people looking for work. If you don't like it, someone else will," he said in an unscripted change from the text of his speech.
"It's hunger, hunger that makes us accept what they give us," he said.
It blows, for sure. The closest thing we have to Francis here in the Homeland is Elizabeth Warren. She explains the essential corruption that is the TPP better than anybody I've yet read -- specifically the part euphemized as "Investor State Dispute Settlement." The predators must have their prey in one form if not another. Warren explains it colorfully in a Washington Post op-ed:
ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.
 If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?
Read the whole thing. It's even getting the White House's attention, unlike most opposition to the TPP thus far. It looks like Obama might be starting to lose his propaganda war on free trade. As well he should, given that he is refusing to divulge the gruesome details. If a congress critter wants to look at it, he or she is not allowed to bring staff or take notes because of "national security" concerns. So at long last we have incontrovertible proof  that national security and corporate protection are the exact same animal.

The corruption is so widespread that we need constants blasts of fresh air and some extra strong sunlight to make even a dent in the wall of stench.

 Speaking of dents, Frank Bruni of the New York Times wrote another good column today, on the failure of the mass media to do their jobs:
Oh, how we’re hated. And as another presidential race takes shape, that hatred gathers force. Hillary Clinton’s protectors cast us as bloodthirsty raptors intent on finding flaw where none exists. Chris Christie was asked what he’d given up for Lent and said that it would have been The New York Times, but then his priest told him he had to forswear something he’d truly miss.
Scott Walker thinks we’re laying an elaborate trap for him, and after The Washington Post inquired if he regarded President Obama as Christian, he not only punted but also bellowed about “gotcha” questions, griping: “This is a classic example of why people hate Washington and, increasingly, they dislike the press.”
Dislike? Increasingly? Either he was being charitable or he hasn’t read the polling. The public’s esteem for us has been abysmal for a good long while.
And if we’re honest, we’ve brought much of it on ourselves. We play petty games and barrel down pointless roads.
And boy, can they ever blow wind. Bruni suggests that as Lenten penance, the press stop covering Iowa and New Hampshire, candidates' spouses, circus acts starring Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, that they get some help for their addiction to horse races, resist covering political polls as though they were  national emergencies, and stop pontificating on the "national mood." (Only the good Pope Francis is allowed to pontificate on the bad moods of people, largely brought on by capitalist predation.)  My published response:
Laudable prescriptions, Mr. Bruni.
The thing is, there's too much money to be made in "covering" horse race/personality politics.The perennial antics of the GOP Clown Car are too tempting for the corporate media to pass up. Reporters don't so much "cover" these actors as give them cover, even as they ridicule them. The right-wingers thrive on negative attention, because it proves to them and to the disgruntled people composing their base that "See? the elites really are out to get you!"
The issues that people care about -- Social Security, jobs and the unemployment crisis, universal health care -- don't get discussed much because they don't mesh with the interests of the ultra-wealthy donor class owning our politics. That's why, when we aren't hearing about Scott Walker's gaffes or Rudy Giuliani's buffoonery, we get fed tired meaningless bromides like "ladders of opportunity" and "level playing fields". The way the Beltway crowd talks, you'd think that all an underpaid part-timer in the Uber economy cares about is gridlock and bipartisanship.
 The presidential campaign (which began before Obama even started his second term) is forecast to give the TV networks record ad revenue, while the hacks and the PACs and the SuperPacs and the strategists and the fixers and the fundraisers are all skimming their greedy shares off the top in a frenetic race to grind what's left of our democracy into the ground.
So yes, hold their feet to the fire. And stop feeding the trolls!
Over on the other side of Grey Lady Op-Ed Wasteland, Maureen Dowd regales us with a laundry list of nouveau-raunch outtakes by a group of cool, liberated Hollywood starlets. It is pretty graphic stuff by normally prudish Times standards; comedy has declined to an Ayn Rand cult of selfie absurdism in this age of human disposability. Horny young moms find sexual satisfaction with their toddlers' teddy bears, and bored matrons get turned on by the Jodie Foster rape scene in The Accused.
She ("comedienne" Whitney Cummings) said, “When a guy writes a scene where a woman does a deviant sex act on camera, it’s objectifying. But when a woman writes it, it’s feminism. When girls write it for themselves, it’s extra taboo because it’s like, ‘Women have all these ideas, too! We thought men were making them do all this dirty stuff!’ It becomes raunchy all of a sudden when women like it. It’s in the zeitgeist because there’s a bunch of female writers and creators now, and, by a bunch, I mean, like, four.
Where does one even begin? My published response:
 Yeah! More power to the women who feel empowered by acting as gross as the guys, even if they must work for a studio or TV network owned by the predatory, male-dominated Wall Street and corporate plutocracy.
If they ever stop to think that there are millions of boys and men out there getting off watching them get off, they obviously don't give a bleep. Why should they? They live in gated communities with private security guards.
But here's what I want to know: does a woman actress who makes it with a stuffed animal get paid the same amount of money as a man who makes it with a stuffed animal?
I can see the landmark Supreme Court case now. Old Clarence will gift us with one of his rare verbal ejaculations, Scalia will go limp with shock, Sammy will withdraw from the case entirely, John Roberts will prematurely recuse himself and Kennedy will just waggle back and forth, keeping us all in hot unbearable suspense.
And then Notorious RBG will whip them all into shape with her usual scathing review. Bring it on.
Or as Tough Shit Eliot more elegantly put it,

“What is that noise?”
                      The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
                      Nothing again nothing. 120
                                              “Do
You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
Nothing?”


Thursday, February 26, 2015

American Gulag

The only aspect of Chicago's black site prison more shocking than its existence is the fact that it's been an "open secret" for years. People in a position to do something about it chose instead to keep their mouths shut.


Homan Square (The Guardian)

It took one of the victims of Homan Square (the secret detention facility) to blow the whistle on it to the British newspaper The Guardian, which published its exposé this week. And now other detainees and their lawyers are coming forward to tell their own horror stories. You might call this the Bill Cosby Effect.

