Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kitchen Sink #2: BernieSoWhite

Now that Bernie Sanders has proven his cred with white voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, the pundits are dutifully preparing us for his Great Fall in (Black) South Carolina and (Brown) Nevada. It seems that Hillary Clinton owns the African-American and Latino vote because she's been around awhile, and Bernie has had the bad taste to reside in lily-white Vermont for most of his life. Bad Bernie. Bad, bad Bernie.

For the best synopsis of Clintonian racist policies as opposed to Clintonian colorblind rhetoric, don't miss  Michelle ("The New Jim Crow") Alexander's piece in The Nation. It is scathing in its historical completeness.

It is so scathing that over at the pro-Clinton New York Times, columnist Charles Blow attempted to mitigate the damage by denigrating a new faction called the Bernie-splainers. (They appear to be closely related to those annoying Bernie Bros I hear so much about, but have never seen in the flesh, not even in my own lefty rowdy party college town.)

Blow begins: 
I cannot tell you the number of people who have commented to me on social media that they don’t understand this support. “Don’t black folks understand that Bernie best represents their interests?” the argument generally goes. But from there, it can lead to a comparison between Sanders and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; to an assertion that Sanders is the Barack Obama that we really wanted and needed; to an exasperated “black people are voting against their interests” stance.
That's right. He cannot, therefore does not, tell us the actual number of white people who wrote him such insulting messages. Not one direct quote among the whole alleged bunch. Blow presents no evidence that any of the Bernie-splainers are presenting Sanders as a kind of Great White Hope to all those ignorant black folk, or have been "talking down" to black people.

Blow then goes on to explain that Hillary-style "functional pragmatism" has always worked better for black people. I guess he forgot about Martin Luther King's fierce urgency of now, and his brave stance against incremental change, and his marches through Chicago, Washington and Memphis, and the poor people's encampment that continued as planned after he was murdered.

Then Blow pivots back into the stale establishment talking points about Bernie possessing a "whiff of fancifulness," and how it's always been safer to vote for politicians you know (Clinton) than politicians you don't know (Sanders.) He does not explain that many voters don't know about Sanders precisely because the newspaper which employs him has made it its duty to make sure they don't. 

While I completely get Blow's pique about politicians pandering to different demographics for the sole purpose of garnering votes, I am pretty appalled that he has resorted to the same old straw man (sexist bigoted progressives) argument in order to passive-aggressively boost Hillary's candidacy.

My published comment: (lots of wonderful ones: read them all.)
 You know what irks me? The epidemic of pundit-splaining about Bernie Sanders. Despite the best efforts of the mainstream press to alternately ignore, silence and ridicule him, Bernie isn't going away. And since he isn't going away, the corporate media are moving on to Plan B: pit liberal voters against one another. Gaslight them. Explain to the teeming masses that democracy is really just a theory, and not to be actually practiced outside of voting for approved candidates every two or four years.
We're told to vote by our gender, skin color or ethnicity -- or else risk offending the members of our endangered group. Madeleine Albright warns women about a special place in hell. Paul Krugman tells Bernie-supporters that our "happy dreams" are an invitation to a Trump presidency. And those ephemeral Bernie Bros are lurking in alleys, ready to pounce on American maidenhood.
I participated in a Latino conference call for Bernie a couple of weeks ago. Nevada state Rep. Lucy Flores, who is running for Congress, made the salient point that we are not members of some monolithic voting bloc, ripe for being scared into co-optation.. We vote on the issues. We have our own agency. 
 Don't fall for the same old divide and conquer techniques that keep struggling people down and out, and the plutocracy entrenched in power.
People are realizing that Identity politics is harmful to our health. We're showing a lot more solidarity these days.
And that is scaring the elites to death.
No matter what happens in the primaries, what is imperative is that the enthusiasm prevails. No matter what the outcome, the word "socialism" has been fully accepted into the great American lexicon. No matter who wins and who loses, the country is moving in a decidedly leftward, anti-oligarchial direction.

I suspect, too, that the recent visit of Pope Francis and his popular message of inclusive social justice and solidarity went a long way in facilitating the rise of Bernie Sanders, who has openly expressed his own admiration for the Pope and Catholic social teaching in the vein of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.


Suggestions for further reading:

Rima Regas, regular Times commenter, also runs an excellent blog (listed on my "roll" under Blog # 42). Her latest entries, on Hillary and Israel, and the lack of ethics in media coverage of Bernie Sanders, are must-reads. Her graphic showing the lovable Paul Krugman at an elite Clinton rally is a hoot.   