Officials and politicians proclaim themselves absolutely shocked that there could be a secret interrogation pen in the heartland of The Homeland. Spencer Ackerman, who broke the original story, writes:
 As a second person came forward to the Guardian detailing her own story of being “held hostage” inside Homan Square without access to an attorney or an official public record of her detention by Chicago police, officials and activists said the allegations merited further inquiry and risked aggravating wounds over community policing and race that have reached as high as the White House. 
Caught in the swirl of questions around the complex – still active on Wednesday – was (Rahm) Emanuel, the former chief of staff to Barack Obama who is suddenly facing a mayoral runoff election after failing to win a majority in a contest that has seen debate over police tactics take a central role.
Emanuel’s office refused multiple requests for comment from the Guardian on Wednesday, referring a reporter to an unspecific denial from the Chicago police. But Luis Gutiérrez, the influential Illinois congressman whose shifting support for Emanuel was expected to secure Tuesday’s election, joined a chorus of colleagues in asking for more information about Homan Square. “I had not heard about the story until I read about it in the Guardian,” Gutiérrez said late Wednesday. “I want to get more information, but if the allegations are true, it sounds outrageous.”
Oh, please. Homan Square is just one of many go-to places for the ruling class to send noisy dissidents and undesirables while very important people are holding their NATO summits and other neoliberal meetups.

Take Nassau County in Long Island, New York. In 2012, during the Hofstra University pseudo-debate between the two male narcissists then running for president, two female Green Party candidates were hauled away to "a remote police warehouse" and kept shackled to metal folding chairs for eight hours, without charge. They weren't allowed phone calls or bathroom visits. They were detained so that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney could safely simper back and forth over "binders full of women."


Although the illegal detention of Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala was widely reported at the time, there was no massive public outcry and definitely no demand from either legacy party for a Department of Justice probe into totalitarian police state practices. To the contrary: Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were grateful that their charade of a debate was not interrupted by anybody asking about perpetual war, government surveillance, wealth inequality, mass unemployment and lack of prosecution of Wall Street fraudsters.
News of the incident spread quickly around the world via media coverage carried on ABC, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Democracy Now!, and many other channels, as well as via social media, trending on Twitter, for example, as far away as Egypt.
On her release, Dr. Stein said that, "It was painful but symbolic to be handcuffed for all those hours, because that what the Commission on Presidential Debates has essentially done to American democracy." Stein and Honkala were eventually released into the cold at 10:30pm. Police provided no advance notice of the release to campaign lawyers and staff, and did not allow the two candidates to make any phone calls.
Cheri Honkala called her incarceration, "extremely uncomfortable, but standard for what so many Americans face on a daily basis in our corrections system." Added Stein Campaign Manager Ben Manski, "These arrests and this treatment are outrageous and disproportionate; who do the police think they are protecting here?"
Who do the police always protect? Police are merely functionaries of the ruling class. They protect and serve the very important people by suppressing dissent, culling the herd of the deliberately marginalized and disenfranchised, and keeping the world safe for anti-democracy. 

Homan Square and its many secret clones are only temporary warehouses, way-stations for human beings destined for either formal prison terms or quick releases, depending upon the offense or on the politician who is in danger of being temporarily embarrassed. 

There are now thousands of men, women and children being detained in longer term prisons known as immigrant "residential centers." Built by the Obama administration specifically to imprison refugees fleeing Central American poverty and violence, officials readily admit that these for-profit facilities were designed solely to "stem the tide" of undocumented migrants. People will think twice, they rationalize, about crossing the border once they find out that life in the Land of the Free is as hellish as Life in the Third World. The detention centers are rife with physical and sexual abuse at the hands of low-paid guards, as well as lack of medical care. They are gulags befitting any totalitarian regime ever dreamed up by a despot.

And what would an immigration "crisis" be without its disaster capitalism? Wall Street is profiting big-time from its investments in GEO, the Corrections Corporation of America, and Management and Training Corp. three of the private prison operators operating Homeland Security's "family-friendly" detention warehouses.

It seems, however, that the families enjoying the amenities have finally had enough of them. A riot broke out at a south Texas warehouse this week, after tenant complaints about the sexual abuse, the beatings, the lack of medical care went unheeded by the slumlord known as Uncle Sam. From Al Jazeera:
The uprising, or unrest, as prison officials called it, began early Friday at the Willacy County Correctional Center — operated by the privately held prison company Management and Training Corp. on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Management and Training's 10-year contract with the federal government is worth about half a billion dollars. The facility is about 40 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border in Raymondville, Texas, and has been nicknamed Ritmo, or Raymondville's Guantánamo, for its "crammed and squalid" conditions.
 Two hundred inmates are packed into each Kevlar tentlike structure that serves as housing, with no privacy between beds or in the bathrooms, where toilets and showers are open without partitions, the ACLU said in a 2014 report titled "Warehoused and Forgotten.
Insects and spiders crawl through holes in the tents and bite detainees. Toilets frequently overflow, and the water was shut off for days in 2012 after it started to look yellowish-green, according to the report. Authorities gave inmates bottled water two days later.
The riot, officials wryly noted, left the warehouse (euphemised by the government as a "Criminal Alien Requirement Prison") uninhabitable. The inmates were being transferred to friendlier Texas prisons, until the Homeland profiteers can extract more low-wage labor to generate more construction cash for themselves.

Meanwhile, in response to the ACLU lawsuit, a humane federal judge has finally ordered the Obama administration to stop its depraved practice of imprisoning women and children caught at the border. From the New York Times:
The ruling on Friday, by Judge James E. Boasberg of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, invalidates a central piece of the administration’s strategy to curb illegal immigration across the Southwest border.
During the influx of migrants last summer, the Department of Homeland Security started holding most women who came with their children in detention centers in Texas and New Mexico, to discourage others in their home countries from embarking on an illegal passage to the United States. The women and children were detained even after they had asked for asylum and passed the initial test to prove their cases, showing they had credible fears of facing persecution if they were sent home. Their petitions for release were routinely denied.(snip)
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson said the detention policy was devised to send a clear message to families in Central America, where most of the migrants were from: “If you come, it is likely you will be detained and sent back.”
The imprisonment of political dissidents like the NATO summit protesters in Chicago and presidential candidates in New York who dared challenge the elite duopoly is also devised to send a clear message to all of us: get with our program, shut up, and be afraid. We can't send you back, but we can still make you disappear.

I am waiting with bated breath for the Department of Justice to clamp down on the secret police black site in Chicago with one ill-fitting denture. I am waiting for the Obama administration to construct new "off the books" immigrant detention sites and call them Holiday Inn Expresses. I am also waiting for these stories of abuse to quickly fade into the ether, to be replaced by the usual infotainment and propaganda: Hillary breaking the glass ceiling, Obama urging equal pay for women while finding rape unacceptable on elite college campuses, and the latest domestic terrorists being conveniently caught "aspiring" to join ISIS, right before our shocked and awe-struck eyes.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Democratic Strategy: Winning Through Better B.S.