Black Agenda Report's Bruce Dixon reports that the best outcome of the Democratic primaries would be a permanent split in the party and an end to "the rich man's duopoly." He still believes that Bernie is "sheepdogging" young voters into the Democratic fold, and that he is probably as surprised as anybody that his democratic socialist message is catching fire. Dixon agrees with Blow's observation that even though black people have a long radical political tradition, they historically have not voted for radical candidates in national elections. They vote Democrat merely to seek protection from the agenda of the GOP -- which, let's face it, would just as soon they disappear. The Democratic Party, co-opting black churches, colleges, sororities, fraternities and civic groups, resembles nothing so much as a protection racket.

Best line from Dixon's piece: "The Democrats ooze like pus from every orifice of the Black body politic."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Kitchen Sink: Episode One In An Infinite Series

To his credit, Bernie Sanders waxed sanguine in last night's victory speech. He fully expects the Clintonoids to throw the kitchen sink at him as well as everything else at their (garbage) disposal. He fully expects the mainstream media to continue treating him (and by extension, his supporters) with utter disdain.

The Kitchen Sink has Nixonian soap scum and rancid grease ringed all around it. It is already becoming a virtual petri dish of dirty tricks.

One recent artifact in the atrocity exhibition shows Hillary Clinton papering over the stonewalling about her paid Wall Street speeches with ever more layers of dishonesty.  Jonathan Turley writes that "an unknown group of Clinton supporters has created a clearly misleading site called Hillaryclintonspeeches that comes up whenever someone tries to search the controversies. What they find is not a site on the speech controversy, but a pro-Clinton site that directs them to glowing reviews of Clinton and campaign websites."

Turley is right. A Google search of "Hillary Wall Street speeches" brings up the phony site right near the top of the results list. Far from addressing the speech controversy, it is essentially an aggregation blog of all things Clinton. The writing itself, while not really terrible, is of decidedly high school newspaper caliber. Flint, Michigan, for example, is glossed over as simply "having a struggle with poor water quality." The latest entry, published post-Sanders rout, offered a robotic, blow-by-blow account of the Clinton Family's Day. First, they took a walk. Then, it snowed. Then, Hillary spoke. Yada yada yada. 

A few days earlier, it reported, Bill had said Bernie was a hermetically sealed hypocrite. 
The fan site, with archives dating all the way back to last week, is obviously a production of the Clinton Machine, with the express purpose of diverting attention from the alleged graft and corruption. They don't particularly seem to care about editing, or making their candidate sound especially coherent. The whole idea seems to be that if I can read about what Chelsea ate for breakfast, I will forget all about the fraud and corruption running like a polluted river through the family DNA. 

A clumsily-worded sample from "Hillary Clinton Speeches": 
On Sunday, Hillary sat down with Jake Tapper for an interview during CNN's State of the Union. In an episode that featured interviewed (sic) with candidates from both parties, Tapper asked Clinton about her record and how she deals with the double standard of treatment as a female candidate. She said, "We are still living with a double standard. I know it. Every woman I know knows it, whether you're in the media as a woman, or you're in the professions or business or politics, and I don't know anything other to do than just keep forging through it, and just keep taking the slings and arrows that comes with being a woman in the arena." Clinton was also asked about her trip to Flint, Michigan later Sunday afternoon. 
 Anyway, I signed up for an email subscription just for the hell of it, and received the usual anonymous "do not reply" WordPress confirmation request. But maybe my spies can figure out the source of this amateurish endeavor. My guess would be the Digital War Room of Hillary's Brooklyn HQ.

Judging from the inexpert writing quality, the actual scribes are probably unpaid interns. (First and foremost, she sat down with Jake Tapper. Asked about the double standard, Hillary talked about the double standard. Asked about her trip to Flint, Hillary talked about her trip to Flint, etc. The bloggers have apparently not yet gotten around to learning about punchy ledes and the avoidance of redundancy.)

 I mustn't be too harsh, though. After all, Hillary is too cheap to pay her young interns a salary. She does require a CV, two letters of recommendation, and also solicits Tweets from millennials, asking them to share with her how their crushing student debt makes them feel. Then she picks the lucky, wage-free winners. I'm willing to speculate that if they're really lucky, the Hillaryclintonspeeches bloggers might get partial credit toward their Communications 101 courses. They might learn about the five Ws, and even the H. (who, what, when, where, why and how.)