All that we in the New Abnormal precariat need is a better bedtime storyteller to tuck us in at night. 

That's the gist of the Democratic National Committee's astoundingly tone-deaf Readers Digest version of a manifesto purporting to justify its continued existence. In the wake of its mid-term election defeats, the party prescription for itself is a bromide cocktail composed of better bullshit skills and recruitment strategies. They have to emulate the Republicans' messaging and propaganda expertise in order to thrive.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Wall Street Wing D-FL) announced what she thinks will paradoxically turn us all on as it puts us to sleep:
  • the creation of a National Narrative Project to work with party leaders, activists, and messaging and narrative experts to create a strong values-based national narrative that will engage, inspire and motivate voters to identify with and support Democrats;
  • working with State Parties to build partnership agreements that include training, evaluation, metrics, and incentives and that are focused on ensuring that every State Party is on a pathway to self-sustainability;
  • the development of an aggressive, multi-faceted legislative and legal strategy to ensure every eligible American is registered to vote, has access to the polls and has their ballot counted;
  • the creation and resourcing of a three-cycle plan, in conjunction with our allies, that targets and wins back legislative chambers in order to prepare for redistricting efforts; and
  • the DNC building on its success and playing a proactive role in helping identify, train and foster the next generation of Democratic leaders, especially at the state level.
Of course, these are only preliminary bullet points of bullshit, because the detailed bullshit will not be excreted until sometime in July, when everyone is either sweating or chilling.  The very vagueness is the message. The dog obviously ate their homework, but they are trying to convince us that we will be engaged, inspired and motivated to identify with the party's professional strategists, apparatchiks, and marketing mavens. 

We must remember that we are naught but consumers of multiple messaging facets, but if we get really lucky, we might even become unpaid trainees in the laboratories of Democracy. However, no questions must ever be asked, least of all by the press, who were treated like enemies of the state as they tried to cover the Democratic (sic)Issues (sic) Retreat last month. Writes Dylan Byers:
Reporters are being escorted to and from the restroom and lobby and are being barred from entering the hotel outside of scheduled events, even if they've been invited by a member of Congress. 
During Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks at the retreat Friday, reporters were required to have a staff member, usually a junior member of the press team, escort them when going to the bathroom or to the lobby. The filing center for reporters was at a separate hotel from where the retreat was taking place, so access was limited to members of Congress specifically made available to the press.
“It was a police state. It was absurd how heavy handed the capitol police and Democratic staff were in trying to control everywhere the press went,” New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters said in an interview.
Peters said at one point he was also barred from entering the hotel where the retreat was taking place, despite the fact he had an invitation to eat breakfast with a member of Congress.
“I was an invited guest into this hotel, into the restaurant of the hotel. The staff from the Democratic caucus refused to let me into the hotel, and the Capitol Police told me to leave, even after the congressman went to them and said 'no, he is my invited guest,'" Peters said. 
Peters said he was told by a staffer they were being escorted to prevent them from talking to members of Congress.
In light of the de facto anti-democracy of the Democratic Party, it should come as no surprise that the Center for American Progress, that official corporate think tank of the DNC, pointedly and pettily left out the Oscar-winning documentary Citizen Four in its congratulatory post yesterday to the "progressive" winners who mouthed support for such Democratic initiatives as immigration reform, voting rights,  and equal pay for women. The DNC is not about to support a major award-winning film that shines a harsh light on mass surveillance of Americans, especially when it contains a clip of a petty Barack Obama complaining that Edward Snowden "is no patriot."

Why even expect the ill-named Democratic Party to behave democratically?  As the late French political philosopher Simone Weil observed in the aftermath of the horrors of World War II,  the very concept of the modern political party was born in the Reign of Terror. 

Political parties, wrote Weil, contain three essential characteristics:
1. A political party is a machine to generate collective passions.
2. A political party is an organisation designed to exert collective pressure upon the minds of all its individual members.
3. The first objective and also the ultimate goal of any political party is its own growth, without limit.
Hmm... so political parties have the exact same goals as hypercapitalism -- growth for the sake of growth, greed for the sake of greed. As a result, every political party is at least aspirationally totalitarian, even when it purports to exist for the public good. And every political party thrives by being deliberately vague, as the latest Democratic Task Force screed saliently demonstrates. "No man, even if he had conducted advanced research in political studies, would ever be able to provide a clear and precise description of the doctrine of any party, including... his own" wrote Simone Weil in On the Abolition of All Political Parties.

No wonder Debbie Wasserman Schultz had cogency problems devising her bedtime story. Cogency is not part of her job-description, and we're fools for expecting to to be.

A political party becomes its own end. Even when power is achieved, it is never enough, and thus must party leaders be in the perpetual business of devising such things as "National Narrative Projects."

The pressure of propaganda would and should normally horrify us, but we've become too accustomed to the political B.S. in this age of new media and Citizens United. We're too accustomed to being bamboozled to care or be shocked. We don't have the time or the energy to cut through the bullshit. What Simone Weil wrote 70 years ago is especially and chillingly true today, in this time of permanent war and a ruling class maintaining power through multi-faceted wars of terror:
Political parties are organisations that are publicly and officially designed for the purpose of killing in all souls the sense of truth and justice. Collective pressure is exerted upon  a wide public by the means of propaganda. The avowed purpose of propaganda is not to impart light, but to persuade.... All political parties make propaganda. A party that would not do so would disappear, since all its competitors practice it.
I'm with Simone. Down with the Duopoly. It's hazardous to our health.





 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Little Jebhillarity To Beat the Winter Blues

So, did you catch Jeb Bush's foreign policy speech in Chicago the other day? You didn't? Then you missed a rare tragicomic treat, a slapstick spinoff of Six Feet Under starring the dysfunctional Bush clan as the funeral home ghouls, and all the rest of us as their hapless clients.

Jeb Bush as president would put the toe tag on America for its final trip to the morgue. He'd skip the autopsy because in his world, no post-mortem is necessary. The Iraq and Afghanistan operations were a success even though millions of patients died.