 Bernie Sanders, for his part, pays his young interns $10.10 an hour. He is the only presidential candidate to do so. I am told that they even write personal replies to people who email Sanders. None of this canned "Friend: Have my back. Send $1!"

 So much for Hillary's claim to care about the debt-saddled, underemployed youth of America. So much for winning their hearts, minds, or votes.

One important difference between the two Democratic candidates:

Hillary puts her mouth where the money is, and Bernie puts his money where his mouth is. Hillary is all about Her. Bernie is all about Us.

....To Be Continued.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

He's So Vain

 (optional soundtrack.)

Poor Barack Obama. He went to all that trouble to break up the ragtag Occupy Wall Street movement during one hippie-punching, pepper-spraying police state week back in the fall of 2011. And now it's all come back to bite him in the ass.

 The elders of the Democratic Party thought that they'd accomplished, if not the death of OWS, at least its co-optation. After all, Obama handily won re-election the following year. But mirabile dictu!  Occupy, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Fight for 15 and other activist groups have sneaked right back in to occupy the Democratic Party itself. The national conversation has been hijacked by an FDR liberal named Bernie Sanders, who might end up not only succeeding Obama, but dealing the coup de grace to the entire Neoliberal Project of the Reagan Revolution and the Clintonoid Third Way.

Democracy is rearing its ugly head again, and Obama is reportedly very, very nervous about this whole revolution thing. Even with his legendary genius IQ -- augmented lavishly by the Deep State brains of the CIA, the NSA and the FBI  -- he never saw Bernie Sanders coming.

Empress-in-Waiting Hillary Clinton's gross corruption and incompetence has let him down, big-time. He is probably kicking himself for so ever cutely attempting to co-opt her as his Secretary of State, thereby keeping a dangerous political enemy close. Without that patronage fillip, she would only have been a First Lady, an unaccomplished Senator, and a failed 2008 presidential candidate. Without Obama's own arrogant willful blindness to her private Internet account and her use of public office to enrich her family slush fund, she might have even been fired halfway through her frequent flier marathon as his ineffectual Good Will Ambassador.

Obama has only himself to blame for the rise of Bernie Sanders and socialism as the default position of a whole lost generation of over-educated, underpaid, deeply indebted young people who have never known a day when this country has not been at war. And for that accomplishment alone, I think he should be allowed to keep his Nobel Peace Prize.

Since it would now appear unseemly to either actively campaign for Hillary Clinton, bring in Joe Biden, or directly criticize Bernie Sanders, Obama must look to other reliable sources to get his message of displeasure out. So he has turned to his exclusive cadre of journalists and opinion-writers to be his off-the-record conduits of the Obama Story he wants the public to hear.

Over the weekend, Carl Bernstein (both a White House insider and Hillary Clinton biographer) went on CNN to announce how very, very upset the president is about the ongoing bitter Democratic primary. It's hurting Obama's precious legacy. If Bernie Sanders beats Hillary, that legacy might go up in flames. Obama's corporate coup (the TPP) might be dust. His market-based health insurance kludge might morph into a single payer Medicare for All plan. Wall Street and corporate felons might actually be prosecuted instead of being granted the tax breaks and cabinet and government advisory positions to which they have become accustomed.

Therefore, said Bernstein, the White House wants all the people to realize how absolutely imperative it is that Hillary Clinton be elected to succeed Barack Obama:

 Obama wants to broadcast the fear-mongering message that Sanders's socialism is out of touch with mainstream America -- despite the fact that millennial voters themselves overwhelmingly identify as socialist. As Bernstein tells it on CNN, Hillary's problem is not that she accepted money from Goldman Sachs and other banks: it's that she doesn't know how to feign proper humility before the public.

 The Washington insider wisdom is that Bernie isn't electable, and Hillary isn't delectable.

In other words, she can't do the "I feel your pain" head-fake as well as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

So, cue right-of-center David Brooks, not only an esteemed member of Obama's inner circle of off-the-record pundits, but often described as the center-right president's particular favorite columnist.

Brooks wrote an elegiac piece titled "I Miss Barack Obama" in today's New York Times. The accompanying photo shows Obama wand'ring lonely as a cloud to the Oval Office, embowered in a princely burst of flowering foliage in lieu of the more obvious crown of laurels. 

  Brooks channels presidential angst in all its froth and narcissism. Barack's greatest fear is not for the dire fates of ordinary people. It's that all his genius will be for naught, given Hillary's tanking numbers, the Republican clown car, and the specter of Bernie Sanders succeeding him.