To make the preview of his candidacy even more macabre,(as if that were even possible) the "moderate Bush" formally introduced his team of foreign policy  experts at the same time he bragged that he was "his own man." It's more like the man is owned -- by nearly two dozen unindicted neocon war-profiteering co-conspirators, including Paul Wolfowitz, Paul Bremmer -- and who Maureen Dowd in her latest column calls the "estimable" James Baker.
In his foreign policy speech in Chicago on Wednesday, Jeb was dismissive toward those who want to know where he stands in relation to his father and brother. “In fact,” he said, mockingly, “this is a great, fascinating thing in the political world for some reason.”
For some reason?
Like the Clintons, the Bushes drag the country through national traumas that spring from their convoluted family dynamic and then disingenuously wonder why we concern ourselves with their family dynamic.
My published New York Times response:
The list of Jeb's policy advisers is enough to make you run straight into the arms of the grifting grandma to beg for mercy. She'll at least pause before starting a war. The neocons start wars because they are unabashed psychopaths, killing and plundering for the pure sport of it, and then bragging about it, secure in the knowledge that they will never, ever be prosecuted for their crimes.
Dick Cheney, though not on the official Jeb List for obvious reasons, is no doubt also lurking in the background, pulling Jeb's strings as deftly as he pulled George's. Ditto for Karl Rove and Roger Ailes. Triple-ditto for billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the de facto head of the Republican Party.
And how about that "estimable" James Baker? (I guess anybody would look vaguely human next to Wolfowitz and his tattered socks.)


Baker's law firm is currently defending the Saudis in a lawsuit brought by the 9/11 families on grounds that the royal family funded the terrorists. Then there's the shady Iraq war debt investment deal worth billions that he brokered between Kuwait and the Carlyle Group, at the same time he was an unpaid "special presidential envoy." Baker had also been lead attorney for the 2000 Bush/Cheney Florida election campaign.
Once the Supremes crowned George king, it was only a matter of time before the corruption became complete. Citizens United was the coup de grace to our democracy.
 Let's get the 28 secret pages of the 9/11 Commission Report made public, pronto.
You know you're in trouble when Grifting Grandma starts smelling like a rose compared to the extended Bush Crime Family. As I said, Hillary would at least use the feeble "responsibility to protect" excuse for invading and occupying countries. And taking a tip from the Teflon Don (Gotti) and his block parties, she and her clan do share some of the proceeds from their slush fund with some carefully vetted indigent population groups.

That's not to say that Hillary Land is not also deeply, deeply corrupt. There's something decidedly sleazy about an imminent presidential candidate accepting cash from foreign governments and big bank fraudsters. The New York Times editorial board has duly advised her to cease and desist from accepting cash from such donors as.... Saudi Arabia! (Those sheikhs know how to hedge their political bets as well as Wall Street. They're all part of the same plutonomy after all.)
Donations from foreign governments and nationals, for example, were found to make up more than half of the category of $5-million-plus contributions (to the Clinton charity), according to The Washington Post. A third of donations in the $1-million-plus bracket came from foreign governments and other overseas entities.
Substantial overlap was found between foundation contributors and familiar Clinton campaign donors and money bundlers. Considering the Clintons’ popularity and influence in their party, this is no surprise. But it does make it important that Mrs. Clinton, in defending the family’s efforts on behalf of the world’s needy, reassure the public that the foundation will not become a vehicle for insiders’ favoritism, should she run for and win the White House.
Restoring the restrictions on foreign donors would be a good way to make this point as Mrs. Clinton’s widely expected campaign moves forward.
So would returning all that cash, but the Times won't go that far, nor will it threaten to withhold its endorsement of Clinton should she fail to comply with their friendly advice.

But centrist-leaning Times columnist Frank Bruni, to his credit, is again taking on the corruption of politics by big money and the enabling role that the mainstream media play in their sycophantic coverage of the New Abnormal:
An astonishing bounty of the comments and developments that make headlines emanate from the arena of fund-raising. We learned that Mitt Romney might enter the 2016 race because he was telling donors as much, and we learned that he had decided otherwise because he was letting donors know. In neither instance did we take sufficient note of that.
We articulate misgivings about how much of Clinton’s or Bush’s thinking may be rooted in the past. But the bigger issue, given the scope of not just their own political histories but also their relatives’, is how heavy a duffel of i.o.u.s each of them would carry into office.
Their prominence is commensurate with their debts. And only so many of those can be forgotten.
My published response:
The one positive thing about a Bush-Clinton neoliberal death match is that it would prove to the gullible, once and for all. that we no longer have a functioning democracy. Duelling wads of cash might as well replace human beings in what pass for free elections. Money, after all, has been declared to be speech by the supreme court.
Recent separate analyses of Congressional voting patterns and presidential initiatives (see Michael Barber and Brian Schaffner) have scientifically established that politicians act more in the interest of their wealthy donors than their poorer constituents. The GOP is much worse, blatantly serving millionaires and billionaires to the detriment of everyone else. Even Democrats pass legislation that mainly favors the upper middle class, defined as those earning between $100,000 and $300,000.
Without a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United and all other means of legalized graft, the corruption will only get worse. As it is, the creeping privatization of what used to be government services and functions amounts to borderline fascism. Relentless propaganda has replaced journalism in the public interest. Personality cult politics, excessive secrecy, a state of endless war, increasing xenophobia and racist rhetoric, failure to prosecute egregious Wall Street fraud, blanket surveillance of citizens -- these are among the symptoms of what Sheldon Wolin calls inverted totalitarianism.
People over profits: ban the money, now.
Oh, I did promise some hilarity to temper the depression, didn't I? Besides his "owned man" bon mot, here are some funny outtakes from The Smart Bush's Chicago speech. He takes the mundane Bushisms of The Stupid Brother to new intellecutal (sic) heights that I'll call Jebbisms. They're guaranteed to give you the hebbie jebbies.  A comedic sampling (this is absolutely verbatim, from the raw C-Span transcript):

 Have a hundred people come. It is a little intimidating with all the friends of the press. But I'm delighted to be here. Thank you for the invite.

  We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends. We definitely no longer inspired fear and our enemies. The problem is perhaps best and mistreated by this administration's approach to Iraq. We have had 35 years of experience with -- excuse me, Iran.

America has opposes efforts. But the Obama administration has launched where the goal has shifted. The ministration seeks to merely to regulate nuclear enrichment.

People have lost confidence in the administration's efforts in relations to Iran. Congress to pass bills to sanctions and require approval in agreement if someone the breach -- if one should be rich. My hope is that the administration would rise and eat this defining foreign-policy issue of our time.


 I come to these issues with a great deal of thought and experience. One of my most formative experiences was when my wife and I at the age of 24 accepted the responsibility of opening up at -- in office in Caracas, Venezuela. We had an 18-month-old and we went down there and Caracas was this booming place. We lived overseas and live outside of our beloved country. We learned how to use something that our parents used -- diapers.