Brooks mawkishly allows that while he often has had to pretend to disagree with Obama for partisan tribal purposes, the current occupant of the White House stands head and shoulders above mere mortals.
But over the course of this campaign it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.
The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.
There are no mass media-reported scandals because the Obama regime has been rightly described as the most secretive in modern history. We know few details of his drone assassination program, for example, or his own closed-door fundraisers, or what went on behind the scenes of the orchestrated crackdown on Occupy, or the suppression of the 9/11 report section dealing with the Saudi royal family's role in the attacks, or the suppression of the CIA torture report. And those are just the scandals that come immediately to my mind. (For a full accounting of his first term, please see the "Obama Scandals List" on my Blog Roll.)

Meanwhile, Brooks manages to destroy his own homage by displaying some unintentional colorblind racism, fawning over the Obamas as one of those "respectable" black families. Barack and Michelle have displayed "superior integrity," Brooks gushes. "You'd be happy to have them in your community." (Apparently they would be that rare black couple who would not lower Brooks's property values if they moved next door to him.)

Brooks would not like Bernie Sanders to live within a thousand miles of him, because he is "so blinded by his values that reality doesn't seem to penetrate his mind." He would rip health care away from thousands (SanderScare) and even worse, rip the wings right off the insurance raptors!  Obama, on the other hand, knows his proper place in the grand white supremacy scheme of things.  He also doesn't "wallow in the pornography of pessimism."

Obama always presents a rapturous, G-rated Pollyannish picture about how great America is, how much the economy is improving, how much he loves peace even as he rains down his bombs and orchestrates his secret coups. Because if he told the truth to people -- the truth that their lives and prospects suck because of the unfettered capitalism he enables -- then the people might just stage a revolution.

Oh, wait.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Bill Kills

Last night while you were watching a bizarre Superbowl commercial featuring an ultrasound fetus seizing up at the sound of Daddy crunching Doritos, First Dude Wannabe Bill Clinton went full Quentin Tarantino with a bizarre verbal seizure of his own.

Dressed nattily and folksily in a Buffalo plaid shirt, the aging ex-prez outed himself as a pathetic troller of Internet trolls who are (shock!) bashing Wifey based solely upon her XX chromosomes. Of course, the way the New York Times headline described his puerile hissy fit, it was a lot more intellectual: "Bill Clinton Launches Stinging Attack on Bernie Sanders." 

But Bill's tirade against Sanders -- as well as against the supporters whom Hillary hopes to seduce should she win the nomination -- was more like a flailing sledgehammer than the skilled jabs of a boxer or polemicist. 

He told the sad but unverifiable tale of an anonymous "female progressive blogger" who has been personally injured in comments boards by those ubiquitous and largely nonexistent Bernie Bros. He ridiculed Sanders for voting for the Wall Street-friendly Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which Clinton himself immediately signed after passive-aggressively sneaking it, at the last minute, into an 11,000-page lame duck omnibus monstrosity. Few legislators had a chance to notice it, let alone study it. Clinton now fails to mention why he signed it instead of vetoing it.

Clinton also went into high dudgeon because it appears that Bernie once slipped up and not only attended a DNC fundraiser, he had the gall to breathe the same air as the lobbyists in attendance. And on and on. If this is the best oppo research that the crack Clinton team can come up with, then Bernie is a shoo-in for both the nomination and the general.

It's almost as though Bill Clinton wants to put his wife's campaign out of its misery by killing it as quickly as possible. Or then again, maybe the whole idea is to deliberately make himself look like such an asshole that people will vote for Hillary out of pity. The anti-Bernie New York Times, for some odd reason, even described his appearance as "poignant." The reporter seemed to half-realize midway through dutifully transcribing Bill's unhinged remarks how truly bizarre they were.

Red-baiting has been proven ineffective. So has the ridiculous shaming of female voters by feminist "icons" Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem.

 Bill Clinton infamously co-opted the Reagan Revolution and turned the Democratic Party to the right by announcing during his first campaign that "the era of big government is over."

And now Bernie Sanders is proving through his own first campaign that the era of corrupt, Clinton-style identity politics is over. 

Trickle-down feminism of the type being espoused by multimillionaires Hillary Clinton, Albright and Steinem is as much a sham as trickle-down economics. Women living on the brink of financial collapse are not up for vicariously enjoying Hillary Clinton's shattering of any glass ceiling.

 We are all too aware of the falling, deadly shards that she has already left in her wake. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Plutapocalypse Now

Could Friday's catastrophic collapse of a too-big-to-exist construction crane in the Big Finance Data Hub of lower Manhattan be a precursor to the collapse of the too-awful-to-believe presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton? After all, both disasters are rooted in the greed and corruption of the American plutocracy.

Just one day before the 600-foot-tall apparatus teetered and fell, killing one person and injuring several, it had been certified as safe as the pre-iceberg Titanic... as safe as the cumbersome machine straining to hoist another Clinton back to the heights of power. But sometimes all it takes is one fresh gust of wind to topple even the strongest-appearing edifice.

Today, all that remains of the New York accident is a bleak caravan of crushed luxury cars, broken glass, construction debris, gas and water main leaks, and pockmarked high-rises stretching for more than two city blocks. The gentrified landscape of the Wealth Inequality Capital of America was transformed into a post-apocalyptic movie in the space of a New York minute. It will take days, even weeks, for deconstruction crews to complete the painstaking job of separating the wreckage into removable pieces.

(credit: Roberto Alvarez)

From the New York Post:
 Officials have yet to explain why exactly the crane capsized, but one expert explained that a 565-foot boom is devilishly tricky to lower.“It will take hundreds of tons just to counterbalance that boom, and if you do it too quickly, it could be thrown off balance,” said James Pritchett, president of Crane Experts International, which investigates such mishaps. The crane’s operator, Kevin Reilly, 56, has a record of three DWI arrests, all from the 1980s. He was questioned by cops after the collapse and submitted to a Breathalyzer test, blowing a clean .000, law-enforcement sources said.
Locals said the crane’s looming presence had been making them nervous all week.
The irony -- that the collapsed crane was erected to install new infrastructure on the roof of the iconic Western Union building for the specific purpose of speeding up energy-hungry casino capitalism --  should not be lost on us. The whole point of putting monster-generators on the roof instead of in the basement or at ground-level was to avoid inconveniencing the residents of the tony neighborhood, as well as to avoid interrupting the high frequency trading orgy of the surrounding brokerage houses.

The irony is that high-speed trades are just the kind of fraudulent activity that Bernie Sanders railed against during his debate with Hillary Clinton the night before the accident. Sanders wants to institute a tax on the high-speed traders of Wall Street in order to pay for free tuition at public colleges. Hillary just wants the grifters to snort a gram or two less, and call it a reformation.

The doomed crane had been lowering 62,000-pound generators onto the steel-reinforced roof above the 24th floor of the landmark Western Union building at 60 Hudson Street, when squall warnings prompted crews to attempt lowering it to the ground for the duration. They lost control, and the edifice crashed, of its own top-heavy volition, to the streets below.

Since the city's existing power grid is not sufficient to power the servers, switches and storage units necessary for the turbo-charged capitalistic ambitions of a company called DataGryd, the owner has had to install his own private infrastructure. The original plans for underground installation were pre-empted by flooding fears in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. So, considerate guy that he is, CEO Peter Feldman seized upon the unique idea of going Up, Up and Up in order to avoid inconveniencing the high speed trader-tenants already making money hand over fist in both the building itself and in the surrounding neighborhood. Such high-speed trading is, apparently, extremely noise sensitive. "We had to modernize and future-proof the building. We had to turn the building inside out to do it," he told an interviewer in 2014. "But now we can meet future market demand."

Or maybe not. The sound of Feldman's collapsing crane has been compared to the sound of the Twin Towers collapsing on 9/11. Oops. But since Hillary Clinton is representing New Hampshire instead of New York this week, she is not rushing to the scene to comfort her Financial District constituents, as she bragged about doing in one of early debates. To the contrary, she took their money and ran... for the presidency.  

Meanwhile, the monster "crawler cranes" of the type that collapsed on Friday are a new and ubiquitous feature of real estate-booming, class-disparate New York City. People have compared them to the science fiction creatures known as the Transformers. Whenever one of these steel monsters appears in the neighborhood, whenever the wind kicks up, people get very, very nervous. 

Faux-progressive Mayor Bill De Blasio, just back in town after stumping for Hillary Clinton in Iowa, was sanguine about the latest catastrophe. Only one person was killed, he bragged. (The victim was a Harvard grad/math whiz employed at the high-speed firm responsible for more than half of all the rigged stock trading in the United States.) And anyway, this wasn't a case of blatant neglect, since Feldman's contractor was in the process of lowering the crane when it collapsed. Stuff happens. In capitalism as in war, you have to expect some collateral damage. "This is a totally different matter," De Blasio insisted, while Comptroller and former Public Advocate Scott Stringer accused overworked building inspectors of "sleeping on the job."  