 I have been fortunate to have a father and brother who helped shape America's foreign-policy from the oval office. My views will be held in comparison to theirs. This is a fascinating thing in the political world for some reason. For the record, I love my brother, I love my dad, I love my mother as well, hope that's ok. [laughter] and i admire their service to the nation. But I am my own man. Each president learns from those who came before. 


  You must fix our entitlement -- we must fix our entitlement problems. You must focus on trade. Congress should give the president trade authority. The good news is, we are probably the only country that can make this assertion, if we're serious about it, to become young and dynamic again.


As people lose confidence around the world in capitalism and democracy that underpins capitalism, they move in different directions very if they see America at its best, growing with a tremendous austerity, they will emulate that system as that will bring about a more peaceful world.

 Socialism are the ones who have problems. It is a reminder of the obvious. Free market capitalism provides opportunities for people. The US  has pulled back from the region. (Latin America) The boys are being filled by new actors, -- the voids are being filled by new actors, notably China. Our withdrawal from the region is not appropriate. I think the focus ultimately needs to get back to a free trade agreement of the Americas.


 The first up for the US is to recommit to rebuilding our own military and making a commitment that we are committed to doing this. We want to rebuild  NATO. It is hard for us to go electric Europe about their declining commitment -- to go lecture Europe about their declining commitment when we are doing the same. Need to give the Europeans the sense that you are not disengaging -- we are not disengaging.

 In an extraordinary vantage point in your life. Among your father and his close circle of advisers, your brother and his close circle of advisers, and the quality of service that so many of those people are few to have contributed to those years. There is a perception that the same quality, even if you sort of have a point of comparison, no longer exists. Do think that is true? Or do we look at the rearview mirror with rose tinted glasses? We see things and always view it negatively. I can like, I should be the marine psychologist in the Geico ad. He throws the kleenex at the guy. Get over it. We should not be as pessimistic as we are. We are on the verge of the greatest time to be alive.
Jeb forgot to thank one person. Her name Sarah Palin. I wonder if he can see her from his extraordinary vantage point the same way that she sees Putin from her back porch, rearing his head over Alaska freedom. If Jeb thinks that is true, then he really should give her credit for her extraordinary word salad recipe.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Terror Horror Monster Theater

Without a hint of irony or even a snippet of self-awareness, the Drone President gave a pair of speeches at a Terror Summit this week, arguing that we must wage a war on the extremists and ideologues and propagandists and recruiters and funders who incite disaffected people to commit violence.

He kind of sort of forgot to include himself, Congress, Wall Street, the Supreme Court, the Military-Industrial-Media-Prison Complex and homegrown religious or atheist fundamentalists on his list of the global enemies of humanity. America is exceptional, after all. Do as we say, goes his message to Muslim youth tempted to wage jihad -- not as we do. Obama railed,
As we speak, ISIL is terrorizing the people of Syria and Iraq and engaging in unspeakable cruelty.  The wanton murder of children, the enslavement and rape of women, threatening religious minorities with genocide, beheading hostages.  ISIL-linked terrorists murdered Egyptians in the Sinai Peninsula, and their slaughter of Egyptian Christians in Libya has shocked the world.   Beyond the region, we’ve seen deadly attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, Paris, and now Copenhagen.
Elsewhere, Israelis have endured the tragedy of terrorism for decades.  Pakistan’s Taliban has mounted a long campaign of violence against the Pakistani people that now tragically includes the massacre of more than 100 schoolchildren and their teachers.  From Somalia, al-Shabaab terrorists have launched attacks across East Africa.  In Nigeria and neighboring countries, Boko Haram kills and kidnaps men, women and children.
Oops. He forgot to mention the wanton deaths of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of innocent women and children from American hellfire missiles launched from Predator and Reaper drones. He forgot to mention the thousands of Palestinian civilians killed and maimed by Israeli extremists in their Gaza  concentration camp. He forgot to mention the hundreds of people kidnapped and renditioned and imprisoned by his own special ops security forces and denied due process as they linger without charge or trial, denied even the right to starve themselves because of the force-feeding torture that Obama himself ordered. He forgot to mention his continual protection of CIA torturers, war criminals and Wall Street financial terrorists. He forgot to mention that last year was the deadliest yet in the Afghanistan War. He forgot to mention that his ending of that war is just a fairy tale told for public relations purposes.

To say that he lied by omission is actually being too kind. He lied by revising history itself. For example, there is this:
Obviously, there is a complicated history between the Middle East, the West.  And none of us I think should be immune from criticism in terms of specific policies, but the notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie.  And all of us, regardless of our faith, have a responsibility to reject it.
But then came the typical, self-neutering Obama pivot which also managed to subtly blame the victims while ignoring the fact that the United States has criminally invaded and colonized vast swaths of their territory:
The reality -- which, again, many Muslim leaders have spoken to -- is that there’s a strain of thought that doesn’t embrace ISIL’s tactics, doesn’t embrace violence, but does buy into the notion that the Muslim world has suffered historical grievances  -- sometimes that's accurate -- does buy into the belief that so many of the ills in the Middle East flow from a history of colonialism or conspiracy; does buy into the idea that Islam is incompatible with modernity or tolerance, or that it's been polluted by Western values.
So Obama is essentially absolving Bush, Cheney and the neocons -- still powerful and still granted publicity and prestige despite their crimes -- of all responsibility for lighting the fuse under the current strife and rampage by ISIS. If you're an Iraqi or an Afghan whose whole family was wiped out by American extremists, then you're a conspiracy theorist. If you're aggrieved that American or European imperialism ruined your life or your livelihood, then you're buying into a "notion". And not only that, if you're an American Muslim who doesn't rant and rave against the violent elements every day of your life, then you too will bear responsibility for all the bad stuff, including the blowback against CIA coups and war crimes by the Pentagon.

It's the same thing as telling Catholics they're to blame for priestly pedophilia if they continue attending Mass without also becoming an anti-child porn activist. Obama's moralizing hypocrisy is not that far removed from the government policy of imprisoning Americans of Japanese descent during World War II, for the mere fact of their ancestry.

Obama just spat in the face of the very people he is pretending to care about. As he does so very often, he cancelled himself out. In much the same way that he pretends to fight for the middle class by advocating for the brutal and job-destroying Trans-Pacific Partnership. The same way he pretends to want peace by selling weaponized drones to any country that wants them and refurbishing the entire US stock of nuclear weapons. The same way he signs a climate agreement with China and then opens up the Atlantic to oil and gas drilling. The list goes on and on and on.