Machine operators and political operators alike, it appears, have yet to learn the laws of physics.  

Things fall apart, things go ka-boom, whenever there is too much power and weight at the very top. Any toddler playing with her first set of building blocks quickly learns that you need a strong foundation to keep your tower from collapsing. 

NASA also came out a few years ago with a handy guide, called HANDY, to explain just how inequality inevitably leads to societal and economic collapse. It ain't rocket science.  Neither is the fact that corruption is the direct result of politicians taking money from plutocrats. No entitled candidate is immune. Not even fake Transformer Hillary Clinton. 

As a matter of fact, it was the deregulation-happy Clinton administration which has allowed high frequency trading (HFT) firms in the neighborhood of Friday's crane collapse to grow and flourish in the first place. As mentioned above, the one fatality of the collapse was employed as a "flashboy" or "mathlete" in the firm which has perfected the practice. President Obama has always strongly opposed taxing these outfits, as have the Wall Street contributors to both political parties. Clinton herself only very narrowly wants to reform HFTs, to the extent of barring "false orders" -- cancelling a trade the split second after it is ordered. Tax-free HFT itself would be kept in place under her administration. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, wants to rehab Wall Street by making it pay for gambling with other people's money.

 Capitalism on crack is devilishly tricky to detox, but detox it we must. Cure it of its addiction, or let it rest in peace before it kills the rest of us.

Stop the poison of the plutocracy. Feel the Bern.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Bickersons Do New Hampshire

 **Updated below.

Thanks to corporate media goading, the marathon reality show known as the New Hampshire Primaries threatens to devolve into a high school junk food fight.

On the Democratic side, the pressing exam question du jour is "Who's a progressive?" On the Republican side, there are no questions. There are only class clowns, and serious questions are not, and never were, in the script. 

Last night, CNN's Anderson Cooper, fresh off his depraved New Year's Eve "comedy" gig with Kathy Griffin, pressed Bernie Sanders on his loyalty to Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Sanders fumbled badly, first denying writing the blurb with his name on it for Bill Press's critique-from-the-left of Obama. Then he fumbled again, by pleading that Obama has had some progressive moments, despite all evidence to the contrary. Then he blew it big-time by suddenly pivoting from proud socialism and insisting: "Of course I am a Democrat."

Somebody just shoot me. If Bernie keeps this up, he's going to start losing the support of the nation's youth, who are really the ones instigating the new socialist wave in this country. As I have been saying all along, the Occupy movement never did die. Bernie himself seems to be shocked to find himself riding on the crest of this tsunami. Even some hardcore socialists and Greens have backed down from their initial attacks, which accused him of "sheep-dogging" new voters into the Democratic fold. With Bernie or without Bernie, socialism is the default position of the under-30 crowd now bearing the brunt of decades of harsh Clintonian neoliberal policies.

The only thing that saved Sanders's hide at last night's town hall, in fact, was another breathtaking gaffe by Hillary Clinton. (By the way, if Bernie says "I like and respect Secretary Clinton" one more awful time, I'll throw my copy of Howard Zinn at him. He should loathe and fear her, just like any self-respecting human for whom a modicum of survival is a top priority).

But back to the gaffe. When Cooper asked her if she'd made "a bad error in judgment" in accepting $675,000 from Goldman Sachs for three private speeches, she flippantly retorted: "That's what they offered!" (A bribe by any other name should smell as sweet.)

She went on to whine that since every other secretary of state has cashed in upon leaving office, why not her? And anyway, she burbled, she didn't know she was running until she formally announced last spring... despite the Ready for Hillary PAC and the pre-endorsements from nearly every establishment elite with a public office or a checkbook, and the fact that the New York Times had already established a full-time Hillary Desk by 2013, shortly after she left the State Department in order to "explore" her future career plans.

But back to Sanders. I think he's goofed by calling her a "moderate" who has no right to the progressive moniker - which then led to the inevitable demands for him to define his terms, and differentiate progressivism from liberalism. 

He should simply and correctly call her a conservative, a right-winger, a neoliberal, or even a neocon, given her bellicosity. He should contrast the two wings of the Democratic Party and educate his younger audience on how Hill and Bill spearheaded the move to the right back in the 90s with their Democratic Leadership Council (now known as the New Democrat Coalition), aka the Third Way, aka the second wave of the Reagan Revolution. He should be noting that these centrists have long co-opted the word "progressive." The most glaring example is the Clintons' own corporate-funded Center for American Progress think tank, founded by her campaign manager and former Obama Chief of Staff, lobbyist John Podesta.

Another Clintonista-riddled centrist think tank is the Progressive Policy Institute, whose economic "studies" helped propel Bill Clinton to the presidency, pass NAFTA, and repeal Glass-Steagall.  Most recently, the PPI wrote a plutocrat-soothing report which falsely claims that inequality has not risen since the 2008 crisis.

According to SourceWatch, the  PPI has been funded by such corporations as Eli Lilly, AT&T, the Koch Brothers' Georgia-Pacific Foundation, Ameritech, Chevron, and BP. Bernie should really bring up the Clintons' hidden ties to the always-popular Kochs while he's at it. There are so many more Hillary-affiliated villains out there to pick on besides Lloyd Blankfein and Goldman Sachs.

Bernie and Hillary will be back at it tonight, in a face-to-face MSNBC debate co-moderated by Rachel Maddow and Truckle Chodd. I'll have the popcorn and the dog-eared Howard Zinn ready.

My advice to Sanders is to ignore the polls on Obama's continuing popularity and not be afraid to "distance" himself from a president who not only also took money from Wall Street, he also actively sheltered Wall Street crooks from prosecution.  You can't criticize Hillary Clinton without also criticizing Barack Obama.

Sanders should call Obama out directly for cravenly calling the Trans-Pacific Partnership one of the most "progressive" pillars of his entire tenure. He shouldn't be afraid to mention that Obama has upgraded slave-trading Malaysia's human rights status just so that rich multinationals can exploit even more people and grow even richer.  Ralph Nader can even helpfully supply Sanders with 10 reasons why there is nothing even remotely progressive about Obama's attempted corporate coup. It's not enough to simply accuse Clinton of "flip-flopping" on it after championing it 45 separate times.

There is nothing even remotely moderate about Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders should not stoop to honor her with that distinction. In Clinton World, progress is about as healthy as a metastatic cancer.If the Clintons have proven nothing else, it's that they will stop at nothing in their ruthless and immoderate quest for power.

** Update, 2/5. I have to say, it was a great debate, and although Bernie lost a few opportunities to verbally destroy Hillary, he got in plenty of jabs to render her relatively helpless. The withering look on her face as he railed against Wall Street fraud without needing to mention her by name was worth the price of admission.  I didn't have to toss my dog-eared Howard Zinn at the TV, after all.

She obviously bested him on foreign policy factoids, given her four long wasted years of frequent-flying, bloodthirsty imperialistic experience. What can I say: the guy is not that into becoming Commander in Chief of the world's largest, most bloated military ever. Maybe if Bernie is elected, the war machine will just start to wither away through lack of interest. And the world, for once, will be safe from American democracy. (OK, so I'm getting way too ahead of myself and starting to sing John Lennon in my head.)

If you missed the debate and read about it in the New York Times, you probably got the mistaken impression that it was Hillary Triumphans all the way. Jonathan Martin and Patrick Healy took her aggrieved retort about being "smeared," and made it the lede and highlight of their slanted coverage.

My published comment: 

I think I must have been watching a different debate from the one described here by Martin and Healy. The "bitterness and rancor" angle is highly overblown. Long before candidates entered the second half of the debate, the tone became almost too civil on both sides. I think they both realized they were being set up for a semantic food fight. And thanks to the subsequent relative dearth of "gotchas" by the moderators, I was able to learn a lot more about their positions. They actually spoke in complete, uninterrupted paragraphs. What a refreshing change from the boilerplate soundbites we've come to expect from the GOP's fascist clowns.

  If you happened to miss the debate and were relying solely upon this article for a recap, you were sadly misled. Clinton did not launch a harshest of all harsh attacks on Sanders. If anything, she disingenuously overreacted to his correct observation that Wall Street has an outsize influence on politicians and his call to do away with the legalized bribery of Citizens United.

Yet the opening paragraph of this piece would have you believe that Clinton destroyed Sanders in one fell swoop. Huh?

This is the Times doing what it does best: diminishing/attacking Bernie Sanders through the same insinuation and innuendo that Clinton ascribed to her opponent. It's a terminal case of journalistic OCD, and apparently highly resistant to the usual therapy of fairness and accuracy.

For a clear picture, simply watch the debate or read the transcript.