Also in typical Obama fashion, he mawkishly inserted his own wife and children into his platitudinous propaganda to show that he's a hokey-jokey human being, just like you:
I’m thinking of a little girl named Sabrina who last month sent me a Valentine’s Day card in the shape of a heart.  It was the first Valentine I got.  (Laughter.)  I got it from Sabrina before Malia and Sasha and Michelle gave me one.  (Laughter.)  So she’s 11 years old.  She’s in the 5th grade.  She’s a young Muslim American.  And she said in her Valentine, “I enjoy being an American.”  And when she grows up, she wants to be an engineer -- or a basketball player.  (Laughter.)  Which are good choices. (Laughter.)  But she wrote, “I am worried about people hating Muslims…If some Muslims do bad things, that doesn’t mean all of them do.”  And she asked, “Please tell everyone that we are good people and we’re just like everyone else.”  (Applause.)  Now, those are the words -- and the wisdom -- of a little girl growing up here in America, just like my daughters are growing up here in America.  “We’re just like everybody else.”  And everybody needs to remember that during the course of this debate.
Yes, except that Malia and Sasha were never stalked by the CIA-trained NYPD or put on terror watch lists because of what they believe or the clothes that they wear. Obama will neither repudiate nor end these surveillance programs, because they are not considered part of the acceptable "debate."

(And just as an aside, perhaps Obama got his valentine late from his daughters because they and Mom were away for the holiday, enjoying another Aspen ski vacation courtesy of the drone-manufacturing Crown family of General Dynamics.) 

The Crowns, the Kochs, the banks, the oil companies, the corporate media, the politicians: they all do their part to keep American terrorism perpetual and profitable and themselves safe, secure and rich.

Talk and summits and debates alternately substitute for and mask the de facto bellicose policies of ObamaWorld. 

Republican David Brooks, often cited as Obama's favorite columnist, slurps the president's bromides on extremism even as he goes along with the GOP extremists who are now revving up their usual bad-cop racist rhetoric and calling the president a touchy-feely soft-hearted wimp for pretending to care about disaffected Muslim youth. Brooks's solution? The middle Eastern jihadists should turn to nationalism  in order to make their world safe for American democracy. I am not kidding. They should make patriotism into their new religion. Brooks is essentially advocating for Nazism to substitute for Islamic jihad.

My published response:
The only extremism we have to fear is that of the predatory ideologues who decided it would be a great idea to plunder and nation-build in Iraq and other middle Eastern regions. These same ideologues continue to roam free and grow rich, attaching themselves like leeches to such corrupt pols as Scott Walker and Jeb Bush. They want to keep the endless wars going, start new ones, and ensure that the most extreme wealth inequality in modern times continues. These extremists would love nothing more than to convert we the people into a billion tiny droplets comprising a geyser of blood, sweat, toil and tears that will gush all the way to the top. And if some of us fall to the bottom in the process, that's just the way the cookie crumbles in GOP Land.
The Republicans and their plutocratic backers in Big Finance and Big Weapons and Big Media thrive on perpetual war and perpetual terror. It's the only thing left propping up the plutonomy -- an economy of, by, and for the obscenely rich.
To sell their extremism to the public, they ratchet up the dread and the fear and the resentment and call it a noble clash of civilizations and a fight for freedom. They broadcast their war and finance porn through the six media conglomerates that now control 90% of everything the American public sees and hears.
 The only extremism we have to fear is the extremism of neocons and hypercapitalists who dress up the greed and subterfuge in spiritual and humanistic terms. They're the devil in disguise.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Obama to America: Fast Track or Die

What's a prevaricating prez to do when he's already got four Pinocchios under his belt for lying about the number of jobs to be created by a neoliberal coup euphemised as a free trade agreement?

He'll lie even more. He'll speak directly to the damned through an email blitz, attempting to draft them into an unpaid zombie coalition of the unwitting to spread the lies to their friends and neighbors. He'll pretend that China is the next enemy in line to creep over the borders and attack middle class zombies asleep in their beds. Sure, China is guilty of currency manipulation in order to sell its  products through Walmart more cheaply than an American manufacturer can. But the problem of currency manipulation isn't even addressed in the TPP!

Give President Obama fast track authority right now this very minute to negotiate your own inevitable misery, or die quickly. Wouldn't you rather be patriotic and let your own country trample you instead of China? Those are your only choices.

I won't even distinguish the White House's email blast as propaganda, because propaganda involves  a little verbal skill and rhetorical sleight of  hand. When it comes to his case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, though, Obama has simply resorted to blatantly lying through his toothsome teeth. The better to eat you with, my dears.

Let's parse the email, sent out yesterday (It's essentially a rehash of his State of the Union bullshit, but repetitive self-plagiarizing bullshit never stopped him before):
 My top priority as President is making sure more hardworking Americans have a chance to get ahead. That's why we have to make sure the United States -- and not countries like China -- is the one writing this century's rules for the world's economy.
Your chance for survival (getting ahead) hinges entirely upon your willingness to work until you drop. If you don't have a job because of the financial collapse and continuing hard times, too bad. The last remaining superpower must control not only the United States economy, but the economy of the whole world.  That's also known as the plutonomy: a system of the wealthy, by the wealthy and for the wealthy. You can either be a pluto-participant, one of a billion tiny droplets comprising the geyser that gushes up to the very top, or you can sink to the bottom. Dig yourselves a hole and plummet all the way to China for all they care. "Give me authority, or give you death," is the gist of the Obama fear-mongering.