Monday, February 1, 2016

What's the Matter With Iowa

I've been informed by such establishment outlets as the New York Times that Iowa is actually deciding the presidential election of 2016. If Trump wins this teensy-weensy caucus, he wins the GOP nomination. If Sanders loses Iowa, he loses the entire nation. Game over, people. Your votes, as ever, will not really count.

This is what they want you to think, of course. Iowa is just the convenient excuse for the ruling elite to get what they want. And let's face it, what they want is the downfall of democracy. By making it as hard as possible for "folks" to attend the caucuses, they ensure that very few people will have the energy, money, transportation and time to participate in the selection process. The "grassroots democracy" of the Iowa caucuses is overgrown with choking weeds. The only beneficiaries of this endless spectacle are the TV networks and the SuperPacs raking in the dough from the contrived, horse-race frenzy of it all.

Marty Kaplan of The Jewish Journal is right on the money (the really big money) when he writes:
What a dangerous distraction the Iowa spectacle has been from the dysfunction and unfairness of democracy as we now know it. No, worse, what a cynical celebration of it. Pitifully few Americans vote, and shockingly few of them are young or poor or people of color, yet we give wildly disproportionate influence to the white rural voters of one small state whose priorities, like subsidies for corn-based ethanol, are nationally marginal, and whose disposable time for caucus-going is unimaginable to parents working multiple shifts at multiple jobs.
At the same time, what a bonanza it’s been for the state’s TV and radio stations, which have raked in tens of millions of dollars in attack ads, and what a bordello it’s been for the billionaires and special interests who’ve anonymously funded those air wars.
What a misbegotten surrogate for civic seriousness this interminable campaign has become, with news networks getting in bed with parties to co-sponsor debates, selling national ad time for those debates at Super Bowl rates and polluting public discourse with bloviating “strategists” and accountability-free predictions.
And the excellent Paul Street, who knows whereof he speaks because he actually lives in Iowa, damns the state's caucuses as a classist slap in the face to democracy. People are expected to drop everything just after dinner to cast their votes. Shift-workers are denied the chance to have their voices heard. Aged and disabled people are expected to venture out in the ice and snow. Struggling parents have to find a few spare dollars for child care. 
  Many of these folks would seem to be precisely the sort of working class people one might expect to gain from the enactment of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ progressive domestic social agenda, including a significant increase in the federal minimum wage and single-payer (Medicare for All) health insurance. But most early evening workers can’t participate in the Iowa presidential Caucus pitting Sanders against the corporate Democrat Hillary Clinton next Monday night. There’s no federal or statewide Election Day law requiring employers to let those workers participate in the “beloved Iowa political ritual.” The prime-time workers who want to Caucus have to ask for special permission (so their bosses can find replacements) and give up lost wages to go sit and stand through hours of political deliberation.
Street goes to  describe what amounts to a classroom session from hell, in which boring professorial types run the show and have undue influence on the outcome of the D-Party "vote." Anybody who's ever been trapped in a company boardroom for the putative purpose of airing employee grievances knows just how this psychological warfare works. They'll wear you down, and wear you down, until your eyes bleed and you'll do anything, anything at all, to just escape and go home.

Amazingly enough, Street says, the Republican Iowa caucuses are actually more human-friendly than the Democratic variety. You simply write your choice down on a paper ballot and you're done. Voters with short attention spans are just what the right-wing doctor ordered.

Is it any wonder that the participation rate for the Iowa caucuses is only a measly 16 percent? This makes the recent, worst turnout-in-modern history Congressional midterm elections look like an overwhelming plebiscite in comparison, with a whopping one-quarter to one-half of eligible voters bothering to show up in a burst of enthusiasm.

 I'm treating Iowa the same way that the Oz Gatekeeper advised Dorothy to pay no attention to the little man operating the controls behind the curtain. The show is corny, and the directors are doing their unlevel best to rig the outcome. They'll try to convince us that what happens in Iowa won't stay in Iowa. Subsidized ethanol will escape the Heartland to melt the icy climes of New Hampshire before it chemically pivots to solidify the "Black Firewall" of South Carolina,  and then creeps its greasy way back west to Nevada. 

Unless, of course, Bernie Sanders ekes out a victory over Hillary Clinton. If that comes to pass, we'll be told that Iowa doesn't matter after all. What counts are the Super Delegates.

 So I, for one, plan to spend this evening watching the third installment of The X-Files. If the truth is anywhere out there, it's certainly not going to be coming from the prattle of CNN's Panel of Experts, or the New York Times' cracked-corn team of Live Bloggers.

Scully: "Any thoughts as to why anybody would be growing corn in the middle of the desert?"