And, incidentally, China is already part of the World Trade Organization, so Obama's desperate scare tactic is just a case of closing the barn door after the fact. The Economic Policy Institute estimated that 2.7 million American jobs are already gone as a result of the U.S.-China trade deficit, with 2.1 million of those lost in the manufacturing sector. Along with these job losses, U.S. wages fell due to the competition with cheap Chinese labor. And that has cost a typical U.S. household with two wage-earners around $2,500 per year. So what is Obama even talking about?
Trade has an important role to play in supporting good-paying, middle-class jobs in the United States. Unfortunately, past trade deals haven't always lived up to the hype. That's why I've made it clear that I won't sign any agreement that doesn't put American workers first.
Doing the same things over and over and expecting you to expect different results is how the ruling class rolls. Of course, you are not allowed to see the actual terms and conditions of the TPP, nor is your congressional representative. Take Obama's word for it. Trust him. He'll make sure to put the phrase "American worker" right in the very first paragraph, Really, he will... just before the fine print that screws the workers of America as badly as it screws the workers of the whole world. A screwed American worker is better than a screwed Chinese worker any way you slice it.That is the new abnormal "Sopranos" definition of Made in America.
But we also should recognize that 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders. Exports support more than 11 million jobs -- and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. Failing to seize new opportunities would be devastating not just for our businesses, but for our workers too.
He's actually right that fewer and fewer ordinary Americans can afford to buy crap. The customer base is dwindling all the time. And he's right that the billionaire Koch Brothers and their fellow oligarchs, who are actively lobbying for the TPP, will indeed be emotionally devastated if they can't seize control of the global plutonomy. Corporations will rant and rave and cry and sob if they're thwarted in their crusade to pollute the planet and exploit the workers. Obama, meanwhile, wants to enlist you in common cause with the obscene rich by referring to exploited populations as "our potential customers."

Since the Obama administration was recently awarded four Pinocchios for falsely claiming that the TPP would generate 650,000 new American jobs, they have now deliberately muddled their lie by  throwing out a figure of 11 million jobs created by exports. This, of course, applies to "trade deals" in general, and doesn't actually specify where the jobs are created. Obama couldn't be more vague or misleading if he tried. But he is adhering to the propaganda rule of Joseph Goebbels: tell a big lie often enough, and it will tend to stick -- the same way exporters "tend to" pay their workers higher wages when they're allowed to plunder the universe.

Tellingly, even the experts at the Peterson Institute (funded by billionaire deficit hawk Pete Peterson) are refusing to forecast a jobs boost  from passage of the TPP. These economists-for-hire were burned once before, when they falsely predicted an American jobs boom with the passage of NAFTA. The actual number of American jobs created under TPP is more likely to be a Big Fat Zero, according to Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker and Pinocchio awarder whose report is linked at the top of this post. Beware, he says, of politicians and their fishy math.

But Obama's fishy email burbles on:
That's why my Administration is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- so we can benefit from trade that is not just free, but also fair.
Notice the sudden sly pivot to beneficiaries being "we" (his administration and the VIPs it serves), not you or me. Very, very slimy. Whatever happened to "our" customers?
We have the chance to open up more markets to goods and services backed by three proud words: Made in America. For the sake of our businesses, and American workers, it's an opportunity we need to take.
You are made Americans, so be proud. He is making you an offer you can't refuse. Get kneecapped or get disappeared in the Pine Barrens.
 But beyond greater access to the world's fastest-growing region, the agreement will establish enforceable commitments to protect labor, environmental, and other crucial standards that Americans hold dear.
It's the wonder of plunder in those vast, untapped territories like Australia that currently enjoy quaint protections by individual governments.  You see, since the TPP will replace national courts with  self-serving corporate tribunals to enforce the commitments, the standards will not only be crucial, they will be cruel. For example, Big Tobacco needs to sell its toxic product in countries where they ban sale of cigarettes to children. The TPP will change all that. Big Tobacco could foreseeably be awarded damages from Malaysia for cutting into their pediatric customer base. The American gospel of Consume and/or Die, held so dear, will be spread to countries where the drug culture is not yet protected for the benefit of Big Tobacco or Big PHarma.
Right now, China wants to write the rules for commerce in Asia. If it succeeds, our competitors would be free to ignore basic environmental and labor standards, giving them an unfair advantage over American workers.
Bullshit. As noted above, currency manipulation has nothing to do with the TPP. For purposes of corporate hegemony, China is only the latest scapegoat. The TPP does nothing at all to reduce the trade deficit. As a matter of fact, it would succeed in widening it even more. NAFTA, for example, engendered a $181 billion trade deficit with Mexico and Canada as it destroyed a million (and counting) American jobs.
 We can't let that happen. We should write the rules, and level the playing field for our middle class. The first step is for Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority.
Without letting Congress or you even know what they're voting for. 
 After years of shipping jobs overseas, our manufacturing sector is creating jobs at a pace not seen since the 1990s. Rather than outsourcing, more companies are insourcing and bringing jobs back home. Today, more than half of manufacturing executives have said they're looking at bringing jobs back from China.
The jobs are temporary, precarious and poorly paid. The American worker is gaining parity in low wages with the rest of the world. Of course manufacturers are interested in bringing jobs home if our wages continue to stagnate or drop, if unions continue to be destroyed, if pension plans go broke. It'll boost corporate profits. Unless, of course, the TPP gets rammed through and they can ship even more jobs to Vietnam, a  negotiating partner which now pays its workers a minimum wage of 30 cents an hour.
Let's give them one more reason to get it done, by giving me the tools I need to grow our economy, boost exports for our businesses, and give more hardworking middle-class families a chance to get ahead. Thanks,
President Barack Obama
The one ray of hope we can probably take from Obama's email campaign is that he knows his TPP charm offensive to Congress might be in danger of not working. It's the bipartisanship that dare not speak its name -- an alliance between the Tea Party and the left, striking dread into the radical center. He had heretofore been loath to directly address the American people on the TPP, no doubt because he can't or won't tell us what's really in it.  So his sudden public push is probably a sign of his desperation.

And look who he's just enlisted to strong-arm the Japanese into screwing their own agricultural workers. Ayn Rand afficianado Paul Ryan is leading a bipartisan delegation (consisting of only one token Democrat) to wheel and deal on behalf of Obama and the oligarchs each of them serve in his own unique Good Cop/Bad Cop way.

 

Dastardly Duopolists

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Class War Gaslighting

This just in.... 

Inequality is all in your head, proles! And not only that -- the rich are getting poorer. Or at least not getting as rich as they would like. Pity the poor rich, and stop your kvetching.

This also just in:

Danger: rich plutocrat-serving propaganda ahead. Cross at your own risk.

Today's New York Times and Washington Post, among others, are absolutely orgasming over a new study claiming that income inequality is a crock, and that the fortunes of the obscenely wealthy have actually been reversed since the Great Meltdown of 2008. The journalists, of course, don't bother to tell us who funded the miraculous conclusions behind cherry-picked data purporting to vindicate the malefactors of great wealth.

 All it takes is a Google and a functioning brain to discover that all winding, snaking roads lead back to the same place.


 Here are a few hints: What presidential candidate and failed memoir-seller took flack for claiming that she was "dead broke" when she left the White House? What presidential candidate recently hired 200 economists to help her walk the fine line between serving her wealthy Wall Street masters and running a populist campaign?

Now that you've guessed the answer, let's move on to the propaganda.

"Inequality Has Actually Not Risen Since the Financial Crisis" proclaims the Times' David Leonhardt in the headline of his front page stenographic effort. Quoting George Washington University economist Stephen J. Rose, he soothingly reassures the disgruntled enviers of great wealth that the incomes of the top earners have gone down since the crisis. And, adding insult to injury, the rich were even excluded from the temporary food stamp bonanza and unemployment bennies!
The wealthy have indeed received the bulk of the gains since the recovery began, but they still haven’t recovered their losses. Meanwhile, the steps that the federal government took in response to the crisis, including tax cuts and benefit increases, have mostly helped the nonwealthy.
 Fascinatingly, Mr. Rose’s case is not based on a new or previously undiscovered data set. It’s based on the same statistics most commentators have been using to discuss inequality. The most up-to-date numbers come from the pathbreaking analysis of tax records by Emmanuel Saez, the University of California, Berkeley, professor who often collaborates with Thomas Piketty. A second set of statistics comes from the Congressional Budget Office.
So the "truth" that the rich are not only being unfairly maligned by Piketty and Saez, but they are suffering unimaginable agony, has been hiding in plain sight all this time. And there are charts, charts, by golly, to prove it. So much for those nasty conservatives claiming that the economy is getting worse. If it weren't for meager food stamp stipends and temporary unemployment benefits, regular people would be dead. You regular folks might have lost a third of your incomes, but the rich lost millions and millions from their billions and billions. Therefore, you have no right to complain. You are fortunate without even realizing it.
The average income of the top 1 percent, by comparison, fell 21 percent over the same span. For the top 5 percent, the drop was 15 percent. For the bottom 90 percent of earners, it was 13 percent.
If anything, these pretax data exaggerate the level of inequality, as Mr. Rose notes in his paper, published by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a Washington research group. The rich pay a higher average federal tax rate than the middle class and the poor. (The stories you hear about wealthy investors paying little in taxes are real but not the norm.) And unemployment-insurance payments and other federal benefits help the middle class and poor more than the rich.
What Leonhardt doesn't see fit to mention is that the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is pro-plutocracy neoliberal 501(c) (3) founded in 2006 with corporate money, just as Hillary Clinton was gearing up for her first presidential campaign. Its president, economist Robert D. Atkinson, was previously vice president of the New Democrat Coalition's Progressive Policy Institute, the Wall Street think tank instrumental in orchestrating Bill Clinton's presidential campaign, electing him to office, and helping move the Democratic Party to the right through such achievements as the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the end of direct cash aid to the poor. The New Democrat Coalition (of which Barack Obama himself is a self-described proud member) and its subsidiary, the ITIF, are also proponents of free trade deals like NAFTA, and now the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

That's what this Poor Rich People campaign is really all about. Granting Barack Obama fast-track authority to ram through a deal so unfriendly to regular people that even members of Congress are barred from seeing the details before voting on it. Oh, and promoting Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy by tamping down all that class war rhetoric and gaslighting the struggling voters into thinking that times really aren't as bad as we imagine them to be.

The Wall Street Democrats cynically characterize widening wealth disparity as an evil Republican talking point, the sole purpose being to discredit Barack Obama. Ergo, if you persist in believing that this inequality is for real, then you must be a Ted Cruz fan and an Obama hater. The plutocratic propaganda appeals to the limbic brain, where tribalistic instincts dwell, and thus do facts become unnecessary, even when your target audience consists of educated liberals.

Rose's "poor rich" study being touted by the corporate media is also published by the New Democrat Coalition house organ known as Republic 3.0, whose motto is "Where the Center Holds."

The big problem facing this country, they say, is not wealth disparity. It's Congressional Gridlock(TM) -- a mythical disease existing only in the minds of the media-political complex. The main symptom is the pretense that Democrats and Republicans just can't get stuff done (excluding, of course, starting and funding wars, spying on Americans, rewarding Wall Street and always finding ways to dismantle the New Deal after the manufacture of phony crises). Republic 3.0 (Third Way, get it?) describes its mission thusly:
Public trust in government has ebbed to all-time lows. But practical policy innovations – ideas that are pro-growth, pro-opportunity, broadly appealing and fiscally responsible – are still flourishing across the country. We want to bring those ideas to you and to inspire the kind of change that can only come from the broad center.
The broad center: defined by yours truly as the pathologically self-centered radical self interest of the obscenely rich.

The editor of Republic 3.0 is Anne Kim, another alumnus of the Progressive Policy Institute and Pete Peterson's Third Way. You might remember Pete Peterson as the Wall Street billionaire who funded President Obama's deficit reduction Catfood Commission and its evil stepchild, "Fix the Debt," both of which have called for cuts to Social Security and the social safety net.

In a previous article published in Republic 3.0, inequality skeptic Rose says if we were suffering as much as we claim, we'd be subsisting on off-label coffee.The fact that Starbucks is doing so phenomenomally well is proof that the middle class has money to burn.  Says Rose:
A middle-brow commodity that has grown by leaps and bounds since its founding in 1971 is the Starbucks coffee chain, which now has nearly 12,000 stores in America (and another 9,000 around the world). Before the coffee craze took off, most consumers spent between the equivalent of 50 cents and one dollar for a cup of coffee. Now, a cup of Americano goes for nearly $3 and other options can run to close to $6 a serving. The mass consumption of this kind of coffee is a sign of economic growth because otherwise people would be spending their money on bargain coffee.
Oh, and how can we be poor when we have cars and refrigerators? Rose, the suave Charles Boyer of economists-for-hire, is spewing the exact same gaslighting nonsense as Paul Ryan and the vicious blame-the-poor misanthropes on the other side of the Money Party aisle.


What Inequality? You Drink Coffee, Don't You?


Fortunately for the unfortunates, though, New York Times readers don't seem to be swallowing the Wall Street-funded propaganda as enthusiastically as they swallow their coffee. The biggest complaint among commenters is that Rose is only measuring income inequality, not wealth inequality. The rich, unlike the rest of us, don't draw a regular hourly wage or salary. They live off their investments, their assets, their rents, their inheritances, their various financial instruments, their fraud... and the blood, tears, toil and sweat of all the rest of us.

Sorry, rich people. Sorry, Hillary. Call us crazy, but no sale. We've woken up and smelled the coffee. Your ladders of opportunity are full of dry rot.